Tuesday, May 01, 2018

10 Easy Ways to Eat Less Meat

Oregon's Lynne Curry wrote the book, quite literally, on cooking with grassfed beef. A new edition of Pure Beef was issued last year and has just been listed as one of Oregon's Top 10 Cookbooks by Travel Oregon. So when she offered to share her tips for eating less meat and using grassfed or pasture-raised instead of conventional—a strategy that's better for us, for the planet, and supports small farmily farmers—I jumped at the chance! (See the end of the post for a free guide to where to find pasture-raised meat in Oregon.)

My strategies show you how to eat less meat even when you are eating it. So, if you’re looking to slim down the portions of meat you eat without giving it up completely, I’ve got 10 ideas to guide you.

1. Skewer it. Grilled meat on a stick is a worldwide favorite, often in the form of a kebab or satay. Sliced into ribbons or cubed and marinated in anything from teriyaki to garlicky yogurt, a little bit of meat becomes a meal when served over a pile of noodles or rice with ample fresh vegetables. Freezing the meat for 20 minutes eases close cutting. Plan on one meat kebab and two to three sticks of satay per person.

2. Stretch it. Depression-era cooks knew how to make a pound of ground meat feed many. Make your mixture roughly three parts meat (ground beef, turkey, pork, lamb, veal or combination) to one part breadcrumbs, oatmeal, bulgur, rice, quinoa or any other cooked grains or even legumes. Add chopped onion, an egg for binding, seasonings and spice it up as you like for classic meatloaf, exotic meatballs, burgers or sliders that go far.

3. Wrap it. Tacos are the model, but you can fold minced, cooked meat up in crepes, roti, rice paper rolls, tender lettuce leaves and nori, to name a few. Or, make a meat filling to encase in a dough—from pastries and empanadas to samosas and egg rolls. One cup of finely chopped or shredded meat makes six to eight portions to accompany with salsa, chutney or ginger-soy dipping sauce.

4. Serve it on the bone. Eating meat on the bone satisfies a primal urge and gives the feeling of satiety with relatively small amounts of meat. Whether it’s pork ribs, chicken wings or flanken-style short ribs, this is a meal to pile on sides of coleslaw and baked beans, steamed rice and vegetables or mounds of mashed potatoes. Cut between the bones of back ribs, spare ribs or racks to make single-serving portions.

5. Mince it. Hand-chopped raw or leftover meat is the basis for some of the world’s classic dishes—think fried rice and corned beef hash. Combine meat with cooked grains to stuff and bake into eggplant, peppers, cabbage leaves or acorn squash. The token protein—be it bacon or roast beef—serves as a major flavor boost. Or, serve slivers of meat in tiny amounts to fashion bibimbap or a stir-fry.

6. Stew it. No amount of meat is too small—like a ham hock to season a pot of beans or a couple of chicken thighs simmered in coconut-milk—to make stew. In a pot chock full of seasonal vegetables or legumes, the cheapest, toughest cuts have a lot to offer (all the better if there’s bone). And the more ingredients you add, the less meat you need in a belly-filling meal. Shred the cooked meat to disperse it into the stew before serving.

7. Stuff it. There is no better side dish for roasted meats than stuffing. Rolling the stuffing inside any boneless meat cut not only fancies up the presentation but bulks up portion sizes considerably. Butterfly larger cuts, like pork loin and turkey breast, or pound flank steak and chicken breast to 1/4-inch thick with a meat mallet or heavy rolling pin. Season a bread or grain-based stuffing well before rolling it up and securing the roll with toothpicks for oven roasting or grilling. Serve in one-inch-thick slices with extra stuffing on the side and add a gravy, if you like.

8. Slice it thin. When holidays and other special occasions call for a large roast or thick steaks, you still don’t have to go big on the meat. With a sharp slicing knife, make 1/4-inch thick slices of ham, for example, and serve it with all the trimmings. Instead of serving a whole steak, plate slices with a generous salad; that single cut will serve three to four. Portion the leftovers in resealable bags for the freezer for a month’s worth of ready-made sandwich fillings. A sandwich may be the most familiar form for protein portion control—so long as you follow the meat-moderate panini approach and not the Carnegie Deli’s.

9. Flavor with it. A single slice of bacon or a ham hock can flavor an entire pot of soup or stew. Split pea soup and Southern-style collard greens are both great examples of how a little bit of meat goes a long way. Or even no meat and just the fat, as in a pot of clam chowder flavored with salt pork or chicken soup that starts with schmaltz. Rendered fat from bacon, chicken and beef is one of the tastiest cooking mediums around—and if it comes from pastured animals, it’s loaded with nutrients like omega-3s.

10. Bone broth it. You’ve heard of this trend by now, of course. A nourishing broth made from bones, it is a perfect example of whole animal eating and limiting food waste, too. You can request bones from your butcher or reserve bones in the freezer from T-bone steaks or a whole roast chicken to make your own bone broth. It’s also great that more companies are offering good-quality chicken and beef bone broths and making good use of all those bones.

Read the full post and get more of Lynne's handy tips, including recipes, for eating less (and better) meat that supports Oregon's small family farmers. Find a farmer near you with this handy Oregon Pasture Network Product Guide.

Photos by Lynne Curry.

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