Thursday, November 4, 2010

What the *%#@! Should I Buy: How to Shop Vegetarian

Recipe: Fall Beet Salad

When I first decided to try out a vegetarian diet, the hardest part was grocery shopping. Previously, I would start at the meat counter and pick up whatever my belly craved. Then I would pick a few fruits and veggies (mainly apples and baby carrots) to nibble on in between the times I wasn't eating meat. Sometimes the meat would mingle with veggies in whatever recipe I made at the time (tomatoes in the chili, onions in the chicken noodle soup), but meat was always the star of the show.

So on the first day at the grocery store after I decided to eat little to no meat, I was a little confused and I kind of went crazy. I picked out a random assortment of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, and grains and filled my fridge with produce that I didn't look at, let alone use, again. I was so lost without a protein to plan my meal around, that I lost focus, wasted money, and bought things that were more or less unappetizing to me. I almost lost it and went to KFC that week, that's how bad it was.

Now I'm a little more seasoned in my meatless shopping and while I still have a little vegetable ADD, I've created a few rules for myself that help keep my shopping focused and the meals I make taste good!

1. Buy seasonal. The flavors usually mesh well and the produce is going to be the most affordable and the best quality. And while you're doing that:
2. Go to the farmer's market as much as possible. You'll find some really interesting products there. I love the beautiful colors and varieties of produce that I am familiar with and I always find some new vegetable I've never worked with before. Try out new things to keep your diet exciting!
3. Buy a variety of textures, colors, and flavors. Don't just go for potatoes and sunchokes.... All your meals will taste mushy and bland. Pick out crunchy greens, fragrant cloves of garlic, bright and beautiful squashes.... It will add variety to the meal!
4. Avoid processed foods. One of the main reasons I am avoiding meat is for health reasons: I wanted to add more vegetables to my diet. If all you buy are chips, ice cream, and frozen meals then you haven't added much nutrients to the diet. Shop produce as much as possible and avoid other aisles.

Shopping seasonal is how I came up with this Fall Beet Salad. I came home from the store with some beautiful red and yellow beets, swiss chard, and more Brussels sprouts (I could eat those all day long). You'll find a variety of textures, flavors, and colors in this dish. Paired with a delicious lemon vinaigrette, this dish can be eaten hot or cold.

4-5 red and yellow Beets
1 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped
oil for roasting and cooking
1 onion, julienned
1 shallot minced
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 cup champagne vinegar
3 cups olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

If eaten hot served with: 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

1. Preheat oven to 400. Wash beets and place in a roasting pan with wine, garlic, and enough water to come halfway up the beets. Cover with foil and roast in oven for 45 minutes to an hour depending on size of beets.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Par cook Brussels sprouts for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and shock in ice water and drain. Season with salt and pepper, toss in a good amount of oil and roast in oven with the beets until tender and caramelized about 20 minutes.
3. Caramelize onions over medium high heat until a golden brown color. Add chopped chard and sauté until greens are wilted, about 4 -5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Once beets are done cooking, remove from oven and pan. Let cool for 10 minutes and peel the skin off the beets. This should be easy to do, you can use a clean kitchen towel to help you along. Cut into 1 inch cubes.
5. Mix minced shallots, lemon juice, champagne vinegar, thyme and honey together. While briskly whisking, slowly drizzle olive oil into vinegar mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Mix beets, Brussels sprouts, chard and onions, and vinaigrette together. Adjust seasonings and eat hot with cooked brown rice or cold.

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