Am I a vegetarian? I’m not, but I always pay attention to what I eat every day. When I grew up, my parents always told me that “eating two legs better than four legs and eating no legs better than two legs”. What does that mean? It means it’s better to choose chicken over pork and choose fish over chicken. I think it’s funny and I don’t know where they learned that from, but it’s similar to eating red meat or white meat.
There is a documentary on Netflix called “What the Health“. If you watch it, you probably don’t want to have meat anymore. To me, the only thing matters is to balance what you eat every day. When I cook, I always make sure more than 60% of the ingredients in a meal are from vegetables, and fruits are my best friends every day. But sometimes there is a hard situation where you don’t have options: you cannot cook and you want to try many restaurants. What is that? The answer is: when you are traveling.
I traveled to a lot of places last December during holidays. Sometimes I had a jetlag, and sometimes the air is dry. My body could not catch up with all these sudden changes, and the worst is: I ate all the times in the restaurants. So when I came back home, the first thing coming up to my mind was to give my body the cleanse by eating healthier. That means no meat, more vegetables, less salt, less oil and less carb.
In order to achieve this goal, I created a 7-day dinner recipe with no meat and combined a lot of Asian and western ingredients in my meals to make the meals interesting so that it won’t affect my food cravings. I know it’s just easier to eat salads every day, but isn’t that boring for 7 days? And cold food in a cold winter, that doesn’t sound attracting.
Day 1: 3 Purple Salad
Yes salad, but not purely cold! This recipe used poached pears and eggs boiled in red wine. Adding beets to it gives one extra layer of purple. The sauce has a flavor of rosemary and lemon. Combined with the sweet pear, the taste of sour and sweet is just right.
Ingredients: Pear, Egg, Beet, Arugula, French Lentil, Goat Cheese, Walnut, Dried Cranberry, Rosemary, Whole Grain Dijon Mustard, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil
Day 2: Curried Black Bean Spaghetti
If you don’t mind having some carb, you can use regular spaghetti. In this recipe, I used black bean spaghetti instead, so it has less carb but more fibers. You can also choose other types of spaghetti. Explore Cuisine’s organic bean pastas are my favorite. A small box of 8oz spaghetti can serve 4 people, and you can easily get full.
Cherry Tomato, Mushroom, Carrot, White Onion, Chicken Broth, Black Bean Spaghetti, Coconut Milk, Curry Powder, Cumin, Garlic, Olive Oil
Day 3: Snow Ear Congee with Carrot Pancakes
The congee in this recipe is made with Jiuniang which makes the congee a little sweet. Jiuniang is an Asian sweet rice wine made of glutinous rice. It’s not really wine or liquor, and it doesn’t contain too much alcohol. People in some Asian countries use it to make a dessert in holidays. You can find Jiuniang and some other ingredients such as snow ear, dried lotus seeds, jujube fruit and longan in your local Asian supermarket.
Ingredients: Snow Ear, Dried Lotus Seeds, Dried Jujube Fruit, Dried Longan, Dried Goji Berries, Jiuniang (Sweet Rice Wine), Carrot, Flour, Scallion, Black Pepper, Egg, Avocado Oil, Salt.
Day 4: Bean Curd Pizza
This pizza recipe is very simple, and the only difference is that I used bean curd (dried tofu) sticks to substitute for salami. Bean curd stick has a chewy texture that is similar to processed meat such as salami, and the benefit is? It doesn’t contain salt or any flavors. It’s just dried tofu. I put some lemon zest on top of the pizza to give it a fresh smell, but you can skip that if you think it’s strange. Before you put all ingredients on the bread, I would suggest to brush some olive oil on the foil and at the bottom of the bread so the pizza can be crispy after baked.
Ingredients: Bean Curd Stick, Whole Wheat Lavash Bread, Tomato Sauce, Cherry Tomatoes, Bell Pepper, Basil, Mozzarella Cheese, Eggplant, Lemon Zest, Olive Oil
Day 5: Tofu Pot
This recipe uses Bullhead BBQ Sauce, which is also known as Chinese Satay and used commonly on beef or pork in South Asian cuisine. The sauce itself may contain some fish and shrimps and is not 100% vegetarian. If you don’t want to use it, you can use blended seasonings of peanuts, sesames, coconut flake, garlic, ginger, scallion, mustard, chili powder and black pepper instead. If you cannot get the Korean starch noodles, you may use rice noodles or mung bean noodles. Both of them also taste great. The tofu pot can be served with or without quinoa together.
Ingredients: Firm Tofu, Napa Cabbage, Bell Pepper, Cauliflower, Roasted Corn, Chicken Broth, Korean Starch Noodle, Bullhead BBQ Sauce, Quinoa, Garlic, Soy Sauce, Olive Oil
Day 6: Tofu and Wood-ear Dumplings
You can get dried wood-ear and mung bean noodles in Asian supermarkets. Soak them in cold water for a few hours and make sure to rinse them a few times before the use. Doing so can help you get rid of the dirt and tiny rocks. Wood-ear is primarily used in Chinese cuisine. It’s a type of edible fungus and grows on a tree, so it’s also called tree ear. It’s very common that the roots may contain some dirt or small rocks. You definitely want to clean them well and don’t want the rocks in your meal!
Ingredients: Mung Bean Noodle, Ginger, Mushroom, Wood-ear, Soft Tofu, Five-spice Powder, Salt, Olive Oil, Dumpling Wrappers
Day 7: Honey Fungus and Shiitake Mushroom Rice
I used dried honey fungus and shiitake mushrooms in this recipe. There are many different honey fungus in the market you can get, or even fresh ones. The one I used is grown on Corylus heterophylla (Asian hazel) shrubs in my hometown in northern China. This variety of honey fungus is naturally grown and cannot be reproduced, which makes it have a special taste when cooked with rice. If you cannot find any honey fugus, Costco sells this dried porcini mushrooms, and it’s a great substitute. Combined with Shiitake Mushroom (I also call it natural “MSG”), it adds an unbeatable flavor to the rice.
Ingredients: Honey Fungus, Shiitake Mushroom, Jasmine Rice, Chicken Broth, Broccoli, Scallion, Sesame Oil