Reader Callout: Preparing Meals with Less Meat

| 3/26/2009 12:42:49 PM

Tags: meal planning, meat,

Do you have clever tricks, ideas and recipes for fixing meals with less meat? Do you use meat as a side dish or condiment? Perhaps you eat several meatless meals each week, and then use a little meat here and there to round out the textures, flavors and nutrition of your overall diet.

For some people, learning to cook with less meat is part of an intentional transition to a vegetarian diet. For others, it can be a way to stretch food dollars or simply to up the ante of grains, beans and other hearty stars of the dinner table.

Whatever your motivation, if you have insight into the almost-meatless kitchen, please share your recipes and ideas with each other in the comments section below. 

5/1/2009 9:00:54 PM

I am a 62 year old male, and I ate meat for 60 of those 62 years. I'm now a vegetarian "of sorts". I still eat some fish (once a week at most), primarily salmon or other oily fish. No meat. I learned one thing very quickly when I first tried getting off meat, it's as addicting as any other addition out there. So don't be beating yourself up if you are finding it difficult weaning yourself off it. But if you can stay with it for three weeks, you can get over it. I did, and I don't miss eating meat one bit. The "fact" that meat is the "best" source of protein is not necessarily so, except of course according to the meat industry. We don’t need meat, what we need is protein. In fact, what we actually need are the building blocks of protein, the 22 amino acids that our bodies use to make the protein we need. Meat may not even be the best source of those amino acids, even though animal meat contains all 22 of them. Our bodies still need to break down that (meat) protein, into the individual amino acids, and that takes a lot of work on the part of several major organs. There are other sources of those amino acids, which may actually be easier for our bodies to assimilate. One word of caution however, you must be knowledgeable of how to get all 22 of them on a regular basis. It's really not that difficult, but it can be, with the current typical "American diet". All you need to do is eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and "their partner" legumes. That way, you will be assured of getting all 22 amino acids that your body requires, to make all of the proteins necessary for the constant rebuilding of our bodies. There is a whole new world of cooking and eating out there, that does not include meat. I love to cook and I love to eat, and I also love feeling healthy and full of energy all the time. Start researching this stuff and you will be amazed at what you

4/6/2009 11:34:11 PM

Sorry - I forgot to add the seasonings. To the refried beans I add 1 tbsp. chili powder and 1 tbsp. ground cumin. To the 2 lbs. of ground beef I add 1/4 c. Penzey's mild taco seasoning and 1/4 c. hot taco seasoning.

4/6/2009 11:32:23 PM

Tacos! I make refried beans using 4 cups of dried pinto beans. To this I add two pounds of ground beef that has been browned and the grease poured off, seasoned with taco mix (I buy from Penzey's) and 1 can of Glen Muir tomatoes with green chilies. Sometimes I fry up an onion with the ground beef. To make the beans, I quick soak them, change the water, and cook until done but still firm. I add one tbsp. salt and let cool overnight. I find that if I do not do this the beans will overly absorb any seasonings added subsequently. The next day, I reheat them briefly, then strain them, saving some of the water. I heat canola oil in the bottom of a soup pot until a bean will sizzle in it, then add the beans and mash them with a potato masher, adding a scant amount of water just to keep them from burning on the bottom. Sometimes we eat the whole pot over a week or more and other times I will freeze part of it. If it is too soupy after adding the tomatoes, simmer a little longer. If it is too dry and like paste, add more water until smooth again.

3/30/2009 10:34:04 AM

I love cooking with TVP (texturized vegetable protein), which you’ll find in most grocery stores with a bulk foods section. TVP can be used in a variety of recipes, but my favorite is vegetarian tacos. Pan-fry the TVP in a small amount of oil for a couple of minutes (until the TVP crumbles become golden). The TVP absorbs most of the oil, so use it sparingly. Then, add enough water to saturate the pieces—this varies depending on how much you started with. The TVP will absorb the water instantly, so start will a small amount and add more until you reach the desired chewy consistency. Add peas and corn or other veggies to the mix, for extra flavor and nutrition. Then, add cayenne pepper (as much or as little as you prefer) and a couple of tablespoons of ketchup. Heat until all the water is absorbed. Then, ENJOY! This makes the tastiest, and closest to regular taco filling that one can imagine!

barb cooan
3/30/2009 12:18:36 AM

I started using Tofu in place of meat,especially for spaghetti sauces, stews. The Tofu is soy bean curd of course and will take on the taste of whatever you put it in. There is a good site for all kinds of recipes which I use all the time. Believe me I do not through anything out anymore. If I have leftovers they are frozen ex: green bean, peas or corn then make veggie soup and use the frozen veggies for the soup. Did that this week and I remembered I had frozen cooked noodles and then dumped them in the soup too. One meal done and believe me they were all leftovers and no meat.

