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Veggie-tastic

This past Friday (February 8th) marked my 6th month as an official vegetarian!

Becoming a vegetarian is something that I had been interested in for a long time, but never committed to for one reason or another. So after months of generally eating meat-free, I decided to finally take the plunge in August, and I haven’t looked back. Sure, I’ve made a few mistakes here and there (dipping a chip into an unassuming dip at a party only to find out there’s shredded chicken in it), and I haven’t inquired in great detail while out at restaurants (is the meat-free pasta dish truly vegetarian?), but I’d say that overall the last 6 months have been a success.

I thought I would share with you what has helped me in the journey, in case some of you are toying with the idea of becoming vegetarian, but feel like they don’t have enough resources to be successful in your attempt. Or, if you’re just looking for more ways to incorporate a meat-free diet into your life (even if not all the time)! I’d be lying to you if I said it’s easy; sometimes I just want a hamburger, and I often get questioned and teased by friends and family, but at the end of the day, I know that I’m making the right decision for myself. And at the end of the day, that’s what is most important! So here are a few different things that have really helped me.

Vegetarian/Vegan blogs, with tons of delicious recipes (just to name a few):

Vegetarian/Vegan Cookbooks:

  • Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
  • Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
  • The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen
  • Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Robertson
  • The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook by Kim O’Donnel
  • Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Raymond

All of the above blogs and cookbooks have either vegetarian or vegan recipes (some a mix, some just one). I’ve made plenty of vegan meals despite being a vegetarian. But I’ve also made plenty of vegan recipes and easily turned them into vegetarian (usually just by adding cheese). Most of them are also easily adaptable to other dietary restrictions (gluten free, etc.).

Pantry Staples:

  • Grains: quinoa, cous cous, farro, brown rice, lentils
  • Meat substitutes: Tempeh, tofu, soy chorizo, TVP (textured vegetable soy protein)
  • Beans and protein: pretty much any and all bean types, eggs, Greek yogurt
  • Condiments/extras: almond butter, peanut butter, nutritional yeast, lots of spices
  • Vegetables! Fruits! Milk and cheese!

Quick Fixes:

  • LightLife refrigerated and frozen meals
  • Amy’s Kitchen frozen meals and soups
  • Frozen veggie burgers (what can I say, I’m a sucker for them. Though I do love homemade!)

Obviously the above isn’t an extensive list, but just the basic things that have really helped me over the last 6 months. There are tons of resources for vegetarians and vegans (tons of blogs, websites, magazines, etc.), and while nothing will completely replace the taste of meat, there are plenty of foods and recipes that will help you not miss it so much. And I know for a lot of people, the above information is not new. But I can’t tell you how many people don’t truly know what vegetarians eat (yes, we eat more than lettuce!).

Do you have any other suggestions for resources I should check out (food brands, recipes, blogs)?
Are you a vegetarian? Ever gave it a try, or thinking about it? 

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National Potato Chip Day and Giveaway Winner!

I know it’s Pi Day, but I didn’t have the chance to make any pie. However, celebrating National Potato Chip Day was much easier! If you’re looking for something yummy to whip up, may I suggest maybe TERRA Chip Mexican Lasagna or Homemade Potatchoes ?

Anyway, there weren’t many contestants this time around, so Random.org picked #2… Cate of Cate’s World Kitchen (who cooks up some super yummy stuff)! So if you could e-mail your info to foodosaurusrex [at] gmail [dot] com, I’ll have your chips on their way! 

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Anoter Meatless Monday: Balsamic Roasted Veggies with Cous Cous

This particular recipe I saw on Cate’s World Kitchen, and knew it’d be a great beginning of fall dish. My fiancé and I are both big fans of balsamic vinegar, to the point where sometimes we use just that as our salad dressing. I wound up omitting the mushrooms because he isn’t a big fan, and instead of Japanese eggplant, I just used regular. Of course I threw some spices on it as well to warm it up a bit!

I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen the past week and a half thanks to my latest and greatest running injury. I somehow managed to out-do myself, and have had trouble walking since last Thursday (the 9th). While running in our Vibram Five Fingers, at about mile 5 I felt pain in my achilies and ankles, so I stopped. Walking helped a lot, and I didn’t feel too awful on the drive home. However, as soon as I got out of the car, I could barely walk – that 20 minute drive gave my muscles and tendons the perfect amount of time to tighten up, and swell. The next day I could barely walk; I shuffled myself through the office awkwardly. I’ve been icing it daily, and my canckles are slowly going down. I’m anxious to get back to running, but realize I need to wait until I have absolutely no pain when walking before doing so. I had a little breakdown on Saturday night from sheer frustration and discomfort, as I have a 5k race in just 3 weeks that I was hoping to PR at. I’m hoping to get in a mile or two today, as I’m slowly feeling better. But we’ll see.

But back to the food! The recipe was straightforward and easy; it was nice to chop up the veggies, coat them in the balsamic vinegar, throw them in the oven, and leave them for a bit to do homework. I always appreciate meals that don’t require constant attention. I decided to use a package of cous cous that my parents actually gave me over the weekend. I have no idea why they even have cous cous in the house, because my dad loathes it. Cous cous and ginger are on his hate list, which I think is so weird, because other than that, he loves pretty much everything. Oh, and he hates chocolate and mint combined, but so do I so I’m okay with it! It was a pine nut cous cous, which was a nice change of pace from our regular whole weat cous cous. I’d recommend getting some flavored cous cous every so often just to jazz it up.

Balsamic Vegetables with Cous Cous
(adapted from Veggie Belly)

Balsamic Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic minced
salt and pepper

Roasted Vegetables
1 medium Japanese eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
10 button mushrooms, halved

Salad
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut chiffonade

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 475 F.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together.
3. Toss all the vegetables in a large bowl, and add half the dressing. Mix so that all the vegetables are coated, then spread onto a rimmed sheet pan and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until everything is tender.
4. While the vegetables are roasting, bring the water to a boil in a medium covered saucepan. When it boils, turn off the heat and stir in the couscous. Let stand, covered, for about ten minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
5. Add the roasted vegetables, remaining dressing, and basil, and mix well before serving.

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