Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vegetarian Lessons

It seems that lately all I think about is food. I admit I'm a little compulsive since declaring us a flexitarian family. At lunch yesterday, I realised I had an overwhelming choice of delicious options in my kitchen - leftover butternut squash lasagna*, vegetable samosas, split pea soup, masala hummus (thank you Julie for introducing me to this!), green smoothie, etc. I chose a samosa, some sweet potato fries (my 2yo's choice), followed by a green smoothie. Learning to eat vegetarian is an adventure! Bonus: in over a week, I've started to look at vegetables differently.
Strawberry banana green smoothie

For example, DH and I had ordered  vegetarian versions of our fave Thai meals (me: coconut curry, DH: pad thai). When looking at the leftovers the following day, he asked, "are you going to finish your curry, or is it all vegetables?" I laughed and said, "it's all vegetables and yes!" In the past, I would have eaten some of the veggies, but focused on the chicken. This time, everything (except for the huge chunks of onion) had an equal chance of being eaten and enjoyed. We loved our vegetarian dishes, perhaps even more than the chicken versions. I was very happily surprised by that.

Valentine's Day was Monday and I learned a few things...
  1. I already can't consume as much sugar as I used to without feeling pretty sick. (I also am convinced that the eczema on my hands is linked to refined sugar, since it starts to burn after I eat something sweet.)
  2. My craving for sweets is more psychological than physical. My body doesn't want the sweets now, my brain does. I'm working on changing that.
  3. Missing my green smoothie - which I did that day because of all the food being consumed - causes me to feel not only guilty, but also incomplete.
  4. My husband is wonderful. (Okay, to be fair, that one I knew already.) He came home with dinner - something he never does unannounced - vegetable samosas, Indian split pea soup, 6 california rolls, hemp hermit cookies, and some incredible Green & Black's Carmel chocolate. He wanted to show his support for how hard I've been working to get our family eating better. I was in tears.
And the quinoa obsession continues... We've made two cookie recipes from Quinoa 365: Healthy Cookies and Oatmeal Raisin cookies. Here are some of the ingredients for Healthy Cookies:
Dry ingredients: whole wheat flour, sunflower seeds, rolled oats, flax seeds, coconut
Cooked quinoa
Before baking
Yummy Healthy Cookies
Everyone who has tried these cookies, young and old, loves them. They're not too sweet (1 1/4 cups brown sugar for 56 cookies) and are full of good things.

When I made the Oatmeal Raisin cookies, I had only a 1/2 cup raisins and so I used chopped medjool dates to make up the other cup. These are also really tasty and I prefer the dates - which are a new experience for me - to the raisins. Dates are very sweet, however, and next time I'll reduce the sugar to compensate. These cookies are gluten free as they use quinoa flour.

I've been doing some homework to make sure I'm covering my nutritional bases and to get some suggestions for a veggie newbie. I'm currently picking my way through the Vegetarian Starter Kit from Vegetarian Times. While I don't agree with everything (I'm not convinced of the safety of consuming non-fermented soy products, i.e. soymilk), here are some things that stand out for me:
  • eating a variety of plant protein sources over an entire as a way of getting a "complete protein" rather than focusing on having it in each meal (the older way of thinking)
  • better to focus on dairy-free sources of calcium and limit animal protein, a high intake of which encourages calcium loss from bones
  • there is a link between type 1 (juvenile) diabetes and milk protein allergy
  • using sliken tofu instead of sour cream in dips - can't wait to try this
 One of the best things to happen this week: I think drinking green smoothies prevented K (2yo) and I from getting F's stomach flu. Hurray!

Are you eating meat less or even never? Please share any lessons, tips, resources, or recipes you find helpful.

* I modified the linked recipe by using a combo of butternut squash and pumpkin that I had frozen and then mixing in some cooked quinoa. If you choose to do this, I'd say cook up about 1/2 cup dried quinoa and reduce the squash to 3 cups, otherwise it won't all fit in the baking dish (as I found out). I also used spinach lasagna noodles to give the meal some colour.


  1. To prove that I'm still learning here, I just discovered that tofu is not a "fermented soy product". Whereas miso, soy sauce, tempeh, and natto are fermented.

    Another interesting point: "In the US and Canada, almost all soy that is not referred to on the label as organic has been genetically manipulated." (alive #261, July 2004)

  2. I am a huge fan of quinoa. I make it with half water, half veg broth. Then we turn it into a salad for the week. Add grape tomatoes (cut in half), green onions, cilantro and lentils (rinsed, from a can - or feel free to soak dry ones over night). That stores nicely in the fridge for 5 days. Add balsamic vinaigrette and feta or goat cheese when ready to eat. Also night over arugula. Yum!

  3. Thanks Julie, that sounds yummy! Never thought of making quinoa with veg broth, duh! Love arugula, I'll be growing some of that this summer for sure.