Sunday, May 16, 2010

Almost Chicken

When I decided to give up meat, I knew that chicken would be something that would be greatly missed.   When I broke the news to my husband, his first reaction was "so you're not going to make me anymore of your chicken!"  In fact, just a few days before we gave up meat, I made a baked breaded chicken dish for the kids that they just loved.  But then there is my famous homemade chicken soup!  I have spent years making this soup for my family and friends and myself.  Whenever someone was not feeling well, I would make my soup.  I was so surprised when my stepchildren began to request that I make it for them when they were sick.  You know you've made something good if your children ask for it!  It takes hours to make from scratch, but I have received so many compliments and requests from people.  I knew that this would be a hard thing to give up.  How do I just give up making something that I have put so much into?  So I just had to find a way to create a whole new set of  veggie chicken meals that people will love just as much.  Then I cam across Smart Strips in the grocery store.  Smart Strips are seasoned veggie strips that look like chicken.  So far, I have found them to work very well in my dishes.  They looked like chicken, but I wasn't sure how they were going to taste.  So I decided to first try them out in a dish where they would be mixed with other flavors, "chicken" enchiladas.  I made them as I would regular enchiladas, but substituted the chicken for the Smart Strips.  In fact, I used one of those enchilada kits that had all the ingredients in a box, except for the meat.  They came out great!  My oldest daughter even asked for seconds.  I thought for sure she would be the first to complain, but no, she liked them.   A few days later, I decided to try them again.  This time I wanted to make a pasta dish.  I sauteed the strips in a pan with onions, green peppers, tomatoes and garlic and then tossed with whole wheat spaghetti (see this dish on my veggie meal page).   I was only cooking this for my husband and I because I really didn't think the kids would like this.  My daughter saw what I was making and said "Can I have some of that too"?  So I fixed her a plate and waited for her to say that it doesn't taste like chicken.  I was wrong! She loved it and again, asked for more.  This is the girl that used to complain to me that we ate too much chicken!  Well, I am happy that they are still loving the food.  This would be a hard journey if no one liked the things I made.  So Smart Strips will become a regular item in my grocery list.  I'm hoping to come up with many more meals that my family will love.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Veggie Shopping Done Right

After my last trip to the grocery store, I quickly realized that I needed to know what I needed to buy before trying to shop.  I looked up some veggie meals to get some ideas and see what I would need.  So I made my list and headed out.  I tried a different store this time.  The one I went to last time was a very big store and I felt so lost in there.  I hadn't a clue where to find anything.  This time, things went much better.  As I shopped with my list in hand, I took my time as to make sure I didn't miss anything that I might need.  I found so many more vegetarian products that I didn't know existed.  It was like I discovered a whole world of food that I never knew was there!  For years I passed by all these products on my way to the meat, never for a minute stopping to see what they were.  I was always focused on getting what I needed and getting out.  But now that I have discovered all these other options, I have tasty, healthy and meat free options that my family will love.  For example, I found a pack of breaded veggie patties that looked like chicken.  Also I found a veggie product that looks like grilled chicken pieces.  I knew that these products were going to be great for the kids.  If I could make them feel like they are eating chicken, then that will be success!
After completing my shopping, I headed home with great enthusiasm that I will be able to continue this journey without compromising great meals.  I wanted to make a meal that looked and tasted so good that the kids would never know that it was a vegetarian meal.  I decided to use the breaded chicken patties and created something with that.  After all, children love breaded chicken and I wanted to fool them!  I decided to make "Chicken" Parmesan.  Not only did it come out great, it was so easy to make.  The patties heated up in less than 20 minutes in the oven.  I just topped them with spaghetti sauce and shredded cheese when they were almost done.  Then I served them with whole wheat spaghetti tossed in spaghetti sauce and some homemade garlic bread.  The kids and my husband loved it. My husband knew it was not chicken but the kids had no idea they were eating veggie patties.  My husband told me that his youngest asked him why were they eating chicken. He seemed happy as if he was glad that he could now eat meat again.  With a smirk on his face, he asked him, "Did you guys give up already?"  Success!!

"Chicken" Parmesan with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shopping Vegetarian-Not So Easy!!

Going to the grocery store has become a new source of frustration.  I never did enjoy doing grocery shopping, but now it has become quite a challenge.   The other day I went to do my first weekly shopping as a vegetarian.  Until then, I had been making little trips to the store because I really didn't know what to buy.  I was just trying to get through one day at a time.  Since becoming a vegetarian, I decided to try shopping at Publix since they have the Green Wise section and carry vegetarian foods.   But this still does not make it easy!!  I went in ready to buy for one week, but I could not find anything to put in my cart.  I was lost!  I found myself wondering around and around the store. I didn't know where to start and even if I did, I didn't know where to find anything.  It took me 30 minutes just to find where the veggie meats were, and I ended up finding them on accident.   After I found them, I had no idea what to get next.  As a meat eater, I knew the basics to get each week along with whatever meat was on sale.  I knew I could make a meal together out of anything I had.  It is not that simple anymore.  Without meat as the foundation for a meal, it is hard to know where to start. If I got steak or chicken, I knew I could always pair it with rice, potatoes or pasta.  But without the meat, that leaves me with just the sides.  Where do I go from there??  After wondering around and around the store, without a clue to what I should get, I bought for one meal and went home.  I think this would be easier if I was shopping for one or two.  But trying to shop for six people really makes this more difficult.  I need to make a meal that is big enough to feed everyone, good tasting, not too expensive and vegetarian.  I think I need to go back to the drawing board.  I need a plan!!

