90% Vegetarian, By Accident (Part Three)

The riveting (I guess) conclusion to my tale of Lent gone effective, and how it actually, fundamentally, changed how I eat.

(Catch up with Part Two or start the tale from its’ curious beginnings in Part One.)

Not sure if this is true, but hey! Chart!

Not sure if this is true, but hey! Chart! Via: purdueexponent.org
Via: purdueexponent.org

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A MOUTHFUL OF DISAPPOINTMENT:

When I last left you, dear readers, I was about to partake, FINALLY, in that burger I had been craving for over a month. I don’t think I have ever been so excited to eat a specific meal.

So my burger came out…

Salivating, I attempted to unroll my napkin with grace and not resort to caveman manners.

I snatched up that burger with reckless abandon…

And with my coworkers observing… (poor souls had to hear me wax-poetic about burgers for 40 days)

I took one bite…

And chewed.

Slowly.

Then slower.

Then stopped.

The joy and anticipation on my face slowly crumbled away into a mask of contained but fundamental disappointment.

It sort-of tasted like mud to me, dear readers.

I didn’t want to eat it.

The texture, the flavors, the experience that I had been dreaming of was no longer there. It had been a pipe dream from a different day, a different palate, a different me.

My taste buds had changed. Actually changed.

Dejectedly, I slowly placed the burger back down on my plate, only one bite in, and contented myself with a lunch of french fries. And wondered what I had done.

Via: sodahead.com
Via: sodahead.com

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I WILL EAT ANYTHING FOR LENT, BUT I WON’T EAT THAT:

Since I am not a fan of the texture of tofu and hit or miss on mushrooms, there were some challenges to me during Lent, and now in the aftermath as I explored my new taste buds and tolerances.

I feel as if I have complained enough about the plethora of landmines and frustrations at restaurants, so I won’t harp on that too much. However, I did begin to consume more Thai food and Margarita pizzas I will admit. I will also kill for a good grilled Caprese sandwich with a side of edamame.

Mmmmm… now I am hungry.

Focusing, focusing….

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PROTEIN SHMOTEIN:

This is apparently a key buzzword (and source of frustration) for anyone with a vegetarian, vegan or whatever-I-am diet. There is mass concern about recieving enough of it without meats. I never felt this to be a problem, but it did catch my attention at the start of this whole adventure, triggering a dive into the world of alternative protein sources.

So let’s talk about protein, shall we?

The winner, for me at least, was the mighty legume, in all of his glorious forms.

Suddenly my diet was inundated in black beans, pinto beans, peas, chickpeas (can anyone say hummus?!) kidney beans, great northern beans, ALL OF THE BEANS! (Luckily I have a system that doesn’t seem to go too musical when I do this to myself. Good to know.)

I do have to give a big shout out to my true love, Quinoa – a grain or seed or something (not sure) that’s very high in protein replaced any rice I used to eat, plus is easy to toss into any soup or chili or wrap or salad for a nice little punch of protein. It also can easily take on any flavor and seasoning, giving it wide applications.

I jumped at the chance to eat more soy (I love me some edemame) and sprinkle various nuts and seeds into all sorts of dishes.  And peanut butter. So much tasty tasty peanut butter. Then there is the plain Greek yogurt replacing sour cream and making boxed mac and cheese into the tangiest, creamiest thing you have ever experienced. (Recipe at the end)

Even leafy greens, always favorites of mine were a good, if secondary, source of some protein. Broccoli, and spinach and kale, yes please!

I know there are a ton more options such as tempeh, seitan, natto, lentils, chia seeds, hemp, etc. So you see, even without tofu in my life, there are so many great ways to not only get plenty of protein but also a complete and varied diet.

Via: ecorazzi.com
Via: ecorazzi.com

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A HABIT STICKS:

So now, almost a year later, the habit has stuck, for the most part.

I am about 90% vegetarian… and what does that mean, you ask?

