Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vegetarian Meals

So I've been on a theme-posting kick lately.  This week I wanted to bring you two articles I have on cooking vegetarian/vegan and why you might consider eating vegetarian or vegan.  I also wanted to provide a list of meatless meals so if you are vegetarian and looking for some recipes or looking to reduce your consumption of meat/animal products and want some ideas, this list of recipes and links to resources is for you.  October 1st was World Vegetarian Day, which also kicks off Vegetarian Awareness Month, I'm glad I thought to do this post in October.  :)

Why Vegetarian?
Basics of Vegetarian Cooking

Banana Muffins- A vegan muffin that is moist and delicious.  Sometimes when I make these I use brown sugar instead of regular white sugar.

Tortellini, Tomato and Spinach Soup- A hearty meatless soup that you can pack with nutrient rich veggies.  Try using whole wheat pasta that has more protein as well as other green veggies like broccoli and kale.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas - This is a great recipe, you can make your own green sauce as written in the recipe or look for a green sauce made without chicken broth and added preservatives.  I also suggest doubling this recipe as it only makes 8 as written.

Vegan Crockpot Lasagna- A rich and hearty lasagna you can easily have on a busy weeknight because you made it in the crockpot.

Healthy Bean Soup with Kale- Good fiber, good green kale and protein in this hearty soup.

10 Minute Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice- This is an excellent side dish, but it can also be a filling main dish served with a salad or a saute of veggies.

Brown Rice Salad with Spinach and Tomatoes
- Another great side dish, but also a good option if you need some meatless options for a dinner or potluck.

Three Bean Salad with Quinoa-A great dish packed with protein and fiber.

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup- A good hearty soup.  Try to use a whole wheat pasta to add more protein.

Summer Squash and White Bean Sauté- This summer dish can be tossed w/ pasta or served over rice or quinoa.

Bulgar Taco Salad with Cilantro and Lime- Bulgar makes this a hearty meatless salad that is a great complete meal with good sources of protein plus fiber and iron.  

Veggie Tacos- This recipe is so adaptable.  Use whatever fresh vegetables you like then just follow the instructions for seasoning and preparing the tortillas.

Roasted Fall Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza- A hearty meatless pizza with great roasted vegetables like butternut squash, potatoes, carrots and plenty of garlic.

Butternut Squash and Macaroni Casserole- Delicious meatless fall casserole that uses coconut milk instead of any heavy cream or cheese. 

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna- The combination of sage and butternut squash are so good!  Definitely use fresh or cooked store-bought noodles, don’t use the no-boil noodles with this recipe.  Cut your prep time with using pre-cut squash. 

A few websites with good vegetarian recipes
101 Cookbooks
Oh She Glows
Fat Free Vegan
Skinny Taste

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why Vegetarian?

 Another article from my friend Allison that provides some information and resources about eating vegetarian and/or vegan.  Even if you are just interested in reducing the amount of meat or animal products that you consume, she provides some very interesting statistics.

 Why Vegetarian

 By Allison Brewer,

There are probably as many reasons that people choose to be vegetarian as there are recipes for vegan mac and cheese. Whatever your reason for making the switch, you will reduce your carbon footprint, lower your cholesterol, increase your life expectancy, and stop participating in the business of factory farming of animals and animal products.
Whether you have chosen to transition to a plant-based diet or simply wish to reduce your intake of animal products, your choice to do so is a personal one. Regardless of others’ opinions, only you know what works for you, your family and your values.
Here are a few reasons why others have made this choice.

For Health
Switching to a vegetarian diet will lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce your risk for type-2 diabetes and cancer. The top two causes of death for Americans are heart disease and cancer. Following a vegetarian diet will help to protect your body from both. Vegetarians are less likely to be obese than the general population. Vegans also eliminate their exposure to the antibiotics and hormones used in farm animals.

For the Animals
Farms aren’t what they used to be. The idyllic barnyard scenes in children’s books couldn’t be further from reality. Do you know how a cow on a farm became the burger that you ate for lunch or how the eggs in your refrigerator got to your grocery store? By purchasing those products, you are likely participating, as a consumer, in the business of factory farming. Factory farming processes are extremely cruel to animals (and, in some cases, farm employees).
For more information on the issue of animal cruelty in farming, watch this video (  (WARNING: use discretion when viewing this website and video as they include graphic images). 

For the Environment
Going vegetarian is the single most effective thing that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, moving to a vegetarian diet will reduce your impact by about 1 ton (2 tons for a vegan diet). Here are some other facts to consider:
  • According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. road.
  • A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gasses than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined.
  • The production of one pound of meat releases the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving an SUV 40 miles.
  • Going vegan is 50% more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than driving a hybrid car.
  • Factory farms contribute to pollution, soil erosion, and wasted resources such as water and fossil fuels.
In addition to eliminating the animal products from your diet, it is important to consider the impact of the non-animal foods as well. The average food product travels about 1500 miles to get to your grocery store and the transporting of food accounts for 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year (source What should an environmentally conscious vegetarian do about this? Shop for local fruits and veggies at farmers’ markets ( when you can and consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), if available, in your area.

The China Study - A book containing research results demonstrating the link between consumption of animal proteins and cancer and heart disease.
Food Inc.- A movie about the business of food in the US.
GoVeg- PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) website for new vegetarians/vegans.
Local Harvest - Locate farmers’ markets near your home.
World Cancer Research Fund- Recommendations for preventing cancer.

