Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Reality of Dining Out as a Vegetarian

So, I'm 4 weeks in. The one-month experiment is almost up.. with a possible extension into December.. and maybe the whole year of 2012..?

I am down 3.2 pounds, including losing 1 whole pound after last week.. even after Thanksgiving and my carb-loading dinners at Graham's family's house. I even ate 2 bowls of ice cream last night. *Bad*.. I know. Don't ever buy brownie moose tracks ice cream. It's too good.

So, I'm feeling pretty good about this whole thing. I've gotten used to the feeling of a self-imposed diet restriction, and it's really not that bad. I'm still a pro at picking out pieces of meat/poultry from food served to me. I even found some new foods that I really love. Homemade slow-cooker black bean soup--who knew it could be so good? Carter KILLED some of the leftover soup last night.

But.. there is a dark side to eating vegetarian..

I can't go out to eat.

First of all, I don't live in Seattle or Portland, so vegetarian restaurants are few and far between.

Fast food? Forget about it. They only things I can eat are bean burritos or french fries.. Not that I haven't gotten those or anything...

Substitutions in normal restaurants SUCK. At our favorite Mexican restuarant in our area, they had only a few vegetarian options.. none of which looked appealing. So I asked for a vegetarian chimichanga, thinking they would throw in some rice, sauteed bell peppers with onions, and maybe some beans...


That, my friends.. is what came out of my chimichanga. FROZEN vegetables. That's right.. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and snap peas. Who in their right mind would eat broccoli and cauliflower in a freaking Mexican fried burrito (I mean, anybody other than my sister's ex who liked broccoli in tacos).

So, I emptied out my chimichanga and put in some beans and rice. I pretty much just ate a fried burrito shell, which kind of makes me sick to think about. I guess I can look at being vegetarian as a way to save money as well as I will no longer be dining out frequently.. or at all.

However, I did find some good options down in Portland. Burgerville's Yukon and White Bean Basil Burger was freaking amazing. I would eat it even if I wasn't doing the whole vegetarian thing. Chipotle's vegetarian burrito.. didn't even miss the meat.

So on December 1st, I don't think I'll be going back to meat. I will eat meat/poultry if that's what is being served at other people's houses, and probably 1-2 dinners per month (beef stew in the winter is a must-eat). I've learned a lot from these past few weeks, and I look forward to trying more meatless meals!

Our menu this week:
Quinoa pilaf with corn and jalapenos with accordian potatoes (both from America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country)
Cheese Souffle (I've always wanted to try this) with vegs
Cuban black beans and rice
Black Bean Quesadillas

I'll let you know how the souffle goes.. especially with me cooking alone in the house with a 13-month old wild child. At least he's not walking yet!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My apologies

I have been a bad blogger my friends. I do have an excuse though. Graham has been working on an engineering project for school (total yawn, but he's really excited about it), which means he is up late every night working on homework and stuff.. heretofore hogging the computer EVERY night when Carter goes to bed. That means I'm stuck watching TV alone for 2 hours, or reading other people's blogs on my phone.

What have I been up to you ask...

--Avoiding meat still. I almost died the other day at work. They had fried chicken, which I don't even like, but I was drooling just thinking about the moist chicken inside. I got mac & cheese and green beans, which was a poor substitute. We've gotten used to the no-meat thing, so it really hasn't been too big of a deal.
--Couponing. Still reading my blogs and gathering my weekly coupons from online and newspaper. Albertson's has been having double coupons a lot lately, so I've been busy.
--Raising my crazy 13-month old child. Seriously. He loves any and all carbs (especially graham crackers, Satsumas, and homemade bread). He loves to throw food on the ground from his high chair and then laugh like Chucky when I get down on my hands and knees to clean up after him. He gets CRAZY in the bathtub. He tries to swim (including putting his face under the water), and even makes whirlpools back and forth. He knows how to turn off/on the water. He is an AWESOME catch player. He can throw 2 balls at once. Anyways.. you all know Carter is awesome. But, he still isn't walking. And, his weight has gone down to the 3rd percentile, so he has an extra weight check coming up in 2 weeks. His head, however, has remained at the 50th. Graham calls him a balloon.

--Work. We hired ANOTHER new Dietitian, who just started last week. It'll be nice once she is trained and everything, but right now it's difficult to get everything done.
A little something to make you smile.  :)

So I hope to get back on the blogging wagon as soon as Graham's school work lets up a bit. Oh, and my 29th birthday is coming up soon. How did I get to be so old??

