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Protein ideas

Hi Folks,

I'm a bit stumped on protein ideas. It doesn't help that I live in a small city and other than chicken, beef and pork there isn't a whole lot of options for protein on the dinner plate.

Worst part is - I don't even have access to all the cuts of beef and pork so I am always changing recipes to make things work.

So I need some inventive things to do with what I have been given.. Mainly pork, as it is cheaper (safer as well considering all the beef recalls as of late - and I am immunocompromised - no thanks!) I always tend to either pan fry, cube and cook in a sauce over rice/pasta, slow cook, sometimes I make a stew...

I need to be introduced to new flavors! I am terrified of fish. I got food poisoning off salmon a few years ago and I just have a darn hard time eating it. Once you vomit something for three days you don't really ever want to see it again. However I live in Atlantic Canada, so fish is prominent... I'm wondering if there was something tasty enough if I could stomach it once again.

I can eat fried fish all day long.. deep fry anything and I'd probably eat it, Ha ha.

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  1. The salmon thing must have been an anomaly. Contamination can occur with any type of food, even vegetables.

    One way to get fish into your diet without fear of bacterial contamination is to make a fish stew. I live on the Pacific coast, but I sometimes make a fish stew in a slow cooker from Atlantic cod or haddock, because it's plentiful and inexpensive. This is not as fine a dining experience as a fresh piece of salmon, but a fish stew can be made more interesting by the ingredients you choose to add. This is one dish where a slow cooker is a big benefit, because I find the frozen cod is often a bit tough, but will yield after a long spell in the slow cooker.

    For pork, we sometimes make a dish of diced pork, coated in cumin and braised, then cooked with a medium red chile sauce and finished with (believe it or not) apricot or peach preserves. I don't know what it is called, or where we got it (my wife found it somewhere), but it's interesting enough to make once in awhile.

    2 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      Being immunocompromised I often get sick of things that don't make normal people sick. I was the only one to get sick off the salmon. It was cooked well - wild salmon from the river. I use crab apple jelly in a lot of my recipes so the preserves don't sound strange to me at all!

      1. re: carriej22

        Carrie, I'm immunocompromised too. I bet you had a coincident viral infection rather than food poisoning off a fresh caught and cooked salmon. Try making a pot pie recipe using firm-fleshed fish chunks instead of chicken, with lots of herbs like dill. Take pork roast and marinate in olive oil, orange juice, fresh thyme/oregano/marjoram/cilantro (if you like). Those are Mexican herbs in combination with the citrus juice (can use lime juice too if you like.) I sauteed onions/red pepper/green pepper (or an already roasted poblano with skin removed) and pork (or fish or chicken) cubes and then chicken stock and chili powder or taco seasoning (or mix up yourself from ground spices) and lime juice at the end. Take frozen shrimp and add to hot chicken stock with Thai fish sauce and rice or bean thread noodles, siracha or other hot sauce and ginger and green onion and cilantro. Lots of shrimp = lots of protein.

        I find once a get a flavor palate down, I can make infinite combinations of tasty food with little effort and often at low cost. You can make pork meatballs for homemade spaghetti sauce with bread crumbs softened in milk, dried oregano and basil, pepper and salt and olive oil (if the ground pork is dry) and grated Parmesan.

        On the other hand, beef that's from a reputable butcher, grass fed, cut from a roast is pretty safe--as safe as pork or chicken.. Much safer than ground. Or get your own grinder and keep it meticulously clean.

        Good luck!

    2. Hey Carrie,
      Do you eat shellfish? There are lots of ethnic dishes that are based on fried fish (Chinese, Mexican fish Tacos, etc). Do these flavors appeal to you? Do you have access to any game like duck or venison?

      1 Reply
      1. re: JeremyEG

        I do enjoy shellfish. I like shrimp, etc. I have some moose meat in my freezer... lol, but as far as game goes that is about all I have access to and only during moose season (which just ended the other day).

      2. An abundance of pork provides you with the key to an enormous selection of recipes.
        For example, if you purchase a pork butt and braise it in a pool of herbs and spices to your liking until it falls apart, you can shred it and use it on rice, noodles, potatoes, in a sandwich or tortilla and dozens of other ways. If you simply braise it and "pull" it without any special seasoning you can re-heat it and add herbs and spices in various combinations so the flavor profile changes with each meal.
        Don't forget that dried beans have a lot of protein.

