Housewife MacGyver: Keira's Meatless Meals - A Case for Less Meat

Keira is here again! Today she's showing off her nutritional chops by talking about meat -- cutting back and making nutritious meals without the meat, for both nutritional and financial benefits. Having a few meatless recipes up your sleeve can also save you from the take-out monster on those days when you're out of your staple meats but still have a hungry family. :) Take it away, Keira!

I'm sure you and I are like most Americans--we plan our meals every night around a cut of meat. That's how we did it in MY house, so I couldn't even fathom what to do with a meal that had no meat! I'm slowing converting to the strange idea myself, but meals CAN be fun without the meat!

As a side-note here: I love meat. Especially the worse they are for me. I blame my iron-deficiency that makes me crave a mean steak in the summer. And I will never get over my love-affair with bacon. But I'll admit to anyone that NOT having meat doesn't make me miss it much, and then when I DO have meat, it makes the meat taste better. :) Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess! On a serious note, though, I find it risky at best to become a vegan. The more I study nutrition in college, the more I realize how important meat is to our systems. It's necessary in my book--but not necessary for every meal, or even every day. In our family, we're down to meat about 3-4 times a week. That's pretty manageable.

With that out of the way, I'd like to make a case for having less meat. Meat is expensive, and if you're trying to be a little more thrifty, cutting meat out 3 times a week can be very budget-friendly. Meat provides complete proteins that are absolutely necessary to your body, but you don't need it everyday to get that benefit. Meat often has quite a bit of saturated fat and cholesterol attached to the complete-protein-advantage, so less of it can help you manage your fat intake and cholesterol levels.

Although we do not need meat every day to meet our protein needs, we DO need protein, every day--both complete proteins and incomplete proteins (I didn't know there were two types either, until college!).

Basic breakdown:
Most animal products are complete proteins.
Most plant proteins are incomplete proteins.

The exceptions: gelatin (made from animal product) isn't a complete protein (or much of anything, really); soybeans are the one complete protein you can get from plant foods.

What does this mean? It means when you eat a grilled cheese sandwich, when you put sour cream on your taco, when you pour milk on your cereal--you are getting a complete protein. There it is! No meat! On the off chance you eat tofu or drink soy milk or enjoy edamame--you are getting a complete protein (as close as you get).

So, some examples of meatless meals are very simple: mac and cheese, cereal and milk, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs/omelettes, tacos with beans instead of beef, tomato bisque, pizza (even the veggie lovers one!), nachos, stir fry with tofu, fettuccine Alfredo, even your spaghetti (minus meatballs), when you sprinkle Parmesan on it, is complete.

Whew. Isn't that nice? Meatless meals have started to become very popular with me at my house because it eliminates cooking a huge feast--sprinkle cheese and sour cream on my taco and we're good!

Two notes on how to "complete" an incomplete protein:

* If you aren't keen on meat or animal products, but are tired of soy in its varieties, there is one way to "match" incomplete proteins: have beans and corn in the same meal. This has been used in Latin-American cultures for centuries because meat was so expensive and rare, but beans and corn were their staples. Put corn into your chili instead of meat; have corn tortillas with your re-fried beans in your tacos, or use corn tortilla chips in your bean dip.

* If you eat an incomplete plant protein, you won't be able to use the protein in its incomplete state (with the exception mentioned above), you will need to "complete" it. For example, if you snack on walnuts, you won't absorb most, if any, of the protein to be used properly without a complete protein. This is mostly an easy fix, though: stir walnuts into yogurt with fruit and granola; have sour cream or cheese with your bean taco, have a glass of milk with your moudjadara, or just plain replace meat with an egg.

Replacing most of the meat in your dishes with high-protein, low-fat alternatives can be easier than we think, and better for our wallets and our bodies! Here is a list of a few of my favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Source: Nutrition and You by Joan Salge Blake, 2008 edition, published by Pearson-Benjamin Cummings.

Thanks, Keira! I think you've just started a meatless revolution! Plus now I feel very smart, knowing that there are two types of proteins. :)

Don't forget to hop on over to Keira's blog and check out her awesomeness there. In addition to her fantastic recipes, she shares wise insights about motherhood and life and oh, you will LOVE the subway art she did recently! 

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Video on the go

Hello! It's Wednesday (in case you hadn't checked your calendar yet :), so I'm over at Housewife Eclectic sharing a quick and easy (and FREE) way to take videos with you on your mobile device(s) so you've got entertainment even when you don't have the internet. Come on over!

Thanks for reading!

