Happy New Year! And WELCOME to Five Weeks of Flexitarian Eating…every Wednesday in January will feature an article geared towards helping you reduce the amount of meat in your diet.
Don’t you love this time of year? We’re given a blank slate. Many of us will set our determination towards improving upon those things we feel need improving. I don’t know about you, but I have over indulged the past month and I’m ready to readjust my eating habits.
How about you? Have you been thinking about reducing the amount of meat you eat? Perhaps you’d like to improve the quality of the meat you eat, but your budget limits the amount you can consume. Or maybe you feel the need to eat more plant foods, like me.
The nice thing about flexitarian eating is that it’s so…well, flexible. You get to choose your level of commitment to eating in the semi-vegetarian way. Want to go meatless one day a week? That’s fine! Want to include eggs and dairy products? That’s also fine. Do you have food allergies? With planning and knowledge, those can also be worked around. The only thing required is the desire to practice flexitarian eating.
That’s what this series is all about. I hope to get you thinking beyond meat and potatoes towards increasing the diversity in your diet. For Week One, I want you to start thinking about beans as the main component of a meal instead of a side dish.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know I love to eat beans and legumes. They are perfect for substituting into recipes in place of meat. This is especially true for recipes like casseroles where the meat is only part of the whole. It’s a good idea to have some ready to eat beans on hand. Beans can be purchased in cans or jars and stored in the pantry until you need them. They can also be cooked in batches from dried beans and frozen in one or two cup portions.
To substitute beans for meat in a recipe the easiest thing to do is substitute serving for serving. For example, a pound of chicken is equal to four 4 ounce servings. In general you’d use about 2 cups of cooked beans which is equivalent to four 1/2 cup servings of beans. For me, that’s a 15 ounce can of rinsed and drained beans.
Here’s an example of how to make the substitution. Awhile back I posted a Skillet Chicken Cacciatore recipe. This week, I made it using white kidney beans (also called cannelini beans). I didn’t have to make any other changes. The original recipe was served over polenta, but we served it over spaghetti and it was absolutely delicious.
Lentils make a great hamburger substitute, as in this meatless Lentil Loaf.
For loaves and burgers you’ll want to use a binder, like egg. Often times you’ll also want another vegetable like shredded carrot, zucchini or mushroom to help keep everything moist. When substituting lentils for ground beef, for sloppy joes as an example, just season the lentils as you would season the meat. It can really be that simple.
Check out this page with an assortment of recipes featuring beans and lentils for more ideas on how to use them in place of meat.