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Earth Balance and Fakin’ Bacon

When I decided to go vegan back in October, I learned that Smart Balance Light was a buttery spread that fit right in with my dietary preferences so I have been using that for a while now.

I mostly use it on sweet potatoes, some veggies, on warm toasted bread. Like 1 tsp at a time! So containers last me forever. I also occasionally use it in what little baking I do these days 😉

But recently, my last container of SBL ran out and I decided it was finally time to try what I hear so many of my vegan blogger friends brag about…EARTH BALANCE!

I was amazed at the variety there was to choose from (even at Walmart!) but I decided to start with the basic natural buttery spread. It is soy free, vegan and a good source of Omega 3’s.

Earth Balance has more calories per serving than Smart Balance Light, but it also has fewer ingredients. And I have found the two to be quite different!

I first used Earth Balance on a sweet potato I had with dinner one night this week.

I was amazed at how well and quickly it melted. Plus it had a very light “buttery” taste (for lack of a better word).

I next tried it on an English muffin, which I also topped with some preserves.

It tasted so good and the preserves didn’t cover it up at all. It melted on there perfectly.

Okay, so here’s what I have determined: Smart Balance Light is a vegan substitute for MARGARINE. Earth Balance is vegan BUTTER. There is a difference and your personal preference will determine which one you use more of.

I think I’m sticking with this one for a while. It melts better, tastes better and you can cook with it. Smart Balance was always so hard to blend in with baking ingredients.

Oh! I almost forgot…wondering what that bacon-like food is up there?

You guys remember how I recently tried tempeh and loved it so much (that I haven’t had tofu since then)?

Well, my friend Sam highly recommended that I try the Fakin’ Bacon which are smoky tempeh strips that you cook on the stove and serve up with breakfast (or in vegan BLTs, which I’m so going to have to try next).

They kind of fell apart on me a little bit and I wasn’t able to get them very crispy but that was because I got impatient and wanted to eat them!

They tasted great though and I think next time I will just cook them a little longer to desired crispiness. I love tempeh!!

But don’t you miss…?

I know there are a lot of misconceptions out there about the vegan diet. Like how it is depriving, too restrictive, or that I’ve had to “give up so much stuff.” I don’t see it that way at all. But I will admit, I have shared those opinions before I knew what I know now.

  • I’ve actually added more foods into my diet than I have given up.
  • I eat more of a variety now than I used to and I definitely get more use of my kitchen appliances.
  • I’ve cooked more recipes than I ever have before.
  • Did I mention I feel the best I EVER HAVE?! I have more energy (no longer fall asleep on the couch at 8), my workouts are better, my mood has improved, I sleep better, feel more peaceful, and have nearly perfection digestion.

I became a vegan for my health (first) and it has definitely done it’s part.

I know this is not true for everyone. I could see where a really picky eater, someone with food allergies, or other challenges would have a hard time with a vegan diet. For some people, they just like a food too much to give it up and I understand. But it is still possible if you feel led to do so. You just have to put in a little work — experiment with different foods and cooking methods, talk to lots of people in the vegan community (I can recommend a few), and even mess up from time to time. But the rewards, for me, are so worth it.

I have gotten a lot of questions about my vegan diet over the past 2 1/2 months, from family, friends and strangers. One of my favorite ones right now is:

“But don’t you miss (cheese/yogurt/eggs/etc)?”

The short answer is no. Since cutting out dairy, I have had almost no stomach issues (occasionally, I overdo fiber, ha ha). People rarely ask me if I miss meat (since I wasn’t a big meat eater to begin with, I guess). So let’s just address everything else:

Cheese – I always had a love/hate relationship with cheese because while I felt that it met my protein and calcium needs, it almost always led to an upset stomach, especially when consumed in large quantities (i.e. on pizza). I don’t think I knew that is what it was at the time, I even blamed it on veggies, fruit and beans for a while.  I eat a lot of those things now and it doesn’t happen. Hmm…

I did go through a few phases where I thought I might be lactose intolerant in the past so I guess in the back of my mind, I did know what was causing it. I do not try to “replace” cheese in my diet with a vegan-friendly option either. I just don’t want it, period.

Yogurt – Before transitioning to a vegan diet, I had yogurt just about every day. My favorite was Greek because of its thickness, high protein content and low sugar (if you stuck to plain). I thought I would miss yogurt a lot and I even tried a few non-dairy yogurts for a while but they are just too sweet and contain too much sugar for my tastes. Occasionally, I do miss Greek yogurt, but not the way it made me fart feel.

Eggs – These by far have been the easiest thing to live without. For me, they were always forgettable anyway. I used to incorporate egg-based dishes into my weekly breakfasts (and sometimes dinners) but almost always found that despite their “gold standard” protein content, they did not fill me up as well as a nice bowl of oats. When I ordered them at restaurants they made me sick (too much butter or oil). So why bother?

However, eggs have been the hardest thing to get around in so many products (seriously, egg whites are in everything). But it’s getting easier over time. But, there are so many egg alternatives out there that I don’t worry about not using them in baking.

Butter was not a problem for me because I never really used it much anyway and I have discovered Smart Balance Light which is much healthier and vegan too. There are also other brands out there like Earth Balance, so there is no need to worry about not having butter.

I’m not going to do in depth with honey, since no one has ever asked me if I miss that (ha ha). But I don’t use it at home and I try to avoid it in products as best I can but sometimes I just don’t worry about it. That’s more of an ethics issue anyway (I’m becoming more sensitive in this area but still have a lot of learning to do).

[Note: There are other animal by-products, like gelatin , rennet and casein, that I keep an eye out for but mostly they are not an issue in the foods that I eat.]

So, that’s my story!

Vegans: what was the hardest thing for you to eliminate from your diet? What do people ask you about it?

Non-vegans: If you’ve ever thought about trying a vegan diet, what has held you back?