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Your help in transitioning me back to eating meat.

Helloooo Hounds,
I have frequented these boards for many years and now I come to you with a HUGE request for help. I have been a vegetarian since I was 17. I am now 35. Over half of my life that is. The history might be important to some of you so I will give you a brief overview.

My mom was a vegetarian. I found some of her literature and read way too much. I became disgusted with how we mass-produce and the unnatural raising and sometime cruelty involved. I couldn't imagine putting the stress and hormone induced flesh in my own body.

I still feel the same. But I also feel that although this is the typical way of corporate farming, there seems to be a resurgence of traditional farming. I like that. I understand the food chain and the need for a diet closer to what our ancestors lived off from.

I can now purchase meat where the animals have been raised in a respectable way and not injected with growth hormones or subjected to tight living quarters or abuse (i understand this is assumed) and this makes me more comfortable with the idea of eating meat again.

I already cook meat for my husband and child. My last pregnancy had me so ill, I resorted to eating chicken stock to keep from losing more weight. (I couldn't eat vegetables, I would get sick)

I am now pregnant again and seriously considering adapting a lifestyle of incorporating some meat and fish back into my diet.

I need help.

I wasn't a huge fan of seafood even when I did eat meat. But fried fish I could handle.
I ate a lot of chicken. We ate roast beef and meatloaf a lot in my house.

My main deal is texture. So I've struggled with chewiness.

I'm looking for any advice from people like myself or from hounds who have recipes they think might gently work me back into meat.

i'm thinking i'll start with soups where broth is incorporated and maybe fish (no oceanfare for me right now with being pregnant - however open to it eventually)

So, I beg of you dear hounds, any recipes out there you could help me out with?

Also, this is really a hard topic to discuss, so I'm hoping we can remain civil. I don't judge anyone else's food choices, please respect my own journey with food!

And above all, THANK YOU.

Lollya

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  1. I'm sure you'll get LOTS of options, but if you're concerned about chewiness, ground meat will probably help you. Chicken meatballs can be moist and tender, and you can flavor them any way you want.

    Regarding seafood, if you can find some sustainably farmed flaky mild white fish, like cod or tilapia, those would be good gateway fish. One thing you might like would be to mix some pieces of baked cod into mashed potatoes, then bread with panko and pan-fry.

    3 Replies
    1. re: katecm

      Thank you KateCM. I really appreciate any help. I'm just having a helluva time.

      1. re: lollya

        If you're in Minneapolis, you are where the king of freshwater white fish calls home. I'm talking about the delectible walleye. and it's MUCH better for you than any farmed anything, especially tilapia. The French dish Hachis Parmentiere is basically really good mashed potatoes with flaked white fish folded in. I'll bet you'd like that -- especially made with walleye!

        Message me for some recipes to transition into meat eating. I did that also.

        1. re: ChefJune

          Hachis Parmentier is red meat - traditionally ground beef, but gone uptown with shredded, cooked duck.

          You're thinking of Brandade de Morue - the fish-pie version, and yes, probably much better with walleye than with salty, fishy cod.

    2. I see you're in Mpls. you could try going to the deli counter at the Wedge and get small containers of things with meat in them and see what works for you. (Many years ago I lived a few blocks from there and lived on their deli sandwiches. Yum!)

      1 Reply
      1. re: weezieduzzit

        Love your name Weezie. I think I'll use Weezieduzzit as my motto. I am in Mpls and do frequent the Wedge. This is a great idea. Thank you.

      2. The easiest flesh protein to eat with regard to texture would be white fish. If you can eat fried fish, you might be able to eat a sauteed fish filet. Since ethical food production is important to you, I'd visit Whole Foods, and read the packages to understand the where the fish came from. Fresh or flash frozen white fish has a mild, neutral taste. Some of it disintegrates when cooked too long, and other fish toughens. So, you would want to follow package directions closely when preparing it for yourself. I like a simple baked fish, but since you have eaten fried fish, perhaps sauteeing it briefly might be a better choice. You can top the fish with a sauce made of sauteed halved cherry tomatoes, chopped onion or shallot, a little garlic and finally capers or chopped greed olives. You do the sauce right in the pan in which you sauteed the fish.

