Vegetarian Top 10

I have made it (almost) an entire year without eating meat!

Saturday, August 12th will mark one year since I switched to a vegetarian diet. People often ask me exactly what I eat, so let me break that down really quick. I am not a vegan, which would mean no animal products like eggs, milk, or cheese. I am also not a pescatarian, which would be no meat except fish and seafood. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian, meaning that I do not eat the meat of any animal, but I do eat dairy and eggs (which are usually unfertilized and not capable of developing into embryos anyway). I chose to go vegetarian for ethical and environmental reasons.

Today I am excited to celebrate a life choice that makes me happy, and to share some ten of my go to recipes. I really enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, but I don’t have a lot of time or money. I need recipes that are reasonably quick to put together, don’t cost a whole lot, and are still nutritious and tasty. I am also really selective about eating leftovers, so almost all of these have passed my very high leftover standards. Without further ado, here are ten of my favorite recipes!

  1. Spicy Black Bean Soup from Gimme Some Oven

This recipe is really how I stayed fed in college. It’s a general crowd pleaser, especially with corn chips and some shredded pepper jack on top. It freezes really well, so I make a double or triple batch and freeze portions for lunches during the week. It’s more beautiful unblended, but definitely easier to scarf down on a lunch break if it’s blended. One trend you’ll notice throughout this blog post is that I love spicy foods, so I like to double all the spices when I make this just for myself.

Recipe here: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/spicy-black-bean-soup/

  1. Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers from Gimme Some Oven

These are also something I make at least every other week, and are a great meal to make if you’re eating with non-vegetarians because these are so filling and flavorful that no one misses the meat! This is a five ingredient recipe, but I like to play around with it. I omit the meat-substitute because it’s expensive, hard to find, and it’s easier and cheaper to just add black beans as the protein. I like to add jalapeño, olives, and chipotle peppers in adobo if I have them, plus whatever seasonings sound good that day. I also usually swap regular salsa for hot salsa because the hotter the better! These don’t freeze well because of the peppers, but they keep well for 3-4 days in the fridge so it’s easy to bake a batch and take them for lunches during the week.

Recipe here: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/5-ingredient-mexican-quinoa-stuffed-peppers/

  1. Classic Vegan Falafel from Minimalist Baker

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These are delightful, but if you aren’t careful they will break your heart. Nothing is worse than getting all the way through the prep phase and watching your beautiful little falafels crumble apart in the pan, so make sure your mixture isn’t too coarse! I do recommend starting with dry chickpeas and following her soaking method, because canned chickpeas are too mushy. I line a little measuring cup or mini muffin tin with cling wrap, and then press them into shape so they hold together better and I can pull them out easily with the cling wrap. If made right, these little guys are incredible! I serve them with pita bread and hummus, and (of course) my favorite hummus is the Supremely Spicy variety from Sabra. If you like a little more heat, try mincing up habañero peppers or thai chilies and tossing them into the mix. These little falafels are inexpensive, pack up well for lunch, and are tasty at any temperature. Bonus: They’re vegan and gluten free!

Recipe here: https://minimalistbaker.com/classic-vegan-falafel-gf/

  1. Thai Red Curry with Vegetables from Cookie and Kate

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Cookie and Kate is my ultimate favorite food blog, and this is a recipe that I can’t stop making. You can use whichever vegetables you like, so I usually make it with bell peppers, onion, broccoli, snow peas, and carrots. If you really want to pack it full of protein, you can add tofu (see my favorite way below) and/or serve it over white quinoa. With the extra vegetables and tofu and quinoa, it’s a good idea to increase the amount of sauce by at least half or double it. I know this will be shocking, but I also like to buy a package of little thai chilies from the grocery store, chop off the tops and toss 10-15 of them in there to heat things up.

Recipe here: http://cookieandkate.com/2015/thai-red-curry-recipe/

  1. Skinny Eggplant Parmigiana from Wry Toast

Eggplant parmesan is one of those annoying, always-the-only-vegetarian-option things, but this recipe is really good. I like this one specifically because it has great texture and does not get soggy. These don’t stay as crispy in places, but generally keep well for a day or two for lunches during the week. You do need to take the time to prep your eggplant slices, and I recommend making more of the crumb mixture and having more sauce on hand because I always seem to need more than the recipe says. This is one of those flavorful and comforting meals that I like to make when I cook for non-vegetarians because no one misses the meat. Mild food lovers rejoice, this is one of two recipes on the list that I don’t add spice to!

