In This Edition of HeatCageKitchen
Vegetarian and keto are two words many people believe are incompatible. Emilie Bailey, a/k/a “The Texas Granola Girl,” is here to show you that they can work together.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Well, we’re a couple of weeks into 2022. Have you forgotten your resolutions already? Not me! I haven’t made any. After the last two years, who’s doing that, anyway?
Mother Nature’s bipolar weather patterns are literally having us all use our heaters at night and air conditioners during the day and then swap in a couple of days. This week we may be looking at snow in our area, and north Houston will not be spared that winter treat. (The prospect of snow does not make BF very happy.)
I discovered recently that I have two new readers. Welcome! This humble little blog is nine years old and contains information about food, cooking, foodie trends, some health and wellness, and the occasional contrarian opinion. Also included are anecdotes and sometimes extra information that may or may not be useful, depending on your perspective. New trends (i.e., the Instant Pot and the Air Fryer) are highlighted as well as updates and features from other bloggers who write more than I do. Stick around, you might find something you like. Check out my recipe page, which I need to update soon.
So let’s jump right into 2022!
The Post-Holiday Reset
The rich food of the holidays is over, and it’s time to get back to eating healthier. Hobby Lobby had this, and, well:
Yes, died and went to heaven. It’s fantastic with corn chips. Until I got halfway through the jar and read the ingredients. First up: sugar. I was heartbroken, but it didn’t stop me. I did buy one more, and that was the end of the dip.
Plus, I gave in to the Cranberry Bliss Bar, despite the large price increase since my first in about 2007:
BF was not interested in this Starbucks holiday standard, and I can’t even get him interested in trying a little bit. But copycat recipes abound, so I could conceivably make some any time of year, such as the upcoming Valentine’s Day.
But today, it’s time to re-set and get back to eating healthier. I fell off the wagon a few times, but not for the entire six weeks.
Getting A Move On
I’m exercising when I can, and bought this “resolution” back in June:
Called the Sunny Health & Fitness Row N’ Ride, I use it less than I should. That’s probably why I end up with sore muscles. The first day I used it I was crab-walking for four or five days–my legs really hurt! When I bought mine, it was less than $100. Part of the reason was so that I could exercise without doing any more damage to my foot. I’m also conscious of possible knee problems with walking, as well as gaining good lower-body strength. So I need to make more time for this baby.
The mail lady was not happy about delivering the 25-pound package. (It does require some assembly, which BF cheerfully handled because he’s a guy.) She remembers when BF shipped home boxes of tools and things before he returned from Iraq.
If you consider buying the Row ‘N Ride, know that it has a strict 220-pound weight limit. That’s OK for me, BF, Miss Alice, and Aunt Ruth. But not for one of BF’s car-guy friends, who has himself gone keto and lost a considerable amount of weight. The man is also well over six feet and over that weight limit, so I had to stop him from hopping on my machine. The company makes a Pro model with a weight limit of 300 pounds, which would be more suited for him.
Sunny Health & Fitness has a wide range of home health equipment, from small things like ab wheels and yoga mats to elliptical bicycles, rowing machines, and the Row & Ride. The company also has a YouTube channel that’s free. They frequently post content including workout videos on Instagram and Facebook. Many of their videos don’t require exercise equipment, such as body weight routines and even yoga.
For some folks, the New Year “diet” means going to or back to keto, low carb, paleo, low-fat, or whatever way of eating you prefer. Others may be considering the non-carnivore route. And for that, I’ve got your back.
I know, I know–the word “vegetarian” has you turned off already. Right now, I can hear you turning your nose up. (Except you, Miss Alice.) Well, today, I’m going to change that.
Emilie Bailey’s newest book is all about vegetarian food that’s also keto-friendly. Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes has some wonderful recipes that both vegetarians and non-veg people alike can enjoy. Yes, even maybe BF. But we’re not converting, just eating some tasty and different recipes.
In the intro, Emilie explains that the recipes are quick, and don’t require any ingredients that are hard to get, even here, no complicated cooking methods, nor any expensive kitchen stuff. That’s appealing even to non-vegetarians like myself.
