Meatless Monday Recipes for Starters!

IMG_20140916_203133One of my favorites: Spinach, Feta & Potato Gratin with Carrot Salad (#4 below)

 

I started doing Meatless Mondays after watching the documentary Food, Inc. and continued research into America’s farm industry. If you haven’t seen the documentary on Netflix, here are the highlights. My mother grew up on a farm; her family raised their own cattle, pigs and chickens, which were slaughtered by a local butcher. She would tell me how the cows were like dogs, with big brown eyes and wagging tails. Betsy lived a good life before her slaughter. Those days seem to be long gone, and Americans are eating more meat than ever. To keep up with this demand, the family farm has transformed into the industrial farm.

What really bothers me most about industrial farming is the conditions animals are kept in, and the fact that they are not respected as animals, but are considered food from day one. They stand in their own manure, live in cramped areas, eat food unnatural to them, and are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. We are becoming too far removed from what we eat. There are also many other reason’s (more facts & sources) for going meatless: the environment, your health, and the welfare of farmers.

As much as Food, Inc. and other documentaries (Forks over Knives, Vegucated, Fresh) have convinced me that there are a multitude of issues surrounding meat production, I still love meat. Especially bacon. I’m an omnivore, and I don’t think I can change that. So, instead of beating myself up about not being a vegetarian, I decided that Meatless Monday was my answer. It has now progressed into about 2-3 days per week where our dinner contains no meat.

Most of the recipes here were successful for me and my meat-loving significant other for one BIG reason: we did not substitute the meat. No soy crumbles, garden burgers, or tofu. We just embraced the dishes we loved without meat. And boy were we surprised!!! Here are our favorites so far…

*most all of these are on my Pinterest boards

  1.  French Onion Soup with Gruyere-Sourdough Bites and a side salad
  2. Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole and Pioneer Woman’s Fresh Green Beans
  3. Nachos with cheese, black beans, refried beans, Mexican rice, avocado, pico de gallo, and sour cream
  4. Spinach, Feta & Potato Gratin and Carrot Salad
  5. Southern Dinner (one of my faves!): Pintos, cornbread or hoe cakes, yellow squash & onions, and greens. I do not have recipes posted for these, but if you want them, just comment below or search on Pinterest or the internet.
  6. Quesadillas with goat cheese, spinach, & caramelized onions and a side of black bean or corn salsa and sliced avocado
  7. Paula Deen’s Corn Casserole and a vegetarian chili
  8. Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti and a side salad
  9. Homemade pizza (the vegetable & cheese topping combinations are endless!)
  10. Mediterranean “Tacos”: pita, hummus, artichokes, red onion, black olives, feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce & Greek dressing
  11. Caprese Summer Salad with Cannellini Beans and baguette
  12. Pad See Ew or Pad Thai without the meat
  13. Cheese Ravioli with Lemon Basil Butter Sauce and a side salad
  14. Vegetarian curry with noodles, rice or Naan bread (there are a bazillion recipes for these! My favorites are Thai and Indian)
  15. Cuban Black Beans & Rice and Spicy Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash
  16. Vegetable Kabobs with baked beans and macaroni & cheese
  17. Thai Coconut Soup  (without the chicken) and vegetable spring rolls or dumplings

That is all for now! I will be updating this page as I develop new favorites! For me, the key to getting on board with meatless was to embrace the dishes you already love instead of trying to substitute with fake meat. Think of it as Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without the ham or turkey. We all love those sides and veggies, and I often wish during Thanksgiving that I could just load up on green bean casserole, cheesy squash, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce without even touching the turkey. Maybe give it a try once a week and see how it goes?

Please feel free to share your favorite meatless meals in the comments below!

 

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Caramelized Pork Bánh mì

banhmi

In my humble opinion, the pork bánh mì is the best sandwich EVER. Yes, ever. I know you’re already drooling over this photo, but let me explain! This sandwich is packed with layers of flavor that will seriously make you look at your sandwich after you take the first bite. As if staring at it would help you understand it’s deliciousness. The name bánh mì refers to the bread used, which was influenced  by the French baguette. Influenced is probably too nice a word, considering I actually mean that France colonized Vietnam and was like here, bread. Nonetheless, a good airy French baguette is where all the goodies should rest!

My bánh mì sandwich is comprised of marinated pork which is caramelized, and placed (in all it’s sticky goodness) onto the mayo’d French baguette. It is then topped with cucumber, red onion, jalapeño pepper, cilantro and pickled carrots. Explosion of flavor in your mouth…that is all you need to know. It’s so good that we let it stand alone–serving it completely by itself. However, I have served it with grilled pineapple when I make it for guests.

 

veggiescaramelizedpork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

for the sandwich–

-French baguette
-mayonnaise
-rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
-cucumber
-jalapeño pepper
-carrot
-cilantro
-red onion

for the pork–

– 3/4 – 1 lb country-style pork rib meat or pork shoulder roast, sliced into thin, 2in pieces
– 1/4 cup ketchup
– 1/4 cup soy sauce
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 2 tbsp fish sauce
– 2 tbsp sesame oil
– juice of 1 lime

Directions:

  1. Mix together marinade ingredients; add pork and marinate for at least 1-2 hours.
  2. Slice cucumber, jalapeño pepper, and red onion to your liking. Pick off leaves of cilantro.
  3. Shave carrot into a shallow bowl; cover with rice vinegar and set aside.
  4. Remove pork from fridge and set a large, shallow pan on medium-high heat. Once heated, add each piece of pork to the pan with tongs, shaking off excess marinade. You don’t want too much liquid in the pan, because the pork won’t be able to caramelize.
  5. Let the pork cook on one side for at least 4-5 minutes; turn each piece with tongs and cook for 4-5 minutes more.
  6. The timing from here is up to your stovetop. Continue to stir pork around with your tongs. Watch as the sauce thickens and the pork starts to look sticky. Once it has thickened, turn off the stovetop and let the pork rest.
  7. Cut your piece of baguette in half. Scoop out the bread in the top half. Spread mayo on the bottom half.
  8. Place the pork on top of the bottom half, and layer with cucumber, jalapeño pepper, red onion, cilantro, and pickled carrot. Place top on and try not to die as you take the first bite.

