I Love Facon

One of the (very) few things I’ve missed since becoming a vegetarian is bacon. Of course it is, that’s what all vegetarians say they miss. And why wouldn’t we? Bacon makes everything better. Whether it’s the crunch, the saltiness, just the flavor itself, bacon adds something to a dish that just always seems to take it to the next level of yumminess.

When I realized I no longer had a soy allergy, I headed right for my grocery store’s freezer section and picked up some Morningstar Farms soy ‘bacon’. While it looked nothing like bacon, it definitely tasted just like bacon, and so I made due with that for Sunday morning breakfast and other bacon emergencies. But unlike bacon, the soy bacon had no natural juices so I couldn’t really use it in recipes and get the same effect as real bacon.

Tempeh Bacon

Image from the Lunch Box Bunch.

As I searched the net for another bacon substitute, I stumbled upon a recipe for tempeh ‘bacon’. I’ve talked at length on this blog about how much I love tempeh, but I’d really only cooked it one way: on the grill. After looking at a few recipes for this concoction, I decided to combine the recipes together to create my own facon.

The result was beyond words. The tempeh bacon was crispy and crunch just like bacon and it even looked a bit like bacon. Also

, since you have to marinate the tempeh you get a lot of juices out of it when you cook it, meaning you can use it in whatever recipe you’d like as a bacon substitute while still get the same consistency you would from real bacon.

So, if you’ve been craving bacon but the store-bought ‘bacon’ just doesn’t cut it, just do a search for ‘tempeh bacon recipe’ and put together your own version of facon. You won’t be disappointed!


Quick Lunch: Yogurt w/Bananas and Wheat Germ

One of the biggest challenges I face as a vegetarian is finding a quick meal that will fill me up, especially at lunchtime. I used to just take sandwiches or frozen dinners to work, but now that I’m more health conscious and I don’t eat meat, those options are a bit less appealing. One thing that I’ve noticed since I became a vegetarian is that I snack  much more and I think it’s because I’ve had a hard time finding something that is quick enough for lunch but fills me up so I’m not hungry 20 minutes later.

I was at the store the other day and I picked up some plain yogurt for smoothies. However, when I got hungry for lunch, I thought about what I might be able to do with the plain yogurt. So, I took 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, added a small banana sliced up, a few shelled sunflower seeds, and 2 tablespoons of wheat germ and what I got out of it was a filling lunch that was quick and tasted great! This is also a protein-packed lunch so it is beneficial in many ways. So if you are struggling to find the perfect balance of healthy eats that fill you up quickly, try this little concoction out.

Total Calorie Count = 237

Not-So-Vegetarian Treats

With Easter quickly approaching, the stores are filled to the brim with delicious candy treats. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, there are some treats that may seem meatless enough, but that actually contain various animal byproducts.

Two products that you may not think of as being off-limits to vegetarians are jelly beans and marshmallows (Peeps, etc). Jelly beans contain gelatin, which is made from animal bones and marshmallows also contain gelatin. While some brands, such as Jelly Belly jelly beans are not made with gelatin, they are still not completely vegan, as they are coated with beeswax. If you are out shopping for Easter treats this Spring, be sure to check the ingredients list to make sure no gelatin is in the product.

If you can’t find any of your favorite treats in gelatin-free form, be sure to check out some great recipes online that can help you make your own vegetarian or vegan versions of your favorites at home!

Here’s a recipe I came across for vegetarian Peeps.

Fighting Back Against Your Sweet Tooth

Since I’ve become a vegetarian I’ve noticed that my craving for sweets has increased. Granted, it didn’t take much for it to increase as I’ve never really been a sweet eater; I never get dessert, never keep sweets in the house, and my house is the only one in America that can have Girl Scout Cookies around all year without them being eaten.

Now that I’ve cut out meat though, I definitely find myself wanting sweets more and more often. As I am also watching my calories, indulging on all the sweets I crave is just not an option, and I don’t think it’s really a viable option for anyone. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a few tips for things that have helped me curb my craving for sweets.

