Wednesday, September 30, 2009
World Vegetarian Day
is October first. This kicks off vegetarian awareness month. I'm not really sure why there needs to be an awareness month though, since mostly everyone knows vegetarians exist and awareness months are usually for cancers and autism.
In spite of there being no lack of awareness of us, Vegetarian Day is still kind of fun. Wear your vegetarian-related t-shirts and make something tasty for your co-workers, and of course for yourself, and spread everything that is positive in your lifestyle.
All of you out there who aren't vegetarians, spend the day exploring meat-free meals and find out a little about your herbivore friends.
I'm not trying to convert anyone here, but try it for a day and get a glimpse into the meat-free world around us. You might see how fun and healthy it is to live a more compassionate lifestyle.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
There once was a fantastic restaurant in Willow Grove that served some of the best vegan cuisine that ever hit the suburbs.
They moved to Philadelphia a couple of years ago and still serve amazing food, but it's just a little less convenient for those of us who live in the burbs.
is a more upscale experience than the Horizon's Cafe of yesteryear, but the owners and chefs maintain the same quality of their menu and dining experience on South 7th street in Philly.
I recommend the seitan dishes, but the desserts have always been worth saving room for.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This is an old (well, from when I was a kid) family recipe and I'll apologize up front for not knowing quite what quantities to tell you, but it's easy to judge as you go and my first cooking lessons were from my mom, who almost never made the same dish the same way twice, but somehow always made it taste good.
Making baked macaroni and cheese is kind of an art.
It's a simple dish that can be made as fancy as you want to spend the time making it.
This is an easy method that isn't fancy, but tastes great.
Start by cooking your macaroni. You can use any shape of pasta, but the purist in me like to use the good old elbow macaroni. Drain it well and set aside.
Pre-heat your oven to 325 or 350.
Spread some butter on the bottom of a glass baking dish, I generally use a 9X13 corning ware dish.
Toss the pasta, cubed or sliced Velveeta and can of stewed tomatoes in and mix them up to evenly distribute everything. Mix in some milk to give the cheese sauce a creamier consistency.
Top with slices of cheese and a few pats of butter.
Bake until the top gets lightly browned. (about 20-25 minutes)
Serve with some peas and you have the meal eaten in the Berry household several times a month when I was young.
Baked macaroni and cheese:
1 box of pasta, elbow macaroni or shells work best
1 box of Velveeta cheese
about 3/4 cup of milk
1 can of stewed tomatoes, drained of most liquid, but still moist
butter or margarine
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Beans and Rice
One of the easiest things that can be a staple in the vegetarian's diet is beans and rice. You can combine these two mainstays in any number of ways, some fancy and some simple.
As simple as possible is a quick casserole with a couple types of beans and a bit of cheese.
Cook two cups of rice in a rice cooker or on the stove. A rice cooker is the greatest thing in the world for a lazy vegetarian, since all you have to do is measure, pour and hit one button.
Just heat the oven up to 350 and prep a two quart casserole dish with a light coat of cooking spray or vegetable oil.
Take your cooked rice and make a layer on the bottom of the dish. Follow that with a thin layer of salsa, then a layer of beans (mixed together and rinsed, unless you buy seasoned beans, then just drain excess liquid), then a layer of cheese.
Repeat these layers until you have filled most of the dish. Top with cheese and a few pats of butter or a vegan margarine that is good for baking. If you're feeling fancy, throw some bread crumbs on top of it all and then sprinkle with Cajun
seasoning or old bay.
Bake for 20 minutes or so, or until the cheese is melted and a little brown. If you just cooked the rice and it's still hot, you can get away with higher temp and less time. Bean and rice casserole
2 cups rice
2 cans of beans (I like to mix black and pinto, but whatever you have will do)
1 jar of salsa (you won't use the whole jar for this, but chips and salsa are a nice snack with this)
1 cup of shredded cheese or vegan substitute
butter or margarine
bread crumbs (optional)Cajun
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Philly's best vegan chinese food.
Now, this is clearly a subjective matter and I know people love each of the handful of vegetarian Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia, but I also know that I'm right and New Harmony
is the best of them all.
Located on Ninth St between Arch and Race Sts (135 N 9th st, to be exact), New Harmony was once owned by the same folks who had rival vegan Chinese restaurant, Kingdom of Vegetarians but is no longer associated with them.
Their menu has the full array of dishes you'll find at any Chinese restaurant from beef lo-mien to dragon and phoenix to barbecue spare ribs. The only difference is that all of these meats are vegan meat substitutes.
The portions are all generous and the prices are all reasonable. More importantly, all of the food is delicious. Many of the omnivores I know have eaten there and liked it as much as their favorite non-veg Chinese places.
