So it’s been one week on the vegetarian challenge, and I thought I’d post about a few things to let you know how the challenge is going. The first thing I have to do is confess to cheating: I ate meat. My mother came into town and gave me (yes, GAVE me) as a gift a wheelchair accessible lift van… what a gift that was to me! The freedom this thing will give me, to allow me to be able to go to the store sometimes on my own, take a drive, whatever, but also to make it so much easier on my family when we go somewhere to not have to lug around my wheelchair and load things up and unload things and have to wait on me… what a difference!
So the next night, I took her and my stepfather out to dinner at a place they’d been wanting to go to for a while: a Brazilian steakhouse. This is a place that serves skewered meats that are roasted over a fire, with the most amazing flavors and juices and and and–I couldn’t help it. I had to have some. I did limit the meat, instead of stuffing myself, and I filled up with as much salad and veggies as I could, but I still had filet Mignon with bacon, sausage, top round roast, lamb, shrimp and salmon. If you’ve never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, they come to your table with skewers or meat from a fire pit roasting and serve small portions of lots of different flavors of meat on your plate straight from the skewers. I mean, you simply don’t go there and not eat meat!
So yes, I cheated. But the rest of the time, I did really well. It seems going out to a restaurant will be my weakness if I want to keep vegetarian, or even mostly vegetarian. I think I can manage that, though, if the only time I eat meat is when I go out somewhere… but we’re going to a murder mystery dinner in a few weeks, and they are offering a vegetarian option, and it actually sounds better to me than the meat options. So there are some times when I think I can do it. I just couldn’t do it at a restaurant where the gauchos walk around the dining room with juicy meats on skewers while you eat!
Let’s look at some of my recipes for the week, which I’ve already posted on my Michy’s Dishes facebook album.
Michy’s Favorite Smoothie (vegetarian, not vegan–can be made vegan)
- 1 banana
- 1 kiwi fruit
- 2 slices pineapple
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 cup raw milk (for vegan, use coconut/almond or rice milk)
- a few chunks of ice
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 2 handfuls of baby spinach
Throw it all in the blending and blend until smooth and well-mixed. Makes two servings.
These smoothies are my go-to breakfast, making it easy to make a quick, nutritious breakfast without too much work and very little cleanup.
Michy’s Citrus Morning Smoothie
- 1 banana
- 1 avocado
- 1 lemon, peeled and seeded
- 1 orange, peeled and seeded
- 1/2 grapefruit, peeled and seeded
- 2 slices of pineapple
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 cup of ice
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
These smoothies are a great way to get the leafy greens in bulkier quantities without really tasting them. For people who don’t like greens, this might be a great way to add them to your diet. My son refuses to eat greens, but he will suck down smoothies. Spinach is the perfect one for smoothies, because it is mild. Some of the lettuces, like butter lettuce and romaine, are decent for smoothies, because they are mild too. Mustard greens, kale, and the stronger leafy greens overpower the smoothies, though, and they are best left blended into sauces if you’re trying to hide them and choke them down.
Now, lunch has always been a tough one for me, because I don’t like to go all out and cook during the afternoon for just me and sometimes Lynn, when I know I have to cook a full meal for everyone in the evening. I look for easy, no-cook recipes for lunch, snack type things, sandwiches, reheating soups, crackers and cheeses, etc. HauteMealz has a great curried egg and curried chicken salad recipe served in pitas that I really like. I subscribe to their newsletters and have a paid subscription to their meal plans. While I don’t follow them 100%, I keep the recipes for ideas and help when I’m stuck and can’t think of a recipe for myself. They are flexible for using however you want, even if you follow them exactly or just use them for recipe reference. Check them out. I highly recommend them.
The next is snacks–those are easy enough for me. I spend an hour or two on the day that we buy groceries or the one after that preparing for the week for meals. I’ll cut up a bunch of vegetables and salad greens and put them in a big sealable bowl that can go straight into the fridge. I keep this filled with veggies, every time I cook and chop veggies, I’ll toss a few more into the bowl. This bowl, along with a homemade cruet of salad dressing (this week’s is pomegranate red wine vinaigrette), makes an easy salad snack any time we want a salad. We also keep a lot of fresh fruit around for smoothies and juices, but we also eat it for snacks, bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruits, pineapple, kiwi (one of my faves), dragon fruit, fresh cucumbers, and for me, fresh squash and zucchini (love these raw, dipped in dressing). When desperate for a crunchy/salty snack, I will go for something processed, but I try to keep it as healthy as possible, such as the Central Market organic quinoa and flaxseed chips, the organic white corn tortilla chips, or the Blue Diamond Nut-Thins. I try to limit these, but now and then, they are the only thing that stands between blowing the diet completely or staying mostly on course.
