Take-Out Tuesday: General Tips for Vegetarians at Non-Veggie Restaurants

Woman reading menuHave you ever tried to eat vegetarian at a restaurant that doesn’t even have a veggies section on its menu? In the 11 years that I was a full-on vegetarian, I struggled to learn the ins and outs of avoiding meat in a carnivore’s world.

Here is some of my wisdom to help get you through.

You’ll probably have to compromise.

Most restaurants don’t segregate their food production, so that menu item that doesn’t contain meat may come into contact with serving utensils or cooking and prep areas that did touch meat. This is an important distinction for some vegetarians, and it can mean that there is nothing on the menu that will work for you.

You safest bet is probably a salad. Because of the food safety regulations, vegetables that will be served raw are more likely to be kept away from meat to prevent cross-contamination. Just beware the bacon bits —- some restaurants just can’t keep them off even the veggiest of salads.

It will be much easier for you to pick your meal.

Most non-vegetarian restaurants have only a small set of meat-free options, which makes choosing a meal a breeze. Your meat-eating friends will be wading through an entire menu of options long after you’ve made up your mind. Order a glass of water so you can hydrate while you’re waiting.

Over time, you will find the best blend of menu choices for you and your friends.

I noticed that there are two types of vegetarians — the ones who want to convert everyone around them and the ones who just want to pass for normal. I was definitely the latter type, so it was important for me not to be the reason we could never eat out as a group again.

I developed a love for garden salads and steamed rice in my early vegetarian days. Then I found a set of restaurants that catered to vegetarians, such as Cafe Yumm in Eugene, Ore., offering a wide selection of veggie-friendly foods that also appealed to my avowed carnivore of a husband. Even though we don’t live anywhere near a Cafe Yumm anymore, we still enjoy a hearty meal of veggie chili, brown rice, and Yumm sauce.

What are your tips for eating veggie in a non-veggie world? Share them in the comments below.

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Free-for-All Friday: A New Feature Is Coming

A few weeks ago, I was behind a family at Panda Express. One of the teenage girls was struggling to order, and she ended up with a plate of white rice, chow mein noodles, and steamed vegetables. Looks like someone is a new vegetarian who needs some advice on what and how to order.

Now this Panda Express doesn’t have the eggplant and tofu dish, so she ended up with the food she could eat as a vegetarian, although the mounds of white rice surrounded by small servings of noodles and veggies show that she could use a little help with her ratios, too.

And so a new column was born here at Mom-amo: Take-Out Tuesdays.

I will share the lessons I learned from navigating omnivorous restaurants as a vegetarian (and more recently, as a flexitarian). One of the biggest problems is not wanting to be a pain, either to waiters who may spit in your food or to your friends who might stop inviting you out to do things if you’re the person who can’t ever order food.

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Tasty Thursday: Pineapple Strawberry Salsa

2013-03-31 10.23.29In my post about going meatless, I mentioned the delicious pineapple salsa I had made for my chickpea tortilla soup. I also promised to share the recipe.

Pineapple Strawberry Salsa

1/2 medium pineapple
6 strawberries
1 yellow onion
2 medium jalapenos
1/2 bunch cilantro
Juice of three limes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Start by peeling the pineapple. Cut it in half horizontally, then remove the core. Roughly dice the pineapple. (You can slice the other half into rings and grill it for dessert with a little maple syrup.)

Core and dice the strawberries. Dice the onion.

The jalapenos can be a little tricky, especially if you wear contacts, like I do. I like to wear vinyl gloves while I handle them. Whether you go bare or wear gloves, remove the stems and the ribs and dice the flesh. I kept all of the seeds for the salsa, because I wanted a spicy salsa. If you prefer it mild, remove all of the seeds.

Rinse the cilantro and dice it roughly.

Mix everything in a bowl. Juice all three limes over the salsa. Add the salt and pepper and stir to mix through.

Let the salsa sit at least one hour so the flavors blend. (I left this overnight before we ate it.)

2013-03-31 10.20.38I also made a bowl of tomato salsa with four roma tomatoes, one yellow onion, one jalapeno, two limes, and the rest of the cilantro. I use 2 teaspoons salt and one teaspoon pepper.

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Weight Loss Wednesday: Go Meatless to Lose Weight, Feel Great

I was a strict vegetarian for 11 years. When I married an avowed carnivore, I made the decision to go back to eating some meat (poultry and fish, no pork or beef) because the thought of preparing two main dishes was simply too much to bear.

That decision made dinner prep easier, but it caused me to pack on the pounds because meat is a more calorie dense food and because I don’t feel great about myself when I eat meat. (Like many people, I soothe my negative emotions with food.) I went veg for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it makes me sad to eat animals.

My parents and I lived on a farm for a few years in my formative years. I got much too attached to the pigs and cows (oddly, not the chickens though), so I had a really hard time eating that meat once they were butchered. I also read books such as Dinosaur Planet and Dinosaur Planet Survivors, which painted meat eaters in a negative light.

When I was a vegetarian, I had a ton more energy, enjoyed exercise, and weighed about 80 pounds less than I do now. I want to feel that way again. But how can I manage dinnertime?

