Meatless Mondays: A Handy Primer, Part One

by Sarah Henry on May 17, 2010 · 27 comments

in food organizations,food politics,meatless monday,school food,vegetables,whole grains

Every Monday is meatless in my home. Most Tuesdays-Sundays as well, as regular readers of this blog already know. Okay, there’s one notable exception, which you can read all about in a recent post, A Culinary Confession.

But for the purposes of this blog entry: I’ve essentially been a veg head for the past three decades, my 11-year-old son is a strict vegetarian. A Monday without meat is no big deal to us.

I realize, though, that for some folks who want to eat more greens and less meat, whether for health, economic, or environmental reasons, passing up a little flesh at the beginning of the week may pose a challenge.

No worries, Lettuce Eat Kale is here to help. Today, just in time for dinner, I’m going to share some really simple tips to wean you from your carnivorous ways, if only for one day a week.

What follows, the first in a series of how-to-channel-your-inner-herbivore posts for interested parties who want to dish up more plants for dinner.

But first, a little recap on what’s going on in the meat-free world and why now is as good a time as any to join the club.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the Meat Free Monday campaign out of England, in which celebrities Yoko Ono and Sir Paul McCartney struck up the band for eating only plant-based foods on Mondays. Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Pollan have followed suit.

Lately, there’s been loads of action on the eat-less-meat front:

  • The city of San Francisco recently passed a non-binding resolution urging restaurants, food stores, and schools to eschew serving animals on Mondays. My former adopted hometown always wants to be on the cutting edge, culinarily-speaking and otherwise. While I’m not sure how I feel about politicians deciding what its citizenry should or shouldn’t put in their mouths (with the exception of ciggies) it’s certainly a significant societal gesture — and it sure did make the city’s carnivores mad cow crazy mad. What’s their beef?  Click here to find out.
  • Mario Batali just announced he’s going green on Mondays in all 14 of his restaurants across the country.  (Meat eaters need not despair, the celeb chef’s chowhouses will offer two vegetarian dishes every Monday, in a nod to the needs of the planet, along with their regular omnivorous offerings.) Still, that’s a huge coup for the anti-carnivore crowd.

I’m going to leave the advocacy to others. I’ll just note that this is quite the global movement: Even my meat-and-potatoes loving mother country has an active Meatless Monday presence. Go Aussies, go.

And, now, on to today’s tips.

5 Meatless Monday Resources for Newbies:

Check out Meatless Monday: One-stop shopping, duh, for your meatless Monday needs. Recipes, menus, rationales, it’s all here on this site devoted to cutting out meat one day a week for your health and the health of the planet. Celebrities too! This U.S. non-profit initiative is brought to you by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Keep up with Kim O’Donnel: Stay up-to-speed on meatless eating with Seattle-based Kim O’Donnel, a trained chef and former online food columnist at The Washington Post. She’s also the author of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook (due out this fall), files edible dispatches at True/Slant, and hosts vegetarian-friendly weekly Web chats on Culinate.

Collect a Classic Vegetarian Cookbook (or Two): I happen to love (and use) many of Deborah Madison‘s cookbooks, especially Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Ditto Mollie Katzen‘s collection, in particular The New Moosewood Cookbook, as well as her series for kids. Also: Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Build a Veg-Centric Recipe Binder: Organize all those veggie recipes you’ve stashed in strange places so you can easily find Monday mealtime inspiration. Clip from newspapers and magazines and keep in plastic sheets. Don’t ignore less obvious places to pick up interesting dinner ideas. I’m a fan of Robyn Webb‘s recipes in Diabetes Forecast, for instance.

Find Veg-Friendly Food Bloggers: Surf online: There are loads of vegan and vegetarian cyberspace scribes. For starters, look at these lovely sites: 101 Cookbooks, Vegan Yum Yum, Herbivoracious, Eat Your Vegs, and FatFree Vegan. Bookmark those you like, and others you discover, that get you in the mood to go meatless.

Now, it’s your turn. Share your favorite vegetarian cookbook title below or chime in with other resources — online or otherwise — that help inspire you to make plant-based meals.

And do let me know what obstacles you run into in your efforts to make Monday — or any other day of the week — meatless.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal Kiwi May 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I don’t have a set meatless day every week, but we often have several. Cheaper, healthier and usually very yummy.

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Sarah Henry May 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm

The thinking with the Meatless Monday concept is that most people set their intentions at the beginning of the week (and thus have a better chance of following through).

Sounds like that’s not necessary for you, Frugal Kiwi, but I wonder how other readers might respond to that notion?

Would you be more — or less likely — to eat a plant-based meal at the beginning or end of the week?

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Sheryl May 17, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I could easily go meatless any day and am always looking for easy-to-prepare, good-tasting meatless recipes. Thanks for all these suggestions. I’m a big fan of both Bittman and Madison for sure~

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Sarah Henry May 17, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Pleasure, Sheryl. And check back on Mondays to come for specific recipes to add to your meat-free repertoire.

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Katherine May 18, 2010 at 3:06 am

Thanks for the newbie tips. I’m definitely moving my diet in the direction of meat-free, although I’m rarely organized enough to coordinate it with a day of the week. :) This post will help me on my journey. (Especially the gorgeous pics.)

