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Newly-veg couple: Excited but overwhelmed!

My boyfriend and I moved in together 6 months ago and just decided to go vegetarian. Yay!

I had been considering it for a long time, and he was the one who mentioned that he thought we should try it out (I suspect it's more for me than for him, but he's being a great sport).

My biggest problem is that I have never been a decent cook in my life. I've never tried, I've never found the time, and I still don't know how I will get this right. I have a full-time (not always daytime) job, and he is a full-time student with two part-time jobs. Meal planning and making is a huge obstacle.

Add in that he still isn't sure he wants to stick with our new way of eating and "doesn't know" what foods he likes (apparently NOT BEANS), and I feel like I'm in over my head. I'm from the north eastern USA, where food is generally a bit bland. He's a southern boy who likes FLAVOR and I can't even boil water correctly.

;D

We have always eaten out a lot, usually fast food, which I never really felt good about. I am really looking forward to the time when eating veggie meals is easy, quick, and painless! Any help in getting there would be fantastic!

Another problem I will have to face eventually is my family. I live a few states away, but my dad was less than understanding about our vegetarian choice. Quite frankly, he is close-minded and very old-fashioned (as is the rest of my family in WV). I'm sure someone else has had similar parental problems. How did you smooth it over and assure your family (or whoever) that you weren't a crazy hippie, you just wanted to do something good for yourself and the environment?

::)

Thanks!

~J.

I go with the "I AM a crazy hippie" thing with my fam and it works...everyone knows its healthier, so they just need to get over their own insecurities about change

I'm not really a "good cook" or anything but what my family reeeeally likes thats quick and super easy is taco soup and I could eat it for every meal and be happy. 

Just throw
12 oz package Morningstar Farms Frozen Burger Style Recipe Crumbles
1 package of taco seasoning
1 package Original Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning
1 can of corn (not drained)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 cups of water
1 diced onion (optional)

into a pot and cook it until it feels right in your soul (or it boils), it's not vegan but it probably wouldn't be hard to change around a little

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Hey JeanaCorina,

One BIG plus for switching away from meat is that is costs way less. You end up eating at home more (yay for the environment & quality time with each other!), and the produce section is significantly less expensive than the butcher's section - and less bloody. Yech. Regardless, that whole rant is to help convince you that it's worth the time invested. And, like learning to cook any new type of food, you get faster with practice!

As for the "not liking beans" problem, I cook for professed non-bean lover as well. The problem is that these people were never fed beans properly. Probably just beans out of a can with hot dogs and ketchup. Blech. Edamame, Kidney, Black-eyed, pigeon, Garbanzo, the kinds of beans are limitless! He just doesn't know what he's saying. That's like saying "I don't like root veggies" 'cause you've only ever had a baked potato.

Anyway, here's a faster & easier taco dish (although Fee - yours sounds quite tasty):

Dump about 6 cups of tortilla chips in the bottom of a 9x9 casserole dish
Dump a can of black bean chili directly on top of that (I like Amy's)
Dump a half a can of diced tomatoes on top of that.
Put some slices of vegan pepper jack cheese on top.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, and eat with salsa. The spicy chili flavors are a "proper" way to eat black beans.

Best of luck!

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First of all, Jeanacorina (I LOVE that name!!!), welcome! You'll find that us vegwebbers are very friendly and helpful in answering all your vegan questions! We also like to get into very in depth issues (check out the "pooh" post from a couple of days ago, plus the "flatulence" post. Oh, let's not forget the "three word story" post! LOL!). Second, congrats on making the choice to become Vegan! You'll find that after awhile, your body will begin to feel better, your mind will be sharper, and you might become more "spiritually inclined" knowing that you're making the conscious choice of making the world a better place! It's so awesome!

