“So, like, what do you eat?”
A rather frequently asked question I receive once people find out I’m a vegetarian.
“Like, vegetables….and stuff?”
Yes. Vegetables. And stuff.
Recently, a few people have emailed me questions asking about my diet, what we consume on a daily basis, what kinds of foods we use to ‘supplement’ or fill the void where steaks and burgers, chicken and fish once reigned. I think when considering a vegetarian diet, lots of people are scared away thinking they will lose lots of creativity in their cooking and will be forced to eat salad every night, maybe a spinach lasagna if they’ve got the time to make it.
Choosing to become a vegetarian really had a reverse effect on my diet and cooking abilities. I learned about so many new vegetables, tried new grains, and have sampled different styles of cooking.
I thought I’d share what a typical week of meals looks like, and then give a few examples of foods that have greatly expanded my pantry and enriched my diet.
Mon: Quesadillas with cheese, peppers, onion, and black beans, chips and salsa
Tues: Omelettes with the leftover sauteed peppers, onion and bean mix, side of oatmeal bread toasted with jam
Wed: Pasta with homemade pesto (pre-made and frozen)
Thurs: Risotto style barley with peas and parmesan
Fri: Carrot and snow pea stir fry with rice
Sat: Homemade pizza topped with sauteed peppers, onion, and pineapple
Sun: Red lentil curry coconut stew with toasted pita and hummus
It was hard to narrow it down. Lunches usually consist of leftovers, or maybe a pita sandwich with cream cheese, spinach, sprouts and sunflower seeds, and some cut up apples or carrots with peanut butter.
Here are a few staples I always have in my pantry that I only learned of or started including in my diet since becoming a vegetarian. Even if you’re not willing to give up meat completely, they still make great alternatives for a healthy meal and provide unique side dishes.
Quinoa: You’ve seen me talk about this guy before. Pictured is red quinoa, which I prefer, mostly just for the color… the other version is white. Quinoa makes a great side dish served with S&P and freshly grated parmesan, but I usually use it as the main event and either make stuffed peppers, use it as the grain in soups or stews, or just mix it with sauteed zucchini and summer squash and add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Lentils: Great in soups and stews, come in a variety of colors… mix well with rice for various dishes including red lentil coconut curry and mujada- a middle eastern dish consisting of lentils, caramelized onions, cumin and rice. I add curry to mine. Lentils can also be baked in the oven with cheese and whatever vegetables you have on hand for a rich casserole-style, stick to your ribs dish.
Couscous: Probably most known for it’s fluffy texture, couscous is one of the best things to use if you need to make a quick meal. It cooks in 5 minutes and can be eaten cold or hot, mixed with vegetables or not, goes great with dressings or vinaigrettes added and always needs some freshly grated parm.
Barley: Traditionally added to stews, barley is a longer cooking grain. It’s great risotto-style- cooked slowly over low heat, adding water until it expands and becomes soft in texture. Then I add sour cream, parmesan, S&P, and whatever vegetables you have on hand. Frozen peas work great. Barley is really hearty and filling… a cup of cooked barley can spread over a few meals.
Wheat berries: Very similar to barley, wheat berries have a nuttier taste and grainier texture. It’s great precooked and made into a cold salad with feta, spinach, walnuts and orange zest.
Rice: Rice is obviously well known to everyone but one thing I’ve tried is expanding the varieties of rice I cook. Brown, basmati, sweet, black, thai, long-grain, pilaf, wild…pretty limitless in its variations as well as the ways it can be added to a meal.
There are two cookbooks I use several times a week: Simply in Season by World Community Cookbooks and Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. Heidi also has a website with recipe archives you can browse through here: http://www.101cookbooks.com/
Try something new, expand your pantry. I mean, really, how many ways can there be to cook a chicken?