Edina resident Katie Parker has been a vegetarian since she was 3 years old. “I never really liked meat very much, but I liked it in things or in corn dogs,” Parker says. But when her older brother teasingly pointed out that the ham in Mom’s cheesy casserole was a pig, little Parker put her foot down. “I said, I’m not going to eat it, and I didn’t.”
Today, Parker has a successful food blog called Veggie and the Beast and is the author of The High-Protein Vegetarian Cookbook: Hearty Dishes Even Carnivores Will Love. The blog is named for herself (Veggie) and her boyfriend Ryan, who’s “a crazy carnivore hunter man,” Parker says. She started her blog in 2011 when she found herself obsessed with cooking and taking photos and thought it would be a fun hobby. “I do all the cooking, but I try to make stuff that Ryan will eat and like,” she says.
“The cookbook actually came about because a publisher contacted me from W.W. Norton, and she was looking for high-protein recipes for vegetarians,” Parker says. The publisher came across one of Parker’s recipes and asked if she wanted to write a proposal for a cookbook, Parker says, and the proposal was accepted. Then came the real work.
Parker collaborated with a nutritionist, so each recipe in the cookbook is analyzed for nutritional values. But before that, she had to come up with the recipes. She already had ten recipes from her blog but needed to devise new menus as well—the cookbook features 75 recipes.
“I had this running list of recipe ideas,” Parker says. She decided she wanted to have every type of meal covered in the book; breakfast, main course dinners, salads, soups and desserts. “So I just kind of divided things into those categories, and when I had an idea I wrote it down and tested it—and sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t,” she says. “Ryan and I couldn’t really eat pancakes or veggie burgers for a while after I was done with the book.”
The high-protein aspect of the cookbook is one that Parker hopes will help change perceptions of what it means to eat a vegetarian diet. She wants to make it easier for people “who want to eat less meat or are thinking about going vegetarian to have recipes that still taste good and aren’t all kind of off-putting and rabbit food,” she says. “I’ve got some friends who think that if they eat a vegetarian meal they have to go home and make a frozen pizza or something to fill up, and you don’t have to as long as you eat the right things.”
Foods high in protein include beans and lentils, nuts and nut butter, and whole grains like quinoa and barley; for non-vegans like Parker, dairy is always a good option. “I try to implement at least one of those protein sources in every meal,” she says. Adding fresh herbs and spices helps boost the flavors of each dish.
Eating the right things is a learning process even for Parker, who was still learning well after college, surviving on frozen veggie burgers. Now, it’s easier than ever to experiment. “I love shopping at the co-op and just walking through the bulk aisle and looking at new things,” Parker says. “Anytime I bring home something new, I can just Google it and figure out how to make it.”
The key, she says, is to be balanced. “Try to think about how to incorporate more color and more texture,” because color means fruits and veggies, and texture means whole grains. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Parker once bought a block of tofu and was determined to cook it. “It sat in my fridge until it expired. I was just intimidated by it,” she says. “You just have to jump in. Failures happen.”
Peanut Buckwheat Soy Noodles
1 8.8-ounce bag buckwheat soba noodles (or a mix of buckwheat and wheat)
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large carrot, shredded (about 1 ¾ cup)
1 bunch green onions, sliced to where the leaves part
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup shelled cooked edamame
Peanut Soy Sauce (recipe below)
5 Tbsp. crushed peanuts, unsalted
Peanut Soy Sauce:
1 cup light coconut milk
1 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated ginger
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
Cook the noodles according to package directions.
While the noodles cook, combine all of the peanut sauce ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Bring to a low boil, and continue to whisk for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside (it will thicken slightly as it cools).
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the carrots, red bell pepper, and edamame, and cook for 3-5 minutes. The red bell pepper and the carrots will be slightly softened, but still have a bit of a bite.
Drain the noodles, then transfer to a large bowl. Pour in the vegetables and peanut soy sauce, stirring until the sauce is well distributed.
Separate into 5 bowls, and top each bowl with 1 Tbsp. of crushed peanuts.
Mexican Fajita Pie
1 (15-ounce) can vegetarian refried beans
1/2 cup salsa
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed if canned
4 whole wheat tortillas
1 ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine the refried beans with the salsa and sour cream in a large bowl. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the onion, red pepper, green pepper, salt, and spices. Cook until all are softened, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, and stir in the black beans.
Place a tortilla on the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Top with ¼ of the refried bean mixture, ⅓ of the stir-fried vegetables and ¼ cup of the cheese. Repeat 2 more times, then top with the last flour tortilla, remaining pinto beans, and remaining ½ cup cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and broil for 2-3 minutes, until cheese on top is golden.
Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.
(Photos by Katie Parker)