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As a continuation of the first part, here are another three small things you can do to make going vegan easier.

1. Buy or rent a cookbook. There are many great vegan cookbooks out there. Libraries are even starting to carry them. So go to the nearest bookstore or library and browse the selection. I have written a couple of reviews (here and here) but there are many more options available. You can try “Appetite for Reduction” if you are looking for low-fat and healthy recipes, “The Kind Diet” if you are interested in a macrobiotic diet, or “Color Me Vegan” if you want a little bit of everything. Many libraries are even offering the option to electronically download a book to rent.

2. Don’t give up on your favorite food. You love sushi but think you’ll never have it again once you go vegan. I have great news: you don’t have to give it up!  Quail egg shooters are out of the question, but many sushi restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan rolls. I’ve found that many places are willing to make substitutions if you ask nicely. Sushi is also very easy to learn to make at home and very inexpensive. Learning how to modify your old recipes will make going vegan that much easier. Check out sites like VegWeb for recipe ideas.

3. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are like me, you spent a good portion of your life being told that meat and other animal products are vital for your survival. Our culture holds the belief that animals are at our disposal and it can be hard to go against this idea. If you slip up or need extra time to fully make the transition, don’t fret. What matters is that you are trying and you are making a difference for those whose voice cannot be heard.

I recently bought the cookbook “Vegan on the Cheap” by Robin Robertson. The cookbook is geared to those who are on a tight budget but want to eat healthy and fresh foods. The cookbook has recipes for almost everything you want to eat: soups, stews, salads, pasta, burgers, desserts, and more. The first part of the book offers tips on budgeting and eating for less.

So far I’ve tried about half a dozen of recipes and have liked all but one. The recipes are pretty simple to make and rarely require ingredients you won’t already have on hand. As a time-crunched student, I really liked the fact that the recipes don’t require me to be constantly monitoring the food.

My favorite dish so far is the Farfalle with White Beans and Cabbage. It is simple, delicious and very inexpensive.

While this is a great cookbook, it is not perfect. I was not a fan of the Stovetop Cheezee Mac. I can’t place exactly why I didn’t like this recipe, but there was something missing for me.

Overall though, I highly recommend this cookbook. The recipes are good, easy to make, and really lives up to the title. Nothing in this cookbook costs more than $2.00/serving.

It came as a huge shock to me when I first learned that not all alcohol is vegan. Some types of alcohol, such as vodka, are far more likely to be vegan than other types, such as wines and beers. Here is a quick guide to the most common animal products found in alcoholic drinks.

Isinglass: Isinglass is made from dried fish bladders, usually cod fish. Real ales (cask-conditioned ales such as Guinness) almost always use isinglass as a fining agent to remove yeast. Domestic beers tend to not use isinglass in the production process.

Gelatin: Gelatin is made from the boiled remains of animals, frequently using bones, intestines, and organs. In the production of wine, gelatin is frequently paired with kieselsol and used as a clarifying agent and a way to reduce astringency in wines.

Of course, the above ingredients are only some of the ingredients used in filtering and clarifying the alcohol. Other animal ingredients, like honey, are used in the making of the alcohol for flavoring. Sometimes you will find these ingredients on the label, sometimes not.

While beer and wine are the types of alcohol the most likely to use animal ingredients in some part of the process, other types of alcohol may also use animal ingredients. The Messy Vegetarian Cook lists alcohol in order of least likely to most likely to be vegan.

For a reliable list of vegan alcohol, check out Barnivore. Keep in mind that this list may not be comprehensive as companies do change their formulas. If you have questions about a drink, contact the maker of the alcohol to get a definitive answer.

I hope this information proves to be useful to you. I strongly believe in making an informed choice when picking what to buy and consume.

Happy drinking! 😉

Recently, the Cooking Channel (the Food Network’s sister channel) aired a one-hour special entitled “The Veg Edge“. A couple of my friends (both of whom are vegan) and I watched the special, drooling the entire time over the featured vegan food.

It also inspired an interesting discussion with my friends on admitting to cravings for and missing foods that are not vegan or vegetarian. If you haven’t seen the episode, about halfway through, vegan chefs and cookbook authors talk about which foods they have missed the most since going vegan or vegetarian.