Now, as for your cooking, when I started out, I sucked ass! I'm not going to lie. I wasn't the greatest cook, and I usually put in too much this or too little that. I learned though, that if you follow the directions to a "T" for the first little bit, without making any alterations or substitutions to the recipe, you'll become more and more confident with your cooking and baking to the point where you can make small, gradual differences to recipes. That's what happened to me anyways. Before you start on any grand dishes of the sort, I would stick to things you and your BF are more familiar with, perhaps spaghetti and "meat"sauce, or a simple veggie and pasta dish. Just take some veggie ground, fry it up like you would with ground beef, maybe add a carrot and green bell pepper, and then take a can of crushed tomatoes, throw that in, with some salt and pepper, and voila! You have your sauce. For breakfast, make smoothies, or have cereal with soy milk. It really is just a matter of finding substitutes for food made of animal products or byproducts.

I can't honestly answer your question about your family, that I'll admit. My family was very supportive about my choice. They even wanted me to cook a couple of vegan meals and desserts for them (which they loved, BTW). I would just tell your family that you're interested in eating healthier, and that you want to try something different. You're 23. You're an adult, and you have a choice in what you put into your body and what you want to keep out. It's as simple as that. As great as it would be for them to join you guys, I wouldn't go on a rant about how they should become vegan, and why it's so great, yadda yadda yadda. From the sounds of it, they already think you're nuts for becoming vegan. You don't need to prove their point! LOL!

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Thanks so much for the great recipe ideas! How did you guys know I'm a big fan of mexican-inspired dishes?  ;)

Tonight I am making a Chana Masala dish I found here, and hoping that J. doesn't realize that chickpeas are actually beans. Sneaky, sneaky, but I just know you can't hate ALL beans!

The "I was once a horrible cook" reassurances help a lot! I'll just have to be patient with myself. The hard part is I am jokingly "forbidden" from trying to make spaghetti, since J. is from a very Italian family, and spaghetti is something you can only do right once you marry into the family and are properly trained in the art for years.

To me, spaghetti is a jar of extra-chunky garden veggie sauce with noodles. Heat & eat!

I'm really glad to be here, and I'm looking forward to taking part in all the fun on these forums! You guys come highly recommended from my best friend, who has been a vegan forEVER!

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Hey, congrats on deciding to go veggie!

My first instinct would be to make a list of all your favourite dishes, whether you'd usually make it or eat it in a restaurant, and find an alternative. Your biggest hurdle is going to be lapsing back into eating out regularly if you're not feeling satisfied with your diet.

Secondly, seeing as you're both working and studying at different times, play it safe to begin with and stock up on freezer food - vegeburgers, frozen vegetables and so on. Sure, it's lazy, but when you get in at different hours you can take something out and get a hot meal without having to fret about cooking or meal plans.

If you do want a really good, home-cooked meal, don't for God's sake feel obliged to be the one to make it. I am slowly beating into my boy that I am not his mother, and that unless he loses his hands in a chainsaw accident, he will occasionally be required to cook something. Whoever gets in first that day could throw something together and leave half in the pan for the other. Incidentally, he's another one who 'doesn't know' what he likes, and the only way to combat that is to try lots of things and see what's good.

I'm with the person who said simple is best. Stuff like soup is always good and really satisfying to make - throw everything into a pan like some kind of mad vegetarian witch and let it bubble away. Awesome. Pasta dishes, Mexican food (where a couple of peppers, onion, rice and a fajita does you for dinner), even a plain margarita pizza with some veg thrown on top - it's all quick and easy and can be reheated when your hours don't match up.

With regards to the family - I'd really advise getting the hang of the veggie cooking, if only basic stuff, before you break it to them. Proclaiming that you've gone vegetarian only to have them turn around and say "But you never cook, you'll be unhealthy" probably won't make it any easier. You stifle one objection right from the word go by saying "And it's even made me try cooking from scratch!"

Half a dozen REALLY easy recipes for you (and I've only been vegetarian since January and only really cooked over this summer!):

- Tomato Soup - http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=8490 - quick, basic and delicious.
- Basic Pizza Crust - http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=5701 - can't go wrong with this!
- Tofu/Soymilk Shake - http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=10762 - good with any fruit and really quick and easy for breakfast!
- Carrot and Beetroot Soup - http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=10168 - really attractive, tasty and filling recipe.

Good luck :)

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Congratulations on making such a huge decision! How cool that your boyfriend is supportive and willing to take the plunge with you.

