Meat-free: Week 4

Four weeks have passed since giving up meat/fish. It has been fun, but I can’t lie, that first week was a struggle. Here are some quick dives into some of my experiences so far.

Fatigue hit hard

The first week as mentioned, was a struggle. Now surprisingly, it wasn’t because I was craving any meat/fish, it was because of the lack of energy I had. When I still had time off work for the Christmas & New Year break, I could easily take an afternoon nap to rejuvenate. As soon as I was back at work however, it was a mission staying awake.

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If I didn’t get up and take walks, I would have knocked out on my desk. That would have been absolutely shambolic.

Snacking increased

For these first four weeks, some of my meals felt incomplete. The cravings for savoury snacks were something else. Plantain crisps were definitely my go-to (shout out to Asiko). A couple of changes to some meals have gradually curbed these cravings.

Lunch got a lot more interesting

Before 2018, my lunches for work weren’t very inspiring. It would either be some sort of sandwich or a boring salad. Now the challenge of having no meat forces me to be more creative with food, so that I can get the right amount of nutrients.

Pulses are key

So I don’t like many types of beans, let’s get that clear. But lentils and peas? Love them. Before scrapping meat/fish, I’d never actually tried lentils. Not only are pulses an alternative to regular ol’ rice, but they are great sources of protein, iron, and fibre.

Speaking of fibre…

I noticed that the number of bathroom breaks went up.

Need I say more?

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Overall, this challenge has started off quite well, despite the initial hurdles. I haven’t missed the taste of meat (yet), but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Now to conquer February.


Roasted Chicken & Vegetables

Give your leftover vegetables some love with this flavoursome oven dish that won’t break the bank. Carrots, bell peppers, and onions are items that I always have lying around, which form the bulk of this meal. I will be trying this recipe with other vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, mushrooms, courgettes… The list goes on!

Serves 4

320 kcal per serving

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken quarters
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 8 carrots, cut into chunks
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp season-all
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan)/ gas mark 7.
  2. In a large oven proof dish, place in the chicken quarters. Season with the season-all, garlic, paprika, ginger, soy sauce and chilli flakes.
  3. Add in the carrots and bell peppers. Spread evenly in the pan in between the chicken.
  4. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the chicken and vegetables, and add 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce as well.
  5. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. After the 20 minutes, take out the oven dish and turn the chicken. Add the red onion into the dish.
  7. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lime over the chicken and vegetables, and add the rest of the hoisin sauce. Adjust seasoning where necessary, then cook for a further 20 minutes.
  8. The food should now be ready to cook. Eat the chicken and vegetables on its own, or have it with a bit of rice or cous cous for an extra filling meal.

Turkey & Bacon Pasta

This meal has become quite the go-to. All made in one pan/pot, and is super easy – just be ready to chop up some meat and veg. I have tried this meal with various combinations of turkey, chicken, bacon, and pancetta – they all work great. If you want an extra punch in the cheese sauce, add some grated mature cheddar. The recipe below focuses on the natural sweet and nutty flavour of parmesan, which I love.

Serves 4

460 kcal per serving

Ingredients

  • 250g pasta of your choice (I use penne, or fusilli)
  • 300-350g turkey breast steaks, sliced or diced
  • 150g diced bacon
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced or diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • 1 tbsp season-all
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Method

  1. Boil the pasta according to packet instructions.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil into a large pan on a medium-high heat.
  3. Add the pieces of turkey breast steaks, bacon, bell pepper, season-all, paprika, ground garlic, and black pepper to the pan, and fry for 6-8 minutes. Once cooked, remove the turkey and bacon, but keep the juices in the pan.
  4. On a low heat, melt the butter in the pan and then add the flour. Stir for 2 minutes until the mixture becomes a smooth consistency.
  5. Pour in a quarter of the milk at a time, and stir until the mixture blends smoothly.
  6. Add in the grated parmesan and stir until the cheese melts and the mixture is smooth.
  7. Add the diced tomato, spinach, bell pepper, turkey, and bacon back into the pan. Stir into the sauce until the spinach wilts. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  8. By now, the pasta should be cooked. Drain and add the pasta to the mixture.
  9. Serve your turkey and bacon pasta with a sprinkling of black pepper, and a few extra shaves of parmesan.