For those who love animals, it is easy to understand why someone would want to be a vegetarian. But what about those of you who love animals and yet whose bodies still seem to crave extra protein? This essay is for you.
This is not a sanctimonious, judgmental piece. I confess that I still occasionally eat meat occasionally, so I have no room to judge. But I also understand that all our bodies are different. I know, for instance, that people who live in colder climates will probably require more animal protein. After all, there aren’t many fruit trees growing near the Arctic Circle, and the growing season for gardens is very short. Therefore indigenous people in colder climes usually have a diet that includes more meat, fish, mushrooms, and berries: things that are readily available in their bio-region. Even the Dalai Lama, a man who clearly loves and respects all beings, found himself getting sick when he completely avoided meat. It’s really important that we learn not to judge!
And… these are interesting times. There is a greater incentive to eat more vegetarian meals now because of the prevalence of the coronavirus in meat processing plants. In addition, most cows, chickens, and pigs are raised in factory farms in extremely inhumane conditions. But even were they not, unless animals are raised on smaller family farms (and sometimes even then), they are likely to be fed genetically modified corn, which introduces Roundup and other toxins into our bodies. And Roundup is highly suspected to cause cancer, infertility, and birth defects. (Studies which suggest otherwise are often compromised due to conflict of interest–i.e., the organization which sponsors the study has ties to Monsanto, now Bayer.)
Another more prosaic reason for eating more vegetarian meals is simply that it costs less. And in this time of economic hardship, who among us would not like to save money when we shop for food?
In light of all the above, I plan to start making some videos and writing blogs like this which will show how to make simple vegetarian meals with the food and leftovers found in our fridges and pantries.
Most cookbooks are full of recipes which call for very specific ingredients in very specific quantities. I call this the “dinner party way of cooking.” i.e., ‘Let’s make this fancy dish for our guests.’ That means, of course, making a long list of ingredients and running to the store to make sure that everything which is needed for that recipe is on hand. This is not an easy or sustainable way to cook. Instead, let’s make it as simple as possible! (I talk about this in my book The Art of Vegetarian Cooking: Over 55 Easy Recipes to Help You Get Started. And yes, I used the word “recipes” in the title, which was a mistake. I should have said “dishes.”)
Let me give you an example. In my fridge today I had the following: red leaf lettuce, leftover brown rice, leftover gluten-free spiral pasta, a bag of broccoli crowns, a few links of vegetarian sausage, a few stalks of celery, a few carrots, and some butter and cheese. (Whenever possible I try to buy either organic dairy products or at least dairy which comes from grass-fed cows who are not given artificial growth hormones.) I also had a couple of onions in my cupboard.
As usual, I wanted to spend as little time cooking as possible, so I decided to cook a simple one-dish meal. (For dinner, I’ll make a salad.)
I poured some grapeseed oil into a skillet and added a tablespoon or two of butter. As the butter was melting, I cut one of my veggie sausage links into small rounds and I threw them into the skillet to start browning. Next I cut the broccoli crowns into smaller pieces and threw them in. (If I had had large pieces of broccoli to work with, I would have not only cut the crowns into smaller florettes, but also peeled off the thick outer portion of the stems and then cut the stems into small rounds, which always remind me of amoebas! I find the stems very tasty.) Lastly, I chopped up about a quarter of an onion and added that to the mix.
I stirred the ingredients occasionally, but tried to allow time for the sausages to brown a bit. When the broccoli started to turn that beautiful bright green color, I added a bunch of cooked gluten-free pasta. The pasta was cold and hard so I quickly boiled some water in my kettle and then added a couple splashes of water to the pan.
Now that I had some moisture in my dish, I could add my spices as well as flakes of Parmesan cheese. For my herbs and spices I added Spike, lots of garlic powder, and pepper.
After that I simply stirred until the cheese melted and the pasta had softened. I poured it into a bowl and added a sprinkle of salt. It was delicious!
For those of you who are vegan, you could, of course, simply cook the whole shebang in oil and then use some vegan cheese or, for a completely different taste, use some jarred marinara sauce instead.
Easy, tasty, and nutritious. Done in about ten to twelve minutes. Voila!
Hope that inspires you! Bon appetit!