WTFDYEE: Gluten Free Vegan Naan!

My hubby got a craving for a curry not too long ago and requested that I include one in this week’s meal plan. I found a base recipe for a delicious summer vegetable curry that I adapted a bit to be vegan (replacing cream with coconut milk, etc) and felt like something was missing.

I had the brown rice, I had the curry…but where was the naan? For anyone who loves Indian food, naan bread is an essential part of the meal. Nothing is better for sopping up all that delicious leftover curry sauce! But our recent decision to go gluten free presented a problem.

After poring over all of my vegan cookbooks, I discovered I didn’t have a recipe for a gluten free naan. Given all of my recent experimentation, I rolled up my sleeves, ground some fresh flour, and went to work adapting a vegetarian one. Replacing vegan yogurt with hemp milk, the butter with Earth Balance, and the flour with chickpea, tapioca, sorghum, and quinoa flours, I ended up designing a wonderful fluffy and moist naan that paired perfectly with my curry. It was even good reheated the next day!

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Gluten Free Vegan Naan

  • 1/2 to just below 2/3 cup warm water (around 100-110 degrees F)
  • 3/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1 cup sorghum flour, plus more for cutting board/rolling pin
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 cup melted vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup hemp milk or cashew cream (vegan yogurt works here too if you have it!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Canola/olive oil for brushing (Not extra virgin!)
  • Toppings such as garlic, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, vegan cheddar, vegan parmesan, dried fruit
  1. Combine warm water with yeast and 1/2 (1.5 tsp) of the sugar. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Place all of the flours, salt, remaining sugar, and xanthan gum in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large nonreactive metal bowl. Dry whisk to combine.
  3. Stir together the (warm, not hot) melted butter, the yeast mixture, and hemp milk. Turn the stand mixer onto low speed and slowly add the liquids to the flour mixture. This works best with the dough hook. You can also use a hand mixer on low speed.
  4. Stop the mixer and scrape the dough down the sides with a soft spatula. Turn the mixer onto medium high (or the hand mixer to medium high) and mix for 5 minutes. The dough will be relatively sticky.
  5. Scoop the dough into a ball and oil the outside of it. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1-2 hours.
  6. Punch down the dough and divide into 6ths. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface (I like using parchment paper) and oil a flat baking or cookie sheet.
  7. Roll out each 6th until its less than 1/2″ thick, using a lightly floured rolling pin. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
  8. Preheat the broiler on high, move the rack to the top of the oven, so long as the baking sheet will fit under it with no contact with the naans.
  9. Broil on the first side for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned and curling at the edges. Flip and broil for another 1-2 minutes.
  10. Serve warm! Makes 6 pieces.

Budget Vegan Tips: Plan Your Meals

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Many of us who have dieted in the past or frequent any sort of tip websites are familiar with the advice that planning meals saves money. Most of us, however, still don’t do it, and this post is intended to help you design a system that works for you so that you can put this money saving tip to use.

Reasons Why You Should Plan Your Meals!

  • Research has shown that people who go into the store without a shopping list spend significantly more money than those who don’t. Companies prey on this by putting unhealthy splurge items on sale and making aisles deliberately difficult to navigate, lengthening your trip. If you have a plan AND stick to it, you’ve beaten them at their own game.
  • If you plan your meals, you can plan around extra ingredients, ensuring less food goes to waste. This means less wasted money!
  • Because you know your work schedule and what you/your partner/your family likes to eat, you can make room for experimentation while keeping plenty of favorites around “just in case.”
  • Packing sack lunches is generally cheaper than eating out, especially when vegan options are limited. If you know that you like variety, or can stick to one or two choices for the week, then you can plan around this and save money.
  • It’s worth saying that planning food allows you to plan the amount of money you’re going to spend in advance as well. If you know the rough prices of core items at various retailers, you can purchase things in bulk where they’re the cheapest, and your meal plan ensures these items don’t go to waste. My big stock-up items are dried beans and grains, gluten free pasta, and bulk nuts/seeds.

Different Meal Planning Strategies

There are many different ways that you can go about starting to meal plan. The most important thing is finding a system that you can stick to that keeps you interested in the food, excited to cook and/or eat it, and keeps you consistent in your budget as well.

One approach is to create a “Master List” of foods that are commonly eaten in your household. If you eat a lot of frozen meals, figure out what the favorites are and try to find recipes for them using the raw ingredients. You can always freeze these in individual portions for future use, and they’re more than likely going to be cheaper per serving in the long run if you make them yourself. If frozen meals aren’t your style but you know certain family members like certain dishes a great deal, try giving the one day a week that they can pick a recipe. Ask them ahead of time which one they want, and stick to the plan on that day.

Another approach that is fairly common is to choose various “food groupings” for specific days of the week. When I was doing this, it looked like:

Monday: Pasta
Tuesday: Slow cooker
Wednesday: Stir fry or Indian
Thursday: Casserole/1-dish
Friday: Faux Meat/Pressure Cooker
Saturday: Experimental
Sunday: Multi-Course/Ethnic

This left me with one day a week to try a “weird” meal, and the rest of the week to prepare relatively economical, predictable fare. Most of these subcategories freeze/refrigerate well, so the leftovers can be used as lunches. Knowing what type of food will be served each day also helps you stock up for the future. For example, if you regularly eat pasta on Mondays and a brand of pasta your family likes goes on sale, you can pick up a few different varieties and plan them into your future meals. You can also pick up commonly used spices in the bulk section, knowing that you plan a particular ethnic cuisine one day a week where they will be used.