        The other mild, neutral flesh would be chicken breasts. These can be sauteed, after pounding them flat, the same way you fix the fish. They can also be poached in a simmering broth, such as a good commercial chicken broth.

        Possibly a flexetarian cookbook might be of help to you. Good luck.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sueatmo

          Thank you. I should let you all know I tried fish last night. I'm dedicated to fixing my diet!

          Thank you. A Flexitarian book sounds wonderful. There was one that came out but I can't remember the title...must google.

          1. re: lollya

            '"The Flexitarian Table." It was a Cookbook of the Month a few years back.

        2. I was trying to use only "politically correct" meat for awhile and I quickly learned that grass-fed beef requires different cooking techniques. I made a chili that, though the sauce was delicious, was completely dry and stringy in texture because the beef was so lean and had virtually no marbling. I'm not being such a purist now but hope to go back to it when I have more control over my budget. Not sure what the solution but am thinking a butcher at a place like Whole Foods or other natural store could give you advice.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kleine mocha

            I completely understand. We have a local butcher I might need to go meet. :)

          2. Not a recipe, but it helps if the meat is minced or ground. Small pieces alleviate some textural issues. Start with a very small portion and see how you do.

            1 Reply
            1. Research Oriental e.g. Chinese, Vietnamese steamed salmon, swai, tilapia, catfish, etc. fillets. Lots of good recipes there.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Joebob

                I love ethnic cuisine! Anyone have any favorite recipes?

                1. re: lollya

                  I like this steamed dumpling recipe by Mark Bittman: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/din...

                  I would think that the texture would not be an issue for you, since the shrimp is ground, mixed and wrapped. You can serve it on plate or add them to a broth.

                  If you don't want to use shrimp, I would think that you could substitute some other firm white fish.

                  1. re: lollya

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/832700 is a thread about Vietnamese for Valentine's Day. There are recipes for fish/shrimp in caramel sauce and orange-caramel sauce that sound delish. Making the caramel sauce is a little scary, but the results are great.

                    Also, (quick and easy) Steamed Any Fish Fillets with Any Greens (Time: 15 min.

                    )

                    1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil

                    1 teaspoon toasted/dark sesame oil, more for drizzling

                    3 garlic cloves, minced

                    1 1-inch-thick slice peeled fresh ginger root, minced

                    2 small bunches e.g. mustard greens, cleaned, stemmed and torn into pieces

                    1 tablespoon soy sauce, more for drizzling

                    2 e.g. flounder fillets, 12 ounces each

                    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

                    1. Heat oils in a very large skillet. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mustard greens, soy sauce and 3 tablespoons water, and sauté until greens start to wilt, 2 minutes longer.

                    2. Spread greens out in pan. Season flounder with salt and pepper, and place on top of greens. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and let fish steam until just cooked through, about 6 minutes. If pan dries out before fish is cooked through, add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time.

                    3. Uncover pan and transfer fish to serving plates. If greens seem wet, turn heat to high to cook off excess moisture. Serve greens on top of fish, drizzled with a little more sesame oil and soy sauce, if desired. Yield: 2 servings.

                    And because you must be familiar with tofu:

                    1 (16-ounce) block firm tofu

                    1 pound fish fillets (basa, snapper, monchong, mahi mahi or any white-fleshed fish), boned and cut into bite-size pieces

                    3/4 cup very thinly sliced ginger

                    Soybean or peanut oil

                    Light soy sauce

                    Cilantro

                    3/4 cup very thinly sliced green onion (scallions)

                    Cut tofu lengthwise and then crosswise to make blocks about 1-inch square. Slide these onto a heat-proof plate. Arrange fish pieces atop tofu. Scatter ginger over the top. Bring water in a steamer to a boil and place dish on rack to steam, covered — about 15-20 minutes until fish is translucent and cooked through. Not long before the fish is done, heat a little oil (or, if you want to replicate the restaurant dish, a lot) until very hot. As soon as the fish is done, ladle the sizzling oil over, splash it with soy sauce, scatter green onion and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.