3/29/2009 4:12:38 PM

Beans are a tasty, low-cost substitute for meat. For recipes try:, Under calbean follow the links to the Idaho website. It includes recipes for desserts. Soups are an easy way to use beans. Start with broth - meat or veg., add beans,rinsed and drained if using canned, vegetables: leftovers, canned, or a frozen veg. mix. Season, simmer for a short time. Garnish with cheese or croutons. Leftover rice or pasta is good, too. One of my favorite soups is beginning with a can of diced tomatoes, garbanzo beans, drained, and a frozen veg. mix. Add a little water, season with basil, garnish with parmesan. Onions, garlic, peppers, salsa, etc. may be added. Use your imagination! I often add a small amount of olive oil to my soups. I sometimes ladle my soup over leftover cornbread broken into chunks.

3/29/2009 11:56:18 AM

I found a great vegan Brunswick stew recipe via Google: I use a regular onion, red lentils, a handful or so of Trader Joe's roasted corn, and roasted diced tomatoes, and it is indistinguishable from the "real" thing in looks and in flavor. (cook the lentils before adding the flavorings) is another great recipe website, and of course Google helps in finding recipes using whatever ingredients I'm interested in featuring or substituting, or recipes from specific cuisines. Good luck, fellow cheap eaters!

3/29/2009 10:16:55 AM

Being a Midwesterner, I was raised on meat. Every meal started out with a cut of meat and then side dishes of a starch and a vegetable or two. By far, the largest calorie chunk was from meat. It has taken me many years to adjust my diet to consist of mostly vegetables, beans, rice and grains. At first you feel like you're missing something, but over time and with dedication you can make the switch. I still prefer meat as my main source of protein. Having said that, here are a few tips for those of you who are confirmed meat-eaters. The first thing is to cut your portion size. There is never a reason to eat a ten ounce steak! The plate will look funny to you, so fill the vacant space with a double portion of your favorite vegetable - in my case green beans or tomatoes. I put a slice of whole grain bread on the plate, too instead of serving it on a separate plate as my mother always did. That way, the plate looks full, and the small portion of meat doesn't look so pitiful. I limit my meat portion to about the size of a deck of cards. The next step is to start using lots of ground meats and mixing them with various ground or finely grated vegatables. I use grated carrots a lot in meat recipes of all sorts. I love the idea about freezing grated zuccini and adding it to meatloaf. I also add mashed leftover beans to it. Start easy and it won't seem like such a big deal. Declare at least one day a week meatless day. Also, if you add a little meat and rice to your favorite bean recipe, there will be less gas from the beans. They contain an incomplete protein that digests better if accompanied with rice or a little meat. I use any bones from meat in soups instead of the meat itself. Add a little - like maybe one tablespoon - of vinegar to the broth and it will leach some of the calcium out of the bones and into the soup. I use red wine vinegar or cider vinegar. It adds a level of flavor that is wonderful.

wild flora
3/29/2009 5:33:21 AM

I love this vegetarian chili recipe I got from "Eating Well" magazine via the RealAge website. It's chock full of healthful foods (beans, sweet potato, tomato, olive oil, onion, garlic), and it's very satisfying: 2 tsp xtra virgin olive oil 1 small onion, diced (recipe calls for "finely" diced, but I'm too lazy for that--I just chop it fairly roughly) 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced 2 cloves garlic, minced (being lazy, I use 1 tsp minced garlic from a jar) 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 tsp ground cumin 1/4 tsp ground chipotle chile (I have not been able to find ground chipotle but have found that canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce works well. You can usually find this in the Mexican foods section.) 1/8 teaspoon salt or to taste 1 1/3 cups water 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed 1 cup canned diced tomatoes 2 teaspoons lime juice 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (the newfangled cilantro that comes pre-chopped in a plastic tube also works; I use this because I don't use enough cilantro to use up an entire bunch of the fresh stuff before it goes bad) Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion and sweet potato. Stir often while cooking until onion is slightly soft. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, chipotle, and salt. Stir constantly while cooking about 30 seconds. (Cook until you can smell the warming spices -- this is very pleasant.) Add water, cover, bring to a simmer and keep it there for about 12 min or until potato is soft. Add beans, tomatoes, lime juice. Stir often while returning to a simmer. Cook for about 4 min. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

barbara j._3
3/28/2009 12:05:10 PM

Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar Quiches Serves 4 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 50 minutes ingredients Butter, for ramekins Coarse salt 1 package (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets 6 large eggs 1/2 cup half-and-half 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (3 ounces) Preheat oven to 350°. Butter four 8-ounce ramekins (or a 9-inch pie dish); set aside. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli; cook 1 minutes. Drain well; transfer to a cutting board, and blot dry with paper towels. Chop coarsely. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in broccoli and cheese. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Ladle broccoli mixture into ramekins, dividing evenly. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and a mixed-green salad, if desired. Per serving: 266 calories; 19 grams fat; 17.2 grams protein; 5.9 grams carbohydrates; 1.7 grams fiber

