Monday, September 28, 2009

Remember to Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

It’s a Christmas Eve feeling, this thing I’ve got. Remember when you were seven-years old and couldn’t wait for Christmas morning— so much so, that you couldn’t sleep the night before. That type of anticipation and excitement is rare for those of us who have passed the third grade. There’s an anticipatory energy one feels at that age. It’s in the air, it’s electric and it’s magical, it’s running through your body, and it’s real.

I feel it today. Christmas is 12 weeks away, and third grade is a distant memory, but the anticipation and excitement I am experiencing right now— this very second— feels the same.

It’s meat, or at least the thought of meat. And not just any meat, ribs. Coming in a very close second to ribs is steak. Oh how I love steak, let me count the ways.

Welcome to day 28 of my 30-day journey into vegetarianism. Three days left, I can’t wait.

Just a little less than a month ago, I took the PETA Challenge. The group posted a billboard in Florida with a fat woman in a bikini with the headline “Save the Whales Go Vegetarian.” Many were offended. I was amused. Somewhere along the way, I read of the PETA 30-day challenge: Go veggie for 30 days and lose weight.

I certainly need to lose weight, and not being one to back down from a challenge, I took it. So here I am, four weeks in, still alive, with all of my wits about me (my wife would disagree), still able to engage in a fairly intelligent conversation (many others would disagree), and still a vegetarian— for at least three more days.

Amazingly enough it hasn’t been too hard. That statement surprises me even as I type it. I had probably never gone two consecutive days without eating some type of meat.

What has surprised me most is that people didn’t believe me. Many thought I was just doing it as column fodder, and secretly scarfing down bacon behind the scenes. I’ve had countless people walk up to me in restaurants over the last month. “Is there any meat in that?”

I was in a Waffle House last week— that’s right, Waffle House, it’s where we vegetarians love to eat (waffles don’t have any meat in them, hash browns, either). My two children and I had finished eating and were about to get up when a gentleman and two ladies walked over to the table, “Got any sausage or bacon over there?” The Veggie Food Police are everywhere.

Much to the surprise of my family and friends, I have not cheated. Not even a bite of animal based protein. I wouldn’t even let my wife cook peas with bacon or use chicken stock in the beans.

The problem is that I haven’t lost weight. At one point over the last four weeks I was up four pounds. Today, I’m hovering at the same weight I was when I took the challenge.

I didn’t set out to prove PETA wrong. I certainly didn’t do this to gain weight. I just thought it would be a fun challenge. I will be the first to admit that I would have lost weight had I lived on a diet strictly made up of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I might have gone insane, but I would have lost weight. Instead, I ate a lot of bread, candy, and fried food— but no meat.

I haven’t missed chicken at all. Sausage? No problem. Bacon? Once or twice. Hamburgers? I mainly miss the convenience.

I want some ribs. I’d like to eat a steak, too. It pains me that I have missed the best month for soft-shell crab we’ve had in five years. I will be eating crab in three days, count on it.

While researching this column, I read where PETA planted fruit trees in honor of people who went vegetarian for 30 days. Over the last few weeks I have become pen pals with the PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk. I wonder if Ingrid will plant a fruit tree for me. And if so, what type of fruit tree does an overweight carnivore with a new respect for vegetarians warrant?

Barbara Jane’s Layered Cream Cheese Spread

2 TBL olive oil

1 /4 cup onion, minced

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 1 /2 tsp Creole seasoning

1-10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 /2 cup toasted pecans, chopped

1 /3 cup mayonnaise

3 Tbl sour cream

1 Tbl Creole Mustard

1 Tbl parsley, chopped

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 /4 tsp salt

1 /2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1 /8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 /2 cup peach or apricot preserves

1 /4 cup green onions, minced

1 /4 tsp ground nutmeg

Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap.

Heat olive oil in a medium sized sauté pan over medium heat. Cook onions for 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and Creole seasoning cooking two more minutes. Stir in spinach and blend well. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, toasted pecans, Creole mustard, and parsley. Blend it very well, and spread half of this mixture into the bottom of the lined loaf pan.

In a separate bowl, combine one package of the cream cheese and the cooled spinach mixture. Blend well and spread over the halfed cheddar-pecan layer of the loaf.

Next, spread the remaining cheddar mixture into the loaf pan.

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat remaining cream cheese until light and creamy. Add salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, preserves, green onions, and nutmeg. Spread final layer into the loaf pan and wrap very tightly with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for 4-6 hours before serving (also freezes well, must thaw eight hours before serving).

To serve, sink the loaf pan into a warm water bath for 1-2 minutes. Do not let water seep into plastic and reach mold. Unmold onto serving platter and remove plastic wrap.

Yield: 20-25 appetizer servings


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