Category Archives: cooking

our first cook-out as vegetarians

Sorry for the lack of updates lately.  It’s getting to the point in the semester for both of us where things are officially starting to get crazy.  Luckily it’s almost April, which means it’ll mostly be over in a little over a month, and we’ll finally be able to get back to the blog.  For a quick update, this afternoon we’re attending our first cook-out as vegetarians, and we’re going armed.  We’re bringing our own small grill (so we don’t have to worry about cross-contamination/meat getting on our food) and these two products:

We’ll blog about our reactions sometime after the cook-out.  The MorningStar Farms burgers just look like bigger versions of the veggie burgers we already like.  The Yves “The Good Dog” fake meat hot dogs were on sale so we figured we’d give them a go, though I’m a little nervous after my past experience with LightLife Smart Dogs (they were AWFUL).  If these are better, it’ll make grilling this summer a lot more fun.

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review: light life “backyard grill’n burgers”

Here’s my fairly quick review, since I feel pretty out of my league discussing food.  Ashley and I both agreed on two basic elements of these burgers:

1) The texture was great–they feel exactly like burgers in your mouth.  (This is a far cry from those black bean burgers, which felt like black beans in your mouth.)

2) The flavor was really bland–almost like a blank palate.  These burgers weren’t bad per se, they just didn’t taste much at all.  We both ended up putting a lot of ketchup and mustard on our burgers.

Diagnosis: 3/5 veggie stars up.  B-.

superbowl quesadillas and MORE FOOD

And…a recipe.  I made these black bean quesadillas to take over to our friend’s house for the Super Bowl. They’re really easy and fun to make and taste pretty good.  They’re especially great when augmented with some sauce; you can dab a bit of salsa inside before you cook them.  Ryan and I like the fire-roasted Taco Bell sauce in these.  They are pretty spicy, though.

Ingredients:
Whole wheat tortillas (how many you need depends on how many quesadillas you’re making)
One can black beans, drained and rinsed
A couple of habanero and serrano chiles, diced and de-seeded (though you can leave the seeds in depending on your preference for heat level.  I usually remove at least half of the seeds and I like stuff really hot).
Shredded cheese of your choice; I like a basic Mexican-blend

Instructions:
These are so easy to assemble.  1) Rinse your black beans and drain them in a colander.  2) Dice your peppers—de-seed them if you don’t want too much heat, leave in some seeds if you want them spicy (serranos are pretty hot).  Be careful when you handle these, too, by the way.  You may want to wear a pair of gloves when you de-seed them and chop them.  3) Layer in your cheese, black beans, peppers, and top with more cheese and salsa/sauce if desired, and then fold your tortilla in half.  How much you stuff in there is totally up to you.  You could also try shoving some onions in there or anything else you think works.  4) Heat a bit of oil in a pan over medium heat, and cook your quesadillas on each side until golden brown and cheese melts.

We’re also fans of the frozen falafel we’ve bought at Trader Joe’s a few times.  Last time I made these I attempted some tzatziki from scratch that turned out alright, and they’re super easy to heat up.

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veggie burger review: sorry hilary, it’s not you, it’s me

We’ve heard rave reviews about some of the Hilary’s Eat Well brand veggie burgers (the company, indeed, claims to make ‘The World’s Best Veggie Burger’) so we were excited to try them.  Hilary’s is local, too; Hilary the chef is not only the creative source behind the actual burgers but she’s also the owner of Lawrence institution Local Burger, which we admittedly didn’t dine at much before (though, fun fact: Local Burger is the first restaurant I ate at in Lawrence, before I even lived here).  Local Burger serves these veggie burgers and they’re also available for purchase in the frozen section of Checkers grocery store, and they’re not bad bargains when they’re on sale, which seems to be pretty often.  They come two in a pack and we bought one pack of each variety, and tonight we finally got around to trying the Adzuki Bean Burgers for dinner.

Look, I like what Hilary’s is doing.  Local, organic, real ingredients are hard to come by in the frozen foods section.  And the burger had an alright taste.  I just could not buy the texture, which was really crumbly and grainy and just not up my alley.  I pan-seared these suckers and they kept falling apart in the pan, which was a bit annoying (there are other cooking instructions so I might have tried cooking them a different way for a better result).  I’m sure it’s a personal preference thing; I just didn’t enjoy them as much as Boca Burgers, which have the texture nailed down really well.

We topped these with pepperjack cheese and served them on whole wheat buns with a simple salad and some Trader Joe’s french fries.

We’ve still got some of the regular Hilary’s veggie burgers in the freezer that we’ll try soon, and I’ll review those when we get around to eating them.

Ryan’s Brief Review

Agreed with Ashley on all counts.  The taste was pretty good, but then I like beans; the texture made it seem not that different from simply putting beans on a bun and eating it.  It wasn’t disgusting or anything, it was just a little off-putting.  (Note: I’m the type of person who might actually put beans on a bun and eat it.)  The fries, conversely, were fire, and the salad was as my kids would say ‘crispy’.

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vegetarian products, grocery store-style

Just a quick update: I’ve gotten into the habit of scoping out vegetarian products in different grocery stores here in town and we found these three today that I’ve never seen before, all at Dillons on Sixth and Wakarusa:

I’ve never really been into LeanCuisine meals (they’re kind of sodium-heavy) but it’s pretty cool that they’re offering this apparently new line of ‘VeggieCuisine’ stuff.  This particular entree has Gardein fake chick’n product in it.  A web search doesn’t reveal much and Lean Cuisine’s website isn’t terribly helpful, but what I can gather is that there are four entrees in their “Spa Collection” which are labeled “VeggieCuisine.”

