Help Me Eat Less Meat

We are both omnivores but we don’t eat a lot of animal products. Meat is often the most expensive ingredient in dinner and we were both raised by parents who were very frugal, so we never got used to eating a lot of meat.

We eat a lot of dishes that just don’t contain meat, like Thai and Indian curries and vegetarian nasi or mie goreng (Indonesian fried rice) and chili sin carne, burritos with beans etc. We also eat Dutch stamppot quite often in winter, which is mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables like boiled kale, boiled carrots, or raw salad greens like endive or purslane. Another oldschool Dutch winter dish is mashed potatoes with onions and apples (called hete bliksem) and we also eat vegetarian shepherd’s pie in winter. Those heavy, potato-based meals may be an acquired taste if you didn’t grow up eating them!

Growing up my mother often made veggie burgers - leftover vegetables shaped into the form of a patty and then fried, like they do in this recipe for carrot burgers: https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/jun/14/california-food-recipes-roast-carrot-burger-avocado-salsa--rainbow-bowl

My grandma was also the queen of stretching small amounts of meat. Her meatballs were at least 50% very finely chopped onions and breadcrumbs. Another famous Dutch dish is our meat stew, which is supposed to contain 50/50 veggies/meat but it can be stretched much further than that (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachee ) . If you want to go that way, I’ve got a whole book of wartime recipes that don’t use a lot of meat.

We don’t eat a lot of “veggie” meats because they’re high in salt but there are some on the market that taste so similar that you could serve them to meat-eaters without them noticing. I’m not sure if the Vegetarian Butcher brand is available in the US (I’m pretty sure it’s in the UK) but my sister served me some of their vegan tuna and I literally did not taste the difference. It may make the transition easier for meat-eaters. Their other fake meats are not exactly the same but come close. We occasionally eat “veggie” fried chicken (Valess crispy sticks, pretty sure that brand is Europe only) because we really feel it’s not ethical to eat real fried chicken from a fastfood outlet. We don’t eat factory farmed chicken. Valess is the brand that also produces all the veggie chicken for McDonald’s in my country, and very few people would taste the difference between a real McChicken and a veggie McChicken.

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Speaking of potatoes…I have plans to try home-made pierogies this week!

Thai and Indian are great options, but I have struggled to get the right flavors making them at home. Take out is just so much better…and I always get the veggie options for take-out.

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When I was first trying to work more vegetarian meals into my diet, I was still using Blue Apron. I made a plan to pick one of their vegetarian options each week, and really loved the things I tried. Their recipes are always full of fresh produce and are very flavorful, so it was easy to love them. I think so many of us omnivores expect vegetarian or vegan fare to be bland, and it can be if you’re not working to add in spices and flavors. Let’s face it, plain brown rice and boiled lentils aren’t all that flavorful. But stir frying that brown rice with a dash of sesame oil and fresh ginger, or flavoring those lentils with delicious Moroccan spices, changes everything.

I made jackfruit ‘pulled pork’ sandwiches, with a premade bbq jackfruit. I don’t remember the brand, but I got it from Imperfect Foods, which I’ve been subscribing to. They rescue less-than-pretty but perfectly good fruits and veggies, as well as other more commercial foods. If a pasta maker has changed their packaging, they often want to get rid of the pasta in the old boxes, so Imperfect scoops them up and offers them cheap. In addition to their rescued foods, they also offer a wide variety of meat & dairy alternatives that are not rescued, but might not be widely available in all grocery stores, at pretty good prices. Because of that price break I’m willing to try foods that I may or may not like. I tried No Evil’s faux Chorizo, and it was delicious cooked into a hash with sweet potatoes and kale. The texture was slightly softer than meat (which I liked), and the flavor profile was excellent.

They’ve also been making some of their own ‘upcycled’ foods, using things like the oats that are used to make oatmilk, that otherwise get thrown away, and turning them into vanilla oat cookies. My dog loves their Blueberried Treasure dog treats, with blueberry pulp leftover from juice.

Very valid. But I also think a lot of folks who are transitioning, go to substitutions not because they are looking for a direct meat replacement, but because they are the primary cook in their households, and are facing spouses/partners and kids who don’t want to try new things. And without a great few starter recipes, the response from those family members can send them right back to meat options. If Abbie makes 2 or 3 meals full of chickpeas and the husband, teen & toddlers all are uninterested, she’ll be back to making sloppy joes next week.

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I totally cheat for those and use curry paste from the Asian grocery store.

