30 Days a Vegetarian

For the month of January, my husband and I decided that we would stop eating meat. COLD TURKEY. The only animal products that we would consume would be eggs, cheese, and butter. In essence…we were lacto ovo (lacto: milk and ovo: egg) vegetarians. 
We embarked on this “30 Days A Vegetarian” journey with a few thoughts in mind.
 Primarily, we wanted to see if we had the discipline to actually carry out the month long fast. Both of us have spent our days being carnivores. Two years ago, we stopped eating beef and pork, so it has been just turkey, chicken, lamb, and fish. Going from a heavy animal protein diet to a mostly plant based protein diet in 24 hours is crazy to some, but in order to get the maximum amount of results, that is what we had to do. 
Secondly, we wanted to do it for health reasons. My husband and I are in the gym most of the week. Our diet is 80% healthy, but we wanted that extra 20% of healthy eating to be added to our daily food intake. There have been studies that say that a plant based diet is proven to be better for the way the body functions, so we wanted to see what the hype was about. 
Lastly, my sole reason for doing this vegetarian fast was for research. I have several friends that take part in the vegetarian, vegan, and even raw vegan lifestyles. I wanted to eat the way they eat and see if it was truly beneficial. Also as a chef, I needed a new challenge. I pride myself on being able to create awesomeness in the kitchen; having the “Midas Touch” when it comes to food. With this fast I would have to really think and dig deep, stepping out of my culinary realm and come up with some GOOD FOOD with LOTS OF FLAVOR. 
So on January 1st, 2016 at 12:00am…we were vegetarians. 
We immediately did a complete 360.
 Our first shopping trip as vegetarians was interesting. I remember pushing a buggy full of organic fruits and vegetables, beans, grains, mushroom protein crumbles (Quorn is the brand…amazing), seeds, and sea weed and feeling a little out of our element. When you are first starting a fast such as as this, you probably will have to start from scratch with items that you will need. We had absolutely NOTHING vegetarian friendly on hand. That made this shopping trip pretty expensive. The total came up to a little under $130 for about a week and a half of food. We bought a lot of the plant based staple items to start, so that we will only have to replenish the organic produce weekly. One good thing about being a vegetarian for a month, our grocery bill per week ended up being only about $40!! Cutting out the animal based proteins made food shopping much cheaper.
Using what we purchased at the store, I took to my brain, Pinterest, and an old culinary school text book for vegetarian recipe inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, vegetarian food can have flavor. Just because you aren’t eating meat does not mean that the vegetarian meal has to taste like air. Plants are predominantly composed of water, so you have to add flavor to whatever you cook. Using fresh herbs, garlic, flavored oils, and other aromatics to add flavor. Maggi seasoning and amino liquids are also great and add a decent amount of meaty flavor to dishes. Also, cooking vegetarian dishes are the same as cooking with meat. Mostly, you will treat the dish as one that has meat and cook it the same way. For example, I cooked fried rice and pad Thai a few times during the monthly fast and used tofu (which is a sponge when it comes to flavors and using extra firm is best because it holds shape) as the protein. I diced the tofu into medium sizes pieces. Since I usually add chicken to the fried rice and pad Thai, I sautéed the tofu in a wok with Montreal Chicken Seasoning and Maggi seasoning ( if you wanted a beef flavor you could use Montreal Steak Seasoning). If you would have closed your eyes while you tasted it, you would not even know that it was tofu. 
  
Buckwheat Lo Mein w/tofu Chef Dominique ’16
  
Fried Rice w/ sautéed kale Chef Dominique ’15
I also made a vegan portabella black bean burger that was delicious! I found a recipe on Pinterest via http://www.thekitchenwhisperer.net that I used as a base and added my own twist to it. If you follow me on Instagram you will see all of the goodness that was created. From Asian, to Mexican, and Italian, we ate REALLY good food. Each meal was delicious and filling; to the point that during the month, we started to not even think about eating meat. 
Now the elephant in room wants to ask, “Did they make it?”
The answer is YES!
We successfully completed the fast without cheating. The closest I came to meat was basking in the ambience of it cooking while at work. I missed eating it, but after the 10th day and eventually toward the end, our bodies adjusted to not having animal products. Do not get the game twisted, I had my teeth into some chicken wings at the stroke of midnight on February 1st. 
So what did we learn?
1: Being a vegetarian is not difficult. It is a change yes, but not a difficult one. Now that we have dabbled in it a little, we know what to buy and what to eat. It definitely could be something that we could possibly revert back to in the future. I missed my fish mostly, so being a pescatarian would be my choice of lifestyle. My husband is actually thinking about doing the fast again in a few months. One word of advice: do not jump all the way back into eating meat. Give your body time to adjust to having animal protein again. Your stomach will get confused. I learned the hard way. We are back to our carnivorous diets with more plant based proteins included.
2: A plant based diet is a healthier alternative to a diet with animal protein. When we eliminated meat from our diet, we gained more energy and our skin became clearer. My husband lost a little weight, and I lost a few, but gained it back in muscle. It was some concern that the lack of animal protein will lead to a loss in muscle. This turned out to be false. We replaced our animal protein wth tofu, mushrooms, legumes, and grains. Also, we started juicing and using calcium and protein rich greens and seeds to keep us full and energized before/ after the gym. Protein supplements were also used such as Isopure, and protein cookies. 
3. I have a newfound level of respect for those that take on the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle full time. It definitely takes discipline, a lot of meal planning and prep. We had fun with cooking different meals and trying different combinations of flavors that we might have stayed away from before when eating meat. For the average beginner vegetarian it could be a little boring. During the beginning we were stuck on eating the same thing because we enjoyed it so much, not knowing that a few days later we would get tired of it. 
I challenge any of you reading this to make 2016 your year to be healthier. You do not have to go as far as we did with eliminating meat from your diet, but if you start by removing one unhealthy food from your everyday food intake once a week (soda, bread, sweets) you will soon be on your way to eating healthier. 
My goal now is to spread awareness about healthier eating. I will be starting a course this week to learn more about nutritional science and fitness nutrition. Soon I will have a certification to be a nutritional coach and will start counseling and helping others overcome their struggles with making the right decisions when it comes to food. 
If you would like more recipes or insight on our “30 Days A Vegetarian” fast, feel free to contact me with questions and/or comments!

