A Very Vegan Day


Pan-fried French bread with maple syrup and pears.

My refrigerator is full of home-rendered lard and dozens of eggs from my chickens. My freezers are full of farm-fresh meat. There is a pound of homemade cream cheese draining in my kitchen.

And because the universe has a sense of humor, Weston has acquired a vegan girlfriend. I picked her up yesterday over at the old farmhouse where her parents dropped her off–to spend the entire day. With me. And my cream cheese and eggs and lard.

I used to be a vegetarian. (Take a moment, pick your jaw back up off the floor.) In fact, I was a vegetarian for nearly 10 years. I became a vegetarian in college, where I inhaled books like Diet for a Small Planet. I wasn’t only a vegetarian, I was also an animal rights activist. I was a founding member and president of an animal rights student organization at Texas Tech University. We did things like bring activists and authors to campus to speak, sponsor debates with students from the agriculture department, and sign petitions to save the whales. One of the television stations in town held a first freeze contest every year (to guess the date it would occur) with the prize of a fur coat. We organized a protest march in front of the TV station offices and got ourselves in the newspaper and on all the other TV stations that day. The next year, they gave away a beach trip….

I continued to be a vegetarian throughout my kids’ early childhoods. When they were little, I got them one of those big boxes of plastic play food. The various pieces included the makings of a cheeseburger–buns, lettuce, cheese, and a hamburger patty. Because they didn’t know what a hamburger patty was, they used to call that piece a cookie.

Eventually, they went to school, and got old enough to even spend the night at friends’ houses, and they found out about meat. In particular, they found out about fried chicken. They started begging me to make this heavenly delight at home. One day, for no reason I can recall, I gave in and fried up some chicken for them. Next thing you know, I was fixing fried chicken for them on a regular basis. And one day, I just couldn’t bear it and ate a piece myself. And you know where that slippery slope led.

I’ve got home-rendered lard in my fridge.

Beware of the fried chicken! It’s very powerful!

Anyway! So it was with a combination of panic and nostalgia that I faced a day of vegan cooking. I’m actually quite comfortable with vegetarian cooking. However, I was never a vegan. Weston’s girlfriend not only doesn’t eat meat, she also doesn’t eat eggs or any dairy products. On top of that, I’m not stocked up on any handy helpers and substitutes that I used to keep around, like tofu, TVP, soy milk, miso, soy cheese, and so on. (I wonder if I can find some miso around here somewhere? I miss miso. Miso, if you don’t know, is a soybean paste, and can be used in all sorts of ways for flavoring, sauces, gravies, soup, etc, and is very nutritious. Haven’t even thought about miso in forever. It is quite high in sodium, but a little miso goes a long way.) TVP, by the way, stands for texturized vegetable protein, which is a mouthful and explains why everyone calls it TVP. It works as a replacement for ground beef in recipes–it’s rather tasteless on its own, but can be seasoned and adds protein to a dish.

The girlfriend actually showed up with her own soy patties to ward off starvation (Weston must have told her about the lard), but I didn’t let that stop me from completing my challenge.

I love eggs and cheese, and used to cook a lot of vegetarian dishes including eggs and cheese, but once I gave it a little thought, I remembered that many vegetarian recipes are also incidentally vegan. And that Grandmother Bread, in its basic form, is a vegan bread.

For breakfast, I served up slices of pan-fried Grandmother Bread that I had made as a French loaf the night before. I fried them in a bit of olive oil, sprinkling sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg on top. I drizzled the slices with maple syrup then loaded on some warmed, sliced pears, chopped walnuts, and a dash of powdered sugar.

Lunch was bean burritos–homemade flour tortillas (using shortening) and vegetarian refried beans. (With shredded cheese for those who wanted it.)

For dinner, I made a spicy lentil sauce that I used to cook frequently back in my vegetarian days. It is delicious and I had nearly forgotten about it. This sauce is based on a recipe from Nikki & David Goldbeck’s American Whole Foods Cuisine, which is a fantastic vegetarian cookbook. (Note: A good many of the recipes in the book call for eggs and cheese, but there are also many vegan recipes. Another great vegetarian cookbook is Moosewood Cookbook.) Here is the way I make this sauce. (The recipe as it stands in the book is a little bit different. If you have the book and want to check out the original, the recipe is called Pasta with Lentil Sauce.)