I didn’t think I had heard of this Lightlife brand of stuff, but it’s another frozen dinner with fake chicken in it, sitting right there above the Boca and Morningstar Farms stuff at Dillons.  Bonus: it’s relevant to my dissertation (see where it says “Giving back 5% since 1979”)? A quick web search tells me that Lightlife is responsible for a lot of the meat-free products that I’m already familiar with (and frankly don’t exactly enjoy), like Smart Dogs and Smart Deli fake meats—this looks like both a rebranding effort and the introduction of a new line of products from this company.  There’s some info in a PDF at their website.  This line of stuff certainly looks better than those awful fake hot dogs, but according to the PDF most of these are off-limits thanks to my fungus allergy.  We didn’t buy any of the above products, but we did decide to try some of these “Backyard Grill’n Burgers,” because they were on sale and were cheaper than the Boca burgers on this trip:

I’m excited to try these but it might be a while, since we still have some different veggie burgers in the freezer that we need to review at some point.  It’s great that these types of products are available out here and for the most part aren’t prohibitively expensive.

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two weeks in

We’ve passed the two-week mark in the challenge, so here’s a quick update on how things are going.  We haven’t had any major malfunctions with vegetarianism—it’s actually been pretty cool that so far we haven’t had to make any huge changes to our diets.  I will admit that going to Steak ‘n Shake and not getting a burger was pretty damn difficult, but the milkshakes are still delicious.  Boca Burgers are definitely growing on me—so much so that we haven’t yet bothered to try any different brands of veggie burgers.  The other night for dinner I made this salad, which was damn delicious:


I’m going to be bummed when Honeycrisp apples disappear from the grocery stores soon, because this salad was one of the best I’ve ever made: spinach and spring mix, walnuts, Honeycrisp apples, this AMAZING honey-Chevre cheese from Trader Joe’s, carrots, and a honey vinaigrette.  Ryan approved as well.  This is relevant because this is definitely the type of salad I would have put apple-wood-smoked bacon on in the past—for what reason other than bacon is delicious, I’m not really sure, because this salad stands on its own pretty well.  I guess I’m still having a hard time removing the indoctrinated idea that meat=protein=necessary for your existence.  I know it’s not true, and I know humans eat way more protein than their bodies actually need, but it’s hard to get rid of some of the crap that you’ve been hearing all your life.  So far I’d say we’ve been doing pretty okay with the vegetarianism.

For charity: Ryan’s doing his thing and has updated about it.  I just got a confusing letter about my merit raise and I still have no idea how much money I’m making this year, but as soon as I do, I’ll figure out what 2% will be and post about where I decide to make my first donation.  Our friend has brought up some really good criticisms of Médecins Sans Frontières so I’m considering a different option.

Recycling: Nothing really to say about this, but our IKEA bags are working fabulously and we’re due to make a recycling trip soon-ish.  I will say that we got pretty angry about finding a new telephone book outside of our door this afternoon.  I need to figure out whether or not there’s a way to opt out of receiving a phone book in the future, because they are fucking worthless and they just go straight into the recycling bin.

Volunteering: I haven’t heard anything from 4-H yet (today was a holiday), and their application did mention that they would check all of my references.  I’ll give them a week before I contact someone and ask about the status of my application.  I’m chomping at the bit to start volunteering so I may go forward with the DCAP if 4-H takes their sweet time.

We’re sailing toward the end of our first month of ethical living and we haven’t hit any major roadblocks yet: I’d say so far the project has been pretty successful.  More updates to follow!

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boca burgers: the verdict

Ultimately, not that bad.  I’d say that they do not satisfy the burger craving (as they do not taste like burgers), but they oddly satisfy the sandwich craving; they are, after all, something between pieces of bread.  3 stars.  B+!

Ah, and this post shall also serve as a reminder (to myself) to post about my epic last day of being a carnivore (December 31st).  Stay tuned!

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notes:

doritos = vegetarian-friendly

Also, tonight is my first ever Boca Burger.  More on this as it develops.  But I’ve got Ashley cooking for me, so I’m set.

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Dinner

We’re having Boca Burgers for dinner tonight.  I don’t remember them being too cardboard-y (I tried an experiment in vegetarianism some years ago) but I haven’t eaten one in quite a while.  Ryan loves cheeseburgers more than just about every other food, so I expect these will leave something to be desired, but hopefully they’re serviceable.  My meat-free burger options are surprisingly limited due to my fungus sensitivity (a lot of the “veggie” burgers contain mushrooms in some form, which I can’t eat)—these are soy protein and I’ve been able to handle them in the past, so they should be okay for me to eat.

The last couple of nights we’ve had pasta for dinner.  I’m sort of convinced that the vegetarian aspect of this won’t be incredibly difficult for us; we’re mostly just meat-eaters when we go out, and I rarely prepare meat at home anyway (you’d be amazed at what four years of cooking professionally does to your cooking-at-home mojo).  It’s only been a few days, though, so time will tell.

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ETHICAL/year2012

Hello.  We are Ashley and Ryan, and we are embarking on an experiment in living for 2012 that we’re calling “A Year of Living Ethically.”  We’ll write about our adventures and challenges in ethical living here.  Our next post will involve a detailed plan/outline of our project, which will begin officially on January 1, 2012.