Finally—Perfect Vegan Bacon You Can Make At Home

Bacon.

We live in a world that covers its wounds with bacon-strip bandages, provides children with plush bacon dolls, and challenges its artists to create the ultimate bacon sculpture.

vegan bacon photo 300x225

Pig-free and homemade.

This obsession has earned the honor of a dedicated Wikipedia entry to bacon mania.  The country is so in love with its smoky, salty goodness that even the most gung-ho meat-eaters are willing to sprinkle bacon-flavored TVP bits all over their salads and baked potatoes.

But if you think bacon mania is only for meat-eaters, think again.  During college I waitressed at a vegetarian cafe, where the “fakon” routinely sold out during Sunday brunch.

Most fake bacon barely counts as food

At that same cafe, I remember serving one unsuspecting elderly diner who had not yet noticed that all the “meat” on the menu was written in quotes.

He took one bite of his tempeh “bacon,” threw down the strip, forced the plate back into my hands, and declared:

“This is the worst food I’ve had since the war!”

And really, who could blame him?  Besides being heavily processed and expensive, most veggie bacon, well, just plain sucks.

The surprising secret to great vegan bacon? Beans and buckwheat

Today, after a lot of tasty research, I finally have an inexpensive, gluten-free, whole-food and freaking delicious solution.  If you’ve ever woken in the middle of the night and found yourself drooling to the scent of unexplained bacon, this recipe is for you.

Yes, this bacon is not only ready to stand in for pancetta in your pasta carbonara and gourmet mac’n’cheese, but is even good enough on its own during breakfast or as the star of an avocado BLT!

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This batch makes about 24 slices, or 1 cup total.  You’ll be surprised about how quickly that amount disappears, so do yourself a favor and triple the batch, store in the freezer, and enjoy the luxury of pigless-but-obsession-worthy bacon at a moment’s notice.

Homemade Vegan Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried adzuki beans or other small red beans
  • 1/3 cup hulled wholegrain buckwheat (not buckwheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
  • 4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (May be substituted with soy sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Rinse the beans and buckwheat,  place in large bowl covered with several inches of cold filtered water; let soak overnight.

[UPDATE: Several people have asked if it's okay to bake the beans and buckwheat, as the recipe suggests, even without having boiled them, as boiling is the usual cooking method for beans and is known to remove most of the toxins in uncooked beans. While we've never had any problems with the soaking-and-baking (not boiling) method, and have seen the same method used for black-eyed peas in Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, you can pre-cook the beans and buckwheat by boiling if you'd prefer to do so.]

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Strain the soaked beans and buckwheat and rinse.  Place in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the onion powder, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, aminos or soy sauce, salt, tomato paste, coconut oil, and maple syrup.  Pulse several times to combine, scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl and continue pulsing until uniform but not as pureed as hummus.

Line a 9×13 casserole dish with parchment paper and coat pan with baking spray.  Place bacon mixture in pan and spread as much as possible with a spatula.  To get the mixture very thin and evenly spread, spray another piece of parchment paper lightly with baking spray and press the paper on top of the mixture and flatten with your hands.  Remove and discard the top piece of parchment paper, then use a spatula to spread over and fill in any bare spots.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then slice into 24 strips, about 1 inch by 4 inches (Do this by making one lengthwise cut down the center, and then twelve cuts across the shorter side).  Remove the strips with a small spatula.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat.  Fry the bacon slices for 2-3 minutes, flipping once.  Alternatively, before frying, you can freeze the bacon, then fry when ready to serve (no need to thaw first).

161 Comments

 

Amazing Couscous Salad with an Even Better Story

Post by Christine Frazier.

So, you’ve made the choice to eat less meat.  You’ve done the research, examined the facts, and decided you’re ready to take your health into your own hands.

Hooray, right?

couscous image 300x225Today’s recipe is inspired by the surprises I’ve had since making that decision myself.  Anytime you start shifting the pieces of your life around with a goal of positive change, there’s bound to be some negative resistance.

Of course, I already knew this from quitting smoking.  As much as my friends wanted to be supportive, most were hoping I wouldn’t make it.  If I failed, it meant that addiction was too hard to get over, that willpower wasn’t enough, and in short, that they didn’t have to try.

My refusal to light-up even at parties or social settings was taken as an insult by my pals, as if my quitting was a direct critique on their lifestyle.

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever ordered a meatless dish when you’re out to eat with your friends, you probably know the feeling.