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How to make Spicy Lentil Sauce:

1 1/2 cups dry lentil beans
3 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 pint tomatoes, chopped, drained
6 ounces tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
1 teaspoon crushed red peppers
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

Rinse and drain lentils. Add water and onions. Bring to a boil then simmer covered for about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and everything else to taste. (Start with smaller quantities of the seasonings than I have listed here. This is how I like it. Season it how you like it.) Simmer a few more minutes as you stir in the tomatoes and seasonings–and you’re done!

This is a very fast sauce. It has a texture and sense about it that feels almost meaty. (It’s a very thick, hearty sauce.) It’s great over pasta, as a sloppy joe substitute, or, as I used it this time, a filling for (cheese-free) calzones.

Find the Spicy Lentil Sauce recipe on Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

To make the calzones, I made slightly more than the one-loaf dough of Grandmother Bread, starting with 2 cups of water instead of 1 1/2. After the first rise, I divided the dough into 12 balls, rolled them out into circles, ladled on a big heaping spoonful of the spicy lentil sauce, folded the dough over, and crimped the edges. I baked them on greased baking sheets for about 30 minutes. After about 20 minutes, I took them out of the oven, brushed olive oil on the tops, then sprinkled the tops with garlic salt and dried minced onions, and finished baking.

It was all quite tasty and pleased the teenagers. (There was some sauce left over. I’ll use it with pasta.)

P.S. The girlfriend is cute as a bug in a rug. She’s a homegrown West Virginia farm girl (she lives on a 200-acre farm–the 200 acres part really had me drooling) and says the road to her house is worse than ours. She’s perfect!

P.P.S. Edit to add: David Goldbeck (THAT DAVID GOLDBECK) commented on this post. I can die now. Check out Healthy Highways for more info on the American Whole Foods Cuisine book and more.

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  1. Michele Messier says:

    Wow I am so happy for your son, is he still going in the service? I used to be a vegetarian for 7 years then a vegan for 6 months. I feel real bad for the animals too. I am now eating meat and cheese again but I am much more aware. I will leave it at that. Great pics! :wave: :wave: :wave:

  2. Julie Wriston says:

    Yum! We do vegetarian meals ~ several times a week. Saves on the grocery budget and healthy! My boys are old enough now though that they feel like they are missing out on something if there isn’t a piece of meat on their plate.

    Yes, they are a cute couple!

  3. Samantha Sullivan says:

    Just curious, where/how did they meet?

    Farm girl to farm boy, too cute.

  4. skippymom says:

    I would never have a doubt that you, of all people, could make many recipes vegan. Nicely done, really.

    They are a very cute couple. How did she like the food btw? [I think I know the answer to this, but I want to hear her kudos too – I know she got a few new recipes from you this weekend. :)]

  5. Nancy says:

    The irony of your vegetarian heyday having its roots in Texas did not escape me..That will keep me laughing all day. Thanks Suzanne!

  6. Myrna Mackenzie says:

    Suzanne, it sounds as if you made some great meals! For the past couple of years, we’ve served as an overnight stop for a group of college students who spend their summer bicycling coast to coast to raise money for cancer research (the Illini4000 is on the Blue Ball Book page on your site). And we hope to do it again this year. There’s always a healthy sprinklng of vegetarians and the occasional vegan in the group, so you can bet I’ll be using some of your recipes. Thanks!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Re where did they meet–they met in Art class at school.

      And yes, they both liked the food very much! What surprised me, though, was that WESTON liked it!

      Re the service–I think you’re confused between my two sons, Ross and Weston. Ross is the oldest who has already graduated from high school. He will be going to boot camp in a few months (June). Almost time! Weston is my younger son. Weston is still in high school. He’s only 16. He’s the one who plays football.

  7. Tracey In Paradise,Pa. says:

    :woof: You are a good mom…My sons girlfriend is a vegetarian too. Not as strict..I make lots of homemade pizza and salad..You are the tops!!Looks yum.

