Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Veggie Vero

So I take a trip 2 hours North to visit the parents & introduce them to their new grandson... Wait for it... a furry 4-legged grandson!  I already told you I like animals more than people... you should have known my children are the variety that don't speak, cry, whine or complain!  My sons love me unconditionally & give me constant kisses & poop outside in the yard... natural fertilizer.  ha ha ;)
Meet Simba & Jagger:
These 2 munchkins have my whole heart!  They are both chihuahua-mutts that I rescued from the Humane Society.  Simba is 2 1/2 & he's 5 pounds while Jagger is the newbie, he's 5 months old & about 4 pounds but he probably will end up being the bigger brother one day, at least in weight, since he's still a growing boy!

Ok, so I packed up the boys & headed from Miami to Vero so that Mom could hold the new baby:

Yes, love at first sight for Grandmama too!  Don't you love his boots & sweater?!  Mom knew I was getting a new pup so she was prepared for that... what she didn't know is that her eldest & only daughter had become Vegan!  Now my Mom is no ordinary cook, she is an amazing chef that can put restaurant chefs to shame.  She can make anything and everything & she does it with an amazing Lisa Birch-flair!  So she was up for the challenge when I told her that I no longer was interested in dairy or meat.  So what do you think the very first words out of her mouth were?  "No worries, you can still have pizza, I'll just switch out the cheese."  And switch she did.  Evidence A:
Can you tell which side is mine?  The light color cheese is the non-dairy daiya cheese.
She made an amazing white pizza with olive oil, spinach, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, garlic, herbs and just a change of cheeses! 

My parents were more than willing to accommodate my veganism but they are not quite ready to take the plunge themselves.  However they did eat entirely animal-free with me one night when my Mom made bean & lentil burritos and I made kale chips.  The kale chips were a simple recipe that I stole from my friend Giselle.  All you do is rip up the kale, put it on a cookie sheet, mist with olive oil (in our case, truffle oil) and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Bake on 500 degrees until kale leaves are brown & crunchy.  They end up tasting just like yummy crispy chips... but they are way better for you! 

The boys like the kale chips too!

But the real challenge was going out to eat!  Vero is a beach town on the Atlantic, so of course they are known for their seafood.  Any other trip up there & I would have eaten fish, especially at my favorite restaurant, Citrus Grille!  But after looking at the small & limited menu, I was so impressed when my Mom told the waiter I was Vegan & asked if the chef could make me a special dish for my special diet.  The waiter was not even mildly surprised or bothered & here is what he brought to the table for me:

White Beans with tomatoes in olive oil - not butter, zucchini with mushrooms and peas!  Major yummy!!  I loved that meal & I loved that I could eat out with my Mom & Dad without cheating on the new diet that I love soooo much.  Being Vegan is now a lifestyle & a part of who I am, so I don't want to feel forced to eat something that I really don't want to put in my body.

One final meal for show & tell!  This was my easter brunch: raw sliced veggies to dip into an eggplant dip, a bean dip, pita chips, sweet potato & green beans... all made by my Mama!  While everyone else ate ham, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, bread & butter and carrot cake... would you ever believe that I was more than content with my veggie meal?  I had no cravings for the junk.  I really think it's because the desire is there & I'm so fulfilled by how much healthier I am & how amazing I feel now that I'm eating so clean.  I'm fueling my body, not polluting it!

One last pic because I couldn't just focus on Mom & forget about Dad!  This is my father, Michael Birch, with my eldest son, Simba.  PS I'm so proud to report that my Dad is eating many more vegetarian meals these days (thanks to Mom's cooking) & cutting back on the dairy.  He even tells me that he LOVES Almond Milk.  Don't tell him... but we may have a vegan-convert just waiting in the wings... baby steps Dad, baby steps ;)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

1 Month Vegan-Versary

Ok...so today is officially my 1 month vegan-versary!  Yay for me!  Where's my present?  Well, losing more than 5 pounds is present enough for me!  Not to mention having tons of energy, feeling full ALL the time & no longer snacking on salty or sweet crap.  I cannot believe how much I LOVE being Vegan!  My friends can't understand how it was so simple to switch my lifestyle.  In fact tonight, my producer, Rich, and my news desk manager, Senela, both asked me what I was going to eat for dinner, since they assume cutting animals out of your diet must be difficult.  So here is my dinner:

A black bean burger from Whole Foods, organic butternut squash soup from a box, steamed organic spinach from Costco and flax seed crackers with hummus.

