Taylor is a Veggiesaurus (that's Keith-speak for vegetarian). She stopped eating meat this past summer, saying it was only temporary, but it looks like she's going to try to stick to it.
The rest of us are definitely omnivores. We eat a ton of veggies, but they're almost always balanced out with a healthy dose of lean meat. As you know, we don't eat a lot of starches. Dinner at our house is often sans bread, potatoes, pasta or rice. We have whole grain rice or pasta once in a while with our dinner, but for the most part, it's protein and veggies for us.
Taylor seems to be having no trouble at all finding things to eat, but for dinner here, she'll often just skip the meat and eat the salad and sides. This is fine once in a while, but I want to make sure she's getting enough protein, iron and other vital nutrients in her diet. It wasn't so hard in the summer. If we were grilling, Taylor and I would whip up a couple black bean burgers to throw on the grill with our chicken.
But I need to get more creative now. I mean, really, how many black beans can one person eat? This is tough for me, as I've never had to think meatless before. My Italian recipes like spaghetti and pizza are still great without the meat and my made-over Eggplant Parmesan is vegetarian and wonderful. Taylor loves the broccoli soup, but she seems to have taken after her father with the "recent leftovers" aversion -- I guess only I can eat the same thing at each meal for 3 days straight and be ok with it.
Beyond these few recipes, I'm stuck. About a week ago, though, the light bulb came on. What better way to think outside of the box than to actually live outside of the box. I'm going to be a Veggiesaurus, too!
Last Saturday, I decided I was going to start living a vegetarian lifestyle. I had visions of whipping up delightful and impressive dinner-party-worthy meatless masterpieces. Taylor was going to come back next weekend to an array of the most amazing -- and svelte! -- Veggiesaurus fare. This can't be too difficult.
Day 1 dinner: Cereal
Day 2 lunch: Vegetable soup....from a can (gasp!)
Day 2 dinner: Eggs
OK, this is harder than I thought. I didn't plan ahead at all. And I realized that I have a major fear of all the starchy foods that I assume are going to make me fat. But in order for this to work and provide the health punch I'm looking for, I'm going to have to embrace more whole grains. I just have to.
Here goes. This is more like it. Braised baby artichokes with garlic and lemon over basmati rice (which is similar to brown rice on the glycemic index). Yum! But really, yuck. The artichokes were so bitter, and I still haven't figured out why. I had to throw them away. I do other veggies like this and they turn out fine. For now, I'm blaming the produce. At any rate, Day 3 dinner: Basmati rice....with yogurt salad dressing.
OK, I'm starting to panic. Get it together! This cannot be that difficult.
So I took stock of the flavors that I love. Calamata olives. Strong cheeses. Mushrooms. Tomatoes. All of these umami-rich foods that are meatless. I realized that in my favorite recipes, it's not the chicken or beef that I love...it's the flavors that complement them.
Day 4 lunch: Amazing spinach salad with feta, pumpkin seeds, raisins and raspberry vinaigrette
Day 4 dinner: Spinach and goat cheese frittata
A frittata is basically an open-faced omelet. A couple eggs are beaten with a little milk and folded with some spinach and goat cheese, cooked on the stove until the bottom is set and then finished for a minute or two under the broiler. YUM. This one skyrocketed right to the top of my favorites list, and I even ordered something similar when Keith and I were out to lunch this weekend. So delicious, full of flavor, and meatless! (I know it's not vegan with the eggs, cheese and milk, but I'm just not ready for that yet. Life without cheese would break my heart, I think. I'll cross that bridge when another loved one goes vegan!)
But still, it's eggs for dinner. Geesh, no wonder Taylor is always eating cereal, waffles and French toast -- breakfast for dinner is so easy and good! But this is never going to fly with Keith, who happened to be traveling last week. The Svelte Gourmet's husband simply cannot eat cereal for dinner!
So what has enough substance to hold its own as a main course? The point of this experiment isn't to go down the path (or grocery aisle) of soy-derived meat substitutes (though I'm sure they're quite good). The idea is to find foods that my family will eat while still providing our Veggiesaurus with the nutrition she needs.
One of Taylor's favorite foods is beef stroganoff. And though she was partial to the kind in the box (ack!), we made it from scratch once and she loved it. It wasn't the beef that took center stage, it was the rich and wonderful flavors in the sauce that made this dish special.
This week, I made a version of mushroom stroganoff that meets all my objectives. It's meatless. It's svelte. It's a filling main course. It's delicious.
Stroganoff has a flavor profile that makes it the perfect comfort food. This isn't one of those meals that will hit you like a ton of bricks with a bold flavor explosion. Instead, it tastes like cozy. It's a curl-up-in-your-college-sweatshirt-and-fuzzy-socks kind of meal.
Even better than tasty comfort food is healthy comfort food! This recipe makes about 10 cups, so you can eat 1 2/3 cups for about 300 calories or 1 1/4 cups for 230 calories. Pair this with some broccoli or green beans and a side salad, and you have a perfectly healthy dinner under 500 calories.
"Tastes Like Cozy" Mushroom Stroganoff
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
32 ounces mushrooms of your choice
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional, as Worcestershire is most often made with anchovies. Wizard's Organic Sauces makes a vegan version)
2 tsp flour
1 cup light sour cream
12 oz whole wheat wide egg noodles
1/2 tsp dill weed
Heat salted water to a boil and cook noodles until al dente. In the meantime, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Cook onions until slightly soft, then add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release some of their water. Add flour, stirring well to combine, then add white wine (I use whatever I have on hand, usually Chardonnay), salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire. Cook on medium until liquid reduces and begins to thicken and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and dill. Add hot, cooked noodles and stir gently so sauce coats noodles.
This dish is quick and easy, and even tastes great reheated for lunch! I don't plan on being a Veggiesaurus for long, but I have learned a few things this week. My body is functioning fine, if not better, than before. I have a ton of energy. I haven't craved meat. I got over my fear of eating more starches and grains -- partly because I realized that subtracting the calories from the meat means you can eat more of the other things! I'm eating more fiber. I know I can cook for Taylor and not have to make a different dinner for the rest of us. Victory!
Stay tuned for more meatless recipes, but in the meantime...
The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!