Meatless of LessMeat? What’s Your Strategy?

July 15, 2011  •  Food for Thought, Pasta & Pizza, Sauces

Remember the good old days? You know, that era when you could chow down on an enormous piece of beef and not feel guilty about it? I can distinctly remember the day I fell in love with meat – at the roast beef carving station at the Holiday Inn we stayed at when I was four and we were moving to Indiana. It was rare and juicy, and I helped myself to unlimited “seconds”. That was before we learned so much about what animal fats do to our hearts. And before we understood what raising so many animals was doing to the environment. Heck, it was WAY before Food, Inc. was even conceived.Awhile back, colleagues of mine conceived the idea of Meatless Mondays. It was brilliant, really. It had a nice ring to it. And I’ll admit, I was thankful that I only had to go meatless one day of the week. I mean, I like vegetables, as you well know if you’ve read any of my posts about my CSA farm. And I eat vegetables alot.There was this delicious pasta dish with corn recently. Oh yea – I added bacon to that. Well, I had a huge salad of greens from my farm today with a homemade Caesar dressing. Oops, I almost forgot that I added in some leftover cooked chicken for good measure. You see, it’s hard for me to go without meat. I adore meat. And I know I’m not alone in thinking that life is just too short not to eat bacon!

But hey – I’m no spring chicken anymore (no offense to the spring chicken I picked up on Sunday at the farmers’ market and popped into the freezer to roast on the next unseasonably cold day). And with age comes the experience to know that what we do matters on this earth of ours along with the cold realization that if we don’t take care of our bodies we’ll be six feet under long before we intended.So here I sit, at this crossroads in my life. On the one hand, I’m now so totally addicted to the fabulous eggs from my CSA farm that I rarely eat anything other than eggs for breakfast. If I manage to throw a veggie in or sprinkle on some cheese or an herb, you know it must be a special day (or at least be one of those days where I managed to at least sleep straight through the night).

But on the other hand, I’ve cracked the code to that little trick called moderation. And when it comes to the topic of meat, that for me now means simply less meat – which by the way, since I certainly am not about to start eating half as much total food, means more vegetables. And you know what? It’s pretty darn easy. Take that Caesar salad I had for lunch today – it was 4 cups worth of veggies but only about 2-3 ounces of chicken. That pasta salad with corn? Mostly pasta and veggies with just enough bacon to make my heart happy.And dinner the night I decided to rant about this? I took my typical Yankee Doodle Macaroni recipe and modified it. Don’t remember that recipe? It’s the one your mom made for you in the ’60s if you happened to be so lucky as to be alive already in the ’60s, the one from the original Betty Crocker cookbook, which is the same cookbook that gaves us a way to present ground beef cooked with a carrot wedged into it to resemble a bone and fool your guests into thinking they were being served a T-bone steak. Did that work for anyone? But I digress.I simply started with equal amounts of diced vegetables and meat, opposed to the original recipe that started with meat only. Then I added the same amount of diced tomatoes at the end, resulting in a sauce that I dare say is 2/3 vegetables and 1/3 meat, maybe even 3/4 to 1/4. Less meat. Not meatless.The good folks at Meatless Monday did us a favor – they got us thinking about how much meat we eat. But changing your diet, eating the right foods that are as good for you as they are the environment, isn’t an easy task. And like I’ve preached before, this isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing better. For me that simply means more vegetables – and less meat.

Where do you stand on this topic? I’d love to hear from you, even if you disagree with my comments!

Yankee Doodle Macaroni for the New Millenium
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 6
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced small
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 green pepper, diced small
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef or bison
  • 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • liberal amounts of minced parsley and basil
  • 8 ounces fettuccine, cooked al dente
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add diced vegetables; season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add ground beef and continue to cook, stirring, until meat is browned through. Add tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, and herbs, cover and simmer for 30 minutes for flavors to meld. Toss ragu sauce with cooked pasta and simmer together for a minute. Add more fresh herbs is desired, and top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.



6 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Haven says:

    I went vegetarian for 3 months and it wasn’t until I did so that I realized exactly how much of what I love centers around meat. (AKA A whole freaking bunch)

    And when, 3 months in, my best friend suggested carne asada tacos for lunch… I realized that there was not a chance in the world that I was never going to eat carne asada again. I was back to my meat eating ways that very day.

    So I like the idea of a few days a week of being vegetarian. Heck I could probably even do 6 days a week of vegetarianism… But my husband would not love it so much. So maybe we will start small, with a day.

    In the meantime I have definitely been cutting back on meat. Mostly for health and weight loss reasons.

    Less meat and sometimes no meat I think is a good idea.

    DO NOT EVEN try to take cheese, milk and eggs away from me though. Pretty sure I’d die.

  2. Barbara | Creative Culinary says:

    I love meat too but I have a lot of meatless meals. Consciously or not but I’m sure I go several days without any meat in my diet and then…I’ll have a perfect BLT or some ribeye steak and REALLY enjoy it too.

    I do think that the years of raising my girls after a divorce and not having my husband ‘expect’ meat for dinner allowed me some flexibility with my own and my kids diets that I know a lot of friends would struggle with. Their husbands want meat for dinner, period.

  3. Joan Nova says:

    Very well done commentary. I’m in the ‘less meat’ category rather than ‘meatless’ and have been for years. It just doesn’t have the same appeal to me. What I struggle with these days is CARBS! I tried going carb-less but that was way too difficult, so now I’m doing less-carb or slow carbing.

    • Michele says:

      I’m with you Joan! every time I try to cut out carbs I end up eating an entire bag of potato chips to satisfy my craving. I think in all aspects of our diets (and life) it’s all about moderation!

  4. Jenny @ Savour the Senses says:

    Living with two vegetarians has caused me to see how they do it. Mind boggling to me really, but strangely I have not been able to eat as much meat since moving in; eating only half a chicken breast with my meal seems to fill me up lately.

  5. Lea Ann says:

    My theory is moderation …. darnit! 🙂 If I had to kill an animal in order to eat meat, I’d be a vegetarian. I’ve also claimed that if the only way I could have a burger was to kill a cow, I’d probably do it.

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