Nov 13 2011

Living Leaner with a meatless menu

Posted by     24 Comments    Posted under: Kitchen

It will never happen. We will never be vegetarian. For starters, who would eat all our chickens and ducks? We have found though, since rearing our own meat birds and eating our own lovely farm fresh eggs, that we are developing less of a taste for bought meat. This can pose as a challenge when you are in the mood for a nice piece of steak or a beautiful piece of pork for a Sunday lunch. We have become experts at sourcing. I am the most annoying customer. I ask question after question after question and if I am not happy with the answer then I keep my money and move on. We have gotten to the point where we would rather do without unless we can trust the source of the meat, know the details of the diet it was fed and are guaranteed that it was not injected with growth hormones.

Living with this rigidity in our lifestyle can pose as a problem when you want to invite friends over for dinner. They already think we are odd enough, what with preferring to hang at home and talk to the ducks and all….. and now we want to feed them ‘no meat’…….yep. It was part of our challenge. We did not specifically plan it this way. We just threw dinner together, they showed up and no one noticed there was no meat. There were no leftovers and everyone left with a pocket full of recipes and a wee jar of spicy salsa.


Magic beans – adzukis.

Before you think I am going to go all ‘beans n’ rice’ on you, let me cut to the chase. We had beans and rice. Yep. Total hippies. I know.

Lily, our Mexican friend, told us that Pinto beans were the ‘poor mans’ bean in Mexico and they do not get used very often. We found this funny because Pinto beans are our favourite beans. With a bag of dried beans costing only €1.19 at the local grocery, you can’t go wrong. Soak them overnight. Boil them in a rich oxtail or chicken broth with a little bit of black pepper. Once cooked, toss in a little olive oil or butter and serve immediately.This is our favourite way to eat them but last Friday we went all the way and blended the cooked beans in the food processor, then fried them in a tablespoon of lard. If you do not have any lard you can call Margaret at Oldfarm and get some. And you should.


What to do with all that colour……


Last week we learned the difference between ‘Salsa’ and Pico de gallo’. Truth be told, we are huge fans of ‘raw’ food, especially when it comes to tomatoes. So a compromise was met. We would mix the two.

The yellow tomatoes were roasted with one red chili, 2 slices of smoked bacon and a medium sized onion. Liberal amounts of black pepper was used and a light sprinkling of salt as the bacon can be salty enough. Once roasted (20 minutes in a hot oven) we used the food processor to blend the salsa – minus the bacon. Somehow, in the mix of things, the bacon ended up being swiped by two very fast little hands.

Simmering salsa of the yellow tomato kind

Once the yellow tomato salsa was ready, we made a pico de gallo which consisted of 1 green chili, 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced,  cherry tomatoes (red and yellow), a half a cup of corriander/cilantro, one small red onion finely chopped,  a half teaspoon of cumin, a dusting of mexican oregano, the juice of half a lime (vital) and a good dash of franks red hot sauce. We also added freshly grounded black pepper and maldon salt.

Then we mixed both the salas and the pico de gallo together and the result was epic guys. Try it. You will love it. Taste as you go and add more chilis if you feel it needs more heat!

A little yellow tomato salsa and pico de gallo – mixed. We are just WILD here in Galway with the chances that we take…

I have a funny relationship with Bell peppers. I cannot digest them with the skin on. So, the Chef, because he loves me, goes to great pains to ‘do ’em right’ for me. A lot of people have issues with peppers. Try this method of cooking them and make this dish. You will be addicted.

Fancy a few bell peppers?

If you link to the photos on FB right here you will see a few more steps in the photo album that will show you just how easy it is to roasted and peel the peppers. The original idea for this dish came from Lily and you can check out her blog for a lot more delicious and very interesting Mexican dishes.

Roast the peppers until the skin is black, This does not affect the flavour of the peppers in a bad way at all. Then sweat them in a ziplock bag for twenty minutes. Peel and slice the peppers. Sauté a few onions, add in the peppers, a teaspoon of cumin powder, one tin of corn and one tub of cream cheese. The end. The kids ate this for breakfast yesterday morning with poached eggs. Sometimes, if you let them. kids will teach you ‘what is right’…..


Corn and peppers with onion and cream cheese

Loading your tortilla with a little beans and corn n’ peppers. You will not be hungry.


Little tortillas with yum inside

We also cooked a nice large bowl of rice. We have a rice cooker and used 2 cups of rice, 1 tin of crushed tomatoes and 3 cups of chicken stock.


Guacamole; Salsa; Corn & Peppers

The secret to having a ‘meatless’ dinner is to make sure that everything tastes great. There was  A LOT of colour on the plates and the kids were able to help themselves to a little taste of everything.

