Going vegetarian was a very conscious and very intentional decision. We wanted to cut out meat from our diet, for not only ethical reasons but also health purposes, and after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals it just seemed difficult to wrap our heads, and mouths, around eating meat. But now, 2 years later, it seems our diets have changed in ways we didn’t expect. Often we find that the delicious meal we’re eating is actually vegan– quite accidentally! About 18 months ago we switched from dairy milk to almond milk– honestly because neither D nor I drink milk fast enough to justify buying even a 1/2 gallon at a time. We found we’d throw out milk almost every time we bought a bottle, and after tasting almond milk (we like Blue Diamond’s unsweetened original best) we figured…why not?! We now use almond milk for cereal, smoothies, coffee, oatmeal, baking, and everywhere else you’d add milk. I also switched over to using flax eggs in most of my baking, just because I find it an easy replacement (we dedicated our old coffee grinder to the task of grinding our seeds each time we need them) and flax seeds are much easier to store than dozens of eggs! As a result, we really only eat eggs when we’re making something…eggy… fried eggs over hash browns, quiche, fried rice, etc! These replacements were conscious, but in all honesty, by no means were they a concerted effort to be vegan…they were just replacements that made sense in our lives. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t think I could ever go 100% vegan simply because I’d miss really good quality, small batch cheeses!
But it seems, week after week, that we end up cooking vegan! Last night’s meal was the perfect example of summer eating in our house– taking the backyard ‘crops’ and turning them into a delicious meal. Our garden is flourishing and in the past 5 days, we’ve harvested 2 eggplants, a spaghetti squash, a yellow squash, 5 bell peppers, 6 jalapenos, 2 beefsteak tomatoes, dozens of heirloom and cherry tomatoes, and handfuls of herbs. We did a bunch of work in the yard after work yesterday (a 2 day project–removing a huge shrub and the remaining root ball from the yard!) and it was just too hot to eat a heavy meal. Last night’s dinner was 99% home-grown (everything except the condiments and salt/pepper came from our yard) and accidentally vegan- a win-win! Keep reading to see what other ‘accidentally vegan’ meals we’ve been cooking up!
Spaghetti Squash with Balsamic Tomatoes
1 cup spaghetti squash, cooked and flesh removed from skin
handful of tomatoes, any variety
fresh basil, torn or chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic
Put the tomatoes and fresh basil in a small bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper– let them sit and marinate. Coat a saute pan with olive oil and cook the garlic on medium-high heat just until it starts to release aroma. Add in the cooked spaghetti squash and coat with the garlic oil, then gently stir in the tomato mixture. Cook all ingredients together about 3-4 minutes, until the tomatoes soften. You could top it with fresh mozzarella cheese, but it’s fantastic as is, and very light!
Note: Our spaghetti squash was huge, so we cooked it up this weekend, pulled out the flesh, and will store it in the fridge for the week, pulling it out as needed. As a result, this meal took only as long to prepare as the saute pan took to heat up- if you’re cooking the spaghetti squash in the same night, it’ll be about an hour for cook time plus the time to assemble the dish.
Morning Breakfast Smoothie
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp flax seeds (whole is fine, the blender will chop them up)
heaping spoonful of almond or peanut butter
6-8 ice cubes
Mix all ingredients in a blender for a thick, creamy, and very filling morning smoothie!
Barley and Fennel Salad
We modified Bon Appetite’s recipe from the June edition, removing the beets and red onion completely. Our vinaigrette was made with mostly freshly squeezed grapefruit juice instead of the vinegar, then just a dash of apple cider vinegar made up the remainder of the liquid in the dressing. This was tasty, filling, and had great texture between the crunch of the fennel and almonds compared to the soft barley. The mint came from our yard and we added some of the fennel fronds into the salad for some extra green and fennel flavor!
Our philosophy about a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is that reducing your animal product intake, even once a day or once a week, is better than nothing. Can you make that commitment? Can you acknowledge that not every meal needs a serving of meat, egg, cheese, or dairy? Try some of these recipes, or many of the other ones on the blog, to kick start a new kind of dining experience. Or better yet, take your favorite recipe and make it vegetarian/vegan- it’s a fun challenge and incredibly rewarding. And when it happens accidentally, it’s even more amazing! At the end of the day, adhering to a vegetarian lifestyle isn’t a sacrifice, it’s an opportunity to flip what you think about food 180 degrees. And when your ingredients happen to be as local as your backyard, or even a local family farm, you’ve got no reason not to.