The first meal I made intentionally vegetarian was Rachel Ray’s Parmesan Crusted Tilapia with black beans and cheesy zucchini and rice. Oh.My.Goodness it was oh so very delicious. I found the tilapia recipe on Pinterest.com . I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures, especially because it was so beautiful!, but at the time I wasn’t sure I’d be blogging again, so I just ate it. Like I said, this is a Rachel Ray recipe, which means it is simple with few ingredients and delicious. This is my third or fourth Rachel Ray meal to cook and I find I like her recipes much more than her show! This is the original recipe, I halved it since it was just for me and Ryan. Here we go:
Rachel Ray’s Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
3/4 c. fresh grated Parmesan
2 t. paprika
1 T. chopped parsley
4 Tilapia fillets (1 pound total)
1 lemon wedge
In a shallow dish, combine cheese, paprika, parsley, salt and pepper.
Drizzle fish with olive oil and dredge in cheese mixture.
Place on foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees 10-12 mins until “fish is opaque in thickest part”
Serve with lemon wedge.
Super easy right? I learned a trick from another fish recipe I did. Before you drizzle the fish with oil, pat the fillet dry and lightly dust with corn starch. This gives it just a little bit of a crust and helps with the “fishy” flavor. I made black beans and cheesy rice to go with it. I cooked dry beans and just followed the directions on the back of the bag. Parboiling the beans, it took 3-4 hours total. The rice and zucchini I cooked separately. After draining the rice, I put it back in the pot and added the quartered steamed zucchini along with shredded cheddar cheese. Stirred it all up until the cheese was melted and we added a bit of salt at the table.
We’ve cooked some good stuff since this first meal, but 3 weeks or so in, and I still think this is my favorite. Certainly it was a great way to start off this whole food way of eating, it was so tasty!
I am returning to the blog-o-sphere because Ryan and I are attempting a shift in our eating habits and I figured this would be a great way to catalog our progress and (hopefully) provide incentive to keep going. Ryan and I spent weeks lamenting the by-gone days of our farmer’s market trips and fresh prepared meals. We’ve kept some priorities; we are brand loyal to a few local companies and I make it a point not to buy meals that come in a box or mixes and things of that nature with exorbitant amounts of salt in them. But other than that, we’ve gotten lost. Searching for his lost vegetarian roots and directed by recent documentaries Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives, Ryan, stumbled upon the latest, greatest, more politically correct version of vegetarianism–Plant Based, Whole Food Diet.
The jist as I can explain it is to cut out factory meats, processed foods and most preservatives. You can go further and cut out dairy products, but I’m not ready yet to give up my milk. We buy Klienpeter which is local, hormone free and cow friendly. So, there. Instead, you eat fresh fruits, vegetables, roots, mushrooms and whole grains. Meats are “allowed” if they are lean cuts and from local farmers. The idea of eating “whole foods” I really enjoy. I like starting with ingredients and hate recipes that call for 10 cans of this and that. It doesn’t seem like cooking to me if you just open the can and heat it in the pot. I had made a push a few months ago to cook with less processed and canned foods, and this is just the next step for me. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy or always enjoyable. I’m happy to give up Chef Boyardee, Hamburger Helper and Shake and Bake, but gone also are my beloved fast food and soft drinks and potato chips. I love those guys.
Always the martyr, I am pretty sure this change is going to be harder on me than Ryan. Not just because of my gone but not forgotten double cheeseburgers, but also BABY CARRUTH #2 who is on the way. About two weeks after we started eating more whole food conscious, we found out that we are expecting another baby. Carb and caffeine withdrawls hit about the same time as food cravings, so that has been a challenge I haven’t met too gracefully. But I know once I get over this initial change, it’s going to be very beneficial, especially in my pregnancy. I encountered blood sugar and blood pressure problems in my first pregnancy, and this sort of diet is exactly what the diabetic dietitian laid out for me. Hopefully eating this way now will help me avoid complications in this pregnancy.
So we’ve busted out the old Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook and have been scouring Pinterest.com (well, the pinterest is all me) for yummy new veggy meals. There are a few hints we’ve picked up along the way. The best vegetarian meal is one that is meant to be meatless. Instead of replacing the meat part of a meal with a vegetable, mushroom or tofu like portabella burgers, eat a meal that is originally full of vegetables and grains. This has been a bit of a shift, it has meant getting out of the meat and potatoes mindset and looking to other cultures. Italian, Indian, Asian and conveniently, Cajun cuisines are full of delicious meals that just so happen not to have meat. Which is the second tip we’ve come across. When looking for ingredients not usually found on the typical American plate, shop at the international food store. Grocery stores and even sections of grocery stores that are intended for cultures which eat less meat will carry the exotic ingredient for less. The Progressive brand of Panko bread crumbs sold next to all the other bread crumbs are at least $1.30 more than the actual Panko bread crumbs in the Asian food section. Of course when all else fails, spend more and go to Whole Foods.
Coming soon: Our recent successes and near misses eating plant based whole foods. Also, here is a recent picture of Evangeline Lily who is adorable and turning one in a month.