Beyond Burger

A recent trip through Kroger revealed a refrigerated case full of Beyond Burger patties near the check out. I squealed like a little girl and grabbed a package to try.

I’ve had Beyond Burger in restaurants but never had the opportunity to cook it at home.

In case you’re not familiar, it is a simulated beef that contains no meat or dairy. If you eat beef every day, it may be a clear imposter. However, if you’re like me and haven’t tasted cow in a while, it’s a convincing replacement. The texture and taste are great but I will admit that it doesn’t smell quite right. It doesn’t smell bad – just not right. However, it cooks up nicely with no shrinkage and good flavor.

If you are a beef eater and are happy doing that, say no more. Do your thing. I’m not interested in pushing my choices off on anyone.

If you’re interested in eating less meat, this might be a good way to ease into it. And if you’re vegan or vegetarian like me, it’s a fun way to have something that reminds you of your old life without harming an animal or eating meat.

When I stopped eating meat some years ago, there were few faux meats worth eating. Thankfully, many advancements have been made and the options are broadening rapidly. It’s fun rolling up to Burger King for an Impossible Whopper or finding really good fake chicken tenders in the frozen food section.

This stuff is still processed and not something we should be eating every day but it’s a great treat and I highly recommend giving Beyond Burger a whirl if you’re so inclined.

Happiness Is…

Happiness is a homemade meal that comes together in mere minutes. This veggie enchilada dish allowed me to use up odds and ends of yellow squash, onion, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and spinach that might have been wasted. It took just a few minutes to prep and twenty minutes to bake!

Happiness is also homemade “Nicecream” made in the blender with just three ingredients – all of which have names you can pronounce!

Eating At Home

As things start to open up in my state, everyone I know seems to be dying for a restaurant meal. I can honestly say that eating in a restaurant is almost at the bottom of my list of things to do.

It may be because I’m a decent cook and know how to prepare meals exactly the way I like them. It’s partly because restaurants in my area aren’t interested in people who wish to eat healthy or who eat plant based.

Sad salads and greasy grilled cheese sandwiches are the standard faire for vegetarians in my area. A few nicer restaurants in neighboring towns offer the Beyond Burger or a black bean burger but most vegetarians or vegans are better off just staying at home in my part of the state.

Personally, I eat mostly vegan at home and hope for vegan but am happy with vegetarian in restaurants. I tend to use eating out as an excuse to have pizza or some other really bad cheat dish because the options are so slim.

The above picture is from my lunch yesterday – just a simple sauce packed with veggies over soy noodle spaghetti and a nice little salad. All the ingredients came from Aldi and nothing was expensive.

Dessert was this big bowl of berries. Easy, simple and delicious!

People act like those of us who don’t eat meat or dairy are asking for something ridiculously hard to achieve. It’s really not when you stick to simple ingredients.

So I’ll just continue doing my thing at home and be happy. At least cooking at home is cheaper than take-out!

Cheese Sauce?

It’s hard to believe but it’s been about six months since a vegan friend encouraged me to try his way of eating for thirty days

This plant based journey has taught me a lot but one of the most valuable lessons is that it’s important to make the right choices for yourself in the kitchen.

Many vegan cooks manipulate ingredients in attempts to recreate familiar dishes in new, plant based and healthier ways. For example, there are scores of recipes on the internet to help you create a “cheese” sauce, ideal for nachos, mac and cheese and scores of comfort food dishes that you may remember from your past life consuming dairy.

I’ve tried a few of these imaginative recipes. Many use cashews and nutritional yeast. Some add a host of seasonings or use roasted red peppers. Nearly all create a neon orange sauce that resembles melted Velveeta. Well, resembles it in appearance at least.

In taste, perhaps not so much.

I have finally learned to cut the recipes in half so that I don’t feel as bad throwing away nearly all the completed product. After the last batch, I stood in the kitchen for a long time, contemplating whether to throw it away right then or stash the concoction in the fridge with hopes I would think of some way to salvage the two cups of mediocrity.

In other words, should I throw it away now or wait till later? This is the inner dialogue sometimes.

I’ve met plenty of people who think these recipes are great. Lots of bloggers, online reviewers and even some real life friends rave about how tasty, how authentically cheesy their favorite recipe is.

I’m happy for them but it’s not for me.

