To Meat or Not to Meat

Roast Chicken   Usually, I feature a recipe or food prep technique in my posts but today I wanted to share an idea that can change your approach to meal planning. Several years ago I began experimenting with going meatless once or twice a week.  It was the first tentative step on my journey to healthier eating, and I know that many families routinely do “Meatless Monday” both for health and budgetary reasons.

Recently, I was thinking about how people probably ate in the past and how it compares with our modern eating habits.  I decided to look at my meal planning from another, more historic, point of view.

A little research showed me that in the past our ancestors ate a lot more vegetables than meat.  So I decided to try planning seven days of vegetarian menus, and one meat centered “feast day” menu for Sundays.  Since most of us grew up eating Sunday dinner with our families, it seemed like a tradition worth cultivating, and pot roast is a great way to encourage everyone to be home for dinner.  It also helps the non-vegetarian members of the family feel less deprived so they have something to look forward to each week.

Here’s a sample week of dinners:

  • Monday – Black Bean Chili with Skillet Cornbread
  • Tuesday – Taco Tuesday (Vegetarian Style)
  • Wednesday – Split Pea Soup with Crusty Bread
  • Thursday – Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and Salad
  • Friday – Veggie Burgers, Tomato-Cucumber Salad
  • Saturday – Curried Baked Squash with Green Beans
  • Sunday – Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Carrots and Onions

One of the really positive effects of this menu change is a lower grocery bill.  The fresh items  are readily available this time of year, and the meals rely heavily on staple items like pasta and dried beans and peas.  Plus the calorie count is pretty low (well, except for the mac-n-cheese).  All I can say, is try it.  You just might like it.


Supper for a Cold Winter Night

Winter has finally arrived.  The nights are crisp and cold and darkness comes early, so a warm, hearty soup seems like the perfect way to end the day.  I love soups and chowders because they are so comforting and economical, and one of my favorite ways to add protein and save money too, is canned salmon.  This recipe is fairly low fat and low calorie with lots of good nutrition, and it tastes yummy too.  You can serve this with some crusty bread or crackers, and on the side I like to serve oven roasted root vegetables like beets and sweet potatoes.  This is one side dish that kids usually love because it’s sweet.  Below you’ll find both recipes.

Salmon and Wild Rice Chowder        

Salmon Wild Rice Chowder


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon rubbed sage or poultry seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary (optional)
  • 1 6 oz package of cooked Wild Rice Bits and Basmati Rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or use chicken or seafood stock)
  • ¾ cup half and half (or whole milk if you prefer)
  • 1 6 oz can of wild caught salmon
  • 2 slices crispy bacon, crumbled


  1. Prepare rice according to directions and set aside.  (I use Minnesota Cultivated Wild Bits and Basmati Rice that is distributed by Red Lake Nation Foods in Red Lake, Minnesota.)
  2. In a heavy sauce pan or soup pot, sauté the chopped onion and celery in 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth until the onions are translucent.  Add the remaining vegetable broth, and the flour, salt, pepper, dry mustard and rubbed sage and/or other herbs.
  3. Stir in the cooked rice and the canned salmon.  Bring to a simmer and pour in the half and half or milk.  Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle bacon bits or parsley or chives on the top.

Side dishes help to make a meal complete.  One of my favorites is oven roasted root vegetables.  They’re fast, simple, tasty and so good for you.

Oven Roasted Beets, Onions and Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes


  • 2 bunches of small/medium beets, peeled and quartered
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 red garnet yam, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bit size pieces
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl or freezer bag combine the vegetables, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper and sugar along with enough olive oil to coat.
  3. Empty onto a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Stir the vegetables and pour 1/4 cup of balsamic vingar over the vegetables and return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are fork tender.

Serve on side or over a bed of greens.  Save any leftovers for lunch.




Taking Stock

One of the basics of every kitchen has to be stock. I use a lot of it every week for all kinds of dishes from soup to rice or quinoa pilaf. For years I was totally intimidated by the idea of making my own stock, but I recently had a request for how to make homemade stock and I’m happy to share that vegetable stock can be a pretty effortless process. One suggestion is when you prepare vegetables, instead of discarding the peels, ends and other throwaway pieces, stick them in a plastic bag and put in the freezer. When you want to make stock, add any leftover vegetables such as peas or green beans and you have the beginning of a great stock.
Vegetable Stock
I generally eat a vegetarian diet, so mostly I use vegetable stock. It’s quick, easy, and a great base for almost any dish. I don’t add salt because it’s easier to control the taste in my other dishes. Here is my recipe for a quick veggie stock.
2 medium onions, cut in half
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed with skins left on
Tablespoon of tomato paste

You can also use any tomato sauce you’ve got. I’ve even used leftover spaghetti sauce (without the spaghetti). Just don’t get carried away. Keep the amount to less than ¼ cup.

1 bay leaf
Tbsp. chopped parsley, if you have it.
1 tsp dried thyme
Ground black pepper to taste
Red bell pepper discards (optional)
Cup of Mushroom stock (optional)

Place ½ cup dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let them steep for about half an hour, while the vegetables roast, until the liquid is a nice rich brown. Add the liquid from the mushrooms to your stock base.

Directions:Put the vegetables in a shallow pan, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Roasted Vegetables for Stock

Remove from the oven and place in a large pot, add the liquid from the mushrooms, and water until the vegetables are covered. Add the herbs and seasonings.   Bring to a simmer, cover and slowly simmer for about 20 minutes.

Stock Pot

Squish the vegetables just a little for a richer stock. Let cool and strain through a fine sieve or colander. Discard the vegetables or put them in the compost bin.

Vegetable Stock

Pour stock into glass jars or other containers and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze for future use. I friend of mine pours the stock into ice cube trays and once frozen places them in freezer bags.

Meat Stock

Meat stock takes longer but is well worth the effort and I recommend you make a larger batch for convenience.  Here are the additional steps.

For beef stock, use meaty soup bones or leg bones from the supermarket.  They’re inexpensive and easy to work with (the dog, of course, will be very disappointed).  For chicken stock use that leftover chicken carcass or a package of wings and backs.  Place the bones and the same kind of vegetables you would use to make veggie stock in a shallow pan and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes. If you already have vegetable stock on hand, just roast the bones, being careful not to char them.

Place the roasted bones, along with all the yummy bits from the roasting pan and the vegetables or vegetable stock in the slow cooker or stock pot.  I like to use my slow cooker for this because it doesn’t require as much supervision. Make sure the bones and vegetables are covered by about 2 inches of vegetable stock or water.  Simmer over a low heat, just below boiling, for 4-8 hours.  Check periodically to make sure the liquid is still covering the bones and veggies.  The trick is low and slow and it’s better if you don’t stir the stock.   The fats that are released from the bones will come to the top.  Gently skim away the fat and discard (not in the sink).  When the stock has simmered for at least 4 hours, you can stop the cooking process (but longer is better).  Remove the large bones and vegetable chunks and strain the stock through a fine sieve or colander covered with cheese cloth.  You want the stock to be rich but not cloudy.  In a bowl, chill the stock in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  The remaining fat will solidify on the top and you can skim it off.

Beef Stock

Pour the stock into glass jars or other containers and store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for future use.  You can use this process for venison stock also.