Thai-Inspired Sweet & Spicy Chicken Kabobs

kabob

Since moving from Arizona about a month ago, Ben and I have used many opportunities to grill. Most days here are sunny and perfect cook-out weather! Ironically, when we made these sweet & spicy chicken kabobs last night, the wind and rain started up just as we got our charcoal going. But we were able to finish them in time and boy were they delicious!! You can use any veggies you like, but we enjoyed the mixture of sweet pepper, red onion & pineapple. Now…on to this amazing marinade!

marinadechicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

-chicken (I prefer thighs)
-veggies (here I used sweet pepper, red onion & pineapple)
-juice of 1 orange, or 3-4tbsp orange juice
-2tbsp fish sauce (you can substitute with soy sauce)
-2tbsp hot chili sauce (like Sriracha)
-1/2 cup sweet chili sauce

 

Directions:

Mix all marinade ingredients together. Set aside a small amount for brushing onto kabobs while grilling. Add chicken to marinade and let set for about 20 minutes. Put together kabobs of chicken & veggies, and grill.

ผัดกะเพรา (Pad Kaprao) aka Stir-Fried Holy Basil

kaprao

Disclaimer: there seems to be a lot of talk on blogs about the authentic or traditional way of making a recipe when that recipe is outside of your cultural or ethnic “home”. This recipe has been constructed based on my own experiences in Thailand and nothing more. Despite the fact that the dish is named after Thai holy basil (bai kaprao), it can also be made with Thai sweet basil (bai horapa) which I experienced myself in Thailand, as it is very difficult to find Thai holy basil. Either way, this dish is full of amazing flavors and easy for first-timers to make!

So, which type of Thai basil do you have?

basil                Thai Holy basil (bai kaprao)                                                         Thai sweet basil (bai horapa)

Now…moving on to the recipe! This was the very first dish we ate in Thailand. We had just traveled for 33 hours with very little sleep. After 3 flight changes, a 3 hour bus ride, and a short taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel ready to just sleep. So, we settled for eating at our hotel, which was really outside of my idea of a culturally immersive trip. However, sleep deprivation and hunger will certainly cause you to adjust your plans 😉 Luckily, our hotel had a fantastic chef who cooked authentic Thai cuisine (minus the peanut satay pizza lol.) They served the meals family-style, and we ordered three small dishes to share. I only remember two of them: the Thai larb salad, which inspired my own recipe, and the Pad Kaprao.

kapraocollage

Ingredients:
-1lb ground meat (I prefer pork or chicken)
-7-9 cloves of garlic, chopped
-7-9 Thai chilies, sliced at an angle
-1 large shallot or 1/4 red onion, fine chopped
-1 cup (about 20-30 whole leaves) of Thai basil
-3 tbsp soy sauce
-2 tbsp oyster sauce
-2 tbsp fish sauce
-3 tbsp peanut oil
-jasmine rice
-1 egg for each person

Directions:

  1. Cook rice according to directions and set aside.
  2. Add 3 tbsp of peanut oil to wok or skillet (less if using fatty meat like pork or beef) and heat to medium. Add garlic, chilies and shallot; stir fry for 2 minutes. Add ground meat; crumble and stir fry until no longer pink.
  3. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce & fish sauce; stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add basil and stir fry for another minute, until leaves are barely wilted. Keep warm while you fry or poach an egg for each person. The most important thing about cooking the egg is that its yoke should remain runny.
  4. Serve the pad kaprao by placing a mound of rice on a plate. Top the rice with the egg. Spoon the pad kaprao beside the rice and egg.

Thai “Larb” Salad

larb

Yay! My first post in Foodblog Land! I have decided to commemorate this introductory post with the sharing of one of my favorite recipes: Larb.

Larb might not be the most beautifully named dish I’ve ever eaten, but it is by far my favorite salad. Everyone I’ve made it for has fallen in love with it, including veggie-hating individuals which will remain unnamed.

This salad epitomizes the Thai ideals of balancing sweet, hot, sour & bitter in their dishes. From the seasoned pork to salad laced with mint leaves and the sweet lime-sesame dressing, this salad is an explosion of flavor. Traditionally, larb is not served on top of a salad and dressed this way, but I have taken liberties and constructed a salad that even picky eaters will request again! 🙂

makelarb
 
Ingredients:
For the seasoned meat
-1lb ground pork (or turkey)
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-2 inch knob ginger, minced
-3-4 Thai chilies, chopped
-1/2 lime, juiced
-2 tbsp sesame oil
-2 tbsp fish sauce
-2 tbsp brown sugar
For the salad
-salad greens
-cucumber
-carrot
-red bell pepper
-mint
-red onion or shallot
For the dressing
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-1 1/2 limes, juiced
-1 tbsp Sriracha
-1 tbsp fish sauce
-1 tbsp sesame oil
Directions:
  1. Brown ground pork on medium heat with sesame oil. Once browned, add garlic, chilies & ginger. Stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add brown sugar and stir until it starts to stick. Add fish sauce & lime juice, continuing to cook on medium-low for 3-4 more minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Mix ingredients for dressing and set aside.
  4. Assemble salad; pour dressing over salad, reserving a few spoonfuls. Top with seasoned pork. Add remaining dressing over pork & serve. Try not to freak out when you realize how good this salad is.