a celebration


As of seven o’clock yesterday evening, I have been a vegetarian for a full year. a full year! No slip-ups, no back-tracking; no seafood, poultry, beef, pork, or wild game (or any of their broths or flavourings) of any kind. I went from being a omnivore to an herbivore, overnight. I do use cage-free, organic eggs in my baking and occasional meals (from vegetarian-fed hens who have not been pumped up on steroids and antiobiotics), and infrequently have a little bit of good cheese in the house. We drink and cook with almond milk, not cow’s milk. When I became a vegetarian, some people were completely befuddled – why, when I already have to be careful what I eat, why would I limit myself more?

There were a few reasons, these are a few (ranked in order of importance):

* Compassion. Animals are intelligent, creatures, and the idea that any living, breathing creature would be slaughtered just to feed a craving puts my stomach in knots.

* Health. I’m much healthier, not eating meat. Living on grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables has made me stronger and trimmer, more easily able to focus, and given me quite an energy boost.

* Environment. The average American consumes 185 pounds of meat every year; that fact alone is incredible, not even including how much land and water are used by raising those animals and preparing them for slaughter.

In celebration of the one-year mark, we had a veritable feast. Our grocery store just started carrying a line of gluten-free tortillas, and I picked up a package of them just the day before. On the menu? Cilantro-Lime Rice, Cumin Black Beans, and Fiesta-Style Peppers, with sides and toppings. Oh, my. Since there are only two of us, and I made quite a bit of food, we had leftovers for a couple more meals, and were really sad when we finished them off.

lime for fiesta!

Cumin Black Beans
2 cans (15 ounces) prepared black beans (I use Bush’s)
1 small onion
2 Tablespoons cumin
1/4 Teaspoon chili powder
1/8 Teaspoon ground coriander
Sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro leaves
Sprinkle of fresh lime zest
Small splash canola oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Drain and rinse the beans, reserving the liquid from one of the cans. Place the beans in a 2-quart pan, over medium-high heat. Finely chop 1/2 medium onion, and mix it, the spices, cilantro leaves, lime zest, oil, and salt + pepper into the beans. Stir gently until mixed; try not to break up the beans. If you can’t see liquid, add a Tablespoon or two of water into the pan. When the liquid starts to simmer, cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Stir occasionally.

Cilantro-Lime Rice
2 cups long-grain rice, such as Basmati
3 cups water
1/4 Teaspoon fresh lime zest
Juice of one lime
1-2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves *
Dash sea salt
Splash canola oil

Place all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot. Cook rice according to package directions. When finished, use a serving spoon to fluff it (and to mix the cilantro leaves in, if they’ve risen to the top during cooking),

* Note: How much cilantro you put in depends on how big a fan you are of it. I still swear it smells like Ivory soap, but use it because I understand that it does impart a flavor to the dish – I just don’t use a ton of it. People who like cilantro would, of course, use more.

Fajita-Style Peppers
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium yellow bell pepper
1/2 poblano pepper
1 small/medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon canola oil
Dash ground red pepper
Sprinkle oregano
Dash paprika
sea salt and ground black pepper

Deseed and julienne all the peppers, except for the poblano, which should be finely sliced. Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons. Sautee the garlic and onions with the spices and oregano until you can smell the flavors, but not until the onions are translucent. Add in the peppers and turn up the heat, tossing until just barely cooked; the peppers should still have a little bit of a crunch.

If serving with tortillas, warm the tortillas between wet paper towels in the microwave for 30 seconds; this makes them softer and more pliable. This meal is also delicious without tortillas; just serve the beans and peppers on a bed of the rice.

chopped fresh tomatoes
sliced black olives
shredded cheeses

5 Responses to “a celebration”

  1. 1 Brian D. February 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

    While I certainly respect the choice to become vegetarian with today’s farming practices, I don’t think “animal farm” and “compassion” are mutually exclusive. Have you read Michael Polan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma”? He spends a lot of time talking about Joel Salatin’s farm in Virginia. (He also spends nearly a third of book condemning the modern methods of meat processing.)

  2. 2 lemoineau February 22, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Hi Brian,

    I’ve begun it, but haven’t finished it yet; but Michael Pollan is a great author. Have you picked up “In Defense of Food”? That book was amazing!

    You see, while I don’t think that they are necessarily mutually exclusive, or mutually exclusive for everyone, they are for me, at this point. I do reserve the right to change my mind at some point, if there is something that can convince me otherwise. I wouldn’t condemn anyone else for eating meat, especially if it’s humanely raised and slaughtered (I know there are “clean” ways, but it makes me laugh/shudder every time I hear it; it just sounds like such an oxymoron). I do really appreciate the fact that there are people who are conscientiously raising animals, paying attention to their needs, even as they are raised to be killed for meat.

    And I do think that it’s a personal, individual decision. But, you see, I was completely conflicted my entire life over eating meat. After I stopped last year, I have felt much more comfortable, and, just showing what a huge deal it had been mentally for me: I had had terrible, vicious nightmares every single night for as long as I can remember. Night sweats, chills, people chasing me, stabbing me, shooting me, kidnapping me, killing me. Every. Single. Night. I quit eating meat, and I have had ONE nightmare in the past 365 days. Good grief! I can actually sleep well now, it’s amazing.

  3. 3 Brian February 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    If meat did that to me I’d probably avoid it, too.

    I did start “In Defense of Food” but about the time I got into it a handful of books that I’d requested to the library came in and so I started reading them instead. I do plan on going back and finishing it. I agree that Polan is a terrific author.

    Having grown up on a small farm, the idea of humanely raising animals appeals to me.

    I do think that Americans, in general, eat far too much meat. I always laugh (on the inside, of course) when somebody tells me that they absolutely *must* have meat with every meal. Abbey and I eat meat perhaps once every couple of weeks, and I find that my health does not suffer due to it.

    I certainly have a healthy respect for anyone that watches what they eat, and tries to eat in a healthy manner, avoiding the diet thrust upon us by our culture! Hooray for intelligent eaters! :D

  4. 4 lemoineau February 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Oh, I agree that Americans (in general, as you said), tend to eat too much – incredible amounts! – of meat. In addition to the fact that raising all that cattle taking up a terrific amount of natural resources, it’s expensive to eat that much meat!

    I, too, respect people who pay attention to what they put into their bodies. I avoid corn products/byproducts, with the exception of xanthan gum, which I need for baking. It always boggles my mind at how insidious corn is (or, rather, the corn industry promoters), working its way into nearly every processed food in some form or another. Yikes!

  5. 5 Mom February 23, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Although I inadvertently excluded the avocado, the recipe otherwise was DELICIOUS. I made it again Sunday morning to take to the monthly church family dinner. The little that was leftover we ate last night for supper. Rice has always been one of those ‘dangerous’ dishes for me because I love it – those dishes that don’t have easily-definable boundaries -so I will probably not make this too often just because this is the best rice dish I’ve ever had!!

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