Mochi Waffles Drizzled with Lemon-Walnut-Rice Syrup & the Vegan Challenge Wrap-Up

Before I delve into my as-promised vegan thoughts, I would love to discuss mochi waffles. Are you familiar with mochi? Previously, I only knew it as the gelatinous dough-like foodstuff wrapped around Japanese desserts, so I was pretty impressed that it could also puff up and take the shape of a waffle.

The Kind Diet's version:

our version:
And though the mochi did impress me with its seemingly magical transformation, I can’t say it tasted exactly like the waffles of yore (pre-challenge). It was more reminiscent of a hot and chewy rice cake. And I think if it were topped with maple syrup and walnuts instead of the brown rice syrup, it would have been borderline delicious, or at least more like the real thing. Unfortunately, to me, the brown rice syrup and lemon just made it taste like health food. What didn’t taste like health food? Tempeh bacon. Without it, I think brunch would have been a total fail instead of the non-success I've labeled it as now.
And now, I bring you... vegan thoughts!

What I realized/learned through three weeks of being a vegan:

1. Going vegan is totally doable and surprisingly, not as hard as I thought. Though at first it was a bit of a shock to my system, after about the tenth day, my body and mind began to adjust. Specifically: the question of what Matt and I were going to eat for dinner didn’t feel as panic-inducing as it did throughout that first week. Being a vegan became part of the routine. And instead of elaborate, time-consuming vegan meals like the almond tofu with soba noodles, we went back to some old standards like pasta with marinara sauce (sans grated Parmesan) and southwestern corn and potato soup (with vegetable stock). And what do you know? We were happily surprised to find that these meals still worked.

2. I am a bit out of touch when it comes to the whole mind/body connection. Throughout this challenge, people asked me how I felt. “Don’t you just feel great?” or “Do you have more energy?” or just plainly, “How do you feel?” and honestly, apart from the low-level anxiety I experienced early on in the challenge, I can’t say I’ve felt much different. Matt, on the other hand, reported that after the first week, he felt he had more energy and clearer focus.

3. As further evidence to my poor mind/body connectivity, I submit the fact that it took me two whole days to pair my sudden, persistent low-level anxiety with the fact that I had completely ousted all animal products from my diet, something I have never done before. At first, I was trying to connect the feeling to anything but the change in my diet. I figured I was just stressed. I was deep into Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and blamed the book for bringing up buried anxieties about my life, career, etc.—et cetera, always the worst of all. And then I thought it was because of something else and then something else and it wasn’t until I was listing all of these explanations to Matt when he finally interrupted me by saying: “Or maybe it’s because you just changed your diet in a very fundamental way.” that the connection was finally made. Duh. As previously mentioned, I starting taking a Vitamin B supplement and began feeling much more myself.

4. People, including me, like to make fun of people with dietary restrictions. Why? It’s different. Different is funny.

5. I read in a few different places that a plant-based diet leads to glowing skin. I got really into this idea, staring at myself in the mirror for prolonged moments and wondering if it was happening yet. After three weeks, I'm not sure I've noticed much of a difference. But here is a before and after shot taken without any touch-ups or makeup so that you can decide.

before veganism:

It's hard to say. Both seem pretty glow-y.

6. Avocados were essential.

7. To be a vegan for real (i.e. longer than a 21-day challenge), I think the diet must make absolute sense to you and fit your lifestyle, which brings me to my next list.

What makes sense to me:
1. Eating foods that keep you well. This challenge has reminded me in a big way about the immediate (but oddly easy to forget) connection between what you eat and how you feel.
2. Real Food Daily’s Club Sandwich.
3. Butter (in moderation). (Please see below for further explanation)

What doesn’t make sense to me:
1. Non-dairy butter/margarine. As someone who has never experienced any form of lactose intolerance, non-dairy butter/margarine (expeller pressed natural oil, water, salt, crushed soy beans, natural flavor, soy lecithin, lactic acid, naturally extracted annatto for color) makes much less sense than butter (shaken cream).

2. A friend lent me her copy of The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading during this challenge. Silverstone’s optimism and enthusiasm for her vegan diet are definitely contagious and the recipe portion of the book inspires, however, with that said, there were a few passages that made me take pause and scratch my head. One of those passages: Silverstone makes a case against dairy with the argument that “Our bodies are not meant to drink any milk except our own mother’s milk, and only when we are babies!” She continues, “Did you know that we are the only animals that drink another species’ milk? Pandas don’t drink gorilla milk… dogs don’t drink goat milk…” And while I can get behind other potential reasons not to ingest dairy products, I must say: this is an argument that really gets my goat(’s milk). It’s just hard for me personally to buy into the if-an-animal-doesn’t-do-it-we-shouldn’t-do-it argument. If animals had the ability to retrieve another animal’s milk and then the know-how and patience to churn it into smoked gouda and then grill it up between two pieces of bread, they would. In fact, it’s a favorite snack of my grandma’s dog! Further, and this is really pushing it, but I’m going to go there anyway: other animals do drink other animals’ milk! Can we all please collectively agree that this is what’s happening here?

