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April 08, 2009

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And for those of you who feel teased by the cowbell reference, here’s the best clip I could find of the classic SNL skit. NBC doesn’t like to share.

http://ncognegra.multiply.com/video/item/67/Cowbell-The_original_full_skit_on_snl

Nice one! I'm a committed omnivore...while I've been a vegetarian in the past, I just can't keep it up :) We've cut way back on how much meat we eat, though, without totally eliminating it. This past summer, during our CSA, I even wrote for a vegetarian blog (gasp! I was open about the fact I wasn't a vegetarian, but I was still always worried I would post a recipe using chicken broth. Or bacon.)

For vegetarian meals, I like portobello "burgers"...saute a mushroom cap, add some goat cheese, spinach, and red pepper, toss it all on a bun. I also like adding to salads berries and a homemade berry-dressing, plus bleu cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds. It feels more like a complete meal to me that way.

For low-meat meals, here are two of my favorites: quinoa (4 servings worth cooked in chicken broth), sauteed red onion, asparagus, peas, spinach, and 1 shredded chicken breast (switch out those veggies as the seasons change or to taste). Or, penne with tons of sauteed garlic, onion, broccoli (or broccolini), and diced tomatoes, topped with crumbled bacon (oh, and I use the bacon grease to saute the onion and garlic...mmmm, bacon grease!)

I live with an absolute carnivore, for whom a serving of vegetables consists of 4 greenbeans or a single broccoli stalk. More like garnish than a side-dish. Still, I've managed to cut back on his meat consumption simply by being the one to dole out servings, with the admonition that he needs to get up and get it if he wants more.

I cut chicken breasts, pork chops and steaks in half in a butterfly fashion -- that way they look just as big but are only half as thick -- one steak or cutlet feeds us both!

The environmental impact of meat consumption is too glaring to ignore, especially when it takes such small changes in personal habits to make a huge impact. For example, if every American replaced just one chicken meal per week with a vegetarian one, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads.

It may seem overwhelming to some to begin reducing their meat intake, but it really is easy. For some ideas on how to get started please visit www.MeatlessMonday.com. Meatless Monday is a non-profit public health campaign that encourages Americans to cut meat from their diets just one day a week to improve their health and the environment.

Being married to a meat and potatoes Englishman has been tough on me as head cook to try and reduce his meat intake.
We do eat fish 3 - 4 days a week. And he will allow beans in lieu of potato with his meat or fish, he also claims that he doesn't need to eat protein with every meal, but I'm sorry, beans on toast doesn't really count.
I'm working my way through bulgur and quinoa now to try and find something variable from the bean sides, but he will not eat pasta as a meal. He wasn't raised on it and at 56 is not willing to alter his habits.
I feel guilty every time I read one of those articles, and I know that I could easily change to having meat only a few times a week, but I also know the reality at home is what I have to deal with and he isn't budging any time soon.

http://veganmenu.blogspot.com/2007/07/tofu-marsala-green-beans-yukon-potatoes.html

Tofu Marsala, the tofu is delicious and meaty and the sauce is perfect. I used butter instead of soy margarine, because I'm just vegetarian- not a vegan.

It's also easy to make almost any soup vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth and adding beans or "meat".

As I am unable to digest soy products and I have a large freezer full of locally raised 4H meat, my household isn't going vegetarian any time soon. But don't get me wrong, my husband likes to fish and we eat fish on a regular basis too.

While I've been teaching and going to school and leading an otherwise hectic lifestyle though, there are two meatless meals I eat on a regular-ish basis. Spaghetti with store bought jarred spaghetti sauce and Taco Bell's pintos and cheese and mexican rice. Yummy.

I like bacon as a seasoning. A strip or two, cut into small pieces, adds plenty of flavor to a vegetable-rich pasta or sauteed greens. Ditto on meat stock.

My blog is probably misleading about what my diet really looks like. I only cook the "everything is delicious and very bad for you" meals once a week.

adele: Yes. Bacon as seasoning. I like it. Especially when it's seasoning bacon.

Mary: Local meat, local fish--you've got it made!

Marissa: Boy, you sure make tofu look delicious. Thanks for the recipe.

jo: Yes, we do have to take our spouses into account, don't we. But it sounds like you guys eat tons of fish, so you're golden. Until the next fish study!!

Tami: I find it easier to eliminate meat from my lunches, especially during CSA season when I have all those vegetables that need eating.

NurseJen: You're crafty!

WhataCard: Great ideas! Thanks.

I've definitely cut way down on meat consumption in the last year or two - but I've tried a fully vegetarian diet in the past and it just doesn't work for me. IMO, life is too short to deny oneself bacon.

That said, in transitioning the meat-and-potatoes man/woman/kids in your life to a Life Less Meaty, I find that two things are key: presentation & taste. (Much like in all food, actually). First, it must be delicious; meat is easily delicious by itself, so you can serve a pork chop with boring white rice and a side of steamed broccolli and no one complains. Remove the pork chop and the boring rice & broccoli are glaringly, well, boring. Therefore, if you go the smaller-meat-portion route, jazz up the side dishes so they are really flavorful and satiating: cilantro pesto salad and spicy oven fries are good, flavorful, easy sides.

http://localkitchen.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/red-chile-chicken-cilantro-pesto-salad/

http://localkitchen.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/spicy-oven-fries/

Also, think about dishes that are sneakily vegetarian - serve a delicious veggie lasagne, hearty mushroom risotto or a creamy potato leek soup and no one will be asking "Where's the beef?" Similarly, if you serve plain red-sauce-and-mozzarella pizza, people expect, and like, meat toppings; pepperoni, sausage, etc. But serve a pesto-parmesean-walnut pizza, or this goat cheese & kale pizza, and it distracts the most committed carnivore from the fact that it is, actually, vegetarian pizza.

http://localkitchen.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/goat-cheese-pizza-with-garlicky-kale/

Lastly, don't underestimate the importance of presentation! A big plate with a pile of broccoli, another of rice, and a glaring hole where the pork chop should be is not going to convince anyone to forget about meat. But a flavorful bean salad in a beautiful bowl, garnished with fresh herbs or a sprinkling of cheese, served with bread and a nice glass of wine.... (wait, where was I?). Ah, yes, they'll forget all about meat. And if not, just keep the wine coming. It's heart-healthy after all!

Vegetarian cooking involves a fundamental shift in how you picture a meal. Instead of separate protein, separate starch, and separate vitamins (I mean vegetables), a typical vegetarian meal has beans, vegetables, seasonings, and lots of olive oil all mixed up, served over some sort of grain. Maybe a salad on the side, if the right vegetables are in season. To keep things interesting, our CSA varies the vegetables for us, and we vary the beans and grains to go with them.

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