Posts tagged ‘flexitarian’

Kielbasa Pizza and Why I Still Eat Meat

Last night for dinner I made this kielbasa and onion pizza, inspired by a recipe from Everyday with Rachael Ray.


I made the following changes to the original recipe:

  • made my own pizza dough (we’re looking for a better recipe though–anyone have one?)
  • used a mix of provolone and swiss cheese (the gruyère was really expensive)
  • only used one onion
  • used dried thyme

The pizza was pretty good overall.  The husband is a big fan of kielbasa and it goes on sale every few weeks at our supermarket, so we eat it a few times a month.  I never would’ve thought to put it on pizza though–I’m terribly uncreative and unoriginal in the kitchen.  Thank goodness for cooking magazines and shows to inspire me!

Why I Still Eat Meat

For the past several days, I’ve been seriously pondering the question of why I’m still eating meat at all.   Honestly, I was the only one pondering this question, at least aloud. My husband, my family and my friends, though generally aware of my views and recent changes to my diet, have never inquired as to why I haven’t gone completely vegetarian. They probably have better things to occupy their minds with.  If the vegetarians whose blogs I frequently read, cite and comment on are wondering, they haven’t actually asked me.

Brian and I discussed this thoroughly while eating the above meat-topped pizza last night.  In the end, I’ve decided it’s probably mentally healthier (and easier, though I mentioned several times that ‘what’s right is not always what’s easy’) for me to remain a flexitarian/semitarian.  Changing one’s eating habits is a gradual process and I don’t have to go radical overnight.  Eating meat once or twice a week, or on special occasions, is not going to make me drop dead.  He also pointed out to me that if I want to “change the world,” I should perhaps focus more of my energy on petitioning elected officials and the like instead of agonizing over the amount of animal products in my lunch.  It is possible to eat healthy AND eat meat (I am in no way labelling kielbasa as a healthy meat!).  Plus, it should be noted, nine months ago the argument Brian and I were having was about the fact that I loved junk food and was going to stock our pantry with it when we got married whether he liked it or not.  Now the tables have turned and I’m the “health nut”.

Interestingly enough, Caitlin on Healthy Tipping Point was answering a similar question this morning: “Do you ever feel pressure to eat “perfectly” or “complete dinners” because of your blog?“.  I realized that I may be feeling pressured to become a full vegetarian because the blogs I admire the most are written by vegetarians and it’s the lifestyle I advocate most on this blog.  However, eating meat isn’t always bad and it is possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian.  My eating (and this blog) is primarily about delicious food that is also healthy, whether or not it fits into a labeled lifestyle.  Food bloggers are normal people, so for now I’m just going to eat as healthy as I can, meat included.

August 26, 2009 at 10:48 am 2 comments

Hypothetical Guilt-inducing Quarantine

My Man is notorious for asking me hypothetical questions which make me crazy. They range from “If you had to move to another state forever, where would you move to?” to “If you had to live on a deserted island with a celebrity, who would you choose?” I don’t like being forced to choose one thing. I’m too indecisive. I like variety. I hate the “if you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life” question more than anything.

Despite that, I was intrigued when Serious Eats posted yesterday about the H1N1 quarantine in Hong Kong and asked what readers would put on their “Quarantine Food Wish List”.  I’m pretty sure my list can include more than one thing, so I don’t feel so penned in by it.  If my consulate was bringing food for me while I was in quarantine, I’d request black tea with sugar and milk, peaches, chicken picatta with spaghetti and a good bottle of pino grigio. Maybe not a meal that makes complete sense but…it sounds good to me.

And, immediately, I feel strange about choosing something with meat. Which brings me to my next point: No Meat Athlete (my favorite blog du jour) posted a great piece called “I Shouldn’t Be Eating This But…” It’s very much along the lines of what I was saying about summer restaurants opening the other day. It’s so refreshing to be reminded that my life’s not going to end because I choose to not be completely strict all the time.   That’s why I’m flexitarian, and not full fledged vegetarian.  (My guiltiest food is red meat, by the way)

If I’m in quarantine, I’m not going to worry about eating vegetarian. It’s not the rest of my life. Good food would make me feel better about being stuck while people recover from H1N1.  I’m not going to make myself miserable sticking to a strict diet 100 percent of the time.

May 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm 1 comment

Excuses, Excuses

So, posting hasn’t been quite as frequent as I’d like it to be lately.  Seems like I haven’t been able to make much free time since break from school in April.

Summer is fast approaching in mid-coast Maine.  Around here, it seems like there are just 2 seasons: summer and winter.  Winter was too long, too cold, and too boring, but things finally changing.  Summer means the opening of all the seasonal businesses.  This is good, because I’ve been waiting for farmer’s markets and fresh, local produce for months.  Maybe next weekend I’ll have the chance to finally go check one out.