From now on, if I want mac and cheese, I’ll go to a restaurant and enjoy the real thing. It can be a treat, something to be savored and enjoyed occasionally.

For me, plant based eating should be about eating clean and eating well. There’s little more delicious than sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers and zucchini heaped on top of a baked potato. No sauces, just some pepper and sea salt to taste. In-season blueberries are so delicious they’re hard to resist and homemade soup packed with veggies makes for a tasty dinner.

All of these things can be enjoyed in the simplest form possible. Torturing ingredients into forms they weren’t mean to take on isn’t necessary or worthwhile when you have such tasty meals and snacks at your disposal.

I’ll save my cashews for snacks and occasionally treat myself to the authentic cheesy dish.

After all, food is meant to nourish the body but I think it’s also meant to enjoy. It’s ok to take a break, especially if you’re doing it infrequently. At least, that’s the right choice for me.

Healthy Eating On The Go

Eating healthy on the go is tough. Eating healthy and plant based on the go is nearly impossible.

A lot of times I just need something to grab and go, preferably to eat in the car. These choices are deplorable. Yet, when there’s time to sit down for a meal, the choices are almost as bad.

Everything is double meat, loaded down with cheese, packed with sodium and deep fried. It’s all bread and pasta and sad little iceberg lettuce salads that are also smothered in cheese and croutons.

Yuck.

I’ve come to accept that true plant based healthy eating isn’t easy and often impossible in the outside world. A packed lunch can remedy the problem some days but isn’t always feasible.

I have figured out that Meijer is a great source for healthful food. They offer a nice selection of fresh salads and cups of cut up fruits. Some salads have meat while others like their Mediterranean, garden salad or nuts and berry salad are meat free. And yeah, it’s a lot of fruit if the salad contains fruit but it’s better than going hungry!

About $5 for a salad and $2-3 for a cup of fresh fruit and it’s more nutritious than the Impossible Whopper at BK which is the usual alternative.

The above picture shows a salad I had for dinner in Michigan last month and a container of fruit I had bought for breakfast.

When I do have the opportunity to eat in a restaurant at a table with a knife and fork like a real human, it’s fun to enjoy a treat that I normally don’t have. Pizza comes to mind. So does diner grub like grilled cheese or pancakes. I have adopted a sort of go big or go home mentality when it comes to these dining experiences – enjoy the grilled cheese and fries in the great old diner atmosphere but go back to normal eating the next meal.

It’s not a great plan but it works.

So I’m dying to know- what are your healthy eating on the go tips? Bonus points if you have vegan ideas!

Eating Well Doesn’t Mean Eating Boring

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about healthy eaters, especially plant based eaters, is that their food is dull or that they just eat salads and big bowls of broccoli.

Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

I went plant based just a little over three months ago and think of myself as an imperfect vegan. That means that all the food I prepare is plant based but that healthy eating in the real world is hard. So when I’m out, I just do my best. Sometimes that means an Impossible Burger with a side of fries and broccoli. Sometimes it means a grilled pimento cheese sandwich and chips at a fabulous old soda fountain.

I aim to eat plant based 90 percent of the time. However, I want to eat good food all the time.

Yesterday I made some delicious pancakes to freeze for a rainy day. These wheat pancakes with plump blueberries are as delicious as any restaurant pancakes I’ve ever tasted, especially when paired with pure maple syrup.

I also made some hot chocolate with cocoa, a little stevia, almond milk and vanilla. There was a companion recipe for homemade marshmallow that I was too lazy to make despite how easy it sounded. Nonetheless, it was a tasty cup of hot chocolate to finish off a day of Christmas wrapping.

While it was good, it was missing something- maybe the homemade marshmallow? Maybe just a little more sweetener? I’m not sure but will work to improve it until I’m happy.

Then there was the pot of homemade bean soup – three kinds of beans, vegetable broth, onions and carrots simmered to create a mouth watering soup for work lunches this week.

The point is that I’m not deprived and am as happy as a clam with most of the food I make.

It’s actually a lot of fun to play in the kitchen, trying new things and learning from the occasional mistake. The mistakes are ok because I typically learn a valuable lesson and rarely make the same mistake twice. Also, it’s a sign that I’m trying new things and that my diet is no longer limited to the same five things I used to make all the time.