Housewife MacGyver: Spicy Wisdom from Ginny of Cooking with Chopin

Our Housewife MacGyver guest today has quickly become one of my favorite bloggers to read. I stumbled upon her blog awhile back, and I was hooked. I want Ginny to be my neighbor because she's just awesome -- fun and witty -- and then I could borrow more often of her cooking expertise. Or just invite myself over to dinner. 

I'm not a foodie (not even in the foodie galaxy, really) but Ginny makes all of the fancy touches SO easy, explaining why you do this or do that and what the fancy terms mean. And there are pictures. Plenty of pictures. Be sure to hop on over to Cooking With Chopin to see all of her greatness, but for now Ginny is here to show how to put some spice in your life...

...Or at least in your food.

(But spice in your marriage is also a good thing!)

Hey, everyone!  I'm Ginny from Cooking with Chopin, Living with Elmo.  I've been blogging for almost a year and I'm hooked.  I still can't believe having this much fun is free

Lorene kindly asked me to be a guest in this "Housewife MacGyver" series.  How honored I am!

There were three TV men I had crushes on in the 80s (when I was all of 12 years old...):  Richard Dean Anderson in MacGyver, David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider, and John Ritter in Three's Company (don't ask!).

But sweet Lorene didn't ask me to go on a diatribe about healthy marriages or girlish crushes.

She asked me to talk about cooking with spice.

So here we go!

Transforming Your Meals from "Blah" to "Ta-Da!!"

Good flavor, whether it's from herbs, spices, or other food items, is essential to good cooking.

Becoming comfortable with flavors in the kitchen is like opening my PJ drawer and pulling out my favorite jammie pants.  I know they will be comfortable.  And how do I know this?  Through experience.  I put them on almost every night, and I have confidence that they will not ride up my rear, cut into my muffin top, or squeeze me like a corset.  The same goes when I'm cooking.  I know, through experience, that certain combinations of flavors will yield comforting results:  lemon + garlic, wine + cheese, Nutella + a spoon on a direct path to my mouth.  Which may be why I have a muffin top.  But I digress.

Experimenting with flavors and getting comfortable with different combinations and strengths will create a very firm foundation for your cooking experience.

Getting the Most Flavor from Basic Ingredients

So, what are basic ingredients?

They are the things you can easily pick up at the store and/or items that are part of your regularly stocked pantry.  (Here's more information on basic pantry staples or a well-stocked pantry.)

Basic stuff like: 
Olive Oil
Parsley (fresh or dried)
Roasted Garlic (so easy to make at home)
Red Pepper Flakes
Parmesan Cheese
Freshly Ground Black Pepper*
Kosher Salt

How about we cook up a little dish that easily employs these {flavorful} ingredients?

Summer Pasta with Roasted Garlic and Lemon

Or how about making a DELICIOUS sauce to pour over sauteed chicken breasts...from...SCRATCH.  Don't freak out on me here if you're not a regular "from-scratch" person.  You will be dancing a little jig in the kitchen when you sample this delectable delight.

Orange-Rosemary Sauce, will you be mine?

Sauteed Chicken with Orange-Rosemary Sauce
Click here for the tutorial, or scroll down for the recipe.

And how about curry?  It's one of those love-it-or-hate-it spices.

I love it.

Curried Chicken Salad, anyone?

Just take four ingredients (chicken, apples, dried apricots, and green onions), make a curry dressing, mix it all together, and VOILA.

A healthy, flavorful dinner.
(Here's the tutorial.)

Random Spice Tips:

Switching It Out:  You can successfully substitute dried spices (or herbs) for fresh ones.  Just reduce the amount by about half when applicable.  (Example:  If you're to add two teaspoons of fresh parsley, add about 1 teaspoon of dried parsley.)

And It's How Old?  Herbs and spices do expire, but not necessarily to the point of becoming rotten and rancid.  They will just lose their flavor punch over time.  Do a smell test.  If something that is normally pungent, like cumin, smells rather weak, it might be time to toss it.  Dried herbs, if exposed to moisture, can get moldy, which is really gross.  But generally speaking, I do not switch out my spices every six months as I've heard recommended. 

When To Add It?  To preserve the flavor (and not over-cook it),  I usually add fresh herbs to the pot near the end of the cooking time. 

Freshly Ground Black Pepper:  I'm a huge believer in the noticeable difference between "regular" black pepper and the pepper that is freshly ground.  I use this grinder every single day. 

Kosher Salt:  I use Kosher salt because I love it's texture and it's easy to pinch and toss into my pots as I'm cooking. Chemically, it's the same as finely ground salt.  It's near the regular salt sold at the store.  

Cumin:  I use cumin at least once a week.  We eat a lot of chicken around here, and a generous dash or two always adds just the right umpf to the dish.  I even "doctor" up the boys' mac-n-cheese with it because I want them to get used to different flavors.  No complaints have been lodged to date.

