When There Is No Vegan Substitute

This is one in a series of food photo diary posts in which I track my food in pictures. I’m also counting my calories. Read all about it in this post or click here to view a detailed breakdown of my calorie intake in a nifty spreadsheet.

Vegan Experiment Gone Amiss

Last Sunday Tim and I tried to make vegan “tortilla de patatas”, aka a spanish omelet, spurred on by this photo and recipe at vegalicious.org. The recipe makes use of chickpea flour to bind the potatoes into an omelet-shaped food object.

The result? Nothing like a spanish omelet, and a sad waste of some really yummy fried potato and onion.

The lesson: vegan food shouldn’t attempt to imitate non-vegan foods. The result will invariably be less delicious than the original version. This especially goes for foods such as eggs, bacon, cheese and, well, anything that is inherently non-vegan.

Of course, I have a little dilemma here. Take veggie burgers, for example. I love veggie burgers, especially black bean burgers. I also love spaghetti and tofu “neatballs”, vegan crepes, and most recently, fruit with tofu- or cashew-based “cream”. Are these foods faking it? Or are these foods a completely different thing? All I know is I like them – isn’t that enough?

Food and Exercise Log

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Calories In: 1,448
Calories Out: 2,200
Deficit: 752

I definitely needed to eat more on Sunday given all the exercise (lots of walking and swimming). It’s no wonder I had a major snack attack in the middle of the day.

Bircher Muesli Mini Breakfast

Bircher Muesli Mini Breakfast

When I awoke in the morning, I was struck by two opposing forces: hunger and the desire to swim. I compromised by having a little bite to eat, but not enough to cause my stomach to go wonky at the pool: about 1/4 serving of Bircher Muesli with banana, plus a cup of black tea with soy milk.

Calories: 180
Protein: 6.6g
Fat: 4.4g
Carbs: 31.5g


50 mins / 1750 meters

Calories burned: ~300


Vegan Buckwheat Crepes with Marmalade, Fruit and Cashew “Cream”

Marmalade Crepes with Fruit and Cashew Cream

Two vegan buckwheat crepes filled with orange marmalade, topped with fresh fruit and cashew cream. Enjoyed with a cuppa decaf coffee with soy milk.

Calories: 263
Protein: 10.7g
Fat: 8g
Carbs: 40g


Three park walk with Tim, ~ 4 miles.

Calories burned: ~300


Vegan Spanish “Omelet” and a Big Salad

Vegan Experiment Gone Amiss

Calories: 271
Protein: 10.5g
Fat: 1.9g
Carbs: 57g


Random Snackage

Black beans, satsuma, black tea with soy milk. Consumed at various points between lunch and dinner. No photos!

Calories: 180
Protein: 11g
Fat: 1.8g
Carbs: 32g


Black Beans and Rice with Sauteed Greens

Black Beans and Rice

Nothing better than a simple meal of beans and mexican rice. Served this with some cabbage sauteed with onion and garlic, then topped the lot with avocado, tomato and pickled jalapeno.

Calories: 405
Protein: 13.7g
Fat: 15g
Carbs: 55.7g


Grapefruit and Rooibos Tea with Soymilk


Calories: 148
Protein: 4.6g
Fat: 1.5g
Carbs: 32g

7 thoughts on “When There Is No Vegan Substitute

  1. jw

    i’m amazed by your rigorous calorie accounting.. how well does your weight loss correlate with your calculated deficits?

  2. Nachos

    I totally agree on your point about vegan food imitating non-vegan food. It’s a big silly waste of time! Crepes and some cakes/biccies are the only things that will pass the test and that’s only when you can’t taste the soy or other substitutes. Fake meat and dairy are awful awful awful.

    As for veggie burgers… bean based ones are delicious and as far as I’m concerned, a food on their own, nothing to do with the meat counterpart! Veggie burgers only get gross when they’re made from TVP (and are trying to imitate meat).

    Vegan omelettes aren’t bad but again, they are a food in their own right – the non-vegan names are what let these foods down!

    As for your disappointing tortilla de patatas… I can only say that anything heavy on flour has always let me down! IT makes the food heavy, dry and flavourless. The recipe you used could probably benefit from using a 1/2-1 package of firm silken tofu with just 2-3 tablespoons of flour to help hold it together, rather than 8 tablespoons of flour! Would totally help with the texture and keep it moist!

    P.s. Again you have influenced me… I bought a couple of grapefruits the other day!! I haven’t had them since I Was a kid and I really used to hate them, but a lot has changed since I grew up so maybe I’ll like them this time ’round.

  3. Monica Shaw

    @jw – would be believe i’m trying to gain weight? the fact is, my weight hasn’t changed much in recent weeks, even though i keep seem to be burning more calories than i consume. i attribute this to friday and saturday outings with friends, where i typically have a few beers and eat lots of rich food. why aren’t these pictures up on SmarterFitter? i’m a slacker. i’ve been meaning to write a post about the merits of calorie counting when i regularly neglect to log those BIG meals. and also a post about learning to eat more when you need to (as I do… if you read my diary from a while back, i dropped a lot of weight suddenly due to a kidney infection and need to put it back on – in muscle i hope!).

    @nachos – I tend to agree with you. If the food isn’t try to “mock” meat, then it’s okay. Speaking of vegan omelets, you remind me that I’ve been meaning to make a besan cheela again. You might like this: http://www.spacekadet.org/2007/05/27/besan-cheela-with-cilantro-mint-chutney/“ rel=”nofollow”>Besan Cheela with Cilantro Mint Chutney (at my personal blog).

    Re the patatas, I had the same thought – tofu would have been nice. The chickpea flour didn’t really “set”. I’ve had better luck with FFV’s tofu “omelet” creations, which I used to create a http://www.spacekadet.org/2007/03/24/silken-tofu-experiment-1-vegan-mushroom-broccoli-pseudo-quiche/“ rel=”nofollow”>crustless quiche that was quite good.

    Enjoy the grapefruits. 🙂 They’re great with agave nectar drizzled on top!

  4. Sagan

    I adore Spanish tortilla (but prefer to leave the onions out, myself). It’s interesting how some foods can be veganized (or healthified), and other foods just can’t be. But we’re only going to learn through trial and error as to what can be replaced and what we need the real deal for!

  5. Katharina

    I think all that matters is that you enjoy the taste! 🙂 A cashew-based creamy sauce sounds so darn good! Mind if I ask for the recipe?

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend. All your pictures of your food are so vibrant and mouth-watering.

  6. Nachos

    I totally agree about onions being the best part!

    That besan cheela looks delicious, I’m definitely going ot have to try it!! Yum yum yum.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *