What do you eat when you want to eat less meat? (If "Eat less meat" is NOT on your list of how to live healthier and greener, better read Ten Reasons to Eat Less Meat.)
Many folks used to whipping up burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets, or pepperoni pizza fear they'll have the diet of a rabbit if they can't put a big juicy steak in the middle of their plate.
In reality, given the abundance of delicious fruits, vegetables, and grains sold in most supermarkets, making meat a bit player at dinner rather than the main event is easier than you think. Here's how you can get started.
* Meatless Monday – If the idea of giving up meat "cold turkey" throws you into a tizzy, why not start with one day – like today? You won't be alone. The "Meatless Monday" movement is gathering steam as folks like Sir Paul McCartney climb on the meat-free bandwagon.
* Eat meat as an appetizer rather than the main course – Psychologists and dieticians have frequently observed that people derive the most satisfaction out of the first bite or two of whatever they're eating. (Think about it: that first taste elicits an "mmmmm – delicious." The last one? "Ughh – I'm so stuffed.") Could that be true of you, too? If so, relegate meat to appetizer status. Here are a few recipes to get you started.
* Find vegetarian meat substitutes that satisfy your tastebuds as well as your growling stomach. I'm partial to grilled tofu, pan roasted walnuts and pecans, and lentils and garbanzo beans ground into veggie burgers or tossed in soups and salads. Seitan and tempeh could be on the menu, too.
Vegetarian meals can be just as simple — or complex — as any meal you'd make with meat. These three cookbooks provide delicious recipes worth giving a try.
Cookbooks You'll Love:
The Homesteader's Kitchen: Recipes from Farm to Table by Robin Burnside. I love a cookbook that's a pleasure to look at as well as read. The recipes in The Homesteader's Kitchen come with straightforward lists of ingredients and gorgeous, full-color photographs of many of the foods being prepared. Try the recipe for Granny's Stuffed Artichokes. Simply steam 4 large artichokes until tender, then spoon out the fuzzy part of the artichoke heart. Saute up some shallots and garlic in olive oil, then mix with melted Ghee (recipe provided), bread crumbs, a cheese like Asiago or Parmesan, parsley, pine nuts, oregano, basil, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture into the artichoke heart . Place the artichokes in a baking pan and add 2 cups hot water to the bottom of the dish. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers by Anni Daulter, with Shante Lanay. Part of the reason why we're a nation of meat-eaters is because we started eating meat when we were babies. Anni Daulter thinks that should change, which is why her easy-to-follow cookbook is full of vegetarian recipes to get children on the right track as soon as they start eating prepared food. She also knows that kids are more likely to eat food if they can pick it up with their fingers. The book is full of bite-sized "meals" kids can just pop into their mouths, like MacKenzie's Superstar Sweet Potato Cakes with Sour Cream. Cook and mash yams and Yukon Gold potatoes, then combine with onion that's been sauteed with salt, pepper, wheat germ and garlic. Beat 2 eggs and 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream together, then stir into the potato mixture along with Parmesan and Romano cheese and a little flour. Drop by heaping tablespoons of batter into a lightly oiled skillet (I don't use nonstick cookware). Serve with a dollop of sour cream; you could try nonfat yogurt for a lower-cal dip.
SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families, by Aviva Goldfarb. Aviva focuses on fresh ingredients that you can prep, cook and serve in well under an hour, and usually in 30 minutes or less. Her book includes weekly menus tied to the fresh ingredients available in every season; recipes are listed by category, and include the amount of time it should take to prepare and cook the dish. This book includes an equal mix of meat and fish meals and those made from pastas, grains, fruits and vegetables. It also suggests ways to replace meat with a vegetarian option. For example, a stir fry recipe for golden tofu with ginger and peppers could be made with chicken instead, or perhaps half and half. The same goes with grains. Aviva's partial to whole grains, but her recipe for Greek Rice Bowl with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts could work as well with white rice as with brown.
If you're like me, and you love reading cookbooks, here are a few more that feature no or little meat.
Have your own favorite cookbook or recipe? Please share.