Day 4: Zucchini Pie

Growing up, my parents were never particularly creative when it came to mealtimes. My Stepmom had the same weekly rotation every single week (with the exception of Christmas and Thanksgiving). The same thing. My Stepmom didn’t enjoy a day spent in the kitchen or learning new recipes. She had a handful of dishes she could make well, and that was all she ever needed to bother with. My Mom on the other hand referred to her kitchen as her quiet space and could happily spend hours stood over the stove tweaking a soup or stew. My Stepmom and my Mom are similar in one thing though, they never like to play with new ingredients.

The first time I saw a zucchini was when my aunt brought some from her garden for my stepmother. My Stepmom was incredibly perplexed, none of her 7 meals ever contained a zucchini. I was 8. Stepmom handed this zucchini to me and asked me to figure out something for dinner. I thought it was a cucumber, and was excited when my aunt told me it wasn’t. I had no idea what I could do with it, but I stuck to something simple and made a soup for the family. It was the first time Stepmom had let me cook anything without help and I remember excitedly throwing in herbs and spices from the shelf I was so rarely allowed to touch. As it turned out, I had managed to throw a little bit of everything from our spice rack into that soup. Yeah, don’t do that. I was so proud of myself when it was finally ready.

Ten people sat at that table, and only my oldest brothers dared to take a second taste of whatever was in front of them. I was so proud of myself I could have happily eaten it all, but no one else felt that way. And I don’t blame them. It was not good. It reminds me now of that one episode of Friends, when Rachel attempts a trifle and fails horribly. I failed at my soup, and my brothers were trying so hard to not let anyone say anything, as to hurt my 8 year old feelings.

My oldest brother David likes to recount that tale often, so I thought it would be fun to make him another zucchini dish. This time hopefully a lot better. And it was a success!

Thankfully as I’ve gotten older I have learnt a little more restraint in the kitchen, though I doubt my family will ever forget the incident with the zucchini soup. But here is to Zucchini Pie!

Zucchini Pie

This recipe fed two people well, with enough leftover for a lunch the following day.

Ingredients

Puff pastry (enough to fill your baking dish on the top and bottom)
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 block feta cheese, crumbled
2 sprigs mint, chopped
1 egg

Grate the zucchini and drain out the liquid. Quite a lot of liquid will come out of your zucchinis. I grated mine in the early afternoon a few hours before I needed them, and I still had a little juice left in my bowl.

Combine the zucchini, feta cheese and zucchini in a bowl.

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Add the egg and mix until combined.

Roll out the pastry so that it can line the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon the zucchini mixture on top of the pastry.

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Put another layer of pastry on top.

Bake at 450F for 20 minutes, until the crust is golden.

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Transitioning To Vegetarianism Part 1

Becoming a vegetarian can be a little overwhelming at first, especially if you don’t have the support you were hoping for from family and friends. It is a lifestyle change, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one.

Choose The Type Of Vegetarian You Want To Be.

Lacto Ovo Vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, but no meat, fish or poultry.

Lacto Vegetarians eat dairy, but no meat, fish, poultry or eggs.

Vegans do not eat any meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy.

If you are just starting out as vegetarian, I would recommend starting as Lacto Ovo, at least while you transition to eliminating all meat products from your diet. It can be a little intimidating to immediately go cold turkey on everything.

Learn To Read LabelsĀ 

As well as the obvious foods that are meat, you will also need to eliminate the foods that contain meat products. That includes all meat stocks, fish stocks, anchovies and gelatin. You will need to get into the habit of checking the label of everything you buy before it goes into your shopping cart (or mouth if you are still buying meat for family members or roommates). And I mean everything! I have found sugar cookies with beef fat. Borscht generally contains beef stock. Caesar dressing contains anchovies, as does Worcestershire sauce. Marshmallows and most jellied candies contain gelatin, as do some yogurts. And just because the product didn’t contain meat products the last time you bought it doesn’t mean it is vegetarian this time. Always check!

Consider The Vegetarian Foods You Already Like

You probably have more vegetarian meals in your current diet than you realize you do. At the beginning of your transition make those foods regularly, to help you get into the habit of cooking vegetarian. It will feel a lot less like going into the unknown.

Grilled cheese sandwich

Baked potato with various toppings

Macaroni and cheese

Pasta with tomato sauce

Tomato soup

Beans on toast

Forgive Yourself The Slip ups

Everyone has had it happen from time to time. There have definitely been times where I have been happily tucking into a yogurt and on checking the label halfway through discovered it changed gelatin. In the beginning, you won’t always remember to check a label, or you won’t notice your favourite brand of cookie has changed the ingredients to add beef fat until you’ve finished the pack. Mistakes happen, don’t beat yourself up. Even people who have been vegetarian for years make them occasionally. You haven’t failed, you will just remember next time to double check before you eat it.

