Why I’m a Vegetarian

I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life and I’m often asked why. There’s a cute little story about how it all began, and I’ll follow it up with why I still am, after more than 20 years.

I grew up on a small farm in Maine. We had horses, rabbits, chickens, and a garden. I grew up eating meat but I never liked it very much, except for my grandmother’s delicious turkey soup. I didn’t like steaks or burgers at all. Once we got a flock of chickens I spent my afternoons playing in the yard with them. One chick in particular was my favorite – a beautiful Bantam hen I named Peeps because she was always making little peeping sounds. I’d come home from school, pick her up, climb the willow tree, and lounge in the branches, reading a book, with Peeps in the crook of my elbow. I would often give the chickens scraps of whatever I was eating. One day I made the connection between the fact chicken nuggets are made out of chickens – the very kind of chickens I was playing with each day. Chicken nuggets look nothing like living chickens – very few meat products resemble their roots – so although I’m somewhat embarrassed it took me so long to make the connection, I’m not surprised.

It took me about two months to completely give up meat and ensure my family respected my decision. I received cookbooks from my grandparents but my mother would continue to feed me chicken-and-rice baked dishes, telling me to “eat around the chicken,” although the entire thing was simmering in chicken broth. I remember during that time we visited a bison farm, and for the first time in my life, I enjoyed a burger. Bison was the most delicious red meat I had ever tasted, but a few minutes later when a bison approached the fence and let me pet his nose, I knew no matter how delicious it was, I wasn’t going to eat it again.

This was the mid-90s when vegetarianism among teenagers was quite popular, and I would be lying if I didn’t say the choice was also partly social. I had friends I respected and admired who were already staunch vegetarians and as we talked about their choices it made sense to me. So, the last meat I ate was bacon at my grandmother’s house – because it smelled so good the morning she cooked it during a visit that summer – and I gave it up after that.

These days my body can’t process meat. If I eat a soup made with chicken broth, or have a bite of a party dip with chopped chicken, or even eat veggies cooked on the same griddle as meat, I find myself in the throes of gastric distress within a few hours. People often don’t believe that when I first explain, but science proves that when one foregoes meat for long enough, the body stops creating the enzymes necessary with which to digest meat. It’s been more than 20 years – those enzymes are long gone. Should I ever choose to eat meat again I’d need to introduce it slowly and carefully.

I don’t think that’s going to happen. I fought with myself a couple years ago when I began traveling, especially to countries in which meat is extremely popular (especially South America). I wanted to be able to enjoy eating whatever the locals are eating without worrying about tummy troubles due to confusion over ingredients or shared cooking surfaces. I read recipes for meat dishes and considered ordering a chicken dish when I was in a restaurant.

And then I went to the grocery store and saw the meat products sitting in the coolers and I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take raw flesh and turn it into something edible. Today, I’m not only a vegetarian because I care about animals, but also because I care about my health, and – probably most importantly – because I don’t believe it is my place to take the life of another living being. Of course, the response to that is often, “plants are alive! Plants have feelings too!” Well, yes, that’s true. But I personally have no moral issue pulling a carrot from the ground and eating it.

I could not take the life of an animal – cow, chicken, turkey, goat, sheep, deer, mouse, caribou – with my own hands. I have absolutely no problem with people who choose to do so, and I actually believe strongly in the ability to hunt. I think hunting is a fantastic way to enjoy healthy, fresh meat with which to feed your family, and I much prefer hunting to the industrialized “agriculture” system on which this country currently runs. But I couldn’t do it myself – I don’t even kill spiders or bugs in the house. I put them in my hands and set them free outside. Who am I to decide who lives and dies?

I’m a vegetarian because I believe in treating life with respect – all life. I do my absolute best to never waste food: we freeze our vegetable scraps to create stock and have begun composting on a small scale in our condo. Unless food is clearly and truly spoiled I can find a way to use it or preserve it (soups are awesome for cleaning out the veggie drawer and even giving stale bread a new life). I’m respecting my body by feeding it what feels good. I’m respecting animals by not eating them. I’m respecting the planet as a whole by not supporting industrialized “farming” and not throwing food away.

My life as a vegetarian hasn’t always been healthy and wasn’t nearly always so easy, even for me, to understand. That’ll come in another post. It’s important to make an educated choice to become vegetarian. It’s not difficult but it does involve some effort in terms of nutrition – and that’s why I often offer recipes here too.