If you're feeling really hungry and/or gluttonous, take a couple of friends and get the all-you-can-eat dim sum. For around 12 bucks each, the servers will keep dropping plates of a variety of appetizers from their menu. You can choose from the list on the dim sum page or just have the cooks give you a variety of their choosing.
Your first time there, you should do the variety and then you can request repeats of the ones you like.
Big party coming up? Groups of ten or more can get their banquet room downstairs complete with large-screen tv and dvd player or karaoke.
Check them out next time you're in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Quick and dirty vegetarian stuffing
This recipe is not really so much a recipe as a combining store-bought easily prepared items to make something even better from them.
Buy any type of bagged stuffing to prepare. Most of these are vegetarian and basically look like a large bag of croutons with some seasoning mixed in. That's probably because that's all they really are.
Stove-Top and those type's of stuffing mix are not vegetarian and should be avoided.
Most of the bags call for a chicken stock and some celery and some butter. The easy way to make that vegetarian is to used vegetable stock instead, and to make it vegan, use any dairy-free butter spread such as Smart Balance's Light spread
or Earth Balance.
Also get a tube of Light Life sausage
. This stuff might be the best tasting meat substitute on the market.
Crumble and brown the sausage while you're heating the water or vegetable stock for the stuffing mix.
Preheat the oven to about 375.
Set the sausage aside and finish preparing the stuffing as directed on the package.
Mix the sausage into the stuffing and stir in some brown sugar, a few heaping spoonfuls will do. It really depends on taste for this one.
Put this all into a baking dish and sprinkle some more brown sugar lightly on top. Scatter a few dabs of butter or vegan butter sub and leave it in the oven until the tops is a little toasty, or very toasty if you like it crunchy. A tip for those who like it crunchy though, turn up the heat and bake for less time so that the rest of it doesn't dry out.
Serve it with your favorite fake chicken or tofurkey or just eat it on it's own. It's that good. Dirty Vegetarian stuffing:Any variety of instant stuffing mix that is vegetarianOne pack of GimmeLean or similar brand of vegetarian sausageButterBrown sugar
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Wearing your heart on your sleeve
There are tons of clothing websites out there that represent every cause and style imaginable.
One of my favorite vegetarian/vegan designers of graphic tees and other various items is herbivoreclothing.com.
They have a pretty good variety of designs, but carry books, accessories and home decor items as well.
The prices are reasonable and the styles are varied, so they have something for every herbivore out there.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Too many vegetarians in one room
Boston's Vegetarian Society is holding their 14th annual Food Festival October 31 and November 1.
They have tons of speakers and demonstrations on any topic relating to being an herbivore.
The whole event is free and includes free food sampling. This has got to be a lot of fun, and very informative, I'll have to try to make my way up to Boston next month.
Check out their website for info.
Ranch dip for everyone
This is an easy vegan version of the ubiquitous ranch dip you find at any gathering in the middle of the veggie tray. That veggie tray is often the only thing at some parties for the vegetarians and vegans, so we often hit it first. Many times it is not vegetarian friendly because some store-bought dips have gelatin in them, and almost none of them are vegan.
I found this recipe on a website, I think it was VegWeb.com
but I'm not completely sure.
All that needs to be done is to take the spices and mix them into the vegan sour cream or vegan mayo and then chill it for a while before serving.
Often I'll use this as a guide and approximate the amounts of each spice. Tofutti vegan sour cream has given me the best results so far.Quick Vegan Ranch Dip:1 cup vegan mayo or vegan sour cream
2 teaspoons parsley1 teaspoon onion powder1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1/2 teaspoon saltdash of dill weedblack pepper to taste
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Chili is better for you when it's vegan.
Chili is not really a health food in most people's eyes. A vegan version takes out a lot of the fat and cholesterol and, when done right, can leave you with just as much flavor.
This particular recipe has satisfied many a meat-eater in the past. Several calling me a liar when I tell them it's vegan.
One of the easiest ways to prepare vegan chili is to start with a packaged base and make it your own.
I use Fantastic Foods vegetarian chili
mix as a starter. Just prepare it as the box tells you.
The instructions call for two cans of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and some water. it's very easy.
Adding extra spices is always a part of my cooking. The chili gets extra garlic, crushed red pepper, chili pepper, salt, onion powder, Cajun
seasoning, Old Bay, pretty much anything sitting around the kitchen.
Also dumped in are usually an extra can of beans (usually a variety rather than just three cans of kidney beans), peas, corn, some fresh peppers, extra meat substitutes (Morningstar
makes frozen steak strips that add a great texture to the chili), fresh tomatoes. Again, mostly anything I find hanging around the kitchen.
Every batch of chili can and should be different from the last. Get creative.