I've always liked to cook, and it's even taken me years to nail down a good system for preparing tasty, healthy meals while juggling classes and multiple jobs. Don't sweat it if it doesn't go perfectly at first. You'll figure it out.

One thing I would suggest is trying to do some planning for the week. Pick one old favorite and one or two new dishes to try out. Maybe you could each pick a recipe? Then pick a time to grocery shop where you have a couple of hours afterwards and pre-chop all your veggies, make a pizza crust, make a fruit salad, a chopped salad, or a batch of vegan treats. That way at least a few things will be done during the week, making your cooking easier. Put on some crazy music and have fun. That way, you also only have one massive cleanup to do during the week. After you've had a chance to try out the new food, evaluate: is it good enough to make again? If so, print the recipe and put it in a handy spot. When you're feeling uninspired, you can pull a whole collection of dishes you've already made out.

It may be helpful to reinvent what a meal is. You don't always have to make a whole dinner. Sometimes at the end of the day, I just eat oatmeal and fruit or fresh popped popcorn if I don't feel like cooking. 'Course, it may be harder with a hungry SO...

Some of my favorite things that are quick and easy to make/transport/store for lunches:

-muffins of any type (tons of great and healthy recipes on this site)
-pasta salad
-Greek salad (chopped peppers, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and some kind of vinaigrette)
-pita bread and hummus
-FRUIT SALAD!
-chickpea salad (see many awesome recipes on this site)
-mexican rice and refried beans
-chili (again, many varieties on this site)
-sandwiches with avacado and whatever's in my fridge

Don't beat yourself up if everthing doesn't go perfect right away. Especially if you've gotten used to eating out a lot, it takes a while for tastes to change. Maybe pick one night a week to eat out as a reward for cooking the rest of the week? Or try to recreate your favorite restaurant dishes at home (meatless, of course). Or, try out a new restaurant together that is veg-friendly.

Finally, as far as helpful advice on families....mine wrote the book on old-fashioned, closed-minded, Midwestern conservativism. When you are planning to go home, bring a dish or two to share and stock your suitcase with some veg staples so you won't go hungry. Other than that, smile, don't argue with them, and lead by example.

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Welcome!!!

I AM a bean hater and won't eat them at all - I completely understand where your BF is coming from.  That being said, I've found lots of things to make that don't involve beans and they are wonderful.

One of my favorites, that I've gotten very good at making since I went veggie several months ago, is stir fry.  It's hard to screw it up (and trust me, I can screw almost anything up).  There are great recipes here for various stir fry sauces.  Literally, throw in some frozen veggies, throw in some Morningstar Chik'n strips or beef crumbles, add pasta or rice, and add sauce.  Voila!!

When you're really too busy to cook a meal, there's nothing better than a fully loaded veggie burger or veggie hot dog  ;)

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Congratulations!

Keep your hearts in it, and you'll be fine. As a guy who was bad at cooking (but I started doing it because my wife was, well, even worse...) I can assure you, you can get the swing of cooking.

In the interest of brevity (and economy - go students!) here are a few brief suggestions

http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=4931

Yes, it's beans, but it's cheap and good, and is flexible, so you can experiment to maybe find beans you like!

http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=5160

Good to grab and go in the morning.

http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=7939

An easy alternative to:

Quote:
To me, spaghetti is a jar of extra-chunky garden veggie sauce with noodles. Heat & eat!

But really, don't knock that option.

And, hell, one more:

http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=7939

Feel your way out with this, make mistakes, make decisions, learn what you can. After a short while, you'll wonder how you even ate meat to begin with!

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Well, dinner tonight didn't go very well... I thought it was fine, but again, my northeastern tastebuds are no match for what he's accustomed to.

I used a premade masala sauce with chickpeas and veggies over rice. I even added in a little crushed red pepper and garlic. It was just enough spice to make my nose run a little, but still tasted good. Not gourmet... but very filling.

Josh didn't eat much of his, and very apologetically informed me that his least favorite bits were the chickpeas because they didn't have a taste, they were little balls of blandness.

