Meat prices getting you down? Here's how you do MORE with LESS

The grocery store is not the place it once was. Gone are the days of strolling in absentmindedly, perhaps chatting on the phone or listening to music. Gone are the days of seeing someone you know and stopping for a chat, or even having a pleasant but brief exchange with a stranger about the best brand of chocolate chips. Gone for now anyway. Now we avoid eye contact, wear masks that cover our friendly smiles, dart in and out of aisles in an effort to get out of the store and back to the safety of our cars as quickly as possible.

Now we try not to touch anything we don't have to, and if we happen to see the last can of disinfecting wipes on the shelf... and someone at the other end of the aisle sees it at the same time... 0_0

Well, I hope you're fast.


Despite these changes, for the most part we've still been able to get the things we need. There have been empty shelves here and there, but there's always been, ya know, FOOD available. Many of us have had to be a little more flexible than usual in the ways we eat, but now a greater challenge looms before us. Now we're facing a shortage of one of America's favorite meal-makers: MEAT.


Grocery stores are facing a new kind of problem. Now, instead of consumer-driven shortages, the they're having problems from the producers' end. You've probably heard about one or two instances of meatpacking plants being overtaken by COVID-19. As of May 21st,

49 meatpacking plants across the country have completely closed down due to outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. At some plants, it's been reported that workers were required to work even when sick! This is just the cherry on top of some ongoing labor problems in this industry. Go further up the supply chain and you see farmers forced to deal with animals that they can't sell to now-closed slaughter plants. For pigs and chickens, the longer the farmer keeps them, the more it costs. He or she has to feed them, and if they get too big, there won't be room for them in their enclosures. Farmers are now having to resort to rather horrific ways of killing their animals. Cows can be put out to pasture to buy some time, after all, there's plenty of space out there, and you don't have to pay the grass to grow. Unfortunately, cows take two years to go from birth to slaughter, so adjusting supply is way harder, and they'll probably end up dead and uneaten anyway. Overall, it's not a pretty picture for ANYONE.


According to John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, "The supply chain is breaking."

We may not be back to normal for quite some time, and until we are, you, the consumer, are faced with shortages and price hikes that might make you wonder just what the heck you're supposed to make for dinner. We aren't in a position to do anything about these supply chain issues (though I did briefly entertain the idea of buying a pig to save it from slaughter and keeping it as a pet, but this is suburbia. Ain't nobody got resources for that.) All we can do is try to make do with less. Sure, we could just skip meat altogether, but the rest of my blog tells you how to go without meat. In this post I'm writing for those of you who really don't want to quit cold turkey cold-turkey.


In an effort to make your families AND your wallet happy, here are a few ways you can do MORE with LESS meat.


Chicken Risotto

The simple meal of chicken and rice is enjoyed across the country. In most iterations, each member of the family gets their own hunk of meat. To make that chicken go further, try chopping it, and incorporating it into a risotto style dish. Risotto refers to a particular cooking technique for rice in which you add broth to the pot in small quantities and add more when the water evaporates. Since you're babying the rice and the lid is off, it loses tons of water constantly, but all the flavor from the broth gets absorbed into the rice. The result?

An extremely flavorful and savory rice dish. You may want to consider low-sodium broth if you're worried about it getting too salty. I start mine with some onions and garlic sauteed in a little olive oil and white wine, and I finish it with some fresh squeezed lemon and lemon zest. It's AMAZING. Use brown rice for a healthier meal, or a combo of brown and wild rice if you wanna get fancy. As far as the meat goes, if it's chopped and added to a big pot of rice, you could easily feed a family of six with just two breasts.


If at this point you're worried that your family may not get enough protein if we cut back the meat, DON'T. If you're eating meat at all, it's almost impossible to be protein deficient. Growing children do need a good amount, but unless they're older and heavily involved in athletics they don't need more than you. Here's a post I wrote about the health benefits of a vegan diet and it talks about protein requirements.


