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FORAY INTO VEGETARIANISM

lrostron Apr 23, 2007 09:00 AM

After close to 50 years, my DH has decided that perhaps, just perhaps, that going veggie might not be a bad idea, following the warning here in CA about recalled pork products, e coli and spinach and lettuce, beef in general, a bad grilled chicken last summer at a friend's BBQ, etc., etc. I've been a semi veg (ovo lacto) for about 15 years now, but he's from Chicago (!). Any suggestions for leading a devout carnivore down the green path, slowly and gently, maybe starting with a veg meal one or twice a week? Any suggestions appreciated!

  1. ChrisS Apr 28, 2007 10:30 AM

    My spouse and I are generally carnivores, but often eat vegetarian, and eat occasionally with a vegetarian (ovo lacto) couple that includes an avid bodybuilder. They are keenly aware of keeping good quality satisfying and protein rich calories in their meals, and generally do so without much use of fake meat. The key is not to fear good quality carbs, especially if they come with some protein, such as buckwheat. I find dishes that focus on the old vegetarian standby of a whole grain mixed with a legume can be quite satisfying to the average carnivore. Some of the newer whole grain pastas are much better tasting then they have been in the past, and tossed some up with some olive oil, garlic, chick peas, and roast vegetables can make a simple and satisfying meal for a mostly carnivore.

    1. The Dairy Queen Apr 24, 2007 06:42 AM

      We're a carnivorous household trying to back-off on the meat as well. We have a hard time with a meal that's completely meatless and have never really been able to cross that threshold into completely vegetarian meals without some folks leaving the table feeling cheated, but I've noticed is you can get by with a lot less "meat" if you chop it into bits and put it in pastas and stir fries and such. Also, in shish-kabobs on the grill--if you have small bits of meat and lots of vegetables, you don't really notice how much meat you're getting or not getting. Once you get away from the idea of serving meat in a slab, it's a lot easier to cut back and increase the volume of vegetables and grains in the dish. Often, I do half meat, half tofu or half meat and some nuts in my stir fries as a graduated step. You can also do lovely vegetarian pizzas (even on the grill), again, cutting way back or even eliminating the meat. It's not the season, but soups and stews and chilis are easy to do meatless, or with reduced amounts of meat. Someone else mentioned portabello mushrooms--those are fantastic on the grill.

      I don't know if you've noticed, but a lot of my solutions are "on the grill"--somehow, the grilling makes the food seem heartier and more palatable to someone who really enjoys meat. At least, that's how it seems at my house. Maybe it's primal.

      EDIT: oh, one more thing. We've joined a CSA as a way of forcing ourselves to eat more vegetables. The truth is, we really do love super- fresh vegetables picked at their prime--and we're now going to have a constant supply of them. We'll see if this helps us to cut back on meat, simply so we have room for all of those vegetables and they won't go to waste.

      Oh, another good one is paninis. You can do just a little meat and A LOT of veggies...

      And, I find that even swapping out a "meat" meal once or twice a week in favor of a seafood (sustainable seafood, of course) meal is a positive step towards reducing the amount meat in your diet in the sense that it helps to erode the idea that steak or pork or chicken must be the center of your meal...

      ~TDQ

      1. c
        cheryl_h Apr 24, 2007 06:26 AM

        Another vote for eating more Asian meals. I'm Chinese so fresh green vegetables are a must for any dinner. My DH is a firm convert so we eat lots of veggies whether with meat or not. We also cook Indian meals regularly. You'd be amazed at how good lentils, beans or chickpeas can taste with the right spices. Dinner tonight will be chicken kofta and masoor dal with rice and bok choy. That's my idea of balanced eating.

        1. v
          Val Apr 24, 2007 04:09 AM

          Lest we forget the portobello mushroom, so meaty in texture! They sell the big mushroom caps in the produce dept. and you can marinate in a balsamic mixture and grill for a really satisfying entree. To me, they are best prepared this way but there are tons of recipes for portobellos out there; they are also nice added to salads.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Val
            danna Apr 24, 2007 01:25 PM

            Meaty in taste, yes, but not in nutrition. What do you do for protein if that's your "entree"?

            1. re: danna
              The Dairy Queen Apr 24, 2007 02:29 PM

              Depending on what the dish is, cheese (if, perhaps, it's a mushroom and cheese sandwich), tofu and/or nuts (if it's a stir fry), or you can just use it to supplement the meat in a dish so that you don't need so much of it.