“Yes, but, Amy, isn’t keto all about eating lots of organic meat and dairy?” No, it isn’t, actually. Keto, as I’ve said previously, is pretty much “Low Carb 2.0.” There are macros, but not really calorie counting. The thing is, you can’t over-eat fat without upsetting or hurting your stomach. Real fats make you stop at some point, whereas you can overeat carbs all day long.
If you’ve ever polished off a bag of chips and salsa, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t get me started on chips and salsa in a Mexican restaurant. If you’re in Texas, you know very well what that means.
Emilie’s book takes keto into the vegetarian genre of cooking, because she enjoys vegetables, and had plenty of recipes to focus just on this type. When most people hear the word “vegetarian,” the words that come to mind tend to be things like “bean sprouts,” “wheatgrass” and “soybean ‘meat.'” I’m happy to tell you this is not the case in Emilie’s book. The recipes aren’t difficult, either, and there’s something for nearly everyone here.
The short review: good food to be had here, and you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy them. Honest.
Types Of Vegetarians
If you’re not completely familiar with the concept, there are a few “flavors” of the non-meat genre:
- Vegetarians, who just don’t eat meat
- Pescatarians, who are vegetarians but also eat fish
- Lacto-vegetarians, who consume dairy but no eggs
- Ovo-vegetarians, who consume eggs but no dairy
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who consume both dairy and eggs
- Flexitarians, who generally don’t eat meat but do once in a while or alternate between veg and carnivore
- Vegans, who only consume plant-based foods, including plant milk and products like almond, soy, oat, rice, and others
- Raw vegans, who eat plant-based food that’s uncooked, or “unprocessed plant foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.” (I’ll pass–I still like sweet potato fries, thanks.)
Emilie’s book focuses on lacto-ovo recipes. There are multiple egg-based recipes in the book, one of which I’ll show you.
Why Go Vegetarian?
Everyone has a different reason for going veg. You can ask five people and you’ll get five completely different and diverse answers.
Miss Alice accidentally became vegetarian, no kidding. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, she and her daughter were running low on things, so she just ate rice and veg and gave her daughter the protein. Discovering she liked being vegetarian, and it worked for her, Miss Alice kept up with it. Because she included fish, that actually made her a pescatarian.
Many people have a specific idea of what the word means. Walk into nearly any American grocery store, and you’ll see offerings like these:
I can’t say I know any Hispanic folk who would welcome that in their tamales. Or any gringos, for that matter. But there is a market, and our local Walmart carries it. I pass it up the same way I did in Texas. But there are people who buy these products, just not me.
I have tried being vegetarian a few times, I really did. Gave up quickly because was always so hungry. Well, I didn’t have a book like this. As with many things, It’s a matter of finding what works best for you and sticking with it.
So let’s try out a few of these recipes and see what’s good.
Versatile Sandwich Round, Page 31
Do you like a good English Muffin? Here you go.
Emilie says that bread is one of the first things people miss when they go to keto. She’s right–no sandwiches, which is a shame unless you have a substitute. Well, thanks to Emilie, you can make anything from an eggy breakfast sandwich to avocado toast anytime. Pretty much anything you want to put between two slices of bread will work on this little sandwich round, even bacon, egg, and cheese.
You’ll need a little ramekin dish that’s safe to use in the microwave and just a few ingredients.
Mix up everything in the little bowl:
And the rest, then mix well:
Then microwave for 90 seconds on high, or a few seconds longer as needed.
I don’t have a picture of it cooking, but this is what comes out:
Flip it out onto a plate, carefully, because it is quite hot:
To make a sandwich, cut it in half lengthwise with a serrated knife:
You’re probably wondering what I did next. Well, it would have been avocado toast if I’d bothered to toast the round at this point. But I didn’t. I just mashed up a ripe one:
Then spread it liberally onto the halved rounds:
I didn’t bother showing this to BF, because I knew what would happen. Well, he came inside just after I finished it. He took one look at this and said, “oh, look, the cat threw up on your plate.” Thanks, Honey, I really appreciate that. Wait until you discover what *you’re* having for dinner. (Hint: it’s whatever YOU make.)
This little eggy thing is about the size of a standard English muffin. It’s useful for any manner of sandwiches you like, veg or non-veg. And if you’re missing bread at dinnertime, this is a great option, too. Cut it in half, or cut it as I did, then cut it again into quarters from the top, so you have four half-moons. Next time I’ll try to toast it too.
