Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mmm. Squishy.

I've eaten quite a few of these in the last few days, but I figured today I would talk about the "Don Lee Farms" veggie burgers.

So, we got these things from Costco in bulk. I wanted something other than Morning Star or Boca (or Garden) burgers, which (if you're not careful) are somewhat like cardboard discs. (Boca usually have the best tasting, but I dislike the texture.)

Every ingredient is pretty easy to understand; carrots, celery, wheat flour, sunflower seeds, oil, etc. They're completely different than the other brands, as they're not frozen and they have a 'squishy' texture, compared to the somewhat dryer Boca or Morning Star burgers. Personally, I prefer this personally, but not everyone will.

I've thrown some fake bacon on them with some honey mustard, eaten them plain. They're just generally good burgers.

Pros: Good flavor, filled with ingredients you can actually pronounce and understand, crisps easily in the frying pan
Cons: Texture takes a little getting used to, not very gluten friendly (made with wheat flour)
Final Review: These are quite possibly the best veggie burgers I've had. Although the texture is a little unique, they have the best flavor and you can taste every ingredient (like the carrots and celery). If you want to try a veggie burger, this would be the one I suggest (if you can handle the softer texture).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sticking to the Plan

The great thing about being a vegetarian for health reasons is that, for any reason, I could decide to partake in some meat. In my case, I'll break down and have small amounts at holidays most likely. Probably a substantial smaller amount than I would in previous days.

St. Patrick's Day is coming up, and between having an Irish significant other and a mother who lives for corn beef, I've realized something - it's not me that'll cause me to give up. It's other people.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that people are going to just go out and shove a burger down my throat. What I mean is - when you're surrounded by people who don't eat the same way you do, you're more tempted to make that concession for the ease of everyone. Like the St. Patrick's Day thing - I love Corned Beef. But my body doesn't process anything that comes from the mooing milk factories (unless it's lactose free milk or yogurt) at all. But, I keep thinking I'll end up having some anyway.

Also, my fiance' and I are headed to his home town this summer for a month, and I'll be the only 'vegetarian' there. I think I'm going to starve, save for 'meatless fridays,' which sadly, I'll look forward to (his parents are catholic).

I'm just remember what we ate like while we were there last time and it worries me. I keep thinking I'll just give up on everything I've accomplished by that point just so I don't have to have other people adjust things for my sake. I know I'm doing it for my health, but I'd still feel kinda bad having people go out of their way just for me.

That's four months away, so I guess there's time to deal with it until then.

I guess I'll just have to deal day by day and exercise some will power.

Next up: Product Review on "Don Lee Farm's Vegan Veggie Patties."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

To Bake or Not to Bake

Today's lunch consisted of carrot-cashew-ginger soup from Pacific Organic Soups (you can get this stuff in most grocery stores on the west coast. They make great organic soups) and a wheat wrap with homemade hummus, ZOI greek yogurt (which, oddly, I can only find at WinCo/Waremart), and tomatoes. So, I figured that while I was eating, I'd do another post to fill in some time gaps.

As promised, here are the recipes for the cookies I made last night. Yes, they're completely gluten free! Not so great if you have nut allergies, but they're gluten free. I've become a bit of a baking god at my mother's place of business, so I'm always finding new things to make for her co-workers (including the two gluten-free eaters who always get left out).

Today's recipes are: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies and Flourless Nutella Cookies.

Flourless Nutella Cookies

Disclaimer: These are extremely chocolatey. Very similar to the chocolate chunk chewies you get from Vons/Safeway. If you aren't a complete choco-holic, you may not want to make these. (My fiance' is and I made them for him... in which he promptly came down with food poisoning before they were done and couldn't even eat them. Go figure.) For those of you not in the know; Nutella is made by the Ferrero company and is a chocolate spread that is a tad bit thinner than peanut butter made with Hazelnuts and Cocoa. The ingrediants are all fairly simple (I.E. cocoa, skim milk, hazelnuts, etc.), and it really isn't all that bad for you (in moderation, of course).

*1 cup Nutella
*1 cup peanut butter (I used 'natural' creamy, but you can use whatever you want)
*2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
*1 Cup of Splenda Baking Mix (or 2 cups of regular sugar)
*2 large beaten eggs
*2 teaspoons of vanilla extract**

 *1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (Optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I used wax paper and sprayed it very lightly with PAM. I found it got the cookies off a bit easier.)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. This can be done with a wooden or plastic spoon very easily. Or, for the lazy, use a hand mixer.

Use a regular spoon and drop small scoops onto the parchment paper. Depending on the size of your cookie balls, you'll need to cook them between 10 to 15 minutes. It took me a few tries to figure out when to get them out - if the middle of the cookie is still glossy, give it another two to three minutes.

Cool almost completely before removing them from the wax paper. (If you don't and try too soon, you'll break the cookie in half.)

