After a trial month of vegetarian meals, we were undecided about continuing. However, there were a few recipes we didn’t get to try in June, and a few old favourites I wanted to make again. I thought they’d probably tide us over until July 15.
Lo and behold, we’ve completed another vegetarian month. I’m not going to claim total triumph though, because we allowed ourselves the same exception as last month: we would eat what was served to us at other people’s homes. So we had meat with three meals during the month. However, Rom and I both found we weren’t looking forward to it, and we were happy to return to our own home-cooked veggie meals the next day. So I am calling our strategy “Vegetarian at Home.” And at work. And at restaurants.
I set myself two other arbitrary rules:
- No supplements – all nutrients have to come from food
- No meat substitutes (such as tofu hot dogs) – to help us get over the concept that a meal has to be based around a chunk of protein
We struggled the first month because one of our main cookbooks focused on vegetable dishes. Imagine that you were going to make Green Beans Amandine. Crisp fresh green beans gently steamed, then tossed with slivered almonds sauteed in butter – yum! But is it a meal? Even a generous serving with a side of brown rice still doesn’t feel like a main course. We have had lots of meals like this, and haven’t found them satisfying.
Rom and I each choose 3 or 4 new recipes for our monthly meal plan. We have different strategies. Rom says he usually can’t look at a recipe and imagine how it will taste, but he will choose things for the sake of being experimental. I am trying to steer us away from “glazed carrots” or “braised cauliflower” as a meal, and toward hearty one-dish casseroles and stews. There have been some surprises: I didn’t think Rom’s bulgur-and-cabbage pilaf would be very inspiring, but it was good! On the other hand, I made a “tortilla lasagna” and it was a sopping mess.
Some successes were:
- Macaroni with roasted red peppers and goat cheese
- Mung beans with rice and dried apricots
- Skillet vegetable stew AKA ratatouille with potatoes
- Tomato quinoa stew with peanut butter
- Stuffed peppers with lentils and rice
Earlier this month, a friendly library customer was trying to offload some garlic scapes, so I took some home and have been adding them to stir fries and scrambled eggs all month. I will hate to run out!
I figured out how much I’ve been relying on dairy for protein. I average one cup of milk a day (for cereal and coffee), one cup of yogurt a day, and 4 ounces of cheese a week. I also eat about an ounce of nuts most days. With that factored in, I am getting 12% of calories from protein. I only got 15% of calories from protein when I was eating meat. I am not concerned about the difference. The RDA for protein is actually quite low, only 46-56 grams a day, and I always greatly exceed that whether I eat meat or not.
On the other hand, there is no way I would get enough iron without eating fortified breakfast cereal.
Here’s a typical day’s meals:
- Breakfast at home: Large bowl of spoon-sized shredded wheat with milk
- Second breakfast at work: Pumpkin raisin muffin and an orange
- Lunch at work: Large salad with romaine, goat cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries and mandarin oranges; two slices whole-wheat toast, yogurt with blueberries
- Snacks at work: 2 apples (I am addicted to apples), an ounce of almonds, a lollipop
- Dinner: Large serving of casserole or stew, usually grains, beans and vegetables (see above “successes”)
So this is starting to feel completely normal now, and we’ve decided to keep going on the same path until or unless we feel differently!
Any advice would be welcome because I’m still new at this.