When I originally started my vegetarian diet, the idea behind it was to see if it would change my blood chemistry. Growing up in a family plagued with poor genetics that create high cholesterol and heart disease, I thought vegetarianism would be a good test to see if it would actually lower my cholesterol. And though I haven’t yet gotten my bloodwork done, I can already tell the diet is changing me for the better.
Last Monday, a group of fellow KCRW newbies went to a roller derby skills clinic, and our diets became a topic of conversation. Gypsy, another transfer skater, said one of the most wonderful things anybody has ever said to me regarding food, which was this: “You’re a vegetarian, right? Your skin looks fantastic.”
She said this because at one point, we were talking about how many vegetarians have a tendency to only eat macaroni and cheese, spoonfuls of peanut butter, carbs, or sugar-loaded cereals. And it affects them negatively. They often look sickly, or they put on weight, and it’s usually a sign that they don’t really know how to be a vegetarian.
When I first started this diet, several people had expressed their concern with how, as a highly active person, I might not be getting the nutrients I would need to sustain my level of activity. So to hear Gypsy tell me that I look great despite all of their concerns was wonderful.
If you’re wondering, my activity level has not suffered. I haven’t felt tired. My muscles aren’t sore or feeling as if they’re not getting the nutrients they need. I’ve heard I’m even looking leaner — though I haven’t lost much weight. But what I think is most amazing is that I’ve conditioned my body to only want fresh vegetables. It’s crazy, guys! I tried to eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup, which tasted bland. My former obsession with Starbucks Chai is gone, replaced instead with a homemade chai tea sweetened with coconut milk — and which led me to dump a half finished $4 drink yesterday.
If you’re wondering what I’m doing, it’s just this: loading every meal with a minimum of four vegetables. My favorites are kale, leeks, tomatoes, mushrooms and fennel. Instead of loading up on high carb pasta, I’m making quinoa pasta, which is filled with the protein I need to repair my muscles. I’m experimenting with beans and lentils to make veggie burgers, soups, dips and sides. I’ve even found a local tofu company that will allow me to enjoy low-calorie, and best of all, non-GMO soy options. Happy, happy day.
I promise, I will be getting my bloodwork tested soon. And despite this starting as just a test, I think it’s a lifestyle I’ll gladly continue.
Here’s one of my recent creations for you to enjoy. Please note that when I cook, I don’t follow recipes, and I don’t cook without tasting. My M.O. is this: load up on herbs and spices until it tastes phenomenal, and you’ll cook something tremendous. Such was the case with this sweet and savory lasagna I made after deciding I wanted to play around with some butternut squash. Enjoy!
Ms. Wretched’s Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Lasagna
Peel and cut two good size sweet potatoes and a medium butternut squash into chunks. Toss in olive oil (maybe 1-2 Tbsp.), a dash or so of nutmeg, fresh sage (2-3 sprigs, chopped), a pinch of sea salt and some freshly cracked pepper, then cover and roast at 350 for about an hour, stirring about halfway through. When done roasting, mash and set aside.
Mince two cloves of garlic and one shallot; sauté in butter. When it starts to get fragrant, add another 2-3 sprigs of fresh chopped sage and sauté for a couple of minutes. Let cool slightly.
Take a container of Marscapone cheese (I think it’s an 8 oz. container) and add enough milk (I’d say maybe 1/4 cup?) to make it easy to spread. Mix in the garlic, shallots and sage, as well as about 5 oz. of fresh Parmesan, then season with a dash of nutmeg, a pinch of sea salt and lots of freshly cracked pepper.
Meanwhile, prepare lasagna (either brown rice or whole wheat) noodles.
Once the noodles are ready, spread the bottom with a thin layer of the squash and potato mixture. Next, put down a layer of lasagna noodles. Top with a layer squash and potato mixture. Top that layer with half of the Marscapone mixture. Top that layer with mozzarella cheese and Parmesan. Add another layer of noodles, top with squash and potato, then Marscapone mixture, then mozzarella and Parmesan. Add a final layer of noodles, the last of the squash and potato mixture, and finish with mozzarella and Parmesan.
Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.