Monday, February 23, 2009

But where do you get your proteins - part 1

"But where do you get your proteins?" is often the first question that troubles the concerned omnivore when you say you are vegetarian. I initially wanted to put together a short list but as I've been working on this, its grown considerably. Thus I've decided to put together a fairly extensive, yet non scientific list of plant based proteins, grouping them by source. Although I am not a nutritionist, make sure you cross check my claims before taking this as gospel please!

Most of the images used in this post are from Wikipedia and Stock.Exchng and my research was conducted online with Wikipedia and knowledge I've learned in living a vegetarian lifestyle.

This first part will focus on legumes: beans, peas and lentils. Part 2 will focus on grain proteins, part 3 will focus on nut proteins and part 4 on other plant based proteins.

So what's the deal with proteins anyways?

Proteins are molecules composed of long chains of amino acids. There are 20 different types of standard amino acids that form proteins, 8 of which are considered essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce on its own. Most animals consumed by omnivores obtain their own proteins from plants as they are herbivores by nature. They make them the same way us humans can make our own proteins.

List of Amino Acids (from Wikipedia)
Essential Nonessential
Isoleucine Alanine
Leucine Asparagine
Lysine Aspartate
Methionine Cysteine*
Phenylalanine Glutamate
Threonine Glutamine*
Tryptophan Glycine*
Valine Proline*




*Essential in certain cases.

The Legumes

Although most beans, peas and lentils do not offer a complete protein on their own, they can amalgamate with other proteins to complete the chain and create a complete high quality protein. Unlike the old vegetarian adage, you don't need to combine these with a grain at the same time to reap the benefits. You simply need to eat a variety of beans and grains to make sure your body has a steady supply of the 8 essential aminos to build strong muscles and stay healthy!

One fun fact to keep in mind with beans is that they are one of the Three Sisters in Amerindian agriculture and the base of the diet along with corn and squash.

Peas - including split peas - Peas are often forgotten in the protein list as it's often regarded as a vegetable worthy of pot pies and meat & potato concoctions. I love these in samosas, rices and soups. If you are feeling adventurous, you could add them to pasta sauces, rice and ground them up and use them as a complement to a flour based dish.

Kidney beans - These lovely red delights are very popular in chilies and three-bean salads. Kidney beans are also a fundamental part of Northern Indian cuisine. They have a creamy texture and tend to disintegrate when cooked for a long time.

Lentils - There are literally dozens of types of lentils including red lentils (hulled lentils) that puree when cooked through. There is also the popular Puy lentils which retains is shape when cooked, and green and brown lentils popular in Lebanese and Palestenian cuisine, combined in a great rice dish with roasted onions.

Lima Beans - Also known as butter beans, these large white beans are creamy in texture and flavor. They are great in salads with a dill cumin dressing, or also pureed hummus style. I've also enjoyed them in a chili, lending itself as a thickening agent.

Black Beans - Secretly one of my favorite beans, I like to make burgers with these. They hold their shape well and have a meaty flavor that's unique. They are also popular in stews and soups. Like the Pinto bean, they make for surprisingly delicious refried beans. If you soak dried black beans, the resulting liquid is always a gorgeous deep purple color.

Black Eyed Peas - Not only a popular band (har har), the black eyed pea is considered soul food and is part of African, and South American diets, being an integral part of dirty rice (kidney beans are used in the Haitian version of dirty rice), hopin' john and rice and peas. It is also often added to stews and Brazillian Feijoas. It's nutritional value and high nitrogen content makes it a farmer's friend too.

Chickpeas - chickpeas are an unusual bean as it has a round shape instead of the traditional bean shape. They are pale beige in color and are used in Mediterranean and Indian cuisine. Whether its a pureed in a hummus, pocketed in a samosa, sauced in a chana, or stewed, they make for great flavor and texture while packing a protein punch! They can be ground into a flour and be used in baking like muffins and donuts.

The Noble Soy Bean

The bean that can boast offering a complete protein! Some how along the way, this plant has been vilified as being the cause of many ailments. I'm a great supporter of soy but use caution. Variety is the spice of life. Don't just rely on soy as your legume protein source! One way I try to keep variety is I'll drink a non-soy plant milk like rice, oat or hemp. If I take soy milk, more than another serving of soy during the day. You'd probably get sick if you only drank cow milk and ate cow cheese all day every day too....

Edamame: Baby soybeans that haven't been dried into the well known white soybean. Usually eaten in stir frys or served in the pod to be eaten with a salty dipping sauce. A source of high quality complete proteins.