Slow cooking it after you are done the box directions and all the other additions gives it a chance to blend the flavors more and give it a more consistent flavor throughout. If you have a crock pot, that works great, but if not just a stock pot with low heat works just fine.
My cooking style calls for the informal method of just letting it heat for as long as you feel like it or have time for.
Serve it over rice or with some nice crusty bread to dip in it. Shredded cheese (or vegan substitute) also adds an extra dimension to the dish, so give that a shot too.JB's Easy Vegan Chili:Fantastic Foods
Vegetarian Chili mix
3 cans of beans (I usually go with 1 kidney, 1 pinto and 1 black, but any combo will work)
1 can of peas (frozen or fresh work well, but cook them first to soften them)
1 can corn (same thing here)
1-2 cans of diced or stewed tomatoes
1 bag of Morningstar Farms
steak strips (the chicken ones work well too for a different taste)
Fresh hot peppers to desired taste (jalapeno or habanero
are good for some kick)Spices:
All added without measuring because it is chili, just use some common sense
Garlic (minced or powder)
Onion powderOld Bay
or Cajun seasoning
Crushed red pepper
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Dining out is the easiest vegetarian meal.
Even with the majority of restaurants offering vegetarian and vegan options, there is still a lack of real variety at most places.
One or two dishes without meat can be good enough for the most part, but sometimes we just want to go somewhere that either has a lot of options or only meat-free options.
A favorite of mine is Govinda's
at Broad and South Streets in Philly.
They have some of the best vegetarian sandwiches I've ever had. There is a pepper-"steak" sandwich that floors me. They also have a great ham and cheese hoagie made with the best fake ham that I have ever had.
They have real cheese and vegan cheese available so that most everything on their menu is available as a vegan dish as well.
The counter is usually quite busy, so you might have to wait in line for it, but there is a lot of great food there, so give it a try if you're a vegetarian or an omnivore. Even my meat-eating friends that I've dragged there have loved the taste of everything they had.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
A vegetarian's life is more than just eating
A real vegetarian doesn't just limit their animal friendly choices to the food they consume. What we wear is important too, as any real vegetarian knows well.
Sometimes it is hard to find non-leather shoes, belts, wallets, etc.
For all the other lazy vegetarians out there, the easiest thing you can do to solve this problem is head to Moo Shoes
, a New York based clothing and shoe company that only sells vegan-friendly gear.
They have my favorite shoes ever.
So if anyone wants to buy me a new pair, I wear a size 12. Just throwing that out there...
This website really is great, and everything I have ever bought from them has been high quality and with fantastic customer service.
Give them your business and support cruelty-free companies.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Summer is ending, who has extra produce?
Summer vegetable gardens are a lot of work. That's why I love people who have them and perpetually have too many fresh veggies come September.
I have personally reaped the benefits of my enthusiastic friends Autumn after Autumn. Zucchini are always the most prolific producers, followed closely by tomatoes.
Gather up some scrounged veggies and a box of pasta and you can make one of the freshest and easiest pasta primavera dishes ever.
Start by boiling the water for the pasta. Put the pasta in while you saute the veggies, since most pastas take ten or so minutes and that's about how long you'll be heating the other stuff.
Next, cut whatever veggies you have (I have a suggested list below, but really, any mix of veggies will do just fine) and heating a Tbs or two of olive oil in a large skillet.
Toss the garlic into the oil as soon as it is hot. This is another perfect time to have the little jar of pre-minced garlic
in the fridge.
Put in the broccoli and carrots (any harder veggies) first, followed soon by the zucchini and squash. Heat them until they start to get warm, then dump in your spices and stir.
Toss in the tomatoes once the zucchini is almost tender. Heat for about 2 minutes or until the tomatoes are heated, but still a little bit firm.
Drain the pasta, mix in a dash of olive oil and the Parmesan cheese. Stir in the vegetable mixture and serve. EASY PASTA PRIMAVERA
1 package of pasta (spaghetti or ziti work well, but almost any pasta will do)
: all measurements are estimates
1/2 clove of garlic (more if you like garlic)
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. basil
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 or 3 Tbs of olive oil
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese or vegan subsituteVeggies
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash. sliced
1 stalk of broccoli, cut into florets
2 medium tomatoes cut into small wedges or 15 or so cherry tomatoes
a handful of green beans
5 or 6 baby carrots sliced or cut into thin sticks
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Salads are a vegetarian's best friend
Being a lazy vegetarian salads are a nuisance to make and we tend to not make them at home. We tend to see too many of them when we're out at restaurants because the salad is all some places offer to the meat-free crowd. Some restaurants don't even have a meat-free salad because regular patrons want their chicken strips thrown across the top of a Caesar salad to negate any health value.