3/28/2009 8:18:58 AM

I cook with a lot of beans to get away from so much meat. Split pea soup is a favorite. Also beans 'n' greens (I use northern beans, escarole, endive, or mustard greens)served with corn bread. I also use cabbage to make fried cabbage with bacon and noodles, cabbage and ham soup and cabbage and potato soup. During the winter I found that making soup really expands your wallet, because so few ingredients are used and the quantity is so much that it can be put in the freezer for future use.It's also fresher and there are no harmful ingredients. As for salt...don't put it in until it's served. The person eating it can salt it to their taste. There's nothing better than to come home from work thinking " cooking. I'll just get some soup out of the freezer and heat it up". I have also made vegetable soup with and without beef chunks and have canned it. Wonderful.

3/28/2009 5:00:08 AM

I use TVP (textured vegetable protein) to expand hamburger in tacos, chili, spaghetti, sloppy joes, and just about anything else you would use loose hamburger in. After the hamburger and onions are cooked, I add an equal amount of TVP to the pan and continue with the rest of the ingredients. No one can tell a bit of difference. You can find TVP at various emergency preparation type web sites. They also have it in chicken and sausage flavored.

3/27/2009 6:47:16 PM

Bacon is a wonderful meal stretcher. A pound of bacon can create roughly 2 cups of fresh bacon bits and 6 or more tablespoons of grease. If you freeze multiple bags of bits, they can be pulled down and used immediately for cooking. One pound of bacon can create the following meals: One quarter cup bits for one 9 inch quiche. Grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon bits or sprinkled over salad. One cup bacon bits to 2 lbs. soaked and half cooked navy or pinto beans, add spices (6-8 quart pan). Saute 1/4 to 1/2 cup bacon bits and onions 3-5 minutes over medium heat, add in 2-3 cups cooked rice, add spice as desired, stir in 1/4-1/3 cup water, cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes, let stand 3 minutes covered; stir and serve. Note: Meat should be well cooked, prior to adding the rice. Alternate meat such as chicken and beef can be used, as well as, vegetables such as squash, broccoli, cauliflower and corn. To use the remaining bacon grease simply add two tablespoons to your 6-8 quart pot of soaked beans or 1-2 tablespoon to 3 quarts of cabbage and boil until tender, then serve. For refried beans, add 1-1.5 tablespoons to a warm skillet, then add 1-1.5 lbs. of mashed pinto beans, continue turning until warm and well mixed, add spices if desired, serve or store. Bacon bits and bacon grease both freeze well, making them easy to use and a great treat.

3/27/2009 6:37:23 PM

The trick for us - our rice cooker. It expands all our meals because we can cook grains quick and easy, just push 'On' and that's it! We cook some type of grain every night or two. I highly suggest getting one. No burnt or mushy rice, etc. We now eat a lot of grains we never bothered with before: Barley, black/wild rice, quinoa, millet, spelt, etc. Check out - has a lot of great meatless recipes using whole grains. Also, there are lots of amazing meat substitues out there now. We've fooled quite a few friends!... Veggie GroundRound is great with a packet of taco seasoning, or try Soyrizo & eggs, Tofurkey brand Italian Sausages in spaghetti dinners, tofu stir-fry & curries, GimmeLean 'sausage patties', 'Chik'n' Strips are great in almost anything. Try 'em! (sometimes you have to try more than one brand to find one you like). My husband thought he'd never give meat up, but 2 years later...we're meatless almost 100% of the time in our house.

3/27/2009 5:14:42 PM

There were 6 of us kids all 13 to 16 months apart. My mom could fed 8 people on 1 pound of hamburger. The secret is lots of oatmeal, bread ends, and crushed crackers. This filler works well in any meat dish or casserole. This filler and 1 can of mackerel made us salmon croquettes every Friday. You will eat less meat if everyone had 2 or 3 more children. You will also watch less t.v. and play outside more. Thank-you karenlinn

kim mann
3/27/2009 4:38:13 PM

My family really enjoys these burgers, which is saying a lot when you have 5 kids and they all enjoy the same thing! Anyway, here goes! 1 can black beans, drained 1 egg 1/2 c bread crumbs cumin and or chili powder to taste onion and garlic powder to taste Mix all together, mashing the beans to your liking. Let rest for about 15 minutes to allow for the bread crumbs to do their thing. When ready, pour mixture onto preheated, oiled skillet. You will need to flatten a but with the back of your fork. Cook for a few minutes on each side. Burgers are now ready to enjoy or you can freeze them for later. We like to throw them on the grill for a little extra flavor. NOTE- you can add more bread crumbs, but be careful as too much will make your burgers dry. Feel free to add other spices, even onions! This is just how my kids like them. They call them "taco burgers."