Tofu Firm/Silken - Source: Soybean curds. Tofu is made from curdling soy milk and pressing the curds into blocks. Tofu doesn't have its own distinct flavor but will take on whatever accompanying flavor the prepared dish has. It can be cut into cutlets or cubes as it or be marinated and pan fried for flavor. It can be crumbled to resemble "ground beef", scrambled to resemble scrambled eggs, or for silken style tofu, it can be blended to have a smooth texture. Try a vegan chocolate mousse! You won't believe it's tofu.

Tempeh - is made by a natural culture and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Tempeh's fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber and vitamins compared to tofu, as well as firmer texture and stronger flavor. (directly copied from wikipedia!) I like to make "Reubens" with tempeh and when pan fried in roasted sesame oil, is a worthy component of any stir-fry dish.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) - These are soy protein flakes that can be used to replace any type of ground meat in chilis, spaghetti sauces and other recipes. They are easy to prepare, just by soaking 1 cup of TVP in 7/8ths of a cup of boiling hot vegetable stock for 10 minutes. Simply add into the recipe as directed.

Stay tuned for the next post on grain based protein sources!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Mythical Beast: The Vegetarian Friendly Sugar Shack

Sugaring off is a yearly tradition in my household, where friends and family gather at a Sugar Shack and imbibe copious amounts of food and delicious maple syrup.

After being reminded by my significant other that the sugaring season is upon us, I decided to search online to see if I could find a vegetarian friendly sugar shack, to indulge in all the delicacies except for the lardy and porky parts.

Although I expected it, I found a lot of hateful posts on how going to the sugar shack and eating a kosher/halal/vegetarian diet is stupid/senseless/ and why the hell should we accommodate these weirdos...! Ouch.

I am not deterred by this, worst case scenario, I envision renting a cabin up north, armed with a gallon of maple syrup and other ingredients and make my own veg sugaring event.

But before I do this and singlehandedly send myself off into a sugar induced delirium. Does any one know of a good place in Quebec has a vegetarian friendly component to its menu? I can't imagine there is no such thing...!

I saw the Montreal vegetarian association does a yearly shindig, but I'm not in the mood to sit with a bunch of strangers for this family oriented occasion. I'll keep you all posted if I find anything in the mean time.

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*- UPDATE -*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

I believe I have found sugar shacks that either accommodates vegetarians and/or only offers a vegetarian menu. Here are the addresses:

La Pause Sylvestre (no website unfortunately)
(menu végétarien, sur réservation seulement)
58, 11e rang
Dudswell, QC
lapoteriededudswell @

Cabane a Sucre Sante - Randonnees Jacques Robidas
32, chemin McFarland
North Hatley (QC)
J0B 2C0

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yuan Cuisine Creative Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Yuan Cuisine Creative

If you are craving a Chinese / Japanese style menu without risking accidentally injesting meat / fish in sauces, then this place is definitely for you.

As a former Dim-Sum enthusiast, I was extremely surprised as how meaty AND flavor-accurate the vegetarian dumplings where. Served with a black bean sauce, it took me all the way back to those lazy Sunday mornings at Tong Por on de La Gauchetiere.

I was then served the mushroom laden Hot and Sour soup. I prefered their version better than any of the ones I had in my omnivorous days.

I then had from the table d'hote the Veggie Chicken in Peanut Sauce served in a beautiful bento box (pictured here). The faux chicken was bang on, and the sauce, decadent. It was served with a side of short grain brown rice and mung beans. With it, tempura battered and fried seaweed and steam broccoli. The salad and gherkin pickle were a nice touch to cleanse the palate. For desert, I had the pistachio ice, served with the most delicate and ornate golden spoon with little enameled flowers on the tip.

The service was impeccable and the food amazing. I recommend this place for your next vegetarian dining experience.

In the back of the restaurant, you'll find a very well stocked veggie grocery store with countless faux meat and seafood variations.

Telephone: 514-848-0513

400 Sherbrooke Est (St-Denis)
Montréal, QC Canada

Open 7 days a week

Bitchin' Kitchen Cookbook Signing Tomorrow with fellow Montrealer Nadia G.

Although this cookbook is not vegetarian, it is none the less produced by follow Montrealer Nadia. G and her team. Why don't you join us for this great shindig at the Paragraph Book Store on McGill College?

Here are the event details!

Nadia G and the rest of the hilarious Bitchin’ Kitchen Crew are ready to bring down the roof at Paragraphe Bookstore with the most kick-ass book signing, like, ever!

So much more than an ordinary book signing, with live performances by Bloodshot Bill, Burlesque Babes, complimentary wine and ice cold Vitamin Water, as well as a free Rough Trade Sampler CD, this event for Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen Cookbook is going to rock you to your very core.

