Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Vegetarian?

My poor mother. For years she's been worried about me, concerned I'm nutritionally bankrupt because I don't eat meat. "But what do you eat?" she beseeches, trying to understand how anyone could shy away from a t-bone steak for any other reason than the price.

It's okay. I understand her confusion. Had anyone asked me ten or twenty years ago if I'd stop eating meat, I'd have laughed and said "Pass the steak sauce." But here I am, a lifelong carnivore, and I'm living quite well without meat on my plate.

Don't worry - I don't preach my cause to anyone who doesn't want to hear it. That's not why I'm here. I'm here to share recipes and tips with other cooks, carnivore and otherwise. I won't try converting you by browbeating you or demeaning your personal choice. That's just wrong no matter what your ideals are.

I will give you the explanation that I feel much better, much healthier, and I haven't been sick in ages. I do attribute diet to that. Whether it's lack of meat or lack of processed foods, who can tell? But I made a choice eight years ago to try this vegetarian thing. After a few false starts, I learned how to cook vegetarian, which if you're first starting out, that's the hardest thing to overcome.

So stick around. Let's share recipes! To you non-vegetarians, please feel free to post your recipes here in the comments section. Many times we vegetarians can adapt a recipe to make it meatless (unless it's pot roast or braised pork chops, but you get the idea). If you have questions, ask! It's just me and my recipes and my hope that you'll find some of them just as delicious as a meal containing meat.

Oh, the ground rules - sorry, gotta have them. No sniping. No one - and I mean no one - who is either vegetarian or not, is welcome to pass judgment on anyone here for their choices or preach or attack. Any of that is considered out of bounds and not cool at all. This is neutral territory for everyone. I'm keeping comments open, but if things get ugly (and I trust you guys), I'll moderate them.

Let me start with one of my favorites - stew baked in a pumpkin. I saw a version of this in the latest Vegetarian Times magazine, but I have a different way of approaching it.

Stew Baked in a Pumpkin

1 4-6 lb. cooking pumpkin
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2/3 c. edamame
1 1/3 c. frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, beans, and corn)
1/3 c. red wine
½ c. vegetable broth
2 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz. seitan, cut into pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in soup pot and add celery, carrots, onion and red pepper. Cook until soft. Add red wine and reduce. Add vegetable broth, edamame, mixed vegetables and seitan and cook until broth is reduced and absorbed. Note: make sure there is very little liquid left. The pumpkin has more than enough as it cooks. Don't worry - it's not going to dry out!

Clean seeds and strings from pumpkin and lid, saving lid. Rub inside with 1 Tbs. oil and sprinkle with salt. Add cheese to bottom of pumpkin. Add stew (should be thick, not watery) to pumpkin. Replace pumpkin lid, cover stem with foil to prevent burning, and bake at 350 for 1 ½ - 2 hrs. or until pumpkin is fork tender. Cool for a few minutes, then scoop stew and pumpkin into bowls.

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