Last week, my husband went out of town to visit friends in Greenville. This is the direct transcript of the conversation we had upon his return:
Scott: All the guys said that they are really enjoying your blog.
Me: Really? I’m so happy to hear that!
Scott: Yeah, they said they really liked your DIY snacks post.
Me: That’s great!
Scott: But they did have one complaint.
Me: (very concerned) Oh no, what’s that?
Scott: They want to know where’s the beef??
Okay guys, I hear you! This post is just for you! Now, if you’re expecting a recipe for a big, juicy grilled steak or braised shortribs well, maybe you’ll get one eventually. But not today. So sorry.
We eat very little meat and poultry, rarely more than twice a week. Despite the fact that we both grew up in big meat-eating families, it hasn’t been difficult to move towards a plant based pattern of eating. Sure, we crave a hamburger every once and awhile, so we’ll go out and get a hamburger. But since we both equally enjoy our vegetarian meals, neither of us have felt deprived.
There are many reasons to eat less meat, but I’ll save the prosthelytizing for another day. For this post, we’ll simply talk about how to cut back on meat without completely eliminating it. For many people, it can be harder to reduce rather than eliminate, especially with the “all-or-nothing” approach many have towards diet. For those who enjoy eating meat, it’s certainly possible to eat it in moderation and balance the ethical and health concerns associated with meat consumption.
Now, some tips on how to eat less meat without going meatless (check out that wordplay!):
1. Plan your meals around vegetables. Instead of saying, “I’m having chicken for dinner. What should I make for sides?” think “I’m having asparagus and mushrooms. How can I round out the meal?”
2. Prepare more mixed dishes. It is easy to stretch a portion of meat when it is cooked in a stew, soup, or pasta dish. For most recipes, you can cut the amount of meat in half while doubling up on the vegetables.
4. Make main dishes using eggs, such as omelets, frittatas, or eggs poached in tomato sauce. A 3-ounce portion of meat may seem paltry to many carnivores, but most are satisfied with a one or two egg meal.
5. Substitute beans for animal proteins. Beans are filling, nutritious, and manly enough to stand on their own without meat.
6. Purchase local, grass-fed meat. Forget about the ethical reasons for the time being, you’ll simply eat less if you spend a little more! Americans spend less on food than ever before, yet we are less healthy than ever before. Take the time to read Omnivore’s Dilemma – you won’t blink an eye at the higher prices after learning the work that goes into being a sustainable farmer.
7. When you do splurge on meat, enjoy a splurgeworthy cut. Since you are eating less meat, why waste it on bland boneless, skinless chicken breast?
8. Instead of purchasing 1 or 1 1/2 lbs of meat for a recipe, try to stretch 1/2 lb to serve four people, like in this recipe:
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 8 ounces grass-fed, organic ground beef
- ¼ tsp allspice
- 1½ cups medium-grain bulgur
- 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into half circles
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
- 1 cup chopped radish
- 2 scallions, thin sliced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and break it up with your spoon. Sprinkle the allspice over the beef and cook until it's no longer pink.
- Stir in the bulgur and cook until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Scatter the zucchini on top of the bulgur without stirring. Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt on top and pepper to taste.
- Cook uncovered until the bulgur is tender but not mushy, about 12-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes, scallions, mint, dill, radish, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice with 1 tbsp of olive oil and ¼ tsp salt and pepper to taste.
- Allow the bulgur to cool slightly in the refrigerator. Once cooled, toss with the tomato and herb salad.