So, the husband and I survived my Meatless Month experiment, and, I think he’ll agree, it went much better than expected. I want to offer up some thoughts, and, of course, focus on some of the successes (including the recipes that really worked!).
- First — and surprisingly — I didn’t miss eating meat. I’ve always identified as a carnivore, so I expected some pushback from my taste buds. They were surprisingly cool with the lack of meat on the plate. For work reasons, I had to go to Australia — a place known for great steaks — during this project, and I (mostly) kept up my part of the deal. More on this in a moment.
- Second, my weekend food prep schedule acquired an additional two hours. It’s easy for me to throw something meaty on the grill or stove. It took more time and effort to prepare my meatless dishes. However, doing the basic food prep on Sunday made it *much* easier to get meals on the table during the week. Most of the prep involved the chopping, roasting, and set-up that I really enjoy…chopping onions is a form of meditation. Okay, a meditation that sometimes leaves me in tears, but that’s okay.
- Third, we ended up eating up far more on the vegan side of the spectrum than I expected. Granted, I’ve greatly reduced my intake of dairy since my gall bladder surgery. Generally, the biggest animal-based product I cooked / ate were eggs. I love my eggs, and I’m not sure — if I were to take this a step further and do a vegan challenge — how I would replace them, especially in the morning.
- Fourth, giving up meat for a month (mostly) didn’t impact my race training or an actual race. In fact, I set a personal record for a half marathon (losing the household record to, sigh, my husband by nine minutes). I carefully managed my protein intake to ensure I didn’t have issues; protein is something that I work hard to eat. Listening to Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run — he’s a vegan who runs ultramarathons — helped with my mindset.
- Fifth, the challenge rules were simple: all meals I cooked had to be vegetarian, and only one meal could be pasta based. The husband could cook meat, and we were not restricted when dining out. That being said, most of my meals *were* vegetarian. Happily, our local Mexican restaurant introduced a vegetarian egg and nopales (cactus) dish. It’s really good! When I didn’t eat vegetarian, like when traveling, I went with sustainable fish, chicken (once), and, okay, on my final night in Australia, I had a steak. It was good, but not as good as I expected after month of abstinence.
- Finally (or sixth), I decided to extend my “cook only vegetarian” experiment another month. So I *did* spend the afternoon chopping, prepping, and roasting to get a head start on this week’s meals. I think this part will become more streamlined as I rethink how I feed my family.
The recipes that rocked:
- Nutty Carrot Flatbread. The nutty part of this flatbread is very flexible, while the carrots are delicious. Play with ingredients and seasonings to make this recipe your own. We received tiny packets of hemp seeds at the end of our race, and will be incorporating them into the next batch of this bread we make. Hemp seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
- Spinach and Chickpea Crustless Quiche. I was surprised by this recipe. I went into the kitchen thinking I had a failure on my hands, yet it was very tasty. The only things I’d change are to *really* amp up the seasonings, and to let the dish cook longer. It set okay, but another five to ten minutes would have been ideal.
- Harissa White Bean Stew with Turmeric Yogurt. Good the first night. Good for lunch all week. Good, good, good.
- Spaghetti Squash Pizza Crust. The hardest part of this recipe involved squeezing the liquid out of the squash. Turns out spaghetti squash contains *a lot* of water. Once I got the squash fairly dry, it baked perfectly. One suggestion (from the husband): chop the squash into smaller pieces before forming the crust. It will be less obviously spaghetti squash, or, as he put it, “weird”.
- Chickpea Omelette. I had this for breakfast at my hotel in Sydney, and, despite the fact that it was HUGE, ate the whole thing. As near as I can tell, the omelette was a mix of egg and chickpea flour. That was topped with corn and avocado and a fresh arugula. I couldn’t find a similar recipe on the internet, but have found more than a few omelette recipes using flour, so will be playing with this concept. Pity the poor husband.
This was a good eating month, and I’m really happy I did this challenge. Not only did I push myself out of my comfort zone, but I discovered some great new recipes for my regular repertoire. The fact that I opted to continue the experiment says a lot about my evolving relationship with various foods. I feel great, and, bonus!, totally increased my consumption of apples (this was a bonus).
Tip of the Week
Most of the vegetable-based pizza crust recipes I’ve encountered overdo the eggs to be used as a binder. I tend to cut the suggested amount in half, then increase if the mixture seems to need more. It rarely does.
Gluten-Free Meal of the Week
I’ve returned the spaghetti squash pizza recipe more than a few times. It’s truly satisfying, while not making me feel heavy. The crust bakes nicely, and the neutral, though a bit sweet, flavor of the spaghetti squash pairs nicely with all sorts of topping (hello pesto!). If you prep your squash on the weekend, this pizza can be on the table really fast.