Today we are talking with Noelle of An Opera Singer in the Kitchen. As her blog title suggests, Noelle sings opera and loves to cook. Back in November, Noelle decided to become vegan in order to be healthier. She has also taken the time to give a little more information on the subject to help those of us that want to change our diets to include less animal by-products while giving some tasty alternatives!
MiK: What made you decide to write a food blog?
Noelle: After getting married in 2008, I had stopped blogging in general for 6 months about general life. After a year and half hiatus and after watching Julie and Julia, I decided I should chronicle my recipes since I loved creating recipes pretty much every night.
MiK: As of this past November (2009) you decided to go vegan and not just vegetarian. Why did you decide to completely remove all animal products from your diet? Was it difficult?
Noelle: Back in 2004 through 2006 I had been concentrating on a primarily vegetarian diet to thoroughly cleanse my system of toxins. After I started dating my husband, I felt like I could incorporate meat and dairy back in my life in a healthy way, but I started abusing the amount when I started eating it. After a year and a half of marriage, I decided to eliminate meat, dairy, and eggs because I felt that they were addictive and abusive to my health. I had progressively gained 50 pounds since incorporating meat in my life.
After reading Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet, I realized that I needed to focus on eating whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in order to bring balance into my life again. I did not find it difficult to go vegan overnight until 3 months after I started. I started craving my normal addictive foods like cheese and eggs. I had to realize why I had chosen to become vegan, even if it was not for ethical reasons. I wanted to have a healthy lifestyle and a more disciplined life by having a goal. My husband has definitely gotten on board with me 3 months ago and has totally encouraged me. It has also been an example for him too. That is a plus!
MiK: You’ve said your husband is still carnivorous. How well does that work when cooking for each other?
Noelle: For the time being, my husband likes to have his meat but on fewer days than before. He agreed to eat my vegan meals I prepared on days I did not serve him meat in order to show his support. He has really enjoyed my creative meals and has been pretty surprised with how meatless dishes can be so tasty. He only eats meat 2-3 times a week.
When I do prepare meat for him. I prepare it in a separate pan from everything else and I just add it to the already planned vegan meal I have prepared for myself. I have not complicated it for myself. So if I am making a stir-fry, I cook the chicken on the side and add it to his veggies and rice after I serve the meal. I definitely had to not make it complicated.
MiK: There are quite a few vegan products that you’ve reviewed. Do you have a favorite and are they easily obtainable online for those that cannot find them in their own area?
Noelle: Great question. One of the products I have come to really enjoy are the vegan faux meats made by Match Meats. They sell their products at Whole Foods or online. They have come in handy since they come in a variety of substitutions using a plant protein. It substitutes chicken, beef, crab, Italian sausage, and Pork flavor. I also enjoy Mori-Nu Tofu which can pretty obtained anywhere.
MiK: What were/are your favorite dishes as a vegetarian, meat eater, and now as vegan?
Noelle: As a vegetarian I enjoyed veggie enchiladas, salads, and sandwiches. As a meat-eater I enjoyed anything Italian like pizza, chicken parm, meaty spaghetti sauces. As a vegan I have tried to veganize some of my favorite recipes by substituting meat for soy crumbles and using Daiya vegan cheese as a GREAT substitute. Other than that, I really enjoy Asian stir-fries, sushi, and Mediterranean fare, like hummus, tabbouli, baba ganoush, and pita!
MiK: As an opera singer, do you think that the food you eat affects how you sing and perform?
Noelle: I firmly agree that eating certain foods does affect my singing and singing well in general. Concentrating on too many acid foods can create acid reflux and in turn affect the vocal chords in time. I also have felt that a healthier plant-based eating lifestyle has helped me not feel emotional depressed and has helped my breathing exercises and using my abdominals for appropriate vocal strength and technique.
MiK: For those that are wanting to incorporate more of a vegan or vegetarian diet into their life, what kind of advice do you have to help make the change easier? What is your favorite ingredient that you use for a meat substitute?
Noelle: I know it is different for everyone to make a drastic change in their eating lifestyles, but I do suggest reading material like The Kind Diet, or The China Study, or Fit for Life, that explains the reason for having a healthier lifestyle by focusing on correct food combining, plant-based diet, and the harm in comsuming too much dairy and red meat. I started this way and really focused on wanting to have a healthier body or to be prepared for future pregnancy. Choosing to eliminate meat is the first step. When making your favorite meals, eliminate the meat and substitute meat-like textures like portabella mushrooms. There are incentives out there. Go meatless 3 days out of the week and increase it week by week. There are so many delicious recipes that easily help one forget about meat. Here are a few of my favorite meat substitutes:
1. MATCH vegan meats (plant protein) for meatballs, vegan parmesan dishes, burgers.
2. Upton’s Naturals Seitan (vital-wheat gluten) comes in chorizo flavor and ground beef texture, for nachos, spaghetti sauce, tacos, enchiladas.
3. BOCA soy crumbles (soy based)-for taco salads,
4. Field Roast sausages (vital-wheat gluten)-for hot dogs, pasta dishes, or soups or stews
MiK: If you were a dish, what would you be? If you were an ingredient, what would you be?
Noelle: Hummus! Chickpeas! They are my favorite quick power energy dish and bean. It can be eaten with veggies or in a pita. So satisfying!
Thank you so much Noelle for such a great and informative interview! If you want to learn how to incorporate a more vegan/vegetarian diet into your life style or just get some very yummy meatless and healthy recipes, make sure to check out An Opera Singer in the Kitchen for some great ideas!