I’ve always been the kind of person to choose organic and natural foods and products over conventional. I’m not extreme enough to eat only organic. That’s a lot of work, and it can be really costly. I have a few non-naturally occurring food and beverages that I can seem to do without (i.e., Diet Dr. Pepper), but I really make the effort to get what’s best for my and my family’s health. I encourage healthy eating in my home. I don’t buy processed or prepackaged foods except for the odd occasion. I’m a whole wheat kind of person. Antibiotic free milk. No added sugar. No dyes or food coloring. No canned vegetables. That’s how my family eats. Oh, yeah, and everyone in my family is a vegetarian. Except me.
Up until I was pregnant with my daughter, I was a vegetarian and had been for many years. I wasn’t a fan of the idea of eating meat that had been pump full of antibiotics, growth hormones, food coloring, etc. I’ve never been the kind of person who needed to eat meat with each meal, so it was relatively easy to go vegetarian. And, with the exception of the initial period of trying to figure out how to get enough complete proteins, I felt really good. Really good. My skin cleared up. I lost weight. I didn’t feel like I had a heavy weight in the pit of my stomach all the time. My sophomore year of college I started eating some meat again because it was easier to find non vegetarian food on the run at the time. Eight years ago, there just weren’t the vegetarian selections at restaurants and fast food places that there are today. Yeh, there were salads and pasta dishes, but who wants a salad or bowl of pasta on a daily basis? So, I reintroduced a little meat back to my diet. Again, I’ve never been the kind of person who needed meat with each meal, so I didn’t eat much.
Then I met my husband. He was a strict vegetarian and had been for over a decade at the time. Being a vegetarian suddenly became really easy again. Especially as our relationship went from dating, to talking about marriage and then to getting engaged. So, back to being a vegetarian. I remained one until baby number two came along. Something changed. I started having crazy cravings for chicken and fish. There was something in them that I needed. No, it wasn’t protein. That seems to be people’s first assumption that all vegetarians can’t get enough protein. There are plenty of non animal sources of getting your daily protein. Truthfully, I think I probably was needing some fatty acids. I wasn’t getting those at the time. I couldn’t stomach flax seed oil, which had previously been my number one source of fatty acids.
Back off the vegetarian band wagon I went. And I’ve stayed off this time and don’t necessarily plan to get back on. I still don’t eat a lot of meat, just a few times per week at most, and I try to be really careful about what I get. There was a reason I originally went vegetarian. It was near impossible to find meat that had been raised humanely, wasn’t full of antibiotics, hormones, chemicals or artificial colors and flavors. It is now. And it’s reasonably priced. So I can enjoy a bit of fresh fish or organic chicken breast (I still avoid red meat for the most part), and I don’t have to worry about what crud I’m ingesting. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t partook in a 10 piece chicken nugget meal from McDonald’s at work from time to time. I always feel a bit gross afterwards, but it is what it is.
So with me being the only non vegetarian in a vegetarian household, I’ve found a new way to approach cooking vegetarian meals that satisfy everyone’s tastebuds. Here are a few of my favorite products that make for delicious vegetarian meals that make this non vegetarian a happy eater.
- Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs (www.veggiepatch.com) and Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs. Both are wonderfully convincing and don’t have that weird taste/texture that other meatball substitutes have. Quorn makes a veggie meatball that’s okay…certainly not my first choice. They crumble easily and taste a little off. Kind of what you would expect from a meat substitute. Veggie Patch and Trader Joe’s “meatballs”, on the other hand, cook and marinate very well and taste really good. My little boy LOVES when I make “meatballs”.
- VeganEssentials Not Chick’n bouillon cubes. I love these. They taste just like chicken stock. I’ve made vegetarian versions of chicken noodle soup and chicken and dumplings with these, and they are fantastic. I don’t feel deprived at all. They’re great to throw in with rice, any soup, and my honey mustard tofu recipe. Yum.
- Tofurky roast. You can read all about it at tofurky.com, but let me tell you, I don’t miss the real stuff during the holidays. It isn’t dry and had a really tasty vegetarian gravy the comes with it.
- Morningstar Farms veggie crumbles. These are a great ground beef substitute. I’ve made “meatloaf”, tacos, “beef” stroganoff and all sorts of other recipes that call for ground beef, and everything has turned out really well. No funny texture or after taste, and it’s never greasy like the real stuff can be. And I always seem to have coupons for Morningstar Farms, so it’s all the better.
- Morningstar Farms veggie bacon strips. If you pop these on the griddle, they are so tasty. They don’t do well in soups or anything with a lot of liquid. They just get soggy and loose their flavor. I’ve only made that mistake twice, once with potato soup and once with something else that didn’t turn well. Whatever that something else ways, I’ve blotted it from my memory it was so bad.
There you have it. Five things that have made living with an all vegetarian family so much easier. Tastier, too.