• Carmen Marie Fabio

Vegetable matters


PEXEL IMAGE BY STOKPIC

It must have been my years of sarcastic comments about slabs of dead animals thawing on our refrigerator shelf that finally had my husband cave in to the suggestion that we, as a family, try going vegetarian both as a health – and social – experiment.

In keeping with our general ‘Go big or go home’ approach, he bought a vegetarian cookbook and special grilling pan while I eschewed the usual Costco purchases of flesh-in-bulk in favour of a selection of fruits and veggies. He upped the ante by buying things like quinoa and wild rice mix, dried roasted chick peas, and a kilo of cashews. The situation suddenly got real.

Pragmatism outweighing principles, we agreed not to throw out any of the remaining meat products in the house but rather to eliminate them by attrition. Or more accurately, cooking and eating them. So the ritual weekend Kraft Dinner still contained hot-dogs and the homemade Pad Thai noodles contained fake crab that might very well qualify as a vegetable.

The kids have been pretty good sports about the whole thing except for my youngest who keeps pointing out the fact that there are still a few packs of bacon in the freezer purchased when we had found a really good sale.

If you’re considering going the veggie route, here a few interesting things we’ve gleaned thus far.

Herbs are awesome. Buy some parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, and green spring onions. Chop and sprinkle liberally on everything. Same for garlic and ginger.

Roast your veggies. I grew up with suburban-boiled-everything and only in the last few years did I learn how much virtually every veggie is improved once roasted. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and pop into a 400° F oven. Don’t burn them. Easy peasy.

A marinated and grilled Portobello mushroom cap in a hamburger bun loaded up with all the trimmings is a respectable substitute for a meat burger. And anything salted and deep fried (yes, even tofu) dipped in a spicy sauce is a hit with the kids.

Unlike vegans (hey, we’re only so dedicated) our only restriction is “nothing with a face” so we’re still consuming eggs, milk, and cheese leading to some interesting experiments.

Cooked butternut squash, with a bunch of cheese, breadcrumbs, and egg added is the base for some awesome ‘Squash Balls’ and panko bread crumbs made the stuffed mushroom caps sound more sophisticated than they actually were.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though. The recipe for whole wheat noodle salad with green peas and tahini dressing was a bit of a dud.

“Are they ready?” my husband asked of the long brown strands of spaghetti imposter.

“I can’t tell,” I told him as the texture defied any pasta I’d ever encountered.

Like changing any lifelong habit, embracing a vegetarian diet has had its significant challenges but I’ve discovered a beneficial side angle.

Now, when I want my kids to do something they’re not keen on doing, I promise them, “I’ll buy you a cheeseburger.”

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