Monday, February 20, 2012

Dark Days Challenge - Meat Eaters go Veggie!

The Dark Days Challenge-within-a-challenge for this round was to make a vegetarian meal. So far most of my Dark Days meals haven't been all that meat heavy anyhow (except there's been awful lot of bacon!) From these meals alone it appears we aren't heavy meat consumers but the truth is we eat a fair amount of meat and it is the one area that I still think we have have a lot to improve on. A few years ago I read The Omnivore's Dilemma and like anyone who's read it I was horrified and disgusted by the methods used to raise meat animals in North America. I drove my friends crazy that summer, quoting parts of the book to them. I made vows to never eat supermarket meat or eggs again. I've done pretty well with the eggs, having found a source of reasonably priced free range eggs. But the meat I confess is a lot more difficult. There are options for local humanely raised meat; grass fed beef, free roam pork, lots of poultry and even sustainably caught local fish. The problem is the costs are on average 4 -5 times higher than the supermarket options and it's really difficult for me to wrap my frugal mind around the concept of paying more for less even if I know it to be the better choice. As previously mentioned I grew up in a very large family and old habits die hard; a lifetime of shopping for sales and seconds is hard to put aside. I usually only shop at a main stream supermarket once or twice a month but that is where I purchase the majority of our meat- I watch for sales, look for last day of sale stickers and always check the discounted bin. Our grocery bills for 2 adults are normally around $100, and never more than $150/month. We eat well for that- lots of fresh veggies and whole food but we both eat meat almost everyday and I would guess that about 40% of our grocery budget spent on meat. And that's not likely to change any time soon. The Russian being a dancer has a very physical job, and being Russian thinks of any food without meat as a snack. He requires animal proteins daily. For myself, I attempted a vegan diet once for two weeks (not by choice, I was a guest) and I have never been so sick. Perhaps it's because I'm a O blood type, perhaps it's because I cannot digest legumes well (although I eat them anyhow because they are delicious!)I also require a regular source of animal protein. And to be fair, I love meat, particularly red meat. I even enjoy it raw - I had a lovely lamb tartare recently and I was in heaven!

So how do I keep us both fed and happy and still support the ethical treatment of animals? It's a debate I have with myself frequently and as of yet I don't have the answer. I've been looking at options like buying in bulk or through a meat CSA but the initial outlay is a bit daunting and we don't have the freezer space to take on even a quarter of a cow. And even if we could raise meat animals in the city (banned except for rabbits) I don't think either of us are at the stage where we could kill them ourselves. My current concession is to divert $10/week of our monthly food budget towards meat that is ethically raised, which equates to about 1-2 meals. It's not an answer but it's a start.

The other option of course is to increase the number of vegetarian meals we eat. I do try to make at least one totally vegetable based dinner a week, much to the horror of the Russian. Since I do most of the cooking he will eat pretty much anything I make but he's still convinced he's being deprived when I serve meatless meals . He was not at all impressed that I make borscht with butter beans rather than meat, even when I assured him it was done with beef stock.

So what do confirmed meat eaters make for a vegetarian challenge? Why pizza of course!

I'm impatient so I used a no rise dough recipe from here
I used a mix of Red Fife wheat flour and unbleached stone ground flour. The yeast was just regular from a packet- is there such a thing as local yeast (other than sour dough)? I substituted honey for the sugar - this honey is from the hives on top of the Royal York Hotel in the heart of downtown Toronto (where the Russian and I spent a night last week for our belated Valentine's date)!

For toppings I used some of my tomato sauce canned last fall, onions (both fresh and carmelized), and mushrooms. I added oven dried cherry tomatoes, dried basil and frozen roasted peppers all from last fall and to top it off, my home made mozzarella and feta cheeses.

The crust was more dense than a traditional pizza crust but the flavour was exceptional- there were no leftover crust from this pizza! And best of all, the Russian devoured it and didn't seem to notice the lack of meat!

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