VEGETABLE AND FRUIT JUICES
In order to get the 10 plus servings of vegetables that we’re going for each day during this challenge, we have to add juices into the mix. I simply cannot eat that much food. It’s just not possible. So we throw in one or two homemade veggie juices per day. The juicer we use is this one: Omega VRT350 Heavy Duty Dual-Stage Vertical Single Auger Low Speed Juicer. We absolutely love it. This is where we get the dark leafy greens like kale and chard, juice them lemon, pineapple, apples, ginger root, I mean, really, you name it, we juice it. One of my favorites is sweet potatoes, carrots, ginger and lemon. I do a green lemonade with kale, lemon, agave nectar and ginger. If the green juices aren’t palatable enough, you can add lemon and ginger with agave nectar to them, and make that strong enough to taste like green lemonade and it’s palatable that way. The fruit juices are divine, so I’ll make it fruity with enough veggies for nutrition, but enough fruit for flavor and taste. Buffy loves the juices; I tolerate most of them for health, but there are a few I really do like. Any of the fruit ones have me sold–but the green juices, not so much.
I have found, I can stomach veggies in juices that I would not eat in real life. For example, I don’t like cucumber, but they are mild enough that in a juice, I don’t even notice them. Bell pepper is the same, especially if mixed with a strong veggie, like tomatoes or something. This gives me a chance to have the excellent nutrition of veggies I normally wouldn’t touch, without having to choke down foods I don’t like.
MAIN COURSE VEGETARIAN RECIPES
So this week’s two big recipes for dinner are all that’s left to share today. I made a spanakopita braided dish that turned out really pretty and quite tasty–this is one I would serve again maybe even for a dinner party, since they can be made big for family-style serving to share between people or they can be made smaller for individual portions for each plate. I made bigger ones, and everyone dug into them. They were gorgeous.
MICHY’S SPANAKOPITA BRAIDS
I try to make my own stuff as much as possible, but there are a few things that once in a while, it’s just easier, cheaper and better to buy it already pre-made. That’s where I am with phyllo dough. I don’t even want to consider trying to make homemade phyllo dough–I’m not even sure it’s possible (I mean, obviously it’s possible, but it might not be possible FOR ME!) This is a simple recipe, but it turns out really pretty.
- 2 pkg prepared and thawed phyllo dough (about 10-12 sheets for each braid, 4 braids)
- 8 cups of baby spinach, 2 boxes of frozen spinach (I like fresh better)
- 2 eggs
- 20 ounces of feta cheese
- fresh basil
- fresh dill
- sea salt & pepper
- pine nuts, however many you want
First, make a thin layer of pine nuts on a cookie sheet and season with sea salt, bake in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes, just until they are toasted and lightly browned. While those toast, blanch or steam the spinach, unless you’re using frozen (thaw the frozen) and then drain it. I don’t mean just drain it; I mean squeeze all the water out of it. It’s going inside the dough and you will make your dough soggy if you don’t squeeze ALL of the water you can out of it. Once all the water is squeezed out, add the lighty beaten eggs, cheese, basil & dill to taste, and then season with salt and pepper.
Now, you can do this two ways–the ‘traditional’ way or the braided way, but I thought the braids were pretty, so that’s why I did them this way. Put about 10-12 sheets of the thin phyllo dough down on parchment paper (parchment paper makes it much easier to move the finished braid to the plate). Using scissors, I cut the phyllo dough at an angle, several even places down the side, and made a little fold over tuck at the bottom and top. Then, I filled the dough in the center with the spinach mixture, and I criss crossed folding the dough I’d cut over the mixture, tucking the bottom and top in before folding over. Then I brushed the top of the folded dough with olive oil and dusted with sea salt. Baked for about 40 minutes, at 350, until the dough was flaky and brown. Take out of the over, sprinkle with some paprika for a beautiful red dusting on top, and then sprinkle the roasted pine nuts on top of that and serve. Each braid makes about two servings, and this recipe will do four average sized braids.
This was an easy and super fast meal to make by buying the phyllo dough already made. It took me maybe 15 minutes to get it ready to go in the oven, and it was yummy. Even my son, who usually won’t eat spinach or veggie anything, said this was an ‘ok’ meal. My daughter raved over it.
More To Come
My family was waiting on me to meet for lunch, so I had to log out and go meet them in my new wheelchair van that my mother and stepfather bought me for a gift! What a gift it is too! For now, I’ll close out and leave you with these recipes. I’ll be back later today/tomorrow with a citrus teryaki tofu veggie rice dish recipe and a recipe for a red lentil dahl that was quite yummy.
For now, the challenge is going okay, as long as I don’t leave the house to eat. I’m enjoying the new flavors and tastes. I am getting tired of everything being ‘mushy’ or ‘soupy’, so I need to find a way to get chewy and crunchy into this diet, other than just raw vegetables. That will be my challenge this week. Maybe making more chips and learning a whole grain, homemade bread recipe of some sort too. We’ll see.
We’re going to try making some homemade gluten-free rice pasta this week as well. Wish me luck!
Three more weeks to go!
Love and stuff,