Alright, I’ve done it! A whole month sans-meat (and booze)! February was interesting to say the least, the first thing I noticed was without alcohol I suffer from insomnia, or was that due to the gallons of coffee I started drinking? The second thing I noticed, which surprised me, was that I craved meat far more than I missed alcohol. It’s not like I didn’t eat mouth watering things all month but the smell of bacon cooking when you’re off meat is just down right cruel!
What I got out of my experiment.
- It was actually much easier to start two challenges at the same time; thinking and planning creative vegetarian meals kept me distracted from not drinking.
- I thought I would have loads more energy and would be able to accomplish twice as many things I normally do but my insomnia canceled that out…or maybe I’m just old now?
- That gross and dangerous layer of fat that builds itself around my stomach is 100% caused by beer (but it’s so good on a hot summer day! sigh).
- Coming in as number one as the best advantage of non drinking is, moisture! My hair and skin benefited the most during the month of February. I started noticing changes only two weeks into my experiment, my skin was smooth and more springy and my hair soft and a lot less frizzy.
My February challenge went well but I don’t want to flip my life completely and go full vegetarian sober. I love meat, I love wine, that will never change but maybe what I’ll take from this is that it might be time for me to chill out a little bit and reduce the craziness.
Braised Napa cabbage piccata
Piccata sauce, normally prepared with chicken, I thought I’d try it with braised Napa cabbage instead. Cook onions, garlic, vegetable stock, oregano and loads of lemon juice. Bring to a boil and let reduce by half. Whisk in a sinful amount of butter and a handful of capers. Cut the cabbage in two and quickly grill on each side. Add the cabbage to the piccata sauce, reduce heat and let simmer until the sauce thickens. Serve with a 4 minute boiled egg, more capers and some parsley. I would love to make this with huge oyster mushrooms (or king oyster) instead of cabbage but I haven’t found them here in Bulgaria.
Polish potato dumplings
Polish? Hungarian? German? Whatever! These are yummy simple dumpling you can make without using a real recipe. Make your dough with a peeled boiled potato (or leftover mashed potatoes), flour, salt, water and an egg (optional). I make mine different every time. Sometimes with a soft sticky batter and spoon it into boiling water, sometimes with a thicker dough which I roll out and cut. I’ve even made a harder dough, rolled it and froze it then used the large holes on my cheese grater to grate the dough into boiling water. This method is great if you are making large amounts as it’s so much faster.
Click here for Jamie Oliver’s dumplings.
Butternut squash dumplings
Use butternut squash instead of potatoes! After boiling, I pan fried these with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Also good with crispy sage, brown butter and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Quinoa salad with honey orange dressing
My new favorite salad. Quinoa, onions, tomatoes, lettuce with olive oil, fresh orange juice, lemon juice, garlic (keep whole and let infuse in the vinaigrette for 30 minutes) and honey. This would also work with walnuts or feta or fresh mint. Serve with a poached egg for protein.
Yogurt pancakes with preserved green figs
Greek yogurt, flour, a egg, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt. These are sour/savory so serve with something sweet like preserved fruits or honey and nuts.
Homemade tofu with cold soba noodles and zucchini with green onions
I’m crazy about homemade tofu, I never get to cook with it because we usually eat the whole brick as soon as it’s formed. I just got a plastic tofu press from eBay and it makes things so much easier.
Step by step tofu recipe.
Creamy rosemary mushrooms and peppers with shells
Mushrooms, green peppers, onions, garlic, cream, rosemary, black pepper, nutmeg and pasta.
Bulgarian fried zucchini with garlic yogurt
You can order this at every restaurant in Bulgaria, it’s so good. Cut zucchinis length wise, place on a rack or clean dish towel, salt, set aside 10 minutes to let the moisture to come out. Pat dry with paper towel then dip in a bowl with a beaten egg, next dip in flour (seasoned with salt) and fry in hot oil turning once. Greek yogurt and chopped garlic for the dip.
Armenian stuffed bread
My lovely Armenian Russian neighbours make these for me all the time. What I like about this recipe is that you can use up all your wilting greens, herbs and salads you might have in the fridge.
Watch how this lady makes hers.
Bulgaria’s 2014 winner of the best dish in Europe, organized by the European Parliament. Super simple: cucumbers, tomatoes, raw onions, peppers and Bulgarian white cheese “Sirene” (or good quality feta). Dress with sunflower oil and apple cider vinegar. Almost all Bulgarian salads come undressed, in every restaurant each table has it’s own oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and toothpicks and it’s up to you to season to your liking (I like mine easy on the toothpicks).
Recently, I bought this little onigiri press online so I though it would be fun to try different filling. I need to work on my sushi rice skills, this batch was a bit soggy.
Quail eggs marinated in soy sauce for 5 minutes, yam with ginger and honey, green onions with wasabi mayo.
Cottage cheese with tomatoes and green onions
This is a super Polish snack. Season with salt and pepper, serve with artisan bread or crackers.
Eastern European spreads
I discovered these dips/spreads along my travels and really wanted share. I make these very often, they go well on bread but could be used as a pasta sauce or a dip for meats and vegetables.
Clockwise starting with the green and white: Tyrokafteri (Greece), körözött (Hungary), kyopolou (Bulgaria), avjar (Macedonia) and Lutenitsa (Bulgaria)
Tyrokafteri (Greece), the spicier the pepper the better.
Körözött (Hungary), my mom would often make this for parties.
Kyopolou (Bulgaria), the smokey eggplant brings a great flavor dimension.
Avjar (Macedonia), you can smell roasting peppers in everyone’s backyards in the fall.
Lutenitsa (Bulgaria), all my guests return home with their luggage full of jars of this.