Veggie Chat Leftovers: Soy Sauce, Winter Dessert and No-Meat Lent

Yesterday's vegetarian edition of What's Cooking ended too soon, with many unanswered questions idling in the queue. Here are a few to chew on over the weekend.

Dessert?: I'm taking dessert to a friend's house this weekend, for after a kind of heavy meal. Any suggestions for a dessert? We aren't vegetarians, but the friend has some cholesterol concerns, so I'd love some ideas for desserts without eggs, cream, dairy... It's too cold for sorbet!

Bake a fruit crisp, dear -- and instead of butter in the topping, use heart-healthier Earth Balance spread. I've been using it in cakes, cookies and my Dark 'n' Stormy pear crisp with great success, and no one can tell the difference. Oats and cinnamon are powerful anti-cholesterol warriors, so adding them into your topping ups the healthy ante.

Meringue makes for a festive ending to a meal -- and without the yolks becomes a cholesterol-free option. I've done meringue cookies, with an espresso-nut twist, which is fun with coffee or dessert wine, and I've also done a baked meringue island and topped it with fruit, which is quite stunning at the table. Meringue tends to be sweet, however, so keep that in mind as you peruse your options.

Washington, D.C.: What's the difference between tamari soy sauce and regular grocery store soy sauce? Are they interchangeable?

Although there are soy sauces from several different countries -- China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, to name a few -- the "regular grocery store soy sauce" you mention is most likely Japanese. And Kikkoman, the Japanese soy sauce giant that recently celebrated 50 years doing business in this country is likely to be the brand you've got in the cabinet.

In Japanese, the word for soy sauce is shoyu -- a generic term referring to that all-purpose mixture of soy beans, wheat, water and salt used in everything from stir fries to salad dressings.

Tamari, which is darker and more intense in flavor, is the precursor to shoyu and more closely that originally came from China, the home of soy sauce. Because of its intense flavor, tamari is "used mainly as a dip for sashimi," according to cookbook author Elizabeth Andoh, in her "Washoku."

The wheat-free factor is the reason why tamari is getting so much play on American shelves; tamari, already lower in wheat content than shoyu, is now available without any wheat whatsoever, a boon for the 1 in 100 people living with celiac disease and others with gluten intolerance. Check labels to guarantee what you're getting is the right stuff.

The trick, however, is to find a balance when you season. The tamari will undoubtedly will yield stronger results, and you'll need to figure out how to use accordingly.

Washington, D.C.: HELP! I'm giving up meat for Lent (keeping dairy products though) and I'm already scared. I'm on a budget, but I don't want to eat grilled cheese every night. I tried making spinach and chickpeas, but I hated the recipe. I love Indian food, but I don't know where to start. Any suggestions?

Forty days and 40 nights without meat. What a great experiment. There is absolutely no reason to be scared. The key with such a dietary shift is to get organized. Plan out your meals over the weekends for the week ahead so that you're not scrambling at the last minute and grabbing a frozen pizza just to satisfy the vegetarian requirement.

Spend a few bucks on a vegetarian cookbook or borrow one from the library. Take a look at this list of meatless titles, with omnivores such as yourself in mind. With a book at your side, you'll get ideas, inspiration and stay motivated. Get familiar with beans and legumes, a tight budget's best friend. Try this recipe for red lentil soup, which will set you back about five bucks. Speaking of soup, you must peruse this list of 20 ways to soup it up without leaving the house. Soup is one of the cheapest ways to get nourished, it transports well for next-day lunch and it is the secret to surviving winter.

By Kim ODonnel |  January 25, 2008; 8:44 AM ET Chat Leftovers , Vegetarian/Vegan
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Hey Kim!

I second the nomination for the red lentil soup. I made it last night with some homemade pita bread and it received a nomination from the fam as Best Dinner Ever.

I wonder if the consistency was a little off though. It was very thick, to the point where it held its own shape when I scooped it. I ended up needing to add water after I finished cooking. Should I have simmered it with more water? I also left it uncovered to simmer. Should I have covered it?

Either way it tasted delicious. Keep those veggie recipes coming!!!

Posted by: Violet | January 25, 2008 10:07 AM

For the person giving up meat for Lent--what are some of your standby recipes you eat right now? I'm guessing that if you are on a tight budget you aren't sitting down to a steak dinner every night...if you're eating more casseroles, pasta, etc there may be a way to modify your current faves to meet your dietary needs.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 10:08 AM

Good for the meat-abstainer. I second the suggestion of getting cookbooks at the library. If you do buy cookbooks, do not order them online. Cookbooks are definitely something you need to see before buying.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 10:28 AM

Have people had good experiences with cookbooks from DC libraries? I haven't looked yet, but have found big gaping holes where reference books for other pastimes should be.


Posted by: Jenny | January 25, 2008 10:55 AM

I gave up meat for the past two Lents - don't worry, it's not too tough! Black beans and eggs were always two of my staples. Vegetarian chili is another great one and pretty filling...stir fries are good also because they can be veggie-heavy and use other protein sources like egg, nuts, and tofu if you're a fan (though I'm not, so it's not a must!). Good luck!

Posted by: Steph | January 25, 2008 11:25 AM

Crazy, Steph, I've given up meat the last two lents too. Easiest way to have non-meat meals: Italian. Pasta, sauce (bf always insists on making it from scratch), wine, and bread.

I made these cool gnudi things earlier this week. Cheese (ricotta and a parm/romano mix), spinach, and a dash of nutmeg, rolls them in flour and drop them in boiling water. They're super easy and crazy filling.

Also check out post punk kitchen. It's vegan, but alot of fun.

Posted by: Em | January 25, 2008 2:05 PM

For the chatter today in search of a veggie loaf- I've made Alton Brown's Split Pea Burgers in LOAF form to great success. I add a little tomato paste in the mash, and then pat it into a loaf shape on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, and let it rest before slicing. Also good is to coat the whole thing with a good slather of ketchup before baking.

Posted by: Arlington Gal | January 25, 2008 3:18 PM

For the veggie-for-lent poster, there's a vegetarian 3-bean Chili in the food section's recipe database ( that's very good and pretty cheap. If you make it and it's too spicy, add some plain yogurt to tone down the heat.

Posted by: H-Town | January 28, 2008 10:19 AM

To the 40 day vegetarian - don't be afraid. Previous suggestions for lentil soup and veggie chili are great - there are tons of variations, and they're warm and filling on a cold night. Plus they make wonderful leftovers.

I posted to one of Kim's chats once, looking for ideas for a veggie dinner party. She suggested a veggie curry, which was just right. Try the Food Network site, or just a Google search, to get some ideas. You can use whatever vegetables you like and have on hand. I added chick peas to mine, or you could do lentils. If you're near a Trader Joe's, they have wonderful veggie samosas to go with it.

Some of my standbys are: veggie meatballs from Trader Joe's; Morningstar Farms veggie bacon (their sausage links are good, too); curry simmer sauces (Trader Joe's or most good sized supermarkets) that let you add whatever ingredients you like. Burritos or enchiladas made with refried beans, with whatever add-ons you like.

You get the idea. Good luck!

Posted by: Mme_Libn | January 28, 2008 5:37 PM

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