Story and Photos by Zachary Armand
Watching what you eat may save the planet. Well, maybe that’s a hyperbole, but our food choices do have an impact on the environment. Generally, eating less meat can reduce your carbon footprint, as raising animals for food results in pretty high greenhouse gas emissions and has some other negative environmental impacts. Plus, decreasing your meat intake can be beneficial to your health.
It may seem like cutting out an entire food group can be difficult, but there are ways to make it easier. With many dishes, simply removing the offending ingredient from the recipe or replacing it with a vegetarian option can make a dish tasty and meat-free.
For example, I’m a huge fan of chicken pot pie. Something about a warm, savory, flaky pie feels so comforting, especially during the winter months. Since I don’t think I could do without that dish, I’ve taken the chicken out of the recipe and modified the rest of the ingredients when I cook it – but I’ll talk more about that later. This is just one of many meat-free recipes I’ve incorporated into my cooking repertoire.
These days, I eat some kind of meat maybe once or twice a week – way less than I did even five years ago. Usually, this ends up being me treating myself when I go out to eat. Despite switching over to milk substitutes and making my own seitan for protein, I can’t seem to say no to a bowl of steaming tonkatsu ramen or some BBQ chicken when presented with the option
The only issue I run into with my free-form, mostly-meatless diet is what to label myself. When people ask me about my dietary restrictions, I’m never quite sure what to say. I’m not vegetarian, certainly not vegan, don’t feel full omnivore, not quite pescatarian, or anything else I can think of. Perhaps I could sum it up by saying I’m vegetarian most of the time, but that leaves me feeling like I’m failing some kind of test. Sometimes, it almost seems like my dietary label is a contest, and anything less than 100% commitment is failure.
Lately I’ve come to terms with what I eat and rejected the unhealthy obsession with labeling what I choose to consume. Even the studies that brought the harm of animal farming to my attention included some line about how reducing consumption would be better than sticking to the status quo. So, I’ve given up on trying to squeeze into some narrow dietary definition.
I’ve come to embrace my label-less diet and just focus on doing as much good as possible. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up ice cream or fully stop eating some chicken soup with my family, but knowing that reducing my meat to once or twice a week and not worrying about it all of the time is having some positive impact gives me some peace of mind. Plus, there’s less pressure and negative feelings that way. For all the environmental and health concerns I have about meat consumption, cutting down is better than doing nothing, and good recipes make that easier.
Veggie Pot Pie Recipe
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter substitute
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 cup of sliced carrots (100g)
- 1 cup of sliced celery stalk (100g)
- 2 medium white button mushroom, or other variety, sliced – ¾ of a cup (45g)
- 1 cup of thinly sliced kale
- 1 clove garlic, sliced thin
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- ¼ cup flour (30g)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ cup vegetable stock (350mL)
- ½ cup almond milk, or other unsweetened milk substitute (120mL)
- 1/3 cup frozen peas
- 1 medium Russet potato, cut into ½ inch cubes (150g)
- Puff Pastry or other topping
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place six small/medium ramekins on a metal baking sheet.
- In a large dutch oven or other pot, melt butter over medium heat, then cook onions until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes
- Add carrots, celery, kale, and mushrooms. Cook until just beginning to soften (or wilt, for kale), about 3-5 minutes. Be careful to not overcook to avoid mushy vegetables.
- Add flour, garlic and thyme. Cook until flour begins to brown and lose its flour taste, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds – 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- While stirring, gradually add vegetable stock, almond milk and the bay leaf. Making sure to stir occasionally to avoid burning the bottom, simmer for around 10-15 minutes, or until the filling has thickened.
- Remove from heat. Add frozen peas and potatoes.
- Spoon filling into ramekins, leaving a little less than 1 inch of space in each. Place puff pastry topping on on the filling. Brush topping with melted butter, if desired.
- Bake in oven until pastry begins to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve hot.