Meatless Mongolian BBQ

Meatless Mongolian BBQ

It’s an oxymoron: meatless barbecue. But that’s what I had for dinner. On the road in Logan tonight I did’t want to cook but I also didn’t want a salad. Enter Hu Hot Mongolian BBQ. All I had to do was skip the bowls of meat and load up on noodles and veggies.

Today is one full week that I have been on the meatless August challenge. On Sunday, Melinda, Leah and I talked about the week. Leah says she feels more tired without meat. My guess is that’s because she was eating really clean to begin with. As for me, I feel like I have more energy. I felt stronger in both my Friday and Monday (today) workouts, which consist of 15 minutes of warmup on the elliptical trainer, where I do some intervals to get my heart rate up to 80-85% of my maximum heart rate, followed by a cool down and then weight training. Today I did upper body: chest, back, biceps, shoulders and abs. Friday I did legs, triceps ad abs. Both days I finished stronger even with increased weight than I had previously.

Leah made a good point, that vegetarian doesn’t automatically equal low calorie. She feels like she’s eating more and more junk food since she cut out her main source of lean  protein, chicken breasts. As for me, though I’ve cut out meat I’m still eating occasional junk food like potato chips and candy and my daily portion of diet Coke (which isn’t just a 12-oz. can). By the way if you want to see my daughter in beast mode, check out her Instagram account, eatright_lovelife.

When I weighed myself this afternoon I was down 3 lbs., but since that was right after my workout I suspect it’s mostly water loss. I’m still taking in too many Calories. Tonight was a good example. It’s an all you can eat buffet, so of course I couldn’t stop at the one plate shown above. I went back for a second, though it wasn’t nearly as large as the picture. Still, it was more than the “portion” that is recommended for adults.

Anyway it’s on to Week 2.

Shakshuka

Shakshuka

Sunday dinner was bound to be a challenge. At our house, Sunday dinner revolves around some sort of meat: pot roast, chicken, pork chops, steak, whatever, and vegetables are a side dish. So Saturday I turned to the Internet and found a recipe for shakshuka. I’d never heard of it but it sounded delicious.

Shakshuka is a tradition North African dish. It’s a one dish meal, though we had it with bread, green salad and eggplant Parmesan.  Here’s the recipe:

One onion, diced; one red bell pepper, diced; one green bell pepper, diced; one jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped; 1 C sliced mushrooms (optional); one medium yellow squash (in place of mushrooms if desired), chopped; olive oil; two cloves garlic, chopped; 28 oz. diced tomatoes with juice; 1 tsp. salt + more to taste; 1 tsp. cumin; 1/2 tsp. paprika; 1/2 tsp. turmeric; pepper to taste; 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped; 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese; 1/2 C water; six eggs.

Cook onion and mushrooms (if using) in oil until onions become translucent and mushrooms turn golden brown. Add peppers and squash (if using). Cook about five minutes until peppers begin to soften. Add all spices and stir thoroughly. Cook another five minutes or so.  Add tomatoes and water and stir. Let simmer 25-30 minutes until water reduces, stirring occasionally.

Smooth the mixture with a spoon and make six indentations. Crack one egg into each indentation. Break yolks if desired. Cover and cook until eggs are almost at desired doneness. Sprinkle feta cheese and cilantro, remove from heat, keep covered until cheese melts and eggs are done to your liking.  Serve in bowls, one egg to a serving.

This recipe made six servings. They were probably a “portion” as that term is used by the food gurus, meaning it isn’t enough for the normal appetite. But with eggplant Parmesan, bread and salad, it made a great meal.

Here’s a link to Chef John’s video. It’s worth a watch to hear Chef John’s corny delivery and his save as he explains that it’s essential not to crack the eggs directly into the vegetable mixture. Instead, he says, crack it into a ramekin and then into the mixture. This will guarantee that the yolk doesn’t break. Just as he makes that pronouncement, the yolk of the second egg he adds from his ramekin breaks. But Chef John is a pro and doesn’t miss a beat.

I followed Chef John’s recipe for the most part. I omitted the mushrooms because we have some non-mushroom eaters in our family. I wanted something with the texture and bulk of the mushrooms to replace them so I added squash. I think it turned out well. I omitted the cayenne pepper of Chef John’s recipe, also in deference to the palates of our family. Finally, I added garlic because everything is better with garlic. This is a definite do-again recipe.

 

Dining Out

Pad Thai

Eating out can be a challenge for vegetarians. For the most part, in the United States restaurants center their meals around meat. There might be a vegetarian dish or two on the menu but your choices are restricted in most restaurants.

