Tag Archives: Vegetarian

Book Giveaway: The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook


Subtitle: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour

And where did those jig-inducing falafels we are featuring come from?  That’s right – Kim O’Donnel’s happy vegetarian cookbook. Organized by season her recipes offer something fro everyone.  In fact, she codes the recipes so you can quickly find one that matches your vegan, gluten free, optional dairy, “kiddos” inclinations.  There’s even a code to let your know the recipe will provide great leftovers.  Kim is cheerful but also uber-practical. Continue reading

Book Giveaway: Meatless Celebrations

CONTEST CLOSED.  Thanks Everyone!

Year-Round Vegetarian Feasts (You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into)

I saw colleague Kim O’Donnel with a hot off the press copy of this pretty book at a recent gathering and she was clutching it and beaming at it like the newborn creation it is. Kim is the founder of Canning Across America, a collective dedicated to the revival of preserving food. And her latest project is Family Kitchen, a twice-monthly column that appears alternating Wednesdays in USA Today.

The cool thing about Kim authoring this book is that she knows meat eaters. In fact, she is one. Continue reading

Design a Vegetarian Meal

Let’s talk about what elements constitute a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan meal.  I find that this is one of the more misunderstood concepts.  Often when the urge to become vegetarian is fueled, the resulting diet becomes what I call  “pizza and coke vegetarianism”.  A diet centering around sugar, white flour and cheese IS vegetarian, ceases support of Confined Animal Feeding Operations and  soothes the conscience, but does it serve the body?  I don’t believe it does.  This interpretation of vegetarianism can lead to weight gain, mineral deficiencies and poor health in general.

Eating a mostly vegetarian diet is not a new thing. Press on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book  Eating Animals points out that Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson and Aristotle questioned the practice of eating meat.  But throughout history, most common people who ate a  vegetarian diet did so not because of ethics, but economics.  Meat used to be expensive.  I would guess that is why many cultures who were agriculturally savvy started putting grains and beans together – inexpensive foods that when combined can offer the amino acids needed to create protein in the human body.

In my cooking classes we practice making vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous meals so that students get a feel for how to create balance regardless of philosophy.  The well balanced vegetarian meals we make in class are not centered around white flour and cheese but focused on combining a whole grain and a bean.  The structure looks like this:

Whole grain
Legume or traditional soy food

Vegetable (green)
(raw, fermented, cultured, pickled, bitter)

This meal structure provides the full array of amino acids so that protein needs can be met while conveniently providing ample complex carbohydrates.  By traditional soy food I mean products such as tofu, tempeh, miso as opposed to soy hot dogs and burgers (see To Fu or Not To Fu).  The emphasis on vegetables provides abundant vitamins and anti-oxidants.  The digestive element, including a small portion of something raw, pickled or fermented, does just that – aids digestion (and p.s. flavor).

In the vegetarian diet  one needs to be aware of providing a B12 source.  B12 can only be reliably found in animal products.  If you include dairy products or eggs, you’re covered.  If you are vegan, you will need to include a regular supplement.  This meal structure is high in fiber too.  If you are working to lose weight or keep weight off, combining whole grains and beans may give you more satisfaction with less calories than white flour and cheese or meat and potatoes.

Many of the menus posted on Cookus Interruptus reflect this structure.  It’s pretty fun to meal plan this way.  Think Golden Spice Rice with Vegetable Chickpea Curry with Raita Topping:

Whole grain: Brown rice
Legume or traditional soy food: Chickpeas
Vegetable (green): Broccoli
Vegetable: Carrots, onions. cucumbers
Digestive (raw, fermented, cultured, pickled, bitter): Yogurt (also B12)

I bet you guys have dozens of meal plans that fit into this structure.  Share darn it!

Eggs-actly what do the labels mean?

Are you buying cage-free, omega 3 eggs from hens given a vegetarian diet?  Well good.  Well maybe.  Let’s dissect the terms used on labels.

The conventional eggs you buy at most grocery stores are the least expensive.  Two to four pullets as young as 19 weeks old are put into a wire cage with an area of approximately two feet square.  A barn full of these cages is known as a battery of cages.  Feeds are allows to contain antibiotics and are mostly made up of bioengineered corn.  Battery cages are banned in some places in Europe.

Free-roaming, cage-free, naturally-nested and free-run are used as an alternative to the technical term, high-density floor confinement. Whether high-density floor confinement is more humane than high-density cage confinement is arguable. The boast here is that the birds are allowed to run on the floor of the barn.  Often birds are densely packed in the barns with no access to the outdoors.  Unless specified, feed is the same as conventional.

