Our first week of vegetarian experimentation came to a close when I unconsciously popped a piece of spicy Genoa salami in my mouth on Friday night as I prepared an antipasti plate for a friend’s baby shower. I say ‘first week’ because my husband, unbelievably, has agreed to a second week. He claims he’s able to detect any physical changes to his body almost immediately, but I’m definitely not that in tune to my body’s subtle inner workings to know if a plant-based diet is doing anything for me within five days, hence the extra week.
So far, though, I’ve noticed I have a lot more energy. Maybe it’s pure coincidence, but for two days in a row I didn’t have an afternoon nap when the boys went down for theirs. That’s utterly unheard of for me, since I barely function without that sleep. I also felt a tremendous sense of personal satisfaction, as if I’m finally taking action on something that’s been bugging me for a while. I always believed I should be cutting back on meat consumption but shrugged it off as something I could never do. In my mind, it wasn’t realistic, wasn’t possible. But now that we’ve actually managed to do it for a week (I know, it’s hardly any time at all!), I feel powerful and liberated and excited. Both Jason and I missed meat, but my cravings lessened as the week went by. Alas, his did not.
One thing that’s become apparent is that my vegetarian cooking skills will need to improve if weekday vegetarianism is something we choose to pursue long-term. The menu plan lacked the flavour that our meals usually have. There are more leftover containers of food in the fridge than usual and my poor kids were so unimpressed by the eggplant-mushroom stew served over bulgur pilaf that they actually refused to eat lunch one day. OK, point taken — I’ll have to put in a bit more forethought! Here’s what we ate:
1. Melting Corn and Cheese Quesadillas — see recipe here
2. Felafel in whole-wheat pita with tahini sauce and tomato-lime salsa
These were super yummy, though a royal pain in the butt to make because my blender is utterly useless. If I had a decent food processor, though, these could be whipped up in five minutes. Interestingly, the recipe uses chickpeas that are soaked overnight but not cooked before grinding. I was unsure how they’d turn out, but apparently it gives them better texture.
3. Green beans, potatoes, and spinach in coconut curry served over brown rice
I am in love with this curry. It is so good that I could eat it daily. There’s something about the intense flavours of Indian food that renders meat pointless. Vegetables can carry the show entirely on their own. See recipe here.
4. Hungarian Eggplant-Mushroom served over bulgur pilaf
A Moosewood Restaurant recipe, I had high hopes for this dish but was disappointed. So was the rest of the family, and that’s why there are piles of leftovers in the fridge right now that no one wants to touch! Bulgur is best kept to tabbouleh, I’ve concluded.
5. Lentil-fennel salad, cream of asparagus soup, bread and chèvre
Since it’s asparagus season, we’ve been eating as much of it as possible. The boys love my asparagus soup, which is very easy and delicious: Trim 1 lb aspargus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Sauté briefly with some minced garlic and butter, add vegetable stock just to cover, simmer until soft, then purée and add cream/milk.
6. Pad Thai with tofu
Again, there’s something about Asian flavours that masks the need for meat. Jason panfried the tofu ahead of time, so it had a crispy outer coating that made it extra tasty. We also used pureed canned tomatoes in place of the usual ketchup in the sauce, and it was much better.