I so appreciate my dear friend Caroline Bossi (who is more like a sister to me) being here today to answer some questions on being a vegetarian.
Caroline is the VP of iSpy Music which she founded with her husband Doug in 2009 and they create music for TV and Film. Her passions are their 5 rescue cats, gardening and cooking. She would love to urge everyone to get their pets at a local shelter or rescue and to be sure to spay/neuter your pets!
What inspired you to become a vegetarian?
Actually it was my brother and also you that first exposed me to a vegetarian diet. I grew up with an Italian Mom & Grandmom in Philadelphia so between the meatballs & sausage and Philly cheese steaks, I had never even thought of not eating meat. My brother became a devout vegetarian in the early 90’s& I was curious about that. Then when I met you around the same time, you were gradually phasing out of red meat, then poultry, etc. and I found it interesting.
The big thing for me was watching an anti-vivisection video in the late 90’s…I just sat there and wept for an hour. It was mainly focusing on animal testing but also showed some farming horrors as well and I simply had no idea that things like that were going on in the world. I was horrified to see how animals were being treated & although I loved my pets like they were my kids, it wasn’t until that moment that I equated what was on my plate to having the same beautiful energy & life force as my beloved pets.
How long have you been a vegetarian? It was a gradual process for me…I stopped eating beef, pork, veal, etc. in 1998, then I phased poultry out in 2007. I considered myself vegetarian since then but technically because I ate a little fish from time to time, I was what I called an “occasional pescetarian”. Earlier this year I stopped eating fish as well so now I’m 100% vegetarian. As I like to say, no fur, feathers or fins now!
What was your biggest challenge in becoming a vegetarian? Initially it was finding food that was delicious & filling when I went out to eat. In the beginning you end up eating a lot of side dishes and salads when you go out to eat. But that was a long time ago…nowadays it seems so many restaurants seem to be catering to a vegetarian clientele which is wonderful! Also at first I found it difficult when people would give me a hassle for not eating meat…I always felt like I had to defend myself. I never hassled anyone for being a meat eater so I didn’t understand the fascination or the aggravation people had towards my vegetarian choices. By no means do I think it’s for everyone and I never shove my point of view down anyone’s throat (no pun intended). My husband still eats meat and I adore him and love him more than anyone! And now I find that most people these days will say, “oh my sister is a vegetarian” or “my spouse is vegan”…so it’s a lot more mainstream these days which is great. I’m happy to share my point of view and lovingly encourage anyone who’s interested in a vegetarian lifestyle but I’m not militant or judgmental about it…that would defeat the whole purpose anyway. We each have a path in life & for me being vegetarian is an important part of it.
How does being a vegetarian go beyond the plate for you? It’s made me aware not only of what I’m eating but what I’m wearing & using around the house. I will not buy leather/suede anymore…just my personal decision. If I won’t eat meat, why would I wear a byproduct of it? I don’t want shoes or purses or belts that cost an animal its life. I’ve also become a voracious label reader & am now implementing a new mission to purchase products that are 100% cruelty free for the household…shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste…it’s crazy when you start realizing that a few corporations pretty much control the market and most of them sadly do test on animals. There are other options & I’m happy to find them.
Any advice for people wanting to make the transition to vegetarian?
I’d encourage anyone and everyone to make the transition right away! For me doing it gradually was helpful but some people may find just quitting (I was going to say cold-turkey but that would be confusing J) is best for them. There are SO many amazing products out there in the market that were not out there 15 years ago. I prefer nowadays to try to stick to a more whole foods diet (veggies, grains, pastas, beans, etc.) but there are wonderful soy products out there…veggie burgers, dogs, tofu, seitan, etc. that really help to boost your protein intake. Just be sure to buy organic so you’re not getting any more GMO in your diet.
You always have delicious things growing in your garden.
Any tips for starting your first vegetable garden?
Thank you for saying that J I’ve always had a garden since I was a little girl. My parents had a small backyard when I was growing up in Philly and every spring we planted a garden and I have never, ever grown tired of the miracle of a little tiny seed sprouting into a plant. It’s so magical to watch! My first garden when I moved away from home& was on my own was on the balcony of my apartment in Hollywood. I was determined that even though I was living in a smoggy city, that I was still going to have a garden. I bought some little pots & planters, some soil and seeds and I had the coolest garden on that tiny little balcony. You don’t need a ton of space…just the desire to do it, a few dollars for seeds/soil and a sunny location. Now I have more space where I live & I always, always have fresh herbs growing in the garden all year long. Summertime means tomatoes so I’ve got those growing full force right now & they are just so delicious. My most favorite thing to grow however would be pumpkins! Those are space hogs so you need a good deal of room for them but they are just SO fun to grow and since I love Halloween/Fall, they just make me smile J
Your go-to spice: It’s a tie between basil & rosemary…I cook with them constantly.