It also means that restaurants, including the drive in, the ice cream shops and the local hot dog stand, are open again.  Some of these places don’t even have vegetarian offerings on their menus!  It’s things like that which I forgot over the winter while I was making vegan soups.  It was a lot easier to eat healthy food then, when delicious, greasy, meaty, fat-ridden food wasn’t easily available to me.  As I get busier and spend more time out of the house with members of my family  its easier for everyone involved to grab a quick hamburger instead of seeking out somewhere that serves healthy food just to make me happy.  I’ve had some good grease in the past couple weeks.  But I’m trying not to enjoy it too often and keep moderation (and flexitarianism) in mind.

Lunches got boring for a while, and this week I’m making vegetable sandwiches on whole wheat pita bread with hummus.  They’re good, fresh, and easy to change a little from day to day.  I do intend to get back into the kitchen soon and it looks like my schedule is going to allow me to.

I’ve almost finished reading Food Matters, and along with other sources, such as the excellent blog No Meat Athlete, have realized that the best (and often easiest) way to eat well is to eat natural food.  I know this idea isn’t unique, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who didn’t realize it.  Clearly, food that is closer to its original source, which hasn’t been altered and processed and treated, is better for us than the alternative.  My current plan involves trying to eat whole wheat products, fresh fruit and vegetables, and packaged food with as few ingredients as possible (Michael Pollan recommends less than 5…at least that’s what I’ve heard, I still haven’t read In Defense of Food).  Sometimes doing all this is still difficult, but its a lot easier than remembering all sorts of other rules.  It’s nice to know it can be that simple, since I still feel like I just stumbled into this “eating healthy” thing with no idea what I’m doing.  The Wall Street Journal just ran a piece about how “health food isn’t always healthy.”  Check it out, it’s pretty interesting.

Stay tuned, I promise more, better posts in the future.

May 5, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Spring Break is Over

It seems almost unbelievable, but my spring break is just about over.  It’s Sunday night, I’m watching Iron Chef.  “Battle Butter”?!  I should go to bed, get back in the “school routine” and work towards getting over this cold, but I’m too intrigued.

My Man and I didn’t cook as much as I intended to over break (actually, we didn’t do several things I intended to–breaks apparently aren’t as long as they used to be).  We did create one great olive-tomato-and-cucumber salad (all his idea) and we made broiled polenta with cheese on top.  I’d never have polenta before, and it’s not bad.  Definitely worth considering various ways to use in the future.

Lots of good conversation was had during the past week about food and related issues.  How we want to shop, what we want to eat, local vs. organic vs. quanity of produce.  Eating was a lot simpler when I didn’t know anything.  Now every shopping trip is filled with questions and options.  I know I’m not doing as well as I could be and I remain hopeful that living with someone whose tastes and food interests are more similar to one and playing more of a direct role in the shopping and cooking will improve things.  I’ve finally started reading Food Matters by Mark Bittman and it’s really eye opening, but sometimes having so much information is overwhelming and guilt inducing.  But I remind myself again, doing something (eating meat one less time a day, purchasing grains in bulk, eating more produce) is meaningful, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

In other news, 2 months until the wedding :)

April 26, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Book: The Flexitarian Diet

It took me longer than it should’ve (I need to work on making reading a priority), but I finally finished reading The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life by Dawn Jackson Blatner. It was certainly one of the most educational books I’ve read on my venture towards eating better.

The book’s goal is to educate ordinary people (such as myself) about easy ways to eat less meat and be healthier. It contained tons of helpful information, such as the number of various types of nuts in an ounce (eating 1 oz of nuts five days a week has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by 30%, p. 30), a good list of umami foods (p. 32), a list of what fruits and vegetables are available during each season (p. 38) and a chart of grain cooking times (p. 44).  Surely this information can be found elsewhere, but its wonderful to have it explained clearly in one book.

The Flexitarian Diet also contains 100 recipes. Now, if we’re being honest, some of the recipes aren’t “recipes” as much as they’re guidelines for what is healthy eating, but I appreciated being reminded of healthy, simple snacks such as baked pita chips and peanut butter on celery, and the actual recipes are appetizing and simple.  I would add, however, that the two recipes I have made from the book resulted in much more food than expected (each recipe is supposed to make 1 serving).   Double (or more) the recipes with caution, or you’ll end up with more food than you may want.

