I wanted a vegan potato salad that was not vinegar-based. Most that are not vinegar-based are mayonnaise-based, but mayonnaise isn’t vegan. It was a Catch-22. I came up with this, essentially using soft tofu and lemon juice to replace the mayonnaise, but mixing it all together with the mustard to blend well. I hope you like it.
There was probably a vegetarian in Texas before I became one. I just didn’t know that person, nor did any of my friends know him either. I was a true maverick. Almost everyone I knew had something to say about it. A lot of folks were genuinely concerned about my health and gently and not-so-gently suggested I rethink the whole thing. I got my fair share of teasing as well from those who just could not imagine why I would want to do such a thing.
One of the most memorable times was when my friend, who had been widowed the year before, had a “Work Your Butt Off at My House” party. She invited all of her friends and we converged to do things around the yard and the house that had taken a slide over the previous year.
I had never met most of the folks there. One of the guys who came had clearly never met a vegetarian. He was relentless in his teasing. When a group was picking up grass clippings, for instance, he suggested they just put them in the back of my truck. Other folks there started feeling uncomfortable for me, because every time I turned around, there he was, with some other remark or joke.
Until it came time for the potluck dinner. Each of us had brought our specialty, which meant I brought cookies. I had made Reese’s cookies, which have Reese’s peanut butter chips and milk chocolate chips in a regular cookie dough. They are really good cookies.
This gentleman took one bite of a cookie and got an almost reverent look on his face. “Oh my gosh!” he said. “These are cookies like you wished your mama would have made. Who made these?”
I cleared my throat. All eyes turned to me as I said, “I made them. They are vegetarian cookies.”
Everyone fell out. All of our work was almost in vain, as it appeared the house was going to come completely down due to howling laughter. Beet red and beaming from ear to ear, the vegetarian-buster got up, came across the room and shook my hand. He didn’t say another word about my being vegetarian.
I don’t know if there was a lesson to be learned that day, or if it was all in good fun. Or maybe keeping it in good fun was the lesson. Or just maybe the lesson was that we can always find some common ground.
Until next time,
Lisa (aka Veggie Gal)
I got this wonderful Salsa recipe from my cousin, Yvonne Koi. After eating this, you will never want pre-made salsa again.
A lot of thinking out there says that all fat is bad. I disagree. Fats are the basic building block of all bodily functions and are, in fact, necessary for survival. There is a reason they are called essential fatty acids.
That being said, all fats and oils are not created equal. They react differently to heat or cold, they taste different, and they have different chemistries. What is important to you—and what you want to do with the oil—might dictate which one you use.
The recipes on this website already recommend appropriate oils or fats. Here are steps for choosing an oil or fat for any recipe.
Step One: Determine the temperature you will be using.
Step Two: Determine the flavor you want.
Decide what flavor you want for your recipe. This is particularly important if the oil is going to be a main, uncooked component of the dish, such as a salad dressing. Also note that within a type of oil, an unrefined version typically has a stronger taste than a refined one. For maximum flavor, select those made with real ingredients rather than artificial flavorings.
On the other hand, if you don’t want your dish to be overwhelmed by the flavor of the oil, such as if you are baking a cake, you probably want to use an oil with a blander taste. Typically, refined oils have negligible flavor and aroma and are good for use when you don’t want the flavor of the oil to shine through.
Understand, too, that there are different levels of flavor. For instance, extra virgin olive oil (from the first press) has a far stronger olive taste than extra light olive oil.
Step Three. If you are concerned about the health benefits, determine which fat group you want your oil or fat to fall in.
OK, so what are the fat groups?
Don’t groan, but oils are grouped according to their chemistry (the number and type of carbon bonds). Some types of carbon bonds in the fat molecule allow other molecules or atoms, such as hydrogen, to attach to and “saturate” the molecule. Double carbon bonds do not allow any other atom or molecule to attach. So the more double carbon bonds, the more “unsaturated” a fat. The unsaturated fats are the longest and most unstable fatty acid chain. Saturated fats are the shortest and most stable fat or oil. I list the fat groups here from least saturated to most. I have also listed some examples of each but be aware that almost no food contains only one type of fat. They contain mixtures.
There are a few more “groups” that are not typically naturally occurring that I want to cover briefly. These were developed in chemistry labs with the intent of making oils and fats more stable, so that they would keep longer. In that sense, they work great! What wasn’t known then is that they aren’t particularly good for our health. I try to avoid food products that have any of these on the label. I definitely avoid foods that list these as a major ingredient, with the exception that I sometimes bake with vegetable shortening when a recipe just won’t work with butter or when I am feeding a vegan.
Until next time, happy meal planning!
