Wednesday, August 6, 2014

But How Do You Get Your Protein?

That's a question just about everyone who's tried vegetarian living gets. I've certainly been asked. There are many plant-based sources of protein that are often overlooked in the standard western diet.

I decided to become vegetarian last January, and I've been leaning toward veganism. After nearly a year of being ill and eventually having surgery on my colon, I became much more aware of how food affected me. Following my surgery, I was able to eat anything I wanted, but I found that I just didn't feel good after eating meat. I felt like I'd swallowed a brick. I don't feel that way after a plant-based meal. One vegetarian friend suggested the enzymes used to digest meat may have been disrupted from my illness. I don't know, but I decided to listen to my body.

I have several vegetarian and vegan friends at work and at church. They have never tried to "convert" me to their way of eating; rather they have stood as good examples. They bring luscious food to any gathering and the fact that they are all fit, healthy, and beautiful isn't lost on me either (Yes, I'm talking about you, Lisa, Kristen, and Ulka).

So I embarked on some research about vegetarian and vegan cooking. For those who don't know, vegetarians don't eat meat. Vegans don't consume any animal products, including milk, cheese, eggs, and butter. The internet and social media have a plethora of resources to offer. Keepin' It Kind and Finding Vegan have great recipes, some of which have become family favorites. Mayim Bialik (TV's Blossom and Amy Farrah Fowler!) has a terrific book, Mayim's Vegan Table, that provides research, resources, and recipes. Her book is particularly helpful because she is a mother raising her children vegan and she has recipes that appeal to families.

Speaking of families .. That's been a complication. While I'm vegetarian, the rest of the household is still omnivorous. And I do all the cooking. So there has been some negotiation. If I make a meat dish for them, I fix an alternative for me. There's always rice, quinoa, and beans in my kitchen.

 But lately, I've been trying new recipes on them. Curried Vegetable Stew (it features cauliflower, chickpeas, and canned pumpkin), Leek and Potato Soup, and Black Beans and Rice have all been added to the dinner rotation. Last night's experiment was a vegan lasagna recipe I found online. I could almost feel the skepticism, so I was prepared for the worst. But, lo and behold, it was a HUGE hit - even my devoutly carnivorous spouse raved. Hmm.

There are too many aspects to this subject, both moral and political, to tackle in one post so I'll continue to share my journey. Let me know if you have any recipes!