Road Trip Snacks

I am going out of town for the rest of the week for a road trip down to Oklahoma. Since I used to stock up on snacks such as beef jerky, Slim Jims, and ham sandwiches for long trips I had to rework my normal pre-trip shopping list.  I’ve also been trying to eat healthier so I didn’t just want to substitute chips for every snack I used to take. Here are a few of the great snacks I found at the store that are both vegetarian and low in calories.

Dole Mango Fruit Bites – These are little 80 calorie packs of dried mango coated with yogurt and tasted oats. They taste great and are filling. It’s also a decent source of Vitamin C and the individual packets make them easy to take on the road. They also come in apple and pineapple flavors if you are not a fan of mango. I found them next to the dried fruit at my local grocery store.

World Table Garlic Rice Thins – These rice thins are oven-baked and have just a slight hint of garlic. You can have 30 of these crackers for only 140 calories, which is perfect for an afternoon snack. These are actually distributed by Wal-Mart, so that’s where you’ll have to go find them. They were located near the pita chips and the bread isle at my Wal-Mart.

Materne GoGo Squeez Applesauce – These little pouches of applesauce are perfect for the road. they are squeezable so you don’t need a spoon and they come with a cap so you can reseal them if necessary. There are only 60 calories per pouch and they contain an entire serving of fruit. These are good for kids and adults alike – the only draw back is that they are a bit expensive: $2.49 for 4.

I will also be bringing granola bars and reduced fat Wheat Thins for the trip as well as some fresh fruit. These three snacks were things I hadn’t seen before and they should make for healthy meat-centric snack replacements.


Best Non-Dairy Milk Choices

Even though I’m not a vegan, I am lactose intolerant, which means I have to lay off the milk. Over the last year or so I’ve tried many non-dairy milk options (aside from soy milk), and I’ve come across some that are great, and some that aren’t. This is a run-down of some of the options available along with my recommendations.

Original Rice Milk: Original rice milk is one of my personal favorites. Rice Dream brand is the one that I usually purchase, and although the taste is a bit grainy, overall it is the best replacement for regular milk that I’ve found. The taste is acquired, but the nice thing about rice milk is that it’s not too sweet nor is it too bitter. Rice milk is much thinner than even skim milk, so it’s not the best for putting on cereal or for mixing with things such as tomato soup.

Carob Rice Milk: Sometimes I like to enjoy chocolate milk, and to keep it lactose-free, Rice Dream uses carob for their version of chocolate milk. Again, I like this one because it is not too sweet, but it’s nice to have a little flavor on occasion.

Vanilla Rice Milk: Vanilla rice milk is much like the original rice milk, only it’s a little sweeter. It’s good for getting in your daily calcium, however, it’s generally good on its own.

Unsweetened Almond Milk: I do not like the flavor of unsweetened almond milk. It is extremely bitter and tastes very much like almonds. Unlike rice milk, the consistency is closer to regular milk, but you should avoid using it recipes as the almond taste is overwhelming.

Chocolate Almond Milk: The chocolate almond milk I bought, Almond Dream brand, is actually very tasty. The almond taste is almost completely masked by the chocolate flavor. The only complaint is that I can’t drink too much of it because it is overly sweet.

One thing to note is that none of these non-dairy options are good for replacing milk in recipes. Soy milk is the best replacement as it is the closest in consistency and flavor to cow’s milk. If you are looking to cut out cow’s milk from your diet, I hope this gives you a good intro into your options. You should also note that these options cost two to three times as much as regular milk, but they do last much longer and many of these are available in shelf-stable packaging.


Getting Over the Guilt

Once a month my work caters in lunch. Since I stopped eating meat the amount of choices I have at these lunches have dwindled down, sometimes to nothing. Not wanting to sound as insufferable as I am, I only casually mentioned something about there not being any meatless options to our HR department.

It ended up being a bigger deal than it was (I could always just bring my lunch on those days), but they did try to accommodate me. Instead of being able to enjoy my garden vegetable soup though, I was racked with feelings of guilt. I had, in a sense, forced their hand into what they were going to be serving for lunch, and I felt awful about it. Later, when someone from our HR department mentioned to me that I could take what was left of the soup (and she was sure to mention that there was A LOT left), I felt even worse.

These feelings of guilt aren’t just limited to work. My mother-in-law has been trying, sometimes desperately, to make me something that I can eat that constitutes as an actual meal. Every time we go there for dinner I tell her not to worry about it and that I can figure something out on my own, but she tries anyway. This makes me feel bad. I feel bad that she has to make multiple meals and that she has to deal with my insufferable ways.

However, I got to thinking about my feelings of guilt, and I realized that there’s nothing to feel guilty about. I’ve chosen a lifestyle that is different from most of those around me, and I’m ok with that. I will gladly pack my own lunch, and even my own dinner, but people are choosing to be accommodating. So I will let them continue with their efforts, but I will also continue to tell them that they need not feel obligated to feed me. If they choose to make me something anyway, I will try my hardest not to feel guilty about being difficult.


Broiled Tofu Recipe

So the tofu I tried out last night was absolutely delicious, and another bonus: it didn’t kill me! I plan on making this many more times while continuing to experiment with the recipe. This tofu goes great with just about anything: quinoa, rice, pasta, orzo, couscous, etc. I served it with a couscous, orzo, quinoa mix and it perfectly complemented the taste of the tofu. Tofu is basically a sponge so it will take on the taste of whatever you marinate or cook it in, so feel free to experiment with the seasonings.

