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Going Vegetarian for Lent – Completed: Easter Recap

Easter Sunday is the best day of the year for Christians.  With out Jesus resurrection, we could not be saved from our sins, and have eternal life.  That is the real reason for Christians to celebrate.  And we did, thanks to a wonderful family brunch after Easter service.

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My oldest daughter is thousands of miles away following her dreams, but managed to represent her spot at the table with a wonderful Vegan cake she convinced one of her close high school friends (who caters weddings and other events) to make for us.  Damn it was good!  Some of the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had, period.

Now that Lent is officially over for 2017, it’s time to reflect and recap the last 47 days.  It all started with a simple question, “Dad, what are you giving up for Lent this year?”.  I hadn’t given it much thought over the years since most attempts were quick failures, mostly because the reason wasn’t clear.

Building on my New Year’s resolution to strive for a more open mind on all things that matter, I decided to give it serious thought.  After some deep pondering, I elected to give up “meat”.  Everyone was quick to say “What and Why”?  My initial response was “Why not”.

But there was more to it than simply a smug “why not”.  A lot more than just trying out some new recipes and eating a more healthy diet.

My children.  They have grown into fantastic young adults, and I felt it was time to take some lessons from each of them.  After all, it was their idea to give up something for Lent.

My oldest has struggled most her life with food-related issues and is currently Vegan.  She is smart, stubborn, opinionated, passionate, and always pushing the limits on traditional ways.  The classic trail blazer.  Hum, sounds like someone I know deep down inside.  We tend to butt heads on things we don’t agree on, and even stuff we do.  I also have the tendency to be quick to judge her “wild” ideas, and show compasion for her ideals.

Then there is my middle child, the smart and talented son, who carries himself well with common sense and practicality.  I’ve always though it was strange that he eats food in order and has no problem eating the same things for breakfast and lunch every day, provided it supplies the proper amount of nutrients for his given agenda.  Whether its running, weight lifting, weight loss, or muscle gains, he has a plan for everything.  Methodical is probably the best way to describe his approach to life.  He sets a goal, and nothing gets in his way.

Then there is the baby of the family, my youngest daughter.  Smart, caring, loving, funny, and always the crisis manager.  She’s also very passionate about life, and focused on exploring her relationship with Christianity.  She signed up for a summer long Christian leadership development program in Florida.  Even with some apprehension from others, she stretches forward to test herself.

So the “Why” is really all about walking in their shoes to better understand their perspectives on life.  They have all matured into outstanding young adults and have so much to offer and learn from.

I went Vegetarian for Lent to gain appreciation for how my oldest feels.  I dug in deep to all the Vegan and Vegetarian philosophies, some which I may never be able to erase from my brain.  I sought the truth about humane treatment of animals, the devastation of our environment by unrestricted farming practices, and the ethics of consuming animal products.

I ran every day to ensure I had some substantial exercise to test my diet, and methodically work through the nutritional impacts of using a different protein source.  I consulted daily with my son on my feelings, nutrition, and the realities of all the data I uncovered.  I’m sure he is sick of hearing about it all, but provided excellent support.

I read scripture daily to relate my feelings to the teaching of Christianity in hopes of finding more compassion.  I wanted to really understand why my youngest pending trip to Florida this summer was so important to her and provide the best possible support.  Every Sunday, the sermon seemed to highlight how she must be feeling and why it is important to be passionate about our faith.

I am a changed man.  I have opened my mind to all things possible.  The teacher was the student.  I have learned so much in such a short period of time and have only scratched the surface.

Now the biggest question everyone is asking is “What Now”.  My answer is simple, “I don’t know”.  I feel great and want to continue my exploration in the culinary world of “no meat”. I am conflicted on the ethical issues associated with consuming animal products.  Production farming practices don’t seem like a good thing.  Are there things we as an intelligent society need to do different, sure.  How can my choices make a difference?

We are all taught that our goal is to leave our world a better place when we leave than it was when we got here.  Backpacking rule #1 “Leave No Trace”.  It’s what we all want for our children.  Why shouldn’t be that way for the food and products we consume and use.

As I say goodbye to Lent 2017, my going forward position is to continue a focus on Plant-based diet and gain a deeper understanding of the impacts this approach takes on my health and the environment.

Pushing the limits of BBQ may take on a different look and feel, but I guarantee it will taste great!

Thank you to my family for all this support and encouragement and teaching me a thing or two about life.

Peace to all.

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Going Vegetarian for Lent – Day 46: The Finish Line

Day 46! The Finish Line! The challenge completed!  That’s right, 46 days ago, I made a commitment to give up meat for Lent.  The BBQ guy, who loves to grill and smoke brisket, pulled port, baby back ribs, burgers, brats, and anything else that tasted so good, went vegetarian.  One person asked me the other day “so what meat did you give up?”.  My response was “all meat”.  They seemed confused by this broad and vague answer.  Must have been incomprehensible for them to fathom not eating any kind of meat.  It was a great experience that I will cherish and likely continue forward.

