Moments ago my friend from over at Kimchi Latkes { This girl’s blog is hella funny – I encourage you to check it out. After you’re done here that is!} posted this comment in response to my post about why I became vegetarian.

“I like hearing how vegetarians came to be vegetarians, everyone seems to come by a different path. Now, I have to tell you, I’m more on the raise-it-yourself-if-you-want-meat end. Does this mean we can still be interweb friends? I agree they are intelligent. But where do you draw the line? Like for example, veal was traditionally a byproduct of dairy. A lot will eat dairy, but not veal, but it is from the same process. I understand though. When the hubby was all set to eat Rooster, I had my doubts. It is interesting to me that most self-reflective, caring people go through this debate. I guess everyone is just trying to make sense of it all. Check out this article, I was obsessed with the topic for days after I read it…”

Here is the link that she included in her post. (remember – after *wink*)

Now that you’re all up to speed

I want to tell you (and everyone else reading this) of course we can still be interweb friends!

This post was precipitated by another blogger Bethany (you can check out that post here) from her blog Barefooting outside the box.

“It seems to me that blogs are either (like you said) all talk about the act of eating a certain way and no recipes, or all recipes and no talk about why. Something for me to keep in mind as I continue to post about my family and our lifestyle!”

Bethany’s comment really inspired me to start thinking about including the reasons why I am a vegetarian in addition to the recipes I’ve been posting lately.

Vegetarianism (and all other isms for that matter) is just drawing arbitrary lines around things that are “okay” and “not okay.”

It doesn’t matter to me where you draw your line as long as we’re all sticking to the basic template of wanting to make responsible, non-harmful choices.

I think the thing that gets tricky about this debate is that people feel really strongly (like – I’ll run you over with my car you hippie-liberal-tofu-eating-commie! Or I’ll forget to water your desk plant while you’re on vacation you soul-sucking-republican-carnivore!) – Yeah, really strongly about where exactly we should draw the line.

I think we’re all doing well as long as we’re all drawing the line somewhere between rationally wanting to just sit on the couch and have food inserted into our mouths without much thought about what we’re putting in there and running out to save the very last of the (insert some endangered thing no one has ever heard of or will ever miss until it is gone) from extinction.

Like you said – most thoughtful, caring people go through this debate. It is important, critical even, that we try (at least a little) to not kill every living thing around us for our pleasure, entertainment, satisfaction or convenience.

And since no one has really proved (beyond a shadow of a doubt – come on guys don’t flood my inbox with tons of articles with titles like – “Meat and potatoes save lives!”) that a vegetarian diet will kill or harm our bodies. Then, it makes sense that we would question our intentions at ending these innocent creature’s lives so we can savor their delicious meaty bits in grandma’s favorite recipe.


Thou Shall Not Kill

I believe people are inherently good. I believe we don’t want to hurt anyone and generally want to do the “right thing” whenever we can.

I think it starts with a simple message reflecting those positive intentions.

Meat eating is good for you.

Meat eating is natural.

Meat eating is normal.

What rational person doesn’t want to be good, natural and normal? I know I do.

So, as a child… like many children… my parents fed me meat.

Great big juicy turkeys in November, delicious steaks on my birthday and less appealing, but certainly more common ground hamburger meat in every form imaginable.

I lived in the innocence of these beliefs where I didn’t have to think about where (or who) my food came from. There was no guilt at my table and life was sweet.

Then I started learning about animals. Yes, it started with my love for animals.

I first wanted to be a marine biologist! I think growing up in a coastal city put that one into my mind. Next, a zoo-keeper – until Steve died and then I felt too sad to continue on that path.

All the while through these adolescent endeavors I learned more and more about the animals in the world around me.

Like any budding scientist I observed their mating rituals, birthing rites, child-rearing policies and death observances. I noticed something.

Animals were intelligent.

This revelation was something I understood on the surface, but it didn’t go any deeper into my awareness for some time.

As I grew into an adult I adopted a little chihuahua dog and helped her grow.

We’d cuddle together on the couch and when I got up to go do something else – she would watch me and even follow me.

I know it doesn’t sound that extra-ordinary, but it showed me personally that animals – in this case dogs, well my dog – wanted to be near to me.

I didn’t understand. Why would she want to be near to me? Really. Her food was in the bowl, she had a little dog bed of her own and more toys than most 1 year-old children.