All the information was a bit overwhelming at times and I had to remind myself that it’s acceptable to make one or two changes to my diet at a time.  It’s not necessary to do everything Blatner recommends overnight. One of the most important lifestyle changes I made immediately was trying to only eat grains with “whole wheat” as the first ingredient (processed grains lack 25% of the grain’s protein and 15 of the key nutrients, p. 43).

This is not a cookbook for foodies, but if you’re a new flexitarian (or vegetarian) its a great resource for eating nutritiously and cooking simply.  I found it very useful in trying to make meat-free meals that have high nutritional value.

April 12, 2009 at 11:17 am 1 comment

The Garden and Cookbooks

The Garden:
@matthewharris tweeted this great map of the White House garden this morning. Impressive.  Someday I would like to have a garden of my own, but I suspect it will be on a smaller scale.

Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman of The Atlantic agree that the new garden is great, but would like to see it taken one step further. Should the Obamas add a flock of chickens to their garden?

Another cookbook aimed at flexitarians like me was just published this month. Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond was mentioned in the New York Times, along with three of the book’s recipes.  Definitely adding it to my “to read” list.

That reminds me, I have The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life by Dawn Jackson Blatner sitting at home.  At first glance (which is really all I’ve given it) the book seems a little overwhelming and features too many specific plans for my taste (I’d rather just have a cookbook), but I’ll give it another look and let you know what I think.

All this talk about cookbooks reminds me that I really need to get back in the kitchen.  I’m not sure where I’ve been spending all my time the past few weeks, but it certainly hasn’t been cooking.  However, my lunches are becoming increasingly depressing and I’m ready to try making some new stuff.  One thing I know, I’m making another version of the granola bars.  Food shopping after school, we’ll see what comes out of that!

March 25, 2009 at 3:00 am 3 comments

Everyone Else is Talking About the Garden…

In these crazy times, its nice to get some good news. The Obama’s planted their vegetable garden.  I realize I’m probably the last food blogger on the planet to write about it, life got busy and my Reader got out of control.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the NY Times reports that the garden will have

55 varieties of vegetables, including “red romaine, green oak leaf, butter head, red leaf and galactic lettuces, spinach, chard, collards and black kale, shallots, shell peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli, fennel, and rhubarb and onions.”

The article goes on to discuss the blogosphere’s calls for the Obama’s to include beets in the garden. I think 55 vegetables is probably sufficient, and we can live without the beets, but perhaps I’m in the minority on this.  Alice Waters is, of course, estatic about the garden.

Andrew Martin wrote a lengthy article for the NY Times detailing the current state of the food movement, begging the question “Is a Food Revolution Now In Season?” Of course, many of the ideas have been around for years, and, in the case of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, decades. But at any rate, people are noticing, myself included. Clearly, I can’t pretend to not be jumping on the bandwagon just like everyone else.

Mark Bittman’s article in the NY Times discusses the “revolution” and the fact that eating well isn’t as simple as eating organic:

To eat well, says Michael Pollan, the author of “In Defense of Food,” means avoiding “edible food-like substances” and sticking to real ingredients, increasingly from the plant kingdom. (Americans each consume an average of nearly two pounds a day of animal products.) There’s plenty of evidence that both a person’s health — as well as the environment’s — will improve with a simple shift in eating habits away from animal products and highly processed foods to plant products and what might be called “real food.” (With all due respect to people in the “food movement,” the food need not be “slow,” either.)

Hence, the organic status of salmon flown in from Chile, or of frozen vegetables grown in China and sold in the United States — no matter the size of the carbon footprint left behind by getting from there to here.

Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University’s department of nutrition, food studies and public health, “Organic junk food is still junk food.”

And really, that’s what it comes down to for me.  Clearly, eating organic, or vegetarian, or local isn’t the complete solution to America’s diet problem.   The solution is eating better overall, more vegetables, less red meat (Huffington Post reported today that a new study shows that Lots Of Red Meat Increases Mortality Risk), less sugar and empty calories.  I’m not leaving tomorrow to go lobby Congress for better school lunches, more funding for organic farmers or a ban on candy.  I’m going to keep only eating meat once a day, trying to consume more produce and educating myself.  When I can, I’ll feed others and share with them what I know.  I really think that’s one of the best things I can do.  That’s how I got into this movement and I think word of mouth is a good way to get others into eating right as well.

In closing, I really appreciated this quote from Ed Levine at Serious Eats: “This food revolution, like all revolutions, is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to be in it to win it.”

Also, my very own copy of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman arrived in the mail today :)

I realize posting about the organic/slow/vegetarian food movement and Taylor Pork Roll on the same day may seem contradictory.  It probably is.  I believe that there are generally better ways of eating, but that’s no reason to not eat food simply because it tastes good on occasion.  I can’t be good all the time.

March 23, 2009 at 5:48 pm

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