A few years ago I thought that Hamilton Beach’s amazing little Breakfast Sandwich Maker was the most wonderful thing ever. It makes breakfast sandwiches in five minutes or so, and you don’t have to leave your house! No drive-through window nonsense, either. Made correctly, you could use the Versatile Bread Round to make yourself a keto–and even non-vegetarian–breakfast quickly.
Emilie also offers a sweet version, but I haven’t tried it yet.
Turmeric & Avocado Egg Salad, Page 87
Ok, I’m going to issue a warning right up front: this dish is delicious, but it has a very strong tart taste. Like I wouldn’t even try it with BF. I’m not saying it’s bad, because it isn’t–this is a flavorful recipe. But the next time I may cut the lime and capers in half because I couldn’t eat it too fast. It opened up my sinuses, too. It’s that strong.
Although Emilie tells you how to boil eggs, you know what I used:
Once they were ready, I got started scooping out the avocado:
Mash it up in a bowl:
Now add in the rest:
Then the juice of the lime:
Then the capers:
Drop them in with the minced up onion:
Then the turmeric
Then take care of the eggs and add them in:
Stir it all up:
This recipe actually made two servings:
But I haven’t made this pucker-your-lips recipe since! For someone who is totally vegetarian, though, it might be OK. I’ve read that vegetarians have a higher tolerance for spicier foods, and this definitely fits that bill.
Open-Faced Pizza Omelette, Page 60
Who among us has never had leftover pizza for breakfast? Well, OK, maybe you, Aunt Kathy, but even you can love this one.
Yes, Dear Readers, I actually have had pizza for breakfast. Twelve years ago, in the middle of June, while I was working for Boeing, I got really, really sick with some kind of bug that was going around–fever, chills, coughing, the whole horrible bit. I was told by coworkers and colleagues that it was “something the Shuttle people brought back from Russia,” and I was one of the last people who became ill. Camped out on the futon, I watched a lot of TV under a wool blanket with two big, hairy cats (weight total: 40 pounds) on top. In June, of course. I didn’t want to make anyone else ill.
For about two weeks, I had pizza delivered a couple of times, because I was just too sick to cook for myself. It was also when I discovered Pea & Pesto Soup. I started making the delicious soup after I quickly got sick of delivered pizza and Taco Cabana takeout. I’d been growing basil, so the pesto took a few minutes of prep.
Fast-forward twelve years, and now pizza for breakfast is a) keto, b) vegetarian, c) easy, and d) tasty. And, really, you can have it anytime you want a delicious pizza thing. What kind of crust, you ask? Eggs!
So, this dish isn’t too far away from a normal omelet. Somehow I didn’t get a shot of the ingredients, but this is the recipe with the list:
And because I made my own pizza sauce:
It really did taste like a well-made pizza. I’ve used this sauce on Caulipower pizza crusts, and it works great.
First, make the base by melting the butter over medium low heat.
In case you’re wondering why there’s salt in there, I’ll explain. Emilie’s recipes call for salted butter, which I never have in the fridge. So I toss in a touch of kosher salt to hopefully make up for it.
And, this little cast-iron pan is just the right size. Bought two of these as well as two small covered cast-iron cocottes at Bed Bath and Beyond a couple of years ago, thinking I could make a quick dinner with them in the countertop oven. Well, I’ve used them, just not as much as I thought.
Meantime, mix up the two eggs, a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, a quarter-teaspoon of Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt.
Pour this egg mixture into the little pan:
Let it cook (no stirring) for a couple of minutes:
Cover it and let it cook another 3 or 4 minutes:
Once it’s cooked, take the cover off and add the pizza (or marinara) sauce, other toppings, and of course, the cheese:
Cook on the stove for another minute. Next, turn on the broiler, which in this case is in the countertop oven, and put the pan on the bottom rack:
Shut the door for a minute or two:
Your Pizza Omelet is ready. And what’s better for a delicious lunch or even dinner than a dessert from Emilie’s first book, some Blackberry Cobbler?
BF would not touch it, despite his enjoyment of bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast and pizza when he wants to eat his way. Well, I enjoyed it, anyway. And for the record, he does like the keto blackberry cobbler, too.
