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Inspiration in the Kitchen

29 Nov

My inspiration to blog

My blogging journey started when people would constantly ask me what I was eating as a vegetarian. As I tend to do, I would elaborate in great detail about the meals I was cooking and how easy it was to whip up a dish each night. People were fascinated that I could eat burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, burritos, and stir fry, among many other things, while all of it being completely vegetarian. They wanted the recipes and since I don’t measure ingredients and always change an already-prepared recipe, I had no way to share my passion for healthy cooking to the masses. Plus, I wanted to convey a deeper message than just passing on a recipe, which is why I try to always add a little story or more information on the ingredients in my posts. Since then, I have expanded my blogging world and started writing about other topics that come across my mind. But, vegetarian cooking is where it all really began and it is what inspired me to start a blog. Even though I like to post pictures and I write about running, it still always comes back to the kitchen.

This post is in response to WordPress’ Photo Challenge of what inspires bloggers.

Change It Up: Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous Recipe

12 Nov

change/CHānj/

Verb: Make or become different.

Noun: The act or instance of making or becoming different.

Change is a word that is part of our everyday vocabulary, yet has developed more meaning over the course of the last four years.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

– President Barack Obama

My friend who ran the Athens half-marathon with me dedicated her race to President Obama because his message inspired her to make drastic changes with her health and life four years ago. The President isn’t the only one who is trying to create such a positive message. When Googled, the first result that comes up for the word “change” is the website for the organization change.org. Their website says:

Empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see.

And they ask “What will you change?” That’s a wonderful question. People complain about their lives in different ways – their job, their relationships, their income, and the list goes on and on. But we all have the ability to change those aspects of our lives, right? That’s the beauty of it all – of this world and this life.

A few months ago as I was getting ready to write down my grocery list for the week, I realized I was tired of making the same old meals and needed…you guessed it…change. I decided that since eggplant had been on sale lately, I’d find an easy recipe with eggplant. I found a few that had the genius idea of steaming the eggplant in the microwave to save on time. Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous was what I created and I wanted to share it on Meatless Monday to help others make a change in their routine and choose a healthier alternative to eating meat. I have made this recipe now a dozen times, each time trying a new ingredient or a new method. This variation seemed to be the biggest hit, but please share if you find another way to make it!

Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous Recipe

Ingredients
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil (optional)
  • 1 (15 oz) can chick peas, drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can no salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes (original recipe), undrained
  • 2 1/4 cups cooked whole wheat pearl couscous
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Steps
  1. Combine eggplant and water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and zucchini; sauté 6 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add eggplant mixture, chick peas, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, basil, and canned tomatoes to pan; turn down to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add raisins.
  4. Serve over couscous; sprinkle with cheese.
The idea for this dish came from this recipe.

Chowing Down with the Motley Crew

8 Oct

I had to share this for Meatless Monday even though I ate this yesterday 🙂

We were a motley crew on our 11 mile training run – one with a bum ankle, one feeling sick and run-down, and another with fatigue. But we finished and were able to enjoy this wonderful, well-deserved brunch at the Highland Bakery in Atlanta. Pictured below is what I got: Tofu Scramble with Soysauge and Oven-Roasted Potatoes, accompanied with a Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte.

https://twitter.com/alison_mercer/status/255040130702790656

Meatless Monday: “Meatballs” and Penne Pasta Recipe

1 Oct

When you’ve got the blues, do you have a go-to dish that serves as comfort food? For me, it’s usually some sort of pasta dish. Recently, it was Meatless Meatballs and Penne Pasta.

When I was making this dish, I couldn’t help but hum the lyrics to That’s Life. Yes, I was feeling gloomy on this particular day. It was stuck in my head while I was measuring spices, so I decided to look up the song and listen to it (side note: I found this cool video that goes along to the music).

My parents always had Frank Sinatra playing in the background at our house when I was growing up, and I loved listening to his soothing voice. I guess the combination of the song and the Italian meal made me feel comforted like I was back under my parent’s roof, being a child with no worries or care.

In case you need some cheering up, here’s a recipe to try out.

Meatless Meatballs and Penne Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb whole grain penne pasta (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1 (9 oz) container of Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • a dash of crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 8 oz baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 heaping cup squash, diced
  • 1 heaping cup zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Parmesan grated cheese (optional)
Steps:
  1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic until softened, or about 3 minutes.
  2. Add all spices until fragrant, or about 1 minute.
  3. Add red wine vinegar and stir. Add squash, zucchini and red pepper and cook for about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes, lower heat to simmer, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Add mushrooms, recover the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  7. Add meatless meatballs and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes (or longer, if time allows).
  8. Meanwhile, boil water for pasta. Follow instructions on pasta box to cook the penne.
Serve with Parmesan grated cheese (I used soy Parmesan cheese if you want the vegan alternative). I also made side salads with this dish. If you really want to top it all off, make some garlic bread to go along with this dish. I hope this meal brings you as much comfort as it did (and does) for me. Cheers!

