Going Vegetarian(er) - Part 2

In my last post, I talked about some of the reasons why I (and others) might want to move toward having a little less meat in our diets. I also talked about some of the "thought-process" reasons that keep a lot of people from doing so. In this post, I'd like to share some more practical tips about how to actually go about reducing the amount of meat in your diet without ending up with endless meals of salad. My mom loves salad, so this was never an issue for her. I, however, get tired of lettuce, and my husband firmly believes that lettuce should mostly go toward feeding rabbits. And then we should eat the rabbits.
There are, however, several rather easy methods to ease yourself into a "less meat" diet, without becoming a rabbit-like lettuce eater. Here are some of them!

1. Reduce/ eliminate meat content in dishes you already eat. This is probably the least "system-shocking" method, and the one most likely to sneak its way past a spouse who is still firmly in the carnivore category. Take dishes that you already eat which are "meat-and-something-else" and just reduce the meat content and up the veggie content. You can do this a little at a time, until you have very little to no meat in the dish. Now, choose your dishes carefully: this works far better with spaghetti than it does with roast and potatoes. Your spouse might notice if you served Nugget of Roast with Pile of Potatoes.

For example:
Spaghetti: reduce meat, increase tomato sauce and onions. You can make spaghetti sauce with no meat (gasp), or you can use a little meat for flavor (my preferred method)
Lasagna: same thing. More cheese or veggies (squash goes well in lasagna), less meat.
Other Pasta: Many cheesy pastas don't need any meat at all, or very little. Chicken fettucine alfredo does not need much, if any, chicken. Manicotti can be stuffed with just herbed ricotta. Pasta and pesto is a great no-meat meal.
Soups: Broccoli-cheese-ham soup can have very little ham. Tomato soup and grilled cheese doesn't need any meat. Beans and ham can be done with only Hint of Ham for flavor.
Pizza: Try Hawaiian with very little to no ham (more onions and pineapple), or Mexican with very little ground beef (more beans and corn and cheese), or pepperoni that leans more cheese-ward. Or be adventurous and do a veggie pizza! (green peppers, onions, fresh basil, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.)

Tropical Pizza toppings

Tropical Pizza

2. Learn to base a meal around a vegetable rather than a meat. If you are anything like I was, when you go to make a meal, you first decide what meat you have to use, and then decide what you are going to do with it. Chicken? Chicken salad, chicken alfredo, fried chicken, etc. Beef? Roast and potatoes, chop suey beef, tacos, etc. My biggest challenge was learning not to start with a meat when planning my meals. What really helped me was learning several good, hearty vegetables that can serve as a "base" for many different meals. For example, pumpkin makes a wonderful "meal base" vegetable. You can make pumpkin soup, pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin hummus and pitas, curried pumpkin, etc. Look up pumpkin recipes on blogs and recipe websites, especially vegetarian blogs. Do the same with other vegetables: zucchini, sweet potatoes (kaukau), and other squash all make excellent "meal bases."
Pumpkin Curry

3. Make a "side" into a "meal."
I knew plenty of recipes that didn't have meat in them -- but they were "side dishes" not "meals." Getting over this distinction in my mind really helped, so that I could take a "side dish" and turn it into the focal point for a real meal! For example, a simple soup becomes a meal if you add a loaf of french bread. Same for a no-meat pasta dish, if you add a salad and a bread. Add side dishes and you suddenly have a complete meal!

Kaukau (Sweet Potato) Soup with French Bread
Creamy Tomato-Roasted Garlic Soup

4. Research and branch into new recipes!
I did a LOT of reading vegetarian blogs. They often have ideas for meals I would have never thought of on my own, and the pictures often make me eager to try something new and different, and when you are trying a completely new and different recipe, often the fact that it does not have meat in it is not so noticeable (making it so that you do not have to mention this fact to your significant other). Flavor combinations that I never thought to try before (such as a savory vegetable 'pie' with mustard sauce) and beautiful examples went a long way toward inspiring me to try my hand at "less meat" meals.

Cabbage-stuffed Sweet Potato Steam Buns (Bao)

Some blogs I have found particularly helpful are:

Green Kitchen Stories
My New Roots
Thank Your Body
Naturally Ella

Also, Pinterest has whole vegetarian sections or boards which can lead you to recipes as well as other good blogs to read.

For those living in areas where internet is expensive, you might be encouraged to hear that I have found blogs like this seem to not eat up as large an amount of internet as I was expecting. Not as much as, say, Facebook. Also, try getting new ideas and recipes from other people you know or vegetarian cookbooks if you really don't want to spend the time online. Often e-cookbooks are available on Barnes and Noble.com or Amazon for quite good prices, and you can then read them on your computer or iPad or tablet or eReader.

Mostly, just don't be afraid to try something new! You won't die from a week or two of no/little meat, or a terrible vegetarian recipe. I've made quite a few things that sounded so good on the blog and were so not good on my plate! Hopefully you have a forgiving family --- or perhaps you should try new recipes in small quantities when you are alone in the kitchen! I really enjoyed learning to cook vegetarian recipes because I found that it challenged me to learn new things in cooking rather than sticking with the same old basic recipes. I think that, as a result, I have a much wider range of possibilities when I'm thinking up my meal plan for the week. Don't give up right away because you don't know where to begin or because one meal was a flop. Keep experimenting, and eventually you will become comfortable cooking with different ingredients, and hopefully your grocery budget/ health/ conscience will be better for it!

Pitas, Humus, Pineapple Salsa, and Roasted Cabbage

No comments:

Post a Comment