Basics of Vegetarian Cooking

Before I was writing in this blog on a semi-regular basis, I had a email newsletter people subscribed too.  I realized that some of the articles I had in the newsletter have not be added to the blog.  I have two about eating vegetarian and vegan and wanted to be sure and post them here as it's long overdue.

Basics of Vegetarian Cooking
By Allison Brewer, read more from Allison at Get Natured.

Imagine this scenario:  your college roommate is in town and you haven’t seen her for years.  You have invited her and her family to dinner at your house and, after agreeing to come, she shares with you that she and her family are vegetarian*.
What do you do? 

First, don’t panic!  While you may not be able to serve your signature crowd-pleasing spaghetti Bolognese, there are a variety of delicious and easy-to-make vegetarian options.
So, where do you start?
You might begin by browsing recipes online or consider modifying one of your favorite dishes. 

Modifying or “vegan-izing” meat-based dishes

Modifying a meat-based meal to be vegetarian doesn’t always mean simply removing the meat from the dish.  In the case of the Bolognese sauce, that might work (using marinara instead) but you may also choose to add a meat substitute in place of the meat.  For vegans**, there are non-dairy “cheeses” available (make sure that what you use doesn’t contain casein- a common milk-based ingredient found in many non-dairy cheeses).  Here are a few vegetarian versions of common meals:
  • Vegetable pizza (use vegan or no cheese for vegans):  Try bell peppers, onions and mushrooms for toppings or get fancy with roasted fennel and caramelized shallots.  You may consider adding vegetarian sausage, pepperoni, or soy crumbles to make the pizza heartier.    
  • Pasta primavera:  Toss your favorite al dente pasta with sautéed broccoli, garlic, onions, spinach, and sundried tomatoes.  Use marinara or alfredo (use a non-dairy version for vegans) sauce or toss the pasta with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.  You may add vegetarian “meatballs” or crumbles (ala ground beef) if you wish.
  • Enchiladas (use vegan or no cheese for vegans):  Vegetarian enchiladas can be made using your favorite traditional recipe as long as the sauce is vegetarian (not made with chicken broth).  For filling, try spinach, zucchini, corn, and onions.  You may add beans for extra protein, iron, and fiber. 
  • Macaroni and cheese:  Homemade macaroni and cheese is delicious and, usually, vegetarian.  For vegans, there are recipes available online that use sauces made with nutritional yeast or raw cashews.  The vegan versions don’t taste exactly like traditional macaroni and cheese, but they are delicious in their own way.
*Vegetarians do not eat meat but do include dairy products and eggs in their diet (lacto-ovo vegetarians).  Some people who only eat seafood and fish, but no other meat, may refer to themselves as pescetarians or pesco-vegetarians.
**Vegans (or strict vegetarians) do not consume any animal products (meat, dairy products, eggs, or honey).

Substitutes for common ingredients

A variety of soy-based meat substitutes are available to replace sliced lunch meats, sausage, ground meat, hot dogs, burgers, and more.  An alternative to soy is seitan (or “wheat meat”) made from high gluten flour.  Both the soy products and seitan contain a considerable amount of protein and they make for good substitutes for those who desire the heartiness and/or texture of meat in their meals.  Other protein sources, such as legumes or nuts, may be used in place of these meat-like substitutes as well.

There are many non-dairy cheeses available that are made from soy, rice, or nut milks.  They can be purchased in blocks, as slices, or pre-grated and come in a variety of flavors to simulate the flavor of dairy-based cheeses.

Beyond soymilk, you can find milks made from rice, almonds, oats, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, and more.  Many of these milks come in flavored versions such as chocolate, vanilla, or even “nog” during the winter holidays.  Soy creamer is also available for adding to coffee or tea or for replacing cream in recipes.  Unsweetened versions are available for some of these milks.   Soymilk is the highest in protein, followed by hemp milk.  Look for milk that is fortified (i.e. calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 have been added).

Other dairy products:
Creamy sauces can be made using nutritional yeast, silken tofu, or raw cashews.  Raw cashews are a terrific way to create a cream-like texture- they can even be used to make vegan “ice cream”.  Tofu can be used in place of ricotta cheese.  Vegan yogurt and ice cream (usually made from soy, rice, or coconut milk) are delicious alternatives to the dairy versions.

Firm tofu can be used to make a tasty scramble.  For recipes where egg is not center-stage (e.g. for baked goods) there are a few different options including using silken tofu, flax seeds, or non-dairy yogurt.  See the resources section below (under “Other resources”) for a link to instructions for using these substitutes.

Agave nectar is a great alternative to honey. 

• Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison
• Vegan With a Vengeance and any other books by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
• Vegan Planet and other books by Robin Robertson
• The Joy of Vegan Baking and other books by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
• Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan and other books by Dreena Burton
• Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
• Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann
Vegetarian Times
Recipe websites:
101 Cookbooks
Fat Free Vegan
Vegan Yum Yum
A few recipes to start with:
Tofu scramble
Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream (vegan)
Mac ‘n’ Cheese (vegan)
Other resources:
Egg substitutes for vegan baking
What about soy?  Is it safe? or What’s going on with soy?
Where do you get your protein?
Raising a vegetarian or vegan family
Vegetarian nutrition