So at the dinner table one night, Jersey and Roady were discussing what part of the animal was on our dinner plate. At the time, we were eating chicken breasts, and it took a lot of convincing for Roady to buy into the fact that chicken's breasts were nothing like humans'. Anyway, somehow someone started talking about animals people eat in other countries and suddenly the kids were completely weirded out. They could wrap their heads around people eating pigs, cows and chikens, maybe even deer or alligator, but dogs? Monkeys? Horses?! Heck no! This sparked a debate about what makes one animal special enough to remain off the menu while others are simply delicious.
Now, back when I was about 12, I witness a lobster being boiled alive. While many kids would have thought nothing of it, or simply thought "yum," sensitive me became a card-carrying vegetarian with a PETA membership. My parents tried everything, but I simply wouldn't eat meat. I even plastered my bedroom door with hand-drawn signs speaking out against the slaughter of helpless animals. Yep, I was that kid.
My vegetarian ethics were actually easy for me to uphold. I've never been much of a carnivore, getting more excited about veggies and fruits than any meat on my plate. I was a full-blown vegetarian for 7 years, only beginning to eat meat again at college because of the guy I was dating.. cause you know, I was 18 and impressionable and desperate. Anyway, to this day, I only eat chicken breast, ground turkey, and occasionally ground beef. I will only eat chicken breast without accompaniment, any other meat must be in something like a taco or burger. I guess, meat is to me what Brussel sprouts are to everyone else.
Back to the conversation at the dinner table. As the kids were discussing what animals were too cute to eat and which ones were too endangered to eat, I piped up with "why do you eat animals?" They were silent for a minute as my carnivorous husband shot me a sort of "oh God help you if this is going where I think it's going" glare. Roady was the first to say that he wished he could stop eating animals, but he loved the taste of meat so much. Jersey promptly agreed while my husband looked up to the heavens shaking his head in despair.
"Why don't we have a vegetarian week and not eat meat for one whole week?"
It was like I had just asked everyone to donate their bodies to science, right now! The kids looked to Daddy, who was wildly gesturing "NO!!!!!!" but whether it was rebellious pride, curiosity, or simply an attempt to please me, the kids both agreed to the idea. Rules were laid out, dates were set, and Vegetarian Week was born... despite all of the hubby's protests!
We picked up Jersey and Roady from Ro's soccer game. The kids immediately began asking if we could have pepperoni pizza for dinner and were a little shocked to be reminded that it was Vegetarian Week. Jersey had a friend round for a sleepover and dinner consisted of cheesy noodles with broccoli to be followed by midnight panckaes.
More pancakes for breakfast! Lunch was small and light and constituted as a snack, really, as we were going down to my parent's house for an early-ish dinner. We had veggie burgers, which were not a big hit with the kids. Roady spent most of the meal asking how he could get out of Vegetarian Week. He was saddened to find out our dinner conversation was actually as contractual as a blood-pact because I had already bought all the groceries to pull this thing off and NOBODY was backing out! Thankfully, ice-cream and cherries are vegetarian and served as good chasers for the burgers.
Cereal for breakfast, the kids found some solace in a familiar meal. I knew I was going to have to make up for the whole veggie burger thing. Thankfully, I had an ace up my sleeve for lunch. Morningstar Farms makesfantastic veggie mini-corn-dogs (I mean it's a hot dog, people... it's about as fake as meat gets to begin with. The veggie versions taste exactly the same and they're so much better for you. It's worth the switch even if you're not vegetarian!) and the kids wolfed them down with lunch snickering about how I'd forgotten about Vegetarian Week! Of course, I wiggled the box under their noses once their plates were clean and they were amazed! As for dinner, it was an easy win with a fantastic marinara sauce with tons of veggies hidden inside over whole wheat pasta. Yummy! Even Daddy cleaned his plate with no fuss about the missing meat.
Cereal and eggs for breakfast, same old same old, well received. Lunch was made by using some leftover whole wheat noodles and mixing in a little balsamic vinaigrette, garlic and Parmesan cheese. This was served with green olives and some veggies. The kids loved it. Dinner was a slow-cooker masterpiece of veggie-curry over jasmine rice with naan bread. The kids didn't leave a single grain of rice or drop of curry sauce! It was all eaten, even the veggies they're not so hot on, like carrots! Win!