Why would she want to watch me, follow me, be near to me? What was I offering that she didn’t already have access to without me?

I slowly realized – Animals are not only intelligent. Animals are trusting and capable of developing bonds with the animals around them.

Well, that changed things in my mind. Suddenly, I started reexamining all the animals around me and how they interacted with humans and other animals around them.

My initial feelings were confirmed.

Animals are intelligent, trusting, capable of forming bonds with animals around them and they don’t want to be killed.

Oh come on! I pleaded with myself. Eating animals is healthy! It’s normal and natural. What’s wrong with it? — as I was shoving a mouthful of delectable chicken into my mouth.

And I’d always find myself coming back to the same answer – they don’t want to be killed. They are intelligent and trusting and capable of fear and pain.

Suddenly, guilt was served with every meal.

That still didn’t stop me most of the time.

I’d go on vegetarianism and off vegetarianism. Like some sort of guilt yo-yo diet.

I’d tell myself it is too hard and too weird as my friends and coworkers were always quick to point out.

And most of all – it was unhealthy. Right?

I won’t go into the long description of it, but I found that I did feel physically better when I wasn’t eating meat. That confused me.

So, I read many books and watched tons of informative videos and documentaries to try and uncover the truth.

So far, the truth that I’ve found is that no one really knows what the truth is, but not including animals in your diet won’t kill you or harm you beyond a shadow of a doubt. So, maybe not eating animals was at least as safe as eating them – maybe safer?

Still, my resolve was not complete. I mean a dog is one thing.

People have lived with dogs for as long as anyone can remember and dogs have always been our friends so, it makes sense to not want to eat them.

Farm animals were different right?

Their ‘glazed over’ expression and lack of personalities probably meant they were not that intelligent and probably were okay to kill and eat – right?

So, I started a project  – a chicken raising project.

I got a little group of eggs and a few weeks later little fluff balls burst from inside them.

And I was shocked at what I learned!

These farm animals were intelligent, trusting, capable of fear and pain.

And they wanted to be near to me! Just like my dog!

So – that’s it guys.

I’m not eating you and I’m not eating them because I don’t eat my friends…

And I especially don’t eat strangers. I mean that doesn’t even seem safe!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

I think I should tell you though that there isn’t any real recipe I followed to make the above stuffed strawberries.

You see – I had half of a New York style cheesecake in my fridge yesterday afternoon leftover from an event on Sunday.

That cheesecake wanted me to eat it so I made this recipe up to try to prevent me from finishing the cake myself!!

Here is what I did.

  1. Wash and dry the strawberries.
  2. Cut off the tops
  3. Cut off the bottoms
  4. Scoop out the insides
  5. Mix up the Cheesecake filling
  6. Fill the Strawberries
  7. Dip in chocolate
  8. Enjoy!

Now, if you’re like me – you’ll want a more in depth explanation of the process.

So. here you are!

1. Wash and dry the strawberries.

First, I thoroughly washed and dried each strawberry.

2. Cut off the tops

Then, I cut off just the tops where the greenery is attached trying to keep as much of the strawberry top intact as possible. It is okay if there is a little circle bit of the deep stem still in the center of the strawberry at this point because the middle is going to be scooped out later.

3. Cut off the bottoms

Next, I turned each strawberry on its side so that I could see the first cut made on the top. I made another cut parallel to the first to remove the bottom tip of the strawberry.

Please note; you really don’t want to cut off too much of the bottom because you’ll end up with a really short strawberry. The only intent here is to get the strawberry to “stand” upright in the dish by giving it a solid base.

4. Scoop out the insides

Next, you’ll need to use a knife or melon baller to scoop out the insides.

It is okay if you go all the way through the bottom but try and avoid it if you can. It gets harder to avoid it with the larger strawberries which seem to have wider insides but you don’t need to cut really deeply because these are going to be “overstuffed” with filling.

After all the strawberries insides have been scooped they will be moist.

Chocolate and cheesecake don’t mix well with water so dry each one with a clean paper towel or cloth and place them in a large plastic-wrap lined metal pan.

Set those aside to finish drying for a little bit and work on the filling.

5. Mix up the Cheesecake filling

Here is what I did for my filling. I took out the half of the store bought cheesecake and placed it into a large bowl.