Fajita Tacos


Latin food is SUPER EASY to adjust, mainly because beans are so prevalent, and easily take the place of meat. If you have a family of steak lovers, this requires a lot less meat than giving each person their own six-ounce steak. Slice your steak into strips and sear it on high heat with some onions, bell peppers, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and oregano. Top it with tomatoes, guacamole, a squeeze of lime, and a little fresh cotija cheese on corn tortillas. Each taco will only require a couple strips, and you're likely to be getting full after two or three of these bad boys. Serve with a side of beans and you've got one hearty and healthy meal with a fraction of the meat! I seriously doubt you'll get any complaints.



Nachos or Tacos


If you want to do more of a traditional taco night, there are easy ways to make ground beef last. Recently, my brother used a pound of beef to feed four adults TWICE with leftovers by simply adding a can of black beans and some chopped onions and peppers. He used half in our spaghetti sauce, and saved the other half for tacos later in the week. If you think black beans sound weird in spaghetti, I get it. I thought so too, but it really wasn't. Actually I need to get his tomato sauce recipe, because it was kind of mind-blowing. Anyway, simply adding beans and diced veggies to the meat is one fix for tacos. Another is to use a can of refried beans. We like to spice ours up by adding sour cream and a can of diced tomatoes and chilies and just microwaving it. Spread that on your tortillas before adding the meat, and your tacos will hopefully hold together better as well as be more filling. Same goes for nachos. If you add a good amount of sour cream or salsa or whatever, your beans will act more like a sauce that you can drizzle on to preface the meat. You'll still get all the rich taco-meat flavor, but you won't have to use nearly as much to make each chip an experience.


Ham Ratatouille


We've recently had an excess of eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash lying around, so I've been experimenting with this Italian classic. Here's a great recipe from Tasty that's a simple starter. We've done this two different ways. The first time, I simply layered thin slices of black forest ham that alternated with the veggies, (add a slice of each vegetable, then ham, and repeat.) This added a wonderful, salty, meaty, slightly smoky flavor, and I only used maybe a half-pound of ham in the whole casserole. Another variation is to use a basic lemon-garlic-herb butter as the base. We baked that with just the veggies, then served it on crusty baguettes with a thin layer of smoked salmon on top. This particular version was just incredible, and the leftovers got even tastier when we let everything sit in that garlicy-herby butter overnight.


Jambalaya


This is an idea we used recently when my bro-in-law bought about 40 jumbo beef hot dogs to go with a communal meal. Afterwards, he insisted my fiance and I keep two because he had more than he knew what to do with. Processed meat like that is a favorite of my fiance's but I find the greasy-gamey flavor a bit... challenging in large quantities. So we agreed to save it, slice it, and use it in a jambalaya. Perfect! The fat from the meat would render out and flavor the dish, making it extra succulent for a meat lover, but spreading it out a bit to go easy on my palate. We used our two hot dogs in a large pot of the stuff and got at least six servings from it. This could work well for any sausage, such as Italian sausage, Kielbasa, leftover hot dogs, or even breakfast sausage (which I hear hasn't had as much of a price jump.) We bought a bag of shrimp (relatively cheap near the gulf coast) to go with it, but you could use whatever seafood is cheap near you, or just skip it altogether. For a good Cajun flavor from scratch make sure to start by sauteing your mirepoix (Carrots, Celery, Onion) along with your sausage. Then throw it in the pot with your rice as it cooks. We used white rice and lentils, (complementary proteins) which take about 25 minutes to cook. The primary seasonings for Cajun spice are black pepper, paprika (in generous quantities) and oregano.


Biscuits and Gravy

Ah, that good ol' southern classic. If you used breakfast sausage or Italian sausage in your jambalaya, you can use the rest for your gravy. Personally, I just buy biscuits in a can. Believe it or not, through modern chemical trickery, often these are vegan. We've made them from scratch, but the only time they turned out good, the recipe was a little complicated. It's not worth it to me, but if you've got a tried and true family recipe, you do you, boo.

Cook your sausage in a pan, if a solid layer of sausage fat doesn't appear, then add some butter. Throw in a couple tablespoons of flour and cook it for one minute. Add some milk or cream and whisk it thoroughly (cashew milk or creamy oat milk would work great too.) Then season with salt and pepper.