Lisa (a.k.a. "VeggieGal")
I got the idea for this recipe at an Italian restaurant one night. I was with a group and we were served an antipasto platter that was so pretty. The dish included meat and I could not eat any of it, so I came home and created this.
My first grandson had the worst case of acid reflux/colic that every doctor who saw him had ever seen. Times ten. As a result, my grandson did five things his first sixteen weeks of life: poop, pee, eat, sleep and scream. We tried everything. The most innovative and successful maneuver to calm him down was, interestingly, turning on the vacuum cleaner. The second thing was singing Helen Reddy’s version of “The Last Blues Song.” All while walking and jiggling the baby. Nothing worked for very long and it was heartbreaking and stressful at the same time.
I had business in Dallas, so I was there for his three-week birthday. I spent a couple of days at work, then intended to return home on Thursday. I couldn’t do it. My stepdaughter and son-in-law were completely frazzled. I offered to cook them a couple of weeks’ worth of food and put it in the freezer. The new, bedraggled parents readily agreed.
I got to their place and took my screaming charge to the store so that his parents could get a nap in. I loaded up on basic foods, thinking it might help if my stepdaughter ate a fairly bland diet. At least it couldn’t hurt. I bought the ingredients for stew, baked chicken and rice, pot roast, chicken soup and other meat- and poultry-laden meals I hadn’t cooked in quite some time.
It was like riding a bicycle—it all came back immediately! I cooked up a storm. I loaded up their freezer and went home on Sunday.
I thought no more of this until close to three years later. My son-in-law was talking to one of their friends about that week, looked at me and beamed. He said, “We already knew you loved us, but we would have certainly known it when you cooked all that meat for us.”
A warm glow spread within me. Here I thought the only gift I gave them was a few meals. I realized then that I do show love by preparing meals I think everyone will love and that will include something special for each person. That is what this website is all about.
My grandson got through his colic. At around four months of age, a switch flipped and his body settled down. He just turned four and is an active, seriously intelligent, handsome boy. In short, he’s perfect! And so is his little brother—who was born on the same date, three years later.
Veggie Gal is a vegetarian trying to live in a mostly-meat-eating world. She has created a website to provide a blueprint for stress-free, harmonious meals for feeding omnivores and vegetarians all in one sitting. Go to www.veggiegal.com for recipes and menu ideas.
I am a vegetarian because I don't want to kill anything. Beyond that, I typically rescue and find homes for two or three animals a year. This is the story of my beloved Rudy.
As we were driving down the gravel road to our property, a big brown dog ran in front of us and stopped near the edge of the woods. He looked lost and frightened, so I stopped. My husband succinctly said, “No.” Undeterred, I called to the dog, but could not get him to come to the car. He ran off into the woods.
The next day on our way out, my husband wanted to stop to introduce me to our wonderful octogenarian neighbor. Her children were visiting and I asked them if they had seen the brown dog. Willy (the son) said the dog had shown up a week or so before and was eating cat food off their back porch and was probably outside under his trailer. Janice (the daughter) jumped up, got a rope and headed out. I went to go clear out the backseat of my car. My husband followed both of us, muttering denials and vague threats. I assured him the dog would be a “passing through” dog, as we weren’t ready for a dog yet.
Janice looped the rope around the dog’s neck, walked him to my car and I lifted and shoved him into the back seat. My husband’s dialogue became a bit more emphatic. I promised him again that I would pass the dog through to his forever home.
I started driving. After going approximately fifty feet, my husband looked at me and said, “His name is Rudy.” My mouth dropped open. Incredulous, I responded “Wait a minute! You’ve been ragging on me about this dog for the past ten minutes and now you’re naming him?!” Tore hautily replied, “It just occurred to me as you were going by that his name is Rudy. Rudy the Red.”
Well ok then.
We took Rudy home. I got him neutered and treated for whip worms. These two things weren’t much fun for either of us. The biggest problem we had early on, though, was Rudy’s severe separation anxiety. He didn’t just whimper when we left—he howled. We lived on a 20-house street and within three days every neighbor called or stopped to ask, “Hey, Lisa. What’s with the dog?” Rudy’s anxiety increased every time Tore yelled at him to be quiet. I convinced Tore to quit yelling. That helped. Then two things happened that changed everything. First, I let Rudy inside to sleep. He immediately started calming down. Then Tore started taking him jogging. And everywhere else he went where a dog could go. Within days they were inseparable. Tore asked me if I had found a home for Rudy. I said I had. We both started laughing as I said, “Yes, you’re looking at it!”
Rudy has been with us two years now. We recently moved to our place in the country. Rudy loves everything about it. And we love everything about Rudy.