                    OR

                    2 pounds fish fillets (basa, snapper, monchong, mahi mahi or any white-fleshed fish)

                    1 tablespoon seedless tamarind paste

                    1 hot, red chili, seeded and minced

                    3 cloves garlic

                    1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

                    2 tablespoons black bean sauce

                    4 tablespoons dark, sweet soy sauce

                    2 tablespoons sugar

                    2 tablespoons peanut oil

                    1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

                    1 (16-ounce) block firm tofu

                    Slivered or minced green onions

                    Pat fillets dry with paper towels. Mash tamarind paste with fork and rub on fillets. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine chili, garlic, ginger, black bean, soy sauce, sugar, peanut oil and cornstarch water, stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool. Set up a steamer (see note) and bring water to a boil; turn down to steady simmer. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch slices and line steamer basket with tofu. Drizzle one-third of the seasoning mixture evenly over tofu. Steam 2 minutes. Remove from steam and place fish pieces atop tofu. Drizzle with one-third of seasoning mixture over fish and steam over boiling water 5-7 minutes, until fish is cooked through. Scatter green onions over fish and serve — leave fish in steamer or remove to serving dish or individual plates with a spatula.

                    You might also search for larb/laab. Ground meats with lots of lemon juice, mint, parsely, green onion and enough chille to bust your mouth with flavor, so much you hardly notice the meat. Hope this helps.

                    1. re: Joebob

                      I completely understand, Lloya--I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for nearly 20 years before eating meat again. Since I'm not a fish/seafood eater, I started with meat broth to get used to the flavors again, then minced meats. Samosas were a begininning food--since I used to make 'em only veg, I started adding small bits of ground beef, so it was a transitioning process. Hope you find what works well for you!

                  2. I like your idea of incorporating small pieces of meat into soups. Chicken noodle soup, split pea with ham, and chili with ground meat would likely get you over some of the chewiness issues, and are likely not too different from what you've been eating now.

                    Some meats I've found to not be that chewy are shredded chicken and pulled pork. I enjoy both of these meats on tacos, sandwiches, and salads. You could start with smaller portions, and work your way towards larger portions if you wish.

                    If you like fried (I'm guessing white?) fish, maybe you'll also have luck with shrimp. I like garlic lime shrimp served over polenta. My mom often make coconut shrimp, which are fairly similar to fried fish.

                    I try to purchase responsibly raised meats, and I'm very picky about sustainably caught seafood. Unfortunately, I also cook on a pretty strict budget, which makes responsible eating difficult. I've found that peasant dishes tend to stretch meat by using it as more of a component than the focus of the dish. This might also be helpful for transitioning, since it would probably be difficult to go from vegetarian to eating large cuts of meat. I mostly cook French, but of course all cuisines have lovely peasant dishes.

                    I'd suggest keeping a journal of your experiences as you transition. You could write down dishes that seem to work well, and which ones you have difficulty eating. Perhaps things will change over time, and perhaps not. I keep a journal like this for wine tasting, and while it sounds a little silly it can be surprisingly useful.

                    Finally, keep an open mind about things you might not have liked when you ate meat (you definitely seem pretty open minded, as you're posting here!). Free range really does taste different, and you might be surprised by how much your palate has changed.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: caseyjo

                      Great suggestion cj. :) i like the idea of using in tacos or other meals i can hide it in (at least at first).

                    2. I am going to make the huge assumption, based on your post, that you are considering adding meat back into your diet in order to get complete proteins more easily. If this is the case, and your family eats meat, I would focus on dishes where the meat itself can be enjoyed, or the rest of the dish can be enjoyed and has been cooked with meat.

                      Stocks are always wonderful. Poach a chicken. Use the stock to make a veggie-noodle soup. Shred some chicken into their bowls, none in yours, and serve the broth with noodles and veggies. This also works with lentils, beans, anything you might simmer in broth.

                      Consider chicken-rice dishes. Brown the chicken, remove. Then sautée the aromatics, throw in a bunch of tomatoes, rice, broth or broth/water, put the chicken back in and cook for an hour or so. Again, you eat the rice, tomatoes with the chicken broth, while the family enjoys some chicken thighs.

                      To combat the texture issue, consider flavored ground meats wrapped in cabbage and simmered. I particularly love Lions Head Meatballs, but there are many Eastern European cultures who cook meat like this a lot.