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Sarah Henry May 18, 2010 at 6:26 am

You’re welcome, Katherine. Over the next few weeks I’ll try and pass on some other pointers that may help on the organization/coordination front, so check back.

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MarthaAndMe May 18, 2010 at 3:45 am

We were meatless this Monday. I don’t have a set plan to do that on Mondays, but it just sort of happens once or twice a week.

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Sarah Henry May 18, 2010 at 6:27 am

Whatever works, right, M&Me?

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Alisa Bowman May 18, 2010 at 6:10 am

I was a vegetarian for a while (about 5 years). I’m sort of embarrassed that I gave it up. Now I’ve become quite attached to meat, mostly because it’s easy. I’ve started eating more “veggie” again, and I’ve perfected the Baked Potato Dinner. That’s one of my favorite veggie nights. When I was full on veggie, I liked the Moosewood and the Kripaulu cookbooks the most.

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Sarah Henry May 18, 2010 at 6:28 am

Alisa, Figuring out a few recipes that work for you and your family is key. I’ll write more about that in upcoming posts. A perfect baked potato dinner sounds pretty good.

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Kerry Dexter May 18, 2010 at 6:46 am

actually, I rather enjoy getting inspiration for vegetarian meals from non veg cookbooks and cooking shows, figuring out ways to make changes… that said, the Tassajara Cookbook and the Tassajara Bread Book are old friends, as is a copy of a Betty Crocker International Cookbook, which, while not vegetarian, ahas loads of veg recipes, or ones that easily could be.

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Sarah Henry May 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

Good point, Kerry. You can, of course, find perfectly fab veg recipes in omnivorous outlets such as Saveur, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking and the like.

Thanks, too, for recommending some of your favorites.

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MyKidsEatSquid May 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

Although we’re meat eaters around our house (mostly chicken and pork), we often have meat-free meals just because often a recipe just tastes better sans meat.

Some of our favorites are tostadas topped with refried beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato and more recently, I made veggie enchiladas packed with potatoes, zucchini, onion, served along side Mexican rice. They were tasty and my kids actually preferred them to our normal shredded chicken ones.

As long as a dish has plenty of flavor, I don’t think it matters whether you’re using mostly veggies or meat (unless of course you’re going for a big steak dish which is a rarity at our house anyway!).

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Sarah Henry May 18, 2010 at 10:32 am

I agree, MKES, many recipes — especially lots of ethnic ones — are perfectly delicious without the addition of animal flesh.

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Kim O'Donnel May 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Sarah, thanks so much for including me on your esteemed list of eat-less-meat movers & shakers. I remain a happy omnivore, but there are a lot more legumes, grains, fruit & veg in my diet these days, a state of dietary diversity that I can live with — and am really enjoying. My book, “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook” will be out Sept 14 & is already available for pre-order on Amazon! Still taking requests for book tour pit stops. All best.

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Sarah Henry May 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Welcome, Kim. You’re in good company: Seems like several cookbook author-chefs — Deborah Madison and Mollie Katzen come immediately to mind — are also happily omnivorous with a largely herbivorous orientation.

Assuming, natch, that we’ll get to see you on tour in the fall at Omnivore Books, yes?

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Melanie Haiken May 18, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I have always informally followed a sort of every other day strategy with meat; for some reason it just feels right to me. But I still struggle to find meatless menus my kids and heartland-raised boyfriend will tolerate. Last weekend at a barbecue, a friend introduced us to something that’s been a miracle in my house: A simple semi-Thai style peanut sauce that you pour over grilled tofu, transforming it into something delicious! Who knew making a simple blender sauce of peanut butter, fresh ginger, and herbs could transform lowly tofu into something serious carnivores would rave about? Would love to hear other, similar tips.

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Sarah Henry May 18, 2010 at 10:47 pm

More tips coming, Melanie, promise. Check back on future Mondays for meatless meal suggestions.

And here’s the trick with tofu: As my friend Esther Cooks sez: It’s like the person who can move among any crowd, taking on the flavor of each group it hangs out with.
So, depending on your aromatics, marinades, and spices, tofu can have a Thai, BBQ, Chinese stir-fry, Japanese, spicy Mexican, or what-ever-you fancy flavor. Very versatile protein, the ol’ extra-firm tofu.

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Stephanie - Wasabimon May 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm

As someone who was vegan in a past life, meatless meals are so easy for me that it baffles me that others find it difficult. Thanks for the reminder that I need to think outside of my own experiences!

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Sarah Henry May 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Welcome, Steph. I’ll be hitting you up for tips for future posts, for sure.

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Lisa May 21, 2010 at 9:43 pm

We usually eat about half meat meals (usually chicken/fish ) and half veggie each week. In the spring/summer my thoughts turn to Middle Eastern cuisines. Lots of delish veggie foods. My latest favorite is a culinary mash up of quinoa with parsley, tomatoes, chives, olives and feta. I also use epicurious.com and enter the foods I have in the fridge and see what recipes they suggest.

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Sarah Henry May 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Love the sound of your quinoa mash up, Lisa. And great tips too. I think you’re right that somehow in the warm weather it seems easier to be an herbivore with the abundance of ripe produce from which to pick and choose.

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Kerry Dexter May 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm

those root vegetable soups and stews are so great in the colder times of year though…

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