Take it Easy
I receive many emails with questions about preparing vegetarian meals and recipe ideas. I really believe everyone is good, maybe even great, at preparing something. I’m not a professional chef, have never claimed to be, and truly that’s not something most people strive for. Most of us simply want to eat healthier (better) and be comfortable preparing nutritious food that goes over well with friends and family.
One thing I suggest is to take a recipe or some basic ingredients that you’re comfortable with and expand on them. I love recipes that can be used many different ways, and just about every recipe has that option. This concept makes it easier on you, the kitchen cook, and everyone you cook for. If you are really good at Italian cooking for example, you’re just a small step away from literally hundreds of vegetarian meal ideas. It’s a great way to develop your own vegetarian “comfort zone” and, frankly, that’s probably the most important element for doing anything in the kitchen.
Cooking is a process and the more relaxed you are the more you and everyone will enjoy your culinary creations. Keep things simple, especially when you’re just starting out. Never hesitate to experiment with new foods, but don’t raise your stress level by jumping into complicated recipes if you’re entertaining or especially when feeding children who may not be ready for exotic or experimental combinations.
Eating vegetarian cuisine should not be about deprivation and what we’re leaving out. Rather, it should become all the wonderful things we can add to create delicious, colorful meals that will leave you, and your friends and family healthy, happy, and satisfied. Chances are if you list all the individual foods you love, they can be converted to vegetarian options, and mixed and matched easily. Please feel free to use this blog page to share your ideas, questions, and solutions with others. It’s my experience that most people love to share ideas and learn more about food, so we hope you’ll visit us often.
It seems that every new year brings on the same commitments to change as the last. We promise ourselves to change our diets, our sleep patterns, get more exercise, read a great book, even drink more water. The problem is not so much that we are entrenched in bad habits that we simply cannot change but rather we can’t find simple ways of changing our habits.
If we maintain an attitude of deprivation instead of adopting an attitude of enrichment, change is not only difficult, but virtually impossible. For example, we give up nothing by cutting down or even eliminating meat from our diets. Instead we open the door to a more healthy, socially responsible, and compassionate link to our environment and all its inhabitants. This one simple step helps us take control of our health and our bodies by adopting the diet human beings were physiologically designed to eat.
There is a whole world of vegetarian foods that are not only nutritious, but delicious and truly easy to prepare. Keeping it simple will help make these changes habits for life. Let’s start this New Year with a brighter outlook on the blessings and bounty we have, whatever our means, and take some easy steps to a better life for all.
Our very first episode of Totally Vegetarian was created because of the dilemma of what to make for a vegetarian holiday meal. Because holiday meals are usually based on family and cultural traditions, often the idea of introducing something new and different presents panic and dismay, yet there are so many wonderful meat replacers that substitute for turkey, chicken, pork, or beef in your favorite holiday recipes.
Even the very simple adjustment of replacing vegetable broth for animal-based stock, making a wonderful nut or mushroom loaf, entrées like stuffed squash, or creating a festive Tofu Pot Pie can easily solve your vegetarian menu problems, while at the same time making your friends and family feel welcome and engaged in healthier, more compassionate holiday meal choices.
I don’t know what I would do if for some reason I bought into the latest craze of carb phobia and actually eliminated pasta from my diet entirely. There really is nothing faster and more satisfying than a dish of spaghetti, noodles or macaroni simply dressed with fresh veggies, a quick sauce , fresh herbs or a wash of good fruity olive oil. In fact I would encourage you to try many of the other varities of pasta or noodles on the market today. Even if you have a wheat allergy, there is something out there for you. Rice, soy and spelt pastas are virtually everywhere.
Lately I am using some of the more unusual pastas, unusual in the sense of not commonly used by most, and have discovered a whole new set of flavors and textures. From buckwheat to mung bean the colors, textures and flavors are just wonderful. With asian noodles, the cooking time is super fast, and it doesn’t take much to prepare an authentic tasty and healthy meal that looks like you spent hours preparing.
On my last trip to Italy I noticed that whole wheat pasta is gaining in popularity, and for good reason. Not only are the health benefits increased, but that wonderful al dente texture remains nicely intact. If a change interests you, start with a good quality whole wheat pasta with your favorite sauce. Don’t be put off by the darker color. Remember more color usually always spells better nutrition. Give these pasta choices a try – you may never go back to white pasta again.
Many people are asking me about the Atkins Diet and protein but want to do it veggie style. I have many recipes that utilize TVP as a beef replacer, but from a nutritional standpoint I believe tofu is far superior. This is one of my favorite recipes – high in protein and low in fat. I think it fits into the Atkins plan nicely and these are really savory and delicious.
Original Recipe: Atkins Nutty Meatballs:
1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon diced onion
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 garlic clove, pushed through a press
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Delicious alternative: Baked Veggie Tofu Balls
1 lb. firm tofu, pressed and mashed
2 T. ground toasted walnuts
1/2 c. wheat germ
1/4 c. chopped parsley
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. nutritional yeast ( optional)
1 T. onion powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. oregano
2-3 T. olive oil
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Press water out of tofu and wrap tofu cake in paper towels until it feels fairly dry. Mash the tofu until it has the consistency of cottage cheese. Mix tofu together with all remaining ingredients.
Oil an 8″x8″ baking dish with the olive oil. Form the tofu mixture into sixteen 1-inch balls and place in pan. Drizzle any remaining olive oil over the balls and place in oven. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, turning the balls carefully every ten minutes or so until they are evenly brown and crispy.
Serve as is or add to tomato sauce. These “meatballs” are delicious cold and will disappear quickly!