1. I don’t really cook meat or have it in my house anymore.

2. I probably eat a little bit of meat here or there, every two to three weeks. It’s either if I am craving it (rare) or more likely at someone’s house or have been given food. Since I am not vegetarian for moral reasons, I feel strange being all like “oh, no, I won’t eat that.”

(It’s something I am working on slowly filtering out. It’s difficult to retrain your friends and family to your newly acquired vegetarian habits. If anyone has tips on how to do this without being pretentious or difficult, I would appreciate them.)

3. I eat some seafood, but once again I don’t tend to cook it. If I am out to eat, often the seafood is the most appealing option if there aren’t good veggie dishes. And it doesn’t seem as heavy as steak or pointless as chicken.

Will I ever get to 100%? Probably not. But my body feels good, and I don’t really miss meat.

Simple as that. 

I even found when home for the holidays that when I did partake in meat two days in a row, I felt super ill afterwards. My body has changed. It doesn’t seem to want to process a traditional meat/potatoes diet anymore and I certainly do not crave it.

And there we have it… my own definition of my diet, my 90% accidental vegetarianism which is still shifting and clarifying itself. But I am pretty darn sure that this habit isn’t going anywhere.

(If it’s good enough for Cookie Monster…)

via: huffingtonpost.com
via: huffingtonpost.com

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WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

Recipes!  Here are a handful of my favorite dishes thus far in this vegetarian adventure:

Sweet Potato Black Bean Lime Tacos – Since I don’t like sweet things, I simply left out the honey the recipe calls for. I sauteed up some red pepper, garlic and onion to toss in, and prefer multi-grain wraps to tortillas. I strong-armed a bunch of coworkers into eating these and they didn’t seem to mind!

Quinoa Chili – Since crock pot is pretty much the best thing ever all winter, I had to up my chili game without meat added in. This one is tasty. Plus it’s just another excuse to eat quinoa. I just mix everything together and cook on low for approximately 8 hours in the crock pot, then toss in some frozen corn about 15 min prior to serving for some crunch.

Kale, White Bean and Tomato Soup – I use this recipe as a jumping off point, usually simmering for close to an hour. I tend to add more tomato and a small can of tomato paste to make it thicker, and find that regular garlic cloves are fine. You can toss in pretty much any type of veggies and include some quinoa, cause it’s me. I have also seen potatoes thrown into the mix.

Easy Tangy Mac and Cheese – This one doesn’t need a link… simply get a box of store mac & cheese (I am partial to Annie’s White Cheddar Shells), and cook up the pasta. Now instead of the milk and butter, add 1/2 cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt in with the flavoring (I only use about 2/3 of the powder) If you steam up some broccoli and/or cauliflower and add it in, it gives it a little more color/texture and of course veggies. The yogurt provides some protein and makes a very creamy and slightly tangy dish. Super easy and quick weeknight meal.

Or if you want to be fancy, here is a delicious Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin Mac n Cheese Casserole that can be made with any shape of pasta. I served it at a friend’s baby shower, and it was a hit. I might up the sour cream/yogurt amount a little to make it creamier.

Bonus – For all the vegetarian dishes I have collected, you can check out my “Eat This” Pinterest Page. I am constantly adding to this as my personal recipe box.

Via: s887.photobucket.com
Via: s887.photobucket.com
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2 thoughts on “90% Vegetarian, By Accident (Part Three)

  1. Good for you! I’m a vegetarian myself (I was one back in the day, fell off the veggie truck, but hopped back on). I hear you on the awkwardness of telling people. I always get the “what do you do for protein???” And “WHY???” questions. My advice is just put it out there to people that you’ve decided to give up meat and leave it at that. If they ask, just say you feel better. Oh, and be prepared for people trying to shame you about it.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Marie. I like this idea of just putting it out there and not feeling a need to explain myself unless they ask.
      Luckily with the shame aspect I can just roll my eyes and make some self-deprecating comment about being a pseudo-hipster and that usually shuts everyone up!

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