All qualms aside, veganism is a personal decision, and from someone who respects other people's dietary persuasions, I'm into it. Shades of the vegan diet are for me, but not strict veganism as a whole. And so, in conclusion, I am so very glad I took on this challenge. I feel as though I’m returning to my normal diet with not only a newfound appreciation for the foods I’ve missed, but also a newfound appreciation for my good health.

But maybe I’m speaking too soon. We shall see. Tomorrow is my first day post-challenge and I have no idea what's on the menu... See you on the other side?

Mochi Waffles Drizzled with Lemon-Walnut-Rice Syrup via The Kind Diet
Serves 4 to 5
1 cup walnuts
1 to 1 1/2 packages plain mochi (Grainaissance brand is good)
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until just starting to turn golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
2. Transfer to a bowl to cool, and chop coarsely. Set aside.
3. Preheat a waffle iron. Cut a package of mochi into 3 large pieces, widthwise.
4. Slice each piece into long fingerlike pieces, about 1/4-inch wide.
5. Using 6 to 8 strips for each waffle, place the mochi strips on the hot, ungreased waffle iron and close the top. Cook until puffed and slightly crispy but not too hard and dry, about 3 minutes, or until your waffle iron signals that it's done.
6. Remove the waffle and place on a plate. Do not stack the waffles because they will stick together.
7. While the waffles cook, combine the rice syrup with 3 tablespoons of water, lemon juice, and toasted walnuts in a saucepan.
8. Stir together over medium heat just until warmed. Pour over the waffles, and serve.
9. Serve and eat waffles as soon as possible — they are best hot and crispy.
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bon appetempt said...

I agreeee. The Vegan Challenge was actually not so bad! Two additional observations: 1) While oftentimes super good, the meals, in general, seem a little less satisfying, and 2) The package of Vegan cheese says "It Melts!" but it never melted...

Matthew said...

btw -- the previous comment was me, MATT.

Vivier said...

Youre funny. Welcome back to this side.

jeana sohn said...

love the glowing grandma and your photos.

time to hit korean BBQ, no?

keepfeeling said...

#4 is so true. i always feel so lame when i have to tell people that i don't eat chicken or pork, but i do eat turkey and beef if it's grass fed/organic. i always start it by saying, "i know this is LAME, but..." - b/c people do look at me funny or think i'm silly. but i have my reasons and i will share them with you in person!

p.s. it has nothing to do with a bear sitting at a picnic table.

p.p.s. nice job on the mochi waffles.

Kristin said...

I could not agree more with your post! Love it! Especially your insights on dairy (parts 1 and 2 of the what doesn't make sense to me). Well put.

amelia said...

@vivier merci! it's good to be back.

@jeanasohn korean bbq here i come!

@keepfeeling: wait! i thought the picnic-table bear summed it all up so succinctly!! ;)

Fashion Intel said...

Yum, that looks pretty good! Butter in moderation? Hmmm, I'll think about that. heh.

Mary Anne said...

My reactions as I read this post were: mmm bacon, mmm avocado, and "as soon as I finish reading I am going to google 'how to make your own butter.'"

I guess I'm not meant to be vegan! I'm just meant to eat delicious things!

Mary Anne said...

Good job with the challenge! What were the first animal products you ate today? Do tell!

amelia said...

@mary anne: wellll, since you asked: I had a few bites of cake this morning after breakfast. Then, I had a california roll for lunch and for dinner, I had a vegetarian burrito with cheese and sour cream. ALL DELICIOUS.

Alex said...

I enjoyed learning from your vegan challenge and I admire your open mind towards Alicia Silverstone's book.

p.s. The dog is indeed suckling the cubs and the mochi waffles with walnut-rice syrup were definitely delicious. Bravo!

Kara said...

Amelia! So damn funny. The bears, the baby tigers, Grandma (and Grandma's dog). Thank you for sharing your vegan adventure. I will say, philosophy aside, cream and butter make me inexplicable queasy unless the sun is shining just right when I eat them. Also, I once made pancakes with that very same brown rice syrup in your picture, to Tim's horror and both of our disappointment.

Mary Anne said...

I wonder if Alicia Silverstone will comment on this post?

Brock James said...

funny, informative, and commendable!

also, did you know trees scream when you chop them down?


Anonymous said...

I'm late to the game but... on our honeymoon in Costa Rica we went whale watching. And there were dolphins chasing a mother whale. The guide said they are after her milk because it is thick like cottage cheese, floats to the surface, and is super nutritious. So there you go... example #2.