When completely cool, store in a sealed container. The dough can be prepared a few days ahead and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

**Notes:  If you want to add flour, 1/2 cup will give you a more cakelike, puffy cookie (and they do have gluten free baking flour, so use that if you so desire). The nutella, once baked, loses a lot of the hazelnut flavor. If you want to add flavor, replace the vanilla with orange/almond/peppermint/etc. extract instead. These cookies are extremely chewy, and the middle tends to be a little raw if not cooked properly. Also, make sure the walnut pieces are pretty small. They can affect how the cookie cooks and how easily they come off the parchment (as I discovered...).

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Disclaimer: These cookies are not chewy like you'd expect, but rather on the more crunchy side, but still very good. Perfect for the diabetic (like my mother) who really wants peanut butter cookies. I've been trying for awhile to make a good set of flourless cookies for my mother who loves peanut butter cookies, and this is the best recipe I've ever used.

    * 1  cup  peanut butter (I used creamy)
    * 1/2 cup of Splenda Baking Mix (or 1 cup of regular sugar)
    * 1 large egg, beaten
    * 1 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350*F and grease cookie sheets (I used baking spray).

Beat together peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl until smooth (I used a wooden spoon for this, but again, for the lazy, a hand mixer is quicker).

Add the beaten egg and baking soda to peanut butter mixture and mix until well combined.

Roll 1 teaspoon of dough into a ball and place on cookie sheet. Place dough balls one inch apart on cookie sheet and flatten with tines of fork making a cross pattern. (Okay, so mine weren't a teaspoon. I just pinched off a bit of dough that I thought looked right and made all the cookies roughly the same size. Mine were probably closer to 1 1/2 tablespoons. lol)

Bake until puffed and a pale golden brown color. This takes between 10-15 minutes, depending on your cookie size.

Cool cookies on baking sheet about 2 minutes and then transfer with spatula to rack to cool.

**Notes: Do not make these as 'drop' cookies, they'll come apart. The dough is thick enough that you can roll them into balls and use the tines of a fork to make the crisscrossed pattern on them. Do not forget the baking soda, or you're cookies won't come out right.

So, that's it! My next recipe is going to attempt Cashew Cheese sauce for Macaroni, since I've had it before.

We'll see how that works out.

This Isn't Chicken...

This is my fourth official day of being a 'vegetarian.' I've been doing pretty well so far. I didn't even eat the bacon that was made for breakfast a few days ago, even though I really wanted to. With having dips, hummus, and pesto on hand, I can find snacks and things to eat that'll make me just as happy and keep me from immediately going that out of habit. Only thing I've given in and eaten was the sushi my constant companion and I shared for Valentine's Day dinner. And it was totally worth it.

So, to clarify, here's what I have given up:
*Pork (Pork chops, Ham, Bacon, etc.)
*Miscellaneous other meats (like venison, which I actually did enjoy)
*Dairy (With exceptions, see below)
*Most Sugared Things (I switched to sugar free/diet)
*Caffeine (With exceptions, see below)

What, despite these changes, I am still eating that might be assumed I'd give up:
*Most seafood (I have to be careful with this because I'm still figuring out what I can eat and what I can't.)
*Yogurt and the occasional bit of sour cream or cottage cheese
 *I do partake in the occasional blended mocha or diet Dr. Pepper, and some of the teas I really like are caffeinated. However, Starbucks still makes my green tea frappe, and I can get most of those teas decaffeinated now, so it's a rare thing.
*At holidays, I fully intend to partake in a small amount of turkey. Note - small. By the time thanksgiving rolls around again, I may not be able to handle it, so this is still up in the air.

Now on to the product reviews.

Tofurkey Tomato and Basil Italian Sausage.
Pros: Great flavor, good with pesto and pasta. The consistency isn't really all that close to a real hot dog, but seeing as I'm not a huge fan of eating straight up hot dogs, this doesn't really bother me.
Cons: Frankly, if it gets cold, it tastes absolutely awful. It's like chewing on a piece of tomato flavored rubber that squishes if you happen to break through. Seriously, absolutely awful. Not paying attention, I ate the last piece of the sausage I had cut up after setting it aside for about twenty minutes while watching television. Never again.
Final Recommendation: If you're adventurous with meat substitute products, go for it. But, wouldn't suggest eating it straight (mix it with something, the package suggests onions and bell peppers on some sort of bread, I'd do pasta with pesto or marinara sauce). And for the love of all that is holy, do not let it get cold and try to eat it. You'll regret it. This needs to be eaten right away while warm.

Morning Star Bacon (Substitute).
Morning Star actually has a pretty good record with me for having decent substitutes. I like the 'barbeque ribs' and the fake chicken patties. So, at the suggestion of someone, I gave the bacon a try so I didn't feel so left out when breakfast rolled around. Unfortunately, I have to deal with it being referred to as my "Beggin' Strips" as my fiance' is convinced they look like the bacon dog treats. Can't say I disagree. They're unnatural red and white, just like the dyed strips you'd feed your dog. Don't think about it if you're eating it. You may be turned off before you even give it a try.
Pros: Smells amazing, crisps pretty easily in the mircowave or pan, good flavor (even if not completely 'bacon-ey')
Cons: Looks like dog treats/visually unappealing, burns easily if you over cook it, the consistency takes a few bites to get used to (if you don't eat crispy bacon normally)
Final Recommendation: Go ahead and try it! I actually really, really liked this stuff. Despite the fact that I accidentally tried to light it on fire, it tasted great as a 'BLT' on my wheat flatbread. Suggestion? Pay attention to the cook times on the box. Go over by even five seconds, and you could go from having yummy crispy bacon to charcoal. I'd suggest trying it as a BLT like I did. The smokey flavor really does kinda help give it a similar flavor to the real thing. The other thing I'd do is an omelet (if you can eat eggs). I'm going to try the sausage patties next.