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baked Risotto and Leftover Risotto Cakes

This is by far one of my most favorite vegetarian recipes yet. I love risotto because it's so creamy and filling, and really versatile because you can add in so many different fillings. The usual way of making risotto is time-consuming and requires at least half an hour of standing by the stove and ladling hot cups of broth into the starchy rice and stirring the rice. This baked risotto recipe, from Cook's Illustrated, is so easy because you can finish it in the oven and avoid the long stirring time at the stove. It is such a great method for a working mom like me. Then, the next day, you can make risotto cakes with the leftovers!

Baked Risotto
Serves 6-8

3 TB butter
1 medium onion, minced
1/4 tsp salt
3 minced garlic cloves (~1 TB)
2 cups Arborio rice
4 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine (you could substitute white grape juice with a splash of vinegar)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium hear. Add onion and salt, stirring often until softened, ~5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic anf cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook until the grain edges are transparent, ~4 minutes.
3) Stir in 3.5 cups of chicken broth and wine. Cover the pot, increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Place the pot in the oven and bake the rice until tender and no water remains, ~20 minutes.
4) Just before removing the risotto from the oven, heat the remaining broth. Remove the risotto from the oven and stir in the hot broth and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Risotto Cakes (pictured above)
Makes 2 cakes

1 cup leftover risotto
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I only had Italian-seasoned ones, and they worked fine)
1 egg
1 pinch cayenne
2 TB shredded mozzarella cheese
Cooking oil

1) Prepare "breading stations" with breadcrumbs in one tray, and egg mixed with cayenne pepper in another tray.
2) This is how I prepared the cakes: put 1/2 cup risotto in 1 cup measuring cup. Put 1 TB of shredded cheese in the middle of the caked, making sure it stays in the middle. Add 1/2 cup of risotto on top and pack in tightly. I tapped the measuring cup on the counter to get the cake out intact. Repeat with the next cake.
3) Heat up 1/2 inch oil (I used canola) on medium-high. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Seriously, it is worth making risotto just to have these little crispy cakes. You could probably even bake these after spraying them with Pam, for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

1st Week Vegetarian Challenge Summary

Here's how the first week went..

It really wasn't too bad. Really. Our meals have been fairly hearty and haven't really left me wanting more. I did cheat though, and I kind of went on a chips and salsa binge over the weekend. That's pretty much all I ate Saturday and Sunday, which is kind of gross but delicious at the same time. Graham also bought us some Tillamook Old-Fashioned Vanilla ice cream, which was another treat. However, when all you're eating is beans and vegetables, ice cream sundaes with chocolate syrup and toffee chips are necessary!

My favorites from this week were the baked risotto and leftover risotto cakes (recipes and photos coming). We all inhaled the food, even Carter. The arborio rice is so starchy that it fills you up in a good way. We had Caesar salad on the side with pita chip croutons.. amazing! It would be better if there were such a thing as short-grain brown rice (in my grocery stores at least), but no such luck. I will be trying a barley risotto this month, which will make it whole grain with more protein and fiber.

Next week's menu:
--Claim Jumper's for my sister's birthday
--Skillet Cheese Pizza from ATK's Healthy Family Cookbook
--Pasta Fagioli from Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe Cookbook with garlic breadsticks
--Fajita Tostadas from Martha Stewart with some sort of rice side dish

Oh, and the best thing about this week?... I lost 2 pounds, even with the chips and ice cream!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

To be polite..

I ate chicken tonight.

A family from church invited us over, and the wife made roasted chicken. Since there weren't hearty side dishes, and I couldn't overdose on my homemade dinner rolls, I decided to partake in the chicken. Plus, who wants to be that annoying person who says, "Sorry, I'm a vegetarian," (said in a snooty, smug tone of course).

I did enjoy it, but it kind of gave me a stomachache.

To be fair though, I did eat banana bread to be polite, which I don't like at all.

Here's to a meat-free next week! Menu coming soon.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Veggie Talk + Carter's 1st Birthday

So, the vegetarian thing is going ok. I do find myself craving meat, though.. and not even the good stuff. I normally don't drive past fast food restaurants on my way home, but I did yesterday, and the big billboard picture of the KFC Dubilicious made me drool.. even though I think it's disgusting. Today for lunch, I had a veggie pita with romaine lettuce, bell peppers, olives and hummus, and it was pretty satisfying. Tonight is slow-cooker marinara sauce with spaghetti, so it should be delicious.

On to the main event: Carter's 1st birthday party. The party itself wasn't exciting. I mean, how could it be? We're all there just to see Carter (or 2.5 year-old Lorelai) open presents, play with the boxes/wrapping paper or balloons, and have his first taste of cake. Our townhouse was crammed full of 15 people to celebrate Little Dude's birthday, and Carter couldn't have cared less. He did get a taste of some new foods though, which we found he enjoyed immensely.