But really, at the health club?

While I expect this reaction occasionally from my family and friends, I never expected it at the gym.  I mean, a health club; a club of health.  As I was checking in at the front desk, I had a one-minute conversation that bugged me for an entire week.

The girl swiped my membership card, looked up at my No Meat Athlete top, and said “Hey, that’s a really cool shirt.”  Another lady behind the desk looked up, smiled, and said “Yeah, that’s cute!”

A third woman, also a staff member, walked over, smiled and casually chimed in:

That is a cute a shirt. But you do need meat, you know.

There were a lot of things I wanted to do right then. I wanted to ask her why the chick in the Cheerleading is life: the rest is just details shirt got to check-in without any life advice.  I wanted to whip out my resistance training journal and show her my improvements over the weeks since I joined her gym.  I wanted to tell her how I finally ran a 5k within a year of smoking a pack a day.  I wanted to tell her all about my brother, from starting this site to qualifying for Boston to running a 50 miler.

And mainly I wanted to tell her to mind her own ****ing business.

Instead, I chuckled, thanked the ladies, and just walked away.  I figured they’d see me all sweaty in an hour when I leave, and hopefully would note that I didn’t keel over from my workout, and no ambulance had to be called to pump ground beef into my veins to revive me.

Maybe enough workouts, and enough people proudly wearing the shirts…but really who knows, I think that lady already made her mind up awhile ago.

A pleasant surprise in the land of cheesesteaks

It’s so easy to get hung up on little negative exchanges like this one, which makes it even more valuable to recognize the positive surprises that come around.  Like one extra hot afternoon in Philadelphia, when I was tired and starving from exploring the city.  After passing cheesesteak joint after cheesesteak joint, I finally swung into a corner deli, hoping at best to get a side of mac and cheese or mashed potatoes.

To my amazement, the entire food case was stocked top to bottom with dream-vegetarian food.  Not half-hearted attempts with soy dogs and Boca burgers—no, I’m talking about avocado and sprout sandwiches, orange-beet salads, Italian bread salad, tabouleh, Morroccan couscous salad, quinoa pilafs, and Asian veggie wraps.

I stood, frozen with joy and overloaded with options.  The best part was, this deli wasn’t some weird crunchy health market; it was for everybody, and boy was it busy!  I finally left with a curried Isreali couscous salad, and it truly made my day.

The salad was so yummy, I had to make my own version to enjoy whenever I wanted (and without the $8.99/lb  price tag).  The recipe is below.

I know you’ll love this one.  For me this re-creation of that couscous salad is a good reminder that when you take control of your health, there really is a pleasant surprise around every corner.  It might be a faster race time, a couple pounds shed, a friend you’ve inspired, or perhaps just a really yummy deli.

Couscous Surprise Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (I like Marrakesh Express Couscous Grande)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2 lb)  frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 a large red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add the couscous and stir to coat.  Toast for a few minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, until the couscous is soft and most of the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, steam the frozen edamame by microwaving in a bowl wrapped with plastic wrap for 2-4 minutes.  Be careful, the plastic wrap and steam will be hot.

In a large salad bowl, stir together the couscous, steamed edamame, red pepper, cilantro, onion, apricots, cranberries, curry powder, salt, and lemon juice.  Let chill for an hour to let the flavors combine.

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‘Viva Vegan!’ Author Terry Hope Romero Shares Three Summer Salad Recipes

Today I’m pleased to feature a guest post from Terry Hope Romero, author of Viva Vegan!, Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  You can learn more about Terry and her books by visiting her website, Vegan Latina.

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Terry's Red Chile Corn Salad with Limas and Cherry Tomatoes

Hey there NMA fans, this is Terry Hope Romero, dropping in for a quick chat about hearty warm weather salads. I’m no triathlete (I’m more at home on a treadmill or a long city stroll down Manhattan avenues) but on moist summer days hot enough to steam a tamale I can appreciate a hearty vegan salad as much as the next active guy or gal. These three recipes have been modified from my latest release Viva Vegan!, switching out more exotic ingredients for those likely to be found at your local grocer or natural food store.

Confession: I used to not be the biggest salad fan (and usually it’s not my first pick when it comes to a good stick to one’s ribs kind of meal) after an early veggie life of having to resort to the salad fixin’s bar when dining out with family or co-workers. But being the salad chef yourself opens up a whole new list of horizons and among them is the infinite flexibility of adding cooked grains and beans, some of the simplest and cheapest protein foods out there to bulk up the usual green leafy fare.