(Our roommate laughed and told him you should NEVER tell your girlfriend you don't like her cooking, no matter how bad it is. So J. did the dishes.)

I guess we need to get some of those meal starter strips, because he's really missing meat. I don't want him to give up.  I also don't want him to be unhappy with being vegetarian and feeling like everything he eats is "missing something".

He agreed that the next meal is his turn, and he also agreed to start his own recipe box on this site. Who knows? Maybe he'll turn out to be a great cook and I won't have to worry about it anymore.

;D

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Starting his own recipe box is a great idea. Also, encourage him to look into Indian cooking (although, I am supremely biased towards Indian grub). It is one of the spiciest cuisines there is. And I'm not talking just heat, either. The ingredients tend to be simple, but the way spices are used are amazing. Even a southern boy would have to admit it's good and flavorful.

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Keep your hearts in it, and you'll be fine. As a guy who was bad at cooking (but I started doing it because my wife was, well, even worse...) I can assure you, you can get the swing of cooking.

That's it, tell it like it is!

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  I also don't want him to be unhappy with being vegetarian and feeling like everything he eats is "missing something".

I told ya, just send him to my house and I'll straighten him out for you.  Sorry the masala didn't work out for you.  Did you add the onion that you were talking about?

Don't forget most people who are used to the SAD (Standard American Diet) think they need waaaaaaaaay more protein than they actually do.  You'd be surprised at how much protein a bowl of stir-fried veggies with some cashews and brown rice can pack.

If that fails, remind him of why he wanted to become a veg*n.  ;)

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Seeing as you don't like to cook, I'd check out The Student's Vegan cookbook.  It is a lot of simple recipes like sandwiches and salads.  Good luck!  :)

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I'm kind of in the same boat as you - I'm not a great cook either. but I'm learning and trying things out! that's all you really can do... and yes, being a student witha hectic schedule is tough. but keep trying and welcome to vegweb!

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Welcome and congrats on going veggie!!!   :)  My hubby and I started out vegetarian over 8 years ago and over a year ago switched to vegan.  Let me tell ya, I was a horrible cook at first.  I didn't even know how to hold a knife properly.  The food that came out of my kitchen was sometimes completely inedible.  But, and it's a HUGE but... I've slowly learned basic cooking skills, have become alot more adventurous and now I consider myself to be a decent cook.  

What helped me was to try a new recipe (or two) every week.  I planned 6 meals a week but didn't plan what day I would eat them on ~ I didn't want to restrict myself too much.  Planning meals helped with buying groceries and I would always read through a recipe a couple times before attempting to actually make it.  I started out with simple recipes that had few ingredients and as I became more comfortable in the kitchen I started expanding and trying more difficult dishes.

I also played around with tofu which we both love!  It takes some preparation with marinading but it's very simple to cook.  Best of luck and don't give up!!   :)  

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I told ya, just send him to my house and I'll straighten him out for you.  Sorry the masala didn't work out for you.  Did you add the onion that you were talking about?

No, I didn't have time to go get onion, he came home a little earlier than he said he would (a first!), so I did with what I had. Next week I'm going to use my day off to find recipes and then go shopping for the little things I'll need. There just aren't enough hours in the day for me to shop AND cook. I really wish I could just ship him to you for a week, you'd get him craving soy milk and tofu 24/7.

Seriously though, I thought it was one of the more edible things I've managed. I'm eating his leftovers for lunch before work today.  :P

He felt very bad about not liking dinner, and assured me he's not giving up just yet. He knows I need practice, and he does enjoy discovering new things to eat, so apparently I'm not driving him right into a big pile of hormone-loaded fried chicken or anything. That's good to know.

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My boy is from the south (texas) and i'm from the north (pa) as well!  Usually when i cook, my spice process is a little bit of this, a little bit of that, its not enough for him either.  A lot of times, we'll cook together, I'll do the rice or cutting up veggies and he does the frying and spices.  Michael doesnt like beans either, but he'll eat black beans (mexican meals) and chick peas... because, he says, theyre peas!  HA!  Maybe your boy could cook with you or make a spice mix thats up to his spice standards!  One of my favorite things to have around is a fantastic spice mix, it has about 10 different spices in it that you blend together (make a big batch, it'll last a while!), I'll add it into a lot of different dishes knowing that itll make it taste superb as long as i use a suitable amount.

