Veg

Am I vegetarian or vegan or pescatarian or flexitarian or what? I cut out meat officially from my diet over a year ago, except I would eat fish on occasion. I loved it. I immediately felt lighter and fresher, and I enjoyed food more. Then two months ago around the year mark, I suddenly had a massive craving for fried chicken seeming to come from nowhere. Even after a year of pretty strictly eliminating meat from my diet, I wanted it. Bad. I admit, I had gotten a little lazy with frozen foods and food that while was technically vegetarian, also wasn’t the healthiest, and I also hadn’t been running like I used to. But, the way those kinds of chemicals in that fried chicken have been ingrained over the course of years and affected what my body was telling me is a little disturbing. I refrained though and re-read research and got back to the reason I went meatless. And, it even inspired me to start eliminating animal byproducts to make more vegan choices. I thought about it pretty hard, but as I’ve started eating more plant based than I ever have before, I’ve felt revitalized and healthy. Better than ever. As the way I’ve eaten has evolved, I’ve felt the need to defend myself and my eating choices. While there are the idiots out there who only consider a meal “real food” if it has meat, most of it is my insecurity. Vegetarian/Vegan eating has always seemed taboo and extreme, at least this is the attitude I’ve gotten, and once held myself. I’m surprised to find it’s really not that unusual or difficult, and I’ve loved what I’ve been eating lately, so I wanted to share.

Sorry for the blur on this. It’s a pretty simple pasta, but so good. Whole wheat penne with roasted asparagus, a store bought Simple Truth Tomato Basil marinara sauce, and white cannellini beans (these guys are great for health). A side of garlic spinach I cooked. That sheen isn’t grease but some balsamic vinegar since I lacked a lemon. And garlic bread. I love garlic! I add it to most of what I cook.
 
I made a delicious stir fry in my cast iron skillet a few weeks back. Cast iron is beneficial to cook in because it increases the amount of iron in foods rich with it (so, take that people who says vegetarians don’t get enough iron! Fruits and veggies have plenty). This has Rainbow swiss chard, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and tempeh (which is similar to tofu except the soy is fermented, which makes it more abundant in protein, calcium, and fiber, and the flavor is sharper and texture firmer). Cooked in a thick Korean stir fry sauce with ginger and garlic. 
I couldn’t resist topping with avocado and also added some peanuts and Nutritional Yeast, which is a much more nutritious addition than cheese. And put over a bed of quinoa. This is probably the most hippie thing I’ve ever made. Damn was it good. And the best part is that all of these foods blended together are packed with all vitamins and nutrients needed in a meal.
A classic vegan scramble packed with flavorful spices. It gave me a chance to use the leftover swiss chard and mushrooms. A key ingredient is that Nutritional Yeast I mentioned, which is a good source of amino acids. Not pictured is the obligatory avocado and tomato I topped it with.
These are amazing! Probably the best food I’ve made in a long time. Roasted chickpea and broccoli burritos. I wish I could take credit, but it all goes to Thug Kitchen, my new favorite food blog. I put the filling with kale, cilantro, and avocado in a whole wheat tortilla.
For breakfast I’ve been eating oatmeal. I don’t usually get this fancy with it, but here I put in some mango and walnuts and a scoop of peanut butter. The warmth is nice in the morning, it leaves me feeling fuller longer, and the health benefits are too good not to eat. Have you read about them? Low in fat but filling, low in cholesterol, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants. Get you some oats!
I outdid myself with this one. It’s a lentil loaf — like meat loaf but vegan.
I ate it first with crispy kale and skillet potatoes, but it’s given me leftovers for days. A slice on a sandwich makes a good lunch. It’s like vegan comfort food.
Speaking of comfort foods, who doesn’t love a lasagna fresh out of the oven? Well, they can be plant based too. And just as good if not better. This one has kale I needed to use up. I ate it with cooked lentils and will continue to eat on the leftovers all week. This was inspired by the Hungry Hungry Hippie, another blog I love.
Well, this is my defense. To show the way I eat isn’t deficient in nutrients but is the opposite. Vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts contain everything needed to be healthy. Or, to quote the Thug Kitchen, “I’M SO TIRED OF MOTHER FUCKERS asking, ‘Where do you get your protein?’ All you simple minded bastards better read up some. I eat shit like whole grains, beans, nuts, lentils, tempeh… I mean hell, where the fuck are YOU getting your protein?” I hold my tongue at this question but admire how the TK let loose. And, I don’t say anything, because I don’t judge the way other people eat. It isn’t my place. But, it’s a little difficult sometimes when I fear I will be in the position to defend the way I do. There’s a difference between someone who asks the reasons for my eating habits — that’s legitimate, respectful curiosity opening up to a genuine discussion on food — and someone criticizing or challenging out of a place of ignorance. 
I’m not sure what I would call myself at this point. Not vegan. That would be too much of an affront to people who legitimately adhere to strict tenants of non-animal based living. Because, I’m not that strict about it. I know those green beans at Cheddars or hash browns at Waffle House I ordered are cooked on food contact surfaces and cookware with leftover animal byproduct residue like grease. That’s not the core of what’s important to me. I also can’t say that if I’m out at my parents house or with friends and we’re ordering pizza, I will turn it down. But, my goal is to be more plant based in the way I eat, because that’s what works for me.
Memorial Day weekend family cookout is coming up, and not to toot my own horn, but I make a mean black bean burger I can’t wait for!