Dark Chocolate-Macadamia Clusters, page 126
What would any cookbook be without dessert? Again, Emilie doesn’t disappoint with a chapter called Sweets & Treats, including 11 dessert recipes. One even has grilled peaches!
For me, though, I wanted chocolate.
True to her word, Emilie’s ingredient list isn’t difficult to acquire.
For most recipes, I am generally limited by what I can find at Walmart and Winn-Dixie. I only get to Rouses occasionally, so when I want to get something I can’t find locally, I buy extra and stash it in the pantry or freezer. Fortunately, I could get everything at Walmart.
Lucky for us, sugar-free chocolate chips are available here, and I’ve been buying them ever since. Walmart carries other varieties, like this newcomer to the candy game.
Unfortunately, I tried some of these and didn’t care for them. Well, they were clearance-marked pumpkin spice, but I wasn’t impressed. So I’ve passed on these for the Hershey’s, and because the Hershey’s bag is bigger.
Melt 1.5 cups in the microwave:
Stop it and stir every 20 seconds. It should take 1 minute, 20 seconds to complete, but stir it until it’s completely melted and mixed with the oil. Then add in the half-teaspoon of vanilla.
Add in 1.5 cups of roasted and salted macadamia nuts:
Drop them right in and mix:
Once they’re all coated in chocolate, start dropping them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Until you’ve finished:
At this point, you’re supposed to sprinkle a touch of flaked sea salt on top of each one. Of course, I forgot. And I have a nearly-full box of Maldon’s Sea Salt, too.
Now stash them in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, and they’re ready to eat:
The other mistake is not realizing that these macadamia nuts were raw. I should have put them into the little oven for a few minutes and then maybe salted them. I don’t normally keep macadamia nuts around, and because I didn’t care for these, I’m inclined to avoid them. On the other hand, I might check Winn-Dixie or Rouse’s to see if they have them roasted, then try this recipe again. Because, chocolate.
Store these in the fridge in an airtight container, nibble at will. Just not all at once.
Frozen Hot Chocolate, Page 129
This was actually the first recipe I tried in the book. There’s a reason for that. Besides, it was hot out, and it was just after Hurricane Ida, in the days after we had power restored.
A few weeks prior at Rouses, I saw a can of coconut milk. I bought it, because I keep seeing it in recipes but can’t remember which one. Well, darn it, that can came home with us, and I soon found a use for it.
I keep almond milk around for several reasons, including running out of milk for coffee. Intrigued by the name, I grabbed my little blender.
I won’t question Emilie’s naming convention, but technically it’s not “hot chocolate.” It is, however, a pretty tasty concoction. More like a dairy-free chocolate shake. Who wouldn’t like that?
I’ll admit the ingredients are not what you’d think of in a standard chocolate shake:
Note: after I took this picture, swapped out the Mexican vanilla for a different one that was actually sugar-free.
You’re probably thinking, “Amy, why is there an avocado there?” Sometimes there are ingredients in my blog pictures that are for another recipe, or just happen to be caught on camera. But this time, it is part of the recipe. Now you’re thinking, “enough with the avocado!” They’re not in *every* recipe, I promise.
I also made it when BF wasn’t around, and he only saw the finished product.
So you add the ingredients into the little blender:
Blend it well:
I know you see the little green bits at the top. Just scrape down the sides with a spatula and keep blending. Then add your ice cubes:
Blitz again, and it’s ready:
It does taste a bit different, and the coconut milk is subtle but present.
I did ask BF to try it in a sweet tone of voice. I cornered him on the sofa, where he was looking at yet another Big Foot video on YouTube, and asked him to PLLEEEEZZZE try a little sip. Reluctantly (and with a funny look on his face), he took the tiniest of sips. “It’s missing something,” he declared. And he felt like it wasn’t sweet enough.
I’ll agree, I felt like it needed to be a bit sweeter, but that’s OK, too:
It wasn’t until the next day that I informed him it contained a tablespoon of avocado. You actually can’t taste the avocado, even if you know it’s there. Mostly, I think, it’s for adding viscosity and healthy fat. Then he made a face and pretended to get upset at me. But that’s all in the fun of helping him try new things.