I had a brainstorm last week: make a vegetarian main dish that can serve as the side dish for hubby. Then cook some meat for him. Makes sense, right? Why didn’t I think of it six years ago?

I’ve gotten a subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine to find great new recipes, and I’m dusting off some of my old stuff.

My husband is fine eating tofu and other foods, so he doesn’t care. All he wants is some meat to round the meal out and make him feel satisfied.

Last night, we ate zucchini-corn canneloni and no-knead bread with garlic cloves baked in, and hubby had some leftover Easter ham. Delicious. Tonight, the dinner plan is chickpea tortilla soup topped with pineapple strawberry salsa — we have some leftover turkey taco meat that hubby can add to his soup. (I’ll post the pineapple strawberry salsa recipe in next week’s Tasty Thursday column.)

I will likely eat some chicken, fish, and/or shrimp once or twice a week. But, the majority of my meals will be meat-free. Over the next month, I will track my progress emotionally and physically and give you an update.

Could you go meatless, even part of the week?

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Money Monday: Do You Moonlight?

One of the easiest ways to start earning more money is to take on a second job. Whether you do some side work occasionally, work two full-time gigs, or are anywhere in between, I’d love to learn about your experiences working in more than one job.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

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Free-for-All Friday: Welcome to Women’s History Month

I don’t believe I’ve said it aloud here — though I’ve not kept it secret it either — I am proud to call myself a feminist.

I believe feminism is the ultimate gift I have been given by the women who came before me, and the ultimate gift I can pass on to my son and to the women and men who come after me. There should be no debate that women deserve to be treated as equals. Although women and men are different — just like all people are different — doesn’t make either gender any less deserving of fairness, justice, or protection.

My focus on sustainability and realness in our food chain is also part of my feminist background. Way back when I was in college, I took a course called Feminism and Ecology, partly because I didn’t get the connection. However, I loved the way we could draw parallels between the way our society views women and the way we view the earth. Both create life. And both have historically been exploited in some way.

Some tenets of ecofeminism focus on a mystical connection between women and Mother Earth, and that is where many people sour on the confluence of feminism and ecology.

But you can be an ecofeminist without subscribing to belief systems you don’t agree with. If you can see the shared history of exploitation and repression and you wish to move toward a less exploitative and repressive future, you can be an ecofeminist, too.

How? Start by looking at some of the issues that hit both women and the earth. One I am focused on is organic food production. As a mother, I want my son to eat foods that are of the highest nutritional quality and aren’t laden in pesticides that can hurt his development. As a consumer, I want the food in the stores to be of high nutritional value so that I am getting the most nutritional bang for my buck. I believe that organic, rather than chemically enhanced, is the best product, and I want it for the best price. Also, as a consumer, I want to feel that the food was produced by people who are paid a fair wage and who are not subjected to toxic chemicals on a daily basis.

If pesticide and chemical residues are dangerous, can you imagine what exposure to industrial levels of those chemicals on a daily basis could so to you?

As your homework for the weekend (every good lesson has to have homework, right?), I’d love for you think about the feminist or ecological issues that you are passionate about. How do they relate and fit into an ecofeminist framework?

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Tasty Thursday: Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Tasty Thursday iconzucchini oatmeal cookiesI know I’m not the first mom to try hiding vegetables in tasty treats, but I think this is the best cookie recipe I’ve tasted, if I do say so myself. My husband and I ate a bunch, too.

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oatmeal
3/4 c. brown sugar or turbinado sugar
1 egg
2 T. butter, softened
2 T. coconut oil
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. applesauce
1/2 c. shredded zucchini (about 1/2 of a medium zucchini)
1/4 c. shredded carrots (about 1/2 a carrot)
1/2 c. raisins
1/4 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

zucchini oatmeal cookie batterMix everything together in a bowl. (This is why I love cookies — a lot of baked goods require that you do things in a certain order. Cookies work whether you start with creaming the sugar with the butter or just throw all the ingredients in a bowl.)

Drop the cookies by the spoonful on a lightly greased cookie sheet. These cookies don’t spread out like a lot of other cookies do, so you don’t have to place them that far apart. That means you can cook the entire recipe on two cookie sheets, cutting down your cooking time considerably.

Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. Put them away as soon as they are cool, because they are like potato chips — you can’t eat just one.

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New Ways to Lose Weight with Your Smartphone: Zombies Run! and More

So, we’re two days in to 2013. Are you already feeling the pinch of that resolution to lose weight? Here are three smartphone apps that can help you reach your goals in a new way.

Intelli-Diet

I hate counting calories. I firmly believe that focusing on what you must cut out of your diet leads to a feeling of obsession with food in a lot of us – I know it does for me.

The most successful weight loss I experienced was when I was a member of eDiets. They created a meal plan for the week, so I was just cooking to a set of recipes rather than counting units. I felt well fed the whole time, and I lost over 30 pounds. Currently, eDiets appears to be focusing more on their meal delivery service than their meal planning program, so I am happy to see that Intelli-Diet has stepped in to fill that void.