Oriental cuisine is one type where it’s possible to enjoy almost everything on the menu as a meatless dish. Last night we went to a Thai restaurant, Nuan’s Thai, where I ordered my standard Pad Thai. This time instead of having it with shrimp I chose tofu.  It was every bit as delicious as the meat version. By the way, let me give a shout out to Nuan’s Thai in Cottonwood Heights. Great food at very reasonable prices.

So I’ve completed three days of Meatless August, 10% down. I don’t feel deprived but I am starting to think about bacon. Wednesday night we had an ice cream social at our ward. A few of the guys were standing around talking about grilling and smoking and were passing around their phones with pictures of juicy meats cooking. All of a sudden my friend Travis said, “Oh, sorry Steve! I didn’t mean to torment you.” I had to laugh at that.

Black Bean Tostadas

Black bean tostadas

Day two of Meatless August was pretty uneventful. Breakfast was yogurt and granola. Lunch was last night’s leftovers, spaghetti with broccoli and squash in garlic cream sauce. Mid-afternoon snack of a protein shake. Dinner was black bean tostadas.

One of the concerns people often express about plant-based diets is their fear they won’t get enough protein. In recent years, protein has become the darling of the three macro-nutrients: fats, carbohydrates (carbs) and protein. Some thirty years ago when I was doing triathlons, the pre-race regimen was carb depletion followed by carbo loading. The notion was, for the week leading up to the race you deprived yourself of carbs for five days. Then on day six you stuffed as many carbs as you could into your belly. Pancakes, bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, with the (theoretical) result being that your glycogen stores (the fuel you use in endurance sports) were pumped up to overflowing, which would power you through the race.

In the past 10 years, further research has shown that carbs are best utilized when protein is present. The carb depletion followed by carbo loading to the exclusion of protein was shown false. Also, too much carbohydrate intake has been shown to cause or exacerbate a number of problems, including diabetes and high blood sugar.   As a result carbs fell out of favor as evidenced by a number of low carb diets such at Atkins, South Beach and others.

From all of this, protein has emerged as the king of nutrients to many people. Since meat and protein are nearly synonymous, lack of meat is equated with protein deprivation. Therefore, a plant based diet is unhealthy.

That reasoning is false because there are a number of non-meat foods that are high in protein. On one website that I found, of the top five protein sources, only one, oysters, was meat. Tofu, which is made from soybeans, was number 1. Oysters came in second, followed by cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and eggs.

There is no reason that a plant based diet will fail to deliver enough protein. The key is to choose food wisely. But, of course, that is the key to anything you eat.

Meatless August

Broccoli crepes

Our youngest daughter, Leah, is always on the lookout for ways to eat healthier. A couple of days ago she issued a challenge to the rest of the family to join her in going meatless for the month of August. I’ve been aware of the health risks associated with eating too much meat, especially red meat, and have half-heartedly tried on several occasions to cut down or eliminate meat. Each time I’ve given in after a few days because….. Well because I just love a juicy steak or burger, fried chicken, and bacon. Especially bacon, the divine swine.

But I keep hearing anecdotal evidence that vegetarianism is not only healthier but makes you feel better, too. So with Leah’s challenge as motivation I’ve decided to give it a try. I’ve also decided to put this out here for all seven of my followers to see, hoping that the fear of public failure will kick my butt into following through.

First, some definitions. There are lots of ways of describing what a vegetarian is. For my purposes, it means no meat of any kind, including fish, but it allows eggs and dairy products. This is sometimes called ovo-lacto vegetarianism. One who avoids eggs and dairy is sometimes called a vegan. Vegans avoid any animal product, such as eggs, milk, butter and even honey. Purists may disagree with my definitions but that’s what I’m calling it.

I’m not doing this as any kind of protest against the meat industry. I’m not a religious nut (in a later post I’ll talk about the LDS Word of Wisdom as it applies to meat). I’m not a zealot about the global warming effects of meat consumption. I am interested in ways to improve my health so that I live longer. However I don’t want to take all the pleasure out of life and, as I noted, I love meat! I’m just conducting an experiment.

Veggie sandwich: tomato, lettuce, mushrooms, onion, cilantro, mayo, mustard

So for August I’ll post daily, I hope, about what I ate, how I feel and share some recipes that I found especially good. For today, here are a few website about the health risks associated with meat consumption.

W.H.O reports meat linked to increased cancer risk

CNN says that each daily serving of meat can increase risk of dying

National Institutes for Health refer to studies showing that red meat consumption increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

I should note that none of these advocate complete abstinence from meat. I’m just trying to go cold turkey (pun intended).