These two salads are based off some of my favorites from my latest book Viva Vegan!, a beautiful hearty bean salad featuring buttery smooth white lima beans and a tangy salad dressing inspired by gazpacho, the classic raw, cold tomato soup used to dress the everyone’s favorite summer salad combo of avocado, black beans and corn. These salads rich with protein and fiber should highlight the best seasonal produce you can find, a perfect showcase for those farmer’s market tomatoes and fresh herbs. Both the corn lima salad and dressing keep very well in the fridge, just cover tightly and enjoy as a substantial meal, or even serve by the cupful nested in lettuce leaves as an uber-healthy snack.

Red Chile Corn Salad with Limas & Cherry Tomatoes

Here’s a quick and nourishing salad with a gentle spicy kick from chile powder or hot smoked paprika. It makes good work of essential Latin American favorites like corn, tomatoes, cilantro and lima beans. I like to serve it on a bed of baby spinach to supply that green element for a well-rounded entree.

Serves 4 as a side or starter.

2 cups fresh corn kernels (frozen is okay in a pinch)

1 1/2 cups cooked white lima beans, if using canned drain and rinse well

1/2 lb. red ripe tomatoes (cherry tomatoes look cute here)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder or hot smoked paprika

2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

2 teaspoons agave nectar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large 2 quart saucepan bring for cups of water to a rolling boil. Stir in corn kernels and cook for 2-3 minutes or until corn is just cooked enough so that it’s no longer starchy but still crunchy. Drain corn into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Shake corn to rid of excess water or let drain for 10 minutes. You may also cook corn in the microwave by steaming with 3 Tablespoons of water in a covered glass container. Drain and rinse corn as directed. Place corn in a large mixing bowl and add rinsed lima beans. Slice cherry tomatoes in half into bite-sized pieces and add to corn and limas. Stir in chopped onion and cilantro.

In a large mixing cup whisk together lime juice, chile powder or paprika, olive oil, agave nectar, dried oregano and salt until combine. Pour over corn and bean mixture. Sprinkle with cracked pepper to taste using a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula stir salad ingredients together to thoroughly coat everything with dressing. Cover and chill salad for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Fresh Gazpacho Salsa Dressing

Gazpacho, that famous cold fresh tomato soup, is the inspiration for this tangy, sweet and spicy dressing. Love how this juicy and tomatoey dressing hugs fluffy green lettuces like Bibb or Red Romaine and thin rings of red onion or how it elevates that favorite combo of black beans, corn and avocado in the following salad.

Makes about 1 cup dressing.

Time: Less than 10 minutes

1/2 lb. red ripe tomatoes

1/2 cup diced sweet white onion

1/2 green, red or yellow bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 green chili pepper, seeded and chopped

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of sugar (optional)

freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Use immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Black Bean Corn Salsa Salad

Yet another way to dig into everyone’s favorite energy-packed pals black beans, corn and avocado.

Gazpacho Salsa Dressing

6 cups Bibb or Butter Lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

2 cups Roasted Corn Kernels (I love Trader Joe’s frozen corn kernels, thaw by rinsing with warm water)

2 cups (or one 14 oz can) cooked rinsed black beans

1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pit removed and diced

Place lettuce, corn, black beans and diced avocado in a large bowl, add freshly made gazpacho salad dressing and toss thoroughly to coat salad dressing with ingredients.

All recipes copyright 2010 Terry Hope Romero.

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Tarahumara Barbecued ‘Mice’

Post by Christine Frazier

barbeque nuggets photo 300x225Thank you for the overwhelmingly receptive response to the announcement of the first No Meat Athlete cookbook!  Creating the recipes for Fuel Your Run the Tarahumara Way was by the far the biggest culinary project I’ve ever taken on, and it’s so exciting to finally share our work with you all.

Behind the scenes, there was plenty of trial and error and a lot of discussion on what pinole and chia recipes would make the final cut to be included in the book.  I had to giggle yesterday when K from Weight in Vain tweeted “What about the beer and the mice they also consume?”

She’s got a point; though the Tarahumara diet consists mainly of pinole, chia, pinto beans, squash and leafy greens, Born to Run did mention crazy all-night corn-beer ragers and the occasional barbecued mouse.

Of course, neither of these are described as miracle foods for endurance running.  (Unless you count running away from plate full of mice.)