Vegetarian (or Vegan if you want) Black Bean Tacos

The black bean tacos I make are delicious. I’m no cook. I mean, I cook, but it’s usually following the instructions of a recipe, obsessively re-checking measurements to make sure I get them correct, and nervously hoping it turns out. Only recently have I started blending what I’ve learned from different recipes to get creative. These tacos are an exception. I’ve made many variations in the last year. And, that’s the best part. The main filling I make is versatile to fit mood, taste, and preference. Lately, I’ve been opting to cook for myself while reducing restaurant outings during the week in the interest of both saving money and being healthier — I know what I’m consuming better. I never used to think I would be so bold to claim that what I make is as good as a decent restaurant, until these tacos. Have any Louisville readers had Taco Punk’s black bean tacos? Now, I love this place. Their veggie mole and salsas are some of my favorite local food in town. But, the black bean tacos are a sad excuse. You could toss some black beans and shredded cheese in a tortilla at home, and it would be the same. But, don’t do that. There are probably similar vegetarian recipes like this out there, but here’s what I do:

Filling:

1 can black beans (15 oz.)
½ Onion, chopped
½ Bell pepper (red or green or yellow, whatever you want – red will be sweeter), chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped/minced/pressed
Whatever other veggie(s) you want (recommended: chopped mushrooms, diced jalapeno for spice, spinach or any other kind of green you like – rainbow swiss chard is good – potatoes)
1 tbsp olive oil (or some water if cooking w/o oils)
Generous chili powder (maybe a tbsp.)
Even more generous cumin (maybe a tbsp.)
Optional: Some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes if spice is desired (I’ll use this if I want spice but lack a jalapeno)
Salt (to taste)
Topping:
An avocado, diced or sliced or smashed (however you like)
½ tomato, diced
juice of 1 lime
Salt (to taste)
Some reserved garlic if you want (I recommend b/c I love garlic)
Cilantro, roughly chopped
Corn tortillas

Add oil or water to a pan — I prefer cast iron, but any will do — to coat. Add veggies (But, if using potatoes, reserve them). Sautee until onion becomes tender and translucent. If adding greens, until they’re wilted and bright green. 3-5 mins or so (If using red pepper flakes, this is a good time to add them). Drain off the black beans but leave enough juice for moisture. Add to pan. Add garlic. Add spices. If using potatoes, they should be cooked separately and added to the mixture at this point. Let simmer and stir/toss around occasionally until moisture is absorbed (I like to mash the beans a little with the spatula). Consistency will be sort of like a dried, lumpy paste.

Topping is easy. Add avocado, tomato, lime juice, salt, and leftover garlic to a bowl. Stir. Make the taco. Add the filling to tortillas and top with the avo/tomato mix and cilantro, or whatever other fresh veggies you want (carrot, red onion, cabbage, celery, good store bought salsa, greens, etc. Instead of cooking fresh greens or jalapeno into the filling, can use as topping instead.) You can do whatever you want! They’re vegan up until this point, but if you want cheese, go for it (I’ve used sharp cheddar, Mexican blend, even feta).

Makes 4-6, depending on how full you pack them.
These will do you better than Taco Bell, or even — I’ll say it! — any gourmet taco place. If anything, it’ll be cheaper. So, save a buck, have fun with it, and enjoy a more flavorful and healthier taco.



Base filling cooked with red bell, mushrooms, and a few dashes of red pepper flakes.