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Fat Guy

Vegetarian for a week

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Who will join me in eating vegetarian for a week?

My decision to give this a try stems from a variety of causes, which I'll discuss more as the week unfolds. In short, there are health, ethical and environmental reasons. It's also something some people challenged me to do -- and I like a challenge.

Not that I expect this to be a huge challenge. I'm not going to eat vegan. I'm going to do ovo-lacto and I'm not going to be terribly concerned about secondary ingredients such as fish sauce in an otherwise vegetarian Southeast Asian dish in a restaurant.

This morning I went shopping and acquired a bunch of vegetables and other non-meat stuff.

IMG_0513.JPG

This afternoon I'll get more. And tomorrow I'm picking up a friend's CSA share.

So, who's in?

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I wish I could say I was in, but I handle carbs and dairy poorly, which already restricts my choices most of the time. But I hope you don't mind my asking whether you'd care to elaborate on your reasons for doing this (my parents made this decision for life, over thirty years ago), or, if that's too personal, what meals you're planning for the week.

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I haven't planned any meals. I'm winging it, and I welcome input. I'll post about what I eat, which probably won't be all that remarkable.

Over the years I've been eating less meat. Recently, I've been wondering if I need to eat it at all. There was one particular incident that galvanized my thinking on this, and I'll get to that -- we have a whole week to cover everything. Overall, though, it seems unnecessary to kill animals for food for adult humans in this day and age, it is inefficient energy- and land-wise to raise meat, and it's probably not all that healthy to eat a lot of it. So I figured I'd give a no-meat diet a try for a week.

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I'm not a "full time" vegetarian, but I probably only eat animal protein once or twice a week. For me, it didn't start as an ethical decision, I just realized that I didn't enjoy meat all that much (except for seafood). I have often ordered an entree based more on the veg/carb sides than the featured protein.

Today for lunch I had moroccan lentil/chickpea soup and some asiago bread and it made me happy. Rich flavor, substantial texture...

I also know vegetarians who are very unhealthy, they don't eat meat but they also don't eat a well balanced diet (too much cheese, potatoes, etc isn't offset by not eating meat).

Fat Guy, enjoy your week in the land of the Jolly Green Giant. It's the best time of the year to be veggie-centric!

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My other half is veggie, and, being a lazy cook, this makes me mostly veggie too. I can't say I miss it all that much, I might eat meat once a month or so, or if we eat out. Never been overly fussed with meat, I OD'd on meat when I was living with my parents as my mother believed you had to eat meat every day at least twice a day.

I find pasta and pizza are always very easy to accomplish without meat.

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I'm a full time veggie, no eggs but I do eat milk products (like many South Asians and those of South Asian descent). IMO, many Western vegetarians eat either horribly healthy veggie food or horribly unhealthy veggie food (cheese and potatoes, as mentioned above!). Other cultures however have some amazing and utterly wonderful vegetarian foods, including of course, India. So do try out some good non-Western veggie dishes and not just jacket potatoes and pasta!

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I'm posting some examples of recent vegetarian meals (that will all be going as pictures in my new book ;) ) to prove that vegetarian meals can be wonderful:

2265 Puttu + Kadala.jpg

3074 ZZZ + YYY.jpg

3221 Bank Holiday Monday meal.jpg

DSC_3634.jpg

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As a vegetarian (mostly vegan) for more than half my life now, I'm really happy and excited to see this thread pop up, and hope you'll fill us in on your progress / experience, Fat Guy. My wife is not vegetarian, but we eat almost entirely vegetarian at home.

I think Mark Bittman has done a great job of summarizing some of the various issues involved, and at encouraging people to eat less meat - taking a moderate stance, while still being more realistic than folks like Michael Pollan, and while avoiding being too preachy or alienating folks. Though I do notice that the recipes he posts still seem skewed towards animal-heavy foods, despite urging people to reduce their consumption of these same foods. I also really enjoyed Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals -- less self-indulgent than his fiction, and I think he has the conviction to follow his own research to the logical conclusion he comes to, while again, not coming across as too preachy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/meat-why-bother/

http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/03/whats-so-bad-about-meat/

I thought this lentil and quinoa dish was pretty good, don't know if it sounds too health-food-y.

http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/kitchen-assistant/4-family-recipes-remade-00418000071649/page2.html

Some ideas from our own weeknight dinners - some may sound more appealing than others, but I hope at least they serve as useful jumping off points or answer to the question of "what DO you eat".... A lot of these are vegan, but you can always add dairy / eggs back in as appropriate or desired.

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2011/06/morels-and-asparagus-over-pasta/ - Morels and Asparagus over pasta

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2011/06/moroccan-spiced-lentil-tagine/ - Moroccan spiced lentil tagine

http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/special/1999/sultan/lentil.html#axzz1RGG72tva - Red Lentil and Bulghur wheat soup (from Ozcan Ozan's The Sultan's Kitchen) - this is very filling (and also delicious).