Abbie, I’m still an omnivore, but I do add in vegetarian and vegan options a lot. Part of my transition was when I became lactose intolerant. I had to cut out dairy, and it’s been so long, that I mostly don’t remember what milk tasted like. I now do a mix of real dairy and fake. I use Silk unsweetened cashew milk for my morning oatmeal, and in nearly everything I bake, and even things like mashed potatoes. Cabot aged cheddar is naturally lactose free, so I have that, and sometimes Lactaid cottage cheese, as an occasional treat. I use regular mozzarella (with Lactaid pills) when making pizza, but I’ve also cut way back on how much I use. On the rare occasion we order pizza, I order it with less cheese. Beyond those few ‘real’ dairy foods, I’ve tried just about every faux cheese and yogurt out there. Some I’ve loved, some have been terrible. Treeline nut cheese is AMAZING. It is a lot like Alouette soft French cheeses. It has that tang that is so often missing or wrong in faux cheese. Once we are post pandemic, I fully plan to serve it to omnivore friends without telling them it’s vegan because I swear they’ll never know. Miyoko’s faux butter and faux mozzarella are both very good.

I do love the Impossible Burgers, (significantly better than the Beyond Burgers). When I’m really craving a fantastic juicy burger, I make one with some of that Cabot cheddar, and homemade caramelized onions and a dash of dijon mustard. I get that satisfaction of a crazy rich indulgent restaurant burger, but in a much smaller scale. I don’t hate myself because I’m too full afterwards, and I don’t crave one again for about a month. And I’ll often pair one with either sweet potato wedges or carrot fries.

One of the things that might work out well for you is grain bowls. You can top them with so many things, meaning they’d be easy to customize between husband and kids, without you making several different meals in one night. I love farro or freekeh as a base. You boil them like rice, then drain and season with a dash of salt & pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Then top to your hearts content. Chickpeas roasted with ras el hanout, sliced radishes for a bit of bite, leftover spinach or kale, grated carrots marinated in rice vinegar, leftover roasted sweet potatoes. Top it with green onions, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and some lemon tahini dressing. If your fam is craving protein, a fried egg on top is also nice. The nice thing is that you can vary the seasonings, and greatly change the feel of the bowl. Use a bit of ginger and soy sauce, and saute some bok choy, and you’re formerly North African bowl is now an Asian inspired adventure. I’ll see if I can pull up some of my favorites for you.

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You are in my house, LOL.

Completely understand and agree. I started my vegan journey when I was single so it was definitely easier on that front. Omni-subs can be a good way to gently introduce others to non-omni foods, as long as the eater doesn’t go in expecting it to be the exact same, and then introducing more naturally vegan ingredients over time.

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One thing I forgot to mention is how insanely better omni-subs are now than they were when I went vegan. Back then the surest way to turn someone off from vegan foods was to feed them a sub :joy:

If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby they have lots of tasty vegan alternatives (beefless ground beef, chorizo sausages, cheeze, yogurt, cookies, crackers, etc).

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LOL…yes, I can attest to this as well. Back in the day, we went to a few vegan restaurants in the city with my BIL, and even those left much to be desired.

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Now I’m daydreaming about the vegetarian restaurant we went to in Asheville. That vegan key lime pie was to die for.

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OMG YES!

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Ok, here’s what I have at the top of my Pinterest boards and saved from Blue Apron that get used in regular rotation. I have a midwestern husband who was raised on meat & potatoes, but who is completely unafraid to try new things. Since he never complains about any tofu, jackfruit, or meat alternative I put in front of him, I in turn never make him eat mushrooms of asparagus which he hates. Mostly it all works out.

Shawarma Spiced Chickpea & Farro Bowls with Lemon Tahini Dressing - I made this last week, and flippin’ LOVED it. Jim practically licked the bowl. I didn’t get the box from Blue Apron, just took the recipe from their website, so I had to make up my own Shawarma spice blend, and I’m so glad I did. Really flavorful, but not hot, so it would probably go down well with the kids.

Zucchini Quesadillas - I made these because it fit what I had in the house to use up. Unexpectedly delicious. You get that soft filling/crispy exterior of the quesadilla, but with much less cheese, and extra veg. The zucchini just kinda melts into the background, and you forget it’s not all cheese. Tonight I’m making a variation; Acorn Squash Quesadillas.

Creamy Spinach Potato Baked Eggs - I know kids and spinach don’t always mix. But maybe if you rename it. Creamy Potatoes sounds more kid friendly. The eggs bake in the mix, but if someone doesn’t like a runny yoke egg, you can easily omit it for that person.

Okonomiyaki This one might be a push with the girls, but if you get it nice and crispy, it’s SOOOO good.

Farro with Blistered Tomatoes, Pesto & Spinach - I made this last week and it was awesome. The pesto gives the farro a lot of flavor, and the roasted tomatoes are bursting with brightness.

Roasted Tomato & White Bean Stew - This is now in my regular fall/winter rotation. You need to add some tomato paste to get that deep red color and true tomato flavor. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but several users shared the tip and it was spot on. Also, don’t skip the lemon zest & parsley sprinkled on top. It’s magical and changes the soup from pretty good to freakin’ great.