Thanksgiving 2015 recap

I hope that everyone has enjoyed their Thanksgiving with family and friends!

Everyone took part in cooking this year. We had a total of 15 items on the menu. 

Here is a snapshot of some of yumminess that I had created yesterday. 

     
We chose to go with a free range turkey this year. The cost was much more than usual for a 15 pound turkey, but we wanted to make sure that our turkey was free from hormones and fed a vegetarian diet. Whole Foods saved the day for this! 

   Vegetarian dressing as a side.  Three types of bread, sautéed vegetables, garlic, herbs, and broth are some of the ingredients. I like my dressing to be almost close to a savory bread pudding, so I make a custard to bind it all together. It rests for an hour before going into the oven to bake, so that every flavor will soak into the bread. 

I made macaroni and cheese with a rich mornay (of you are familiar with the mother sauces, you know that a mornay is a fancy smancy way of saying cheese sauce) with three cheeses. A bechamel sauce is made first, next goes the cheeses, and then the warm, al dente noodles. A lay of cheesy noodles goes down in the baking dish first, then a layer of cheese, then more noodles, and ending with a thick layer of cheese on top. It’s baked in the oven until nice and gooey. Below is a picture of the mornay.    The rest of the portions of dinner came together nicely and everyone enjoyed themselves. We were all stuffed! 

As we all know…Thanksgiving leftovers are the best. Looking forward to a nice plate of more yumminess!!

Noodle Bowl

Feeling a little under the weather today. It could be a combination of the changing of the weather OR…my nieces who are here for the holiday week that brought the “cold monster” with them. 

Whatever may be the cause of me feeling like death turned over twice, I didn’t have any energy to cook today. All that I had today at work was soup, so I figured I keep with the trend and have soup again. 

I took sazón, a Hispanic seasoning blend with annatto seed for color, and mixed it with vegetable broth in a pot and brought it to a boil. Next, I took a bundle of soba (buckwheat) noodles and simmered the noodles for 5 minutes in the broth. 

The noodles go in a bowl (without the broth) with a few sheets of lavar (seaweed snacks are always in the house), thin slices of onion, a boiled egg (minus the yolk of course), poured the hot broth over the bowl, and then sprinkled on some chia seeds. 

   

 Very filling for dinner! The broth was soothing to my throat and actually made me feel a little better.

However, you do not have to be sick to enjoy this.

It’s gluten free, vegetarian, and full of fiber and protein. 

And as always…very tasty! 

Saturday Morning and a Light Breakfast

This morning’s breakfast was excellent.

Cooking breakfast at home is something that takes place only on the weekends. During the week I have to be in the drive to work by 5am, so I will just cook myself something when I get there. I have weekends off and usually can never sleep past 8am 🙄. I’ll get out of bed, turn on the Keurig, and make breakfast. 

Breakfast is usually a refresher for me. A way for my body to wake up and cleanse. I’m usually eating out the previous night, so I make something with a lot of fiber, protein, but also light. I will make pancakes or muffins sometimes, but usually it will have to be a very special occasion, or…a serious craving. 

This morning I chose eggs, a salad, turkey bacon, and avocado. Black coffee and water for beverages. 

  
The greens have a simple drizzle of olive oil and lemon, with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. I cooked the turkey bacon until crispy to give the greens a bit of a crunch. 

I detest whole eggs (I’m an egg white only girl), but I am eating extra protein for maintaining muscle. Usually I will throw something in the eggs as an attempt to mask the sulfuric smell and texture of the yolk. Today I threw in a few sprigs of fresh dill. I didn’t chop with a knife, just pulling them off the sprig. This added a fresh, clean flavor to the eggs.

Last is the avocado. Surprisingly sweet for this time of year, I just ate it out of the skin. 

Along with a cup of organic, dark Jane (female equivalent to cup of Joe) I was set. I drink black coffee-no sugar or cream-to enjoy the natural state of coffee. I am sure that a lot of you have never truly tasted coffee due to it being heavily polluted with flavored creamers and sugars. 