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2011/03/pumpkin-and-egg/ - Pumpkin and scrambled egg (vaguely Thai style)

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2011/01/leek-and-mushroom-pasta/ - Leeks and mushrooms with pasta - this is super easy and delicious - sautée leeks and cultivated maitake mushrooms from the Japanese market, toss with "poor mans parmesan" and / or real parmesan.

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2011/01/vegan-pot-pie/ - Curry "pot pie" with biscuit crust (so I guess more like a cobbler, really)

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2010/11/corn-pancakes/ - Corn pancakes with black beans

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2010/03/sweet-spicy-sticky-tempeh-its-whats-for-dinner/ - Sweet, sticky tempeh - if anything will convert a non tempeh-lover, it's this recipe.

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2010/02/bok-choy-and-baked-tofu-potstickers/ - Vegetarian potstickers or steamed dumplings (use premade wrappers if you want to save time; this generic filling works well for most kinds of Chinese buns or dumplings)

Chilaquiles with eggs, fried potatoes, and black beans on the side (make the salsa and fry the tortillas yourself, if possible)

Vegetable tempura

Yuxiang Qiezi (Sichuan Eggplant) - http://3hungrytummies.blogspot.com/2010/02/fish-fragrant-eggplants.html

Roasted Cauliflower

Slow cooked peppers over polenta - http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/23/slow-and-sweet/ (plus, save the leftover polenta to eat for breakfast, fry, or use for other stuff).

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2008/06/dinner-vegan-fish-taco-2/ - I don't know if the "fake" food component will turn you off, but I think if you don't try and think of it like it's actually supposed to taste like fish, it's pretty delicious. You could obviously use real tartar sauce or other non-vegan accoutrements.

Japanese or Thai curry; you can use pre-packaged roux or curry paste if you want to save time.

Keeping around some "cheater" stuff like Field Roast brand sausage, Tofurky brand cold cuts, Lightlife tempeh bacon (these brands don't have processed soy protein or too much non food stuff in them), various types of tofu / tempeh / seitan may make it easier to keep yourself full without things from getting too labor intensive. Asian markets are a good source for traditional soy and wheat gluten products which are inexpensive and have been safely consumed for thousands of years. I try to focus on vegetable-centered cooking as much as possible, and as someone who's normally a meat eater, some of these "substitutes" may not be as palatable to you as they are to me, but they will make your life a bit easier when you get in a pinch and are starving. Vegetable based cooking can be really delicious, but it can also be labor intensive. Wild mushrooms are one of the best things around to provide some "meaty" taste and texture in a way that doesn't really involve replacing meat. Keep some veg stock around too - frozen homemade is best, but "Kitchen Basics" brand (green box) roasted veg stock is pretty good for a pre-packaged stock, or I've heard Ok things about the "Better than Bouillon" brand, though haven't tried it myself.

Haven't tried this one yet, but I think it looks great:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/health/nutrition/02recipehealth.html

Lastly, NYC is a really easy place to eat vegetarian, as you probably know. I would definitely take the opportunity to get a vegetarian tasting menu at somewhere high-end, because high-end restaurants will often do vegetarian food that far exceeds the quality of restaurants that specifically cater to vegetarians.


Edited by Will (log)

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I've been a vegetarian since 1979. I eat dairy and eggs, but very few eggs -mostly just in baking. I've had, and made, all sorts of vegetarian main dishes ranging from horrid slop to sublime experiences.

My main advice is to not worry so much about protein, most Americans eat too much of it and it's in all sorts of foods.

In terms of making great meals, you're headed in the right direction with the produce. Let the fresh harvest guide your inspiration. You'll get better results thinking about everything you can make with kohlrabi, for example, than being set on enchiladas one night and forcing your food into that structure.

Obviously, if you run out of ideas for a quick meal, something with eggs like a frittata is an easy path to take and may be useful at first. But, if you have the patience to cook up some legumes and grains you'll get more variety and better overall nutrition. I like to cook plain dry beans in my crockpot, then store some in the fridge and freeze some in small portions. This way I always have them available to toss into a variety of dishes, like Indian vegetable dishes. Rice also freezes well and can be useful to have on hand not just for heat & eat meals, but for fried rice and enchiladas.

Red lentils cook very quickly and can be found easily, they are my fallback legume for quick meals. They can be a soup, or the bean in many Indian dishes. -Not traditional, but, they get dinner on the table.

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My main advice is to not worry so much about protein, most Americans eat too much of it and it's in all sorts of foods.

Agree bigtime with this. It's almost impossible not to get enough protein, unless you subsist on only candy bars, yet "how do you get (enough) protein" is the first thing non-vegetarians as when they find out you're vegetarian. That said, as someone who's hypoglycemic (though not overweight or diabetic), and who has a hard time getting "full", I do try to have some protein in most meals, and I try to eat more complex carbs than simple carbs / sugars when possible.