Tomato Risotto - I’m guessing even picky kids will like rice. I like to roast cherry tomatoes instead of adding them as directed, then when they’re all roasty and good, I stir them into the risotto. I also roast some thin sliced zucchini and put that on top. A fried egg is also good on this. And I know you’re asking for less meat, but also consider using tiny amounts of flavorful meats as a garnish. Like a little proscuitto, or a single slice of bacon chopped up and sprinkled on top. A fraction of a serving of traditional meat, but with a big flavor punch.

Sheet Pan Gnocci - I haven’t made this yet, but it’s on my list for next week. Little pillows of gnocci, all crispy on the outside. And you can easily swap out any of the veggies for ones the littles like more.

Chorizo & Sweet Potato Hash, or this alternate recipe, made with faux chorizo.

Grain Bowls: Pear & Snow Pea Grain Bowl, Mediterranean Chickpea Grain Bowl, Peach & Snap Pea Grain Bowl, Hearty Vegetable Grain Bowl with Apple & Avocado - Look around your kitchen and see what vegetables you need to use up, then google those + grain bowl. Someone out there has already put together a recipe for you using those things.

Moo Less Chocolate Pie - I know you’re mainly looking for meals rather than desserts, but this is a great recipe that can change the minds of those who are anti-tofu. In fact, I’ve served it to people who have declared they will ‘never ever ever’ try tofu, and watched as they went back for seconds. It’s creamy and delicious, and once someone already loves it, you can tell them they’ve just enjoyed tofu. It can come off as a little ‘dark chocolate’ intense, so if the kids aren’t there yet palette wise, you can sub milk chocolate chips (or vegan ‘milk chocolate style’ chips), and add a little more honey than called for.

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Yes! Thank you!

I wonder if Mr. Road would go for zucchini quesadillas? I hadn’t thought to substitute that there…he does not like zucchini, but used to eat zucchini cakes on occasion. I think the shredding really helped. I’m going to try it!

The tomato risotto would totally go down in my house - awesome. It’s so funny you mention bacon. I frequently have Mr. Road make some for himself to help with the veggie soups (e.g. potato, tomato, butternut). Spice and bacon are the 2 ways I get him to eat veggies currently. I prefer without the bacon, but love the spice.

I have yet to do gnocci. It can be really heavy. Maybe I just haven’t done it right. I will give it a shot.

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You might also be able to experiment with some of your existing recipes to find if the meat content is variable. Lots of stews, stir-frys, potpie (basically anything that’s meat and veg) the meat portion can be really cut down and you just toss in some extra veggies to make up for the missing meat and the recipe comes out pretty much unchanged. I really like to do this with chicken pot pie, I add in potatoes and extra of all the veggies from my existing recipe and you can cut the chicken down to like a cup or less for the whole dish.

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Yes, totally. This is a great idea. I especially like your suggestion of the chicken pot pie! You are also reminding me I made this Veggie Stir Fry not that long ago and it was really good and flavorful. I have to remember to keep it in rotation.

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TheMisterT has taken over all the cooking since sometime in Oct 2019 - and this is amazing, because he loves cooking and I hate cooking. He is good at it and I am… well, I can read a recipe. ANYWAY, he has increased our veg meals and gets a lot of yummy recipes from seriouseats.com and milkstreet.com (membership site). I think you can search by vegetarian and vegan.

While we are neither vegetarian nor vegan, we have made a decision to eat less meat over the last few years and I want to support the notion that trying to replace something animal based with something plant based is just asking to be frustrated. There are soooo many delicious vegetable dishes that aren’t just a version of an animal dish that there really isn’t a need to try to substitute one-to-one outside of placating someone in the household, of course.

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Yes, I love serious eats. My favorite halal street cart chicken recipe is from there. I will definitely search for their vegetarian recipes.

I totally get what everyone is saying about eating vegetable dishes vs substituting, but, actually, for my situation I feel the opposite is true. Trying to find vegetable recipes to please everyone has been super frustrating and has lead to failure in making this change in the past. Substituting has taken the pressure off to find something new everyone will love, but instead to take something I know everyone already eats and make it more veg friendly. I feel like any change I can make to support a move to a more plant-based diet is a positive step.

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It can be so hard to placate/satisfy everyone in the household! I am super lucky that TheMisterT and I have similar tastes - in our case, we both have very broad palettes and are pretty adventurous eaters.

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Any step you take absolutely IS a positive step. Don’t let anyone discourage you, based on their own preferences and situation. You do you boo.

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My partner and I have also been working on reducing how much meat we eat, but I don’t think we’ll ever go completely meat-free. We’ve enjoyed experimenting with meat-subs just due to a completely veg meal usually ending up less than filling. Our motivations are both for health and ethics, and I get the complexities of carbon-footprint either way but we’re just trying to do our best as we can right now.

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