              ~TDQ

          2. k
            Kagey Apr 24, 2007 02:13 AM

            Don't be afraid of carbs! I mean, obviously, don't overdo anything. But carb-phobia has got way out of hand these days. Good pasta dishes can really ease a transition into a more vegetarian lifestyle. And pasta combined with some sort of beans or pulses makes up a good quality protein.

            Along with the ethnic food suggestions for vegetarian options, I'd recommend the Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen also has a pretty good website with recipes--www.molliekatzen.com). And I always suggest that people look at the River Cafe Green book if they can find it. It's got gorgeous recipes for using seasonal vegetables, organized by month.

            We do eat meat, but a lot less of it since I became more aware of the animal welfare/environmental/social consequences of battery farmed meat. That's partly because the meat I'm now comfortable buying is more expensive. But we don't miss it now that I know what to do with all the really nice vegetables, beans, and grains we have around.

            1. z
              zorgclyde Apr 23, 2007 06:37 PM

              As people here have mentioned, there are many great and classic dishes that are really good for vegetables.
              If your husband like Indian food, many of the vegetarian Indian dishes taste wonderful, not difficult, and please both meat eaters and veggies. If's even better if you know how to make the bread to accompany it. One of my all favorite is masala chat, though at home I usually just do different varieties of curry.
              And even a lot of other cuisine that aren't as strictly veg, such as japanese and thai cuisine, has a lot of vegetables in everyday meal. I think that also make a good starting point.

              1. xtal Apr 23, 2007 05:14 PM

                I would tend to stay away from the soy-based 'fake meat' out there, as much of it is very highly processed, and chock full of preservatives, salt and such. Follow the other suggestions above of great tasting simple vegetable-based dishes.

                Try not to replace the meat, rather, celebrate the vegetables!

                1. pikawicca Apr 23, 2007 02:32 PM

                  There are so many ethnic vegetarian recipes out there that you could eat vegetarian every night of the week without really knowing it. My husband and I do, about 2-3 times a week, cooking Mediterranean and Asian, mostly. I will NOT, however, touch any yucky meat analogs.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: pikawicca
                    g
                    gourmanda Apr 24, 2007 06:10 AM

                    Before you or anyone else comments on "yucky meat analogs" note that TVP is very low in calories, high in protein and fiber and has no cholesterol. I would argue it is much less "processed" or "yucky" than a hunk o' steer or tenderloin of an intelligent pig and probably takes less fertilizer and water than those food choices to boot.

                    1. re: gourmanda
                      pikawicca Apr 24, 2007 09:56 AM

                      Meat analogs may be politically correct, but they're still yucky in my book. As for being low in calories, there are a lot of things that are extremely low in calories that I would never consider putting in my mouth. If something isn't delicious, why eat it?

                      1. re: pikawicca
                        g
                        gourmanda Apr 24, 2007 11:09 AM

                        Oh, but it is delicious. At least the way that I cook it is....

                        1. re: pikawicca
                          Snackish Apr 24, 2007 01:17 PM

                          There are so many bad ones out there. I have tried many that taste something like play-doh (hey, I was a kid once). None of them, as far as I am concerned, taste like meat, though that doesn't concern me so much. I just wished they tasted GOOD.

                          1. re: Snackish
                            s
                            soupkitten Apr 24, 2007 01:40 PM

                            i must confess a certain bizarre fondness for the Quorn products (mmm, mycoprotein. . .). and i like using bulk TVP in my own recipes-- it's retro!

                            a lot of veggie fake-meat cooking technique takes some practice-- homemade seitan; mastering the art of cooking tofu well (the upcoming bestseller by soupkitten). . . making your own "veggie burger" mix can be fun and lots of people seem to have an at-home fave.

                            if the op is so inclined faux meats can be fun-- i like "vegan with a vengeance" by isa moskowitz for this. the fake meat stuff in the store however is NOT economical, or even in most cases very healthy. they're a turn-off for many people. it's also not necessary to eat these products to eat a plant-based diet-- the veggies, grains, beans etc. will give you all you need for a healthy balanced eating plan. most people who have been veg for a number of years rarely have meals designed around a "main" dish like a veggie burger that is a meat sub. they tend to have big one-dish meals, main dish stews, or many component veg items on their plate with no one item dominating. i'd rec starting with veggie chilis and curries, soups, pizzas that are very satisfying for all eaters. the family members can decide whether they really miss the meat-- in many cases it will be no-- if they want meat they can add a small amt to their own portion & it's still healthier than eating a prok chop or burger.