This is a good thing!

Thinking about reducing your meat and dairy or maybe just trying to eat a little healthier? Try choosing one dish that you enjoy and seek out a healthier recipe for that dish. Pancakes or soups are a great place to start. Try healthifying just one dish a week and you might be surprised how much you enjoy the changes.

Seven Ways To Eat Healthy On the Cheap (Advice From A Frugal Adventurer)

Think you can’t afford to eat healthy? Think again.

Healthy eating is no more expensive than the average American diet of fast and processed food if you are willing to cook, plan and adapt your menu to what’s readily available. Since going vegan, I have cut out most processed foods and actually spend less on groceries despite the assumptions of many that it is more costly.

This is important to me because money saved on the simple and mundane throughout the year helps to fund my adventures!

Here are a few tips for getting started!

  1. Eat in Season – Eating in season is one of the most delicious ways you’ll ever save money. That’s because in season food is plentiful, cheap and delicious. For example, blueberries are as tasty as candy during their summer peak season. Zucchini is incredibly cheap and is great in stir fry, fritters and even in chocolate chip zucchini bread. Winter oranges are delicious, portable snacks for just a few cents per serving!
  2. Focus on Frozen – The frozen food section is your friend. I never buy the cook-in-the- bag stuff because it’s more expensive and unnecessary if you want to use just small amounts at a time. There are certain things you will always find in my freezer including assorted fruit for breakfast smoothies and frozen pineapple which is as good as ice cream! Then there’s always frozen hashbrowns, broccoli, sweet corn, peas and other vegetables. Look at the labels and seek out the things that have nothing in them except what you want to buy. The ingredients list of frozen hashbrowns should just say potatoes and the corn should just contain corn. If there are sweeteners, preservatives or anything else, leave them in the store. 
  3. Keep your shelves stocked – To accompany #2, there are a few other staples in my kitchen including rice and pasta in the pantry. In the fridge you’ll find marinara, salsa and barbeque sauce next to the mustard and salad dressings. These things keep for a while and are great condiments for all sorts of things.
  4. Use What You Have and Rethink Leftovers- This is easy to do when the pantry is stocked. Also, learn to view leftovers as ingredients rather than something to be tolerated. On Sunday, I used bits and pieces of things to make a delicious lunch. A handful of leftover onions and peppers got sauteed with the end of a bag of frozen hashbrowns to make a base for a bowl. I added some canned black beans, leftover frozen corn, salsa from the fridge and some fresh spinach (that I keep for salads and smoothies) to make a big bowl of spicy goodness. It was delicious and took just a few minutes to throw together. Note that I kept the ingredients separate until making my bowl. Now there are containers of leftover beans, corn and the potatoes seasoned with onion and peppers in the fridge waiting for another meal. The potatoes will be repurposed as a side one night and the corn and beans will go into a salad.
  5. Cook – There’s not way around it. If you want to eat healthy, you have to prepare your meals. Prepackaged meals are expensive and not especially good for you given all the  preservatives, artificial colors, sweeteners, etc. they contain. When you prepare your own meals, you take control over the ingredients and can often save money. That little bag of frozen mashed potatoes is $3 but you can buy a big bag of potatoes that will provide for many meals for about the same price. You can buy bags of frozen smoothie mixes that are packed with sugar or you can make your own with almond milk and frozen fruit for less money.
  6. Batch Cook – And if you’re going to cook, you may as well make a little extra or save your leftovers for the freezer. For example, a double batch of homemade pancakes can be made healthfully and inexpensively. Freeze the extras to warm in the microwave as you need them. I love vegetable soup so leftovers get frozen in two serving containers – ready to reheat at a moment’s notice on a cold, winter night.
  7. Cut Down On Expensive Stuff – This should go without saying but it never hurts to point out that there may be expensive items that you can reduce or eliminate. Meat, cheese and packaged snacks are expensive. Snack on seasonal fruits and veggies, use cheese sparingly and embrace meatless meals for a few meals a week.

There are tons of ways you can save money in the kitchen and make eating healthfully affordable. It’s hard and even intimidating to change your habits but you may find that a little planning and simple preparation will save you money. And if you’re not accustomed to cooking you may find that it’s a process you enjoy!

Are you a healthy eater? What do you do to cut expenses? Tell me in the comments!