How hard is that?  Super easy to pack & bring to work & even easier to pop in the microwave.  Did I mention that I don't cook?  If I can do this... anybody with even a remote desire to switch their diet... can join me in being lazy & STILL eating healthy!
So next my friends say, "Well fine that's because you packed your lunch, but what about eating out?"
Well here's my next example, I just got back from a week-long ski trip in Aspen & all I did was eat out. In fact, check out my favorite restaurant in Colorado:

Ha Ha Ha Ha Just Kidding!  NOT my fave restaurant... obviously!  But I did eat veggie rolls at Matsuhisu (Nobu), I ordered a start-to-finish completely Vegan lunch (with Chocolate mouse desert!) at Pyramid Bistro, I had veggie crepes with a squash puree soup at a cute little french restaurant, I ate all veggies, soup, salad and beans at an Italian restaurant.  Even when I was stuck in the airport for 22 hours due to a snowstorm that I would have preferred hit when I was still skiing on Ajax mountain... I was able to eat veggie fajitas with beans, rice, guac and salsa!
But here's the best part!  You know how when you're skiing and you stop at those little restaurants that dot the mountain that are more like glorified cafeterias, than anything else?  The ones that serve hotdogs, burgers & fries, cokes & cookies?  Well check out what I ate at the top of the mountain at Rosie's Restaurant:

That's right!  Vegetable soup, quinoa salad, orzo rice, kale salad, beet salad and organic wine!  Just kidding!  The wine was just plain old BV... but you get my point!

I have compared my lifestyle change of being Vegan to buying a new car.  When you decide on a new purchase and you know exactly what your next car will be, suddenly it's the only car you see on the road, wherever you go.  Being Vegan is very similar, once you decide what you want to eat & you are dedicated to your new diet, all of a sudden all you can see is a buffet of choices with plenty of possibilities! 

Day 1 - The Virgin Vegan

It got to the point that I couldn't ignore the noise anymore.  I'm a die-hard tree-hugger.  I'm an animal activist... I actually like animals more than people.  Ssshhhh don't tell!  And I was hearing more and more about "Going Vegan" the same way you hear about "Going Green."  Well, I gave up red meat years ago and the thought of a burger makes me want to throw up in my mouth.  And don't even get me started on how disgusting people are clear-cutting rainforests to make room for cattle grazing.  But I'm a workout freak!  I spin like a little hamster and I would like to think I pump weight like Arnold... well maybe lighter weights.  I drink protein shakes, I eat eggs, turkey for lunch, chicken for dinner.  I have to have my amino acids right?  And sushi... give up sushi?  Is that even possible?  So how was I going to dip my toes into the vegetable world and actually make it work?  Well, like an alcoholic of course!  I took the mantra of taking it one day at a time and turned it into "one meal at a time."  I didn't expect to be extreme and I was going to allow myself to slowly transition, even cheat if need be, just to get myself to where I needed to be at a manageable pace.  So, first it was a trip to Whole Foods with my semi-vegetarian girlfriend, Giselle, and her advice was to start with substitutions.  Easy enough, right?  Almond milk replaced my regular organic milk, Soy cheese replaced my regular cheese, tofurkey replaced turkey, plant protein powder for my shakes, vegan mayo replaced mayo.... and so on.  You get the idea.  And I felt like I could do it.  All I had to do was replace the animal products for non-animal products right?  So it seemed easy to me.  Maybe a tiny bit more expensive, but easy nonetheless.  And here's the kicker... it was easy!  Why?  Because my desire was there and the goal was attainable and because I truly believed in my heart, I never ever wanted to contribute to another animal being hurt, another part of our earth being destroyed and I wanted to control what I put in my mouth and make sure it was only good, healthy, natural food.