I knew this would make a great filling because there is no crust to speak of and therefore it wouldn’t be chunky. I’m sure you could use no-bake cheesecake batter or even whip up a softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract mixture.

Anyway – I put the cake into the bowl and using a fork I crushed and mashed the cheesecake into oblivion! This didn’t take long at all. Although, I had to pay special attention to the top of the cake because that was where a small crust had formed during baking and I wanted to make sure that was smooth as well.

Once everything was mashed together I added a very small amount of milk – maybe a tablespoon. This allowed me to whip the mixture into a lighter and smoother blend than just the dense cheesecake mush it started as.

6. Fill the Strawberries

Once the filling was ready I took an icing star tip and place it into a large storage size zip top bag.

Placing the tip at one of the ends of the bag I made a small cut that allowed just the end of the tip to stick out through the opening. I used scotch tape to secure the plastic tip to the surrounding plastic of the zip top bag and I instantly had a ready made disposable icing bag!

Folding the zip top bag almost in half over itself with the icing tip on the bottom I scooped the filling into the opening using a spatula.

I then folded the zip top bag back into a normal shape and squeezed the filling down into the bag more fully. I twisted the open end together a few times to create pressure in the bag and squeezed out the first teaspoon amount back into the bowl I had used to make the mixture. This is because the first little bit that comes out of the bag normally has air bubbles in it and I didn’t want those in the strawberry.

After that was done I was free to pipe the cheesecake into the strawberries. I started at the bottom of each strawberry and used ever smaller circles until I got sort of a swirl top that I thought looked pretty.

7. Dip in chocolate

After all the strawberries were filled I took a medium sized ramekin and filled it with semi-sweet chocolate chips. I popped that into the microwave for about 20 seconds, took it out and stirred. Put it back in for about another 20 seconds. Took it back out and added a few more chips, stirred and put it back into the microwave for another 20 seconds. Finally, I knew the chips were melted because they easily stirred together into a chocolate sauce.

Try hard not to eat this sauce instantly!

I took a pair of tongs and carefully gripped each strawberry near the top and dipped them right down into the bowl of chocolate sauce. Then I put each one back onto the plastic wrapped dish. I did this for each strawberry until they were all coated.

7. Enjoy!

After that, I was pretty much done! I put them back into the fridge for about 30 minutes before transferring them into the Pyrex dish.

Super simple – no real measuring required!

If you didn’t want to mess with the icing bag – I think it might even be nice if you took the hollowed out strawberries and stuffed the cheesecake mixture in with a spoon then took the messy edge of the creation and dipped it in shaved coconut or crushed graham crackers for a finished look.

Or you could save those removed strawberry tops and place them on an overstuffed strawberry like a “hat” – these are easy and I think there are tons of fun things to do with them.


Vegetarian Eggrolls

By Request of Sylvia Here is the recipe:

  • Wash, Dry and Grate finely 1 large head of cabbage:

This is most easily accomplished with the help of a food processor. Since most of vegetarian cuisine is basically taking a vegetable and manipulating it into a different shape, form or consistency I splurged for a nice one! And no regrets – I love it forever.

  • Wash, Dry and Grate finely 1 large bunch of carrots:

I can tell you from experience – grate up more vegetables than you think you’ll need. These wraps hold a ton of filling so you’ll go through it fast. Plan ahead to make enough in advance. Plus, the filling freezes easily so don’t worry about surplus.

  • Add carrots and cabbage to skillet. Saute with olive oil and fresh garlic until nicely wilted.
  • Add Liquid Aminos, Soy Sauce or Sauce of choice.
  • Add your favorite veggie protein!

If I’m feeling lazy I’m not too proud to admit that I’ll use MorningStar Farm’s Asian Pattys. If I’m feeling more adventurous I’ll make my own Tempeh mixture. Really – anything you have on hand will probably work well. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

  • Wait for the mixture to cool.

I personally know this one is hard! But it is so much easier to work with the filling if you wait for it to cool down.

  • Squeeze out the excess moisture.

Cheesecloth, Colander – whatever you have on hand. Just get that extra moisture out or you’ll end up with soggy rolls that fall apart! That would be sad after all this hard work – so don’t do it!

  • Prepare your wrappers.