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I had some blood sugar issues in the past, i cured them by removing grains, dairy and sugar from my diet.

All processed food. Now i just alot of vegetables and animal protein, meat and fish that is.

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I had some blood sugar issues in the past, i cured them by removing grains, dairy and sugar from my diet.

All processed food. Now i just alot of vegetables and animal protein, meat and fish that is.

I'm vegetarian, so cutting out grain isn't really an option for me (I don't eat dairy, though, and most of the time, my sugar consumption is low to moderate). By eating often, and trying to eat complex carbs more than simple carbs, plus trying to focus a tiny bit more on proteins than I had in the past (as well as starting to eat eggs at home only in limited quantities), I feel like the situation is pretty manageable.

Whole grains tend to keep me full for a pretty long time; I don't have the same kind of crash I might have when eating a lot of simple carbs. I'm not obsessive about it either - I'll eat white rice and white flour in moderation. I do try to avoid heavily processed foods when possible.


Edited by Will (log)

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I had some blood sugar issues in the past, i cured them by removing grains, dairy and sugar from my diet.

All processed food. Now i just alot of vegetables and animal protein, meat and fish that is.

Grains get a pretty bad rap these days, what with carbs being unfashionable and so-called "primal" diets being fashionable. But remember that not everyone has health problems when they eat them, and many thrive on them. In fact, many rural diets in the world are based on larger amounts of grains and vegetables and smaller amounts of (or in some cases, no) meat.

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I eat vegetarian about 99% of the time. Noshing on some really good ratatouille with whole wheat penne as I type. I added garlic scapes to Bittman's basic recipe, good addition! I eat plenty of whole grain carbs, but stay away from the refined stuff as much as I can, and eat very little processed food (which includes highly processed vegetarian stuff). I don't worry about protein too much, eat lots of beans and lentils.

As a side note, by eating this way and cutting out snacking--3 meals per day of moderate portions--I've lost 75 lbs in 8 months, and intend to eat this way for the rest of my life.

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I am not a vegetarian, but I started reading Kansha by Elizabeth Andoh which is about Japanese vegan and vegetarian cooking. I might give it a go for a week, just to try. The food in the book looks delicious and super healthy. Being in Japan make trying it even easier.

On a recent trip to Vietnam, I had two amazing vegetarian meals, one including a veggie pho which was simply out of this world.

Good luck with your vegetarian experience and I am looking forward reading about it. I need to plan this week out, but I will be in very soon.

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We do veggie food for dinner a couple of nights a week, nothing too crazy and definitely NOT vegan, we love our cheese, but we have pasta with pesto pretty frequently, I make fried rice on a regular basis, and it's hard to beat tostadas with homemade refried beans and avocados. Nothing too crazy. I really like the book Olive Trees and Honey, which is a vegetarian Jewish cookbook. Lots of interesting recipes and also lots of good information on Jewish food in general.

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Bad timing Steven - Anna and I have a whole lot of meat to cook up this week!

One of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks though is "The Electric Vegetarian" - it's an oldie but goodie with all sorts of helpful ways to use your kitchen toys to make vegetarian eating more doable when you need to work around difficult schedules.

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I own a lot of cookbooks, both vegetarian and not. But I think I cook out of non-vegetarian cookbooks way more often than out of vegetarian ones. This is not to say that folks shouldn't buy vegetarian cookbooks, but it's also worth looking at the cookbooks you already have. In a lot of cases, there are recipes which are already veg*n, and / or which can be trivially modified to be (obviously this is more true with some cuisines than with others, but I think it's very helpful to think about food you already like and are comfortable with when trying to eat more vegetarian meals).

Love Alice Waters's "Chez Panisse Vegetables", which is not a vegetarian cookbook, but has lots of great vegetable recipes, and lots of good information about choosing and storing vegetables. I also like Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty (hope to get her Hunan cookbook sometime too) - not only are there some great vegetable and tofu recipes, but also some basic sauces and cooking techniques that can be applied to vegetarian cooking.


Edited by Will (log)

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I started off the day with a Chobani Greek-style yogurt and a bowl of cereal with milk.

IMG_0514.JPG

IMG_0517.JPG

These are two of my four most typical breakfast items, the others being fruit smoothies and straight-up fruit. Very, very, very occasionally I have eggs or a bagel with cream cheese. So I'm already a vegetarian at breakfast almost year-round, if you allow for dairy. A few times a year I might have bacon, sausage or other breakfast meats, but that kind of meal slows me down way too early in the day. My worst episode every of acid reflux was a few years back on a road trip when I ate eggs-and-meat for breakfast four days in a row. I thought I wasn't going to make it, and I resolved to eat that sort of breakfast rarely and only on days when I'd be able to sit around a lot.

