Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Healthy menu report

My husband and I have been exploring the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle this summer. It’s not an easy transition, and I’ve written about it before. This week we really made an attempt to eat more plant based food, so I thought I’d tell you how our experiments turned out.

I worked mostly from two sources, the China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook and the Thug Kitchen Cookbook*.

First up was wholewheat penne with fresh herbed tomato corn salsa.

Fresh corn and tomatoes.

Fresh corn and tomatoes.

Looks pretty doesn’t it! The salsa was made with fresh corn cut from the cob and tomatoes out of the garden. A perfect meal to make this time of year up here in Michigan.

The salsa was good on it’s own; tossed with the hot pasta it made a nice meal – but it wasn’t filling enough. I was hungry a couple of hours after we ate. I think this dish would be good cold and as a side, along with something else to make up a meal.

Then we tried quinoa for the first time. The recipe, also from the China Study Cookbook, included white beans and kalamata olives and lemon juice.

The recipe made a huge amount. Next time I’d halve it, and probably double the amount of navy beans. But it turns out this stuff is good cold the next day so I managed to make a dent in it. We both liked the quinoa and I’ll be looking for more recipes that use it.

Pretty yummy!

Pretty yummy!

For this meal I also made carrot fritters, from a recipe I’ve had for a few years, and fresh local corn. It was a great meal.

Midweek we noticed that our garden had produced one eggplant. We had one plant with multiple blossoms, but only one developed into a fruit. It was getting pretty big and I decided I needed to do something with it.

So I googled ‘eggplant recipes’ and found one for eggplant lasagna from Real Simple magazine. It looked a bit intimidating, using fresh tomatoes and broiling the sliced eggplant.

Eggplant in place of noodles.

Eggplant in place of noodles.

But I followed along and it turned out great. Next time I might double the recipe (though that would take a long time, to broil slices of two really big eggplants!) so I could make it in a 9×13 pan v.s. the 8×8 pan that only really made 4 small servings. Either way I’ll definitely make this one again even though I’ll have to buy the eggplant at the grocery store.

Tonight we had black lentil tacos with jicama slaw. That had to wait until I could find jicama. I had never heard of it before, though lots of people seem to enjoy it regularly. I finally found it at a local grocery store, one I don’t normally visit – I guess it pays to change up your habits.

Jicima slaw and herb salsa.

Jicima slaw and herb salsa.

Anyway…these tacos were somewhat complicated. The slaw, made up of jicama, carrots and cucumbers plus rice vinegar and lime juice, needed to be made ahead and refrigerated for a bit before dinner. And I made the herb salsa which had cilantro, green onions, basil, orange juice and rice vinegar, ahead too, just to be safe.

I couldn’t find black lentils…so I used green that I found at my local Kroger store. They seemed to be the same size as the ones in the photo that accompanies the recipe in the Thug Kitchen Cookbook, so I hoped they’d cook similarly, and they turned out fine. I think regular lentils would have worked too.

Looked kind of scary.  But it was good!

Looked kind of scary. But it was good!

The “meat” for the tacos is made up of the lentils, mushrooms, a little soy sauce, apple juice and sesame oil. Add a little cabbage, the jicima slaw, and the herb salsa, roll it all up and enjoy!

They were a bit messy eating, but really really good! There was a tang from the slaw and salsa that went well with the mushroom/lentil combination. I might add just a pinch of salt next time.

So….we had a good week. I’d make most of these dishes again. They weren’t really all that difficult, though I’m noticing I’m really slow at this type of cooking. It’s just a lot more chopping of fresh vegetables than I’m used to. Plus I stop to review the recipe more frequently than I would on things I’ve made for years.

And it takes a ton more planning. I need to know at the beginning of the week what we’re eating in order to make sure I have the ingredients here. I can’t just wander the grocery store and see what looks good if we eat this way. I did find it interesting that the last time I shopped I didn’t go near the meat counter, nor up and down most of the aisles. I was in produce and the aisle that has dried beans. I was in and out in what felt like moments.

At the moment, on days we’re eating plant-based, the meal seems to be the focus of my day as I plan and worry, chop and stir, check and recheck. Worry some more. I’m sure I’ll get better at this, and we’ll find our favorites that I’ll make more than once. Each time will be easier. Right?

Broil the egplant, puree the tomatoes.  Lick the spoon on the ricotta cheese.

Broil the egplant, puree the tomatoes. Lick the spoon on the ricotta cheese.

We’ll see how this all turns out. I don’t think we’ve totally converted to vegan. After all, that eggplant lasagna had loads of cheese. I love cheese. Still, those tacos tonight were pretty darn good…and there wasn’t a bit of cheese anywhere.

