a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Jun, 2015

21-day vegetarian challenge: day two

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Challenge me, challenge you|Recipes and Food

I promise that the next 20 posts aren’t going to be all about what I’m eating, because that would be boring – for you and for me. I will update here and there when I have something to say, but if you are curious and want the daily menu update it is posted over here and will be updated as I go.

If you recall from yesterday’s post, I entered into this feeling determined yet woefully unprepared. No time. No list. No groceries. On Monday I had to go to the office early and wasn’t able to prepare a lunch. So, I dropped by Victory Caffe to see what was on the menu. It’s a different kind of place. Victory Caffe is actually a gym (the offer various fitness/boxing/coaching programs) and there are some food/coffee options/tables in the front part. Victory is actually my regular source for office coffee. They carry Happy Goat – locally roasted beans – and it’s always an excellent brew. There are always healthy items on the menu, and snacks too, and I knew I was in good hands if I asked The Question.

It was a little early for lunch, so I asked Anna, the owner, if she had any vegetarian and/or vegan options on the menu today, and then I told her about my 21-day vegetarian challenge. She asked when I was starting this challenge and I suspect my answer didn’t create much confidence.

“Er, today.”

Then she asked if I was eating eggs. I had no quick answer because honestly, I hadn’t thought about the exactly parameters of this particular challenge. And what about fish? Obviously, I still need to figure this out. Sigh.

We chatted about the importance of protein and macronutrients for women of, ahem, a certain age (Anna really knows her stuff) and we agreed that I’d come back at lunch hour for a beet ball sandwich. (Yes, you read that right. BEET. BALLS.)

I came back at 12:30 and we chatted some more. My sandwich was prepared and wrapped up in butcher paper and I happily went on my way.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. It was FULL OF ALL THE FLAVOURS and I am drooling as I type this. Surprisingly, it didn’t taste very beety, even though it was a pretty major ingredient. It was all very nutty and fresh and crunch and savoury and filling. There was goat cheese in it too, and the whole thing was pressed between a couple of slices of really excellent bread.

First lunch of my vegetarian challenge - Beetball sandwich (No, that's not a typo!) from Victory Cafe.

I’d call that a successful lunch, but her menu changes so frequently that I don’t know if she’ll ever have that same sandwich again. (Oh well. Dare to dream!)

That was probably the highlight of my meals yesterday.

This may sound terribly obvious to some of you (or most of you!) but just because someone calls themselves a vegetarian or a vegan doesn’t mean they’re healthy. If I was a vegetarian I can still eat all kinds of things that aren’t good for me: french fries, ice cream, cake, fried foods etc. The same is true for vegans I suppose. Potato chips and Coke would be a perfectly vegan lunch, but it’s far from perfect, isn’t it? And then there’s the question of processed foods. I had a meeting today and stopped by Rainbow Foods on the way home to pick up some dairy-free yogurt to try and some tofu. I also picked up a vegan caesar salad dressing that looks interesting, but holy cow, there’s no shortage of food products that are chock full of ingredients I don’t recognize or like. For example, many brands of veggie burgers have caramel colour in them. (I guess to make them look like their BBQ’d beefy counterparts?) Anyway, it’s something else to think about as I sit down and plan a proper menu for the week. I have a feeling I will be eating out a few more times too. This challenge would be a cinch if someone just fed me every day! ;)

3 Responses to "21-day vegetarian challenge: day two"

1 | Wanda

June 10th, 2015 at 9:07 am


I suspect as the 21 days progress you will find it easier. I have a few tidbits of advice for you:

1. Don’t try to replace meat with fake meat. I know you really enjoyed your beetball sandwich because it was not trying to taste like something else….it was just trying to taste good. St Yves lunch meat is just as processed as deli lunch meat. Mash up some chickpeas with a bit of yogurt, grated carrots, fresh herbs and put in a sandwich. Yum! Veggie burgers that look like meat burgers will never replace a beef burger for someone who wants that. Instead think outside the box. My daughter and I will slice an eggplant in circles, brush it with olive oil and grill it. Served on a bun with a dollop of hummus, tomato and lettuce is delicious! (The boys eat their beef burgers and it takes about the same time.)

2. Rethink the side dish. In our house side dishes are complete proteins. If you leave the meat off a plate, a wheatberry pilaf or mexican bean and corn salad (for example) sits beside a whack of veggies. The meat-eaters and non meat eaters are both happy – and there was only one meal prepared.

3. I once read that everyone has 8-10 meals that rotate. These are the meals that you can usually make without looking at a recipe with ingredients that you almost always have on hand. You can change your diet by slowly replacing each of your go to meals with recipes that you find just as simple and satisfying. Its all in the hunt for those recipes.

Good luck on your challenge. I know you will find some new family favourite meals that you may just keep afterwards!

2 | andrea tomkins

June 10th, 2015 at 9:31 am


I agree with everything you’re saying here Wanda.

I do find tofu-versions of meat a little odd: e.g. Tofurkey, sliced tofu cold cuts etc. I guess some people miss their traditional meaty ones so much they need to have them in their diet. I don’t know.

3 | Claudette

June 10th, 2015 at 12:45 pm


I agree too with the ‘don’t replace the meat with fake stuff’. Seriously…people do that? I find this very surprising….

As you’ll notice in my very long comment on your previous post, I complained about the prep work for the vegetarian meals I did occasionally. But life is busy, and sometimes you don’t have to define all the perimeters. If people want to know just say ‘I’m not eating meat right now’ and when they ask about fish or eggs or dairy, you can change your answer. I mean, it’s about the meat, this challenge you are taking, right? Don’t worry about the other stuff.

As I said in my previous comment on yesterday’s post, I grew up in Switzerland and dairy is a huge component of Swiss people. I still love cheese, milk, and associated products, but I have very little of it. For one thing, like reputable meat, good quality cheese is also expensive….isn’t it unfortunate that the ‘good for you’ stuff is expensive? Organic, reputable…sigh.

But your sandwich looks fantastic. I have beets here, I grilled some yesterday and drizzled with olive oil, but a sandwich component sounds delish! Next time you shop, get a big bag of beets (if you can find yellow ones, they don’t bleed), take some extra time to peel a few extras, and keep in fridge after you grill them. (young beets can be eaten raw). Then you can add them to almost anything for crunch, colour….

Now I’m all hungry… :)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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