Our menu was:
Appetizers: Caramel Toffee Dip with Apples and Spicy Hot Artichoke Dip (recipe from co-worker) with pita chips
Main dish: Make-ahead lasagna (Carter's new fave meal) from Cook's Illustrated
Salad: Spinach salad thrown together with random veggies and croutons
Dessert: Old-fashioned chocolate cake cupcakes with buttercream or whipped cream cheese frosting, and funfetti cake with buttercream frosting.

My theme for food was anything I can prepare ahead of time before Graham's family arrived. I definitely don't like cooking when there's a crowd. I don't like other people seeing that I'm such a disaster in the kitchen! I also made a breakfast casserole the day before, to be heated up the morning of. It was a huge hit!
I've been doing research for 1st birthday decorations for months, and this is what I came up with, all inspired from Pinterest and/or Martha Stewart. Since the party was low-key, I figured the decorations should be as well. I made all of them myself.. of which I am totally proud! The pictures suck though.. please don't judge.

 Happy Birthday banner, made from scrapbook paper and letter printouts from Martha Stewart online.

 Carter's funfetti #1 cake with buttercream on top. Don't look too closely at the piping.. You'll notice my impatience and inattention to detail.

 Carter's matching scrapbook paper tie and party hat with "1" on it. I saw a picture online where the baby boy had a tie on while only wearing a diaper, and I obviously loved it. However, Carter would NOT keep the hat on.

 A papier-mache "C" from Joann's, weighted down and spray-painted blue. It now sits on Carter's room's shelves, where it's a perfect fit.

Carter's own little smashcake. I love this picture because you can see the only fat he has on his body: his little thigh rolls. So cute!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1st Day as a Vegetarian

So, it was a little harder than I thought it'd be. Remember, I get free food at the hospital, so I'm not really wanting to bring in lots of food for myself. So, I'm pretty limited in my choices.. especially since they're remodeling our kitchen/serving area/dining room.

This is what I ate:
Breakfast: Kashi Heart to Heart cereal
Snack: sliced apples
Lunch: Romaine and greens salad with kidney beans, grated cheese, olives and low-fat Ranch dressing (yuck); with a whole wheat roll.
Snack: chocolate cupcake leftover from Halloween (oops)
Dinner: Black bean soup with corn muffins

I did end up still having some pieces of leftover candy, but I limited myself.. I'm quite proud.

The black bean soup was pretty good. I don't like the smell of hot homemade cooked beans, so it didn't smell appetizing at all. But, I warmed up to it (nice pun huh) and ended up enjoying it. The real showstopper were the corn muffins. I'll have to post the recipe sometime. They are amazing. Honestly. Graham, who professed his hatred for cornbread a couple of months ago (which seemed blasphemous to me), has since been converted to these sweet and soft corn muffins. Mmmmm.

Anyways, the most difficult thing was deciding what to eat for lunch. Hmmm, flank steak, lime chicken, chicken tortilla soup, beef vegetable soup, or tuna sandwich. So, salad it was. I realllllly wanted something warm (it's getting to be pretty chilly here now), but I didn't give in. Let's hope tomorrow goes better!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And so it begins..

I've been eating more meat the past few days to prepare myself for going without.. But I am ready. I weighed myself this morning, and it turns out I've gained 3 pounds over the past month. Ugh. I guess that's what happens when you have 3 pieces of fun-sized candy every day at work. Gosh dang Halloween. Anyways, so I'm feeling fat today but ready to take this vegetarian challenge head on.

Here's our menu for the week:

--Slow-cooker Black Bean Soup from Slow Cooker Revolution. I will probably make corn muffins from ATK's Healthy Family Cookbook to go with it, if Graham has washed the muffin tins.
--Slow-Cooker Marinara Sauce with Spaghetti and roasted veggies (haven't picked which ones yet).
--Baked Risotto from ATK's Family Coookbook and Broccoli.
--Risotto cakes (for leftovers).

I'm kind of cheating with the black bean soup, as the recipe calls for a ham hock to be cooked with the beans. I'm still using it to flavor the soup, but I'll toss it at the end.

I'm not really venturing out too far into the vegetarian/vegan world much, but I have a bunch of recipes picked out to try.. and I haven't even hardly pinned any recipes on Pinterest that are vegetarian. I must get to work!

So anyways, I'll post more about my successes and failures, and the reality of trying to go vegetarian in a meat-lovers world. I'll post the delicious recipes too if you're interested.. Wish me luck!

Ch ch ch ch ch ch Changes

One thing is for sure about this home building process.. There will be changes! Quick Update : drywall is nearly done. Our project manager...