Veggin’ out

Happy New Year!

How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? Probably one of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight or at least become healthier.

Are you contemplating cutting out meat or starting a plant-based diet? Why not attempt a 30-day vegan (or at least vegetarian) challenge and see where it takes you?

You don’t know where to start?

Let me help you. I began my vegan journey by challenging myself to a 30-day vegan diet – just to see if I could do it – and it turned out to be more beneficial to me and my health than I anticipated.

Maybe it will do the same for you, maybe it won’t.

But it’s fun to challenge yourself every now and then to try to do something you think you might not be able to do.

It motivates you and gives you power. It’s exhilarating to accomplish something you set out to do and it gives you a sense of pride. Even if you do it only for 30 days, you still did it!

So, the first step is making the commitment.

Once you made your decision, you have to open your refrigerator and cupboards and see what you will need to use up before you start.

No one can afford to throw food away, so I suggest using all of the items that you won’t be able to eat anymore that will get bad, before you begin.

Either eat them up or give them to a friend to eat.

If you are just going the vegetarian route, decide how far you would like to go.

Will you simply cut out all meat and seafood, or will you also cut out things like chicken or beef broth, eggs and gelatin.

Next, 30-day vegetarians should purge their kitchens of meat and any other product they plan on eliminating for the month; 30-day vegans, purge your kitchens of all meat, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs and anything containing dairy products.

Check your bread to make sure it is not made with whey or honey. Read all of the ingredients on your packages and if you aren’t sure what something is, look it up.

Some basic items to pick up at the grocery store include fruits and vegetables.

Vegetables can be made a variety of different ways, so stock up, but not so much that they will go bad before you eat them.

Also grab some pasta made without eggs and meatless pasta sauce, a few bags or cans of beans like lentils or garbanzos, bread and rice.

Visit the natural food section of your grocery store for a few other items like tofu, meatless lunch meat and non-dairy cheese slices for sandwiches, veggie burgers or tofu hot dogs.

You also can pick up a few condiments like Vegenaise, Earth Balance butter, and dairy-free cream cheese or sour cream, depending on your personal tastes.

The most healthy way to go is to cook and prepare all of your food and not get pre-packaged items, but sometimes we just get too busy and don’t have time to cook, so some of these things help out when you’re in a hurry to eat.

Here are a few meals I make that take very little time to prepare.

Meatless tacos

1 12 ounce package meatless ground beef

1/2 cup water

1 package taco seasoning

Flour tortillas

Put meatless ground beef into a warm skillet and break apart meat with a spoon.

Cook until all meat is heated through, stirring constantly.

If meat sticks to the bottom of the pan or remains dry, add more water to moisten.

Add taco seasoning mix (check ingredients to make sure there are no animal products in mix) and combine.

I also add a few other seasonings to my meat like ground mustard, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Put warm meat on tortilla (check package ingredients) and top with desired toppings.

I prefer lettuce, tomato, onion, black olive slices, daiya cheddar style shreds cheese, Tofutti Sour Supreme sour cream and taco sauce.

Serve with rice and refried beans for a Mexican-style dinner.

Balsamic portabella mushroom caps

3 very large portabella mushroom caps

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.

Place mushroom caps in oil and pour 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over each cap. (Add more oil or vinegar as needed).

Sprinkle each cap with half of each spice and let cook for about three minutes.

Turn each cap over and pour renaming vinegar and spices on each cap.

Let cook for an additional one or two minutes or until heated through. Caps will shrink as they are cooking.

Sprinkle top of each cap with daiya mozzarella-style shreds cheese and eat alone, or put on a bun or bread with lettuce, tomato and onion as a sandwich.