Tag Archives: Meatless Monday

My Evolution as a Meatless Eater + the Eat Drink Vegan Festival

When I first became a vegetarian, I was 10 years old. I was raised in a family of meat eaters (my sister has since become a vegetarian and my mom is mostly one), but I knew from early on that eating animals wasn’t for me. I can remember so clearly sitting at my parents’ kitchen table for dinner, poking at a pork chop looking at the veiny colors, picturing the pig running around at a farm, and not feeling right about eating him. I was probably 7 at the time.

Once I went meat-free, I never went back. But I do remember feeling almost embarrassed if I was at a friends’ house or a BBQ and had to tell people that I wouldn’t be eating a hamburger. I think I mostly didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I was different, or be a pain in the ass to have over for dinner for that matter. My brothers relentlessly teased me about my diet, and my grandma asked me how I would ever cook for a boyfriend one day (In her defense, as an old Italian lady who cooked for people every chance she got, I think this may have been a real concern of hers!). It felt like everyone else thought it was normal to eat the hamburger, but I just never did.

As I got older and learned more and more about factory farming and the environmental and health implications associated with mass producing and consuming meat, my convictions strengthened. Learning about the Blue Zones – the areas of the world where the people are living the longest – and that one commonality was that the people in those communities ate little to no meat made a big impression on me. I saw family members like my grandpa get quadruple bypass heart surgery due to clogged arteries – which is largely caused by too much cholesterol in the diet building up and blocking your arteries – and realized more and more the role that diet can play in living a long, healthy life.

And so, I became confident in my vegetarianism. I also became more conscious of where my meals and ingredients were coming from, and in the last few years, I’ve reduced my dairy intake a lot and eat vegan most of the time. I realized that I didn’t have to justify my plant-based lifestyle to anyone, and if people want to be judgmental about it, that’s on them, not me.

I focused my energy into turning my love for meat-free food into a passion, and I began this food blog. I got to meet other vegetarian food bloggers, who I drew inspiration and learned a lot from (still do!). I went to nutrition school and became a certified health coach, where I get to share my healthy living tips and tricks with clients and support them in their health challenges. These days, I also get paid to be a food writer, and sharing recipes is something that lets me be creative and makes me happy. I know in my heart that I’m eating a diet and leading a lifestyle that adheres to my values, and I feel good about that.

So while my belief in a meatless diet has never wavered, I feel like I’ve come a long way.

What else has come a long way is the popularity of plant-based eating and the prevalence of veg-friendly eateries. Not only are there more options for vegans and vegetarians at grocery stores and restaurants, veg-friendly events have become more popular in recent years too. It’s pretty amazing!

Last weekend marked a first for me: my very first vegan food festival! The event was called Eat Drink Vegan, and it took place at Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.

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Mediterranean Barley Stuffed Peppers

Hi friends!

How was your weekend? Did you celebrate St. Paddy’s Day? I was flying cross-country all day Friday on the actual holiday, but I had a chance to celebrate the Irish holiday yesterday with my parents. I’m in Jersey this week visiting family, and went to a winery yesterday with my parents that had a live Irish band playing. It made me want to be back in Ireland hanging out at pubs with my family!

So, let’s dive into the real topic at hand today: Mediterranean Barley Stuffed Peppers – an easy Meatless Monday dinner idea!

I’ve always been a fan of stuffed peppers, and for this recipe, I wanted to do something different in terms of grains. I usually will use brown rice for stuffed peppers, but this time I decided to try barley instead and loved it.

I like to make a nice sized pot of grains at the beginning of the week to use for a few different meals, so this time, I cooked up some barley and used some for this recipe, then some another night with veggie burgers and sautéed zucchini.

You can always swap out the barley for whatever other grain you feel like – such as farro, cous cous, or rice for a gluten free option.

These peppers take a Mediterranean twist with the inclusion of crumbled feta, red onion, artichoke hearts, avocado, red onion and portobello mushroom. I always love making meals Mediterranean-style because the ingredients commonly used in this type of fare are so healthy and flavorful!

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Potato Black Bean Soup [vegan + gluten free]

Lately the weather in the San Diego area has been nuts. Rain, rain, and more rain for the past month! This is usually the “rainy” season – though I use that term loosely – but this has been more rain than I’ve seen in my 7+ years in California.

For the state, this is good news! California’s reservoirs are swelling for the first time in half a decade, and the drought we’ve been in for years might be over if Mother Nature keeps it up.