  8. Jen R. (emeraldsunshine.org) says:

    I eat mostly vegetarian/vegan food and I am always surprised by how anti-vegan/vegetarian people can be. I’ll invite them over to my house and then after we’re finished eating the chili or tacos or whatever I’ve made, I’ll tell them that it was vegetarian or vegan. Jaws hit the floor. I don’t eat bland or crappy food just because I don’t eat a lot of meat…!

    Weston and his girlfriend make a very cute couple.

  9. Diane says:

    My dd has Vegan friends at school. She said they must live off of air since they do not eat much of anything.

    Weston’s girl friend is very cute. They make a nice couple. I could not get over how mature looking your son is now. I work at the highschool and I am always amazed at the tranformations of teens that happens somewhere between 10-11 grade. Suddenly they are young adults.

    I think I might like to try your menu for a day. Everything looks very yummy and good. Not hard and I think my family would actally eat it too.

  10. Johanna says:

    Been a vegetarian for 20 years almost. Believe me, no one would think I ever starved for my values! That lentil sauce looks great, I’ll have to try it.

    Weston and girlfriend are a cute couple. Did she have to sign a blog release to come in the door?? πŸ˜‰

  11. Blair says:

    We have miso in Charleston! The bigger Krogers have it (Kanawha City, Ashton Place, South Charleston) but the BEST place is the Asian Marke in South Charleston.

  12. Mim says:

    I have “fooled” my family at times about meals without meat. They don’t know the difference.I used soy burger in chilis, tacos etc. Of course after the fact (actually when they found out), they said they could tell something was different…so now I don’t let them know at all when I use it. :pawprint: :pawprint:

  13. CindyP says:

    Everything looks wonderful!!! And I’m making that sauce (with the calzones!) — he won’t even know it’s meatless! I really must find things like this for a few days of the week…

    What kind of farming does her family do? Could you imagine having 200 acres of goat and pig and sheep and donkey and chicken pens? Don’t faint! πŸ˜†

    Wonderful looking couple!

  14. NorthCountryGirl says:

    Such a cute couple! I tried being a vegetarian for a while. It wasn’t too bad, but after a while I missed the meat. I don’t think I could do vegan…I would miss the eggs and cheese too much. But, I’m glad it all worked out and your vegan meals sound delicious.

  15. Tabitha says:

    aw, that was so sweet of you to pull out some great recipes for her!
    interesting to hear you were once vegetarian
    we eat mostly vegan here…for a multitude of reasons-health, animal rights, environmental, world hunger, etc…
    unfortunately, people associate vegans with crazies…but it can be a very normal way of life…
    i despise “fake foods” so we don’t eat all that processed vegan crap.
    i was addicted to dairy and cheese and thought i’d NEVER be able to live without it
    it’s AMAZING how many new and awesome recipes i’ve discovered eating vegan–i eat so much healthier and so much more variety…and i really try to eat as local as i can too–so it’s not all expensive hard to get stuff (my husband is laid off)

    okay–off my vegan soapbox….lol, sorry
    was just nice to see a little bit of vegan mixed in with the cheese and the lard, lol

  16. Joy says:

    Well, I’m glad you came over to the “chicken side,” we are a Tyson family and depend on the lure of fried chicken! My SIL mother has been vegetarian for most of her 90 years and she’s healthy as a horse!

  17. Kacey says:

    Ah, they are such a cute couple…even though I still picture him as a little boy… :yes: I will say your vegan meals look pretty darn good.

  18. aint for city gals says:

    I’m thinking she looks and acts like a little mini version of you…you should be proud of your son…he knows a good person when he sees one!

  19. LGC says:

    I was a vegetarian for 16 years. My slippery slope was a bacon cheeseburger….still is! Yum!

  20. Lola-Dawn says:

    I raised my 2 youngest kids vegetarian, and in their 30s now, they still are. My oldest, however, has always been a die-hard carnivore! While the kids were growing up, I usually cooked 2 meals, 1 for the vegetarians and 1 for the carnivores of which my husband and I were. Then my silly husband got onto this health kick and “went veg” himself … and promptly outlawed meat in the house! Today, and living on my own, I eat a variety of foods, sometimes meat and sometimes meatless. I like having the choice, and I didn’t like being told I couldn’t eat meat! The meat/meatless topic can be touchy in some families! Your french toast looks delish!