Free-range birds are required to have access to the outside most of the year plus roosts for resting.  Unfortunately “access” doesn’t mean they actually go outside.  Mostly they don’t because they don’t have all their feathers and it’s too chilly.  The term “free-range” is supposed to mean the birds have the same space requirement as organic – each bird must have at least two square feet of floor space.  Free-range tells us nothing about what the birds are fed.

Some words on the label have nothing to do with living conditions but let us know what the birds have been fed.  One example is omega 3 eggs where the feed given to the birds contains 10-20% flax seed which increases the Omega-3 value in the nutrient content of the egg.  The color of the yolk is also a deeper yellow.  Vegetarian or vegetarian-fed on the label means that the birds are given an all vegetarian diet that contain no animal by-products.

The organic label has more teeth (should that be beaks?).  Flocks must have access to an organic outside area year round and fed at least 80% organic non-GMO feed.  No meat or meat by products in the feed.  No antibiotics or hormones allowed.  Each bird must have at least two square feet of floor space.  You’ll pay more for these eggs too.

The most nutrient-dense eggs laid by the happiest hens are pastured – not a legal term.  Birds are kept in a movable enclosure with nests and roosts.  The structure is moved once or twice daily to a new piece of grass.  The chickens get at least 20% of their diet from foraging and eating insects which makes their eggs naturally high in omega 3 fatty acids and other good stuff.

According to a 2007 study conducted by Mother Earth News that compared eggs from pastured hens to eggs from conventionally kept hens, pastured eggs have:
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

More eggciting news from Mother Earth reveals that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.  To purchase pastured eggs you’ll probably need to frequent your local farmer’s market or become friends with a neighbor who has chickens.  There is a remarkable difference in the flavor and appearance of pastured eggs.  Yolks are golden orange and stand up proudly in a viscous white.  The flavor of a poached yolk is definitely rich and sweet.

I visited a farm in Hutchinson, Kansas run by Kenneth King and got to see the movable hen house up close and personal.  Really happy gals popping out incredible edibles. Once you’ve tasted an egg from a pastured hen it’s hard to go back to the flat pale tasteless variety.  Let Jane show you how to poach one.

Flexitarian Seeking Locavore

How We Define Ourselves by Our Food Choices

This week one of my students did a presentation where she wrote and read aloud a very thoughtful paper that she had written.  She spoke about her decision to become vegan (no animal or dairy products in the diet) and what had prompted it.  Her father had died of cancer and she experienced a strong desire to take better care of her body.  Changing her diet made her feel remarkably well; weight and fatigue disappeared.  She believes strongly in the healing power of plants and reminded us wisely that we may not be able to afford the caloric density of eating so much animal protein since we are no longer chasing food.  Our food is chasing us.

Now that she has been a vegan for a few years, she is thinking of trying some animal protein.  She read Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions (Sally definitely does NOT advocate veganism) and thought carefully about how ” traditional cultures prize organ meats for their ability to build reserves of strength and vitality. “ Organ meats are extremely rich in fat-soluble Vitamins A and D as well as essential fatty acids.  For the food part of her presentation she made vegetable/calves liver dumplings.  They were quite delicious.

Like any good explorer she didn’t just stop the boat and park. I expect in a few more years she will have carefully thought about some other aspect of healthful food and shifted again.  I honor her gentle, thoughtful approach to eating and her ability to remain open and flexible.

I have a great deal of respect for my vegetarian and vegan friends.   I believe that those who are following a traditional foods diet or are  macrobiotic or refrain from anything with dairy or gluten or who only eat raw foods or foods grown within 100 miles are also onto something wonderful.  What I dislike and disagree with is when those labels become more than just an educated choice about eating and start teetering into dogma.

Even though I make conscientious choices and have limits to my food choices, I no longer know quite how to label myself.  How about you?  Do your food boundaries define you in some way?  If they do, what do you call yourself?

Politically Correct Beans

This morning on NPR Mark Bittman talks about doing our part to help the environment  by cutting down on meat consumption.  A year ago in a NY Times article called “Rethinking the Meat Guzzler” he gave us this information: “To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan – a Camry, say – to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.”   Seems like a good time to bring it up again as we must all work together and make sacrifices to begin solving our energy problems.  Going vegetarian for a few meals each week would make a difference.  Are you up for it?