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? 

Creamy and Dreamy

I tend to go through stages with my eating; one week I’ll want sushi all the time, another week it might be pasta, or french fries, or even salads. They usually stick around for a few days, and once I finally have it, the craving goes away. The past few weeks, however, have left me wanting avocados and peanut butter (with chocolate, of course) almost non-stop. Don’t worry, not together. I have visions of creamy guacamole, or avocado sliced atop a sandwich, and following it up with some type of chunky peanut butter dessert.  It’s totally weird, and I’m okay with it – I think about food 90% of my day anyway.

So, when YumSugar linked to one of Oh She Glows‘ recipes that had avocado as a main ingredient, I just knew I had to try my hand at it! I don’t know why I haven’t thought of using avocado in a regular pasta dish to help make a creamy sauce, but seeing the recipe was just what I needed to try and create my own. I’ve actually made two different versions, equally delicious.

Avocado Pasta with Cannelini and Tomatoes inspired by Oh She Glows
– Serves 2 –

1 ripe avocado, pitted
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 lb your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat spagetti)
1 Tbsp lemon

1. Cook pasta according to package directions (since different types of pasta require different cooking times)
2. In a food processor, add avocado, basil, garlic, and lemon juice. Pulse until creamy
3. Combined cooked pasta, beans, and avocado mixture, and add tomatoes.  

Avocado Pasta with Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions inspired by Oh She Glows
– Serves 2 –

2 Tbsp oil
1 ripe avocado, pitted
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup onion, sliced
1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 lb your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat spagetti)
1 Tbsp lemon
2 Tbsp herbed Feta (I used Athenos brand)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions (since different types of pasta require different cooking times)
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet on medium high heat, then add onion, sautéing until caramelized, about 10 minutes. 
3. In a food processor, add avocado, basil, garlic, and lemon juice. Pulse until creamy
4. Combined cooked pasta, caramelized onions, and avocado mixture, and add tomatoes.  Top with crumbled feta.

Coconut Oil and No Bake Goodies

After seeing Foodie Fresh’s awesome month of coconut giveaways from Tropical Traditions, I decided to head over to their site to check everything out – I was totally intrigued by their coconut peanut butter. I stumbled upon a section where you could sign up to review a product of theirs, and I jumped at the potential offer. I love coconut, and seriously would have been happy with anything they sent. So, when I received an e-mail that I was selected and would be receiving a 32oz. jar of their Virgin Coconut Oil, I was psyched.

This recipe comes from Oh She Glows, and it looked absolutely amazing. When I first saw it, I didn’t have coconut oil, so I was a bit disappointed I wouldn’t be able to make it, since she explicitly noted that other oils might change the flavor. As soon as I got the Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions, though, I knew I could make these delicious coconut macaroons.

The coconut oil is delicious. Like I said, I’m a huge coconut fan, and even though I’ve never knowingly had anything with coconut oil in it, it really adds a nice hint of coconut flavor. As soon as I opened the jar I could smell coconut, and couldn’t wait to get it into liquid form (only needed about 20 seconds in the microwave) to devour it. I’m so excited I have such a large jar, because I’m definitely going to use it in more baked goods in the future!

And the best part about this recipe? The whole thing took me about 5 minutes, and they were ready. If I didn’t have the little bit of self-control I do possess, they would have been devoured even faster. The only change up I did was instead of using almond milk, I went with coconut milk for added flavor, and also that it was the only milk in the house. I wonder if I could somehow turn these into peanut butter, coconut, and chocolate macaroons…

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review in return for the free product.