There are commercially available wrappers – they work pretty well. There are DIY wrapper recipes that seem to range from fun and easy to professional and problimatic. Try a few or get the grocery variety. I personally bank on fun or easy whenever possible.

  • Fill and Fold your wrappers. 

Check out YouTube – there are a TON of How To videos when it comes to wrapper folding. I think the most important thing is to just seal all the edges with just a little bit of water. Other than that – wrap however you want. People like the contents of the presents more than the presentation!

  • Heat vegetable oil in an electric skillet to 350 degrees.

Please – wait until the oil is hot before adding your egg roll. Most electric skillets have indicator lights. If you put your rolls in too early they will start to absorb the oil and get well… it is better not to talk about it. Besides that’s not going to happen to you! :)

  • Cook your eggrolls by adding them into the hot fry oil.

Don’t be afraid to turn them and remember they’ll be a little browner after you remove them from the oil than they look in the skillet. If they’re not done enough after you take them out you can always pop them back in for a little while. However, you don’t undo it if you overcook them so be cautious.

  • Remove your eggrolls to a rack or other surface where they can cool and the excess oil can drain off.

Once they’re cooled off – enjoy them! Take pictures! Share with friends!

And make sure to add lots of extra veggies and things that you love to make them your own special eggrolls!

A Match Made in Heaven

One of the first things I noticed about the Jewish community, that really surprised me was the amount of vegetarian food available for me at all these various pot-lucks, brunches and dinners I was attending.

The reason lay in the Jewish dietary laws – or Kashrut in Hebew.

All food has to be Kosher (or “Fit”) for eating.

These dairy pot-lucks made me want to learn much more about these Kosher dietary laws.

First thing that I learned is that the rules are complicated and many people interpret them very differently.

There is a old joke that goes: Ask two Jews and you’ll get three opinions!

So, please keep that in mind while I’m going over the things I’ve learned. I by no means have all the understanding or answers for thousands of years of tradition or practice – these are just the things I picked up on.

Meat + Milk = Forbidden

That’s right, remember all those delicious cheeseburgers you’ve downed without a frown? Well, they’re not Kosher.

There are also rules for how the animal must be killed in order for it to be certified Kosher.

Also, all dairy products need to have a Kosher seal before being considered Kosher as well. Some cheeses (as you hard-core vegetarians may already know) contain rennet which is the stomach acid of a baby cow. It helps the cheese making process along – there are vegetarian alternatives.

Treat Ham as Spam

Only animals that both ‘chew their cud’ and have ‘cloven hooves’ made be consumed according to Kashrut.

So – in order to keep Kosher you can’t pig out on pork either. This also includes bacon, ham and all other products that contain even trace amounts of pork.

That sounds fishy

The rules surrounding fish are even more complex compared to the rules about meat and milk.

All shellfish and other sea creatures are forbidden because in order to be Kosher the sea creature must both have scales and fins.

So – some say not even all fish are Kosher according to these rules.

Bugging Out

No bugs can be consumed – at all – ever.

Well you wouldn’t really think this is a problem. Most people are not chowing down on chocolate covered grasshoppers. Except… have you looked closely at your produce lately?

There are very rigid laws governing the way all produce must be washed to ensure that all bugs have been removed before preparation and consumption.

Don’t believe me – check out this site and you’ll see it gets a little intense.

The Kosher Kitchen

Okay – I’m already a vegetarian. I’m not eating meat, pork, fish or shellfish. I’m also willing to wash all the vegetables really well before I eat them too to ensure no bugs are on them – so I’m keeping Kosher right? Mmm probably not.

Kosher requirements extend not only to food, but to inanimate objects as well.

So, what does that really mean? Well, for starters any plates, utensils or other cookware that EVER touched meat are meat. Also, any plates, utensils or other cookware that EVER touched dairy are dairy. Furthermore, if your plate touched dairy and meat – it isn’t kosher and any kosher food that touches it becomes tainted. Seriously.

This extends to your appliances as well. Your stove, microwave and even dishwasher can become spirtually unclean by not following Kosher laws.

Some things are easier to fix than others. First, you can have a rabbi come out and Kosher your kitchen.  Also, keeping two complete sets of dishes and cookware (or even separate kitchens) can help simplify cooking  if you’re a meat eating Jew.

