What I've Learned So Far
First, potatoes are amazing. Check them out. Seriously, I love them. They’re versatile, easy to cook, and delicious. If you leave the skin on, resist the temptation to fry them in oil, and top with healthy goodies, they also make a really quick, easy, and healthy vegetarian dinner. If you want to go vegan – just leave off the cheese.
Second, speaking of cheese…. I hate to break this to you, but cheese isn’t necessarily vegetarian. It has to specifically says it’s vegetarian, or has “vegetable rennet” or “vegetable enzymes” in the ingredients. Otherwise, you’re eating the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber of an unweaned calf. Rennet is a byproduct of the slaughter process, specifically when producing veal.
What makes that difficult, is you can pretty much guarantee that any cheese you get in a restaurant is going to have animal rennet. So you’ll have to make that decision for yourself – just know that cheese enchiladas, cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches probably aren’t vegetarian at all. I’ll talk more about other “hidden” animal byproducts in future blogs, but for now, cheese is a biggie.
That said, you can find cheese that has vegetable rennet – and it’s not that difficult. Organic Valley cheeses are vegetarian (I still check each one before I buy though), and Whole Foods has a lot of great vegetarian cheese options.
Oh, also, I only eat cheese that’s white. Because if anything coming out of a cow is bright orange, you’d better call the vet. Immediately.
For each serving you’ll need:
• Russet potato
• 1/4 bag frozen mixed vegetables, cooked
• 1-2 Tbl Sour Cream (or vegan substitute)
• 1-2 tsp butter (I use Smart Balance)
• 1 Tbl sunflower seeds
• 1/4 C shredded Mozzarella (or vegan substitute)
1. Scrub the potatoes. Seriously. Scrub them. You’ll want to eat the skins because they contain vitamins, and are important to promote alkaline (more on your body’s pH in future posts). The point is, you want the skins to be clean.
2. Prick the potatoes in a few spots with a fork. You don’t have to dig the fork in, just prick them – the idea is to puncture the skin so they don’t explode in the microwave.
3. Put the potatoes on a paper towel and microwave for 10 minutes. When they’re done, wrap them in foil and set them aside. They need to sit in the foil for at least 5 minutes to finish cooking.
4. Cook up the frozen veggies. I generally put them in the microwave (which takes about five minutes so works really well), but you can use whatever method you prefer. When the veggies are done, add the butter to them.
Now it’s just assembly:
• Cut the potatoes in half, and use a fork to spread them out a bit on the plate. Spread the sour cream on the potato.
• Spoon the veggies onto the potato.
• Sprinkle the cheese on the potato, and then sprinkle sunflower seeds over the cheese.
I usually put the plate in the microwave for about a minute to get the cheese melty. And then enjoy! And remember – you want to eat the skin!
• This would be easy to make vegan – use either substitutes for the dairy, or just leave them off. You could try using flavored olive oil, a little salad dressing, or other sauce.
• Try it with sweet potatoes. It can be a nice change from Russets. You can still eat the skin, but you’ll need to really scrub and possibly pull off any tough bits.
• Try different veggies – broccoli, spinach, Coastal Mix – anything you particularly enjoy.
• Try different cheeses – cheddar tastes completely different. If you wanted something with a kick, you could try pepper jack.
• You don’t have to use sunflower seeds. You could use pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, walnuts or pecans.
• Use cottage cheese instead of sour cream.