Saturday, November 28, 2009

Reducing Meat & Dairy Products

You can read elsewhere all the reasons (take your pick: health, budget, environment, animal rights) why you might want to reduce meat and dairy products, but here are some things I've learned.

I was vegetarian and off dairy for about 10 years... now, I use small amounts of free range poultry in meals. I still prefer my vegetarian cookbooks, though: recipes that are designed to be vegetarian have a lot of flavor on their own, and it's easy enough to add tofu, poultry/meat, or nuts if a heavier meal is desired. Some of my favorite veg cookbooks:

*Jeanne Lemlin's Vegetarian Classics; her recipes are quick and tasty.

* Vegan Mediterranean Kitchen by Donna Klein (I like this better than any other vegan cookbook I've seen because it just includes recipes that are vegan without making substitutes for everything. Most vegan cookbooks rely too much on soy, in my opinion.)

* How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (many vegan recipes)

* Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (many vegan recipes)

Here are some websites with vegetarian or vegan recipes:
http://vegkitchen. com/recipes- galore.htm (by cookbook author Nava Atlas; most of her books are predominantly vegan) archives. php (Mollie Katzen wrote the Moosewood Cookbook & others; her newer recipes use less dairy) recipes/ (searchable for vegan and other types) common/recipe. html (mostly vegan)

I prefer ethnic vegetarian foods rather than ones that are modified meat & potato meals - for instance, a meal such as Greek salad and falafel with hummus vs something like a vegetarian version of meatloaf (however, homemade veggie burgers can be quite tasty). You can get a lot of ideas for veg food from ethnic cookbooks that aren't labeled vegetarian; some of the recipes might call for meat, but many cultures have a lot of traditional vegetarian meals, and when they do use meat, it tends to be in vastly smaller quantities.

Vegan is not difficult to do if you're already used to cooking without meat. When I was learning to go without dairy, the most difficult aspect was baking without milk products. Most vegan cookbooks sub soy or rice milk and other soy products. I don't like that for multiple reasons: first, it's a hassle to make soy milk; if you purchase it, the containers it comes in are non-recyclable. Second, I don't want to OD on soy. Third, it gets expensive to have all those subs on hand. We do eat soy, but I prefer to have it in its less processed forms, such as tofu and miso.

Here are the substitutes that I prefer:
EGG: 1 tbsp flax meal in 3 tbsp water. Mix and let sit for a few minutes. It will become somewhat gel-like and works great in baking.
MILK: Cooked rice or oatmeal, pureed with water to a smooth consistency. These work well in baking, in smoothies, in soups.
YOGURT, SOUR CREAM, ETC: Pureed silken tofu. Pureed white beans (yes, even in sweets).
BUTTER: Use oil in about half the amount. You can experiment with mixing the oil with some flour and freezing it for recipes that require solid fat. (Non-hydrogenated, vegan shortening is available, and most vegan cookbooks call for this, but I prefer my method.)

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