I grew up in a small town outside Houston. I subsequently discovered that ‘small’ is a relative term, as my home town of 60,000 was larger than many state capitals. I am, by most definitions, a city girl.
A few years ago my husband and I bought land in the country. It is beautiful, with low rolling hills and two creeks, about 75 miles north of downtown Houston. As part of the agricultural exemption, we allowed various people to keep cows on the property.
I confess to being taken aback when I heard about the cows. I asked my husband if these cows were going to become food someday. He looked confused and asked me what else they would be. “Pets?” I asked. He didn’t bother to respond to that. After much discussion, we determined that no other agricultural exemption would be practical until we lived there full time.
So I resigned myself to the cows. I worried about them, though, as they looked awfully thin during the winter months (I don’t know why this, in particular, bothered me, since they would be decapitated once they got fattened up).
About that time, I made a trip to the feed store in Bedias (west of Huntsville) with a distant cousin. I decided to buy some hay for the cows. Come to find out, hay is only available at certain times of the year, and this wasn’t one of those times. There was no hay! Battling disappointment, I asked the man behind the counter if they had any cow treats.
Everything in the feed store came to an immediate and abrupt halt. Have you ever been in a situation when time stood still, when your thoughts were racing so fast that everything else seemed slow? It took me about one nanosecond to realize that I had made a rather serious feed store faux pas. Before my next heartbeat, I had evaluated all options open to myself and decided to brazen my way through it by playing the part of a complete ditz who had no clue she had made this blunder.
My cousin, once he could speak, leaned forward and rather unnecessarily whispered, “City girl moving to the country.” A look of understanding passed between the two men. I, in my ditz role, tilted my head a little and smiled.
The man behind the counter said, “Yes, ma’am. We have something for the … cows.” I noticed he hesitated on the word ‘cows’ and made a mental note to find out what the four-legged creatures were called if not that. (Hint: ‘cattle’ or ‘head.’)
He turned to a gawking young man and said, “Bobby, put some range cubes in this lady’s car.” I helpfully told him I had a bright red truck. I paid for my cow treats, thanked everyone, and walked out of the feed store with my head high. My cousin slunk out behind me. I haven’t been back to the feed store in Bedias nor seen that cousin since.
This story did have a happy ending—the cows loved their treats!
I am a vegetarian because I don’t want to kill anything. It doesn’t start there; not eating animals, fish, or fowl is really just a spot on the long winding trail that includes moving worms off the sidewalk so they don’t fry during the summer. Along the trail, I also find myself rescuing several animals a year and finding good homes for them.
Sometimes the “good home” is mine. Many years ago I had my publicly stated upper limit of cats, when another one showed up at the door. I knew my young niece desperately wanted a cat, so this looked like a match made in heaven to me. The handicap to this plan was my twin brother (my niece’s dad), who detested cats.
I admit it. I groveled. The cat was a beautiful calico, fully grown. I committed to having her spayed and getting my brother a kitty starter kit. Finally he agreed. Before he could change his mind, I dashed to my local pet store and loaded up a litter box, litter, bowls, food, treats and toys. I pushed my laden basket to the register and eagerly waited in line. While standing there, I noticed the magazine Cat Fancy. I picked up a copy. I delivered the cat and the cat supplies to my brother. I did not deliver the magazine. Instead, I took the magazine home and used one of the forms to order a two year subscription to Cat Fancy for my brother.
A month later the phone rang. When I answered, my brother didn’t say hello. Enunciating very clearly, he said “I just. Went. To the mailbox.”
I quivered with excitement.
“I pulled out this magazine called Cat Fancy and thought, ‘How nice. Aunt Lisa got this for Amy.’ Then I turned it over and it is addressed to Larry Tuck.”
I chortled with glee.
“I just wanted to let you know that your subscription to Cattle Baron’s Monthly will be on its way shortly.”
I howled with laughter to the point I couldn’t speak, so he finally hung up on me. It was a fine, fine moment.
I do not try to convince my family—or anyone else for that matter—to adopt my lifestyle. They do not try to convince me to adopt theirs. Do we tease each other about it? Oh, yes. In our convoluted little world, teasing is part of accepting each other exactly as we are. Respecting my choices doesn’t mean my family knows how to feed me, though. The traditional meals we grew up on do not work at all. Our mother kept a can of bacon grease beside the stove and put it into everything from grits to cornbread to fried chicken. I started this column and website for those who also need to feed a vegetarian, but don’t know where to start. I hope it will help you along your trail.
By the way, my brother never did send Cattle Baron’s Monthly. If this column reminds him he still needs to pay me back, it might be really big...
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Each month we will bring you breakfast, dinner and special occasion menus starring the foods you are already cooking, and featuring tantalizing new vegetarian dishes to appeal to everyone.