Breakfast once again smooth, seems like bacon and sausage cravings simply won't crop up this week. As for lunch, the kids were quite content to just finish up some curry leftovers! Daddy cheated, or "droppped out," and had a salami sandwich. The kids were playing in their room, safely away from the temptations of meat. Dinner was a quick fix, since we all had to rush like mad to get Roady out to his soccer game at 6:30 (btw, his team won. WOOT!) I made an egg salad sandwich, a cheesy olive sandwich, and a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, splitting all three between the kids. They loved them all and had a few pickles on the side. Not the most balanced meal, but we were in a BIG rush. At least it filled them up and gave Roady buckets of energy to play in his game!
Lunch was a quick-fix today. You guessed it, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese! Kept the kids happy, took no time to prepare, and let me get back to the piles of things I had to do. We agreed to help host a massive community garage sale, and I'm drowning in so many things to price and tag and organize! Anyway, I had slightly more time for dinner, making vegetarian tacos. I used Tasty Bites' Madras Lentils as a base, added some beans, tomatoes, and corn, and then slapped it into soft taco shells. Once the kids added some cheese, they wolfed it down with delight! This was a major win for me, cause as I was making dinner I was getting premonitions of upturned noses and complaints. And it was so healthy for them! And they liked it! WINNING!
What a day. Oh my goodness. We began a 3-day garage sale (which is totally worthy of a blog post in and of itself...) not just for our house... but our neighborhood! Somehow I wound up being the director! Talk about frazzled! It was 2pm before I realized the kids were hungry, and I couldn't get away to make anything. Panic set in! Thankfully, our neighbor, Troy, owns a hot dog cart which he had set-up at the sale. Now I know what you're thinking, "hot dogs are just about as far from vegetarian as you can get!" Well thankfully, Troy happened to have VEGGIE hot dogs! They were delicious! Not as salty as real hot dogs, which I loved. He was also grilling corn on the cob - delicious!!! Of course, the best part is that I didn't have to lift a finger! After the sale was finished, and after I took a loooooooooong shower, I whipped up a cheesy tuna pasta dinner for the family (I had oven roasted veggies, since I'm not a fan of fish) and chased that down with a beautifully decorated (if I do say so myself) Olympic Cake! Yes, yes it was delicious.
Another grueling day working on the garage sale was followed up by a pleasant afternoon swimming and rooting for Team USA in the Olympics. Roady was lucky to enjoy Olympic Cake for breakfast (he's been slaving away selling cookies, water and soda at the garage sale to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network... he deserved a special treat!) and more veggie dogs from our neighbor, Troy for lunch. (If you're wondering why I'm not mentioning Jersey, the answer is, of course, that she went to a sleepover!) Then came the big moment, dinner. In celebration of eating a vegetarian diet all week, we joined my parents in a whopping big meal of... chicken fingers! I expected Roady to eat twelve, but after just two he changed gears and ate 7 slices of watermelons and a bucket of grapes. Hmmm... guess he didn't miss meat that much after all...
This was a really interesting experience for our family, well, except for Daddy. I personally enjoyed the challenge of creating meals that would appeal to my kids' tastes without being too dreadful for them. It's sometimes easy to replace meat with a stupid amount of carbs in a vegetarian diet... and while we did eat a lot of noodles, I always tried to make sure that the servings were proportioned properly. Whenever veggies and pasta were mixed, I made sure the mix was 50/50 so that the emphasis of the flavor and nutrients was all in the veggies.
Roady is quite proud of his achievement, though he has decided that perhaps being a vegetarian isn't the right thing for him as a life choice, he feels a great sense of success in surviving a week without meat. As for Jersey, she never seemed to mind the vegetarian menu, after the initial shock wore off that is. Daddy, well, he was never really committed to the cause to begin with, but he managed to struggle valiantly through a great many meals without meat. And as for me? To be honest, I didn't notice much of a difference from my normal meals at all. I so rarely eat that much meat that a week without it is, well, kinda average.
See if your family can take on the vegetarian challenge... you might be surprised with yourselves...
So did some of those meals sound yum to you? Let me know which ones got your mouths watering in the comments and I'll work on posting some simple recipes. I tried to involve the kids in everything I made this week, so these are all family-friendly recipes that will let your kids get involved in the kitchen! Woot!