My adoration for cumin is so well known that I received this as a birthday present last week:
My favorite spice from my favorite grocery store:  HEB in Texas.  
I love it that my friends know me so well. 

I could go on and on about spices, flavors and cooking in general.

But my "you're talking way too much" alarm is going off in my head.

So I'll wrap it up by saying "Thank You!" to Lorene for letting me yap my trap here.

Y'all have a great day!

(Feel free to ask me any specific questions by emailing me at  Also, it would tickle me pink if you would stop by my blog for a visit.) 

Here are a few of the recipes I mentioned above.

Summer Pasta with Roasted Garlic and Lemon
Serves 4-5 

1 pound pasta (I used bow-tie [Farfalle]), cooked according to package instructions
2 heads roasted garlic (this is about 15-20 cloves)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon (about 2-3  teaspoons)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (that's a small handful of leaves); substitute 1 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use more or less if desired)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place prepared pasta in a large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Serve hot or cold.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Orange-Rosemary Sauce
Serves 4

3 boneless chicken breasts, skin removed and sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup of flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 large shallot, chopped into thin slices and separated into rings
1 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced (or substitute dried rosemary)
2 teaspoons zested orange peel
salt and pepper to taste

To saute the chicken:
Cut chicken breasts in half.  Pound lightly with a mallet and then pat dry with a paper towel.  Mix salt and pepper with the flour.  Place flour mixture on a large plate.  Dredge the meat in the flour (just lightly pat the meat into the flour, coating it on all sides).  Discard flour and set meat aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Carefully sprinkle a drop of water in the oil.  If/when it sizzles, the oil is hot enough. 

Add the chicken to the skillet, being mindful to not crowd the pan.  Saute the chicken in two batches if you need to.  But use the same pan to cook both batches of chicken if you will make the sauce.  

Saute chicken about 3-5 minutes on one side.  Then gently "pry" it up from the pan with a large spatula, flip it, and saute it for another 3-5 minutes.  (Don't flip the chicken too soon.)  If you are concerned that the chicken isn't done, cut into a piece.  Once chicken is done, remove it to a clean plate and cover with foil to keep it warm.

To make the sauce:
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet.  (DO NOT WASH THE PAN OUT AFTER YOU SAUTE THE CHICKEN.)  Saute the shallot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to turn brown, about 4-5 minutes. 

To deglaze the pan, pour in the orange juice.  Then add the mustard, brown sugar, and rosemary.  Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk very well, intentionally scraping up the brown bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Cook and whisk for 5-7 minutes or so, until the sauce begins to "reduce" and darken in color.  (It will be thick and bubbly.)  Add in the orange peel and cook for a minute more.  Add salt and pepper to taste (be sure to use that tasting spoon!). 

Pour sauce over chicken breasts and serve. 

Recipe adapted from here.

Curried Chicken Salad Wrapped in Swiss Chard
Serves 4-5 as an entree

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sauteed and diced
4-5 dried apricots, diced (that's about 1/4 cup diced)
1 scallion (green onion), sliced (some of the white part, all of the green part)
1 small firm apple (Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith), cored and diced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (you can substitute regular plain yogurt)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2-3 teaspoons curry powder (to taste)
2-3 tablespoons cup dry white wine

8-10 large leaves* of Swiss Chard (substitute red or green leaf lettuce, large spinach leaves, pita bread, whole wheat tortillas, flatbread, etc.)

In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, apricots, and scallion.  In a small bowl, mix together the diced apple and the lemon juice.  (This will keep the apple from discoloring and will add flavor to the dish.)  Add the apple to the bowl with the chicken.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the mayonnaise, yogurt, pepper, salt and 2 teaspoons** of the curry powder.  While the ingredients are processing, add the wine a tablespoon at a time until a smooth consistency is obtained.  Taste.  Add another teaspoon of curry powder if desired.

Pour curry dressing over the chicken/apricot mixture and stir to evenly coat.   Spoon the chicken salad onto a leaf and wrap like a burrito.   Serve wraps immediately or refrigerate the chicken salad (unwrapped) for several hours prior to serving to allow the flavors to fully develop. 

* The amount of leaves you will need to wrap the entire recipe depends on how big the leaves are, how large your want the servings to be, etc.  This number is just an estimate.  The swiss chard leaves I used were very small...but they were from my garden and are not the size typically found in stores. 

**You can start with a smaller amount of the curry powder.  Add it a little at a time until you are happy with the taste.

Thanks, Ginny! I'll have to try the cumin in the mac and cheese, both for my son AND for my husband! :) Yum, yum, yum!

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogging tips