                            1. re: soupkitten
                              g
                              gourmanda Apr 24, 2007 02:26 PM

                              It may or may not be a way to change a meat eater more easily. For us it's just nice once in a while to have a "ground meat" dish because they taste good and/or are just plain easy. We eat a great variety of plant-based meals w/o the use of TVP-type products. Also, we do include fish once or twice a week. Sometimes you just need an easy yet delicious dinner and I think it's much easier to do that with protein...while I love vegetarian fare, it often takes a bit more planning and preparation. I love to cook and plan but you know those nights when easy, healthful and delicious wins over time-consuming, healthful and delicious.

                    2. g
                      gourmanda Apr 23, 2007 02:25 PM

                      Make a great tomato sauce for pasta, no meat needed (but Muir Glen tomatoes necessary if fresh is out of season).
                      Grilled vegetable sandwiches (red peppers, onions, zucchini) with a drizzle of balsamic and maybe some fresh mozz.
                      You can use TVP as a sub for ground meat in many recipes that are "saucy"...macaroni and beef, nachos, tacos, etc.
                      Beans are great for veggie tacos too, or as a spread or a dip

                      1. cayjohan Apr 23, 2007 11:06 AM

                        We are not vegetarian in our household, but I (the cook) lean toward veggies as the bulk of the meal. The Hub is a long-term member of the devotees-of-meat (disclosure - I do eat meat and love it) and I have had to resort to tricks to get him on the veg. bandwagon.

                        One of the best "tricks" is the roasted vegetable platter. No - not served as such, but left on the counter to cool as if it's going into some other dish. Snacky-Hub comes along and starts tasting: roasted carrots, parsnips, zucchini, peppers, etc. After a mumbled "sorry if I've eaten your ingredients, but can I have more?" I send him off with his plate of veggies. Confession of having an evil plan: I almost never have these things saved for anything else (even though they can be useful for many applications). The fact that they seem a) like a snack and b) forbidden (i.e. poached from another purpose) seemed to make roasted veg. seem attractive. He's eased into actually asking for more vegetarian meals. And liking them.

                        I'm no psychologist, but I have been a mom for a long time. This works for kids too. I often think that the whole "if you build it, they will come" thinking works well in this case. If you make a lot of vegetable dishes for your husband (without pushing), he may start to gravitate toward them. As soupkitten noted, don't take the step of smothering every veggie dish in cheese - vegetables, as you know, are taste-worthy in their own right. Maybe if you try intro-ing them as snacks or treats, it will become a habit...and then you go from there to deepen the veg. habit. Pasta dishes are great for this - saute this-and-that, toss with your what-have-ya, and you have a satisfying meal sans meat.

                        After years of the "I-must-have-beef" refrain, my Hub eats at least three veg. dinners per week. And likes it, to hear his report. Hang in there.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cayjohan
                          lrostron Apr 23, 2007 02:06 PM

                          Thanks for the encouragement. The good thing is that he's not a big cheese fan, so there's no problem there. However, he does love his pasta, so I'm trying to cut that down a bit. He's just now figuring out what a carb is, and is frankly shocked! I told him that basically, if its white in coloration, it's a carb.

                          1. re: lrostron
                            cayjohan Apr 23, 2007 02:24 PM

                            Yep, I dealt with the "white" issue a lot. It takes a while to sink in. So....I used a lot of white-ish veggies in my meals. A LOT of grated parsnips in the hashed-browns, a LOT of slivered bok choy in a noodle dish, a LOT of sauteed veg.(like mushrooms) in the pasta, a LOT of cauliflower mashed into the the mashed potatoes. Slowly, this has caught on...flavorwise...and than I have moved on to *gasp* green things! :) It eventually works, at least in my case. Your DH sounds motivated, so you might not have a long leap to make.

