In true "Tracy fashion" I see things in black and white, all or nothing. So for some crazy reason I thought cutting out meat and dairy for a week or two could be interesting.....I also thought about cutting out wine....but that lasted for a couple of days before it became clear I was out of my mind.
Buying, preparing, cooking and eating vegetables is easy for me. I often joke that I eat more vegetables that most vegetarians, and this is because I eat more food than most vegetarians! And since I was totally loving my pumpkin chili, eating that, and a daily salad, is not hard for me to arrange. But I found that unless I was 100% prepared with preplanned meals in place, cutting out meat increased the wanting of "snacky" foods like nuts, chips/crackers, breads and bagels.....and desserts! Desserts don't have meat. When I wrote my book, The Swing, one of the parts in the diet section that was edited out was some of what I wrote about the difference between being a "vegetarian" and being a "non meat eater". Those two things are not the same.
I don't have any moral judgements of eating animal meat right now, at this time of my life, but I can understand what it must be like for people that do. I try and imagine eating human meat, which completely disgusts me (of course), although I also understand how, maybe, a black bear or a shark would find us tasty....somebody is right...hmnn, is it us, or is it them? Okay...I'm getting off topic now.... No doubt if I had to kill my own food I would be a different person. Not one that wouldn't eat meat, but one that might appreciate it more.
I did have a couple of other motivating factors come into play. Yes I am getting older, but does that automatically mean I'm getting tired more easily? Or does my diet have something to do with it? Yes, I do eat mostly homemade foods, prepared from scratch, and I eat a ton of fiber....but why am I not "regular", or at least as regular as I used to be? (sorry TMI). I also weigh 6-8lbs more than I say I want to, but yet I may find myself rationalizing how much I eat because it's "healthy". I am finding some other interesting things happening with my body that wasn't necessarily happening before, so I'm wondering if it's related to nutrition.
At the end of the day I over think food and I over think eating....leading me to find myself
experiencing constantly feeling "over".
I will wrap it up, for now, by saying that I started this experiment early last week...oh yes, after I made my pumpkin pot roast (which I had to freeze by the way!). So starting last Tuesday I managed to stay "meat-less" (and for the most part dairy free except for my cream in my coffee....um no way I'm giving that up right now) until this Monday (6 days). This was mainly because I wasn't 100% prepared, and I refused to "snack" nutritional calories away just to keep myself from eating meat. I did start to explore different options. Vegetable stir fry's, hearty vegetable dishes that included mushrooms, brussel sprouts, potato (sweet), squashes, etc. I also relaxed greatly about bread, although I didn't eat much, and grains in general.
My findings? I might have felt a bit better in general. Mostly I believe because I was out of balance to start with. I have to admit that continuing on with a meat less and dairy less diet intrigues me BUT I have some "un common" common sense thoughts about it. (which I will share as this process goes on) I do, however, feel as if I was right about consuming too much animal protein (for me) and this morning's soup was a nice compromise.
I found these Fava Chickpeas at Whole Foods, from Bartolini. Bartolini is an expensive brand, but I had never seen these before so I sacrificed and bought a 1.1 lb package. (maybe $8-$10? they had been sitting in my pantry for about 2 months now) I could have made a vegetarian soup/stew for sure, but I had a couple of lamb sausage links in my freezer and I decided that maybe simply cutting back on the meat protein should be my first thought. Using two sausage links is much different that using an entire leg of lamb! Which may have been my old habit! One of the things I missed greatly about trying to cut out the animal protein completely was the depth and richness animal bone stocks and broths brought to my soups and stews.
So for now I've decided to go meat and diary less for 3/4 of my nutritional diet. This might mean 2-4 days straight for vegetable/grain based meals and then introducing meat and dairy, alternating back and forth. And believe it or not it has more to do with expanding my nutritional experience than it has to do with "cutting out" animal protein.
Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are my favorite legume to pair with lamb, but whether you use lamb
stew meat or lamb sausage the one recipe I keep going back to always includes two ingredients. Red bell pepper and red wine vinegar...mostly the red wine vinegar. Soups and stews can all start to taste the same because 99% of the time the ingredients are all basic! Whenever I use lamb, after I brown the meat, sautee the veg, I deglaze the pan with 2-4 tbls of red wine vinegar before adding the stock/water. The vinegar gives it a completely different flavor, one that I like. The lamb is rich, the peppers are sweet and the vinegar is sour.
Lamb stew meat or lamb sausage; Since cutting back on meat I suggest only 1/2 lb at the most.
Brown either choice. Move to the side of the pan and sautee onion, celery, carrot, red bell pepper cut into a small dice, until soft and translucent (this morning I had no celery and it still turned out fab!) I using stew meat add 1 tbl chopped rosemary (or dried).
Deglaze the pot with 2-4 tbl red wine vinegar for 1-2 minutes, add 4 c. water or stock.
add 1- 1 1/2 c pre soaked fava chickpeas or Garbanzo beans, 1 whole garlic bulb (bottom third cut off, which you will remove completely after all is cooked. it should stay intact, only releasing it's flavor during the cooking process).
At this point you should have a pot or a pressure cooker with;
browned lamb meat
If cooking on stovetop in a traditional soup pot; cover and bring to a boil (covered), turn heat down to med/low, slightly covered, cook until beans are soft (45-50 minutes)
If using a pressure cooker; "load and lock", bring pressure to high (about 10 min), lower heat and cook for 8-10 min. Let pressure come down naturally, or let sit for 10 minutes and then release pressure manually or cold water method.
Taste and adjust seasonings (salt).
Yikes, I totally forgot....I used an entire head of cabbage, cut into 1 inch slices and then cut into 1 inch squares. I wanted to add as much veg as I could (wanting to stay vegetable based), and I added it after the onion/carrot/red bell sautee, but before the red vinegar deglaze. Oops.