Sunday, June 8, 2014

One week a veggie

Today marked one week into our vegetarian experiment. And altgough it's not been simple, it's been easier than I'd expected. Mostly, I think, because we're all pretty easy-going about the rules. What's nice is we the opted in -- even the kids -- so it seems we're all trying to stick with it, but it's no big deal if we don't stay 100% veg. So that seems to take some pressure off, and actually makes it less tempting, I think, to eat meat.

I spent the first couple days obsessing over recipes, then realized around Wednesday that nobody here really cares how long I spend in the kitchen as long as their bellies are full. So I stocked up on some frozen "alternative meat" products like vegetarian chicken nuggets (which taste better than the scary "real" chicken nuggets), veggie sausage and beef crumbles.

I had some trouble by Thursday too feeling like if I ate one more grain product, I would cry. I also don't think I was eating enough protein, despite all the beans in every dish. Enter Morningstar Farms grillers, which made really delicious burgers. Yum. Even my biggest carnivore seemed pleased.

Campfire nachos. Yeah, they were delish.
We camped at the beach this weekend, which could have been problematic. However, my camping buddy is quite understanding and we agreed to just bring our own meals. Each night we ate a huge salad of fresh greens from her garden, and the kids noshed on goodies like mac-n-cheese, pizza roll baked on the fire, and bean-and-cheese nachos (also baked on the fire...we don't fool around). The pizza had pepperoni in it, but I only had a couple bites, so it hardly counts, right?

I have been letting the boys eat meat if they chose to, and on the drive down to the beach, Happy ate a sausage and egg sandwich (which he declared to be the second-best sandwich of his life). Otherwise, neither child has balked at this veggie thing. By the way, roasted marshmallows are vegetarian fare, thank goodness.

In that light, here's a list of yummies that we've all discovered are favorite foods that just happen to be vegetarian:
  • Cereal, scrambled eggs, pancakes
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Popcicles, water ice, ice cream sandwiches
  • Spaghetti with broccoli (Happy's fave)
  • Cheese pizza with olives (Zippy's fave)
  • McDonald's french fries (godsend halfway home from the beach when we were all tired & hungry)
  • Strawberries from our garden!


I feel good. Like we're all learning a little about food choices that we can make in the future, too.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Vegetarian Experiment, Day 1

Fridge full of goodness
We're just back from the Newark (DE) Farmers Market, where we bought one of everything. I spent a lot more money than I'd intended, but I wanted to be sure we have enough of the grainy staples, as well as some new spices, nuts, and vinegars. And of course, cheese. I think my entire family (myself included) is clinging to cheese as the great hope in this vegetarian experiment. We now have an entire crisper drawer full of cheddar, mozzarella, colby jack, more cheddar, American slices, and goat cheese. Also ricotta cheese, for the yummy vegetarian lasagna recipe I hope to make tonight, and cottage cheese because I love it no matter what you say it looks like and because I don't get enough calcium.

I'm nervous about this vegetarian thing today...mostly because I feel a lot of pressure to make fabulously delicious food so my family doesn't whine and moan about the lack of animal protein. And I don't want them to be hungry (even though we're all in need of a little hungry-tummy right now...the summer clothes are snug for everyone but Zippy), because hunger equals more whining and moaning -- and blaming Mom for this hair-brained idea in the first place. Honey is actually the one providing a huge amount of encouragement, and he's come up with some great lunch ideas for himself and the boys, sans lunch meat or peanut butter (in keeping with preschool rules). Cream cheese and strawberry wraps, anyone? How about hummus and red peppers? Or my personal favorite: Honey and walnuts on English muffin.

Snacks at the ready. And some onions.
Which aren't great for snacking.
I don't think I'm going to miss meat, personally, but it will be difficult to reprogram my thinking through our weekly menu. I usually go to the grocery store and buy whatever meat and fish is on sale, then build meals around that. Today it was challenging, building meals around veggies and grains. And cheese. Don't forget the cheese.

Zippy's favorite fruit.
He's eating one now, in fact.
I'm also nervous that I'll have to spend a lot of time preparing dinners, which is sometimes not ideal in our busy household. The timing here might be good, though, with summer being less action-packed in the evenings. I plan to find a few meals that I can make large quantities of, so we can have a big Sunday dinner with leftovers for another weeknight. And I have a feeling we'll be eating lots of "Pasta-with" dinners: pasta with spinach and garlic, pasta with tomatoes and zucchini, pasta with broccoli and peppers.

Pizza is vegetarian, and my kids' favorite topping is black olives. So pizza-and-movie Fridays can still happen. Whew. And we're still eating eggs and the aforementioned cheese, so omelettes and frittatas are a good, easy bet. Throw some tater tots in there, and everyone will smile.

Something struck me today, as we pulled away from the farmers market: How amazing it is to live in a place where we can access so much food at any time of year. And how fortunate we are to be able to walk into a market and not really worry about what we're spending or whether we'll be able to eat three meals each day this week. Our bellies may be hungry as we get used to vegetarianism, but that's nothing compared to what some families feel. I'll try to keep those families in my heart -- and remind my kids from time to time how grateful I am.