Recipe here: http://www.wrytoasteats.com/skinny-eggplant-parmigiana/

  1. Texas Caviar from Grandmother

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I grew up eating this at family gatherings, and now I use this tasty sort of dip/bean salad recipe as a meal. Texas Caviar gets better and better the longer it sits as the flavors meld, so I make a big batch and happily eat it with corn chips for days. I love the hominy, so I usually add more of that, and I double the jalapeño. One important note here is that you really do need to use the Wishbone brand Italian dressing. Seems silly, but I promise it makes a big difference!

Recipe:

1 red onion

1 bell pepper

2-3 roma tomatoes

1 big can of hominy

2 cans black beans (or swap one can for black eyed peas)

2 jalapeños

minced garlic

1/2 bunch cilantro (or parsley if you prefer)

1/2 bottle of Wishbone Italian dressing

  1. Vegetarian Dumplings from Woks of Life

Grab a friend, and make these immediately. I won’t lie to you, these are a lot of work, but so worth it. To make these you need to finely chop a lot of ingredients, make the filling, let the filling cool, and then individually fill and wrap each little dumpling, then go through an intense frying process. It’s one of those recipes where you put on a movie while you work, or make them with a friend to chat with. The craziest part of making these is the part where you pour water into a pan of hot oil, which goes against everything I know about kitchen fire safety. To help make the process less nerve-wracking, I partner up. One of us holds a splatter screen and the pan lid almost completely covering the pan while the other uses a tea kettle to pour water in through the sliver of splatter screen that is still uncovered. This way you don’t get steamed or hit with any errant splatters.
Also, don’t worry, these will impress meat-lovers and mushroom haters. Even though the filling is mushroom heavy, the end result doesn’t taste like mushrooms, and you can trust me because I don’t like mushrooms. These aren’t outstanding as leftovers, but I’ve also only had leftovers once in all the times I’ve made these. You can serve these with regular soy sauce for dipping, but spice lovers could add a healthy amount of Thai chili flakes to the soy sauce!

Recipe here: http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/09/vegetable-dumplings/

  1. Stir Fried Eggplant, Potatoes, and Peppers from Woks of Life

Maybe I am just bad at stir frying eggplant, or maybe I don’t have the right kind of eggplant, but I find that the eggplant in this dish gets mushy and heavy no matter what. To avoid this, I just swap eggplant for green beans and it works beautifully. The potatoes and the sauce on this recipe are delicious, the flavors in this recipe are refreshing and different than my usual diet. If you wanted to make this dish even more filling, you could add some tofu. I also recommend tossing in some Thai chilies, which should surprise no one at this point.

Recipe here: http://thewoksoflife.com/2016/08/di-san-xian-stir-fry/

  1. Cauliflower Buffalo Wings from Hot For Food

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I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t like cauliflower.” No one likes cauliflower. It takes faith and time, but this method transforms gross, bland cauliflower into something that will definitely satisfy a buffalo wing craving. I’m pretty sure these are very unhealthy and utterly devoid of nutritional value, but they’re tasty and sometimes you just need a buffalo wing.

Recipe here: http://www.hotforfoodblog.com/recipes/2014/2/11/cauliflower-buffalo-wings

  1. Greek Pizzas

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This is a recipe I picked up from some people I used to live with, and it’s great if you want something that tastes like comfort food but is still packed with vegetables. They’re not necessarily Greek, but vaguely Mediterranean inspired and somewhere along the way we ended up calling them Greek pizzas. The key here is to slice the asparagus, bell pepper, and green onion really thin so that they can cook in time. To make these, spread pesto over a tortilla, top with your favorite veggies, pile on more spinach than you think (it shrinks down, so you want heaping handfuls), and bake for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees. These do not keep as leftovers, but I like to keep the ingredients chopped up so that I can throw together a good meal in minutes after work. I could eat these for a week straight and not get tired of them!

Tortillas

Pesto

Asparagus

Red Bell Pepper

Green Onion

Feta

Kalamata Olives

Spinach

Honorable Mentions:

If you’re feeling daring and want to venture into tofu territory, I highly recommend this method from Cookie and Kate: https://cookieandkate.com/2016/how-to-make-crispy-baked-tofu/

I also just have to mention that the lemon and asparagus in the featured image is such a simple and delicious side dish. All you do is toss asparagus in a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper it, then throw some lemon slices on top and bake. It’s also tasty to then put the lemon asparagus into an alfredo pasta dish.

If you didn’t notice up above, I’m not a huge fan of meat substitutes. I’m not a fan of the veggie burgers out there or the ground beef replacements, and in most cases I’d rather just swap the fake meat for a regular vegetarian protein source. That said, the “Hot Wings” and “Corn Dogs” from Morningstar Farms are delicious and I keep them on hand for lazy days.

