26 July 2022

Meatless (mostly)

 (reposted from my frotz.prose.sh blog)

I have reduced the amount of meat in my diet significantly, to try to help address some health issues I've been experiencing as I approach my middle fifties. I would say I went from 13/14 meals per week containing meat as a primary course to perhaps 4/14 containing meat at all, and maybe 1 or 2 per week where it was featured as a main course.

I say meatless, because I have not gone vegetarian. I still eat animal products like yogurt and cheese regularly. The (mostly) comes from an occasional breakfast or dinner with my partner, where I may indulge in something more than an egg or two (the bulk of my remaining meat consumption).

On the one hand, I hate being constrained. I hated when I had to give up drinking so much caffeinated sugar water, I hated when I had to cut back on the amount of coffee I drink, etc. But I get used to it -- after a month or two, I still remember the "great" days when I ate or drank what I wanted all the time, damn the consequences, but I don't feel like I really miss the experience so much. I just don't like not (really) having a choice.

It's been the same with the (mostly) meatless diet. It's not what I expected. I pictured endless dishes from a variety of cuisines that were known for featuring in vegetarian diets, but that is not what I've been doing. I have mainly been 'exploring' - trying to turn the vegetables and fruits I'm familiar with into dishes that I can eat regularly and in sufficient quantities to satisfy as main courses.

Thankfully, I only have to do this for myself which makes the process easier. However, my partner has been interested in trying some of the things I've prepared, and they have liked some of them (some of them, not so much :/ ).

I don't normally cook by recipe, so it's hard for me to provide anything that might be useful to someone, but I can give a general idea of some of the things I've made that both of us have enjoyed.

The caveat is that we both spent our formative years in southern California in the US, and Hispanic cuisine there was an important part of our diets, so I've focused a lot on replicating some of those foods, at least in spirit. None of these were invented by me - it's either something I ate when I lived in California, or inspired by something I ate from that time.


This one is essentially a fruit and dairy dish. It's simple and flexible, and may or may not sound appetizing. The idea is to take a mixed bowl of fruit (where I grew up this was a mix of local fruit grown in California and tropical fruit from Mexico), chopped/cut/pared into bite-sized pieces, and mix it with equal parts yogurt or sour cream and either sweetened or unsweetened condensed milk. I usually use thick yogurt (Greek style, as it's known in the US), mix it with an equal amount of unsweetened condensed milk, and then sweeten to taste with whatever I have on hand for the task. Mix the dairy together, sweeten it to your taste (I like mine a little sweet and a little sour), and pour it over the majority of the fruit. Top this with some more fruit, arranged for a pleasant presentation, or sprinkle muesli or granola or toasted grains or nuts or whatever on the top to add a little crunch. With the temperatures here hitting the mid- to high 30s for over a week straight, we had this for our evening meal more than a few times as it was cool and not particularly 'heavy'.

Tostada pizza

These are stupid simple. Per pizza, fry two small corn tortillas until they are the texture you like (crispy, chewy, whatever you prefer). Take one, cover it with refried beans, mashed beans, mashed & fried chickpeas, lentils, or other legume of your choice (spiced and cooked to your preference). I top the legumes with enchilada sauce (guidelines below this one), and shred some cheese.

Then I put another tortilla on top, another layer of beans, another smear of sauce, a little more cheese. Once I put together a few of these, I bake them for a few minutes in an oven or appliance until the cheese melts and crunch away.


My sauce usually starts with some olive oil, to which I add a minced aromatic like garlic or onion. I let that cook for a bit, then add some finely ground chili powder of some sort and a little flour and make a roux (stir it around for about a minute until the flour starts to brown and absorbs most of the oil). Then I will add some diced or pureed tomatoes or tomatillos, any other seasonings (salt, cumin, whatever you'd like), and let that cook for 10+ minutes. I usually go with a ratio of equal quantities of oil and chili powder, and add just enough flour to get the roux going. You may want to add a bit of water to your tomatoes if you'd like a thinner sauce (I like it thick, but thin is good, too!).


Another stupid simple dish. I take several small corn tortillas, and cut them into eighths. I fry them until they have an appropriate texture, and then drain them. Tonight I fried up about 400g of diced mushrooms and aromatics, mashed up and fried (since I had the skillet out) some white beans (called navy or pea beans here in the US) and seasoned with chili powder, and then topped the tortilla chips I made in the first step with the bean mixture, the mushroom mixture, and then added some cheese and melted it all for a few minutes. Like the tostada pizza, use whatever legume you prefer. I've also used chickpeas, lentils, roman beans, pinto beans, cannellini, and black-eyed peas.

Of course I've done more traditional vegetable fare, but exploration has been fun, too. And I find, most importantly, I don't miss a meat-heavy diet. Thus far, my totemic food preparation has staved off further health issues and I hope it continues to do so.