Occasionally, he likes something that he thinks he won’t (especially if I don’t tell him what’s in it.) For a recipe that works, I write in the cookbook, Winner! Make Again! That’s legally gathered evidence of his approval for future repeats, just in case.
There Is Tofu
Yes, there are several recipes for both tofu and turnips here, but not many. I’m allergic to raw soy, so I’m quick to avoid it. I’m sure they’re delicious in their own way–and I could make them with substitute ingredients, like meat. In fact, I might actually do that one day.
For instance: page 120’s Tofu-Stuffed Peppers With Feta could be converted by swapping out the 14-ounce package of extra firm tofu with, say, a pound of ground chicken or turkey. The two peppers are cut in half and laid on the side, used to hold the filling. Mix and bake as you would for the tofu, 25 minutes.
On page 84 is a Mushroom-Tofu Lettuce Wrap with Peanut Sauce, which might also be good with ground turkey or chicken in place of the tofu. The peanut sauce with soy/tamari, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, fresh ginger, and peanut butter sounds interesting. Wrapped in lettuce with some grilled chicken strips might be a nice summer lunch, too.
Think about it: in the same way one would use tofu in place of meat in a dish, the opposite is also true. So there’s no saying I won’t try a tofu-based recipe by swapping out the tofu. I just won’t make them when BF is home.
Also found when buying ingredients for the Chocolate Macadamia Clusters were two items not normally found in Walmart:
The peanut butter is organic, but the almond butter isn’t. And the almond butter has no salt or sugar, which is unusual for anything you find at Walmart.
When you think “organic,” chances are the first thing you think of is “Whole Foods.” You’d be right–both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have a variety of organic foods, as does HEB and its upscale Central Market. In fact, on our last trip to TJ’s in December, we found some organic hot chocolate (in packets) for BF to enjoy. Whole Foods also has some organic hot chocolate in a can, with 22 grams of sugar in every serving. So understand that “organic” doesn’t always equate to healthy.
What It Means
Calling a product “organic” is more than just a name. The USDA has specific guidelines for the production of organic food, so it’s not just a term like “natural” or “healthy.” There is also a certification process that food producers must follow in order to have the seal on their labels.
I prefer to buy organic whenever I can, but I don’t do it all the time. For one thing, organic is more expensive because of the more intensive farming and processing practices involved, including the certification. Another is that not everything organic is necessarily better. Strawberries, yes, but bananas, not so much since you peel them to eat them (unless they’re marked down to sell fast–then you buy them and make banana bread!)
The FDA has a series of blogs called Organic 101:
- Part One discusses what’s not allowed in organic farming
- Part Two discusses substances that are and are not allowed inorganic farming
- Part Three explains what the organic label means
Of course, no matter what, reading labels is essential for eating as healthy as you can.
Good Food No Matter Your Persuasion
Despite the “hippie” or “millennial” image that many people have of vegetarians, people from many walks of live became vegetarians for whatever reason. Miss Alice’s reason was practical and not as much of a choice as a decision, if that makes any sense. (As of late, she’s fallen back on the carnivore wagon, but she’s healing from injuries, too.) Others make a conscious choice to avoid animal products, or just find avoiding meat less expensive. Again, everyone has a unique reason for going vegetarian.
For those of us who stay on the carnivore bandwagon, Emilie’s vegetarian keto book offers a range of recipes we might not think of otherwise. I see it as a supplement to her last two great keto books. It’s also an expansion of delicious keto recipes that I can enjoy and have in my pocket if someone drops by and says, “oh, I’m a vegetarian.” Mind you, the likelihood of that happening here in the middle of rural Louisiana is a bit low, but I like to be somewhat prepared for the remote possibility.
Another good reason to have this book: you’re out of meat, or you’re tired of the same old thing. Isn’t that reason enough?
Many thanks to Emilie and her publisher for sending me a copy and letting me preview the book, too.
Until Next Time
If you’re going keto, thinking about going vegetarian, or just want some new and different tasty dishes, Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes has 90 recipes that will keep you in tasty, healthy food that’s fast and easy to prepare all year long.
In the next blog, I have a non-keto, non-vegetarian recipe that involves one of Emilie’s occasional sponsors. However delicious, mine will not be a sponsored post.