So You Want to Give Up Red Meat

Quite a few people are trying to give up meat in the new year—either for health reasons or because they want to be semi-vegetarians. Here are a few strategies for the meat lover trying to survive without beef, lamb, and pork. (In case you were wondering, I DO know that tofu is a great source of protein, and that it melds beautifully with whatever sauce you throw it into. But I’m not a tofu fan so I left it out!)

1. Experiment with beans.

Beans are a nutritious, delicious source of protein we often overlook. They make a handy side dish—or even a main dish! Try a vegetarian chili or some Indian dal.

2. Forget about bacon.

In my opinion, substitutes like turkey bacon simply can’t compare with the real thing. Looking at them on the breakfast plate, one just longs for actual bacon. Do yourself a favor and don’t bother.

3. Don’t forget about smoked turkey, turkey kielbasa, and their ilk.

Poultry sausages don’t have all the flavor and fat of their pork and beef cousins, but they can certainly hold their own. Chicken sausage now comes in many delightful flavors, including andouille. And I love to throw a little turkey kielbasa into my jambalaya.

4. Learn to love chipotle.

When you’re cooking up a stew, a soup, or a pot of beans that would call for a ham hock or bacon, try throwing in a couple of chopped chipotles in adobo (along with some of the sauce that accompanies them in their can). Chipotles are smoked jalapenos; they add just the right hint of smoky flavor, as well as a little kick. Here’s a recipe for chipotle corn chowder.

5. Whisk up a real Louisiana roux.

Cooking your butter and flour to just the right darkness makes a dish like shrimp etouffée taste smoky without pork.

6. Pick up some ground chicken or turkey.

With a little extra flavor and filler you can construct a pretty tasty poultry burger. And this ground meat makes great chili or tacos.

7. Remember, pizza is about more than pepperoni and sausage!

Try ordering—or, better yet, making—a vegetarian pie. Or this (sort of) Mexican chicken pizza. The shredded chicken mixture in the Mexican pizza can also be inserted into tacos. Olé!

8. Don’t forget the incredible, edible egg.

My idea of fast food used to be a hamburger. Today it’s an omelet with lots of vegetables and just a little cheese.

9. Think stir fry.

Traditional Chinese food uses lots of vegetables to supplement just a little chicken or seafood. Pick up a good Chinese cookbook and start experimenting. You may find that at some point you may not even want the chicken and seafood.

10. Remember that a little sauce can make a big difference.

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If you feel stuck with plain chicken, try chicken satay with peanut sauce. (This recipe calls for beef, but boneless, skinless pieces of chicken work just as well.) The chicken takes on the character of the sauce—and you end up with great leftovers.

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