If you have a consistent day off, use the night before to make a list of recipes you’d like to eat that week and check your cupboards/pantry/fridge for items you have and items you need. Try making a list of your staples and keep it updated with what you need each week. You don’t have to cook the same recipes, but finding different recipes with similar ingredients that you can keep on hand really helps keep money in your wallet.

I plan on doing a post on “base” recipes somewhat soon, but if you choose to make a “Recipe Master List” binder or computer file, you may wish to include a few of them. Base recipes are recipes for creating a specific -thing- such as a risotto or lasagne, that you can then change up with seasonal veggies without having to change cook times too much. By mastering a few of these and varying your ingredients by what is on sale and what is seasonal (which often happens to coincide with one another), you empower yourself to create interesting food with whatever is on hand.

If cooking is a burden to you, allowing yourself a “scrap meal” or “leftover day” once a week might be a good idea if you generate a lot of leftovers. Meals made with odds and ends can be charming and sometimes become family favorites. The one below was one such meal that I made, a pot pie with a gluten free biscuit crust and some odds and ends from around the kitchen as a filling.

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Gluten Free Cheezy Vegan Potpie (With Seasonal Variants!)

For the biscuits:

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • .5 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • .33 cup chickpea flour
  • .33 cup tapioca flour
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • .5 tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1.25 tsp xanthan Gum
  • 5 tbsp cold vegan butter
  • .66 cup hemp milk
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups seasonal veggies (see below for ideas), or frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup vegan chick’n, chickpeas, tofu cubes (brown them first!), or veggie grounds (Beyond Meat is gluten free)
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 1/4 cup hemp milk (separate)
  • 1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (I like Krusteaz but have heard good things about Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  1. Place the apple cider vinegar at the bottom of a liquid measure and fill to the 2/3 of a cup line with hemp milk. Give it a quick stir and let sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Heat the 2 tbsp vegan butter over medium heat until bubbling and frothy.
  3. Saute the onion for 5-7 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Stir in the 1/4 cup gluten free flour to create a roux. Cook for 1-3 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
  5. Slowly whisk in the broth. Set heat to medium low and whisk in the 1/4 cup hemp milk. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  7. While the gravy is simmering, combine the flours, baking powder, italian seasoning, xanthan gum, and nutritional yeast in a bowl. Dry whisk until well combined. Cut in the cold vegan butter with two knives or a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
  8. Slowly stir in the cold hemp milk/vinegar mixture until you have a soft dough. It should just come together, you may not need all the liquid.
  9. Roll out the dough to be about a half an inch thick, use english muffin rings or a large cup to cut out the biscuits to fit the top of the ramekins.
  10. Oil four 16 oz ramekins/soufle cups.
  11. When the gravy has thickened, salt it to taste. Add the seasonal veggies and “meat”, cook for 5-7 minutes.
  12. Spoon the filling equally into ramekins (about 3/4 cup per), then top with the biscuits. Bake for 15 minutes. Let sit for about 10 minutes after they come out, they will be hot!

Seasonal Suggestions:

Spring: Asparagus, green beans, peas, carrots, chickpeas
Summer: Tomatoes, finely chopped kale, celery, eggplant, beefy crumblesFall: Sweet potatoes, finely diced turnips, collards, Chick’n
Winter: Butternut/acorn squash diced (steam for 5-10 minutes before adding), turnips, rutabaga, parnsip (steam with the squash), beefy crumbles
All seasons: Frozen mixed vegetables, chick’n or beefy crumbles

 

Making A Difference: On Those Who Demean Us

TRIGGER WARNING: EATING DISORDER TRIGGERS.

There are many people that we will meet in our vegan journey who will try to discourage and demean us. I’m sure you’ve experienced it in one way or another, from doubting friends and incredulous relatives to reluctant significant others, but the behaviors I’m talking about tread into abuse territory. This is a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for a while as well, and my temporary hiatus this week gave me the excuse I needed.

This week I hosted my in-laws for four days so they could see Deyna. For three months prior to arriving nothing was discussed outside of sleeping arrangements, then suddenly just a few days before their arrival food and diet became a concern. My mother-in-law came with her (19 year old) daughter and insisted that she was too picky to like most of anything I could cook and demanded that they be allowed to bring dairy into the house in the form of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. I told her this was outside of my boundaries. She told me I was unreasonable and that it was “just food.”

Even after I expressed both the ethical and safety related reasons why this wouldn’t be acceptable (I’m allergic to dairy and my husband has celiac’s) she would not budge. This was prior to her arrival, but already there was a massive level of disrespect toward my and Deyna’s boundaries, as he expressed it was against his desires too, regardless of me.

She leveled the accusation that we were controlling them, or forcing our morals down their throats. This is an abuse tactic, redirecting the blame for the wrong-doing at the victim. Even trace amounts of those respective substances can make us both very ill, and she didn’t believe a word of it.

When she arrived we went to the store and purchased vegan versions of several things her and her daughter liked, many of which her daughter ultimately spat back onto the plate and refused to eat. She encouraged this behavior by making fat jokes about her partner and insisting that “we all have different palettes and you can’t expect her to eat your food.”

She tripped my eating disorder repeatedly throughout the trip and told me that she “was a walking eating disorder herself,” “only ate once a day normally so we ate an excessive amount of food,” and, “was a private person, keeping such things to herself.” She effectively shamed me and my partners for our eating habits, and me for disclosing my eating disorder and asking for some consideration for triggers.

These behaviors are all abusive, though they can often show up in omnivores under the guise of “consideration.” You must be considerate and violate your morals in your space, because we don’t all have the same beliefs, they say. It’s all hogwash.

I received a fantastic piece of advice from Veggieboards recently, and that was the fact that whatever you may believe, the only life guaranteed to us is this one so we need to stick to our guns and live what we believe in. Allowing her to step on my boundaries in the name of peace would have simply showed her that I was easy for her to trample on, which she attempted to do several times while staying with me and I stood strong.