 So far I have cooked with the ground beef and ground sausage substitutes, veggie burgers and tofu.  But I want to use more than just that.  I think I need to spend some time finding some more veggie recipes.  I think maybe I should find a few new recipes for each week.  It might help if I plan each meal for the week and make a list for what I need to make for each one.  I always went shopping with a list before so I don't know why I tried this time without one.  Tomorrow I will try once again. I will spend some time in the morning looking up some new veggie recipes and will write what I need to make them.   I will go armed with a list and a knowledge for what I want to make.  Let's hope this time will be easier.  The next challenge is doing all this and staying within my weekly budget!  That's a whole other story.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Best Fruit & Veggie Juicer

My husband and I have been using this juicer for over a year now.  It really works great! We will be using it even more now that we have adopted our no meat diet.  It is a wonderful way to get raw veggies into your diet without having to eat them.  The best part is the juice really tastes great.  This is something every vegetarian can use!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our First Week of No Meat

Well, I have survived the first week as a vegetarian.  It was one week ago today that I decided to leave meat out of my diet.  In fact, it was Earth Day.  What better day to start a vegetarian diet?  Over the last seven days, I have experimented with foods that I normally make, such as, chili, lasagna, spaghetti and tacos.  But instead of using meat, I used a  vegetarian source.   I was surprised at how well the meat substitute worked in these dishes.  For the lasagna, I used a veggie substitute for ground sausage.  For the chili and tacos, I used a veggie substitute for ground beef called Smart Ground.  I was really surprised how well this worked as a meat substitute.  The texture is a little bit different than meat, but it worked great.  My husband loved the chili and said he could eat it all the time.  Even more surprising, the kids loved the tacos!  Wow, I think this might actually work.  I was prepared to hear complaining and requests for meat, but that hasn't happened yet.  My husband and kids seem to be embracing the meatless meals I am making, or at least not complaining so I can hear.  Well, let's just hope they are liking the meals.  I know that the flavor is not the same as meat, but I'm sure with time, we will get used to it as normal.

What wasn't so easy this week was getting the children to drink the soy milk.  My teenage daughter and I have always been big milk drinkers.  We could drink a glass of milk with every meal and then a few more in between meals.  I have started drinking soy milk and I really like the vanilla flavor.  My daughter, on the other hand, just refused to drink it.  She wants her regular milk and is not budging!  She has tried the regular and the vanilla soy milk and just doesn't like it.   My toddler also seems to share her lack of love for the soy milk.  One morning when my toddler was having breakfast, I put the soy vanilla milk in her cup and watched to see her reaction.  I thought maybe she would not even notice.  Well, I was so wrong!  She looked at me and shouted  "This is not milk; I don't want ice cream!"  Then she proceeded to give me back her cup.  So much for trying to fool a toddler.  How does she know what ice cream tastes like, she doesn't even eat it.  I suppose will keep looking until I find a milk substitute that they like.  So I guess I should be thankful that I am winning the battle of the meat and let them keep their milk, for now.

Veggie Chili with Smart Ground

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why I'm Becoming a Vegetarian

Recently, after wondering about the practices of our meat industry, I decided to do some research online. What I found was disturbing, to say the least. I watched video footage of animals being mistreated and abused. I was shocked to see how these animals are housed and transported and even more shocked to see how they are killed. I guess as meat eaters, we don't like to think of our food as something that was living, walking, breathing and eating. We don't want to think about what it used to be. I think we tend to think that a piece of pork was always just a piece of pork. Well, after watching these videos, I can no longer see meat as just meat. Horrified at what I saw, I posted a link on my Facebook page and asked all my Facebook friends to please take a minute to watch. I felt everyone should at least be informed at what goes on before the meat hits your plate. I'm not sure if anyone even watched it. I had no responses and no comments to my post. I guess, for most people, it is easier just not knowing. I was so moved by the things I saw that I decided I would not eat anymore meat and I was going to try to get my family to join me.

After making my decision to become a vegetarian, I shared my thoughts with my husband and to my surprise, he was eager to try life without meat. My husband has always loved his meat. In fact, some of the best meals I made were meat dishes that I created just for his love of meat. I was shocked that he was willing to give that up. He told me that he wanted to eat healthier and he trusted that I would be able to create good tasting meatless meals. We are both approaching forty and we want to make sure that we stay healthy. Even more, I am concerned with the health of my children. I am concerned about the reports of antibiotics and hormones that are given to animals and how these are passed to the children in the meat. Eating healthy is already something we have been trying to do. We juice raw vegetables and eat whole grains. I guess giving up meat was just the next level in our goal to become as healthy as we can. Now all I have to do is convince the children!!