Tarahu-Mar-B-Cue, Anyone?Pinole Chia Cookbook Cover Photo

Still, after working on a project so intensely for a long time, I have to admit that I started to get a little brain-fried and silly.  As a joke for Matt, I decided to recreate the Tarahumara party experience with my own vegetarian barbecued “mice,” complete with beer and all.

Well, my joke backfired because these little nuggets, now affectionately referred to in the NMA household as Tarahu-Mar-B-Cue, turned out so freakin’ delicious.  What a shame, since there’s no place in a running-fuel cookbook for a faux-bbq-mice-and-beer-nugget, even if they are made with good stuff like pinole and pinto beans.

I couldn’t stand to see something this yummy hit the cutting room floor, so even though it’s not technically running-fuel I’m sharing the recipe with you all now as a way of celebrating the release of our cookbook.

Barbecued Pinole Nuggets

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups pinole
  • 1 cup beer or vegetable broth
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained,rinsed, and lightly mashed
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another 3 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, smoked paprika, and salt and fry a minute until fragrant.  Stir in the tomato paste, dijon mustard, and maple syrup.

    Add one cup of the pinole (reserving half a cup) to the pan and stir to coat.  Slowly pour in the beer.  Add beans and chia seeds.  Keep stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the alcohol cooks off and the mixture thickens.  The mixture should be thick enough that when you fold it over itself, you can easily see the bottom of the pan.

    Allow the mixture to come to room temperature, then form with your hands into nugget shapes or oblong patties.  Coat nuggets in remaining 1/2 cup of pinole.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry the nuggets for about 3-4 minutes each, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Makes 2 dozen nuggets.

Try stuffing a few of these in a big pita with coleslaw and smothered in tangy barbecue sauce.  Or these are really great served croquette-style with a few dipping sauces like sweet mustard, garlic nayonaise, and hot wing sauce…just don’t let on to your guests what inspired these nuggets!

Thanks again for all the support for our new book.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of what we created.  Don’t forget, if you’d like to download a copy of Fuel Your Run The Tarahumara Way, do it this weekend before the price goes up on Monday.  I promise, no more mice.  I can’t wait to hear your feedback about the recipes!

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Four High-Protein Vegetarian Alternatives to Soy

Ever since I wrote a guest post for Zen Habits, I’ve discovered a bunch of Zen and minimalist blogs.

One such blog, Zen to Fitness, caught my eye with a post called Four Healthy Alternatives to Chicken.

My first thought:

“Yes!  The idea that factory-farm chicken is pretty gross and completely unhealthy (fecal soup, anyone?) is spreading to the non-vegetarian community!”

Not quite.  The four alternatives–rabbit,venison, bison, and quail–are suggested as ways to expand your menu, under the tacit assumption that chicken is pretty healthy, but these are just as good for you and offer some variety in your diet.  To the credit of Chris, the author, I do think that if you’re going to eat meat, these alternatives are better than chicken, if only because they’re more likely to be wild, or at least not mass-produced the way most chicken is.  And the better an animal lives and eats, the healthier it is for you to eat.  Michael Pollan will tell you this.

Four Vegetarian Protein Foods Not Named Tofu or Tempeh

Broccoli2 300x225Since the healthy alternatives on Chris’s list weren’t vegetarian, I decided to use the post as inspiration for my own “Four Alternatives” list: four high-protein, non-soy, vegetarian foods.  I have nothing against soy as long as it’s minimally processed, but a lot of people seem to think that’s the only decent source of protein out there for vegetarians.

I recently finished Robert Cheeke’s Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, and I used his list of common, high-protein vegan foods to decide on the four non-soy protein sources for my list.

Seitan

For a long time, I thought seitan was another soy product.  Turns out, it’s made mostly from wheat.  And it has a texture very similar to meat, earning it the nickname “wheat-meat.”  A four-ounce portion of seitan has between 20 and 30 grams of protein, making it the most densely-packed vegetarian protein source I know of.  That it could pass for meat in a vegetarian dish is pure bonus, even if it’s not quite a whole food.

Beans

Nothing new here; beans are a staple of almost every vegetarian athlete’s diet.  My favorites are lentils, chickpeas and black beans, but almost every starchy bean contains 12 to 15 grams of protein per cooked cup.  Soybeans, interestingly, contain the most of all (29 g per cup); perhaps that’s why soy plays such a big role in many vegetarian diets.  Lentils, at 18 grams per cup, come in a distant second.

