Sunday, January 30, 2011

An Ode to Sprouts

Since I began my veg journey, I have found many different places to dine out in Cowtown. Whether I want Mexican, Asian, Mediterranean or Italian inspired dishes, Fort Worth has grown to include meatless options on practically every menu, making it simple to join friends (vegetarian or not) for a meal. However, one thing Fort Worth has failed to cater to -- until recently-- is the growing demand for vegan/vegetarian products and organic, locally grown produce. This is why there was a buzz when everyone heard we were getting a Sprouts Farmers Market off Hulen and I-20.

According to the Sprouts website, the mission of the Arizona-based health store chain is simple. It reads:
"Sprouts Farmers Market: Helping America eat healthier, live longer, and spend less."

What more could we ask for? Especially during these hard economic times, people are constantly looking for ways to save without having to cut out the food that is best for you. Sprouts offers organic and locally grown produce, which not only supports local farmers and the economy by investing your disposable income close to home, but it is also better for the environment. On top of it all, Sprouts sports a vast selection of vegan and vegetarian products that are typically only found at Whole Foods Market in the DFW-Area, the closest of which to Fort Worth being off I-30 in Arlington. For anyone wanting the substance of Central Market with Target price points... this is the stuff your dreams are made of.

The Grand Opening of Sprouts was this past Wednesday, January 26, and the response from Fort Worth residents could not have been greater. The store was fully staffed with new and seasoned employees who willingly escorted you to anything you were looking for, which was definitely needed with the heavy traffic. Nothing is more refreshing than entering a retail location with employees who know their product knowledge. Not only that, but the excitement from the shoppers caused anyone and everyone to talk to each other about their personal experience at the opening, which allowed time to pass quickly when standing in the lines that stretched from the front registers to the produce section.

Of the vegetarian products I found, what excited me most was finding Oogave Watermelon Cream Soda in the bottle. This is typically served on tap at Spiral Diner on Magnolia Avenue and is my all-time favorite soda. I was also excited to find Gimme Lean vegan sausage, which is the closest to the real thing when you are craving a country breakfast. It can be used in most recipes to substitute ground beef. Extra perks at the opening were the Sprouts brand San Francisco Style Sourdough Bread at $1 a loaf, as well as the bulk granola on sale for $1/lb.

Needless to say, we are excited to have Sprouts in Fort Worth. This store completely supports both vegan and vegetarian dietary needs, and even more so the needs of the DFW area.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cooking with Emily: Oven-Roasted Veggies

This past week, my friend and coworker, Emily (co-author of What Would Martha Do? cooking blog) decided to have my friend Casey and I over to learn a quick and easy one-pot vegetarian dish. Emily is a great go-to for easy, yummy foods, and I was so excited to learn this recipe from her. The idea is to make in large batches on a Sunday so you can pack it as your veggies for the entire week.

Oven-Roasted Veggies
1 onion, chopped
2 heads of broccoli
4-5 baking potatoes, cut into sixths
12-15 fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, whole
1 lemon, quartered
olive oil

1. Set oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a shallow roasting pan, combine the lemons, potatoes, onions, sprouts, carrots, and garlic.
3. Separate the heads of broccoli into little "trees", cutting the stalk if necessary. Combine broccoli with other vegetables, mixing them all together.
4. Once mixed, coat the veggies in olive oil liberally, as this creates the crispy texture when roasting. Sprinkle salt and pepper on veggies to taste.
5. Place the pan in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, check the veggies and stir. Place them back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

Serves: 3-4 people

This is my variation of the recipe from memory. Adding fresh herbs to the pan also makes for a great variation of this dish.

University Park: McKinley's Bakery and Cafe

Of all the spots I enjoy in Fort Worth, one of my favorite places to spend a day lunching or shopping is University Park Village located 2 blocks from the TCU campus. After doing some window shopping, my friends Brandon, Courtney and I visited McKinley's Bakery and Cafe to check out the vegetarian fare on their menu.