1) Drink Tea – This is one of the stranger things I’ve found to keep me away from the sweets, but drinking tea really does keep the cravings away. At night when I’m craving something sweet, instead of eating candy or cookies I make myself a cup of peppermint tea. The tea has just the right amount of sweetness to fulfill my craving and it doesn’t cost me any calories. This is also a great option if you are craving a soda. Keep flavored teas around the house to drink instead.

2) Eat Energy Bars – Sometimes I just need some chocolate and energy bars are one the best ways for me to get the chocolate flavor I crave while also getting some much needed protein. While you won’t really save on the calories here – most of the energy bars I buy (Larabars, Luna) range in calories from 180 – 290 – you will get some good vitamins and essential nutrients without having a sugar crash later in the day. These are perfect at breakfast or lunch time.

3) Keep Fruit in the House – Fruit is a great source of vitamins and most fruits are also fairly low in calories. A medium orange has about 90 calories and a pear has around 100 calories. Apples also have around 90 to 100 calories per fruit and so do bananas. Fruit is sweet enough to curb your cravings and can provide your body with essential nutrients. Fruit is also fairly inexpensive so you can afford to always have it around the house.

These are just a few ways I’ve found to keep away from the sweets over the last few weeks. Let me know if there are any methods you use to keep your sugar consumption down without going crazy!

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.

Snacking: Tips and Recommendations

If done correctly, snacking can be our best friend. If done wrong, it can be our worst enemy. Here are just a few snacking tips and recommendations that can help you make the right snacking decisions:

  • Snack Often – Many dietitians now say that eating less food more frequently can help you lose weight because it speeds up your metabolism. Try eating a smaller breakfast, lunch, and dinner but add in a snack a couple hours after breakfast and lunch to help reduce hunger and speed up your metabolism.
  • Eat Protein – If you tend to run low on energy mid-afternoon, try snacking on something that is high in protein to boost your energy. Snacks such as nuts (peanuts and cashews are my favorite), cottage cheese, and protein bars (Larabars are my personal recommendation) can give you a much needed energy boost when you start to get groggy after lunch. Also, if you choose something such as cottage cheese or hard-boiled eggs, you can get a lot of protein without a lot of calories.
  • Avoid the Vending Machine – When those mid-morning and mid-afternoon (or late night) cravings hit, avoid heading straight to the vending machine or convenience store. While baked chips or a Snickers bar might not sound like such a bad choice, there are much better ones available. The easiest way to break your vending machine habit is to pack snacks for work and keep fresh veggies and fruit in the house. Carrots, apples, low-fat crackers (such as Wheat Thins), and hard-boiled eggs are easy snacks that you can prep the night before and take with you anywhere.

These few snacking tips are an easy way to improve your overall eating habits and they will also provide you with more energy throughout the day. By making a few healthy decisions each day you will start to lose weight and feel better overall.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Recipes

A few nights ago I was craving chili, or more accurately, Frito chili pie. So when I went grocery shopping I picked up the essentials: Fritos, kidney beans, chili beans, and onion – obviously leaving out the ground beef. My thought was that since I add so many extras to my chili (chopped onions, Fritos, sour cream, cheese, and mustard) that just taking the beef out and leaving the rest of the recipe the same would suffice.

I was definitely wrong.

While the end result tasted fine, it was missing something. After some contemplation on the matter I determined that the recipe was more than likely missing its “fat” element. The ground beef had always provided a bit of fattiness to the chili that added that little extra something to make it perfect. My “vegetarian recipe” for the chili – not really a recipe unto itself at all – was missing that little extra something.

Since I stopped eating meat (33 days ago for those of us counting) I’ve been aware of the fact that I can’t simply make meat-centric recipes without the meat and expect it to taste the same. I just thought the chili would be different, I mean, I wasn’t really changing anything except the omission of the beef. I was still getting the protein with the beans and the sauce stayed the same, but when I took the first I was sadly disappointed with the taste.

I will do some research on actual vegetarian chili recipes before I attempt to make it again and in the end I learned my lesson: do not make a meat recipe without the meat and expect the same results. It’s just not going to happen.