Making these salads at home is the easiest thing if you do the right shopping.
The pre-cut bags of lettuce cost a little more, but if you find them on sale they can actually be a better deal than buying whole heads of lettuce. Pre-cut romaine mixes often have packets of cheese or croutons for making Caesar salads. The vegan option nixes the cheese and the dressing is more difficult to find, but they exist.
Caesar dressings usually have anchovies, but some out there come without the little fish, so just check ingredients. Annie's brand makes a good one, and Follow Your Heart has a vegetarian Caesar dressing. Also be wary of Worcestershire sauce in the ingredient list, as that has fish in it too.
Croutons are important for a good salad. The easiest way is to buy them, but making them takes only a few minutes. Take either some cut up french or italian bread or just use some regular sandwich bread. Wheat adds an interesting flavor to the croutons. Stale bread actually works best for this. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Toss in some garlic to taste (Spice World brand is good and easy to come by in the jars already minced and can be used in a million ways). Lightly brown the stale bread cubes and set them aside on a paper towel.
Any fake chicken products will do, but MorningStar Farms has the meal starter strips that taste great, are vegan, and heat up and toss into the salad with no trouble. You can even use the same pan as the croutons since the oil is still good for cooking the fake chicken strips.
So cut the lettuce (or open the bag), toss into a bowl with some Parmesan cheese or vegan substitute, mix in the fake meat strips, toss in the dressing and top with the fresh croutons.
Enjoy a fairly hearty salad as a side or a large portion for your dinner. Ingredients:
Romaine lettuce (bagged is the easiest way to go)
Caesar dressing (Annie's, Follow Your Heart, or any anchovy free type)
Fake chicken strips (breaded or grilled style work equally well)
Parmesan Cheese (vegan subs are pretty good and fairly easy to find)
Friday, September 11, 2009
The other fake meat
One of the big things for any vegan or vegetarian is meat substitutes. Buying them gets expensive and making them is often hard to do and very time consuming.
Long long ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to VRG.org and their recipe for seitan. For the uninitiated, seitan (pronounced say-TAHN for the lame and satan for the cool) is a wheat gluten based meat substitute that is not great on its own, but make a good base for making just about anything.
The gluten flour is about the only thing that is not readily available in all stores. The kombu seaweed can really be subbed for any seaweed which can be found in the "ethnic" section of your local supermarket.
Gluten flour (aka vital wheat gluten) is available in some supermarkets, but not all. Whole Foods will probably have it, there is a brand called Bob's Red Mill that is available pretty widely in with baking products and bread-making supplies and also on Amazon.com.
Quick Homemade Seitan
(Makes 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds or 2 to 2-1/2 cups)
2 cups gluten flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1-1/4 cups water or vegetable stock
3 Tablespoons lite tamari, Braggs liquid amino acids, or soy sauce
1-3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
Add garlic powder and ginger to flour and stir. Mix liquids together and add to flour mixture all at once. Mix vigorously with a fork. When it forms a stiff dough knead it 10 to 15 times.
Let the dough rest 2 to 5 minutes, then knead it a few more times. Let it rest another 15 minutes before proceeding.
Cut gluten into 6 to 8 pieces and stretch into thin cutlets. Simmer in broth for 30 to 60 minutes.
4 cups water
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
3-inch piece of kombu (a type of seaweed)
3-4 slices ginger (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring broth to a boil. Add cutlets one at a time. Reduce heat to barely simmer when saucepan is covered. Seitan may be used, refrigerated, or frozen at this point.
Total Calories per 4 oz. Serving: 77
Fat: 0 grams
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Time to bring some focus to this blog. I know i'm not talking to a huge following here, but this is now going to be a blog about being vegetarian and looking for the easy ways to stick to that.
I've got more than a decade of experience being a lazy vegetarian, so I'm going to bring my recipes and easy solutions for people who are busy, short on time for food prep, constantly on the run, or just plain lazy about cooking.
I'm very strict on my vegetarian diet, often cooking and eating vegan because those are actually the healthier recipes without the fat and cholesterol in dairy. There is no room for fish or white meats in a real vegetarian diet. Anyone who calls themselves a vegetarian but they eat chicken/fish/whatever is either dumb or a liar.
Today's post will be the easiest of all vegetarian cooking: a link to buy 2 minute microwave meals.
Going Native is delicious
These are quick and easy vegetarian meals (3 of them are vegan, the paneer is an Indian cheese, so that's clearly the non-vegan one) and are best just heated up and dumped over rice.
Taste-wise, they are good to very good. None are as good as making the recipe yourself, but much easier. I have a few of them on my shelf at work for busy nights when I didn't bring dinner and don't want to spend the money (also read: broke) on take out.