Other People’s Reactions

Everyone you know will have an opinion on your new choice, and you will hear it whether you want to or not. Don’t make your change a HUGE deal, and instead become a silent role model. If people ask questions answer them, but don’t feel the need to get defensive about your choices. Understand that your choice has made them feel defensive, as if they have to defend their choice to continue eating meat. Show them that are still the same person you were before, and whatever you did with them you can still do, and that is better than any argument about the merits of meat vs veg.

Stay tuned to Vegetarian Deliciousness for tips and recipes to help your transition to vegetarian!

Yaya’s Kitchen (Tomato Keftethes Recipe)

From a very young age I remember learning to cook alongside my Yaya. She spoke in Greek with a few words of English thrown in every so often. My Yaya, which translates as Grandma, was born in Athens, Greece, but moved to Canada to marry my Grandpa, and although she could speak English she usually fell back into her native tongue (especially when she was talking fast). I’m not convinced she even knew she was doing it.

Without a doubt, Yaya’s favourite place to be was in her kitchen. It was a small pokey room, and 2 people busily cooking away could make it feel very small indeed. But she was proud of her kitchen. She could spend every single minute from the time she woke up until the time she went to bed cooking away in her kitchen.

You only had to step up to the driveway and you could already smell the fresh baked bread coming out of the oven. Her house was always well stocked with delicious baklava, loukoumades, galatopita and bougasta, just in case a visitor happened to stop by. Her passion was to feed people and you couldn’t walk into her house without having had a full cooked meal by the time you left. Hers was the house that every kid in town would descend on and warm welcomes were always guaranteed (along with a thick slice of bread smothered in homemade jam).

It is from Yaya that I inherited my own passion for food. Her life was cooking and feeding anyone who came through her door. Now as I cook I can still hear her giving me instructions in Greek, or see her rolling out pastry or kneading dough, or stirring a nice warm stew on the stove.

I was lucky enough to inherit Yaya’s handwritten recipes, even though I had already made the transition into vegetarianism. The first dish she taught me to make was keftethes, which is a Greek meatball. Yaya’s recipe has ground lamb in hers, but I have adapted her recipe to make my own vegetarian and delicious.

Tomato Keftethes

5oz grape tomatoes, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

2 tsp tomato paste

1 sprig of mint, roughly chopped

2-6 tbl of all purpose flour

Fry the onion in the saute pan, until cooked. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and mint. Stir until everything is evenly combined.

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Remove from the heat and let cool enough so that you can touch it.

Add the flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can formĀ the mixture into a ball. Add the flour as you need it. You want to be able to make the balls easily, so mix in the flour until it is a workable consistency for you.

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Once your balls are formed bake in the oven at 400F for 15 minutes.

This mixture was enough to form 4 fairly large keftethes.

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Why Vegetarian Deliciousness?

I have been a vegetarian for almost 8 years now for a variety of reasons, and every time the topic of my diet comes up I am faced with the same couple of questions. Why? And what do you eat?

A common idea among anyone calling themselves carnivores is that you cannot possibly have a meal that is either tasty or substantial unless it contains meat. They can rarely grasp the concept of a meal without meat, even though they probably have meatless meals every now and then without even thinking about it. My brothers claim to be hardened carnivores, but they will often happily devour just a plate of fries, grilled cheese, or pasta with a tomato sauce. But you mention the word ‘meatless’ or ‘vegetarian’ and they don’t believe it can be done.

A lot of people hear vegetarian and seem to think that I live on a diet of salad and raw vegetables, bland and boring. I do eat salad, but I eat a lot more besides. They can’t seem to equate variety with vegetarian, and yet I enjoy a lot more than the same handful of dishes.

Over the last 8 years, I have cooked and eaten a lot of meatless dishes, and I have made it my silent mission to show the people around me just how much variety I do get to enjoy. If anything, I have found that since being vegetarian, I have had to get more creative in the kitchen than I ever was before. You can do some amazing things with a slice of watermelon or a peach, or a beautiful slab of halloumi cheese. I experiment a lot, sometimes with disappointing results but generally I discover something new and delicious. Being vegetarian, I have had to remove some of the boundaries placed on certain foods. Fruit can become a centerpiece for your main course rather than just a snack or a dessert. You can peruse the produce section of the grocery store and come home with a bounty of deliciousness. You become braver when it comes to trying new fruits and vegetables, and I have new experiences with food even now.

So why Vegetarian Deliciousness? A vegetarian diet doesn’t have to be boring, or bland. If you aren’t afraid to try new things, or get creative, you can enjoy a wide array of foods. Vegetarian Deliciousness will be a taster of the variety of foods you can enjoy, along with a little bit of encouragement to try something new in the kitchen.