Meatless Monday: Lime Orzo and Veggies Recipe

24 Sep

Lime Orzo and Veggies Dish

If you couldn’t already tell by the other recipes I’ve posted, I love quick dishes with common, everyday ingredients. I searched for vegetarian orzo recipes a few months ago and stumbled across this awesome recipe. I wanted to share my variation with you, which I’ve posted below.

Another thing you can tell by my recipe posts, is that I like to know the health benefits of using certain ingredients. I was curious about limes for this post, and rather than finding out about the lime’s nutritional additives, I learned an interesting lesson on this fruit’s uses around the world. According to Wikipedia:

In India, the lime is used in Tantra for removing evil spirits. It is also combined with Indian chillies to make a protective charm to repel the evil eye.[6] Furthermore, it was believed that hanging limes over sick people cured them of the illness by repelling evil spirits lurking inside the body.

Whether you use lime to get rid of evil spirits or to cook, definitely put it in this recipe because it gives it that extra zest.

First, I started by chopping up these ingredients (pictured below):

Ingredients for Lime Orzo and Veggies

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup each of zucchini and squash, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup baby carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 package of sliced mushrooms (I didn’t quite use the whole container)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 lime, cut in half

Other ingredients you’ll need that are not pictured:

  • 2 cups orzo
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 16 oz. can of stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese and hot sauce for topping, optional

And these are the steps I followed to create this dish:Lime Orzo and Veggies in the pan

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in the garlic and orzo pasta; squeeze half of the lime in the pan; cook and stir until pasta turns a light, golden color, or about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in zucchini, squash, carrots and mushrooms; cook until vegetables soften, or about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, vegetable broth, Italian seasoning and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Reduce heat to medium. Cover, and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, or about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the parsley and squeeze the other half of the lime in the pan; stir.
  7. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and hot sauce.

First Day of Fall: Pumpkin Bread Recipe

22 Sep

Pumpkin Bread

Fall has finally arrived, and it actually feels like it in Atlanta for once! I love this time of year for so many reasons – the crispness in the air, the outdoor activities like hiking or apple picking, and the food – specifically pumpkin bread.

I’ve been making my mom’s pumpkin bread since I was a little girl. I remember my mom and I would bake this treat together during the holidays, and then she would send me off to the neighbors’ houses to deliver it.

I started making it year-round now for special occasions or “just cause.” The joy it brings to so many people is undeniable. Their whole face lights up, and there’s nothing more enjoyable than making people smile while filling their bellies with good food. For those of you I don’t know, I’m sharing the recipe with you so you can make it for yourself and others. But if I know you, just ask and you shall receive!

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins (sometimes I use more)
Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease bottom of 9×5 loaf pan with baking spray.
  3. Stir all ingredients in large bowl.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes.
  5. Cool 5 minutes and serve.

Fast Food Options for Veg-heads

14 Sep

My husband sent me an article last week about how McDonald’s is planning to open two all-vegetarian restaurants in India next year. At first I was excited to hear this news because that means more fast food options for me and other US vegetarians in the future. However, I stopped and thought, would I really eat at McDonald’s? Knowing everything that they stand for with animal cruelty and worker exploitation, I’m conflicted with eating there. I’m sure that other restaurants have the same low morals as McDonald’s, we just don’t know about them because they are not heavily publicized by the media like this fast food giant.

But with all of that aside, it made me think about this topic: what are some fast food options for vegetarians in the US?

Personally, when I’m trying to find a quick bite to eat, I usually opt for Subway, Chipotle, Willy’s, Moe’s or Panera. As you can see, they are mainly sit-down restaurants or grab-and-go type places – no drive-thru windows for this girl. Although, I was curious what the vegetarian community had discovered on this topic because I knew someone had been more exploratory than me. Not to mention, I cook at home a lot. Like all the time. So, I found this website that teaches people how to eat vegetarian at fast food restaurants. This site is genius and I love it! This article gives you help by suggesting questions to ask when ordering food, advice on where to eat and how to look more in-depth at the ingredient list. And, my personal favorite is a link to a Veg Guide that lists vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants. I haven’t used this when traveling, but I’m sure this is a good tool to have when you’re on the road.

Although this is a step in the right direction for fast food options for veg-heads, I would like to throw caution about the sodium content associated with these places. I believe many people think of non-meat food as healthy, but usually the sodium content is outrageous. The Livestrong website has a good article about the low-sodium options at fast food joints. It’s limited, but at least it’s something!

I realize I’m lucky to have these various options as a vegetarian. People have told me before that they were vegetarians back in the day until they started traveling because of the lack of choices on the road for veggie lovers. We’ve definitely made progress as a nation and we’re still making positive changes in the veg-friendly food world. Now, we all just need to follow the trend in cities like Portland and Austin and get some vegan food trucks!

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