Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Busting Food Ruts

Even just my timid steps into the world of plant-based eating has taught me the importance of seeking out, finding and trying new recipes. Over the past few months, I have amassed a library of resources to support me in my endeavors: I have a collection of cookbooks; I subscribe to a variety of food blogs; have various vegan/vegetarian websites bookmarked; I've even created my own Pinterest board devoted to plant-based recipes.

My new lifestyle is much more challenging than when I was an omnivore. Even though both my husband and I love to cook, our meat-based meals fit one of two formulas: Our standard was 1 part animal protein and 2 parts vegetable; about once a week, we'd switch things up with 1 part animal protein, 1 part vegetable and 1 part starch (beans, grain or pasta).

Eliminating the animal protein has made for some boring nights. The choice of eating vegetables with vegetables or vegetables with starch wears easily on my husband. Also, as a diabetic, he doesn't feel like he can have a lot of starchy meals without feeling adverse affects to his blood sugar so pasta with veggies and sauce is not what he wants for dinner. We have an agreement that if he doesn't like what's on the menu, he can have tuna and crackers without fear of hurting my feelings. But I know that if he's eating tuna and crackers, that means I'm stuck eating the leftovers of whatever I've made for the entire week. It also means that I'm more committed to weekly meal plans featuring new and different meals to avoid getting stuck in a rut.

Even I get sick of lentil soup every day. My goal is to try three new recipes each week and then to cycle through about 10 favorites from the past. If I do it well, we only end up eating the same meal once or twice a month. To make life a little easier, especially during the workweek, I try to have a least 10 meals ready to go in the freezer and I'm always thinking of ways to modify recipes so I can repurpose leftovers in a variety of ways.

For example, I might make pilaf as a side dish one night and then use it as a stuffing for cabbage rolls or squash later in the week. Pureed soups can make great sauces when thickened with coconut milk, a roux or a cornstarch slurry. Options are only as limited as your imagination -- and imagination makes everything taste so much better.

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