I have to admit, I liked that segment. My friends? Not so much. They felt it put vegans in a bad light, making it seem like veganism is too hard to succeed at.

I disagree. For one, I don’t think it is “bad” to miss certain foods–even if they are not vegan. I would venture that most current vegans were not born and raised as a vegan. So, far at least a few years, most have eaten meat and cheese and eggs. And while it is great that many are able to go vegan or vegetarian overnight and without another thought of the foods they once loved, not everyone can do that.

I still miss a few of my favorite comfort dishes. Sloppy joes were a weekly feature in my family’s menu. (Which I make now with tempeh instead of ground beef.)

Instead of ignoring or denying the foods you are missing, find a way to veganize them! Many foods, like sloppy joes, require a few changes to make vegan, but taste just as delicious as the non-vegan versions.

Do I think we should focus only on the foods we miss? No. Obsession with a particular food is not healthy.

But I think that pretending you have never missed a non-vegan food (when you have) isn’t helping either. Many people are convinced that they cannot give up meat or cheese or eggs. And we need to tell them that it is OK to miss those foods and offer ways to veganize their favorite dishes. Veganism becomes more approachable this way.

If you are vegan and still have the occasional craving for a steak, say so. Tell us how you deal with the craving and give us the recipe you created for portobello steaks that are better than the “real” thing. Your advice will help a lot of people as you are a great model of how to live a cruelty-free life.

And if you are one of the lucky ones who do not miss the foods you used to eat at all, that’s great! You have a lot to offer to those who are having trouble giving up their favorite foods and you are also a great model of how easy it is to live a cruelty-free life.

If you are interested in helping the animals, but are unsure of where to start, or are not ready to go vegan just yet, here are three easy ways to make your meals a little less cruel.

1. Switch to Earth Balance and stop using dairy butter. I love Earth Balance! You can use it as you would dairy butter in baking and cooking: you can saute with it, melt it, use it as a spread, and bake with it. The Earth Balance Buttery Spread also comes in stick form so you can easily measure the required amount. Earth Balance products are vegan and they offer soy-free alternatives as well. Earth Balance is found in many stores, including Wal-Mart.

2. Use vegetable stock. For many recipes, you can substitute vegetable stock in place of  beef or chicken stock without compromising the flavor. Vegetable stocks are available in the same section of beef and chicken stocks at grocery stores. If you want a chicken-flavored stock that is vegan, you can get that too. Vegan Essentials sell Better Bouillon Powder in beef and chicken flavors that are completely vegan.

3. Eat one less meat dish a week. If you have a turkey sandwich for lunch every day, why don’t you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch one day? Or if Thursday is stir-fry night, make a vegetable stir-fry and leave the chicken or cow out of the dish. Once you get used to making one less meat-based dish a week, make two meatless dishes a week. And then three.

Even if you don’t go any farther than the three steps mentioned above, you are still making a difference. Making changes to your food choices can be hard and take some getting used to, but I bet that with each change you make you will expand your culinary repertoire and gain confidence in a cruelty-free way of eating.

Welcome to my blog, “A Considerate Life”. A Considerate Life is about living as a vegan in a very non-vegan city.  It is about learning to navigate grocery stores, restaurant menus, and social events.  It is about shattering stereotypes of vegans and veganism and providing support to others in similar situations.

I am new to veganism and still learning. I don’t believe it is possible to be 100% cruelty-free in our world.  There are animal ingredients in nearly everything and many products are still required to be tested on animals.  I hope that some day this will change, but until then it is about living as cruelty-free as I can and learning to adapt as I go.  I make mistakes and I am willing to admit as much.  And when I do make a mistake, I learn from it and will move on.

I am not “just” a vegan. Veganism is a huge part of my life but it is only a part of my life.  I am a sister, a daughter, a student, a cook, and an optimist.  I believe in the good of people.  I like puzzles and organizing things and decorating.  I am a sucker for books and kitchen equipment.  I have big dreams but I doubt myself and sell myself short sometimes.

It is my goal to get you to think and start a discussion.  I want everyone to feel comfortable to reply with what they think, even if it disagreeing with what I posted.  We can’t learn if we aren’t challenged.

Cassie

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