  21. Michelle says:

    I have and LOVE Moosewood Cookbook and its offspring; I’ll have to get me a copy of American Whole Foods Cuisine. And I’m trying that lentil sauce tonight!

  22. Nancy says:

    I was vegetarian for many years too…one night it was cold, snow on the ground, just miserable. My husband and I were going out to dinner and wouldn’t you know the hens decided to pick that night to hide under the barn. Fearing for predators we had to get them out before we left.By the time we were done I was soaked through and frozen. My husband asked where I wanted to go and I replied “someplace that serves good chicken!”. He thought I was kidding…I wasn’t…so much for being a vegetarian!

  23. Karen Anne says:

    Great recipe ideas. The bread looks sinful πŸ™‚

    Like Jen and Tabitha, I sometimes wonder why being a vegetarian gets such a reaction. I once had an interviewer go ballistic in a job interview when they asked me if I had any preference for where we had lunch and I said, any place is okay with me as long as I can get something vegetarian. She went through the roof, and I was standing there going what, what. No job offer from that interview πŸ™‚

  24. WatkinsGal says:

    Your timing couldn’t be more perfect. My 15 year old has acquired a vegetarian girlfriend…and is having her over for dinner this week. THANK YOU! At least she eats eggs…my chickens have hit overdrive in the laying department and I have 8 dozen eggs in the fridge. Time to go back and read the post on freezing eggs.

    …..fried chicken…yum!…

  25. cgReno says:

    Yay Suzanne and cute girlfriend! During Lent I remove all animal products from my usual vegetarian diet. I thought I had read every vegan receipe on the planet! Thank you, thank you for spicy lentil sauce! I will try it tonight!!!! Sounds wonderful!

  26. Diane Edwards says:

    I was also a vegetarian for many years in my 20-30s, and again in my 40-50s, but my husband and son weren’t. My downfall was always bacon, which my husband cooked every weekend for breakfast. I could go for years and not eat it, until one day I just couldn’t stand it!! I now eat meat or chicken about 2-3 times a week, due to B-12 deficiency, but only grass-fed organic red meat and organic free-range chicken. It’s pricey, but I’m concerned for my own health as well as ethical treatment of the animals.

  27. lavenderblue says:

    That lentil sauce looks great! Husband and I would eat vegetarian more often but the boy just looks at us and says “Where is the meat?” I couldn’t even fool him when he was a baby. His girlfriend would like to be vegetarian but doesn’t like beans or tomatoes or much else good except cheese. I can’t get her to eat a vegetable to save my life. I pointed the irony of her food choices out to her so she settled for a grilled cheese sandwich cheese burger that they had seen made on the “Food Channel”. My son did the cooking so I didn’t argue.

    Young love, ain’t it grand!

  28. catslady says:

    Bascially I’m too lazy to be a vegetarian. I have a nephew who has been one since he was a teenager (he’s 42 now) but his wife isn’t but she never cooks meat at home. He also turned his mother, my sister, into one because she got tired of making two meals lol. Of course her husband isn’t too happy about it lol. There are times when it gets difficult to come up with different dishes when they are invited but it’s doable.

  29. Quack says:

    Hey I saw on your “Good Morning Chickens!” post how many cartons you had stacked up… If you open them all, and put them on top of each other that way you can save a lot of room wherever you store them!

  30. GrammieEarth says:

    I’ve been an on/off vegetarian for years, but never vegan…can’t imagine going without eggs or milk products. Kudos to anyone that can! Clearly, I have a weakness! or two!!

    Pam :happyfeet:

  31. ScarlettSeraph says:

    What timing you have with this entry today, it is my brother’s birthday… and he is Vegan. I laugh because when I read your blog I often think about how its the type of food he used to eat, but can’t now. However, as you mentioned, Grandmother bread is vegan… I make it when he is coming over and last week when he visited we used it to make vegan pizza crusts :hungry: They were delicious.

    I have never been vegan or vegetarian, but I am painfully aware of where my food comes from and try to buy as much local as possible. I prefer eggs, milk and meat from farms where I know they’ve been treated well. :moo:

    It is surprising how much can be made vegetarian easily when you pay attention, I’m working on weaning my boyfriend off eating so much meat. We’ll see how that goes πŸ˜•

  32. Barbee' says:

    I could never give up cheese! I prefer it over meat. I am really impressed at how you were able to handle the situation. Delicious, attractive, and home cooked. I probably would have panicked.