All abusers see these concessions as weakness and demand more until they pick apart your entire philosophy. I’m not talking about every omnivore in this instance, simply the ones that insist on the compromising of your morals even after you communicate their value to the parties involved.

So how can we deal with these people? These are the techniques that I found effective on this trip, as well as in other interactions with omnivorous friends and family. I’ll try to give examples of various subversive behaviors and how to deal with them. Again, these behaviors are only abusive if they persist after the first no and explanation, as they are boundary violating at that point and no one should make you do things you’re uncomfortable with.

  1. “Come on, it’s just one bite!” Many omnivores see veganism as just a phase or fad, particularly when you just get started. This particular type of boundary violation takes the form of repeated insistence that you consume omnivorous food after the first rejection. Some responses you could try are: “I could get sick if I eat that, it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten animal products.” “I don’t like the taste of dairy/eggs/meat any more, so I wouldn’t want to waste a bite on something I wouldn’t like.” “It’s against my beliefs to eat that. You wouldn’t ask someone kill just one kitten would you?” “I don’t appreciate the way you’re trying to invalidate my beliefs. It’s disrespectful.”
  2. It’s just food!” This tactic can show a degree of ignorance, though if it stubbornly persists it becomes abuse. If explaining how it isn’t just food to you elicits a massive negative and possibly ad hominem attack response, then you’re probably dealing with an abuser. Making your boundaries firm is key here. “Food may mean more to me than it does to you, but that doesn’t make it any less important to me.” “You wouldn’t say that to someone with a peanut allergy, would you?” “Would you say ‘it’s just sex’ to a monk? My beliefs are just as important to me.”
  3. You’re forcing it down my throat.” This one was one I dealt with a LOT while they were here. Asking someone to abide by your rules while in your home, or to watch their language due to triggers, is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. It’s your right to feel comfortable and safe in your relationship, whatever relationship it is. “I’m not forcing anything, I’m asking for respect. Is it that hard to eat the way I do while you’re here?” “I wouldn’t ask you to give up your beliefs and way of life while I was staying with you.” “Look at it as an opportunity to bond and see how I live. If you see it in a positive way rather than acting like I’m trying to change you, maybe you’ll even enjoy it.”

What are some ways that omnivores have violated your boundaries, and how did you handle it? Are there any other stubborn behaviors you would like to see responses for in a future post?

WTFDYEE: Bac’n & Zucchini Hash Brown Quiche

This was a a bit of a sticky situation: we’ve recently gone (relatively) gluten free due to my husband’s Celiac’s (I still occasionally ingest it, but all shared meals are) and I wanted to make something special for a weekend breakfast. My hubby used to love quiche (and all things egg related really) but out of support for me he gave up eggs. I haven’t really mastered the art of gluten-free baking yet, so pie crusts are a bit out of my reach yet.What’s a girl to do?

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Hash browns. A while back I had seen an idea in a magazine for a hash brown crust and decided to take a crack at it, and well…just look at it. It’s breakfast perfection. Here’s how it was done:

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I grated a bunch of potatoes and rinsed them in my bowl until the water ran clean. This lifted all the oxidized “brown potato” off and helped to clear some of the starch away. I had to dry them off and salt them afterwards.

20160420_155429_HDR Once the oil was heated up, I pressed the proto-browns into the pan on medium high heat, then dropped it to just above medium. I had to let it sit for a while without stirring it to let it brown.

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Then, I put a heat-resistant plate on top and…

20160420_160639…flipped the proto-crust onto the plate.

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Slipped it back into the pan and let the other side cook a little while longer.

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After it was done browning, I put it onto a 12 inch pizza plate, then greased my pie plate. I flipped it quickly into the pie plate…

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And pressed it into the sides after it cooled for a few.

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I made the filling and put it in a bowl nearby…

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Then cooked the onions, zucchini, and tvp bacon in the frying pan.

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Once all the filling ingredients were together…

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I slipped them into the “pie crust” and smoothed the top. In to bake, and the results were heavenly.

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Vegan Hash Brown Quiche

  • 1.75 lbs russet potatoes (or other firm potatoes), coarsely shredded
  • 2 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • .5 cup raw cashews
  • .75 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • .5 tsp kala namak (or Indian black salt)
  • 1.5 tsp salt, divided
  • .5 tsp dried mustard
  • .25 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 1.5 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 lb x-firm tofu, drained
  • 1 medium zucchini, coarsely shredded
  • .5 medium onion, diced (about a cup)
  • .33 cup tvp
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce if not gluten free)
  • .25 cup boiling water
  1. Place shredded potatoes in a bowl, cover with water. Swirl with your hands until the water is cloudy, then drain. Repeat until the water runs relatively clear.
  2. Pat the potatoes dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and mix in thoroughly.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil with the butter on medium high heat until it foams heavily. Press the potatoes into the pan in one thick sheet.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 12-14 minutes, until thoroughly browned on one side.
  5. While the potatoes are cooking, combine the zucchini with .5 tsp salt in a colander and let drain.
  6. Place a plate over the potatoes and flip the pan to transfer the potatoes onto the plate. Slip back into the frying pan and cook for 10 more minutes.
  7. While the potatoes are cooking, place the tvp in a heat resistant bowl and stir in the boiling water, liquid aminos, and liquid smoke.
  8. Grease a 9″ pie plate and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Using a pizza plate, parchment paper, or the plate from earlier, slip the potatoes into the pie plate. Press the potato crust into the edges and corners to form a solid crust when cooled enough to handle.
  10. Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in the pan on medium heat, cook the onions for 5 minutes or until softened.
  11. While the onions are cooking, powder the cashews with the spices, kala namak, and .5 tsp salt in a high-speed blender or food processor.
  12. Add in tofu, nondairy milk, and cornstarch. Make sure to keep scraping the sides until the mixture is evenly mixed! Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
  13. Squeeze excess water from the zucchini and add to the pan. Cook an additional 3 minutes.
  14. Stir in the tvp, cook 2 more minutes.
  15. Stir into the bowl with the tofu mixture, stir together.
  16. Spread tofu mixture evenly into prepared crust.
  17. Bake for 50 minutes. Let sit for at least 15 before you cut into it!