As a bonus, we can all laugh at the most hideous soup I ever made:

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That’s the Summer Squash Soup with Coconut from Naturally Ella. It’s a mild but comforting, and just so happens to be the grossest looking soup of all time.

And there you have it! These are some of my favorite foods and recipes that I have made over and over again. I hope you feel inspired to try some of these recipes, and I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Sandra.

Photos taken by Sandra Walker and Molly King.

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Class of 2017

On May 6th, 2017 I graduated from Boise State University after five years. I’m the kind of person who is always looking to the future, and I often get so caught up in worrying about what I’ll make of my degree and what comes next that I forget to celebrate the accomplishment itself so let me take a moment to pause and say it’s a big deal. It was a lot of work. I learned stuff. I stuck with it. To all other graduates out there, don’t forget that you worked hard and deserve a little celebration!

Participating in the graduation ceremony was a great way to bring the experience to a close, and I’m glad I got to enjoy the ceremony with my friends and peers by my side. As I’m writing this, a little over two weeks post graduation, I can tell you that it feels strange, and a little empty. Being a student has been a large part of my identity for most of my life, and if “student” is no longer a dominant part of my identity, what takes that place? Adult? Teacher? For now, nothing seems to fit quite right and I’m still adjusting to this new phase in my life. I’ve come to the wonderful and terrifying realization that I can do whatever I want. I’m capable, educated, and relatively untethered, and all I have to do is decide which direction I want to go.

I’ve never felt so free, and I’m working hard to take full advantage of this freedom. Right now taking advantage of that means ticking off a crazy summer bucket list in my home state and frantically filling out paperwork to secure the next chapter of my life: teaching English in Austria.

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File_003All of the linguistics students in the class of 2017.

I get a lot of questions about my degree and college experience, so I thought it’d be a good idea to answer some of those questions here and explain how all the pieces have come together for me. I hope this helps paint a clearer picture of how I came to be where I am.

What did you study?

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a Linguistics emphasis and a minor in German, cum laude. Basically, I studied linguistics, which is the study of languages and how they work. My focus has been on understanding how languages are acquired and processed in the brain, and using that understanding to inform my teaching practices.

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So how many languages do you speak?

Not all linguists speak other languages, but I happen to have taken two years of Latin, two years of American Sign Language, four years of German (including one year studying abroad in Germany), one semester of Spanish, one semester of Arabic (taken in German while I was abroad), and I have completed the Rosetta Stone’s Swahili program. I am an advanced speaker of German, but I hope to become fully fluent. I also want to develop fluency in Arabic, Swahili, and Spanish and use those languages in the future as a teacher or services coordinator for refugees and immigrants.

File_001 My dad and I. I wore a study abroad sash for Germany, and a lei that my dad’s girlfriend had made for me of red and white flowers like the Austrian flag.

What do you want to do with your degree?

As of right now, I’m interesting in either teaching in a TESOL  (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) context or some kind of job working with refugees and coordinating services or something along those lines. If you would like more details on my teaching, I have a dedicated blog to explain the teaching program I will be participating in this fall titled “What Are You Doing After College?”, but I want to touch on how I became interested in teaching. I started college intending to become an American Sign Language interpreter, but soon worried about choosing a profession that would keep me in the United States. I switched to Linguistics, and then in 2013 I took a course titled “First and Second Language Acquisition”. A requirement of the course was to do twenty hours of service learning at one of two programs for immigrants and refugees to learn English. I started volunteering at Project SHINE- Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders, a class for refugees aged sixty and older to learn English and American history for the citizenship test. It was stressful and difficult and I was not prepared, but I loved it and have returned to volunteer teach there at every opportunity.

Since then I have served over two hundred and twenty hours at various programs with refugees and immigrants both in Boise where I taught English, and in Germany where I taught some German. I still volunteer at SHINE twice a week and will continue to do so until I leave for Austria. I never imagined myself as a teacher before college, so I consider myself lucky to have taken that course and discovered my passion for it. I’m excited to keep exploring teaching as a career option.

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I hope that answers some questions! I want to thank my friends and family for all of the support over the years as I made my way through school. It wasn’t always easy, but I am happy that I made it all the way to graduation day, and I’m excited to start some new adventures and see what comes next.

Sandra.

Photos taken by Grad Images and family members. Boise, ID May 2017

Wherever Whatever

Having completed the five year journey that was my undergraduate studies, I find myself with a diploma in one hand and a plane ticket in the other. In September 2017, I am moving to Reutte, Austria to work as a teacher’s assistant. It’s the first of many adventures in the works, so wherever I am and whatever I get up to, I invite you to join me.

My name is Sandra, and this is my blog.

Sandra.

Photo by Sandra Lyn Walker. Banks, Idaho. April 2017.