Then there are lots of little rules – like having a pan that fits over your sink to wash meat dishes in so your sink doesn’t become tainted with meat – if you don’t have a dishwasher that is. If you do have a dishwasher then you’ll need to start running it empty in between loads of meat and dairy dishes to keep your dishwasher Kosher.

But, how about eating out? Or traveling? Or microwaving foods at the office?

That’s where things get even more interesting and complicated. Plus, you have to take into account that nearly everyone has an opinion on the “right way” and the “wrong way” to follow the rules.

I have friends who keep Kosher at home, but don’t worry about eating over at a friend’s house or at restaurants as long as they keep vegetarian. There are some people who won’t eat at any place that isn’t strictly Kosher – depends on the person.

A match made in heaven?

While vegetarianism certainly helps simplify keeping Kosher – I’m not sure it is a perfect fit for me. I keep wondering if I’ll ever be able to give up eating at my parent’s house or restaurants. Plus, environmentalism is so important to me and some of the Kosher rules seems a little wasteful from that standpoint – two separate kitchens or sets of dishes and cookware? Running dishwasher in-between loads? Double wrapping frozen meals with aluminum foil to heat in a non-kosher oven? All that water to wash produce? I don’t know if I can get behind those (and other) things.

However, I do respect the discipline it requires and reverence it instills into daily life.

I’ll need to evaluate my priorities before deciding to take the Kosher plunge and be content with keeping ‘kinda Kosher’ until then.

Soy-lent me?

I’ve been a vegetarian off and on for several years. For the last year I’ve been a strict vegetarian broaching into vegan-ism at times.

I was initially surprised that (for me at least) it isn’t very hard to not eat animals. There are many vegetarian options available today – even at modern chain restaurants. So, I’m never without options.

No, the reason I’ve bounced back to my carnivorous ways each time is that frankly it is just hard to live as a vegetarian around the non-vegetarians I interact with.

As an example of this, today a co-worker of mine brought in a T-shirt that read “Save a Cow, Eat a Vegetarian!” – a joke of course directed at me.
While mildly humorous it reminds me that I’m in enemy territory.

No – no one is going to try an air raid on my lunch break. What I mean is that there is a clear “Vegetarians not welcome” vibe I get from many carnivores.

For example, the company pot-lucks and festivities really don’t include me. We often have b-b-q or grilling happening at our very relaxed office and I’m never even alerted that the grill has been pulled out until I look around the office and realize no one is at their desk!

The feelings of isolation and ridicule have been hard to adjust to not just from my co-workers. I hated to see my mom frown when I refused to eat her home prepared meals. Although, she has since gotten on board with my vegetarianism.

And it was hard for me the first time I got tricked into eating meat during a Thanksgiving gathering – that is a story for another time!

My point is that I’ve found myself in countless vegetarian-unfriendly situations that each time reminded that I’m not welcome.

While it may be hard, being under attack has it’s advantages. Adversity causes comradery. As proof I site all of those veteran clubs that have high attendance long after the war is over – bridge is not that interesting of a game so something else must be keeping them together.

Therefore, I say to all of you; draw strength from the support of each other no matter your choices or lifestyle.

And be nice to the vegetarians, after all – I’m willing to help support you in your lifestyle choices.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Doesn’t that just look sinfully delicious?

My kind co-worker brought in a Pumpkin Cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory this morning and I want to partake in eating it!

What is a poor Challah-girl to do!

You see normally I don’t have this dilemma because my co-workers bring in meat laden dishes to share. However, this is different. This is pumpkin! That’s healthy – right?

To really make a decision I’ll need to do a little more research about what exactly I’ll be fighting against. Sure, it looks good – but is it really? In fact, my instincts tell me it looks like it is trying so hard to be good that it is actually evil! But how to be sure?

I dug a little deeper (one internet search) and pulled the nutrition content from Fat Secret’s Website on this seemingly sweet holiday confection. What did I find? This packs a shocking 680 calories per slice!

Now I know why this dish looks too good to be true. Half my daily requirement of calories in one slice – not to mention 405 of those calories are from fat. Not that I’m a calorie-counter type by any means but man – I know I’d feel just awful a few hours from now after my body dropped into that sugar-crash coma!

I’m always feeling like an outsider for my food choices so I’m interested to see what others have to say about their actions in response to this common situation.

Would you give in? Could you resist the temptation? Would you even want to?