When you walk in to the cafe on a Saturday afternoon, the place is busy beyond belief, filled with hungry shoppers from the surrounding stores. McKinley's menu is a simple one, offering soups, salads and sandwiches that remind you of home but served with flair. Saturday's soup of the day was a vegetarian-friendly Tomato, Basil and Rice soup. They have many hot and cold sandwiches to  choose from, the Egg Salad, Veggie and Grown Up Grilled Cheese sandwiches being the 3 vegetarian options on the menu. There are multiple pairing options on the menu, so you are able to order a plethora of sandwich-soup combos to suit your appetite.

Since I am a fan of the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese, I sprang for a cup of the Tomato, Basil and Rice Soup with the Grown Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich. It was amazing! The soup was different from the typical tomato basil and lacked the cream base, which made it lighter (as well as vegan friendly!). With fresh basil leaves, it was both aromatic and delicious.

The Grown Up Grilled Cheese was definitely different from the homemade sandwich, made with tomatoes, cheddar and provolone and grilled on two slices of pumpernickel bread. The sandwich also came with a small serving of fruit with a sweet dip, potato salad, and a tiny zucchini muffin, all of which were worth the $7.95 paid.

This trip to McKinley's made me wonder if I was just a fan of the grilled cheese because I am a vegetarian or because it is a comfort food that most Americans can identify with. Growing up, this was a typical "feel good food" for my family. Is there ever a point where you are too old to eat a grilled cheese sandwich? Let me know what you think on my poll.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vegetarian Breakfast Comes to Starbucks

Of all the things I used to miss about being a meat eater, fast-food breakfast was definitely high on the list. For the most part, vegetarians have an extremely limited list of places they are able to eat at via drive-thru before things begin to feel redundant. This is why I got so excited when I saw the new addition to the Starbucks breakfast menu: the Veggie Artisan Breakfast Sandwich.

For those who don't already know, I have been working as a partner for Starbucks for some time now. A few years ago, Starbucks brought Artisan Breakfast Sandwiches to their menu, but only offered wraps as meat-free options for vegetarians. However, before the end of 2010 they added the Roasted Vegetable Panini sandwich as a veg option for lunch, and then debuted the Veggie Artisan this month. The breakfast sandwich offers a vegetable frittata with peppers and onions, topped with Monterey Jack cheese and toasted on a ciabatta roll. Pure, hot breakfast heaven. To make it even better, the sandwich is only 350 calories, meaning you don't have to skimp on your morning latte.

Fellow vegetarians, this is a must try for anyone who misses the convenience of a McDonald's drive-thru but wants a more healthful option. (Word around town is carnivores love it, too!)

Veg in Texas

Hey, there. Welcome to my blog, Vegetarian Tiff.

Simply put, this blog will be about living as a vegetarian in Fort Worth, Texas, a town that loves their steaks, steakhouses, chicken fried steaks, etc. 

I did not choose to become a vegetarian because of my deep love for animals (though I do love them). Like many girls my age, I read Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, which discusses the benefits of veganism (one who includes NO animal products in their diet, including eggs and dairy). What really made me want to join this revolution were the dietary and environmental benefits the authors of the book described. After reading the book cover to cover on my way home from Minneapolis, I stepped off the plane dedicated to a diet free of animal products.

However, after about a month of hardcore veganism, my dedication to my new-found lifestyle slowly declined. After returning to school, I realized it was going to be harder than I had imagined to be a functioning vegan in college. One B-12 deficiency later, I was eating eggs again. It wasn't long until I became lax about foods containing milk products. But the one thing I knew I would never, EVER, eat again was meat.

When I made the switch to a meat-free diet, most people didn't understand why I would choose a diet that was "so difficult." In reality, though, this town has a lot to offer as far as vegetarian dining. All you have to do is look. Although eating vegan was something I didn't have the time or energy to do, eating vegetarian is something I don't have to think about anymore. It has become a part of who I am and is something I no longer second-guess.

So, as a reformed carnivore, my goals for this blog are as follows:
  • Write about the benefits, frustrations, complications, etc. that come with being vegetarian
  • Post about vegetarian food options at local restaurants and chains, as well as recipes I may find or try
  • Include interesting and educational information about "green" living through vegetarianism
Happy reading!