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20-02-2010
  46
101st monkey airborne
 
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I enjoy making vegetarian curries/dal with red lentils (no soaking required). Also cholay/chickpeas (gotta soak them). I lived at a ashram a few months and learned how to work the sattvic/ayurvedic Indian spices (no garlic, onion, mushrooms), but it's tastier with some onion/garlic. You can use asafoetida/hing, too, but the stink of that puts garlic to shame. Almost impossible to store it in your kitchen without the whole pantry reeking of it.

I can't quite make a masala with all separate ingredients, I tend to toast some cumin/mustard seed and add it with a premixed curry powder. If I want it spicier, I'll add some whole dried red chili. Curry leaves, if you can get them fresh, are nice. Fry up your spices in oil or ghee, add it to your dal or cholay which you've cooked (add no salt until your pulse/beans are thoroughly cooked, they won't soften up, otherwise). Coconut milk is nice, sweet addition, too, or dried shredded coconut meat. Dal is nice with fresh tomato and cilantro.

Miso soup: it took me ages to figure out you either need dashi powder or make your own bonito/kombu/shiitake/scallion stock to make it really tasty. Just miso and water is dull-tasting. Bonito is dried fish flake, so it's not vegetarian, then, of course. Dashi powder is quick, but it tends to be MSG-laden, unlike making your own stock. I like it Japanese-style with wakame and tofu.

I make a big pot of short-grain brown rice in my cooker--mixing beans/pulses/soy with rice is a complete protein. Nutritional yeast is good, and tasty, too.

I'm still not completely vegetarian, but my digestion surely improves when I lay off greasy/fatty/fried/red meaty meals. It's also incredibly cheap to buy a sack of chickpeas and brown rice and some spices, it makes splurging on fresh organic produce less costly, too.

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20-02-2010
  47
Power to the 99%
 
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^ I am trying to imagine months without garlic or onions I suppose one can get used to anything As it is, my every cooking venture begins with onions.

Btw, on the salt and beans thing, it works to 'brine' your beans before cooking, the ones that need to be soaked. I put the beans in a large bowl, rinse them, salt them quite generously (a la water for cooking pasta, but more), then add water to the top of the bowl. Before cooking, I discard the water and rinse them, and don't add salt till the end. They will have absorbed some salt from the original brining, so I'm basically correcting the seasoning.

This way, they don't swell up as much, don't break their skins, and have a really nice creamy, velvety texture. Makes a big difference.

Sometimes beans, split peas, etc. get too old, and nothing at all will soften them properly.

I used to always add some bacon to my beans--and I still think it's a great way to get flavor while using very little meat. But lately I've been relying on spices ...

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20-02-2010
  48
V.I.P.
 
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i think spices are the way to go.
i have gotten into a lot of spices and seasonings these days
aji amarillo - a yellow pepper - i use this for spicing up taco meat/meat substitute
truffle oil and truffle salt. i sprinkle a bit of this on homemade pizza and popcorn.

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20-02-2010
  49
Power to the 99%
 
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^ The bulk spice section is a godsend! In mine, you can also buy (small quantities of) a bunch of different exotic salts. It's a whole new world from when you had to buy a great big jar of everything

I haven't tried this, but I've read recommendations to sub smoked salt for bacon. I understand there's also (vegan) bacon salt ...

PS Re my post above, I have heard that a pressure cooker (which I don't have) will take care of those super old beans.

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Last edited by fashionista-ta; 20-02-2010 at 06:51 PM.
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22-02-2010
  50
trendsetter
 
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mellowdrama, they do have all-natural powdered dashi without MSG. Maybe you can find it online or have someone bring some from Japan? Just ask for "mutenka kombu dashi". Not that using real kombu is too hard.

Ta-ta, I do know that there is a certain type of "brown" sugar we use in Japan which is white sugar "flavored" with molasses. But you can tell because it looks granulated, as opposed to the sandy texture of brown sugar. I also suspect the beige sugar cubes and crystals we use for coffee are colored with molasses.

Re: weaning off meat:
I didn't used to like garlic and onions, but after going vege I found out it was a great way to make vegetables feel more substantial so you don't miss meat. As are spices. And tomatoes! The umami present in tomatoes, as well as mushrooms, makes for meaty, satisfying main courses.
And I find that the flavor of cheese (in "condiment" proportions) can totally eliminate the need for meat. Now with access to good stuff, I hardly eat fish anymore here, whether that's good or bad...
Truffle oil and smoked salt are great suggestions too! Fleur de sel is amazing, it really brings out the umami and sweetness in anything.

No meat-loving dinner guest at my place leaves feeling less than totally satisfied

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22-02-2010
  51
tfs star
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fashionista-ta View Post
I agree that eating meat isn't inherently unhealthy ... but there are ways of eating meat that I believe are There are also diets that have been shown to cure heart disease, and there is no meat involved as I recall. If you're healthy, I agree that moderation is fine ... and good meat and fish can even be advantageous to your health.
I must second this statement, too. In my opinion meat is natural for humans to eat. Another thing is that most meat (in western countries) is produced in such a questionable ways. I used to dream I could have organic farm, with couple of pigs, maybe few sheeps and so on. Until that I try to reduce the amount of meat I`m eating, and actually I prefer fish and chicken (though the latter one isn`t produced well either).

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22-02-2010
  52
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& I will third that. Meat is natural for humans to eat, it's the quality & quantity that we consume that indicates whether or not it is healthy. Personally, I could never fully give up meat. But my family finds ways to eat meat that has been 1.) raised ethically with no added hormones and such 2.) harvested in an acceptable manner, like I mentioned kosher/halal.