No recipe to post today. 

Just wanted you to sit back and think about what you want for breakfast this morning. It doesn’t always have to be heavy to be filling. 

Some times lighter is better. 

Peanut Butter & Oat Protein Muffins

I have been attempting to take recipes that are normally high in calories, fat, sodium, etc and rework them into healthier versions. 

Since I have become an avid lover of the gym, a good snack is needed before I start my workout especially on days when I am doing a lot of lifting. 

The other day I came up with a muffin recipe that would be perfect to eat before/after a gym workout. The muffin has peanut butter, Greek yogurt, eggs, and oats-lots of protein and fiber-to get you through any day. 

  

A basic muffin method is used (when you’ve made one muffin, you’ve made them all), but instead of butter, I used Greek yogurt and a little vegetable oil. 

The batter is going to be super thick, but don’t get discouraged and add more liquid. The muffin will come out to bes soft texture that will keep fresh for about 3/4 days in an air tight container. 

I love peanut butter; seriously LOVE peanut butter. It is a great source for protein, so I chose to use peanut butter chips. Creamy peanut butter could be used (about a 4th of a cup-not natural peanut butter), but I like the way the chips look in the muffin. If you don’t want it to be overly packed with protein, use chocolate, butterscotch, or white chocolate chips. 

I sprinkled a little turbinado sugar on top of 6 of them to see how they would be with a little extra texture on top. Not required of course, but it looks nice. 

The recipe makes 12 muffins. Spray your muffin tins well with pan spray so that they will release easily from the paper.

These are best when they have been out of the oven for about 8 minutes. 

 
Peanut Butter & Oat Protein Muffins

Yields 12

2 cups AP (all purpose flour)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup veg oil

2 eggs

2/3 cup Greek yogurt (I used Fage-my fav!)

1 cup peanut butter chips 

A sprinkle of turbinado sugar for topping (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 395F.

2. In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a small bowl, mix veg oil, eggs, and Greek yogurt until it is well combined into a smooth, creamy texture.

4. Add the wet ingredients to dry and fold together. Add in the peanut butter chips and fold together. Batter will be thick

5. Spray muffin tins. With a scoop, fill muffin 3/4 of the way full.

6. Bake for 20 minutes. A toothpick can be put in the middle to check doneness. If the tooth pick comes out clean, it is done.

7. Allow time to cool-5 to 7 minutes is enough-on a cooling rack.

If you try the recipe, leave a comment below! 

Lunch

I now enjoy an occasional Saturday in pajamas and watching movies. 

Simple.

Lunch today was simple also. Prep time was only 5 minutes which was just enough time to put together during a commercial break (I am watching a movie in TNT).

  
All raw. All organic. All clean. 

White beans, tomatoes, kale, cilantro leaves, & chopped chive. The dressing is just lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Just toss together in a bowl. I even ate the salad out of the prep bowl. No one else in the house wanted any, so why not? Less dishes the better right?

The most important part…it was delicious and filling:)

Try it out. You can switch up the type of bean, add other herbs, whatever you choose. 

Enjoy! 

-Chef Dominique 

Skinny Jambalaya 

I started making jambalaya when I was in college. Back in the days when I was clueless to the 2:1 ratio of rice to water and flavor profiles. What I made was edible and my friends would constantly request that I make it over and over again. 

For some reason I was reminiscing about my old recipe and decided to revamp it into something better, less calories, and lower sodium. I swapped the pork for a nitrate free chicken sausage and used my homemade Cajun seasoning instead of purchasing one from the store. 

I posted a pic on IG the same day that I cooked it and was asked to post the recipe to my blog, soooo here it is!

Skinny Jambalaya (serves 6-8 as an entree, 10 as a side)

1 small onion, small dice
1 med green pepper, small dice

3 stalks of celery, small dice

2 nitrate free chicken sausage links (I used Adelis brand which is delicious and available at most popular grocery stores)

3 large chicken breast, medium cubed

2 tbsp canola oil

3 tbsp Cajun seasoning (recipe follows)

1 1/2 cup brown rice

28 oz can of petite diced tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock 

Cajun seasoning 
3 tbsp cayenne pepper

3 tbsp kosher salt

2tsp black pepper

1tbsp oregano

1tbsp thyme 

1tbsp basil

1tbsp granulated garlic 

1 tbsp allspice 

1 tbsp granulated onion 

1 tsp paprika 

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven size pot on medium heat until hot.
2. Add in onion, green pepper, celery, sausage, chicken breast, and sausage with the Cajun seasoning to the pot. Sauté until vegetables are soft and chicken has turned white (about 15 minutes)

3. Add in rice to pot and stir to coat with chicken and vegetables.

4. Add in tomatoes along with juice and chicken stock. Stir.

5. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes until most of all the excess liquid has evaporated and rice is soft, but not mushy. 

6. Remove from heat and allow it to sit on the stove for 10 minutes so that any remaining residual liquid has evaporated. Fluff with a fork and serve. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. 

  
As always, if you choose to repost or use this recipe for your personal site/blog…please credit me on your page! Thanks!

Chef Dominique H. Lipscomb ’15