Becoming vegetarian (but only halfheartedly)

Matt and I decided to become halfhearted vegetarians this summer.

We’re saving the meat consumption for weekends and special occasions only. We decided to make this big lifestyle change for our health and peace of mind, and we wanted to ease into it. Also, I wasn’t sure if our budget or my usual recipes could handle a drastic switch.

The health reasons behind our thinking are obvious — eating a lot of meat is fattening and makes us feel bloated and heavy after we eat, which is gross. Our bodies are designed to take excess protein and turn it into fat. Plus, certain meats like beef can be pretty high in fat already.

Instead of consuming a lot of protein from meat, we plan to consume the amount of protein our bodies need from other sources like legumes (this plant family includes beans). Doing so will provide our bodies with much leaner protein as well as other nutrients.

The peace of mind reasons behind our thinking are less obvious, I think.

If you’ve ever seen the documentary Food Inc, you already know what I mean. If you haven’t, then go watch it! It will change your thinking (I hope) about food, and the way our food is processed in the system we have established for it.

Almost all the meat at the grocery store scares me. Who knows what kind of chemicals and questionable practices went into preparing it for me so that I could conveniently pluck it out of the refrigerated bins. If you think food is safe because of regulations or whatever else, I beg you to look into it a little more.

I would have stopped eating meat entirely if it weren’t for my parents who have a ranch. They provide all of the beef Matt and I can fit in our freezer, and I know exactly how the cattle have been raised and what they’ve been given. My dad also uses the local butcher in town, not some massive meat-processing factory.

That still doesn’t make it healthy, though. So, no more will I say, “Off with its head! I’ll take 5 packages of ground beef and a couple t-bone steaks. Thanks, dad.”

I’m not sure my parents understand. I keep telling them about our movement to become occasional meat eaters with little success. The concept hasn’t solidified in their minds. They live a world where vegetarians (much less vegans) are foreign.

Whereas, I now live in a city in a place where vegans seem to be comfortable. I mean, it doesn’t seem like a hardship at all. There are plenty of places around here that cater to both vegetarians and vegans.

I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised.

I’m also pretty happy with the fare I’ve been able to put on the table for Matt. I think he’s enjoyed it as well. I made vegetable kebobs for dinner tonight that left me feeling satisfied but not like I was 7 months pregnant with an ornery food baby.

For anyone interested, here is the recipe. I made it up as I went and it turned out well.

Tina's Veggie Kebobs (about halfway done)

Tina’s Vegetable Kebobs

— 2 large russet potatoes (or a couple smaller potatoes of any kind)
— a handful of banana peppers (or aprox. 2 bell peppers of any color)
— 2 medium onions (any color will do)
— 2 medium zucchinis (or squash would work too)
— Weber’s Veggie Grill seasoning (or your own mixture of salt, garlic powder, sugar, paprika, chili pepper, rosemary, etc.)
— half a lemon
— a couple tablespoons of butter
— lots of olive oil for cooking
— 5 or 6 bamboo skewers

— grill pan and a dish to bake in the oven (or you could put it on an actual grill if that’s your thing)

Chop the vegetables into about the same size so they will cook at the same rate. Mine were roughly 1 inch to 1.5 inches long and maybe 0.5 inches thick. This way, you can fit a lot of veggies on the bamboo skewers. The onions I cut in half and then fourths so that I ended up with 8 pieces from one onion. The peppers won’t be the same depth but they taste pretty good with a little more charred flavor.

Then start putting veggies on the skewers, alternating them. I put at least two onions on each kebob because of the flavor it gives the other vegetables. Also, be sure to pass the skewer through each layer of onion so that it stays on well.

Heat up the grill pan to medium-high heat and drizzle olive oil in the pan liberally. Add the skewers but be careful because it will sizzle and pop. Depending on the size of your grill pan, it might be a tight squeeze to get them all in but the vegetables will eventually shrink a little bit and it won’t be so snug. If the skewers are too long, use some shears (or in my case, Matt’s Leatherman multi-tool) to snip the ends off.

Allow everything to sizzle for a while and occasionally lift a skewer to check and see if it’s getting a nice browning. The idea is to char it a little bit but not burn it. You can put a lid on it to help keep the splatters to a minimum and to help cook the veggies all the way through. (My grill pan doesn’t have a lid but I improvise with a large round one from another pot.)

Pre-heat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Turn the skewers until you’ve got a pretty good lookin’ kebob. During this process, keep drizzling the kebobs with olive oil. I reapplied maybe two or three times during the whole thing. Twice you will want to coat each of the kebobs with a shake or two of seasoning. I didn’t season mine heavily but a couple dashes helps to greatly enhance the flavor. And sometime during this, squeeze lemon over the whole thing. It’ll sizzle and pop, so watch out. And toward the end, add slices of butter on top in a couple places.

Once it looks done, transfer it to the oven pan (I used a glass dish) and continue cooking in the oven. This is to allow the potatoes to soften. I cooked mine for an additional 20 minutes, but yours might need more. Check it to see.

Serve by itself (for fewer carbs) or with rice or toasted flat bread. Hummus and flat bread that’s been toasted in the drippings of the grill pan is a wonderful choice, although not super healthy since the bread soaks up lots of the olive oil and butter remains.

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