I think if we eat plant based a couple of times a week we’ll be improving our health. And moving forward maybe the number of vegetarian or vegan meals will increase. Either way, red meat has taken a vacation around our house.

Mostly anyway.

Garden goodness.

Garden goodness.

*Note: The language in the Thug Cookbook will probably be offensive to many. Just a warning.


My hands smell like garlic

I’m still exploring the vegan lifestyle. Slowly.

So many recipes seem complicated. I’ll be reading along, nodding my head, yes, yes, those are all good ingredients, and then there will be something that I don’t recognize. A single ingredient or a sauce that would have been made days ahead. I sigh and close the cookbook.

Cooking seems to take a lot longer, and I feel clumsy, rereading the recipe over and over as I work. I need to be more organized, no waiting till the last minute and throwing something together.

So far I’ve had some successes and some failures. I guess that’s natural. But there’s so much chopping invested in most of these recipes, so much work, forethought, planning. When something fails I’m very disappointed. Especially when the ingredients seemed like a good fit for us.

I worked most of an afternoon on this vegetable stew.

I like all the stuff in this bowl.

I like all the stuff in this bowl.

It had fresh corn, cut from the cob, pinto beans, butternut squash peeled and cubed, garlic, and was topped with fresh basil. That all sounded good.

But after figuring out how to peel and cut up a butternut squash (you can find anything on YouTube), after cutting corn off six cobs, kernels flying everywhere (Katie loved that part), after watching it simmer for a good long time, it turns out I don’t like the combination of basil and butternut squash. I liked the basil with the corn and beans, but not with the squash.

Looks promising.

Looks promising.

The recipe made a huge lot and I tossed most of it.

On the success side, today I made a side dish – Moroccan spiced couscous. I’ve tasted it, but am letting it sit overnight in the fridge. It looks and tastes promising.

Looks like modern art.

Looks like modern art.

Just couscous, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, salt, with strips of spinach and chopped up orange folded in at the end. It’s supposed to be served at room temperature or cold. I think cold might be the way to go.

I used twice as many oranges.  Because why not?

I used twice as many oranges. Because why not?

And tonight I made a summer pasta, whole wheat rigatoni with tomatoes, zucchini, red bell pepper, garlic and onions. I thought it was pretty good.

Lots of chopping.

Lots of chopping.

It was filling too. I cheated just a bit and put a tiny bit of fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Guess that made it no longer vegan.

Pretty yummy.

Pretty yummy.

Baby steps here. Baby steps.

Pretty veggies.

Pretty veggies.


Vegan virgin

Several of my friends are vegans. Their diet includes no meat, no dairy, no eggs, which means no cheese! I’ve read enough to understand the health benefits of that sort of diet. And I haven’t been particularly interested in meat for a long time. Still. It seems overwhelming to move to the Land of Vegan.

I’m considering it more seriously now after attending a Veg-Fest last winter with vegan friends. I learned a lot, saw a lot of interesting things, but felt a lot of the booths at the show were hawking treats, chips and other type things that I’m already trying not to eat. I can’t imagine spending money to buy vegan versions of things I’ve been avoiding for years.

Like brownies. Or vegan ice cream. Which, by the way, was amazingly yummy. I ate two samples.

Still, I am beginning to explore recipes for main dishes that exclude meat and dairy. I’ve read 3 or 4 cookbooks, and gone to a healthy grocery story to find ingredients foreign to me. Seriously, what do you do with millet? I thought that was in birdseed? And ground flax? Chia seeds??? People eat those?

Today I made Lemony Red Lentil Soup. Hearty, easy and delicious. Could be a main course with some crusty homemade bread. Do I have time to make homemade bread? Well…yes…if I get organized.

Maybe there’s something to this vegan thing.



What is it about new things that frighten us? For me it takes longer to cook vegan because I’m always checking the recipe. Plus it seems like there’s a lot more stuff that needs to be chopped up. More planning ahead required. Different shopping at a different store takes time too.

For now I’m looking for a good bean burger recipe. If you’ve got one, feel free to share. And any other advice is welcome too. I’m going to try to incorporate a meatless meal into our weekly schedule — at first once a week, then maybe two days. We’ll see how it goes.

And I wonder if my vegan experiments should be described in a second and separate blog? Can I manage two blogs? Would anyone read them both? Would I just split my readers up or would I gain a different following? Does the world even need another vegan blog? I’ll have to marinate on that.

Marinate. Get it?

I crack myself up.

Veggies rule

Veggies rule