Makes 6 servings.

On Veganism, Self Confidence, and Personal Strength

I haven’t done a body image post in quite a while, and this is a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for most of that time.

In my eating disorder recovery post I mentioned the amount of personal strength it takes to change your entire lifestyle to fit your personal beliefs, and here I want to expound on that topic a little more. I would like to see all of us not only give ourselves credit for this, but do so without the fear of being seen as prideful or arrogant.

I’ll start with this: There is a difference between giving yourself credit for your achievements and being a prideful, condescending arse.

This is a difference that most of us aren’t taught, and has significantly less to do with how others perceive your behavior and more to do with how you view it. Being proud of yourself and giving yourself credit for the monumental achievement of being vegan in a carnist culture isn’t prideful, but considering yourself better than others who do not is. Whether or not being vegan is the higher moral high ground, it doesn’t make any of us more deserving of life than any other.

Many of us started being vegan for reasons other than saving the animals. I know ethical vegans, but I also know environmental and health vegans, vegans who started for weight loss and ended up volunteering at sanctuaries, and vegans who started because of their eating disorder and wound up finding spiritual fulfillment and seeking treatment because of the vegan community’s support. This is a big deal as well. The fact that you, yes, you, found a reason to decrease the amount of harm that you are doing to the planet and the animals, as well as to yourself, is an achievement.

Even when it feels like there’s still far too much to do. Even if it feels like you’re one in a million. Even if it feels like there isn’t a difference being made, YOUR consumer choices save lives every year. Because most store stock for demand, and by avoiding consumption of animal products you decrease the demand that much more. It really is a major accomplishment.

I know many of us already know this, so why am I drilling it into the ground? Because when someone suffers a negative body image, it can be difficult to see our accomplishments as what they are.

It can be easy to blame ourselves if we don’t “look vegan” the way that many of us picture our fellow vegans: rail thin, in your face, almost painfully fit and confident. But there is no “vegan image,” it is a lifestyle not a diet, and a lack of weight loss does not negate the accomplishment of sticking to a lifestyle you believe in.

It is easy to see the massive overproduction of animals and its continuation as somehow overriding our efforts in our own lives, trivializing our own contributions because it seems natural and there is so much left to do.

It’s easy to soak in all of the hateful comments we hear from omnivores day in and day out and stay silent out of fear that someone will perceive us as being “uppity” or “that vegan.” But we’re not.

We’re warriors in our own right, fighting a fight that not everyone can see, and every day is a victory against carnism in your own home. Even if you’re a minor in your parent’s house, every step you take towards that goal and every day you stay determined is a victory, scaled to your ability and budget at the time. We can only do as much as our time and means allows us, and being vegan in any situation is its own victory.

Please, even on your worst days, don’t forget this. Because you are strong, you have a beautiful soul, and every day you live makes that much more of a difference. Never be afraid to speak up. Never be afraid to feel pride at your accomplishments. Because no matter how you look, what others say, or how hard it is, you are stronger than you can imagine, just for keeping going in the face of it all. I’m proud of you. You should be too.

The Many Types of Nondairy Milk and What to Use Them For

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Switching to nondairy milk is one of the first adjustments that comes to mind when one thinks of transitioning to veganism, and in my opinion one of the most enjoyable. Unlike animal based milks, where one either has to pay a great deal to own the animal or purchase the milk and is limited to a rather narrow band of options, a plethora of non-dairy milks exist on the market. Each of them excels in specific applications and lags behind in others in much the way various types of gluten free flours do. Finding which applications work the best for each is the key. This is going to be a bit of a long post, so bear with me!

Before I delve into the culinary applications of various types of vegan milk however, I would like to point out one thing: home made versions of these milks often taste different and have vastly differing textures to their commercial versions. In each section I will try to address the taste discrepancies between the two and give my recommendation as to which I have had a better experience with in order to clarify.

Also, milks made with nondairy milk machines (usually advertised as soy milk makers, but many of them can make raw milks and soup as well) have a different texture and consistency than milks made with traditional blender setups, though often are more similar to milks made with high speed blenders. If you like nondairy milk I highly recommend picking one up. I’ll do a post reviewing various types in the future, but the one I use the most often is my Soyajoy G4. It makes fantastic milk with a fine okara and the leftover nut pulp is almost flour by the time you dry it out. Definitely worth the investment if you want to save money making your own milk!

I know there are some other nondairy milks out there, the ones below are the ones I use in my own kitchen. Most of them are pretty common, the last two being the exceptions but well worth the trouble of making yourself.

The links on each of the names that have them will take you to a home recipe further down the page for that type of milk. I don’t have recipes for all of them, but I do for most!

