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Monday, March 3, 2014

Thinking of Going Veg? Start Here!


Let's Go Veg!

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Ok. So you have heard all the reports about eating a vegan diet. You have heard that it's a healthier way of eating. You have heard that vegans are much less prone to degenerative diseases. You have heard that osteoporosis is almost unknown in societies where a vegan diet is the norm. You have heard about how animals that are raised in factory farms to be sold as meat or chickens who lay eggs and cows who give milk are kept in very cruel and cramped conditions. You have heard of all the ecological problems that are caused by the raising of animals for food. So, you finally decided that, to be your healthiest and to be a good citizen of the world, going vegan goes a long way.

But you are used to the standard American diet. That's the diet I call the "McDonald's Egg McMuffin for breakfast, Burger King Whopper for lunch and Kentucky Fried Chicken for supper" diet. Or you have been raised on the home cooked pot roast and potatoes (the old "meat and potatoes") standards. How do you shift over without feeling deprived?

My Vegetarian Odyssey

As of 2014, I've been a vegetarian now for over 35 years. And I've been a vegan for around 25 years. Needless to say, I developed some "tricks". I personally love to cook, but only when I'm in the mood. I also like to have some easy quick recipes to throw together.

First of all, I (like most vegetarians I have met) didn't become a vegetarian because I don't like meat. I happen to love meat. When I was a teenager, my family used to call me the chicken hawk (after the little guy in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons) because I loved chicken (dark meat) so much. When I was in high school, I got home from school late and didn't usually get home until 6-7 pm -- by which time, my younger siblings and my parents had already eaten. So I would take a bottom quarter of a chicken, throw it in the oven, and that was supper most of the time. I still haven't found anything that tastes like a broiled rib steak or pastrami or corn beef (believe me, I've tried!). And when I became vegan, there went ice cream and milk chocolate (another two of my favorite foods).

What do vegetarians eat?

Fortunately, there are so many vegan substitutes these days for non-vegan food. Having grown up in a kosher home (where meat and dairy are not mixed together), the first time I ever had a cheeseburger was after I became a vegetarian (soy burger and dairy cheese at that point). Now, I have cheeseburgers (soy burger, vegan soy cheese) with a couple of strips of soy bacon (pig products aren't kosher at all, so I never tasted bacon that wasn't of a soy origin). My milk is made from rice or soy or nuts. My meat is made from soy and wheat gluten. My cheese is made from soy. My butter is non-hydrogenated and made from soy and vegetable gums. I use pumpkin, flax seeds, apple sauce, and sometimes rice milk or mashed potatoes to substitute for eggs and/or shortening. Oh, and by the way, since I became vegetarian, I have lost about 80 pounds (granted, that is 30 years of weight loss, but, heck, a weight loss is a weight loss), my blood pressure (which in my 20s was high normal) dropped (to currently normal), my cholesterol dropped. I have a feeling if I hadn't become vegetarian and then vegan I probably would have had a stroke before I was 40.

I know a lot of people just want to stick with their comfort food, and that's ok. (If you have a recipe for a comfort food that you'd like to have me convert, feel free to write a request as a comment and I will try to incorporate your recipe into a future lens). Another good place to get recipes to adjust is women's magazines.

To "Veg" or not to "Veg"? That is the question

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Now that you have decided to take the plunge, I will give you some advice on substituting. I have managed to make recipes that contain meat, chicken, dairy, etc. into vegan recipes. I'll start off by giving you an example.

Changing your Comfort Foods

Having a Vegetarian Substitute for your Comfort Foods goes a long way Towards Making the Changeover Successfully

When I was young, my mother used to make a casserole that I loved. It is similar to shepherd's pie. It had mashed potatoes on the bottom, then peas and carrots, then chopped meat, then it had egg noodles on top. I decided that this would be easy to make, so I started with the mashed potatoes on the bottom. My Mom used canned peas and carrots, I decided to use frozen peas (less salt and sugar) and fresh carrots. I diced up a couple of carrots into small cubes and added a bag of frozen peas (I try to use organically grown vegetables and fruit as much as I can). I'd kind of mix the peas and carrot together, then put them in the casserole dish on top of the mashed potatoes. Then I added a layer of fake chopped meat (Green Giant makes a good one. It's called "Harvest Burger" and it is fat free and comes frozen in a zip bag that you can reseal and put back in the freezer when you are done). I then added egg free noodles (DeBoles makes very good egg free noodles. They have a Jerusalem artichoke variety and a whole wheat variety. I prefer the whole wheat variety, but it's harder to find in the stores. I have also found a number of other substitutes Tofu noodles (low in calories) and mung bean "fettuccine" noodles.) on top of it all. I put the whole thing in a medium oven and bake it until all the ingredients are heated and the noodles are crispy (but not scorched).

In my travels, I have found rice,soy and nut "milk" (I use unsweetened almond milk). I use tofu instead of soft cheeses or for smooth desserts and creamy sauces and dressings. There are many soy based meats. Besides the "chopped meat" I used in the above recipe, I have found "beef" chunks, "chicken" chunks, "chicken" nuggets, etc. I also found that tempeh is a good substitute for chicken and fish chunks in salads and the like. (Tempeh is a soy based food that comes in slabs and you can find in most health food stores.) I have found soy "bacon", soy "cheese" (mozzarella and cheddar varieties are common). Soy or rice based "ice cream" is also very easy to find (there are many different versions, flavors, varieties, etc.)

Another recipe

Vegetarian "Tuna" Salad with Chick Peas

So, I guess you are interested in another quick recipe, right? Ok, how many of you out there like tuna salad? I use the same ingredients with chick peas instead of tuna. The chick peas are better if they are firm than in they are mushy (you can buy firmer chick peas in specialty kosher supermarkets, middle eastern stores, or health food stores or you can make your own firmer chick peas from dried chick peas). You mash up the chick peas with a fork.

Add whatever you like; I have put in diced celery, chopped or sliced olives, scallions, onion and/or garlic (raw or sauteed a bit), chopped greens (baby spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, etc.), diced pickles (I like dill pickles), mayonnaise (there are many vegan mayonnaise brands on the market) or olive oil, and many other ingredients. Try your own favorite ingredients. This salad tastes great on whole grain bread or toast (with or without a smear of your favorite mustard and/or a leaf of red leaf lettuce).

Compugraph Designs' Printfection Store

Thanksgiving Canvas BagIn addition to our Cafe Press and Zazzle sites (see modules above), we also have a store on "Printfection" which includes cutting boards (good wedding or housewarming gifts), mugs and cups, tees, etc.

This canvas bag is only one of several Vegetarian themed items at our store:

Compugraphd Printfection site

(Click on the picture to go directly to this product's page)

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