Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Deal of the Meal

Our search for a healthier lifestyle got kicked up a notch last week when Fellow Traveler received notice from her doctor that her cholesterol levels were waaaaay too high, and that she was headed for bypass country in another decade or so if things didn't change.

Because our dietary needs are sometimes so different -- I need lots of fiber; she can't eat very much of it; I like lots of vegetables and fruits; she can't always eat them comfortably -- trying to work up menus for the two of us can constitute a culinary minefield. But we both have family and personal medical histories that are moving us in a more vegetarian direction, even though it's a real challenge.

I'm generally not a real fan of meat analogues -- in my experience, the more that a product tries to replicate meat, the worse it tastes -- but today we had BLT's with Morningstar Farms fake bacon and some sliced avocado, on Amish dill bread, and they were very good. Even though the bakn, or ba-con, or whatever it calls itself, looks damned scary in the package, like something a little kid extruded through a Play-Doh machine -- keep an open mind, and you'll find it surprisingly edible, even if you're like me and prefer your bacon on the chewy, not crispy, side. I think it would be good to add to dishes that generally have a smoked meat in them, like pea soup or red beans and rice, to add a familiar smoky flavor.

We also got out the charcoal grill last night and made grilled Mediterranean pizzas -- the little Bobolis with herbed soy feta, baby spinach, marinated fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and olives; grilled zucchini and eggplant that had first been marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Greek herb mix; and grilled peaches for dessert. Apart from the complicating factor of a vigorous thunderstorm rolling through the area just as the pizzas were ready to go in the grill -- this was a great meal. We used a wood-chip pan in the grill, so the food absorbed a nice, smoky but not overpowering flavor. And we learned that it is worth the fuss of preparing the charcoal to grill vegetables and vegetable entrees.

Of course, as I'm typing this, I have the hugest craving for a big ol' half a barbecued chicken, or a steak, or Greek shish kabobs...but we're serious about eating lower on the food chain, so we figure if we have to do it we're going to do it with a little ingenuity and panache. It's the best revenge.


zorra said...

The little pizzas sound great! Grilled veggies, too. How about a simple supper of assorted bruschette--some with nothing but extra virgin olive oil and salt, or maybe rub a litle garlic on it too; soon we'll start getting good tomatoes, always a great option (Oh gosh! Can you get good fresh mozzarella?); and finally, one with white beans, a little salt and basil, drizzled with EVOO (there it is again--trying to use more of that and less butter)...

I'm sorry, that "bacon" thing is just too scary. :-)

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

In my household, the morningstar farms bacon analogue is referred to as "fakin" ... of the meat analogues, this is the only one I like at all, although, as you point out, its appearance IS scary

Anonymous said...

Mm, grilled peaches. That sounds great.

You can also get the fire itself a little more organic.

We did away with charcoal starter fluid a while back -- and use a chimney (they sell 'em with the cookout supplies). You put your charcoal in the top, stuff a crumpled piece of newspaper in the bottom, place on lower-level grill in weber kettle, light newspaper. In a little while the charcoal's all nicely going and you pour it out of the chimney and into the weber, put the upper-lever grill in place, and get cookin'.

And no nasty petrochemical aftertaste!

Anonymous said...

Ok -- you need oatmeal -- LOTS of oatmeal (the real stuff, the Irish stuff, not the instant kind) -- and if you're serious, look for plant sterols (items like CocoaVia - really good chocolate, but it has cholesterol-lowering properties). Good luck.