Anyhow, onto the types of milks:

  • Soy milk is probably the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks nondairy. Silk makes an excellent soy milk, although Kroger makes a cheaper alternate that has slightly more of a “beany” aftertaste. Soy milk is great for drinking and cereal, is high in fiber, and when made from home and combined with coconut or hemp milk makes great ice cream. Thicker, homemade soy milk can also be used to make yogurt relatively easily! It’s the “staple” nondairy milk in my kitchen.
  • Almond milk is probably the second most popular milk alternate. Silk’s tastes a little closer to dairy milk (both the chocolate and vanilla) and homemade has the highest calcium content of the various milks available. It’s good for drinking and cereal as well, and stands up decently to baking, though it isn’t as fatty as coconut or hemp, so it doesn’t impart quite as much moisture. It’s a little more expensive to make than soy, but many people prefer the taste.
  • Hemp milk is thick and creamy and works as a fantastic tea and coffee creamer. When a baking recipe calls for a non-dairy milk (or any milk really) this is the one I turn to. When combined with soy it makes a great ice cream (though it can make decent ice cream on its own as well) and although it’s a little pricey to buy commercially, it’s often shelf stable and it’s relatively cheap to make. Need a substitute for half-and-half? Hemp milk has you covered.
  • Coconut milk is often found in cans, though in recent years thinned drinkable varieties have made it onto the market. It needs to be diluted with soy for ice cream, but if you don’t mind the coco-nutty aftertaste, its creaminess works beautifully in cream sauces and curries. It’s the traditional milk for Thai curries! I’ve found that when making sauces it’s best to dilute it a bit with hemp or cashew milk if you don’t want a pronounced cashew taste. The lite versions have less fat than the more traditional coconut milks, which can help reduce the fat in some recipes.
  • Cashew milk and cashew cream are my go-tos for cream sauces and ice cream making. The nuttiness of the milk mellows out and blends nicely in most recipes and the texture is reminiscent of full fat cream. It works well for whole milk and fantastically in baking, and when made from home leaves almost no nut pulp residue in a high speed blender. With a bit of soaking, even a normal blender can puree the nuts completely into the liquid! Cashews are pretty high in trace minerals as well.
  • Rice milk is often better commercially than homemade, as many recipes make more of a porridge than a milk. In my experience it has a bit of an aftertaste, but can apply well when cooking Asian inspired meals. It’s a cheaper alternate to coconut milk for curries, and often tastes good in a bowl with granola.
  • Flax milk is a relatively new entry into the market. Packed with Omega-3’s, there is a bit of a “flaxy” aftertaste to it, but when used as a creamer or in a bowl of cereal/cream soup this mostly disappears. I recommend cooking it at lower temperatures (sauces, gravies etc) because when brought to a boil or baked the aftertaste intensifies.
  • Mung bean milk is one that most people will not get to try, as it’s only available to those with milk makers or those adventurous enough to make their own, but relatively readily available in street markets in China. It’s a half-and-half split of soaked soy and mung beans blended into a milk, and has a slightly “slippery” texture. It works fantastically for gravies and sauces, with very little beany aftertaste. I also recommend it for baking, as the aforementioned texture adds a nice amount of moisture to cakes and cookies.
  • 5-bean or 5-grain milk is another type of milk that needs to be made from scratch that I had the pleasure of experiencing out in China. It’s made of a combination of buckwheat, millet, rice, oats, and soybeans, and is very smooth and creamy. It tastes the closest to “dairy milk” that I’ve found as far as nondairy milks go.

Home-made Vanilla Soy Milk

  • 4 cups soy beans
  • 1 gallon of water
  • .5 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
  • .25 tsp bulk b12 powder (optional but I like to fortify my milks with it)
  • nut milk bag or cheese cloth
  1. Cover soy beans in water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat. Let soak overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans.
  3. Take 1 quarter of the beans and blend with 4 cups of water on high speed. Depending on the power of your blender, this may take a few minutes. Strain through a nut milk bag (cheese cloth doesn’t work quite as well here, a nut milk bag is a worthy investment) into a large soup pan or stock pot. Squeeze to get out as much milk as you can! Repeat with remaining soy beans and water.
  4. Bring to a high simmer (medium to medium high heat depending on your stove) and cook for 10-15 minutes. This helps thicken the milk and reduce the beany flavor. Stir constantly as it will be sticky and want to make tofu skins!
  5. Let cool until lukewarm, then stir in sugar, salt and vanilla (and B12 if using). If you want to use it for cooking you can omit the vanilla and reduce the sugar by half. With a soy milk maker you can also reduce the beans by half.

Makes just over 3/4 of a gallon. Save the okara if you make it by hand, there are all kinds of neat things you can do with it! It’s high in fiber and can easily be slipped into baked goods and the like for added nutrition.

Home-made Almond Milk

  • 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp sugar or 1.5 tbsp maple syrup or 1 tbsp agave or 2-3 dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Drain and rinse the almonds, then blend on high speed in a blender until relatively pulverized.
  2. Strain through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth lined strainer, reserving the nut pulp if you wish. Squeeze to get out as much milk as you can!
  3. Whisk in the sweetener and vanilla if you desire. Quadruple the recipe for a whole gallon!

For chocolate almond milk, rinse the blender and add .5 tbsp cocoa powder and 2 tbsp nondairy chocolate chips and blend until well combined along with the sweeteners and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

For another nice treat, add a cup of strawberries during step one and sweeten accordingly. It almost tastes like a smoothie, and it’s a hit with kids! You can do the same with blueberries and blackberries, the nut milk bag or cheesecloth will catch the fiber and seeds, leaving you with a fantastic fruity milk.

Home-made Hemp Milk

  • 2 cups hemp hearts
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Blend the hemp hearts and water on high speed for 2-4 minutes.
  2. Strain through a nut milk bag or cheese-cloth lined strainer. Squeeze to get out as much milk as you can! Whisk in desired flavorings. Quadruple the recipe for a gallon, it makes a quart.