  33. Lori Skoog says:

    Fabulous food…you met the challenge well!

  34. Beth says:

    Love your grandmother bread recipe. I’m Orthodox Christian and during Lent & Advent we fast from meat and dairy (I’ve got 3 kids, so I’m not so good with the dairy part!). We use your grandmother bread all the time! Your lentils look like a common Ethiopian lentil recipe. You should learn to make injera….it would be perfect!

  35. Heather says:

    I was a vegetarian for about a year back in college. I’ve often thought about giving it another try and have collected a few vegetarian cookbooks over the years. Even as a meat-eater, I enjoy the recipes that take vegetables beyond the basic side dish.

    I’m in the process of planning a garden and have thought about growing soybeans and making homemade tofu. Have you ever made tofu? If not, would you consider making some? I want to learn how to do it myself and your tutorials are always so easy to follow! :happyflower:

  36. CherShots says:

    Your calzones have me drooling! Great post!

  37. kerri says:

    What a resourceful girl you are! All the meals sound perfectly delicious and I’m sure the kids had a wonderful day. That’s a lovely photo of them. The little lady has beautiful eyes :happyflower:

  38. Arlene says:

    What a great looking couple. Awwww……yes I too was a vegan but it was when I had a bf that was one!! I dreamed about Big Macs :hissyfit: . I dropped the bf and ate what I wanted. LOL!!! :woof:

  39. Runningtrails says:

    Its makes life a lot easier if you like your son’s girlfriend πŸ˜‰
    My son has a nice girlfrien too and she’s a vegetarian. Its difficult to cook for her as she doesn’t eat eggs either, but she does eat dairy products, thankfully.

    I can’t tolerate much wheat. I wouldn’t have anything to eat without meat, eggs and dairy products!

  40. David Goldbeck says:

    Thanks for the nice words about “American Wholefoods Cuisine”
    Nikki & David Goldbeck
    PS Sweet Website

  41. Ognir says:

    There use to be a place that made Tofu in West Virginia. I don’t know if they are still around or not.

  42. Sirje says:

    YAY. I’m doing the vegan thing for a little while and am looking for recipes. It’s a challenge finding good whole food type recipes that don’t involve lots of weird processed soy fake foods.

  43. Jennifer June says:

    At least they game you some notice!

    My kids show up for dinner and make announcements like
    “Oh…and she’s allergic to wheat”.

    That lentil sauce has been a standby at our house for years!
    Can’t wait to try the french toast, sounds delicious.

    My kids used to call the patty a cookie too!


  44. Dee says:

    Awesome recipe for the lentil sauce. I love easy, delicious vegetarian recipes. Thank you! :sun:

  45. Julie says:

    Yes, there is still a place in WV that makes organic tofu. I think it is in Spencer! I know I can find it at Mother Earth Foods in Parkersburg.

  46. Rechelle says:

    OMG! David Goldbeck! So cool! I have never heard of this man, but I am positive he is totally awesome. And so are you Suzanne. Loved this post.

  47. Melinda says:

    I switched to peaceful eating four years ago.Vegan and loving it, never deprived, eating better than ever! Thanks for the recipe ideas.

  48. Sheila says:

    I’m seriously considering trying a vegan diet , since I very rarely eat eggs or cheese anymore and have recently started drinking soymilk instead of cows milk (though I would like to try almond or rice milk sometime).

  49. Sheila says:

    (Please forgive the really stupid question that I’m about to ask) But are the italian herbs found in the spice/seasoning section of the grocery store is it seasoning or do you actually have to buy the herbs seperately? and if so what kind?

  50. Sheila says:

    I made these for dinner tonight and OMG THEY WERE SOOOOO GOOD πŸ™‚ , I absolutely loved it. I still have some sauce left over and I’m gonna put it in my deep freezer , I might experiment and see what else besides pasta and calzones I can come up with :).

  51. Sheila says:

    Thank you and westons girlfriend for pointing out tvp , I made tacos tonight using tvp and it was soooooo goooood , I really really loved it. I actually got a cookbook coming in the mail on vegan cooking , I’m gonna give that a try :).

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