Check out this video for a sneak peek of the book:

Come cop a feel of Hans! Meet the mildly-mysterious Spice Agent in the flesh! Get "Wet-Look" hair tips from Panos! We'll all be there.

Hey, maybe you'll even pick up a book... or a hottie.


Place: Paragraphe Books 2220 McGill College Avenue (corner of Sherbrooke)

Date: Thursday, February 19th

Time: 7:00 p.m.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Lima Bean and Red Kidney Bean Vegetarian Chili

There's really nothing easier to whip up in cold weather than a good old vegetarian chili. Any type of canned beans will do the trick. This time around I had canned lima beans and small red kidney beans. I also used for the very first time dry textured vegetable protein (TVP), from Bob's Red Mill.

I will admit it up front, I totally cheated for seasonings... I used a packet of of Old El Paso's seasoning mix and 1 jalapeno pepper in adobo sauce for flavor.

I used:

-798 ml can of whole tomatoes that I blended with a hand blender
-700 ml strained tomatoes
-398 ml of tomato sauce
-1/2 can of tomato paste
-1 cup dry textured vegetable protein with 7/8 of a cup of boiling hot faux beef stock (mixed together and left to absorb for 10 minutes on the counter while I was prepping the other cans)
-1 can of drained and rinced lima bean
- 1 cup of frozen corn
-1 can of drained and rinced red kidney beans
-1 jalapeno pepper in adobo sauce chopped finely
-1 packet of Old El Paso's chili seasonings

I combined all the ingredients in a large dutch oven and brought contents to a boil while stirring constantly. I lowered the heat and left to simmer while occasionally stirring for about an hour. Make sure it doesn't stick or boil over. As with any chili recipe, this freezes very well and can be kept for months in the freezer.

I served it with Charras tortillas. Delicious.

A Personal Rant on Vegetarianism

As I get deeper into vegetarianism, I've noticed that a lot of the vegetarian/vegan resources out there obsess with talking about animal cruelty... This happens a lot among the converted conscious collective - like an effort to keep us from succumbing to the temptation of bacon, steak and fried chicken.

I'm signed up to the Peta newsletter, and a couple of vegetarian podcasts with the lure of getting tips on great recipes and nutritional information. 80% of the content delivered by these focus relentlessly on factory farming, cruel treatment to mass produced farm animals, animal testing, etc. Some of the more extreme vegetarian/vegan resources even go far as stating that animals used in tv commercials are being horribly exploited by their handlers. Let's not even talk about those who are against cute animal pictures and video websites...

Now, don't get me wrong, I think the work Peta and these other resources are doing is extremely important. Turning a blind eye to this reality is not the answer to fix it. This blind eye is what let it get out of hand. They do a great job and should continue in their crusade to expose the sad reality of factory farming.

But for those already part of the choir or those motivated by their health - and no I'm not a monster for caring for my own health - where do we go to get our information without being bombarded with gruesome footage of animals being horribly treated? Where do we turn so we don't have to face the vegetarian/vegan police? Where do we go to avoid feeling like a second class vegetarian for not wearing a pin on our lapel saying "Veg or go bust"?

Maybe I am looking at the wrong resources but Google likes these sites and there are only so many searches I can do to find what I'm looking for. But even as a vegetarian (absolutely no meat in my diet), I want to be clear on the following choices I've made:

Yes, I will wear wool, I have a gorgeous hand made winter jacket made by a local artisan that cares for her own goats. She has names for each and every one and gives them the best possible care. She does not torture or hurt them in any way. I wear this jacket proudly. I know for a fact that no children or third world worker was exploited and their city or dwelling was polluted in making this jacket. Have you looked as to where your clothes came from lately?

Yes, I will wear recycled leather. I think reducing waste and reusing what already exists trumps going for new synthetics. Producing these synthetics can and do create more waste and use mass amounts of energy.

Yes, I will continue to consume dairy and eggs, but with the rule that they coming from strict organically managed farms.

Am I the only vegetarian out there that doesn't want to see these gruesome images anymore? Am I the only vegetarian looking to share recipes and knowledge with no strings attached?

Kudos to the for doing this successfully without pushing the horrible images on me.

Do you know of any other resources out there?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Commensal Spaghetti Sauce & Barilla Pasta

Before my vegetarian diet, I wasn't much of a pasta person. I had spaghetti under complete duress, if nothing else, and I mean nothing else was available.

That changed and I've been eating pasta a whole lot more. My favorite is the Barilla multigrain penne with an arrabiata sauce or the Commensal's Spaghetti sauce, a faux bolognese sauce with soy and lentils. Absolutely delicious with some grated parmesan or nutritional yeast. The Commensal's sauce is a hit with my meat eating significant other so we can agree on having this for dinner.