Quinoa

Some call it a super-grain; technically it’s a pseudo-grain.  Quinoa is actually a seed, and it comes in at 11 grams of protein per cooked cup.  It has the benefit of being gluten-free, too.  Quinoa contains a bitter coating that helps it to avoid being eaten by birds, so rinse your quinoa well before you cook it.  (Cooking only takes 12-15 minutes in hot water.)  Quinoa makes a good substitute for rice as part of a high-protein vegetarian meal.

Broccoli

Chances are, you’ve never thought of broccoli (or any green vegetable) as a high-protein food.  But per calorie, vegetables like broccoli and spinach are very high in protein.  The “problem” is that they take up a lot of room in your stomach, so it’s hard to eat enough of them to make them a significant source of protein.  Still, at 5 grams of protein per cup, I think broccoli deserves a place on list, if only because it’s interesting.

High-Protein Vegan “Beef” and Broccoli over Quinoa

This recipe that Christine came up with includes all four of the high-protein vegetarian foods from this post.  (My contribution was coming up with the moniker “wheef and broccoli,” which I recommend you avoid calling it if you don’t want to gross out your friends.)

Okay, so the bean contribution isn’t much—a little bit of black bean sauce only.  But hey, we tried.  This is a tasty meal, the closest thing I’ve ever had to beef or chicken with broccoli since going vegetarian.

Ingredients for the quinoa and stir-fry:

  • 1 1/4 cups dry quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 lb package of seitan
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped into pieces
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon black bean paste
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Bring the water to a boil, add quinoa and reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender, let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork when ready to serve.

Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and mix well to dissolve corn starch.  Set aside.

Heat the two teaspoons canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the seitan, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes to brown.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic; cook for two minutes and add broccoli.  Cover and let cook for 5-10 minutes, checking the broccoli until it is crisp-tender.  When it is, add sauce and browned seitan and cook until the sauce thickens slightly.

Serve with additional soy sauce and Sriracha sauce if desired.

Also check out:

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Breaking News: I’m a Vegetarian (and here’s the recipe that taught me it)

Have you ever discovered something about yourself that everybody else already knew?

It took qualifying for the Boston Marathon for me to realize I was a runner.  And yesterday I had another Earth-shattering revelation—I’m a vegetarian.

korean salad with baked tofu photo 300x225I was making Korean Cabbage Salad with Tofu (recipe below) from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap.  The recipe calls for Asian chili paste, which I had to buy since I’ve never used it before.  When it came time to add it, I took a little taste to gauge the heat, to avoid inadvertently killing my wife.

It tasted like fish.  Smelly, fishy, fish.

I took a look at the label and read that it contained shrimp.  For the tiniest fraction of a second, the old me, the still-eating-fish-every-once-in-a-while-and-certainly-not-giving-a-damn-about-shrimp me, thought, “Just go ahead and use it.  You bought it, you’re stuck with it.  Nobody will even notice.”

But immediately I knew that I couldn’t do it.  That there was no chance I’d do it.  Exactly like when some tiny part of you really doesn’t feel like running or going to the gym, but there’s no question that you’re going to do it.

Because it’s part of you; that’s who you are.  And a vegetarian is who I am now.

What’s funny is that I never expected to get here.  When I started this new diet, I still ate fish, because I thought it was healthy (I still think it is).  But not eating certain animals taught me some compassion, and I came to like the idea of being a person who chooses not to eat any animals at all.

But even once I stopped eating fish, “vegetarian” wasn’t who I was.  “I” was a person who would still eat crabs once a year at the beach because that tradition was more a part of me than being vegetarian was.  And the fact that beers like Guinness were made with fish bladders wasn’t something that would stop me from drinking them.

“I’m vegetarian,” I said, “but I’m not going to be a Nazi about it.”

But yesterday I realized that “vegetarian” is who I am now (and I guess the old me would call the new one a Nazi).

I never made the conscious decision to stop drinking Guinness or to skip the crabs at the beach.  But I didn’t need to.  Those things just don’t sound appealing to me anymore.

And neither does using chili paste with a tiny amount of shrimp in it.  I tossed it in the garbage and used some black bean garlic paste that I happened to have instead.

I encourage you to take a step back today and discover something about yourself that everyone else already knows.  (I can only imagine how many of you are runners that won’t admit it, for example.)