When I didnt have a lot of time to cook (school!) my little food ritual was a can of soup for lunch and a frozen bag of veggies, a can of beans, TVP or chick peas, stir fry this in a sauce or with spices and eat it over rice.  I had this so often.  It was so easy.  Dump in a bag of veggies, dump in a can of beans, pour in a bit of water and some spices, let it simmer for 15 minutes, put the rice in the rice cooker, and then you have dinner.

Good luck! It's so great that you have someone willing to do this with you! 

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Funny dinner tonight:

He cooked for me, as promised, and it was very flavorful as expected....

But, it was burnt. He claims he likes his vegetables charred, not steamed... which is very strange (and not yummy) to me. He also tried to stir-fry them with some veggie-chick strips, and those were rock-hard and burnt also. I am partially relieved that I hated his meal just as much (at least I ate it!), but I also feel a little bad... because after he so openly told me he didn't like mine, I told him his wasn't all that great either!

Of course, he just drowned his with ketchup and claimed that was how it was supposed to be. I don't think he was too worried that I don't like to ingest fossilized broccoli.

Ah, men.

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If he doesn't like beans there IS hope! I am 47 years old and I JUST got to where I like beans and I LOVE THEM.  I eat some sort of beans on a daily basis and I have found I can't live without them...now.  There was a time when I could not stand them, and I have been working at this vegan veggie thing off and on for 30+ years now. 

I have only one thing to add...CROCKPOT.  I have 3 of them, different sizes and different types.  I have a couple of vegan crockpot cookbooks, one is called I think "The Little Vegan Crockpot Book" or something like that. It is a small sized book full of easy to find ingredients, quick to prepare and they are full of a flavorful PUNCH for your spicy boyfriend.

Favorite beans...
Luna Salad
Mash chickpeas with a fork till none are whole.  Add whatever you would to tuna salad, except for the tuna. mmmm

Frijoles Negros Tacos
Mash black beans with some vegan taco seasoning (there are some powdered ones out there).  I use 1 can with the juice and 1 can drained, then add the seasoning packet and it is about right.  Serve in crispy taco shells with no lard.  Add tofu sour creme to the fresh lettuce, tomatoes, black olives and chipotle salsa and stuff them full.  I can't have these anymore because the last time I had them I ate too many and the family said if you can't stop at 6, you don't need to have any!
But ohhh I love them!

Kidney beans in pasta salad, especially bowtie pasta and or spirals for the noodles and whatever fresh veg I have on hand.  I particularly like kidney beans, spirals, cucumber and tomatoes with black olives, vegan mayo dressing and some dill pickle juice to moisten it. 

Girl Scout baked beans in a crockpot.  Two cans of navy beans then some brown sugar, a couple of squirts of brown mustard, a few squirts of vegan ketchup, some garlic powder, some diced fresh onion and a couple of tablespoons of cider vinegar.  Drain one can of beans, use the liquid from the other.  I bake these all day or overnight for breakfast beans till the liquid is reduced.  Eat wtih fresh warm cornbread, which is not hard to make at all. 

Beans beans, the musical fruit...the more you eat the less you toot...the more you eat the better you feel, so eat your beans at every meal!!!

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Funny dinner tonight:

He cooked for me, as promised, and it was very flavorful as expected....

But, it was burnt. He claims he likes his vegetables charred, not steamed... which is very strange (and not yummy) to me. He also tried to stir-fry them with some veggie-chick strips, and those were rock-hard and burnt also. I am partially relieved that I hated his meal just as much (at least I ate it!), but I also feel a little bad... because after he so openly told me he didn't like mine, I told him his wasn't all that great either!

Of course, he just drowned his with ketchup and claimed that was how it was supposed to be. I don't think he was too worried that I don't like to ingest fossilized broccoli.

Ah, men.

The next time you come to visit, I am SOOO gonna kick him in the shins.

I'm sorry you had a crappy dinner, but at least you're even.

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