                            1. re: lrostron
                              The Dairy Queen Apr 24, 2007 07:01 AM

                              One thing you can do is at least switch to whole wheat pastas. We really like soba noodles at our house, too. We're also quietly switching from potatoes to sweet potatoes. White rice to wild or brown rice. Not dramatically for every single meal, of course, but again, if you can do half and half or just gently go down that path by serving it once or twice a week....

                              We haven't gone crazy with other kinds of grains, amaranth and quinoa and such, but we do those for breakfast occasionally in winter, and we're occasionally doing polenta these days. Every little step of introducing these healthier grains into your diet helps, particularly in helping you feel and stay fuller longer. That's often one of the complaints I hear about meals that rely less on meat, is that they aren't filling. But, if you're amping up the fiber and whole grains, and of course, vegetables, it will help you feel more full, even with less meat.

                              ~TDQ

                          2. p
                            Pistou Apr 23, 2007 09:09 AM

                            I think Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a great intro to vegetarianism cookbook. Lot's of easy recipes that can be made as main dishes or as side dishes. Also, if you are interested in exploring tofu, Deborah Madison has another book called This Can't Be Tofu that's terrific for tofu-phobes and tofu-philes alike. The cookbook that Andrew Weil put out a few years ago (The Healthy Kitchen, or something like that) is something like 80% vegetarian recipes with a few chicken and fish dishes thrown in.

                            I also thought I'd mention that if your main concern is food safety, there are other options besides going veg. I don't know where in CA you are, but in the Bay Area there are plenty of small meat producers who treat their animals and their meat right, thus greatly reducing the chances of getting contaminated meat. As you noted, vegetables produced in an industrial environment are hardly immune from contamination, so it isn't necessarily eliminating meat but choosing your sources that does a better job of managing risk of illness.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Pistou
                              lrostron Apr 23, 2007 09:24 AM

                              I have one Deborah Madison book, the one on farmers markets, but I'll have to look into the others you mentioned. His concern is food safety, mine, I'm still eating spinach. We live in Fremont, and not a lot of options there for small meat producers, but I work in downtown San Jose, so that's a good option for a lunch time run to somewhere in the area. Any suggestions? I like the idea of the polenta with grilled veggies and cheese though, with one of his favorites, a caprese salad.

                              1. re: Pistou
                                s
                                soupkitten Apr 23, 2007 09:37 AM

                                i second the rec for all of d. madison's books, especially vegetarian cooking for everyone. it is a great book and should be in every cook's library right between julia child and joy of cooking. i also really like crescent dragonwagon's "passionate vegetarian" or whatever the name of her big book is called. don't be afraid to try the book because of the pic on the cover or her goofy name, it's a very solid cookbook with practical recipes, a good value for the $$. remember when trying a veg diet that you should concentrate on eating MORE veggies, lentils, nuts & seeds, whole grains, etc rather than just substituting with meat substitutes-- whatever you do don't use cheese all the time as a protein source/substitution for meat (a common nubie-veg mistake, & one that isn't healthy).

                                1. re: Pistou
                                  d
                                  dietfoodie Apr 23, 2007 07:06 PM

                                  I'd third the recommendation -- we're absolutely not vegetarian, but I love cooking out of Cooking for Everyone and my guy has adapted to the occasional vegetarian meal readily. Still no chance he'll try tofu, but I'm working on it...

                                  1. re: dietfoodie
                                    The Dairy Queen Apr 24, 2007 06:59 AM

                                    I've been slipping tofu into my pasta sauces and stir fries TOGETHER with meat. It's been working quite nicely, actually. As long as there's meat in there, the tofu doesn't seem to be that objectionable. You can easily cut the meat by half this way.

                                    ~TDQ

                                    1. re: dietfoodie
                                      w
                                      wendy8869 Apr 24, 2007 08:00 AM

                                      I crumble firm tofu into my spaghetti sauce. My hubby loves it. It seems like ricotta.

                                  2. l
                                    laurendlewis Apr 23, 2007 09:05 AM

                                    I have made my hubby a casserole with premade polenta, sauteed veggies, some cheese, spices, etc, baked. With a salad and maybe a slice of bread, it's a very filling and enjoyable meal.
                                    You could also try Mexican - tacos, etc - that have lots of veggies and beans but no meat.
                                    Or use soy sausage or soy crumbles in place of meat for sloppy joes or something.
                                    Stuffed pasta
                                    Veggie lasagna

                                    Hope that helps you with some ideas!

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