Thankfully, we have several local organic farms & grocery stores so it's easily accessible for us, but for some it isn't & that's where the whole idea of eating less meat can come to play, or at least consider some alternatives like hearty vegetables or spices mentioned above.

Fish & seafood is a big part of my cultural diet, and it is indeed good for you. There is a way to get the benefits of fish, like omega-3 fatty acids without actually consuming the animal & that's by fish oil softgels.

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22-02-2010
  53
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I agree, Melisande, I fleur de sel ...

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22-02-2010
  54
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i make an oxtail soup from a recipe passed down from my parents. when you compare the amount of meat to vegetables in it, it's very good at making you eat TONS of veggies without realizing. And oxtails barely have any meat on them; they are really used because it's mostly bone and is great for getting a lot of beef flavor (as all bones are).

I usually use about 1/2 pound or less of oxtail. i brown that and add a ton of veggies: a leek, several pounds of tomatoes, potatoes, a whole head of cabbage, an onion, a whole celery, a package or more of carrots. Then goes a ton of water -- I usually cook this in a 12-qt pot, so it ends up to be about 10 qts of water reduced to 8 qts of soup. To make it even healthier, i'll add barley to the last half hour of cooking. I simmer for 6-8 hours until the meat falls off the bones and the potatoes have nearly melted.

It doesnt need any more than a bit of salt for flavoring after all that cooking, but if I have a bay leaf around I'll toss it in too.

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23-02-2010
  55
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^Oh, God, that sounds delicious. I'll have to make a pot.

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23-02-2010
  56
you set the scene
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjrodriguez View Post
Thankfully, we have several local organic farms & grocery stores so it's easily accessible for us, but for some it isn't & that's where the whole idea of eating less meat can come to play....
There are some big environmental reasons to forgo meat, even if you're satisfied with the quality of the meat available to you.

Eating less meat requires that you have solid reasons to, whether they're ethical, environmental, health-related, financial, or whatever. I think people don't always realize that food can be better without meat and cheese, or at least on par even if it's different in some ways. Meat does not guarantee amazing taste and texture. Reading over the thread, there seem to be a lot of people who rely on meat and say they couldn't do without it, but how many of them have ever tried going out to a (good) vegan restaurant, or thumbed through a vegan cookbook? Not saying that everyone should go vegetarian of course, but it's easier to say you can't eat less meat if you are unaware of your alternatives or think they have to be less-than.

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23-02-2010
  57
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i try not to eat meat, mostly because its expensive and i'm really bad at cooking it. but if i go through long periods of not eating meat (like 2 weeks) or eating very little (1/2 a portion in 2 weeks), i will crave it. when i was in college, a vegetarian roommate said her body tells her what it's lacking by making her crave certain things: when she craves peanut butter, it means her body wants protein. or milk, if she needs calcium.

so as much as i'd like to go vegetarian for ethical purposes, i physically can't. so i just figure out ways to eat enough meat that my body is OK but not to overdo it. most of the time, that means just adding a little meat to a dish (pasta, frittatas, scrambled eggs) so I can taste it and get the mouthfeel. Like, 90% veggies, 10% meat. Or I replace the meat with some seafood so that I can get the protein.

my mom and i struggle daily over whether we can turn vegetarian. over the past five years, we've lessened our meat eating to 1-2 meals a week, and even then we feel awful (emotionally, not physically) when we eat it. but to tell someone to go cold turkey (so to speak) is asking a lot. you should just go with whatever amount you are comfortable with at the time. eventually, you can work it down to zero helpings. its really a matter of personal choice, not that there aren't enough enticing recipes or products out there.

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23-02-2010
  58
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^ I get the cravings too ... if I go without eating red meat for awhile, I'll get a craving.

Agree with cestmagique that however meat is produced, it's a very resource-intensive product ... so those restaurants in beef capital kinda places where you get a prize if you can choke down the 64 oz steak ... that's just obscene to me. No one needs that much meat.

I don't feel guilty about eating meat, but I do feel the need to be as responsible as I can about it ... bearing in mind that I don't have the luxury of having my whole life revolve around food, like someone who's writing a book about it, or someone who has the luxury of not needing to work full-time.

I also think that we evolved from chest-pounding, mammoth-walloping cave men and women ... they ate meat judiciously because there were no silly restaurants selling 64 oz steaks ... sometimes you got a mammoth, and probably most of the time you didn't. Maybe there's some mammoth jerky in the cupboard, maybe not.

But in my view, those are the bodies we still have. We've come a long way, but if I have a craving, I go with it. I don't feel like saying, 'Well, you really want a steak ... here's a soybean.' The body has its own wisdom ... and if it wants a steak every couple months, I don't have a problem with that.

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25-02-2010
  59
don't look down
 
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Yes, eating meat in a way that ensures no wastage. For me, the true sin is buying any sort of food and then failing to make good use of every part of it.

Here's surrealist filmmaker Jan Svankmeyer's take on 'Meat Love':



youtube.com/DPTstyle

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27-02-2010
  60
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I live in a country that's at least 50% vegetarian (but it's hell for vegans, there is milk/cream in EVERYTHING) so it's slightly easier to avoid meat if I want to.

I'm trying to stick to fish and seafood- those are major parts of the diet in the place I'm from so that's easier. Gets tough when you go inland and fish etc turn $$$expensive though.

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