I decided the last day would be a victory lap.  Like most of my previous live challenges like IronMan Triathlons or trail marathons, to name a few, the training is the hard part, and race day should be a “victory lap” that is enjoyed and a time of reflection.

I started off the day with a nice bowl of oatmeal with mixed berries and a splash of coconut to add a little sweetness.

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Lunch was at a local place specializing in wraps.  I opted for my standard chicken Wow Kung Pow wrap, but substituted tofu for the chicken.  Honestly, I think it tasted better with tofu and previous chicken versions.

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Dinner was again at a local Mexican pub and I opted for the “new” standby, potato tacos (hold the cheese).  Not that I’ve sworn off cheese or anything radical like that, I just think this version of taco tastes better without it.

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Well, the running has come to an end due to some knee issues, but I can honestly say I did a 5K everyday of Lent.  I made 49 days straight all together.  I was hoping for 50, but can’t risk everything on this one challenge.

My inspiration for this Lent season comes from my children, who have taught me one very important lesson.  Your never to old to learn something new.  I value their opinions and honor their individuality.  I also hope I honored the christian faith and made a small impact on the world by completing this challenge.  Thanks to everyone who supported me over the last 6+ weeks.

Now the question of “why” has to be answered.  I will address this in my final Easter Day recap.

Peace to all.

Going Vegetarian for Lent – Days 44-45: Biscuits and Burgers

Getting so close to the end of the Lent Vegetarian and Plant-based diet challenge.  I was definitely feeling like some comfort food and pulled some of my favorites from the last 6 weeks.

Breakfast was vegan sausage and biscuits.  I followed Minimalist Baker’s simple and awesome recipe.  Now that I have all of the ingredients as “samples” on hand, it was a snap to bake these up in no time.

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I had some left over soy sausage to use up and created one of my all time favorites, sausage biscuits.  Move over fast food giants, the vegan B&G’s are in the haus.

For lunch I went for a monster salad to keep the “more greens” requirements rolling.  Mixed greens, red and green peppers, apples, garlic vinaigrette, and some crushed Sun Chips to round it out.

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I was on a roll today so figured why not fire up the BBQ and grill some burgers.  I grilled some grass-fed hamburger for the family and BBQ tofu and portobello mushroom for me.  I’ve made these before, so it was all about creating the perfect “burger”.  What says burger more than some secret sauce.  The secret sauce is really a take on thousand island dressing: Vegan mayo, catsup, and relish.

I love cooking on the grill.  Here you go!

Once all the piece parts were done, it was time to build the monster.  It definitely was a jaw expanding experience.  All I can say is this beauty would rival any burger (meat or not) on the planet.  BBQ tofu, BBQ portobello, lettuce, tomato, toasted bun, and secret sauce.

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Given the full on culinary experience on Thursday, the next day was leftovers and eating out before going to a Royals baseball game.

A couple more 5K’s completed, but my left knee has about had it.  Going 48 straight days has taken its toll, so I will probably walk in the final 2.

Inspiration these days is knowing I will complete my goal, and reflecting on the final days of holy week.  To think this all happened so we could life our lives without sin and in harmony with the universe is pretty heavy stuff.

One more day to go until the end of this challenge, but possibly the start of something much larger.

Peace to all.

Going Vegetarian for Lent – Day 43: Wok Night

My youngest came home from school today for Easter break, and was craving some home made favorites.  Pad Thai noodles is one of her favorites.  Perfect excuse to break out the wok.  Ever since getting the BGE and wok, it has become my absolute favorite way to cook vegetables.  Crisp, bright, fresh, fun, tasty, and awesome, are just a few of the words to describe the experience.

It’s really easy.  Fire up a large batch of lump charcoal in the Big Green Egg and prepare your veggies.  Once the fire is nice and hot, like 700deg (F) hot, put the wok in for about 15 min to come up to temperature.  Add in some peanut oil, swish it around to coat the sides of the wok, and let the magic begin.

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When the wok is this hot, you have to keep the food moving.  After about 4-5 min, I take the wok out and let it rest on the wok ring for about another minute or so to finish off the veggies.

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I also cooked some shrimp for the meaties in the family.  I used some olive oil, garlic, and lemon pepper seasoning on the shrimp.  Used the same cooking process as the veggies, but I have learned that it’s best to cook meat or fish after the veggies.  Keeps the wok cleaner doing multiple small veggie cooks.  Always keep the quantity small and do multiple cooks.