This iOS-only app provides you with a customized meal plan, so you don’t have to freak out about food. Just make what it tells you and eat it. Download it here.

Zombies Run!

Not motivated to exercise? What if you were being chased by zombies? That would probably get you moving, right?

Well, the Zombies Run app leads you through a set of missions that increase your fitness while you have fun. (This kind of makes me think of LARPing, a la Supernatural’s The Real Ghostbusters episode.) http://www.supernaturalwiki.com/index.php?title=5.09_The_Real_Ghostbusters

If you love the idea of running from zombies, you might want to give this one a try. It’s platform-agnostic, so you can get it on iOS, Android, and even Windows phones.

GymPact

If you don’t go to the gym, it could cost you, and not just in your health. GymPact lets you make a pact to go to the gym and assign a dollar cost for missed visits. The minimum is $5, so there is a strong financial incentive to keep your workout schedule.

The program uses the money paid for missed workouts to pay users who make it to the gym when they say they will, rewarding healthy habits.

You can get this free app on iOS and Android.

What apps are you using to stick to your weight loss and fitness goals this year?

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Free-for-All Friday: Go Green with That Birthday Party: Choose Eco-Friendly Decorations and Party Favors

By Christina Appleworth

Putting together “green” children’s parties can be a fun way of getting kids to think about environmental issues from an early age, and can also be a way to save money on an overall event.

The average kids party tends to generate a lot of waste, from plastic cups through to decorations, as well as party favours that tend to consist of plastic toys. However, a green party provides alternatives through a range of different materials as well as as an environmentally responsible approach to the kind of food and gifts that are provided for children.

It might take a little bit more effort, but green children’s parties can ultimately encourage children toward better habits.

A “Green” Party?

Organising a green party primarily means using natural, recycled, biodegradable materials, as well as cooking with natural ingredients.

Most of the waste from a party comes from the use of takeout food, plastic tablecloths, knifes, forks and plates. Instead, opt to use real plates and cutlery, even if it means more washing afterwards. You can also save on invitation paper by sending emails or phoning, which can be a good opportunity to let people know about why the party is “green.”

In terms of plates, using biodegradable materials means that you can still throw them away afterwards, but into a compost heap, rather than the bin. When providing food alternatives, using organic ingredients, gelatin-free sweets, vegan cake mixture, and fruit can save on the amount of unhealthy snacks.

Decorations

When putting together decorations for green children’s parties, try to use cloth for tables instead of plastic, and opt for natural fabrics for hanging decorations.

Japanese paper balloons can be used as an eco-friendly alternative to plastics, as can cotton party bunting and recycled paper streams. Latex biodegradable balloons, which tend to break down in about six months, can similarly be used. Handmade candles made from beeswax can provide a substitute to more toxic materials, while hand-dyed garlands can be used as a decorative touch.

Japanese washi tape, made from natural materials, can similarly be used as an alternative to masking tape.

Party Favours

Party favours and gifts do not have to be made up from plastics and cheap materials. You can still save money and have excellent gifts by filling party bags with food from the party, as well as recycled and second hand books.

Plastic toys can be substituted for racing cars and boats made from recycled wood. Toy finger puppets made from cloth are also a good option. In terms of encouraging people to bring presents to the party, try to promote the recycling of used books and gently used toys.

Party favours can also be added to by using hair accessories made from biodegradable materials, freshly cut flowers, ribbon wands, and playdough. Gelatin-free candy, organic lollipops, and organic fabric toys are also good options. By taking this approach, it’s possible to have a fun and low-cost children’s party that will teach valuable lessons about recycling and environmental responsibility.

This article provided courtesy of Christina Appleworth on behalf of DNA Kids, UK specialist in children’s party entertainment!

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Tasty Thursday: Chipotle Pulled Chicken Sandwich Recipe

Tasty Thursday iconI’m not a huge fan of pork, but I love a good hot sandwich, so I found an inspiration recipe and adapted it to work for my tastes. I used chicken thighs to get the meaty feel, but I’ve also used breasts.

Chipotle Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

2 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, diced (remove the seeds for a milder flavor)
1/4 cup pomegranate chipotle dipping sauce
1/4 chipotle mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 T. mirin
1 T. chili powder
1/2 t. fresh ground white pepper
1/2 t. salt
1/2 T. worcestershire sauce
1/4-1/2 t. Maggi seasoning
1 cup shredded carrots
4 whole wheat or sprouted wheat buns
Lettuce and tomatoes for garnish, as desired

Cook the onion, garlic, jalapeno, sauces, agave, mirin, chili powder, pepper and salt over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir completely. Add worcestershire and Maggi seasoning and cook for 5 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, place the chicken thighs or breasts in a crock pot. Pour the sauce over the chicken and cook for 10 hours on low.

Remove chicken thighs one at a time and remove the bones. Shred the meat, then return to the crock pot. Add the shredded carrots and cook for about 20 minutes longer.

Serve meat on a bun with the garnish and condiments you like best. (I like it plain.)

If you are curious about the inspiration, it was this recipe for pulled turkey sandwiches.

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