                      Braised meats also soften and become less textural. You can include tons of vegetables so that your meal is still primarily vegetables with just a bit of meat, while your family can choose have a different ratio.

                      And finally, cook the foods that you have always liked, and add some meat into them. Good luck with your transition!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: smtucker

                        you can make assumptions. i'm okay with that. the main reason is, i don't feel great. i've struggled with feeling like crap for a long time. i figured this is something i need to try to see if food can help heal me. :)

                        thank you for your assumption as well as your suggestions. :)

                        1. re: smtucker

                          I agree with the idea of braising- meat cooked that way had a lot of the "chew" gone. It's my favorite way to cook meat.

                          1. re: DrMag

                            This is what I was going to say. Braised meat has a distinct lack of chew.

                        2. I lead a semi-vegetarian diet, but I then crave animal protein so add some fish or chicken to my diet. If meat texture is an issue, I'd also suggest creating homemade stocks from chicken, beef or seafood. That way you wouldn't have a texture issue.

                          I guess your mom was a big influence on you. That is wonderful, but as someone who has been a non-beef eater yet involved in the cattle industry, you would be amazed at the care and compassion I've experienced with people who make their living raising cattle for food. I personally just don't care for beef, but that's just me.

                          Do you have any ethnic preferences? Somehow you may be able to sneak in meat since most other cultures aren't so "meat based". My best to you!

                          1. Re the several good suggestions about ground beef. I prefer meatloaf/meatballs/frikadellen to steak. My mixture has a LOT of other stuff in it, including coleslaw or steamed, chopped cabbage, carrot, onion, bell pepper, a panade, dry onion soup mix, tomato paste...... To make it all hold together without using so much egg that the dish is rubbery, instead of chopping the onion I use a mandoline/V-slicer to make ultra-thin rings. These turn into long strings as the meat mixture is mixed and cooked, and provide a matrix for the rest of the ingredients to cling to. This is especially useul when the meat or poultry you are using is low in fat.

                            I also suggest stir-fries, hash, and fried rice. The meat/fish/poultry is in small enough pieces to help with the texture issue, but enough to provide the satiety of a meat meal.

                            1. --Small strips of chicken or whatever in a vegetable-heavy stir fry.
                              --Soup with small pieces of chicken or meat, also in a veggie or bean-heavy recipe.
                              --Pasta sauce.

                              1. Here are two Chinese white fish recipes we eat a lot. With most widely available white fishes the texture is very tender and the flavor is mild.

                                Steamed: Go to the fish market and buy a whole white fish, whatever looks freshest. Salt it lightly inside and out. Place a layer of sliced ginger, slivered scallions, sliced shitake mushrooms and fermented black beans on top of the fish and sprinkle with Chinese cooking wine. Place a wet paper towel over it and microwave 2 minutes, turn180 degrees, repeat, turn, repeat, etc until fish is cooked to desired firmness.

                                Sweet and sour: Dredge white fish filets in cornstarch then pan fry in a generous layer of oil until light-golden and crispy. Remove filets and pour out most of the oil, saving enough to saute equal parts matchstick-cut ginger, chopped chilies, and minced garlic. When fragrant, add 1/2 cup cooking wine, 1/2 cup rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar to taste. Simmer until alcohol odor disappears, then add a little cornstarch for final thickening. Return fish to sauce to coat the filets, then serve with garnish of chopped cilantro.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                  Steamed: When you turn 180 degrees, the vegetables fall off. What then? Put them back on top or not?

                                  1. re: Joebob

                                    You don't flip the fish, you horizontally turn the plate in the microwave. If you have a microwave turntable I guess you don't need to do it, although you will still want to check it every 2-3 minutes for doneness.

                                2. I have several friends who don't' eat meat because of the texture issues. All but one of them will eat fish -- happily so.

                                  A couple of them can handle things like patés, because they're frequently ground smooth -- no meatlike texture at all.

                                  Then meatballs and bolognaise sauce (finely-ground meat) -- eggrolls with finely ground meat, too...