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies

We wanted the house to smell nice last night so, of course, I had to make cookies. That’s the best way! I had about half a can of pumpkin sitting in the fridge, a bag of dark chocolate chips, and a hankering for something chewy and warm. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies? Yes.

This time around I sweetened them with molasses instead of maple syrup and I switched up the spices. If I were going to go the molasses route again I’d up the ginger to make them a bit more gingersnap-esque, and I’d also like to try them with raisins instead of chocolate chips. Warming, cozy cookies at their best! These can very easily be vegan if you use vegan chocolate chips, and they have no refined sugar/flour.

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp chai spice
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1tsp or more ground ginger, if you wish
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (1/2 a can)
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • dark chocolate or vegan chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients until well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients until smooth. Tip: I melt the coconut oil RIGHT before I use it so it doesn't harden again if my kitchen is a bit chilly.
  4. Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir with a spatula until fully incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Wet hands and scoop dough out, roll into a ball, flatten slightly, and place on the baking sheet. They won't spread during baking.
  7. Bake for about 13-15 minutes or until fairly set.
  8. Allow to cool and harden for a few minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

No-Bake Chocolate Protein Brownies

I’ve been on the Black Bean Brownie kick for a couple of years. I have a major sweet tooth but once I started focusing on cooking and eating for health and nutrition as well as taste, I’ve been phasing out a lot of traditional sweets. The one recipe I keep and continue to make is my Grammy’s Pumpkin Bread…I’ve modified it here and there and it still tastes great, but the original is the best.

I digress…

When I want brownies but I don’t want to have a crazy sugar rush afterward, I go the black bean route. The first ones I tried were the Chocolate Covered Katie Black Bean Brownies. I even made them for a baking contest at work. They’re delicious, fudge-y, and chocolatey. Everything you could want in a brownie, minus the feeling of eating a bowl full of sugar.

It’s no secret I love making treats with Orgain.  I’ve made protein shakes (obviously), overnight oats, cheesecake, cookies, and more with this awesome, simple, vegan protein powder. So of course I decided it was time to take the Orgain to the black bean brownies and devise the ultimate protein-bar brownie. Still chocolatey and fudge-y, a bit lighter than the original black bean brownies (no chocolate chips, no cocoa powder), and you don’t even have to wait for them to bake.


As usual, I don’t measure too carefully. I tend to eyeball most of my recipes, so feel free to modify the amounts to suit your tastes. Love peanut butter and no so keen on maple syrup? Great – add more PB and dial down the maple syrup (you may need to add more almond milk) – you get the idea.

Also: be careful with your food processor/blender. I think I actually killed our Ninja last night. I’ve had my eye on a Vitamix for a while and my birthday is coming up…anybody want to donate to the domestic cause? You will after you try these!

No-Bake Chocolate Protein Brownies


  • 1 can black beans, rinsed well
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • dash of salt
  • dash of baking soda
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 rounded cup rolled oats
  • 3 scoops chocolate protein powder (I used Orgain)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk, as needed


  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until very smooth. You may need to add more almond milk as the mixture comes together. It should stick to itself but not be runny (if it's too runny, add more oats or protein powder).
  2. Pour into an 8x8 or 7x9 baking pan and press down.
  3. Refrigerate until firm and cut into squares.

10 Easy Vegetarian Super Bowl 2017 Snacks

The Superbowl is looming ever closer, and our fridge is PACKED. Aside from the holiday season, the Superbowl is a great excuse to cozy up whilst cooking up a bunch of delicious food.

But we don’t have a TV.

We aren’t even hosting a party.

We’re planning to stream the game on our (shared) laptop, all snuggled under blankets, eating our hearts out – just the two of us.

It’s not the size of the party that matters. It’s the company…and, perhaps more importantly, the FOOD.

With that in mind, here’s a roundup of 10 delicious (mostly secretly-healthy) vegetarian recipes for your Superbowl celebration. Whether you’re hunkering down at home, hosting a party, or attending a party, you’ll find something on this list to please everyone, from starters to desserts.


