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? 

Meatless Monday: Vegan Feijoada

I often hear that vegan food is boring. And I think it’s safe to say that if you haven’t ever had it, just having a general understanding of it, sure, it can definitely sound boring. No real cheese? No animal by-products at all? But what about all the flavor?! Believe it or not, there can be serious flavor with just plant based products!

This recipe comes from Vegetarian Times, which every once in awhile will e-mail or publish a vegan dish. As you know, I’m not a full-fledged vegetarian, so I’m certainly not a vegan. However, I’m always up for new dishes and exciting flavors, so I figured I’d give it a shot; it has black beans, chipotles, and onions in it which are some of my favorite flavors. I added a habanero for extra heat, of course. It also calls for tempeh, which I’d often read about, but never actually tried. Tempeh is made by natural culturing and a controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into cake form, originating in Indonesia (source). It suggested a smoky variation, so I grabed a package of LightLife’s “Fakin’ Bacon” Smoky Tempeh. I don’t think it tastes anything like bacon, but it’s a great flavor on it’s own, not in comparison. I also made sure to grab the 100% vegetarian vegetable broth to stay true to the recipe. Isn’t it amazing that things like vegetable broth aren’t always completely vegetarian? You really need to pay attention to the labels!

When I first read the recipe, I misread the cooking time, skipping down to the re-heat instructions. Originally I thought it was only going to take about 15 minutes to cook once all the other ingredients were ready, but then I realized I actually needed 45 minutes – whoops! So by the time all was said and done, my fiancé and I were ravenous, and managed to forget to take a picture. So, I’m borrowing the picture from Vegetarian Times (source). While mine wasn’t in such a cool pot, it looked pretty much the same.

I decided to make the whole recipe which serves 8, figuring we could bring it for lunch a few days during the week. Since it’s chock full of beans (four cans!) it’s defintely really filling so the entire meal will really stretch your dollar. That’s another thing – everyone assumes eating vegetarian or vegan is expensive. At times, yes, it defintely is. However, this recipe probably cost about $20 – $25 to make, and it’s going to last us for at least three meals, for two people!

Vegan Feijoada
– Serves 8 –

4 1/2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 6-oz. pkg. smoky tempeh strips, such as Lightlife Fakin’ Bacon
1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 rib celery, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 tsp.)
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh strips, and sauté 2 minutes on each side.
2. Heat remaining 2 1/2 tsp. oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and thyme, and sauté 6 minutes, or until onion is golden. Stir in black beans, tempeh, broth, garlic and chipotle chile. Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low. Cover, and cook 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
3. To reheat, place feijoada in skillet over medium-low heat. Cover, and heat, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through.