We celebrated the end of our Meatless May experiment with cheeseburgers and fries! But in all honesty, it wasn’t totally meatless either, we also had a mid-month secret shawarma night.
I have to say that I did not miss meat all that much. We normally have a few meatless meals during any given week anyway, so it wasn’t a huge drastic change. And, with just a few adaptations — most of which involved substituting mushrooms for meat — my standard “go-to” recipes didn’t change.
I did have the chance to create a few new dishes from scratch that turned out to be rather good.
The first was a homemade falafel. I had an idea of the basic ingredient list and just winged it. That happens a lot in my kitchen, ingredients get tossed together in amounts that “look good” and we basically go from there. This time I lucked out and came up with something very yummy. I don’t have a food processor but found that the pestle from my countertop mortar/pestle set and the colander with the narrow slits worked great for mashing chickpeas. So I used about 5 oz of chickpeas (half a can rinsed in the colander before I mashed them), a handful of homemade breadcrumbs that are pre-seasoned (garlic salt, parsley and grated parmesan cheese), about 1/2 a handful of diced hot green chili peppers and an egg. When it’s all squished together and shaped into small patties (roughly the size of a dollar coin) and quickly pan-fried (about a minute on each side) make a very tasty falafel-ish patty. Then I warmed tortillas, added a bed of chopped lettuce, topped that with four falafel patties and then drizzled on a spicy mayo (a tablespoon of mayo and a teaspoon of that red rooster hot chili sauce). Turned out pretty yummy.
The second recipe that came out was actually a salad dressing, an orange-ginger-sesame tasting one. I used about 1/2 cup of brown sugar (here in France it’s crystalized like white sugar, but tastes very similar to the brown cane sugar in the US), the juice from 1/2 an orange, a tsp of grated ginger, a tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of sweet Thai chili sauce and boiled it all together until the sugar was melted and it because syrupy. Then as it cooled I added about 3 Tbsp of toasted sesame seeds. Worked great as a salad dressing, but I can’t wait to try it as a marinade for shrimp!
I also came up with a strawberry balsamic dressing that turned out pretty good. I used 2 tsp balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons-ish of strawberry jam, threw in a clove of chopped garlic and roughly 1/2 cup of olive oil put everything in a jar and shook it to mix. Turned out pretty good as well.
I think my favorite dish was the peanut butter sauce for pasta. It was so simple to make and tasted so good that we had it quite a few times while I perfected the flavor a bit. I used about 1/2 cup of peanut butter, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup sweet Thai chili sauce, 1 Tbsp of that red rooster hot chili sauce and a ladle full of the pasta water when the pasta was done cooking. I tossed the cooked spaghetti with the peanut sauce and added in some sauteed mushrooms, raw green hot chili pepper that I diced super fine and some raw carrots that were julienned. Turned out to be a new family favorite. Even the dog likes this sauce.
So basically, we didn’t starve or eat just salads for a month. Early in the month I messed up and didn’t balance proteins at a couple of meals. I got pretty shaky and was kinda wobbly. But once I started adding nuts or beans to nearly every dish that problem was self-correcting.
Overall I felt better than I had for the first few months of the year. I really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with new things to make. We got rather adventurous with the vendors at the Saturday market and picked up things we had never seen before to try in different meals. Some were okay, some were disgusting, a few were things we’d heard of but had never cooked with before and have become new favorites, like the bettes which I think is a type of chard. It tastes like kale but is even easier to cook and tastes good raw as well. The spinach from Spain is a current favorite. It’s so good I just love it in everything — even tried it in falafel the other night, turned out pretty good!
Alan dropped even more weight, I think I actually gained weight — go figure! Probably the most interesting side effect was the fact that I lost all cravings for my carb-y snacks was able to leave the soda behind as well.
We talked about it one night and the thing I missed most was my grilled goat cheese and tuna sandwiches. Alan really missed the duck pizza from the pizza kiosk guy around the corner — that guy makes wickedly delicious pizza. Alan prefers the duck, I like the smoked salmon and goat cheese.
I doubt either of us would switch to a completely vegetarian diet, but I think both of us can cut back on the animal proteins and not feel deprived. This year is dedicated to healthy changes and I think that switching to a primarily vegetarian or pescetarian diet would definitely be a healthy change.