Monday, March 30, 2009

One month of Meatless Meals

Bleatings from EnviRambo.

Four weeks in to giving up meat for Lent and we are faring surprisingly well. The one I thought would have the most trouble with this challenge oddly enough has been the most chaste. Hubby has only eaten meat out twice in the past month, which under our original guidelines is totally acceptable. We are allowed to eat meat while out and use what we already had on hand at home, but no new meat was to be brought into the house. Miss M. has had meat with school lunches and while at her mother's house and I have indulged sparingly during business meetings. The two of us together experienced total meat overload during a menu tasting for an upcoming event I am planning. Although she was honestly more interested in the dessert course than any meat that passed her way. We brought home several selections of chocolate decadent cake, chocolate ribbon cheesecake, and sinful seven chocolate torte, but the meat stayed on the table. And so, we have stayed true to our goal. No new meat has entered our home or stomaches while within it.

I would like to say that this void in the grocery list has saved us money, but instead of cutting one ingredient I have replaced it with no less than three. Our weekly grocery bills seemed to jump from $80.00 per week to $120.00! Huh? We have replaced the meat in our meals with vegetable protein strips, along with bulking up on vegetables. Prior meals consisted of one meat, vegetable and a starch. Now we are eating 3 to 5 vegetables per meal, plus a salad. A lot more of it being fresh than frozen. During the summer months when we could eat out of our own garden this would not be an issue. I can see many economic benefits as well as environmental relief to this lifestyle.

The most noticeable change, other than the lack of meat, has been the explosion of color on our plates. The vivid variety of vegetables sure makes cooking a treat for the eyes! I have enjoyed this most of our meatless meals. It has allowed me step beyond our usual menu and experience cuisine outside our comfort zone. Happily most expansions have been successful and will be welcome back after Lent. We have been going through carrots like crazy, peppers have popped up a few times, and teriyaki made its first appearance to be followed by several more. I have even made use of the wok that has been haunting the back of our cupboard since getting married three years ago!

The "chicken" smart strips have been by far our favorite and are most likely here to stay. The veggie "meatballs" were okay, but disintegrated in the sauce. Textured vegetable protein "meat crumbles" fooled even our pickiest eater under the guise of tater tot casserole. So far, Tofurky is the only thing that has not fared well. With the surge of warm weather two weeks ago the smell of charcoal, lighter fluid, and flame broiled burgers lured us into breaking out the grill. Brats and hot dogs, er, Tofurky beer brats and Tofu pups - not quite the same thing. Admittedly, we did not read the directions before throwing them on the flame, but they were dry and a texture I cannot explain. I missed the "snap" that can only come from meat encased in animal intestine. Gross, but oh so good. We summed that with the addition of sauce, perhaps they would be better. Not so. Tried italian "sausage" Tofurky in sauce with penne last night and it was just as dry. The tofu pups were better, but had an overly smoky flavor about them. I do not think either one will make its way into my shopping cart again.

Rather than leave you with a bad taste in my mouth, I must say that overall March's meatless meals have been a success and generally tasty. Giving up meat for Lent has been a gateway to culinary curiosity. The family seems more willing to try new things, whatever the outcome may be. The next few weeks will bring forth sprouts, veggie burgers, and some odd looking vegetables I have been eyeing in the ethnic produce, but have no idea what to do with!


JessTrev said...

Ooh, I do love the color of those peppers! I've been cooking much more vegetarian food lately too, thanks for the tips. Marinated tofu chunks (firm) on skewers and tempeh both stand up to the grill pretty well. Will the Easter Bunny be leaving venison jerky in your baskets?! ;)

Electronic Goose said...

Good to hear you're doing well! I recommend making your own alternatives to meat, as many of those faux meats in the supermarket are 1) expensive and 2) have a ton of preservatives.

Theresa said...

Good for you for going veggie for the month! When I became vegetarian about 3 years ago, I was surprised at how easy it was to forgo meat. I agree that some of the meat substitutes are better that others - for instance, an Yves Veggie Dog is quite satisfying on a bun with ketchup, mustard and relish. But making 'beef' strogonoff with the 'steak' strips didn't work out so well. I have found that textured veggie protein (TVP) works well in soups and stays chewy firm even upon re-heating.

Happy Easter!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Glad to hear the veggie experiment went well! If you plan to stick with it, you might consider trying more bean-based dishes. Much cheaper than the fake meats, and super quick and easy. Burritos, tostadas, nachos, yum, yum. Morningstar Farms also makes some super delicious corndogs. Fake hotdogs are gross (like eating a tire), but when they make it into a corndog, it turns out great.

Chile said...

Why not try designing some meals without the substitutes either? Bean burritos, for example, are great and don't need meat or a substitute. Just add rice, salsa, lettuce and tomatoes for a meal.

For the substitutes, though, I'd recommend Trader Joe's soy chorizo - good flavor, good texture. I also prefer Nate's Neatballs over Trader Joe's meatless meatballs.

Natural food stores sell Gimme Lean hamburger and sausage substitutes in the deli case in tubes that look like Jimmy Dean sausage. You can use those to make really good burgers and you can find a recipe for meat(less) balls on my blog's recipe index using them.

For burgers, I combine both flavors, shredded/minced vegetables, and a little bit of rolled oats soaked in water. Outstanding when grilled.

Di Hickman said...

Didn't like the strips so much, and the beer brats are ok but the sundried tomato tofurkey sausages are better.
Been veggie for almost 20 years :)

Green Me Alison said...

I've been loving the recipes at VeganDad (just google him) for several months now. His chickpea patties and vegan mac and cheeze are awesome and have become weekly additions to our menu.

These days I consider myself a flexitarian, but I was veg for 12 years. During which I avoided most fake meat products, finding it was more satisfying to eat meals filled with a variety of proteins. Needless to say I've had great success converting my husband with various Quorn products. The chick'n tenders absorb teryaki and others sauces superbly for stir fries, the cutlets do well in "chicken Parmesan" type meals and their turkey loaf slices up great for sandwiches!

Thanks for sharing your experience (I've got many semi vegi recipes on my site, but really do check out vegan dad!)

Going Green Mama said...

I agree with Chile - meatless meals don't have to be veggie replacement or tofu based. There are many great bean dishes our there, and there are pasta with protein as well.

I'm impressed you've kept it going this long - what an inspiration!

Beany said...

If you do want to stick with the fake meats, I'd suggest making your own as well. The taste is incomparable!

Seraphim said...

Oh how interesting - I wish I'd known about this before. I think this is the first time I have been to this blog though, so unfortunately I didn't!

Kind of strange as I just finished a post about how little meat I eat anyway.

I do have a bit of a phobia of 'fake meat' though... I think i'll just stick to my veggies ;)

A nice blog, I will be back!

Elizabeth said...

Do try a variety of meatless products, some are better than others, or better for other tasks.

For meatballs/loaf I use Gimmie lean (in the refrig section, usually near the produce). It comes in a little roll and is stickier and wetter, better for mixing with crumbs, etc. I usually pre-fry the meatballs a little

For items with saute'ed meat, like chili, or probably your stroganof, I recommend buying grillers prime burgers and mincing them up.

Morning star chicken strips are tasty.


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