Cashew Cream or Milk

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours if not using a high speed blender
  • 3 cups water (4 if making milk)
  • .5 tbsp sugar
  • .25 tsp salt
  1. Blend all ingredients on high speed until cashews entirely disappear. If not using a high speed blender, this could take several minutes. You may wish to keep a nut milk bag handy just in case. Quadruple the recipe for a gallon of the milk, it makes a quart.

Home-made Rice Milk

  • 1 cup cooked long grain brown rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • .25 tsp salt
  • .5 tbsp vanilla
  1. Blend the rice and water on high speed until the rice almost seems to disappear. Strain through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth lined strainer. Squeeze to get out as much milk as you can!
  2. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients if desired. This milk will only keep for a few days in the fridge, so unless there is a large demand for it a quart at a time is plenty. Quadruple the recipe if you want a gallon though!

Home Made Mung Bean Milk

  • .5 cup mung beans
  • .5 cup soy beans
  • 4 cups water
  • 1.5 tbsp sugar
  • .5 tsp salt
  1. Place beans in pot and cover with at least 3 inches more water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Cover and let soak for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse beans. Blend with 4 cups fresh water on high speed until pulverized, then strain through a nut milk bag. Squeeze to get as much milk out as you can!
  3. Bring to a high simmer (medium to medium high heat depending on your stove) and cook for 10-15 minutes. This helps thicken the milk and reduce the beany flavor. Stir constantly as it will be sticky.
  4. Let cool until lukewarm, then stir in sugar and salt. With a soy milk maker you can also reduce the beans by half. Makes a quart.

5-Grain Milk

  • .25 cup buckwheat
  • .25 cup millet
  • .25 cup rice
  • .25 cup oats
  • .33 cup soy beans
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • .25 tsp salt
  1. Soak the grains in cold water 4 hours to overnight.
  2. Boil water and pour over soy beans, soak 4 hours to overnight.
  3. Drain and rinse grains and beans, combine with water and blend until thick and creamy.
  4. Strain through a nut milk bag and squeeze to extract most of the milk.
  5. Heat to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Wait until lukewarm, then whisk in sugar and salt. A tsp of vanilla works well here too. Quadruple the recipe if you want a gallon!

Budget Vegan Tips: Dried Beans

I’m sure you’ve heard this one a thousand times: dried beans are significantly cheaper than canned ones. Most larger chain stores carry them in bags and in bulk, bulk being the ideal of course on both price and often quality. I’ve noticed that dried is the only way that you can get some of the nicer heirloom beans such as rattlesnake and yin-yang beans, either at the farmers market or in the garden, and once you have them the problem then becomes cooking them so you can use them in your recipes.

Who wants to have to go to all the trouble of soaking and cooking beans? Ultimately many of us end up opting for canned beans out of time-crunch based necessity, however, there are a few ways to make this process less of a burden.

I discussed pressure cooking dried beans in a previous post, including cooking times, but one thing I didn’t cover was quick-soaking. Quick soaking requires only two hours (rather than requiring you to remember to soak beans right before bed) and can end up helping to destroy more of the toxin in bean shells that contribute to gastrointestinal upset when we eat them! Quick soaking is pretty easy too: put the beans and enough water to cover (I like using about 4-6 cups of water per cup of beans to be on the safe side) into a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes uncovered, then cover and let soak for 1.5-2 hours. Cook as normal in either the pressure cooker or a pot according to cooking times!

You can also cook unsoaked beans in a slow cooker overnight so that they’ll be ready in the morning. Slow cookers are fantastic for this purpose, particularly if you want to use the beans for something like breakfast sausages! The only beans you need to be wary of using this method for are kidney beans. They contain a mild toxin that needs to be brought to boiling temperatures to be rid of, so boil them for around 10 minutes before using this method. Otherwise, just put your dried beans in the slow cooker and cover them with water at least 3 inches above the top of the beans the night before. Cook them on low and make sure that they get a good 6-9 hours cook time before you take them out. Because of the lower temperatures you have a LOT more wiggle room with this method as far as cook times, and that’s what makes it so convenient!

Dried and soaked beans can be used another way as well – you can can them yourself. This requires a pressure canner (not an electric pressure cooker, they can’t get to high enough pressure to can), but it’s well worth the investment if you go through a lot of beans. Most vegans do, and the convenience of home canned beans really can’t be beat. You can use pint jars for to replace the typical “15 oz” 1.5 cup store jars, or you can use quart jars for larger quantities for things like hummus. You’ll need to check the pressure cooker’s manual for specific instructions on capacity (if you can fit more jars then adjust the recipe as necessary to max out the number of cans you can get in at one time), but here’s my general canning recipe for 1 lb beans:

Home Canned Beans

  • 1 lb beans, soaked overnight or quick soaked
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • water
  • 4 pint jars OR 1 quart jar with fresh lids and rings
  • Pressure canner

NOTE: The FDA recommends boiling beans for 30 minutes prior to canning them, but I’ve noticed that not only are the beans often mushy using this method, they often end up less flavorful than if you simply soaked them and covered them in boiling water as I describe below. Do so at your own risk – just because I’ve never gotten sick doesn’t mean someone in your household won’t, and if you have someone high risk in your house such as an older, immune compromised, or under 5 year old household member, then you may wish to err on the side of caution and boil them first.

  1. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly, discard the soaking water.
  2. Bring 8-12 cups of fresh water to a boil.
  3. Divide the beans equally into the jars using a canning funnel (or just dump them all in the quart jar if that’s what you’re using) and fill with boiling water, leaving one inch or so of head space. Add 1/4 tsp salt per pint or the whole tsp of salt for the quart.
  4. Wipe the rims and place the fresh lids and rings on, hand-tightening to secure.
  5. Place in the pressure canner and follow the directions on your canner as to how much water to use, each model is different. If it came with an insert to life the jars from the bottom of the canner, USE IT. It’s a lifesaver and can help prevent broken jars.
  6. Bring to 11 lbs of pressure, maintain for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the burner and let cool until all pressure is released. DO NOT QUICK RELEASE THE PRESSURE.
  8. Using canning tongs, remove the cans and listen for the characteristic “pop” sound that tells you the cans are sealing. If any of them are not sealed within an hour, refrigerate them and use them within a week.