Bad lighting …..t'was dark. But good good food.

In the end, we fed six adults and six kids for  the bargain price of ……………….€21.02.

Yes, a little over budget but not by very much at all! We did use a lot of coriander that grows like a weed in the polytunnel  so if you are buying it I reckon you would have to tack on another euro ….. Get some seeds and grow your own!

Keep track of your expenses . . .


Spice it up!


So, how is it going? Have you seen any dip in your food budget since you started paying closer attention to how much you are spending each week at the grocery shops? My friend Simone, who lives in Amsterdam, has taken on the challenge too and is coming up with a few lovely recipes so check out her blog too. Tonight, we are going to bone out a chicken and make Chicken marsala for dinner. Stay tuned, because this is a recipe everyone should know how to cook!

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today where it is getting a little blustery in Galway!


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24 Comments + Add Comment

  • I am really enjoying your Living Leaner recipes and very useful information. I cannot bring myself to buy pork anymore from a shop, after having Oldfarm pork for the first time back in the Summer. I ask questions too, especially in the fishmongers, and they are always so obliging and helpful. If I get a dodgy answer, I, too, leave it and move on. It is difficult to get good local produce where we are, but I keep looking!

    • Thanks Collette!
      We are enjoying the process ourselves and once you get stuck in it is hard to just race through the shops buying
      random things without ‘thinking’ about it. I think you need to keep looking Colette. Like with Oldfarm Pork,
      you will find the right producers sooner or later and most likely closer than you think! Look up the local SlowFood chapter in your area
      and they will be able to help guide you in the right direction for sure.

  • This looks SO delicious. Teenagers adore making up their own tortillas with a bit of everything. Your food bill is amazing, and it’s all such good food. Will try it out soon.

    • Hi Catherine and thank you very much.
      It really is delicious fare. The food bill fluctuates and takes quite a bit of work but the Chef is a very savvy shopper.
      Years of buying food in the industry has taught him a lot and he puts it all in to good practice when feeding his ‘current’ customers
      who’s appetites we are still trying to curtail! Thanks for reading and the comment!

  • for a minute there I really thought you had managed to feed all those people with just ten euro. But glad that is not the I actually managed today to make a dessert (the pears you already saw) and the main for under the ten. Used a lot of stuff I still had in stock but still.. I was pretty impressed with myself as the biggest part of the budget already went to the wine that went into the pears. I’ll be writing the story out tomorrow so it’ll be up on tuesday I think.
    Again I am really loving this challenge Mona, so glad that I tagged along.. Tom is all into it too, which is funny to see if we go grocery shopping together. He compares prices, looks all serious about it..:)
    And the dishes you prepared for your friends look really good. I love adzuki beans but they are quite expensive here if I remember correctly. But I still have loads of lentils left, so expect some of those shortly!

    • Ha ha ha – well, we did quite well for such a gnag of kids and adults! Still worked out at ten euros per ‘six’.
      I know, once you start spending a little time reading prices and labels, it gets a bit addictive.
      I am so glad you tagged along too Simone and I can’t wait to see what you had with the pears for supper. I would have had ice-cream and been very happy with it all!
      The mexican night was really really tasty Simone. It is all due to using a lot of fresh ingredients, lots of garlic and very good meat stock (for the beans).
      Yes – use up the lentils, they will be fab!

  • Mona, all those dishes sound and look delicious. Your photographs are fabulous! I was a ‘part-time’ vegetarian during my teenage years and early 20’s but I still love a nice meatless meal. I love the way you cooked the peppers, I must try them that way.

    • Thank you Nessa – it is one of our favourite ‘meals’. The light is so brief these days to take good photos and I really hate artificial light – so thanks for that compliment!
      Lily showed us that dish with the peppers. She used a hard grated cheese and cream. We did not have any cream in the fridge so used the cream cheese instead and it was
      lovely. Enjoy and thanks for the comment Nessa.

  • Hi mona,
    Your meatless meal looks just great! Hangovers from the Mexican cuisine earlier this week I presume. We eat a lot of beans too, on weight watcher, they are considered a ‘filling food’ becasue they are high in fiber. I can make a nice pot of any old kind of bean – white, kidney, pinto, black – you name it, either dry or canned – thrown into the crock pot with some onion & tomato & BBQ sauce or brown sugar & molasses for a sweeter palate, yum! Liked today’s post!

    • Yes Bernadine, I think we will have a weekly hankering for Mexican food seeing as we can source a lot of
      the products we need now :0) We love beans too and do make the BBQ kind but more in the summer when we have ribs.
      Glad you liked the post and thank you for the comment!

