To Be Vegetarian or Not…?

It seems like every month there is a new article about the benefits of a more plant based diet. The main reasons seem to be for you to improve your personal health and combat climate change in the world. Now, before I continue I have a quick disclaimer. I am not a vegetarian. I tried to be once upon a time when I first converted to Buddhism but like some of my carnivorous friends, I struggled to  find healthy and tasty recipes that I could not grow bored of.  After a month, I was tired of having salad every other day. In the end, I went back to my previous diet of meat and potatoes but was still hoping to slowly make the transition to a lesser carnivorous diet. So with this new information regarding plant based diets, I thought I would cross my fingers and try to transition more vegetarian recipes or less meat based recipes to my diet with the help of The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen.

Now I have other cook books from America’s Test Kitchen and have watched their program several times over the years. The recipes are easy to follow with full colored images of the cooking process, easy to understand cooking instructions, and ideas for variations on the recipes. This helped me make the decision to try The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen to have a more vegetarian or less meat based diet. I picked three different recipes from the book to start changing my diet with.

The first recipe that I selected was Farfalle with Sautéed Mushrooms and Thyme. This was a major hit with my non vegetarian family. It was cheesy and savory. Our stomaches felt satisfied and we didn’t even eat dessert that night! We added cubed baked chicken to the dish since my family are not big vegetarians but were able to cut back on the amount of chicken typically used in a chicken based pasta dish because of the savory noodles with mushrooms gives you that meat-like taste without the meat!

The second recipe was Vegetable Bibimbap. This was an okay dish. The cooked spinach and mushrooms with soy and rice vinegar sauce was super delicious. I could have eaten that by itself. The pickled vegetables were super vinegary but helped add other flavors to what can be a bland dish.  I just would add some sugar to the pickling liquid and cut back part of the rice vinegar. The sunny-side egg was a nice rich element that help pour onto the rice to add a decadent element. However, the rice was not cooked. I followed the recipe in the cookbook vs. what was on the package. I regret it so I suggest skipping the rice recipe and cook the rice on the stove top or rice cooker like you normal would. Once again, we add some bulgogi beef from H Mart but cut back our usual cooking amount because of the amount of food that was in our rice bowls. 

The third recipe was Fettuccine with Walnut Cream Sauce. Now this was a failure in my book, but my family thought it was ok. I was intrigued by the unusual nut sauce for pasta that was not a part of my normal Italian recipe book. We didn’t add meat to this dish to try it as it was intended. However, the pasta was bland. It lacked the richness of a normal cream sauce and the powerful flavors that I usually love in my cooking. I wouldn’t redo this recipe but my family that liked it said they would add more cream and cheese to thicken the sauce and hopefully develop more of the flavors.

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen showed me that cooking vegetarian cooking doesn’t need to be bland or unsatisfying. You can cook a wide variety of different styles of food from Asian to Italian. You just need to think with your vegetables first then if needed you can add just a pinch of meat. So as long as you are willing to try to learn and practice a more plant based diet then you will see the benefits in your health and the climate.

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