  1. Kale Chips by Oh She Glows
    • I know we’ve all heard about kale chips, and you may have tried a batch or two without being sold on the idea. But this summer, with our abundance of kale thanks to our CSA, we perfected this simple snack. Angela’s tips on preventing burns and soggy chips will have your entire crew crunching in no time. Our batches barely made it to a plate before we polished them off. Experiment with seasonings – we kept ours simple with salt and pepper, but you can get really creative here.
  2. Cashew-less Vegan Queso by Minimalist Baker
    • Full disclosure: we have not yet tried this recipe. But you better believe we picked up an extra eggplant this week to try it out. We love cheesy snacks here but try to limit how much dairy we eat, for both health and sustainability reasons. Cheese is pretty high in calories and I could easily eat my daily caloric needs in cheese. Thankfully, I stumbled upon Minimalist Baker’s queso recipe this week, and we can’t wait to try it out. Creamy queso-y goodness, without the calories, with the added benefits of eating more veggies? Yes, please!
  3. Maple-Roasted Chickpeas by A Pastry Affair
    • I had this recipe bookmarked for months but kept forgetting to actually make it. How I “forgot” to simply empty a can of chickpeas onto a sheet and forget about it for 40 minutes is beyond me, but I finally remembered to make them, and I’m so glad I did. Much like the kale chips, you can experiment with flavors here. I’ve omitted the maple syrup and simply baked them with cinnamon and sugar too.
  4. Mozzarella-Stuffed Rosemary Pretzels by Baker by Nature
    • We made these delicious soft stuffed pretzels for the Superbowl last year. They’re soft, chewy, and flavorful, and you can customize the herbs and cheese to your liking – or omit them entirely for a plain soft pretzel. I let Travis handle all things yeast-based in our house, thanks to his years of beer-brewing, and these came out so well, we’re having a repeat performance. This year we’re using cheddar instead of mozzarella. Yum!


  1. Vegetarian Baked Potato Nachos by Sarah Goes Places
    • This is one of my favorite simple veggie recipes. You can use any type of potato, sliced super thin, and top with any combination of beans, veggies, and optional cheese, to create your preferred nachos. I almost always include tomatoes and peppers along with black beans, but the rest is up to you. Bake the potatoes, toss on the toppings, and bake until the cheese is melted.
  2. Easy Eggplant Pizza Bites by Sarah Goes Places
    • Another easily-customizable veggie recipe, these eggplant pizza bites are a great way to get delicious pizza flavor for a fraction of the calories. Using eggplant slices as the crust means they won’t be super crispy, and you may need a fork to eat them, but they’re still a great party option. Plus, you can make a few batches with different toppings – even including meat if you have some omnivores present!
  3. Hearty Veggie Mac and Cheese by Julia Moskin, NYTimes Cooking
    • The official title for this recipe is the decidedly-classier “Hearty Whole-Wheat Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Cheese, and Potato,” but I think “Veggie Mac and Cheese” covers the topic just as well. It’s a warming way to sneak in a few extra veggies with a creamy classic. We made this with sweet potatoes and omitted the parmesan on top, and it was perfect for a cold winter dinner. You could also bake it into muffin cups to easily create single servings for guests.


  1. Lightened-up Protein Cheesecake Cupcakes by Sarah Goes Places
    • We may not all be NFL players, but we could all use a nutritional boost from a dessert that’s low on sugar and high on protein. Baking the cheesecakes into cupcakes makes them easier to serve a crowd (if you don’t eat them all first). And who doesn’t love cheesecake?
  2. Dessert Hummus by Sarah Goes Places
    • We probably make this close to once a week these days. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how often we make it, but it’s just SO GOOD! If you’re serving to a crowd, you can spoon it into shot glasses for a fancy presentation, or have fruit/graham crackers handy to scoop it up.
  3. Chocolate Brownie Breakfast Bars by Chocolate Covered Katie
    • I’d be remiss in my healthy vegan and vegetarian desserts if I didn’t include a post from Chocolate Covered Katie. I’ve tried a ton of her recipes and been inspired by many others. Her classic black bean brownies are on our regular rotation list, and the dessert hummus above is inspired by one of her recipes. These chocolate brownie “breakfast” bars are tasty as-is, although we took it a step further and subbed out the cocoa powder for chocolate Orgain protein powder to give them an extra boost.