Tomorrow I'm picking up our friend's CSA share so for lunch today I prepared some of the remnants of last Wednesday's haul: kale, spinach and garlic scapes, plus a box of supermarket mushrooms in a stir fry. It was terrible. I had about one bite of each component. Even Ellen, my wife, who is very forgiving of culinary experimentation, found it difficult to eat.

IMG_0518.JPG

Dinner was a little challenging. We had Vietnamese takeout at a family gathering, and I wasn't prepared to talk about the whole vegetarian-week thing. The only truly vegetarian dish was a mixed-vegetable fried rice, which I ate a ton of. I also ate some sticky rice, and I picked the chicken out of a summer roll and ate that. Plus ice cream and oatmeal cookies for dessert.

My grocery shopping at Fairway is pretty much limited to what I can carry on the subway. This morning's haul is pictured above. Here's what I brought home this evening:

IMG_0521.JPG

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I'll be following along with interest.

I don't do meatless meals for an entire week much anymore due to my lifting regimen (180 to 250g of protein every day is difficult to do on a meatless diet and still be cost-effective), but as a culinary experiment for a couple of days, it's liberating when I manage to break out of the box for a little while.

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On the average we eat animal protein maybe twice a week, but it just so happens that I made my shopping list for the week last night, and it is pretty much vegetarian. If there's any time of year that it's easy to make veg meals, it's now thru Sept. The only non-veg thing planned is a pot of beans. I don't put meat in it, but I use ham stock for flavor. I never eat meat for breakfast; basically it's toast with marmalade or cuernitos from the Mexican bakery. I need my carbs to feel happy.

Lunch today was a cheddar cheese and pickle sandwich, using home-made bread (husband's forte, not mine.) This sandwich really needs fresh bread, I think.

Today at the Berkeley farmers' market we loaded up, and everything we ate for dinner was from that trip. We had delicious corn on the cob, a salad of sliced heirloom tomatoes and avocado, and peaches for dessert. Later for a snack we'll polish off leftover key lime pie made by my talented neighbor for our 4th of July picnic in her back yard. Typically we don't eat dessert.

Soba, I wish I had your talent with a camera and your dedication to artful simple meals. Everything you make looks fantastic to me.

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Yes perhaps my food choices are little bit primal. I like to cook this way too. I tend to eat what has been eaten in my country before agriculture and that kind of business. Finnish agriculture is only like 200years old. So finns before ate alot of fish, berries, tubers, mushrooms, meat (especially elk and deer) and some seal). Many of these are my favorite food, so not a hard decicion ;) Wild berries, mushrooms and game are the best finland can offer.

Now its almost sick how much theree is processed food in our grocery store and how little there is actual food (like veggies and fish). 70% is almost just some sort of juices, candy, bread and pastries. But i guess it makes a great business. Plane old broccoli isnt so sexy and high in profits ;)

Before i used to be hungry and snack allday long, now i eat just two meals a day and are never hungry. And still my blood sugar is very stable due to vegetables and fish. (they do not rise it very much or drop).

I try to eat fresh fish everyday because it makes me feel better, must be the omega 3s or something :)

I have had a history of depression so i make sure i get as much seafood as possible. So that i dont have to

take any medds... Seafood, what a delicious medicine! :)

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Tomorrow I'm picking up our friend's CSA share so for lunch today I prepared some of the remnants of last Wednesday's haul: kale, spinach and garlic scapes, plus a box of supermarket mushrooms in a stir fry. It was terrible. I had about one bite of each component. Even Ellen, my wife, who is very forgiving of culinary experimentation, found it difficult to eat.

If you have / get more kale, especially lacinato kale, I'm a big fan of this dish:

http://www.latimes.com/features/la-fow-sos28-2009jan28,0,3039776.story

If prepared right, (either skip the par-boiling or do it very quickly), it develops kind of a chewy, but not tough, texture. Works great without the chicken stock; you can brown a little tomato paste for an extra savory kick.

Haven't tried them myself, but a lot of people swear by 'kale chips'.

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Tonight's dinner, a suggestion from a Japanese friend who's also a chef. Iri Dofu, a Japanese tofu dish, served on top of white rice.

http://justbento.com/handbook/recipe-collection-mains/vegan-iri-dofu-iri-doufu-garlic-chives

I added mirin and carrots to the recipe, blanched the tofu in salted water rather than microwaving it, and used scallions instead of garlic chives, which I thought might be a bit overpowering).

iri_dofu1.jpg

Now that I've made it once, I'd probably try to do some other sides as well to make this a real meal.

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Its so hard to get kale around here, such a nutritious green. I often go with beet greens. They throw those away for free at local market place :o Then i often go and gather some herbs from local forrest.

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