Spaghetti


Lentils are your ace in the whole on spaghetti night. For spaghetti bolognese (meat sauce) add some cooked green lentils to your spaghetti meat. If my family didn't notice black beans mixed in, then they're definitely not going to notice lentils! Make sure they're well done. When I'm eating lentils just to eat lentils, I don't mind a little chew in them, but if you want them to blend in with the meat they need to be soft. If you want to make some meatballs, (premade ones were a budget buster well before COVID) mix half the usual amount of ground meat with cooked red lentils and dry rolled oats or oat flour, then continue with your favorite recipe. Both lentils and oats are good sources of iron and protein and will help bind your meatballs.


We actually use a similar method to make burgers or, one of my favorite meals, my fiance's famous turkey meatloaf! It's not actually famous... yet. Click the pic!


Made famous in our household by my savor-savvy fiancé, Jake, this hearty and delicious dish is guaranteed to satisfy with only a fraction of the meat! This half-plant-based alternative will be easy on your health AND your wallet by using red lentils and oats, both great sources of iron! At the same time, this recipe defies turkey’s reputation as a dry, flavorless meat and packs an undeniable flavor punch. With sides of mashed potatoes and a vegetable, it easily feeds four adults, twice!

Lentils

You’re gonna need: · 1 Cup Red Lentils · About a Tablespoon of neutralish cooking oil · 1 ½ Cups water or broth · Extra flavor stuffs (I used some liquid aminos, liquid smoke, and a little marsala wine. You could use soy sauce, hot sauce, or any white wine.) · Pinch of Salt I like to start my lentils with just a little oil and toast them in the pan over medium heat for a couple minutes before I add the liquid. This is totally optional though. Add the liquid and any flavor enhancers, then turn to medium-low heat. Keep an eye on these! Mine were done after only ten minutes. If they run out of liquid and they’re not soft yet, add just a little more liquid. The key here is to have lentils that are soft but not WET, so only add the bare amount of liquid they need to cook.

Mix the Meat


· 1 Medium Onion (diced) · 4 Cloves of Garlic (Minced or Pressed) · ½ Tbsp Parsley (You can use more if you’re not shy! We used like 2 Tbsp Fresh!) · ½ tsp each of Sage, Rosemary, Thyme (Increase to taste if you’re into it) · 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste · 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Paste (optional, esp. if you used broth with the lentils.) · Cooked Lentils (See above.) · 1 lb. Ground Turkey (mine was 85% lean) · ¾ Cup Rolled Oats · ½ Cup Breadcrumbs · 2 Eggs · 1 Tbsp Ketchup · 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce · ½ Tbsp Yellow Mustard · Salt and Pepper


First preheat your oven to 350°, and grease a loaf pan. My favorite tried-and-true method for greasing a baking pan is to use a little refined coconut oil, spread it all around with your hands, making sure to get edges and corners, then stick the pan in the fridge until you’re ready. The coconut oil will solidify, ensuring the coating stays in place when you fill the pan.

Sautee the onion in a medium frying pan with a bit of oil. When it starts to turn translucent, add the herbs, the tomato paste, and the BTB paste if you're using it. If you’re using fresh herbs, chop them finely, and if you're using dry herbs, crush them between your palms before adding them to the pan. When everything is well combined, cook for another three minutes or so, then turn off the heat.

When that’s finished, get out a large bowl and in it, mix together everything from the lentils downward, along with your sautéed onion mixture. It’s easiest to just use your (very clean) hands. So put everything in the bowl FIRST, then get in there.

You’re not going to be able to taste for salt, so my advice is go easy! Broth is salty, but even if you used water, there’s already salt in the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ketchup and possibly the breadcrumbs. Your dinner mates can always add more salt at the table. Transfer your loaf mix to the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Glaze:

While that’s in the oven, make your glaze. You’ll need:

· ¼ Cup Ketchup

· 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Whisk that together, then use a basting brush to apply it to the top of your loaf after the 45 minutes.

Put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, and then it’s done!

You may want to let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes before serving, but we couldn’t wait, so we’re not judging! Happy eating!



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