30-Day Challenge: Going Vegan With Tara
After two weeks, I think I’ve discovered the worst place to be a vegan: the bagel store. In New York, people usually have a favorite neighborhood bagel place—and can be pretty defensive about them. Mine is a 2-minute walk from my apartment and, on the weekends, always has a line down the block. It’s just delicious. When found myself there as a vegan this Sunday, I was immediately kind of miserable. A life without scallion cream cheese?? How? This was the first time I’ve really wanted to cheat, but instead of my normal choice, I managed to force out a request for the tofu-based cream cheese. Though I was hoping for another pleasant surprise, I unfortunately was not impressed.
I’ll be taking a closer look at the range of meat and dairy replacement options in a few weeks, but until then, I think I’ll have to come up with another option. One person I talked to suggested a flavored hummus on bagels instead, which actually sounds great. She also mentioned that she chooses hummus because, as a vegan, she eats a lot of soy and is trying to limit her intake.
This is something I’ve heard before and it got me thinking. Since I went vegan, I’ve been drinking soy milk and eating soy foods like tofu regularly, and several people have told me to be careful. There are all kinds of reports out there of soy disrupting thyroid function, prohibiting nutrient uptake and, most commonly, increasing risk of breast cancer. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens, chemicals that can mimic the behavior of the hormone estrogen. The thinking was that because estrogen is a known factor in many types of breast cancers, the extra phtyoestrogens from soybeans would also increase risk.
As I was looking for answers to this, I went straight to an authority, the American Cancer Society, and, given the prevalence of this claim, was surprised by the straightforward answer I found there. The bottom line, according to their website, is that soy products are “unlikely to increase your risk of breast cancer and, on balance, are some of the healthier foods you can eat.”
They did note that soy supplements are not recommended because they contain much higher concentrations of the compounds than anything you would normally eat and haven’t been rigorously studied yet. Some studies with rats suggested potentially harmful effects, but many epidemiological studies—with real people—actually showed that women who ate more soy had LESS breast cancer than a general population.
It did always seem strange to me that a little bean could be that dangerous.
In addition to enjoying my soy lattes worry-free this week, I was also determined to make some exciting new vegan dinners. Unfortunately, I also neglected to grocery shop all week and didn’t have a ton of ingredients to work with. With some kale that needed to be used, half a red onion and a kalamata olive tapenade that I impulsively bought awhile ago, I made a vegan pizza that was actually pretty amazing!
Admittedly, it doesn’t contain tomato sauce or cheese so calling it pizza might be a stretch, but with a glass of wine and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert, I was not complaining.
Like Dani, I’m not the best at measuring things while I cook, but here’s the basic recipe.
KALE AND OLIVE PIZZA
1 pizza dough
Bunch of shredded kale
Sliced red onions
Salt and pepper
Olive oil spray
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Roll out dough on a baking sheet (be sure to use baking spray or some flour to prevent sticking)
Using the tapenade as your sauce, apply to dough, leaving some room at the ends for crust
Top with kale and sliced onions (once you’ve covered the dough with toppings, put on more. I wished I put more kale on mine!)
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a few hot pepper flakes if desired, and hit it with a little bit of olive oil spray
Bake according to dough instructions (usually not more than 15-20 min at high heat), remove and serve!
This was a fast, easy dinner that came out delish! Something about the saltiness of the olive tapenade and crispy baked kale went really well together. And with lots of the green superfood on there, I’d say it counts as healthy.
Follow me at @taracarberry for more updates along the way.
Read more of the LadyLux 30-Day Challenge.