        1 Reply
        1. re: todao

          Pork butt is one of my favorites, unfortunately it's hard to find. Sometimes if I go into the butchers I can get some and I make a big pot of pulled pork. or barbecue the whole thing.

        2. Have you thought of non-meat sources of protein in order to add variety and new flavors? Beans, lentils, quinoa, soy products, nuts and nut butters, even spinach and broccoli have protein. All of those can be used in any manner of ways--soup/chili; curried rice with lentils and spinach; quinoa salads, etc. I would think you could get any of those options in any size city. Good luck!

          2 Replies
          1. re: gourmanda

            I have thought of non meat sources and I am open to ideas. I don't mind beans, I didn't care for lentils, never tried quinoa but I am interested in it. I haven't seen it available locally but I did not check the organic section for it and there may be something there.

            1. re: carriej22

              Quinoa is delicious cooked correctly (I use some chicken boullion cubes instead of salt to add flavor.) It will taste like slightly crunchy rice and goes well with all manner of vegetables. Not in the least objectionable in flavor. Many commercial varieties have to be rinsed first before cooking. I just do it in a fine-mesh strainer and dump it in the pot. You can buy it online like from Amazon.com

          2. How about tofu? Do you like it? There are a million very safe vegetarian recipes with tofu, especially with brown rice. I've doctored up TVP (Textured vegetable protein) to taste like meat for chili. My kids preferred meatloaf made with TVP over ground beef, which they said tasted "liverish." (Helped to put lots of ketchup in the TVP.)

            1. You mention a butcher in one of your comments and I wonder if you've ever approached them to see if they can get some alternative cuts on occasion. Depending on how they operate, they might be able to get you something they don't usually carry with a week's notice.

              I cook similar cuts as you describe much of the time because of cost rather than availability. Over the years, I have learned to cook a varied diet by reading cookbooks and online sources for cuisines from around the world. Building a good pantry of spices and some condiments made all the difference. Because of your location, you may need to use mail order sources for some ingredients, but you can still make a varied menu with regular supermarket items these days.

              Using chicken as an example, this week it can be coq au vin, next could be chicken cacciatore, lemon and herb roasted, stir fried with veggies, pot pie or with dumplings, teriyaki, Jerk, etc.

              Try and revisit fish -- it is so delicious and quick to cook and good for you. Shop at a reputable place and ask their advice on which one to try. Explain your situation and they will want to steer you in the right direction.

              Good luck!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Terrie H.

                They are good with being able to provide pretty much anything but not all the time. For example, Christmas time they are pretty eager to get you anything you want...But the rest of the time it's hit or miss depending on what is available. It isn't a busy spot, and believe it or not most of the things they sell are frozen. If you request fresh they will have it for you fresh, but it's just that small of a town.

              2. Quickly sauteed haddock (you don't need much fat to do this) tastes like an omelet. Even has the texture, too. (Cod is good for fish cakes, but it can be downright chewy, and is not as sweet as haddock.)

                Don't overlook humble lowfat cottage cheese; some good versions come with as much as 16g of protein per 1/2 cup. Unlike other non-flesh protein options (except for pure egg whites), it's not burdened with much fat (like tofu) or carbs (like certain vegetable protein products). If you throw in a cup of cottage cheese with a cup of good marinara or similar tomato sauce and eat it as a tomato soup - or a cup of a tasty brothy soup - you can easily add high quality protein to the meal. Cottage cheese also is relatively inexpensive. You can use it in a variety of ways. (Think of it as a lower fat cousin of ricotta or paneer, if you need to get the imagination going.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Karl S

                  I'm not quite sure what it is about the fish that turns me off, as Salmon and haddock are quite different. Even if something smells fishy I get a little green around the gills (no pun intended!). However I can eat a smelt. I don't know why, considering most people won't touch them. I love smelts.

                  I love cottage cheese, and I make a great pasta with halved cherry tomatoes, cottage cheese, some basil... I can deal with "no meat" proteins, but my husband is a freakin' carnivore.

                  Today I made chicken pies. He felt cheated from his meat because he didn't get to have the satisfaction of cutting into it... Strange man, LOL