Ingredients:

1 package Firm Tofu, can be cubed or not

1/4 cup Water

2 tbsp Soy Sauce

1 tsp Ground Cayenne

1 tsp Lemon Pepper Seasoning

1 clove Garlic, minced

Olive Oil, for greasing the baking sheet

Directions:

1) Turn the broiler on low and use a paper towel to put a light coating of olive oil on a cookie sheet.

2) If tofu is not cubed, cut lengthwise into three sections and then diagonally to create six triangles.

3) Mix together the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.

4) Dip the tofu into marinade. If the tofu is cubed it may be easier to toss all pieces into the bowl and mix.

5) Place the tofu on the baking sheet and put into the hot broiler. Broil for 10 minutes.

6) Pour some of the marinade onto the tofu to moisten it again and place it back under the broiler for 3 more minutes. Repeat once more or until the tofu is golden brown.

7) Serve the tofu with your favorite rice or pasta dish for a complete meal.


Trying Tofu

Since I was in middle school I’ve had a soy allergy. When I was younger it was more serious – I couldn’t eat anything with soy in it, not even frozen dinners (they use soy protein in most frozen foods). In the last few years my allergy has gotten less serious and I think it is time that I tried tofu. I never had a reason to submit myself to this allergy test before, but now that I don’t eat meat it’s the perfect time to try it out.

Tonight I am going to make broiled tofu with a side of quinoa and another as yet to be determined veggie dish. The hope is that I don’t keel over and that the dish tastes good, of course. If the tofu turns out good, I will post the recipe here. Here’s to trying new things!


Low-Cal Black Bean Tacos

Black bean tacos are a fun dinner option for nights when you don’t have much time to cook. These low-calorie tacos use homemade corn tortillas, which can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it they are a delicious replacement for flour tortillas. The homemade corn tortillas are a bit smaller and more brittle than a flour tortilla, so these tacos actually end up more like tostadas, with the tortilla laying flat, than traditional tacos, but they are delicious nonetheless.

Tortilla Ingredients:

1 cup Maseca corn flour

2/3 cup Water

1/8 tsp Salt

Tortilla Directions:

1) Mix Maseca, water, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl until the ingredients form a soft dough. If the dough feels dry, add extra water, 1 tbsp. at a time.

2) Roll the dough into 8 equal size balls. Place two sheets of heavy plastic wrap on a tortilla press and press out 8 tortillas. If you do not have a tortilla press, put the ball between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll them out with a rolling pin to approximately 6″ diameter.

3) Warm a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Place the tortillas into the warm skillet, one at a time, and cook for 50 seconds on each side.

4) Place tortillas on a plate and cover with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out.

Other Taco Ingredients:

1 Roma Tomato, diced

1 can Vegetarian Refried Beans

1 can Black Beans, drained

1 tbsp. Chili Powder

1 tsp. Garlic Salt

Sour Cream

Hot Sauce or Taco Sauce

Taco Directions:

1) While cooking the tortillas, warm the refried beans for approximately 2 minutes.

2) Put the black beans in a medium saucepan and add the chili powder and garlic salt. Warm beans through on medium heat.

3) Assemble the tacos. Use the tortilla as a base and then add a layer of refried beans and then a layer of black beans.

4) Top with tomatoes, sour cream, and taco sauce or hot sauce. You can add any additional toppings you’d like here such as onions and green peppers.

Recipe yields 8 tacos which serves about 3-4 people.

This recipe is low-cal compared to regular tacos because of the corn tortilla. The corn tortilla has about 52 calories in it compared to 94 in a 6″ flour tortilla.


Being a Vegetarian Doesn’t Mean Being Healthy

I learned that lesson the hard way yesterday. Just because I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean that I will automatically always be eating healthier than those who do. We had a long day at work yesterday and so my boss had breakfast, lunch, and dinner catered in. While I’m all for free food, the food we bring in usually isn’t vegetarian friendly. For breakfast I had a bagel from Panera Bread. Even though I didn’t have any cream cheese or spread on it, it was still well over 300 calories and clearly full of carbs. My diet was already suffering and it wasn’t even 10 am yet.

For lunch we had fried chicken with numerous sides. Since I wasn’t eating the chicken, I ate a small portion of potato salad, coleslaw, and pasta salad. I also had two dinner rolls to go with it. Not only did that meal contain many more calories than I normally eat for lunch, but the unbalanced nature of it made me feel sick – and it gave me heartburn.

By the time dinner rolled around I wasn’t remotely hungry, but I knew I had to eat. I had a slice of cheese pizza from Pizza Hut (440 calories), which only made the sick feeling I had get worse. The biggest thing I saw happen to me after I ate such unhealthy and unbalanced meals was that I had no energy. It was a long day to begin with and nothing I ate provided me with any sort of boost.

When I stopped eating meat I assumed that I would be healthier because of it. What I learned yesterday though is that no matter what your dietary needs/wants are, you still have to watch what you eat and make good food choices. As one of my favorite actresses, Emily Deschanel once said, “just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean I can’t sit around and eat French fries all day”. Eating healthy isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth it. I think I felt sicker than I would have before I became a vegetarian simply because I’ve been making better choices, but I now know how much better I feel when I eat well.