The vegetarian lifestyle has a lot of negativity that surrounds it. There has always been the stereotype that a person who eats vegetarian is extreme, ‘crunchy’, or a ‘tree-hugger’ (all meant negatively, of course). Many people think that not only does a certain type of person follow a vegetarian lifestyle, but it is one full of insatiable hunger and lettuce dinners, when actually none of this is the case!
Vegetarian eating is not only healthy, but it is sustainable. The meat industry is one of the largest strains on our ecosystem, believe it or not, right up there with fossil fuel use! It also can be very delicious and fulfilling, as long as you take the right approach.
I have tried to go vegetarian many times in my life. What I have noticed is that the more I try it, the better I get at it. We have made a serious effort to eat more vegetarian meals in the past few years, and I am happy to say we are at a point where even my husband and daughter are on board, both agreeing the veggie meals I make leave their tummies full and are super delicious!
The most notable turning-point with vegetarian eating happened this year, when we made a few changes to our approach. They were wildly successful for us, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them with you!
First – pick your proteins! I think people struggle with becoming vegetarian because they picture just a plate of lettuce and feel that is what their meal has to look like, when in reality that is not the case. Vegetarian eating has lots of great protein alternatives such as: eggs, edamame, tofu, chickpeas (most beans actually), quinoa, avocado, and lentils. Our vegetarian eating so improved when I simply started replacing our normal meat with one of these proteins, but otherwise leaving the rest of the recipe alone. For example, I love to make these gyros with chickpeas, but the seasoning is the same as I would have done if I made them with meat. If you make a stir fry, just add sliced tofu instead of sliced chicken.
Second – keep making your same recipes, just with your protein in place of your meat! With things like “Beyond Meat” sprouting into existence this is easier than ever! The other day I followed my traditional meatball recipe using beyond meat instead of ground beef, and the family agreed it was delicious. Another example is that I have always bought sauces from Trader-Joe’s to have on-hand for an easy dinner. Tikka Masala and Thai Peanut Sauce were two examples. Well, instead of making a chicken Tikka Masala served over rice, I just do a chickpea one! We did a chickpea and broccoli stir fry with peanut sauce served over rice the other day and we licked our plates clean. Same ideas, same recipes, just replace the protein. So easy!
Third – a little creativity goes a long way! There was a day where I really wanted a tuna melt but wanted to do it in a vegetarian way. Instead, I mashed up a can of chickpeas with some mayo and avocado. I added bits of onion, pickle, and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper, threw on a slices of cheese and grilled my sandwich, just how I would have my tuna salad. So instead of just starting at your can of beans wondering what to do, consider mashing them up and mixing them with ingredients! Maybe even make a fry a patty or fritter. Avocado, onion, mushroom, lentils and rice are all great fillers if you ask me!
Lastly – don’t be discouraged by the stigma. The more people who eat vegetarian means the more people who talk about vegetarian foods, the more vegetarian restaurants you will see, the more vegetarian cookbooks that will enter the market… it is all about normalizing it! Choosing a plant-based lifestyle is a positive thing and you don’t have to fit into any specific personality profile to do it. I feel that years in the future so many people will see vegetarian foods as a normal thing, and know that just because you see a vegetarian section on a menu doesn’t mean the foods will be less delicious.
I do want to end by saying that we by no means eat vegetarian 100% of the time. We also eat 100% plant-based almost never (an egg or cheese comes would be a normal incorporation for us). However, it is something we do because we enjoy it! Now that we have some great veggie tools in our tool kit our cooking gets better every day and I look forward to incorporating more plant-based meals into our lifestyle as we get better.
I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration in regards to vegetarian cooking! Is there something you are going to try to make after reading this? I would love to hear your ideas!
X.O. – Abbey Co.
P.S. – if you ARE looking for a good vegetarian cookbook, the Thug Kitchen series is my favorite. Here are a few of their editions (DISCLAIMER they are not kid safe, they swear a lot). They are super funny to follow and read but the recipes are also delicious! (Pictures are click-able affiliate links)
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