Korean Cabbage Salad with Tofu

Here’s the recipe I mentioned.  Like many of the meals from Vegan on the Cheap, it’s good but not knock-your-socks-off.  Easy to make, healthy, cheap, and pretty good.  This one comes in at under $1.50 per serving, and since we’ve cooked mostly from this book this week, groceries for four people ran us only 125 bucks for the whole week.

I’d recommend serving it with some rice, or maybe even Asian rice and beans.  It’s got some good protein from the tofu, and lots of raw vegetables, but it’s hard to think of this salad as a meal on its own.

From Vegan on the Cheap, by Robin Robertson, Wiley, 2010

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian chili paste
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside.

2. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slabs and press well to remove any excess water.  Cut the slabs into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with 1/4 cup of the soy sauce.  Arrange the tofu on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, and green onions.  Set aside.

4. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, chili paste, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, vinegar, oil, and water.

5. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Let the salad sit for 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop.  Serve topped with tofu.

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Tasty Twists on the Classic Complete-Protein Meal: Rice and Beans 5 Ways

This is a post by Christine, Matt’s sister with a knack for vegan baking.  Today she’s bringing us something not-so-sweet but just as valuable: five twists on that old vegetarian runner’s standby, rice and beans.

Whether you’re new to vegetarian cooking or just in a beans-&-rice rut, I’ve got five quick and delicious variations to keep you fueled without breaking the bank.

A Nutritional Match Made In Heaven

The amino acids in rice and beans come together to form a complete protein, making a simple way to get both complex carbs and protein in a single vegetarian meal.  Throw in fantastic versatility at pennies per serving and you’ve got yourself not just the backbone of the vegetarian diet for runners, but also a universal staple food.

Learning to cook hearty vegetarian meals was a process for me.  It started with just a “Meatless Monday” night that felt so good in my belly and my wallet that it evolved into meat just twice a week.  Soon everyday was “Meatless Monday!”

At first I followed recipes to the letter, but soon I began to recognize patterns in regional flavor combinations.  So today I’m here to share the tricks I learned about escalating ho-hum healthy food into nutritious ethnic cuisine.

I’ve got a standard five-ingredient framework to use for basic beans and rice, and then a five-ingredient update to represent whichever fare you desire: Indian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian, and even our local Baltimorean food.

Basic Beans and Rice Recipe with Five Variations

  • 1 cup dry brown rice
  • 1 can drained and rinsed beans, or 2 cups cooked
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Cook the brown rice in a rice steamer or follow the directions here.  Heat up the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and fry for an additional 5 minutes.  Stir in the beans and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve with rice.

Indian Beans and Rice

indian beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need chickpeas as the beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • a thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Stir the curry powder and cinnamon into the chickpea and onion mixture.  Fry for a minute, than add the ginger and tomatoes and their juices.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw.  Stir the cilantro into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Feeling fancy?  Serve with warm naan and a side of sliced mangoes.

Mediterranean Beans and Rice

mediterranean beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need Great Northern White Beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 1 small can (2.25 oz) black olives
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp dry dill weed

Add the celery and olives to the bean and onion mixture and fry for a few minutes to soften.  Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and heat through.  Stir the dill into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Add a can of chopped artichoke hearts and serve with warm pita bread .

Mexican Beans and Rice

mexican beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need Pinto Beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Stir the cumin and chili powder into the bean and onion mixture and fry for a minute to coat.   Add the can of tomatoes and lime juice.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw.  Stir the cilantro into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Serve with a side of sliced avocado and warm corn tortillas.

Asian Beans and Rice

asian beans and rice photo 300x228You’ll need adzuki beans or black beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 4 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
  • thumb size piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • small can (11 oz) mandarin oranges, juice reserved
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice

Fry the carrots and ginger with the bean and onion mixture for a few minutes until the carrots are cooked but still crunchy.  Stir in the soy sauce and 2 tbsp of the reserved mandarin orange juice.  Remove from heat and gently stir in mandarin orange slices.  Mix the Chinese Five Spice with the Rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Throw in some chopped cabbage, thinly sliced green bell pepper, and mushrooms.  Drizzle with hoisin sauce.

Baltimorean Beans and Rice

baltimorean beans and rice photo 300x225You’ll need Black-Eyed Peas as the beans in the basic recipe, as well as:

  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 tsp Old Bay, or any Chesapeake-style seafood seasoning

Fry the kale with the bean and onion mixture for a few minutes until wilted.  Add the cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, and corn, heat through.  Sprinkle rice with the Old Bay seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Feeling fancy?  Stir in some chopped yellow squash from the garden, and crack open an ice cold can of Natty Boh.