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I cooked the Pad Thai noodles in side to avoid the sticky sauce in my beloved wok (LOL).

I just can’t say enough great thinks about using this cooking style.  Short of some great pizza, using the wok is probably my favorite new BBQ device.

LOVE IT!

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This meal will definitely be a staple for years to come.  Endless possibilities to what you can cook in a wok that’s only restricted by your imagination.

I’m having some lingering knee issues from the 5K race last weekend, but managed to get run number 46 completed, with 4 more to go before some much needed rest.

With 3 days left in this years Lent season, I still don’t have any strong desires for meat.  It would have been nice to taste the shrimp to verify the seasoning, but the meaties gave it the thumbs up.

I’m not sure why I’m not freaking out about it.  Most other people are counting down the days they can have ice cream, or chocolate, or what ever they gave up and were successful in refraining from.  I have the upmost respect for anyone that sets a goal and completes it.  I guess that’s what has driven me this far.

I think most people succumb to temptation when they make a commitment that either haven’t thought through or it’s something their hearts really aren’t into.  This is the first time I have seriously done anything for Lent.  I always thought it wasn’t necessary to give up superficial things just to say I did it.

But this year was different.  There was something calling me to participate.  To test my morals, faith, and push into the uncomfortable zone.  As it is written in James,

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Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

So yes, giving up meat may seem like a trivial thing to some, but for the BBQ guy, it was a big leap of faith.  And the endurance to carry on past the 46 day trial period is definitely there.

Peace to all.

 

Going Vegetarian for Lent – Days 41-42: Back to basics.

Nothing spectacular to report on the culinary front.  I made a second attempt at Vegan Mac n Cheese.  I used vegetable broth instead of non-dairy milk.  Using the organic Better than Bullion kinda darkened up the color a bit, so not as “cheesy” looking as the first time.  It tasted great for something that looked a little bland.

I’m also trying to eat more salad and greens.  That’s something that has escaped me during the last couple of weeks seeking out different recipes.  I decided it was time to get back to the basics and work towards a more sustainable diet for everyday life.

Today I was taking care of my son’s dog and he was needing a little exercise, so I took him for a little 5K run.  Knocked out 2 must do’s for the price of 1.  After the run, I put together a nice lunch of leftovers and salad.

I used the left over soy sausage to make some little patties.  Just cooked them for about 4-5 min on each side in a lightly oiled pan.  Got plans for some biscuits and gravy in the morning.

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Terrible picture, but you get the idea.  They almost look like ??

I used a couple patties to make a little vegan sausage and cheese sandwich.  Now that was a filling lunch.

Dinner was “what can we get quick that is somewhat healthy.  Chipotle, which is just down the road, was selected.  I really like they have a vegan/vegetarian “meat” option now.  Sofrita is a shredded tofu with chipotle chiles and roasted poblano mushrooms.  Seriously legit, even if you do typical go for pork, chicken, or beef.  Add in some peppers and onions, salsa, guacamole, and lettuce for a superb set of soft tacos.

 

This is really a basic dish, that satisfies the taste buds.  I appreciate it when restaurants serve basic menu items that have great flavor.

I was researching scriptures associated with this concept of “back to basics”, feeling the need for some inspiration.  I am craving a simpler life style, and this Lent challenge has shown me through food, some of the most satisfying culinary delights are very simple.  Too often I have been consumed with wanting more.  I need more, so I thought.  Trusting in the Lord and not your previous convictions, can be an uncomfortable position.  Wouldn’t you know the scripture that came before me was from Luke.

Luke 12:24 “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”

That will make you think regardless of your religious affiliation, if any…..

Peace to all.

Going Vegetarian (Plant-based) for Lent – Day 40: Jack Fruit Fajitas and Mental Conflict.

I finally had the nerve to try Jack Fruit.  Not able to find any “raw” Jack Fruit, I opted for some flavored variety at the local market.  It was BBQ flavored, but with the addition of some traditional fajita seasoning, I figured it might work out.

The family opted out on the JF and wanted the more traditional marinated skirt steak.  So fire up the grill.

First off was the veggies.  I scored some corn on the cob at the market today.  My favorite way to cook ears of corn is a light coating of butter with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. I used vegan butter on mine.  Just take a stick of butter, rub it on the corn and season.  Double wrap in aluminum foil and toss it in the grill.

It takes about 20 minutes to cook the corn when elevated on the grill grate.  If you put directly on the coals, its best not to butter the corn until after cooking or the butter will burn.  While the corn is cooking, add the veggies until roasted to your liking.

I played around with the Jack Fruit for a while until the seasoning were close then added them to the grill to heat up while the corn was finishing.