  • Well now! What magnificent food – that just happens to be vegetarian. That’s a real sign of success. Too often vegetarian meals in this country are meat dishes with the meat taken out. Carnivore that I am, I would happily tuck into this food on a regular basis. Mona, your photos are beautiful and I love your magic beans, complete with magic sparkle!

    • Thanks Hester. We have evening sunsets right outside our back kitchen window and this photo is courtesy of a fine sunset…no tricks at all just sparkle
      at the right moment with the camera in hand :0) Every time we eat Mexican food I am always surprised at how much flavour there is.
      Definitely no need for meat…..or fish – and we too are as carnivorous as they come. I have a great recipe for a Mexican Shrimp cocktail/bloody mary…..and now I must dig it out!
      Thanks for the visit, I hope you are keeping well Hester.

  • Lovely dinner!
    Thank you for the tip on how to prepare peppers – I too have issues with the skin of peppers – gives me horrible tummy ache, so I try to avoid them.

    Hope you have a great week!

    • Thanks Astrid,
      I avoided peppers for years because of the same issue. But this really does work and you get the added bonus of the
      peppers tasting sweet and flavourful because of the ‘roasting’ they get :0)
      The most important part is the blackening of the skin followed by the 20 minutes of sweating.
      I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  • I have to be honest and say that I’m not a big fan of peppers nor chilis and I’m certainly not a vegetarian. I am however, very impressed with what you are accomplishing with this budget conscious family feeding project. Even more so now that you have managed to feed additional people beside your own family and done so so frugally! My dislike of peppers and chilis aside, you have created a wonderful buffet of food here and I can certainly see why your guests went home with pockets full of recipes, not to mention full bellies!

    • Paula,
      I was thinking that a really great project for you to work on next would be to do a wreath made of Red & Green chilis…and really strut your Christmas bling with those colours :0)
      I love that last Marshmallow wreath!
      We are having quite a bit of fun with the project and I am getting a lot of feedback even from the kids school teachers!
      The food has to taste good if you want people to eat it and come back for more and it always does taste good.
      Thanks for the visit Paula.

  • Lovely…funnily enough I soaked a load of aduki beans over the weekend and made a bucket load of ‘Red Dragon Pie’ mix –

    It’s enough for at least three hearty meal times for me and hubby (who is definitely a carnivore) but that with crusty bread or some green veggies is scrumptious.

    And a bonus that you can tell the children, the chinese call aduki beans ‘Red Dragon’ – no idea why though!

    • Just had a quick look at the recipe and it sounds like a winner Glynis! I can see myself tucking into it with, like you suggest, a few leafy greens and some bread.
      Thanks for sharing that recipe and for reading and commenting!

  • The photos are really great mona and the food perfect as always.I love the hands picture . A job all done with love. xx

    • Thanks Mammy ; 0)
      Amazing, but the photo with the hands are always my favourite too xx

  • I hope you know how lucky you are to have The Chef who takes the skins off peppers for you – that’s love alright! Had a giggle at the idea of some meat loving Galway farmers arriving at your house for a bit of grub, only to be served “rabbit food”. But I’m in complete agreement, a well planned vegetarian meal can be amazing. Your spread of food shows that. I’m still looking at the receipt, can’t believe it can cost so, so, so much less than a meat dinner.

    • You know Claire, for feeding six adults and six kids it is not a bad total (20 euros) but had we tacked on a piece of meat for a Mexican meal (say Cochinata Pibil) would have only tacked on another 8 euros
      (Pork shoulder) and I still think that is a manageable amount for entertaining.
      Trust me – we do live in a ‘Meat n’ Potatoes’ kind of place and were running the risk of being asked ‘where is the meat’ but our friends have learned to trust it is all good and hearty
      so no raised eyebrows here at all thank goodness!

  • delicious delicious delicious. I love the colour of your food, the tomatos and peppers, just what I would like to be eating on a grey day such as today.
    we are also bean freaks. I love black beans (left over from childhood in south america) and I fry onion, garlic, and some locally made chorizo, then I add beans (I use a tin for haste) and some stock, then boil and simmer for half an hour. IT IS DELICIOUS!!
    Going to try your pinto beans they sounds just up my street.

    • Hi Alex,
      I was drooling with the Chef over your Everhot stove (again) last night.
      The Pinto beans have got to be one of my favourites. So filled with excellent bean flavour and I am sure you will love them.
      That bean and chorizo recipe (thanks!) sounds so good and you are right, using a tin for haste, can make a magnificent meal in minutes!
      Hope you are all well and getting excited about Christmas. Rumor has it around here that decorations are already out of the attic and are lined up and ready!

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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