Travis told me I couldn’t choose sides in this post, but I know my grandma reads my blog, so, for my family back in New England – where I grew up – this cocktail is for you:

Winter Tea Julep by We Are Not Martha

This Boston-based blog cooked up a cold-weather cocktail sure to keep you and yours warm whilst watching the game. You’ll need to boil some water to create the simple syrup, but, as the name implies, it’s simple. Then you just brew some tea and add the bourbon.

If you’re not in the mood for peppermint tea, I’ve had great success making Hot Toddies with ginger tea, honey, lemon juice, and bourbon too. I’ll leave the amounts up to you.

And there you have it – our 2017 Superbowl Snack Recipe Roundup. If you try any of these, let me know! GO PATS!!


Vegan Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

I went a little overboard at the apple orchard this fall. I also went a little overboard with canned pumpkin. Every time Travis or I needed groceries, I put a can of pumpkin on the list. Since we rarely had the chance to shop together during the fall, we ended up picking up a can – each – every trip. Last weekend we were tidying up our pantry and realized I managed to collect almost ten cans of pumpkin. I’d used maybe two cans since September. Whoops.

Luckily, I LOVE baking with pumpkin. We even tried an experiment this fall during which we roasted and ate our carving pumpkins because we were traveling on Halloween and didn’t get to carve them. Even that made a delicious dinner, though I prefer to bake pumpkin into muffins, pancakes, and the like. Once I discovered all the cans in our pantry, I had to do something about it – and I could be liberal with my choices! First order of business: using up the very last of the apples we got from our winter CSA. I’d made some Apple Cinnamon muffins earlier in the season that were tasty but I didn’t pick up any greek yogurt this week when we got groceries. I knew pumpkin was a pretty great substitute for fats whilst baking, and so was applesauce, so I modified that recipe a bit to create these. Enjoy!

Vegan Apple Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins


  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons water (to create a flax egg)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 3 apples, any variety, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease 12 muffin cups with coconut oil.
  2. Whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, almond milk, maple syrup, flax egg, vanilla, and melted coconut oil. You may need to work quickly here as the coconut oil may harden. If this happens, you can microwave in short bursts just to get it liquid again.
  4. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Add the grated apple and stir until combined.
  5. Scoop into prepared muffin cups and bake about 20 minutes or until set (I don't use a toothpick, but I poke the tops to make sure they're firm).

Tofu Pot Pie with Mushroom Gravy – Pot Pie Recipe

As promised in my previous post, here’s the classic Tofu Pot Pie recipe – it’s a hit with both vegetarians and omnivores alike!

Tofu Pot Pie with Mushroom Gravy – Pot Pie Recipe


  • 2 pastry crusts (or feel free to make your own)
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1" cubes
  • 1-2 potatoes, any kind, cubed and cooked
  • 1-3 diced full size carrots (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 6-10 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Mushroom gravy from this recipe


  1. Preheat oven to 400*.
  2. Unroll one pie crust into pie dish.
  3. Layer ingredients in any order. I generally start with tofu and potatoes as they're larger and more dense, and top it all off with the gravy.
  4. Top with second crust and pinch edges to close.
  5. Cut vent slits or a design into top.
  6. Bake on the middle rack for 45-60 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.


adapted from an old recipes from Gentle Thanksgiving

Tofu Pot Pie with Mushroom Gravy – Gravy Recipe

Today, as my gift to you, I’m passing on a recipe (well, actually two) that’s been a hit among my friends and family for years. I got it from an online forum and copied it into a Word doc about 9 years ago. The printout is splattered with gravy and wrinkled from use – just the way a favorite recipe should be.

The mushroom gravy included here can be deliciously used on its own – we often make it to as a complement for pumpkin or butternut ravioli. It’s warming and filling – and can easily be vegan, should you choose to use a vegan butter spread.

The pot pie itself is easily customizable, depending on how much and what type of vegetables you have on hand. For example, you’ll see some pearl onions in mine – we used the leftovers from the Mushroom Bourguignon.

First, the Mushroom Gravy – since you can use it with a variety of other recipes:

Tofu Pot Pie with Mushroom Gravy


  • 5-6 ounces chopped mushrooms (I use about a half box of cremini mushrooms)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup butter or vegan butter spread (we used Trader Joe's unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup flour (we used TJ's whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock/water with bouillon
  • Poultry seasoning and/or Herbs de Provence, to taste (sage, thyme, marjoram - be generous)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté mushroom and onion together until onion is translucent.
  2. Add flour and stir constantly.
  3. Slowly pour in vegetable stock/water, one cup at a time, while stirring. You may find you do not need the full 3 cups, depending on how thick you prefer your gravy.
  4. Continue to stir over medium heat until it boils, then reduce heat and let thicken.


adapted from an old recipe from Gentle Thanksgiving

For the Pot Pie, see this post!