With all of the rain lately, a few things have been happening in my world.

For one, my dog has been super whiny and energetic. She literally does sprints around the house when it’s raining out, and cries at the door yet doesn’t want to go outside and get wet… not that I blame her, I’ve been missing our outdoor workouts too.

Secondly, my backyard has been getting a little out of control. A few of my trees were close to falling over last week due to flooded soil and strong winds, and we did our best to temporarily secure them. My pool looks like it may overflow with a few more big rain storms, and I have about an entire tree’s worth of leaves in there. There are also a ton of oranges that have fallen off my front yard tree and gotten smushed in my driveway. Now you guys know a few of the things on my to-do list to take care of this weekend! 

And third, I’ve been obsessed with eating soup. There’s nothing better on a chilly, rainy day than a big bowl of healthy, hearty soup with a hunk of fresh bread. Add a fire crackling + hit play on a good movie, and that’s my idea of a perfect night in.

I realized that I haven’t posted any soup recipes this winter yet, and knew that had to change this month.

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Meatless Monday Recipe Idea: Black Bean Veggie Tacos with Cashew Cream [Gluten Free]

Hi friends!

Another weekend has flown by, and it was a good one for me. I kicked off my weekend with a much needed massage at the student massage school near me, San Jose National Holistic Institute. The students perform whatever massage they’ve been working on in school, and this time it was a Swedish massage. The masseuse did a good job of working on all of my achy muscles for an hour — for $20. Needless to say, it was awesome!

Afterwards I headed over to the mall to spoil myself a little, and I picked up a new Athleta workout top and some beauty loot from LUSH and Benefit Cosmetics. I’m kind of in love with LUSH. I spent some time in there playing around with things and wound up nabbing a facial cleanser and seaweed mask that I tested out and loved this weekend. I don’t go shopping often, so it was a treat!

shopping loot

Other highlights of my weekend included a mountain biking trip with gorgeous, peaceful scenery of rolling green hills…

biking trip-2

biking-1

biking trip-1

…long walks with happy puppies…

Harley in car

…and bright & beautiful meals like this one:

fennel salad

Fennel & arugula salad with dried cherries, honey roasted almonds and an EVOO + honey + white balsamic + sea salt dressing

It always seems like the weekends always zip by and Mondays are here before we know it right? And speaking of Mondays, today I’ve got a Meatless Monday recipe to share with you.

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One concern I hear often with people who want to make more meatless meals or go vegetarian is that they just aren’t sure what to make. For me, some dinners are planned out ahead of time when I go grocery shopping, others are decided the morning of, and some are figured out as I’m staring at my fridge, hungry and ready for dinner about 15 minutes prior. 

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Sometimes I like to just get creative with whatever’s in my cabinets and fridge. These kinds of meals can be the best kind of surprises. Last week, this recipe came together in 20 minutes flat.

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These tacos are easy to substitute different ingredients to suit your liking. It can be made vegan if you leave out the cheese, and you can skip the cashew cream and use regular sour cream or plain yogurt if you prefer.

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I ate one taco vegan-style, and one with shredded cheese. Both were yummy!

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Black Bean Veggie Tacos with Cashew Cream [Gluten Free]
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBSP green onion
  • ¼ white onion
  • 2 TBSP cilantro
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 vine ripe tomato
  • 8 small gluten free corn tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese, optional
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • Juice from ½ small lemon
  • 6 TBSP water
  • 1 TSP salt
  • ½ TSP chili pepper
  • ¼ TSP black pepper
Instructions
  1. Mince white onion. Warm olive oil in a large skillet, and sauté onion until lightly browned.
  2. Dice red pepper, zucchini, cilantro and green onion. Add to the skillet, and cook for 7 minutes or until veggies are tender.
  3. Dice tomato and avocado.
  4. Add black beans into the pan. Season with ½ TSP salt, chili pepper and black pepper. Stir until everything's well combined and the beans are warm. Remove from heat and add tomato and avocado into the veggie mixture.
  5. To make the cashew cream: Combine the raw cashews, remaining ½ TSP salt, lemon juice and water into a food processor and pulse until mostly smooth. You may want to add in more water to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Spoon veggies onto corn tortillas. Top with cashew cream and cheese, if using. Enjoy while they're warm!

 

Question: What was the last meatless dinner you made?