Final Product Review: Gardein (Garden Protein) Thai Chik'n (Chicken) Curry
This was today's dinner. After making three different batches of gluten-free cookies, I was too lazy to make anything, so I gave this a try. I was really looking forward to it. Roughly four minutes in the microwave and it was finished.
Pros: Easy and quick to cook, the sauce is fairly decent, enough for one person
Cons: Chicken is flavorless, rice is dry, the combo of flavors (rather than working together) make it obvious you're not eating the real thing
Final Recommendation: Save your five bucks and make this yourself. Although the sauce was decent, "Taste of Thai" makes curry sauces that are thicker and far better tasting than this packaged curry-flavored plastic. You can add your own veggies and herbs (such as basil) and cook the rice to your own desired softness. (If you can get it, use black rice. It's the best for you and the most carb friendly. If not, do brown). This way, you can use straight up tofu instead of this fake chicken crap and it'll taste far better. I guess this is good if you're in a real hurry and need something to heat up at work, but I wouldn't bother. The whole point to buying something with rice and sauce is to help convince you that you're not eating the fake stuff - which this doesn't do.

Next goal: Post gluten-free peanut butter and nutella cookie recipes and vegan restaurant reviews.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Humans are not Goats

First I would like to say that the background and blog title were not my idea - but my picky-eating other half's. I just thought it was funny enough to leave it (why yes, that is a hamburger in the background of a vegetarian blog).

Now, let me start off with a quick explanation as to what possessed me to become a vegetarian and why I am doing this blog:

When I was a child, I went vegetarian (with the exception of seafood). I decided that the world was doing a great injustice to our cow brethren and would never again eat another piece of meat. If the people of India could do it, so could I. But, that didn't last very long, as I succumbed to what my fiance' would refer to as, "The Siren Song of the Steak."

Flash forward ten or fifteen years. I've, once again, given up meat with the exception of seafood - along with most dairy products (except yogurt and the occasional bit of sour cream or cottage cheese. Not that I should be eating the last two at all). As I've gotten older, I've discovered more and more foods that, for whatever reason, my stomach has decided to revolt against.

First it was caffeine. Not a big deal, although I do still succumb on occasion and get myself a caramel latte or something. Tea is my weakness (usually green), but you can get that decaf, so it never bothered me too much. Then it was dairy. Now, this wasn't as much of a surprise, as I was lactose-intolerant as a child. Like most fat chicks too lazy to care, I ate everything I wasn't supposed to anyway. And this, my friends, backfired.

Everything started making me sick and none of us could figure out why. Eventually I figured out it wasn't just dairy, but cow-related products as a whole. So, after a lot of "Well, I'll eat it anyway and suffer later," I finally gave anything from our milk-producing friends up. Then I discovered that wheat did the same thing, so I've cut down on that. Luckily, eating less seems to have done the trick, but I can't cut it out completely simply because I love me some sammiches.

A few days ago, after spending almost a week sick to my stomach, I came to my final decision - I would go vegetarian. There are many of us human-type things that aren't walking garbage disposals, so we're forced to eat like this. Now I would like to point out that I am not one of those self-righteous prats you see screaming, "Meat is Murder!" while munching on a cheese-and-beef filled Taco Bell Chalupa. Everyone in my family eats meat, especially my anti-vegetable other half, and I did too. However, I can't claim -complete- vegetarianism as I still eat seafood (there's no way anyone is taking my sushi from me unless I become deathly allergic). I still eat seafood not just because it's the only 'meat' product that doesn't make me ill (most stuff, anyway), but because it has a lot of the vitamins and protein I'm going to need due to the fact I won't be getting it from any other meat source. It's a rare thing, so I don't feel even the remotest bit bad.

So, if you eat meat, more power to you. I won't tell you that you're a terrible person, I won't get all indignant and not speak to you. I'm doing this for health reasons and nothing else. (Although, I did see that Oprah special on cow slaughter houses... talk about traumatizing.)

I started this blog to share my insights, struggles, recipes, brand/substitute suggestions, and anything else that might come into my head while I go through this. I know I'm not the only one having to do this, and I figured this would be a good way to keep myself on track. Comment, share recipes, or whatever else you feel like doing. I'll just keep writing and respond to comments when I can or feel I should.

Disclaimer: Although I will be sharing many gluten free products and recipes, my diet is not based solely on that. What I suggest may not be gluten-free friendly (although I will make sure to note if there are gluten-free alternatives). I am open to ideas, recipes, and various brands that may supply these things though.

So read on, gentle viewers. And enjoy what I hope with be an entertaining look into my thought process and daily life.