Vegetarian Mushroom Bourguignon

I watched the Julia Childs movie Julie/Julia a few years ago whilst living alone in New York. I loved writing and cooking, so although I’m not a huge movie buff, it was a natural choice for me on one of my “do nothing” days (I’ll talk about those next!). A large part of the movie – from what I now remember – centered on Julie’s ability to cook boeuf bourguignon. After hours of prep work, it was a flop – and I was intrigued. As a vegetarian, I wasn’t about to try the exact recipe myself, but I wanted to find something equally impressive and comforting for cold winter days.

Enter Smitten Kitchen, a decidedly-delicious blog made up of “comfort foods stepped up a bit,” in their own words. Though this was the first Smitten Kitchen recipe I tried a couple years ago, it hasn’t been the last. It’s a favorite and I served this to some non-vegetarian friends over the holiday weekend, and unfortunately, we devoured it too quickly for me to get a photo. I don’t think anybody wants to see a photo of my simmering red wine, so I’ll circle back when I make this again. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Mushroom Bourguignon


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2-3 pounds sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
  • Pappardelle pasta, for serving


  1. Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
  2. Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
  3. Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and, once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
  4. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.


Recipe barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Check Your Labels

Over the weekend we had the good fortune to visit with many of our local friends. Catching up is always fun, especially when you can trade ideas and information. One couple has been working to eat healthier – including eating less red meat – so I was stoked to be able to serve them mushroom bourguignon. The recipe will follow – I wouldn’t just tease you with that – but during the conversation, they mentioned how my advice to read the ingredients on their veggie burgers had really paid off.

Although I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years, I didn’t always eat the most nutritious foods. It took me a long time to focus on eating for health. That said, when anyone mentions they’d like to give up meat and try veggie substitutes, it gives me pause. For me, personally, I would rather see someone eat local, grass-fed or free-range, antibiotic-free meat than a boxed concoction with a list of ingredients nobody can pronounce, much less identify. Yep, the staunch vegetarian would rather you eat a local burger than a veggie burger.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor a registered dietician, nor a nutritionist. But from my own humble life experiences – and the knowledge I’ve gleaned over the past two decades – we’d all be better off eating foods with ingredients we can pronounce. We’d be even better off eating food that doesn’t need to come with a nutrition label (eg, fresh produce). If what you want is a burger, find yourself a quality burger, not a chemical substitute. I’ll definitely be talking about this more going forward because helping others to make healthy lifestyle choices has become pretty important to me.

Easy Maple-Apple Pie

I confess  I had never made an apple pie until this fall. In all my 32 years I’d made some other delicious pies (like a tofu pie that sounds weird but is really tasty and I’ll be posting shortly), but never an apple pie. This year, after the overboard-at-the-orchard weekend, I had to prove to Travis we could use up every single apple we picked. And so it became the fall of apple pies.

We don’t use much refined sugar, even in our desserts. We try to eat as simply wholesome as we can. So I dug around and found some tips for good apple pie, and now I present to you…the easiest apple pie you could possibly bake.

I fully admit I should make my own crust, but the Trader Joe’s frozen pie crust is SO good, we didn’t bother making our own after the first pie. If you’d prefer to make your own crust, that’s totally an option!


Easy Maple-Apple Pie


  • 12+ apples, any type, cored, peeled, and sliced into 1-2" chunks
  • Cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 Trader Joe's frozen pie crusts, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 350*.
  2. Toss apples with maple and cinnamon.
  3. Spread apples in a glass baking dish and bake for about 30-45 minutes on a center rack, stirring halfway through. If apples start to break down, remove from the oven - we don't want to make applesauce!
  4. While apples are baking, spread one pie crust in a pie dish.
  5. Fill pie crust with baked apples when they're done.
  6. Top with second pie crust. Cut a design in the top, if you want.
  7. Raise oven to 425*.
  8. Bake pie for 30 minutes at 425, then reduce back to 350* and bake an additional 40-60 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.