keith hallam_1
3/27/2009 4:28:16 PM

We enjoy veggie dishes and meaty dishes. I get the cheap cuts of meat like shin beef. Two slices about an inch thick does three meals. Cut up small, not ground, and mixed with diced onion or capsicum or leek etc amd marinaded with whatever spices you have. I have a selection of 20 or so. Mix it all up with sunflower oil and fresh milk. Divide it into three containers. I get plastic containers about 6" x 4" x 1" deep for 10c each (in packs of 10). Then decide what the main flavour will be. Powdered turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, paprika, caraway etc and put in a teaspoonful of one of them in the container and mix well. Or you could use a teaspoonful of a ready made Indian or Chines mix. Put in the fridge overnight then freeze until wanted. One container will be the base of one meal for two. A pie or stew and dumpling or a hotpot. Or.... poured over a dish of chips (thick french fries to you). So many flavours, so many variations, so little time.

3/27/2009 12:36:03 PM

I am a little shocked that this is about "almost" meatless, with all the amazing vegetarian recipies out there why go part way? My Parents stretch thier meat by roasting a chicken once a week and spreading the leftovers over lunches and another dinner. The rest of the week they eat meatless meals. I recomend discovering other flavors and textures instead of trying to mimic meat. Qinoua stew is delicious, or try roasted veggies including sweet potatoes, parsnips, garlic, along with the usual potatoes and carrots, add herbs to your dishes, or experiment with spices like curries, try some homemade ethnic foods like stir frys with exotic mushrooms and greens. I grew up with food allergies and have been eating a raw diet for the last 2 years. I have discovered through it all that in general we eat a very narrow variety of food, in researching and expanding my food horizons I have found there is a wealth of foods we miss out on if we just mimic the standard fare (all the gluten free, dairy free foods I have tried flashing through my mind!). Be adventurous folks! One of the most harmful things we do to our health and planet is eat excessive amounts of meat. It is good to cut back as this topic encourages, but don't restrain yourself to faking it, find some good veg. recipies, and make them staples of your diet, your health and planet will thank you!

kim moore_3
3/27/2009 12:03:38 PM

Sliced mushrooms can add texture and a sort of meaty bite to dishes, allowing you to cut down on or eliminate meat without taking away the texture.

3/27/2009 11:42:02 AM

Meatless and low-meat are easy once you get the hang of them. Begin by thinking of all the wonderful meatless tradional foods from different ethnicities: burritos, stir fries, pastas... can all be made meat-free. Then learn to think of meat as a seasoning, not a main ingredient- like Tabitha said about grating it in, or shredding a bit of chicken on a salad, or adding bits of beef to a soup. It doesn't ahve to be the showcase in every meal. One particular recipe we love is chili. instead of using meat, we throw in a handful of dried bulgur wheat or barley and an extra cup of liquid to our chili with excellent results. (This is a chili with 3 dif. beans.) You'll get a nice "chew" without the animal product, plus it's much cheaper!

3/27/2009 10:37:58 AM

I grow zuchini and in the fall I grate about 1/2 cup and put in sandwich bags and put them all in a freezer bag. I take out 1 pkg everytime I make meat loaf and add it to my hamburg to give it a nice moist texture and "stretch" my meat. I bet it would be good also to use squash of different kind and therefore adding extra nourishment.

3/27/2009 9:20:31 AM

Hi Everyone, I am the chef at Vegalicious All of the 300+ recipes are without meat and they are very delicious. The recipes are free. If you prefer to look at photos for inspirations you can see them all here:

3/26/2009 12:58:23 PM

One option to make meat go farther is to make various kinds of scrapple. Scrapple is a traditional food made from mixing ground meat (sometimes "scraps"; sometimes regular cuts) with corn, buckwheat or other grains. I made some recently simply by mixing grass-fed pork sausage and fresh-ground Floriani flint corn polenta, and it was terrific. Mother Earth News contributing editor Will Weaver has written a wonderful little book all about the history of this "peasant" food.

tabitha alterman_1
3/26/2009 12:53:27 PM

I learned a neat trick from the crafty folks at Murray's Real Salami in New York City ( ). If you have some cured meat, like salami, that has become too hard to cut or chew easily after being unwrapped from its "skin," you can use a microplane grater/zester to shave the meat Parmesan-style into scrambled eggs, soup, pasta, etc. -Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News

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