Kitchen tool you can’t live without: Well if I think about the one I use the most it would be a good knife. I’m always chopping, slicing and dicing something so that would be the practical answer. My favorite thing though is this little mini-whipper that I make my salad dressing with…it’s the coolest little thing in the world & helps emulsify the dressing so nicely. And I make homemade salad dressing at least 3x a week…it’s so easy to make and so much more delicious than the bottled kind.
Favorite vegetarian product:On the sweet side: Almond milk! We love it and it’s really wonderful in cooking and baking. I thought it would be gross when I first tried it but it’s delicious. Even my non-vegetarian husband loves it and we totally stopped buying regular milk about a year ago. You can use it in cakes, pastries, pancakes, etc. cup for cup the same way you would with regular milk. On the savory side: Vegetable Stock! I always keep a lot of this on hand so I can make soups &sauces. I unfortunately don’t have the time to make homemade stock and so this is really helpful. I try to buy one that’s lower in sodium content as most premade stocks are super high in sodium which is not great for the health. At Thanksgiving I make wonderful vegetarian gravy that everyone seems to love…it’s got veggie stock, white wine & lots of rosemary. Perfect on a pile of mashed potatoes!
Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?
Gladly! This is the one that friends and family seem to love the most. Whenever we have a dinner party or get together I’m usually asked, “are you making your pasta?” I always make this pasta (which is vegan) with the cheesy bread (which is not vegan but vegetarian) and there are never any leftovers JSo here it is & I hope you and your readers enjoy!
Pasta Alle Bossi
1 Jar of Sun Dried Tomatoes (8.5 oz) – I like the Trader Joe’s brand but any brand will do. One that is preferably marinated in olive oil/spices & julienned is easiest & best. If you are using dehydrated sun dried tomatoes be sure to rehydrate them, julienne them & let them marinate in some olive oil, garlic & Italian herbs for flavor.
1 Can of Artichoke Hearts in water (8.5 oz)
1 Jar of Kalamata Olives (6.5 oz)
1-2 Cups of Tomato/Pasta Sauce (whatever your favorite kind is – jar or home made)
Handful of fresh Basil Leaves (dried are fine too if necessary)
Pinch of fresh Oregano (dried are fine too if necessary)
Salt & Pepper
1 lb. of Pasta (penne, rigatoni, farfalle…whatever your favorite is)
Put on a pot of water to boil. The great thing about this recipe is that you can make your sauce in the time it takes to cook the pasta!
In a large saute pan pour the marinated julienned sun dried tomatoes. Drain & dice up the artichoke hearts (1/4’s or 1/8’s) then drain & chop the kalamata olives (I like to do these one by one because even though the jar says “pitted” there’s often a stray pit & you don’t want your dinner guests chomping into a pit). Add chopped artichokes & olives to the sun dried tomatoes in the saute pan and put on a low heat. The oil in the jar of sun dried tomatoes is usually sufficient but if you’re using the dehydrated sun dried tomatoes (which you’ll re-hydrate of course), you’ll want about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in your pan.
Your water should be boiling by now, so once it’s come to a boil add a generous tablespoon of salt to the water (this seasons the pasta whiles it’s cooking and absorbing the salted water). Add your pasta and cook for the time indicated on the package.
Once your tomato, artichoke & olive mixture starts simmering, add the tomato sauce and continue the low simmer. Add oregano & salt/pepper to taste. Chiffonade the basil and add at the end to ensure it retains its beautiful green color.
When the pasta is perfectly al dente, drain in a colander then pour into a bowl…pour your delicious sauce over top, mix to coat the pasta and serve with cheesy bread & salad.
Sometimes I add soy sausage (love the Trader Joe’s brand) or soy meatballs…play around with it & have fun!
Preheat your oven to 375
***Note: If you are making this with the pasta dish above, make this first as it only takes a few minutes to actually make it & 25 minutes to bake it. While it’s baking you can be making the pasta & sauce and literally your meal is done in about a half an hour!
1 lb. of pizza dough (Trader Joes, Bridgeford or if you’re feeling adventurous make it from scratch)
1/2 cup of balsamic & olive oil salad dressing (store bought or homemade is fine)
6 – 8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 Large Vine Ripened Tomato sliced
Handful of Basil Leaves
Grease your pizza pan, then spread your dough across the pan as you like…some prefer a perfectly round pizza & some like a more rustic shape…however you like is fine!
Pour your salad dressing over the dough. You don’t want it sopping wet, just enough to nicely coat the dough.
Add tomato slices & basil leaves (I like to sprinkle a few more drops of dressing on each tomato)
Cover with cheese but allow some of the tomato & basil to peek out.
Bake in the 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown & bubbly!
Serve with the pasta & salad and your guests will be so happy 🙂
Thank you Caroline for taking the time to interview with me, and share your delicious recipes! xo