This morning saw the skies sweep in with a sloppy wet snowfall, which drizzled away into cold (much-needed) rain. Sadly, as the snow left, so did The Boy, who is on the third leg of his Heavy Travel April. The first was the three-day hockey tournament they won, the second a trip down the east coast for work, and this last is over to the west coast. Having been presented in March with a 2.5 week period of having to cook essentially just for myself (he was back for a maximum of two days between trips), I decided that it would be a good time to test-drive a vegetarian diet.
I can almost hear brakes screeching as I type that.
Just to be clear: I don’t have any intention of making this permanent. Yes, it’s sad that animals die to nourish us, and yes, I realize that lots of people survive just fine without feasting on flesh, or any animal protein whatsoever in the case of vegans, but… I’m not them. I am a devoted omnivore, and that includes animal protein, both in the form of meat and by-products.
So why the vegetarian experiment? Because I’ve always wondered, and this seemed like the best window to try it without having to convince The Boy to go along with me on the ride. (Although it was kind of cute hearing him broach the topic of the weekend dinners he would be home for. “So, uh, how is this going to work? Do I… make my own food? Or…?” Heh. As if I wouldn’t be able to handle a couple meals of divergent eating.)
Anyway, so I was curious as to how I would feel removing meat from my diet: lighter? healthier? less energetic? I really had no idea. So I tried it. And the answer, overwhelmingly, comes down to two things:
- No perceptible decrease in energy*. This was a big surprise to me, actually, although I was very careful to make sure I still had a goodly amount of protein in each meal.
* I have actually been less energetic than usual these weeks, but that tends to be true every time The Boy’s out of town and leaves me to mope about on Netflix by myself, so I chalked that up as normal.
- I may not be sluggish, but I am hungry All The Frakkin’ Time. For reals. Since embarking on this gig, I don’t think I’ve passed a solid hour (while conscious) during which I haven’t been hungry. Consequently, I have had ample opportunity to test-drive vegetarian recipes.
(In fact, my very first full day as a vegetarian I got so sick of eating spoonfuls of peanut butter and flitting through the cupboards, I made myself a big bowl of sweet potato hummus to snack on when necessary. It’s… alright. The novelty is cute, but I agree with The Boy that the “normal” hummus is tastier.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. What have I been eating? So glad you asked!
My very first day was actually a bit of a fail. There was a work-sponsored lunch, and I hadn’t thought when registering for it (way back in March) to specify a vegetarian meal; so I had salmon. For dinner, however, mushroom risotto with baby Chinese broccoli! (Which I wolfed down so fast I only took a picture of the bento-ed leftoevers. Whoops.) Next was a home-canning win, as I used up some of the freezer pesto and the rest of my dried tomatoes in a casserole. Friday night to celebrate The Boy’s triumphant tournament return, I made nachos with chicken for him, and soy “chicken nugget” strips for me. These were actually delicious; I should totally make nachos more often! Saturday night was roast veg, green beans and fried chickpeas (fish for The Boy). Those chickpeas? Total fail. Luckily, the next night (vegetarian chili!) was amazing. Without the fat in the meat to absorb it, I think this chili was even spicier. Also, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if I were to make it again (which I may well; the flavours are so bright!) I would omit the mushrooms. Their texture was really weird in combination with the beans and sturdier veggies.
I realize that none of those actually involved recipes, per se. Apparently my way of coping with a new feasting paradigm is to just throw myself at it and hope for the best. Unfortunately, this resulted in a fridge full of roasted veggie and canned bean/chickpea leftovers. Clearly I needed some guidance for what to do with this stuff. So the next week, I sought out some help:
I kicked off with caramelized onion pie with (totally not enough) cheesey chunks. The tart was fun, as I got to use my brand-new tart pan, but which was definitely not filling, as I ate half the pie for dinner. Seriously. 9-inch tart pan! The next nights saw an improvised chickpea salad, le grand aioli, chana punjabi (which I am totally making again; The Boy had beef korma, but I’m sure he’d like this) and a fabulous ratatouille with spuds and refried beans (steak for The Boy).
About the aioli. I have never been a mayonnaise girl. I just don’t understand it. It’s bland, and tastes like fat; you will never see me willingly spreading that white goo on a chicken sandwich. Never. However, I also conceded that my attitude might be because I’d never tried real mayonnaise. This being a time of experimentation, I figured the time had come! So I set out to fetch some fresh eggs from our friend, cracked my yolk into a jar, whipped out my immersion blender and…
…and that is the moment that my trusty blender (which admittedly was handed me by my parents; it might well pre-date me) chose to stop working. Holy sore arm from whisking Batman. (Yeah, that’s right. If you thought for a second I was going to let a mere appliance failure stop me from making dinner, you have forgotten how HUNGRY I have been for the past week and a half.)
If you’re paying attention you might note that the recipe I used calls for anchovy. If you’re a little more together than I was when I was making it (see also: famished, all the time), you might also remember that anchovy is a fish, and therefore not vegetarian. Folks, I was so anxious to get dinner crammed into my maw, it didn’t occur to me until the next day that I’d broken my own diet. Fail. With that said, however, if I were making this again, I’d probably omit it entirely. It added almost no perceptible saltiness or pungency, and I kept tasting the aioli as I whisked away, and kept wanting it to have some bite. In the end, I stirred some of The Boy’s whole-grain British beer mustard in, and it was exactly what was needed.
I admit that I had doubts about how good a dinner of steamed/boiled veggies dipped in aioli would be but honestly? It even inched out the veggie chili as the tastiest thing I’d made myself thus far. I couldn’t tell you what exactly it was, but tasting the aioli itself is a very different thing from having just a tiny slick of it, slightly melty from the veggie warmth, on the various vegetables. It was delicious, and I highly recommend it. If nothing else, I’d consider doing this instead of the standard raw veggie offering at a party.
Did you skip past the chana punjabi up there because (once again), I got so caught up eating it I forgot to take a picture until I had packed the leftovers into a lunch? Don’t skip it. It was, by far, the best use of chickpeas I have ever tasted.
On a last note, The Boy surprised me upon his second return with a surprise! After watching me lust after many a kitchen item at Anthro (The Boy is well aware that I Have A Problem when it comes to that store), he actually stopped into one while he was south of the border and picked me up a present! (Umm, the ceramic baskets; not so much the fruit.)
When I’d commented that I’d seen them the last time I was in the store with my mom, but had decided against them because they were “cute, but kind of ridiculous”, The Boy retorted that that described everything I bought or lusted after from there. …He has a point.
In any case, it has been cheering up my kitchen mightily to have the colourful fruit baskets on the counter where I tend to do my chopping. Thanks Boy!