Enjoy your canned beans! This recipe works for just about any kind of bean that I can think of, they’re all about equal once they’re soaked under high pressure. My canner can hold up to 10 pint jars at a time and I’ll often can 2-3 different kinds of beans together to save time. They last about 6 months to a year, just keep an eye on them. They taste a LOT better than store canned beans, and if you grew them all the better!

Making A Difference: Consumer Tracking Groups

I’ve been a panelist on the National Consumer Panel (also known as NCP) for a little over a year now, and though this post isn’t an advertisement for them, my membership with them certainly inspired it. They’re considered a Consumer Tracking Organization – a group who’s sole purpose is to track what people spend money on over the long term (and where) in order to help retailers adjust for demand. They’re rather unique in the sense that they track EVERYTHING through a scanner system, and they’re self reported, so you don’t HAVE to report a purchase if you don’t want to. Membership is free and the rewards take forever to earn, but for the purposes of this post they’re a perfect example: because your opinions and purchases (via surveys and scanning) are reported anonymously and directly to retailers and manufacturers.

In other words, consumer tracking agencies are all about making your opinions count, and as a vegan this is extremely important. There are other organizations (Mypoints is another example that I know of) that do similar things in a less “invasive” manner, mostly via surveys. Heck, the cookies in your web browser can help serve this purpose!

Although the title of the post sounds a little ominous (after all who wants to be tracked?) I assure you that this is one of the best ways you can make a difference directly with retailers. For people of size with low self esteem (or people with social anxiety) this is one of the most direct ways to make a difference without being forced into a large amount of uncomfortable human contact. In other words, it’s a great way to express your values to retailers without having to call, email, or talk to anyone directly.

Even without social anxiety issues, consumer tracking organizations are still one of the better ways to show that there is a demand for vegan products. By reporting your purchases via surveys, a scanner, or the loyalty club at your local grocer, you’re showing consistently that there IS a demand for vegan products. Plus a lot of the programs have rewards attached to them as well, giving even more of a reason to “sell” this information to the various tracking organizations.

If you have an interest in getting involved this way, start by checking forums and the like for reputable survey sites and rewards programs. Check out NCP. Sign up for local loyalty programs, such as the Kroger/Fred Meyer/QFC cards up here. For other Pacific Northwest stores, there is also Costco memberships (because they do track what you buy), Safeway, Albertsons, Haggen, and Whole Foods memberships. Even Barnes and Noble or Amazon Prime memberships can show when you buy vegan cookbooks!

Although this sort of privacy invasion may not be for everyone, it definitely qualifies under the header of Making A Difference. Particularly if enough of us survey to show that yes, we’re vegan, no we’re not wavering, and yes, there really is a demand for cruelty-free products.

WTFDYEE: Vegan Crunch Wraps!

A little personal detail here: back in the early days of our relationship, long before I went vegetarian (let alone vegan), my husband used to take me out to eat every time we’d fight. He did this out of a mistaken sense of obligation and a misplaced sense of concern, because he saw cooking as a burden for me and if I was still upset after a fight, he reasoned that I shouldn’t have to do it. Unfortunately, due to his work schedule, this usually meant we went to one of two places: Taco Bell or McDonald’s.

Fast forward to today, and even though I’ve been vegan now for 3 years I still find myself occasionally craving some of the things I used to eat there! Following a fight with Deyna I bemoaned another craving, and the reply I received was an exasperated, “You’ve cooked everything in the whole damn world, MAKE ONE YOURSELF.” Challenge accepted.

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I started by researching the omnivorous recipe for one rather than searching the vegan blogosphere because I wanted this to have my own personal touch. I discovered that it is made of 4 major non-vegan components: some form of taco meat (tvp), nacho cheese dip (made my own),sour cream (silken tofu), and cheddar shreds (daiya). After I discovered handmade (in all but one case) suitable replacements, I looked at my next qualm about the fast food version: the tortilla.My husband has celiacs and I despise the taste of white flour, so I decided to make the recipe gluten-free with the exception of the wrap, which I could have whole wheat and he could use his! So the recipe below is for a gluten-free crunch wrap that you can easily substitute gluten-containing products for if you have them. The process is simple:

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Make the tvp taco meat.

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Whip up a batch of vegan queso using nooch, unsweetened nondairy milk, and some spices.

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Slap a half a cup of the “meat” in the middle of the tortilla.

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Smear 1-2 tbsp of the cheez on one side of a tostada and place it cheez-down on the tvp crumbles.

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Smear some of that delicious silken tofu sour cream on the other side!

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Scatter a handful of lettuce (I used romaine in the picture), chopped tomato, and cheddar shreds (normally I have cashew cheddah around but the pictured is Daiya because my latest batch was still aging).

I didn’t get a picture of the folding process, but I’ll describe it as best I can: fold the bottom of the tortilla up until it meets the edge of the tostada, then rotate and fold the next section up in the same way, repeat six times. 20160321_204526

Then spray some nonstick on a frying pan and place it face-down. Fry for 3 minutes on each side on medium heat and enjoy!

Gluten-Free (if you want) Vegan Crunch Wraps!

Vegan Sour Cream

  • 1 10.5-oz package lite firm silken tofu
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)
  • 1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp canola oil or safflower oil
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • .5 tsp salt

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor, blend until smooth, scraping down the sides if needed.