                                  So it seems that you could work your way up the texture scale -- start with fine-ground meat...then stick with the same recipe, but use a little bit coarser grind...until you get to a comfort point.

                                  Above all, and no matter where you end up with your dietary choices, I hope you get to a point where you are feeling better. It's no fun going through life feeling rotten all the time.

                                  1. You might want to try feasting on pork, yes, pork! :)

                                    Since last fall, I've had a lot of GI issues with food since I began taking iron supplements. I still can't eat much beef, sadly, since it's a good source of iron, but the one meat I've had consistently good results with is pork. My favorite recipe (sorry for few measurements, as I cook this for one and have it down to cooking by eye):

                                    Pan-fry a salted and peppered center-cut pork chop until just cooked (I use a t-bone), then remove to a warm plate, tented with foil. Add enough tawny port to deglaze the pan, let it reduce a bit over high heat, then add your choice of citrus juice, perhaps a third to half cup. I normally use orange, but freshly-squeezed tangerine juice works really well. Adding a bit of zest doesn't hurt either—I've added a bit of lemon zest with great results.

                                    Let that reduce until it begins to get syrupy, then swirl in about a half tablespoon of a good quality balsamic vinegar, and a pat of butter if you wish. I use the balsamic from Trader Joe's in the squat, square bottle with a red label. Add the pork chop back into the pan and spoon the sauce over it a bit as it reheats. Plate as soon as the sauce has thickened to your likening, which should only take a minute or two from that point, pouring the sauce over the chop.

                                    Serves 1.

                                    Traditional sides for this dish in my kitchen are mashed potatoes and green beans, since I don't like having sides compete with the flavors too much. When I've served this to guests, it's a universal hit. One said if he was at home alone, he'd pick up the plate and lick the rest of the sauce up!

                                    Enjoy.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: RelishPDX

                                      This is way out from another field, but how about bacon? Mind you, I'm talking humanely raised field pigs, but it smells so great cooking, that by the time it's cooked, you want to eat it. Start with a bacon,LETTUCE, AND TOMATO sandwich, and work your way up to a BACON, lettuce and tomato sandwich, and then the sky's the limit. It's good as a main course, or just as a "spice" in a batch of beans.

                                      1. re: little big al

                                        I think bacon or any other fatty meat would be rough on the stomach after a meatless diet. Better to ease back into it with lean meats.

                                        1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                          It might surprise you that bacon is the primary first meat of choice when leaving the vegetarian world. There is something about the bacon smell that breaks that barrier. It was certainly my first meat after 7 years of a non-meat diet.

                                          1. re: smtucker

                                            In the words of "The Bacon Song".."you can live without veal parmegian, chicken tarragon, beef bourgignon or filet mignon. Life will still be sweet if you give up meat,it's easy... you can even try to give up bacon"

                                          2. re: RealMenJulienne

                                            a BLT was my 1st meat meal after giving up meat for Lent last year- didn't do me any harm, and I can have a sensitive digestion system...

                                      2. I did this a while ago, and feel much healthier. As I get older, I find that my body needs meat. That's just the way it is. I'm not saying it's true for everyone, but it made a big difference in how I felt. From what I can remember I liked crunchy things with little bits of ground meat and lots of other stuff, like vietnamese imperial rolls. I think one of the first things I ate was a burrito with grilled steak in it, and I removed some of the meat, but the rest went down pretty well with the rice and beans, onions and salsa to distract from the meat. I also recommend making a butternut squash soup with some chicken broth and ground chicken. The flavors meld really well, and if you can't take the chicken pieces (I remember that was one of the last things I could eat) I would second using very fresh ground chicken, maybe start with ground chicken breast. Also something like mushroom stroganoff with little bits of ground beef, strong mushroom taste and noodles might work.

                                        1. If you are thinking of beef, and grass-fed/pasture - raised at that, it tends to be very lean and a little chewier than beef that comes from stock that never had a chance to use those muscles. I would rec braised cuts, like short ribs or pot roast, so you get a lot of flavor with a very tender "bite".

                                          I went ovo-lacto veg for Lent last year, and it really changed what and how I eat in regards to meat.

                                          Congratulations on your pregnancy!

                                          1. How are you getting along? The meat going down OK? Keep us posted.