Around this time last year, I became a vegetarian. I’d always been a big animal lover, and decided it was time that what was on my plate aligned with my personal values. In the years leading up to my choice, I’d told myself that my not eating meat wouldn’t make a difference in the big picture. What impact could it really have? But last year, I felt that regardless of the larger societal benefits, it was important to me, and would make a difference to my own life, and what felt right.
It was an easy transition to make, since meat hadn’t been a significant part of my diet to begin with. After giving it up for Lent, part of what made it so easy for me to continue was how little I missed having meat as part of my meals.
I love fruits and veggies, fresh-baked bread and flavorful cheeses, and my affinity for sweets is greater than that of most humans I know. Being a vegetarian forces me to be a little more creative in the kitchen, which I love. And which brings me to one of the questions I’m most commonly asked: What do you eat?
The same things as you! Mostly. I’ve never been a picky eater, so few things are off limits. I like to switch things up with what I add to my pastas, stir-fries, and sandwiches. I’m still learning how to tailor my grocery trips to my meals, and want to start going to the farmers’ markets more to reap all the rewards of the colorful, local produce.
Another question I often get asked is do you eat dairy? Yep! Eggs, yogurt, cheese… and all the other goodies you’ll find in that aisle. Even more than cooking, I love baking, so haven’t quite warmed up to the idea of cakes and brownies void of butter and eggs. There are plenty of substitutes, and vegan baking has really come into its own, but I don’t plan on making this transition any time soon.
One of the hardest parts of my switch initially was eating out. I remember going to a pub and being limited to one or two mains and a handful of appetizers. Granted, an English-style pub isn’t the most vegetarian friendly choice! But I’ve come to accept that not all restaurants can cater to my diet entirely, and that’s ok.
Without further ado, here are some of my favorite staples, and featured recipes to try!
Tempeh: I’ve never liked tofu, but I boarded the tempeh train pretty quickly. This soybean-based protein is having a serious moment, and it’s easy to see why. It crisps up on the outside when you pan-fry it, but stays soft on the inside and has a nice nutty texture. I love using it in stir-fries, but you can also add it to salads, soups, and sandwiches. It’s incredibly easy to work with, which makes it a seamless addition to any meal. Try this Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh for a tasty weeknight dinner.
Beets: Loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients, beets are a must in my fridge. I’ve recently started adding them to my grilled cheese with spinach (try it!), and they also make for a great snack or salad topper. I’ve loved beets since I was little, and it’s a love affair to last a lifetime. Check out this awesome list of 45 beet recipes sure to please your palette!
Mangoes: One of my go-to fruits, the uses for mangoes are endless. I love adding them to my morning oatmeal, or just eating them raw as a snack. Mangoes pack a mega nutrient punch, and make the perfect summer smoothie. I was recently tipped off to Trader Joe’s Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls, and let’s just say, they lived up to the hype. Try this Quinoa Salad with Mango, Lime, & Ginger for a warm weather treat.
Cashews: Cashews are a perfect source of protein, and can bring an extra crunch to salads and grain dishes. Fill up on this Cashew Rice Pilaf that will have you clearing your plate for seconds. (I substitute the chicken broth for veggie broth.)
Apricots: Another childhood favorite, I can’t get enough of these goodies. My all-time favorites are Trader Joe’s Organic Turkish Apricots that I eat by the handful. I usually eat the dried fruit by itself, but it can just as easily be tossed into a salad or dessert. Try these irresistible Apricot Coconut Scones, preferably with a cup of tea.
Zucchini: This versatile vegetable is great year-round, perfect for soups and stews in the cooler months, and salads in the summer. Steamed, baked, grilled, boiled, or fried, there’s little you can’t conquer with it in the kitchen! Try these Healthy Zucchini, Corn, and Tomato Muffins or this Corn and Zucchini Salad with Feta, one of my all-time summer faves.
Mushrooms: I never leave the grocery store without stocking up on mushrooms. My recent favorite item is a blend of crimini, shiitake, and oyster. This powerhouse veggie can go in just about anything, from breakfast to dinner. I love adding them to omelets, sandwiches, stir-fries, pizza, you name it. Try these seriously delicious Baked Eggs with Creamy Greens, Mushrooms, and Cheese.