I have been a vegetarian for five months now. In that time, I've eaten fish twice (both in Solvang - how's that for funny?) and I had one piece of Orange Chicken (it smelled so good and I wanted to see if it would have an adverse reaction to it (I didn't)). After the initial shock, it's been great. I think that my attitude has changed, and at first I thought it was a big deal, so when I told people, they thought it was a big deal too. Now it's not such a big thing to me, so I must down-play because the reactions I've been getting have been all positive.
I had lots of comments on that first post - both on the blog and via email. Several people told me that they have wanted to try a vegetarian diet, or that their spouse is interested, or that they want to but can't see giving up the meat. I get that. It's a big change. I say, try it out. Don't tell yourself that you can never eat a cheeseburger again. Say, for example, I'll eat vegetarian two nights a week. Or, when I eat at home, it will be vegetarian. Or whatever works for you. If you are interested, just try. And when you do, notice how you feel. The first thing I felt was more hungry faster. You have to change your mind to see that "hungry" does not equal "need to eat". Also, I've noticed that I sleep better when I go to bed with an empty stomach. I sleep longer, deeper, and without bad dreams.
So, what do I feed my family? I'm not an ethical vegetarian, so I don't have an issue with buying or prepairing meat. I'm not out to make my family vegetarian either. My meal planning has been falling into three categories:
Meat is still the Main Dish: This is what I did when I first started out - I made traditional meals, but with extra side dishes and vegetarian soup and salad. It works fine, but I have to choose sides that add up to complete proteins for me. I like to serve a raw veggie appetizer with this kind of meal - that helps me not want to eat too much during dinner.
Meat on the Side: This works well with stir fry, bbq, and pasta meals. I make the meat optional, and the main part of the meal is without meat. This works well with Mexican food too. My new favorite is grilled veggies with rice. I'll grill some chicken or steak for the meat-eaters, then four of five kinds of veggies. The kids have to pick one of the veggies, and they have been good about trying new things. They still don't like tomatoes or mushrooms, but that's ok.
Meat-Free: I told the kids early on that I would still make them meat, but sometimes I would like them to try new things that may be without meat. (I closed the deal by telling them I would not make them switch to soymilk. They agreed.) I now make lasanga with the fake meat, because if you mix it with the tomato sauce, you really can't tell that it's not ground beef. Same thing with enchilladas. I have been making these enchilladas that Stuart loves, and I'm going to be posting the recipe soon. I'm pretty happy with it because I made it up myself, and it makes a huge batch that lasts for a few days. (Yes, they are so good that we eat them two or three days in a row. The kids even eat them.) One thing about the meat-free: I told the kids that I would never trick them into eating "weird" food. Sally is particularly picky about that, so I always tell her what is in the meal. Sam is more of a guy - if it smells good and tastes good, he doesn't care what's in it. He even ate some fake chicken nuggets of mine because they smelled so good. (That was after he made a big deal of me making him real chicken chicken nuggets - he ate the real ones then the fake ones and decided that the fake ones tasted better - lol!)