The Lazy Vegetarian

I first became a vegetarian at the age of seventeen.  Initially I cut red meat and pork from my diet and within a couple of months I gave up poultry, as well.  Fish was never an issue because I didn’t eat in in the first place — I never could stand seafood because I cannot abide the smell.

One might think this meant that I had a pretty healthful diet, but sadly, no.  I was a “vegetarian” because I didn’t eat meat, but truth be told, I didn’t eat much in the way of vegetables, either.  I grew up hating vegetables partly because my parents had strict dining rules — we were forced to take some of everything on the table and eat it all, whether we liked it or not.  I choked down my vegetables under protest every night, unless I could figure out a way to sneak them into the bathroom and flush them down the toilet.

So, at seventeen, I knew I didn’t want to eat meat any more, but I didn’t want to eat vegetables, either.  For several years I subsisted on little but starches and dairy products.  My brother began referring to me as a “starchitarian.”  Why I didn’t become violently ill from malnutrition is beyond me.

Over the years I’ve fallen off the vegetarian wagon periodically, but it has been many years now since I’ve eaten beef or pork and in the past few years I’ve successfully weaned myself off the poultry for good.  Fortunately, I have also discovered that I actually love vegetables.  Many vegetables, anyway — there are some, such as lima beans and peas, that I will never be able to eat without gagging.  But many others, I really do like.  I’ve realized that I just didn’t like the way my mom prepared them when I was a kid.  Prepared correctly, vegetables can be DELICIOUS.

Thanks in large part to my wonderful friend Jessica, who went from carnivore to vegan practically overnight about a year ago, my vegetarian horizons have been expanding quite a bit of late.  We often go grocery shopping together and she basically tells me what to buy, and I listen.  She has turned me on to a whole slew of delicious vegetarian and vegan fare.

Oh, yes, I am now working on going full vegan, and it’s helping that I’ve recently discovered that dairy is not my friend at all.  I love dairy, but my stomach does not, and when I eat dairy at lunch time I suffer all afternoon.  I find I feel much, much better all the way around when I stick to an entirely plant-based diet.  This is a daunting task for a former vegetable-hater, but I’m finding more and more vegan or mostly-vegan recipes that I really enjoy.

Here are a few quick and easy veggie dishes I’ve been eating the heck out of lately:

Chickpea “Chicken” Salad
(the idea for this one is courtesy of Jessica)

Chickpea “Chicken” Salad

I have no measurements for this recipe; I just put in whatever looks about right and taste as I go.  Start with a can of chickpeas, a/k/a garbanzo beans.  Drain them and put them in a large bowl, then mash them up a bit with a potato masher, just enough to break them up a little bit.  Then add whatever you would normally put in a chicken salad — I add vegan mayo, a bit of mustard, paprika, chopped celery, and sometimes a sprinkling of hatch green chile salt.  You can add chopped onion if you like, or a diced hard boiled egg if you’re not going for a vegan meal.  That’s it!  Use it in a sandwich or with a garden salad.  Yum!

Quinoa with Veggies

Quinoa with Veggies

Oh, quinoa.  Is there anything you can’t do?  It was Jessica who turned me on to quinoa, as well.  If you’ve never had it before, you really should try it.  Quinoa is a delicious and very nutritious grain that also happens to have a very high protein content — in fact, it’s a complete protein, which makes it an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans.  You prepare it just as you would prepare rice — one part quinoa to two parts liquid.  Here’s how I do it:

Pour one cup of quinoa and two cups of vegetable stock (you could certainly use water instead, but why would you?) into a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Meanwhile, saute up some veggies in a pan.  I like to use various colors of bell peppers and onions, but you can use whatever veggies you like.  When the quinoa is ready, mix the veggies in.  I then add some stewed tomatoes (from a jar or carton, NOT a can).  I don’t even bother to add any seasonings, although you certainly could.  This keeps very well in the fridge for several days and can be reheated or eaten cold.  I like to make a pot on Sunday and then bring it in to work to eat for lunch throughout the week.

Baby Spinach Salad

Baby Spinach Salad

This is something I crave on a regular basis.  For years I thought I didn’t like salad, but it finally occurred to me that I just don’t like some of the ingredients other people often put in them.  If I can build my own salad, I will pounce on it as though I were starving and it was the only food left on the planet.  I usually end up with bits of salad shrapnel all over my table or desk by the time I’m done tearing into it.

Take a good-sized salad bowl and put a generous layer of baby spinach on the bottom.  Top that with some micro greens, shredded carrot, broccoli slaw, and sprouts.  Toss in some cherry tomatoes for good measure.  Now drizzle with salad dressing.  I am partial to honey mustard, but I sometimes go for a white balsamic vinaigrette or a nice raspberry dressing to mix things up a bit.  On top of that, sprinkle some sunflower seeds, raisins, and (my secret ingredient for the most awesome salad ever) honey roasted sesame sticks.  Oh, yeah.  You can add some shredded cheddar if you like (or some vegan Daiya  cheddar shreds).  Sometimes I also add some diced cucumber or some broccolini or maybe some dried cranberries or finely chopped nuts, but the basic ingredients never change.  This salad is so delicious it makes my mouth water.  I eat one nearly every day and I never get tired of it.

Experimentation is key for a vegetarian diet.  I often just browse through the grocery store and pick up things that look like they’d go well together, and I find that if I envision them going well together they usually do.  Even many dedicated carnivores like to enjoy a lighter meal every now and then, so get out there and experiment with different grains, veggies, starches, meat substitutes, spices, etc.  Throw some stuff together and enjoy!

Catherine Cook, Lazy Vegetarian and Contributor Extraordinaire

Catherine is an Austin, Texas-based compulsive shopper, beauty product addict, animal lover, and vegetarian.  Her current interests include cardigans, dark chocolate with sea salt, the television series Fringe, and trying out new and interesting vegetarian recipes.  You can find her elsewhere on the web at dangerouslyLUXE or on Twitter at @catvoncat.

Comments

  1. “Oh, quinoa,” indeed! Mr. Wonderful (my vegetarian husband) is a new fan. Thanks for the introduction, Catherine. Sincerely!

  2. Yay! A new quinoa convert! I love how versatile it is. I did a breakfast quinoa this week, cooked in rice milk and sweetened with honey and strawberry jam.

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