After months (years?) of deliberation, I’m going to start eating vegan. (For a month, that is.)
Eating vegan is something I’ve wanted to do for a while — not just because it’s better for you and better for the Earth, but also because it will expose me to new tastes and foods. I’ve always been uncomfortable with eating factory-farmed meat, but for the sake of convenience (both for myself and the numerous kind souls/friends/parents/grandparents/boyfriend’s parents/boyfriend’s grandparents who feed me), I haven’t been “vegetarian” since high school.
However, since reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals — which I will return to you someday, Jenny — I’ve realized that convenience isn’t a real excuse for doing things that make me uncomfortable. So as of Monday, I’m trying veganism for a month, to see how energetic and healthy I feel, how hard or easy it is, and if I can maintain a plant-based lifestyle. Feel free to ask me questions, and of course, I’ll share my tips and tricks along the way :)
And the first tip/trick is this SUPER easy, really delicious casserole. Throw it together in 10 minutes, let it bake for 20, and you’ll have a nutritious, protein-packed Mexican dinner on the table in no time.
Quick Tamale Pie. Serves 4-5.
3/4 cup polenta (coarse-ground cornmeal)
1 can of pinto beans -OR- 1 8-oz. package of tempeh, crumbled
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 c. corn, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon chipotle powder or chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
-Preheat oven to 350F.
-In a cast-iron skillet, bring 2 1/2 c. of salted water (or vegetable broth) to a boil.Stir in polenta, and keep stirring periodically until it thickens. When it’s ready, you should be able to stir polenta off the bottom of the skillet and it won’t go back immediately — it should take about 6 minutes to form the “crust.” Spread the polenta evenly around the bottom of the skillet, and take it off the heat.
-In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients (including liquid from canned ingredients), and stir well. Or, just pour the ingredients into the skillet on top of the polenta and stir, if you don’t want to dirty up a bowl. Top with nutritional yeast (a vegan B12 supplement that tastes cheesy) or cheese (optional).
-Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, and another 10 minutes if the onions still look too crunchy. Serve with cilantro and salsa.
Disclaimer: I don’t want to preach to you, because I’m sure you’ve heard the facts and anecdotes about eating too much/too little meat/soy/dairy/eggs/soylent green over and over again. I prefer to tell you HOW to eat a plant-based diet rather than drill the WHYs into your head repeatedly. I do urge you to educate yourself, though, rather than choosing to remain apathetic and uninformed. Eating Animals is a quick read and covers most of the factory-farming basics.