Ed's Vegan Diary, Week 2: Getting Tight With Tofu

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Kenji's take on crispy tofu. Get the recipe here! [Photograph: Kenji Lopez-Alt]

This week I have settled into something of a vegan groove. Initially, my energy level flagged because I wasn't eating enough protein. But once I started making a point of eating the sorts of protein that I normally don't gravitate toward, I starting feeling downright perky. I put in some quality time with my new best friends: tofu, falafel, hummus, quinoa, and peanut butter, and they rewarded me with a pretty steady source of energy. Losing two pounds on my new eating plan was just the icing on the cake.

My breakfast every morning is a peanut butter and banana sandwich on Bread Alone Organic Nine Mixed Grain bread, which is not made with sugar, honey, or one of those insidious dairy products like whey. Note to self: Reading ingredient lists exceedingly carefully is a must if I'm going to take this vegan thing seriously, which I am. That is a mighty satisfying breakfast, which I chase down with fresh-squeezed orange juice. As far as other beverages go, I tried almond milk straight up, and found it very unsatisfying, so I'm going to try soy milk next. For some reason, after a life with little-to-no coffee drinking, I've gotten very into soy lattes in the morning. In fact, I've started to crave them in a way I've never craved anything coffee-flavored (except coffee ice cream and mocha eclairs).

Szechuan tofu (minus the pork) at Shanghai 456 has become a go-to lunch choice near our office. It was there that I came up with a strategy that has served me well—eat half of the portion over rice, then pack up the rest, along with more rice, for dinner. I did the same thing two days later at Red Egg with some pan-fried tofu with seasoned soy sauce that came on a bed of indescribably tender baby bok choy.

It doesn't bother me to have the same thing for lunch and dinner, and I don't even mind the smaller portions I'm consuming. For whatever reason, I get fuller faster eating vegan. A mixed falafel platter with some hummus and quinoa salad really satisfied me for lunch one day, and for the third time, I brought the leftovers home for dinner. I'll be damned if Taim's quinoa salad with kale and almonds don't hold up well as a second meal, especially when eaten with warm pita and smooth, creamy hummus. Maybe Julia Child's "everything in moderation" philosophy can be applied to a vegan diet, too!

I've also discovered that organic chocolate bars can be vegan, though the two I've tried, Mast Brothers dark chocolate with almonds and a plain Askinoise bar, just weren't all that tasty. Fortunately, there is one organic vegan chocolate item that satisfies in a major way: Justin's Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. Now that is a superfine item, vegan or not. I did read the ingredients list three times before I ate the first one, but please don't tell me I missed something and they're not vegan—that would hurt big-time.

I'm almost half-way through my month of veganing. Way to go, self! I've even begun pondering how this experiment will affect my eating habits after it's over. That in itself is a major step forward. More on that next week.

About the author: Ed Levine is the founder of Serious Eats.

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