Monday, November 2, 2009

You Don't Eat Meat??!!

My reasons
When people find out that I am vegetarian, you can see the wheels turning. One of the first questions I get is, “What do you eat?” Hmmmm, well, what do YOU eat? I eat the same types of meals everyone else eats, just without the meat. A lot of people ask why I stopped eating meat. They just can’t believe someone would not enjoy the taste of meat, that they’d be willing to give that up. That’s the key. I did not enjoy the taste. My mother always said I was just picky. Perhaps that is it. I also had a few very disgusting encounters with meat that just pretty much sealed the deal for me.

I firmly believe that if I can be healthy not eating meat, then that is how I choose to live my life. I don’t try to be preachy to others. In fact, my husband eats meat outside of the house. I don’t condemn others for eating meat, and I certainly do not find myself somehow more superior. If asked, I will try to educate others on the health benefits and debunk a few myths along the way. And, am always eager to prove that eating vegetarian can be just as satisfying. Friends are often surprised when they eat something I’ve made and realize they don’t miss the meat at all. 

Myths debunked
First off, I do not live on salads contrary to popular belief. In fact, I get really ticked when people excitedly tell me that a particular restaurant will have plenty for me to eat because they have salads. Sorry folks, salads aren’t that filling when they are void of protein. I especially loathe iceberg lettuce salads, typically known as “house salads.” Browning iceberg lettuce with a few shredded carrots and one or two tomatoes just doesn’t cut it as a meal. I can’t imagine that anyone would get filled up on one or find them appetizing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good (key word) salad – one that includes some sort of protein like beans or legumes (not cooked in meat of course), fresh vegetables, green, leafy lettuce and spinach. Now that, my friends, is a different story.

People also tend to associate vegetarian dining and cooking with tofu. Tofu is not the staple of my diet. In fact, the majority of vegetarians I know do not rely on tofu either. I do eat tofu from time to time. However, it’s not my favorite protein source.

Another misnomer is that I am thin because I am a vegetarian. Being vegetarian doesn’t equal thinness and doesn’t make someone a pillar of health either. It’s easy to be a junk food addict as a vegetarian. It’s easy to replace meat with highly processed substitutes, breads, pastas, and cheese. Being vegetarian does entail more than simply cutting out meat in order to maintain a healthy diet. You really do have to be conscious about how you put your meals together and avoid the pitfalls of high fat cheeses or high sodium processed foods. I am thin because I exercise and I pay close attention to what and how I eat.

What’s for dinner?
Just to show an example of what I eat, here’s what we had for dinner tonight. Black bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas. Yummy. It’s sort of a hodge podge dish with no true recipe and lots of possible variations (meat eaters can even add chicken), but here are the basics:

Ingredients:

1 can black beans rinsed and dried
Onion (red or white) finely sliced
Roasted red bell peppers diced
Spinach (fresh or frozen)
Garlic (fresh or powder) to taste
Salt/pepper to taste
Cumin to taste
Red pepper to taste
Chili powder to taste
Olive oil (just a drizzle)
Pan spray
Goat cheese
Mozzarella or provolone, shredded (optional)
Package of flour tortillas (I try to use whole grain)

Other options:
Sundried tomatoes
Fake chicken product such as Mornigstar Farms or Lightlife .

Directions:


In a medium saucepan, add tiny bit of olive oil and sauté onions until soft. Add in roasted red bell peppers, garlic, black beans, and spices. Once everything is heated, add in the spinach to wilt down slightly. Remove from heat.



Heat a non-stick skillet. Spray with pan spray and place one tortilla in plan. Very lightly brown, spraying the side that is up, then flip. Sprinkle on the cheese then spoon on the black bean mixture onto one half of the tortilla. Fold over the other half of the tortilla. Once it has browned on one side, flip and brown the second side.


Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt or even your favorite salsa.