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.