All these recipes work great for leftover lunches too— just stuff inside a big whole wheat tortilla and you’re good to go.  I included a Baltimore version because that’s the region I know best; hopefully it will inspire you to apply your local flavors to beans and rice too.  Please feel free to post your favorite 5-ingredient version and we can start to create a regional reference for this amazingly simple meal.

This post is part of a series on how to start eating a vegetarian diet, for new vegetarians or endurance athletes looking to take their performance to the next level.

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The Vegan Answer to the Meatball Sub

Show me a non-vegetarian who claims not to like meatball subs, and I’ll show you a liar.

Meatballs, marinara sauce, cheese.  All on a sub roll.  To those not averse to eating animals and animal products, heaven on a bun.

wheatball sub photo 300x225If I had to bet on it, I’d say more than one conscious diet has been ruined when a drunken vegetarian or vegan stumbled by a late-night Italian sub shop, only to be drawn by the irresistible call of the meatball sub which rivals that of Homer’s mythical Sirens.

But now, my vegetarian friends, heaven on a bun is no longer forbidden to us.

Meet the Wheatball

This one comes from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap, and cheap it is.  According to Robin, these “wheatball” sandwiches come in at less than $1.50 per serving.

Of course, that’s if you make your marinara sauce from scratch and use Robin’s recipe for Cheezee sauce instead of paying for vegan mozzarella cheese.  When Erin and Christine tag-teamed this recipe last night, they did all of that.  (Our splurge was on the Ezekiel sprouted buns.)

But Robin recommends getting ready-made marinara and vegan cheese if you’re strapped for time (and your budget can handle an extravagant two dollars per serving).  At the end of this post, I’ve provided her recipe for Cheezee sauce, but figured I’d let you insert your favorite marinara sauce, storebought or homemade.

These are called “wheatball” sandwiches, but don’t let that name turn you off.  The base of the wheatballs is mainly chickpeas and mushrooms, with some breadcrumbs and wheat gluten included to provide the right texture.

And you know what?  These subs are really good.  You can’t go into it expecting a meatball sub, because it’s not that.  But it’s a great sandwich that seems like a meatball sub, and I’m very happy with that.  We’ll be making this recipe again.

My biggest gripe is one that applies to nearly every veggie burger or veggie meatball—they’re not firm the way real burgers or meatballs are.  But I’m used to that by now, and you probably are too.

So make these and enjoy a little bit of animal-free heaven.  Then head to Robin’s blog to tell her thanks.

wheatball closeup photo 1024x768

Wheatball Sandwiches

From Vegan on the Cheap, by Robin Robertson, Wiley, 2010

  • 12 to 16 Wheatballs (recipe below)
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Cheezee Sauce (recipe below)
  • 4 small sub rolls or other sandwich rolls

1. In a large saucepan, combine the wheatballs and marinara sauce, and heat over medium heat.  Use a potato ricer to smash and flatten the balls, retaining some shape and texture.  Cook stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Keep warm.  Preheat the broiler.

2. Heat the cheezee sauce in a small saucepan and keep warm.

3. Split the sub rolls and place them, cut side up, on a baking sheet.  Toast the rolls, then arrange them on plates.

4. Divide the wheatball mixture and drizzle each with some of the cheezee sauce.  Serve hot.

Wheatballs

Makes about 28 wheatballs

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped white mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup wheat gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, mushrooms, garlic, and parsley and pulse until coarsely ground, but not pureed.  Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.

2. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into a large bowl and knead the mixture until well blended, about 2 minutes.

3. Pinch off a small piece of the mixture, press it together in your hand, then roll into a 1 1/2-inch ball.  Repeat with the remaining mixture.

4. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat.  Add the wheatballs, in batches if necessary, and cook until browned all over, moving them in the pan as needed for even browning, about 5 minutes.

5. Repeat until all the wheatballs are cooked.  They are now ready to use in recipes. If not using right away, cool completely, then cover and refrigerate or freeze until needed.  Properly stored, they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.

Cheezee Sauce

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

  • 2/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk or water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the yeast, cornstarch, salt, and garlic powder.  Turn the heat on medium and whisk in the soy milk.  Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard.  The sauce is now ready to use.  If not using right away, refrigerate the sauce in a container with a tight-fitting lid, where it will keep for several days.

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