Nacho Cheeze Spread and Dip

  • .5 cup gluten free (I used Krusteaz gf all purpose mix) or all purpose flour
  • .5 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • .5 tsp garlic powder
  • .25 tsp cayenne
  • 2 cups nondairy milk (hemp, cashew, or soy is best)
  • .25 cup oil (canola or safflower works well, olive adds its own taste)
  • 1 tsp dijon
  • 1 tsp white miso
  1. Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and spices over medium heat in a medium saucepan until well combined.
  2. Slowly whisk in the nondairy milk, oil, and mustard.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 , minutes until thick and bubbly. If you’re using gf flour, it’ll start to pull away from the sides of the pan a bit if the mix contains xanthan gum.
  4. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the miso before it solidifies. Let cool.

The Crunch Wrap

  • 2 cups tvp
  • 1/3 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or thin soy sauce
  • boiling water
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • taco seasoning packet (old El Paso is gluten and dairy free)
  • gluten-free, whole wheat, or white tortilla shells (burrito or wrap size is best)
  • tostadas (gluten free if desired)
  • vegan nacho cheez
  • vegan sour cream
  • thinly sliced lettuce (1 head romaine makes 8 wraps)
  • diced tomato (1 lb tomatoes makes 8-12 wraps)
  • vegan cheddar shreds (I used daiya)
  • cooking spray
  • tostadas
  1. Pour the liquid aminos into a liquid measure, then fill to 1.5 cups with boiling water.
  2. Place tvp into a heatproof bowl, stir mixture into tvp. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat (nonstick is best). Pour in tvp, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning packet and required amount of water, simmer until absorbed. Remove from pan and set aside, wipe down pan. Heat again with cooking spray while you assemble the sandwich.
  4. Place a half a cup of tvp mixture in the center of your chosen tortilla. If you’re using gluten free or particularly stiff tortillas, it can help if you dry-fry the tortilla for 30 seconds on each side (no oil in the pan!) or steal the tortilla in the microwave under a damp paper towel or rage for 30 seconds.
  5. Smear 1-3 tbsp of the nacho cheeze onto one side of tostada, place cheez-side down on the tvp.
  6. Smear 1-3 tbsp sour cream on the other side.
  7. Scatter a handful of lettuce and a tbsp or two of diced tomatoes on top of the sour cream. Then scatter a small handful of the cheddah shreds. Press down gently (try not to break the tostada) to nest the toppings in the cream.
  8. Fold the bottom of the tortilla up until the fold (not the edge of the tortilla) meets the edge of the tostada, then rotate and fold the next section up in the same way while overlapping the previous fold, repeat six times. If there is a hole in the middle because of the tortilla size, tear a piece off of an extra tortilla that is slightly bigger than said hole and tuck it under the folds so that the filling is covered. I had to do this for the one pictured!
  9. Place the wrap tortilla side down on the preheated pan and fry for 3 minutes on each side in the cooking spray. Enjoy your crunch wrap!

Makes between 8 and 12 depending on how much you use of the ingredients. You can replace the tvp filling with refried or whole beans, chick’n, seitan (if you’re not gluten free), or anything you like really. Avocado tastes fantastic instead of the dip or sour cream also! The sky’s the limit!

What Recovery Feels Like

TRIGGER WARNING!!! I’m recovering from an eating disorder and I’ll be describing some of my experiences below, so if you’ve suffered and you might be affected by such descriptions, here’s your warning to get out now. I’d rather both of us wait until you’re ready 🙂

So for those of you still with me, I know that veganism is associated heavily with eating disorders, and I’ll preface this with the fact that thankfully my veganism has nothing to do with my eating disorder. I went vegan because I don’t like eggs, am allergic to dairy, and don’t process animal protein very well at all. Besides that, it’s healthier for me.

That said, I had a triggering event a few nights ago when I was drinking with my husband. I’m still in the tender stages of recovery (4 months without having weighed myself, only about 3 weeks from my last compulsive thoughts, 3 months from my last starvation diet) and my husband was a little careless with his words. He said he was “cutting me off” because I had “eaten twice as much as I normally do and that wasn’t okay.” He didn’t realize that his words hit my like a blow, and I was tipsy enough not to say anything.

That night I had nightmares about being fat and my clothes felt tighter then normal, causing me to wake up in a sweat at 6 AM with stronger urges to purge than I’d had in months. It took almost 2 hours to get the panic attacks that followed to stop.

What struck me though, was that this all felt out of the ordinary. After I calmed down and stopped the self-berating, I realized that I was upset that it happened. That I had treated myself that way. That I had hated my body again for the first time in months. And it hit me again like a thunderclap:

This is what recovery feels like.

Because this is a size blog as well as a vegan one, and because our community tends to attract people with eating disorders due to the “restrictive” nature of the diet (at least in a carnist culture), I wanted to put out a message of hope to everyone who suffers in this community as I have that there is indeed hope. Through counseling and body work, though I’m still obese, I’ve gotten to the point where this sort of compulsive self-hatred is a symptom rather than my reality.

When you get to the point that you not only recognize such feelings as being out of the norm but don’t judge yourself for having them, congratulate yourself for getting through them unscathed. Rejoice in your own strength. Because managing this is a fundamental act of self love and proof that you can keep doing it as long as you need to. It’s proof that you are strong and valuable as you are. And if you also happen to be vegan?

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That is proof of your strength, your compassion. That is proof of your worth. Because it DOES take strength to stand up for what you believe in, to live in opposition to carnist and diet culture, to choose a life that does the least harm that you possibly can. You have a beautiful soul, and realizing that?

That is what recovery feels like.