A Vegetarian at the Table

Howdy, all!

First, if you missed it, Battle of Marathon was on www.theleangreenbean.com on Sunday, talking about food prep! Welcome and thank you to those readers stopping by from there (and, of course, all readers in general) 🙂 I’ve really been enjoying writing this blog, and am especially excited for some series I have planned for the new year, as well as for some formatting upgrades I’ll be making over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for posts on resolutions, My First Weeks of Running, and soon enough, my Broad Street Run training plans…as well as some insight as to why I became, and stayed, a vegetarian.

Gushing over. After a cr-aaaa-zy week last week, the Christmas floodgates have officially opened. After teaching a grand total of one class on Friday morning– the most distracted group of freshmen I have ever encountered (can’t wait to grade THOSE quizzes)– I went absolutely Christmas ballistic in the kitchen, and loved every second of it.

Here’s what I made:

Oh, so NOW you want to be all neat and orderly, huh?

Oh, so NOW you want to be all neat and orderly, huh? They’re just showing off for the camera.

Vegetarian bean balls from Minimalist Bakers. These babies were a little tricky– I was glad I had a whole afternoon free to mess around with them. While they taste amazing (not a few were consumed as a pre-Christmas-party-afternoon-snack), the dough is really soft, and it’s a little tricky frying the “meatballs” before baking. I came up with a system of rotating every minute or so by hand (a spatula was tearing them apart) so that every side received a nice crisp and would keep the bean ball’s shape.

Before I hopped into the shower to primp for my school’s big Christmas bash, I also made a double batch of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies:

We have a bleeder.

We have a bleeder.

One with mini Christmas m&ms (which lost their coloring because of the wet banana base…*taking notes*)…modern art cookies.

Anyone else bad with spacing things on the pan? I just start dumping cookies and never plan how much room I need...

Anyone else bad with spacing things on the pan? I just start dumping cookies and never plan how much room I need…

And one batch with this delectable (accidental) Weggie’s find:

It speaks to me.

It speaks to me.

You guys know I love my peanut butter, so this was like an early Christmas present ex deis (from the gods, non-Latin-lovers).

On Sunday, I prepped a huge vat (okay, that doesn’t sound appetizing) of veggie chili from Oh She Glows. It was intended to be a quick go-to meal as my family rushes around with last minute shopping details, but it turned out to be so delicious that everyone– meat lovers and veggies alike– has been digging into the stuff. Angela even includes a recipe on there for vegan sour cream, although I’ve just been throwing a dollop of 2% plain Greek yogurt on there, since I do eat dairy.

Other scenes from this oh-so-Christmasy weekend include a holiday party for the ages…



Doesn't this look like one of those Dixie Cups you used to eat as a kid? Ignore the fact that this was 1,000x more delicious than that.

Doesn’t this look like one of those Dixie Cups you used to eat as a kid? Ignore the fact that this was 1,000x more delicious than that.

And pre-Nutcracker Ballet (recovery) dinner and gelato in downtown Philly on Saturday night. I spent most of Saturday in bed rolling around bemoaning the world, finding pizza crumbs from 1 a.m. Domino’s everywhere in the process. Sign of a good night, or masochistic exercise in torture? I don’t have it quite figured out yet.

I’ve also managed to sneak in a few 40-minute walks, and knocked out ALL of my Christmas shopping yesterday with my mom– I have 11,000 steps on my Pacer app to prove it! My mom broke her foot last week, so navigating the crowds was a challenge, but she handled the experience like a champ.


With all of this Christmas prep going on– both food and wares alike– I started thinking about those who have a vegetarian at their table, or visiting at any point over the holidays (or ever!). When I first went vegetarian back in my freshman year of college (2009!!), I remember my mother stressing out hard core about what the heck to feed me when I came home for breaks. The natural reaction: “fake meat products.” We picked up some Morningstar burgers and Italian chicken patties, and I lived off of those and mac n cheese. I’m convinced that every vegetarian goes through this “fake meat” phase– unless you come from a family with an experienced vegetarian around– because it seems like the natural route. Can’t eat chicken? Duh. Fake chicken patty, lovingly dubbed “ficken” by Rich.

In my 5+ years of being a vegetarian, I’ve definitely moved past this point. I do still eat the occasional veggie burger, of course (Amy’s or Dr. Praeger’s usually), but for the most part, I don’t always look to “replace” the protein served to meat-eaters with some frozen vegetarian equivalent. Over time, I’ve become comfortable enough in the kitchen (and acquired the tools necessary) to create real-food alternatives to whatever the main course might be. A great example of this would be my foray into real-food veggie bean balls (seen above): my family eats meatball sandwiches before Christmas Eve mass, and we would normally just pick up a box of frozen veggie “meatballs” so that my sister and I would have something to eat. Sorry, Morningstar, but you just don’t hold a candle to the real stuff. My sister said it all yesterday when she had the veggie chili I made for the 3rd (4th?) time since Sunday… “Amy’s chili is…okay…but…stops speaking and inhales a huge bite of homemade chili with spices galore and lots of sharp cheddar cheese, scooped up with a TJ’s tortilla chip…” No words necessary, straight from the stomach of babes. My mom loves all of the new recipes and has been joining in full-force in helping me to create new, real-food alternatives to things we make every day. Truth be told, she often prefers the veggie version… 😉

If you’re kicking around for something to feed your vegetarian table mate or table-visiter, know a couple of things. 1. Unless we’re really, really new to the game, we’re usually preeeeetty crafty. If there isn’t a “main course” I can eat at a party or over someone’s house, I just add a little cheese or olive oil (or both) to what I’m eating, and that fills me up more than enough. 2. We’re often a-okay with eating sides– at least, I know I am. However, if you have a little time and know you’ll be having a vegetarian guest, there are so, so many easy options out there to make; often, just leaving the meat out of one or two sides is more than enough.

Minimalist Bakers just did a great roundup of their always super-simple vegan recipes…

Oh She Glows is a goldmine of recipes (the chili was out-of-control good)…

Kath at Kath Eats Real Food (hey, me too!!) offered up a delicious-looking dressing for the season with butternut squash, kale, and mushrooms…

Or, tweak a family recipe (and let me know about it)!

Off to take a rainy walk (is it weird that I like to walk/run in the rain? It’s so cozy when I come back inside). I’m curious…do you accommodate special dietary needs at your holiday table/party? Or, if you’re a vegetarian, do you take it upon yourself to make sure you have something to eat? I would say I fall between the two categories…my mom usually plans what we’re having, and we work together to come up with an alternative for non-meaties. If you have a particularly good go-to recipe, feel free to share!


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