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I made a make-shift pan out of aluminum foil by rolling up the edges on all 4 sides.  I’ve used this technique for many BBQ applications like heating food, drip pans, and making dividers in casserole dishes.

Once everything was done, I loaded up some corn tortillas to create the little fajitas.  I wasn’t sure what to expect on the JF.  It was pretty good.  The texture is definitely meat like, and worked well for fajita meat.  The spices were a little off given the starting point of the flavored JF.  I will try this again if I can find plan or raw JF.

Overall, it was a good cook.  I was tempted by the skirt steak, because it came out great (according to the meat eaters).  Sorry to all the non-meat eaters, but it was worthy of showing (and for what I’m about to say).

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I had mixed emotions about cooking the steak, but figured it would be a good test of my current mental state and constitution.  Not to mention, my BBQ and grilling is somewhat legendary.

That is the irony of this whole thing.  My friends are really taken back by when they found out “Mr. BBQ” was going Vegetarian for Lent.  Some are already freaking out that there won’t be any of my famous BBQ at next years Super Bowl party.  While it hasn’t been that hard for me to give up meat for the last 6 weeks, it has really messed with my head wondering what life would be like if I didn’t BBQ meat anymore.

How do I really feel about it now?  Do I go back to my old ways, which is what most people assume I will?  I doubt I will revert all the way back.  How could I with what I’ve learned about the issues surrounding corporate farming practices, mass slaughter houses, and inhuman treatment of animals.  Could I go for some local raised beef from humanly treated cows that were locally processed at a family farm?  It’s a tough one for me to resolve right now.

In the final week of Lent, I am focused on the “Why” more than ever.  Today’s sermon at church was focused on the events following Palm Sunday, when Jesus was turned on by the masses once people realized he was not the kind of King they were expecting.  He was there to save them from themselves, not the Romans.

How will people perceive me if I’m not what they expect me to be?  I doubt they will turn on me, or there really not my friends.  Will this influence my decision to choose one path over the other?  Will my love of cooking meat influence my perspective on eating meat?

It’s a similar dilemma to when I used to hunt ducks.  I only really enjoyed “calling” the ducks.  I was really good at it and would get invited to go hunting based on my reputation of calling.  Some suggested I enter calling contests.  Same goes for my BBQ and some people who have experienced it think I should enter BBQ competitions.  Like the biggest one in the US, that’s held in my home city.

Once I realized my love of being in nature and enjoying the interaction with the ducks was the priority, I could never shot another duck.  I also no longer wanted to aid others in their desires to kill them.  I no longer use my duck calls and those “hunting buddies” are long gone.   I’ve since taken a similar position with fishing.  So, what will become of my meat BBQ?  Will my love of animals prevail once again?

God moves us in directions we don’t understand or expect.  We are wired to resist change and things we are not comfortable with.  I entered Lent with an open mind, so I owe it to myself to end it just the same.

Peace to all.

Going Vegetarian for Lent – Day 39: Pizza Night

Oh yea, think god it was pizza night again.  I love pizza.  The bubbly cheese, crisp veggies, and slightly charred crust.  Life is good.

Making my own pizza at home was really the primary reason I got a Big Green Egg.  I have several other charcoal cookers, but all previous attempts at great pizza were mediocre at best prior to the Egg.  It really is a close to brick over pizza as you can get.  My pre-Lent pizza favorite has always been sausage pizza.  Its been several months now since, so decided to give some “sausage” a try.  I made biscuits and gravy a while back and that was really good.  I used the store-bought soy-based “sausage” for this cook.  Add your basic veggies and it was a winner.

The key is getting the Egg over 600deg (F) and keeping it there for a long time.  Need the pizza stone and dome temperature to be as close to the same as possible.  You want the pizza to cook from the bottom up and top down at the same rate.  We’ve just about got this process dialed in tight.

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It takes about 8 minutes to cook at this temperature, and I usually spin the pizza a couple of times since there are always hot spots.  As always my son’s dough recipe was really good.  Vegetarian Sausage Pizza!

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Made a quick easy side salad to close the deal.  I really like a tangy salad dressing to go along with pizza.

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Obviously this was not 100% plant-based (vegan) but I was having a weak moment after running a 5K race today (day 42 running).

I had a pretty good race finishing just out of the top 10% overall out of 1400+ participants.  Not bad for being a little fatigued, and operating on plant power!  Overall one of my faster stand alone 5K’s.

It’s a great time for those observing the Christian faith, as we prepare to enter Holy Week.  There are so many lessons to learn that are still applicable today, in how people treat others and how things can change quickly when people are influenced by others.

This also signifies the final week of my Vegetarian challenge.  So many thoughts are running through my head.  What happens when this is over?  Is it over?  Or is it just the beginning?

Time will tell.

Peace to all and go get your pizza on!