This has always been one of those things that I wanted to do and never got around to it. I have always felt a twinge of guilt about eating meat and poultry, but that guilt was always numbed by the fact that I enjoyed burgers, steaks, and pretty much any meal made out of animals. Over the past few months the guilt started becoming more and more intense, and eventually, it overshadowed my enjoyment whenever I ate meat. One day I was standing in the kitchen with my mother when I turned to her and said, “you know what? I’ll try going without meat or poultry for a week. I’ll still eat fish. And if at any point I feel the urge to eat meat is overpowering, I’ll go for it, but for now, I’m off meat.”
I knew then, and know now, that it is somehow hypocritical to still eat seafood while denying myself meat and poultry so I wouldn’t kill any animals. However, it has helped put my mind at ease a little. And I found myself feeling more at peace whenever I see chickens, cows, or sheep. During those two weeks, I’ve found out a few things. For starters, if you are the person who cooks in the household, you’ll need to figure out a way to cook two main dishes during the same time you used to cook just one. The second thing was that you’ll have to get really creative if you don’t want your diet to consist of an array of tuna salads. The third, and probably one of the most important parts of the process is changing the eating pattern you grew up with; which are rice or pasta, a vegetable stew of some sort, and animal protein.
The first thing first seemed like the most challenging part, but you will find that you can easily go around it. For example, if like me your significant other still eats meat and you don’t want to force your eating habits on them, you can make a side dish that you will both share and just make meat or chicken on the side for them, while grilling yourself a fish fillet or making a salad rich in iron and protein for yourself. You can make a nice, creamy pasta that you both can share, and then pop a chicken in the oven for an hour, followed by a salmon fillet for 20 minutes.
If your mother or mother-in-law decides to help, which they probably will because they’ll feel bad for you, you’ll end up with plenty of doggy bags whenever you visit them. On the days when he has delicious mother-made leftovers, you can make yourself something elaborate and rich in protein and nutrients that your body needs like a mushroom risotto.
This brings us to the second part, being creative. Keep this in mind, when going on a pescatarian diet, you don’t actually have to eat fish every day. You can go for entirely vegetarian dishes, your dinner can be a delicious frittata, a nice juicy Greek salad, or the aforementioned mushroom risotto. Your meals don’t have to be like the ones your mother used to make you as a child. You just need to make sure it’s rich in protein and iron filled foods. Incorporate broccoli, beets, mushrooms, legumes, and lots of leafy salads for a healthy meal.
Now, the third point is all in your head. You will need to get your body used to the fact that your dinner might not be hot, it might be all vegetables and little else, but it can still be delicious and filling. This is something that I found out when after a long day, I had a Greek salad for dinner and my brain just couldn’t get past the fact that while my stomach was full, it was still feeling hungry! This will take a little bit of getting used to, which is okay because it’s perfectly doable. So much so that since I started this diet, I haven’t gotten off of it.
Now it has been two months. After the first two weeks went by, I somehow just kept going along. I’m still not forcing it. I keep saying that if I ever feel like eating a burger and the craving is too strong, I will not force myself to not eat it. However, I have yet to have a craving that lasts longer than a few minutes. And who knows? Perhaps someday I’ll be strong enough to give up seafood as well.
Here are a few of the dishes I’ve relied on during the first couple of weeks of my diet. They’re all easy to make, delicious and full of nutrients.
White Fish with Basmati Rice and Green Peas
This dish is so easy to make that I made it while simultaneously making oven baked chicken and potatoes for my husband. And it turns out so delicious and filling.
1 cup white basmati rice
½ cup green peas
1 slice whitefish
2 cloves of garlic
Lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper
Fry basmati rice in olive oil for a minute before adding enough water to cover it, this should be enough water for the first knuckle of your index finger to be fully submerged. Bring it to a boil, add the peas and lower the temperature to very low and cover. It will cook in around 25 minutes. Check on it every now and then until it fully cooks.
Marinade the fish in the garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and some of the parsley then cook in the oven for around 20 minutes. Serve the fish on top of the rice and garnish with more parsley.
“Almost” Nicoise Salad
So here’s what happened here. I was planning on making a Nicoise salad, and realized that I’m out of half of the ingredients. I didn’t have anchovies, parmesan, sundried tomatoes, and I had no intention on putting black olives in it because I’m not a huge fan of black olives. However, you’ll be surprised at how delicious this turned out to be.
1 boiled egg
Any fresh vegetables you have (Celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, spring onions… etc)
1 can of tuna
Salt and pepper
As the egg and pasta boil, mix all the other ingredients – extra points if you have anchovies, sundried tomatoes and parmesan, of course – and then add the pasta to your mix and serve with the boiled egg on the side and voila!
I based this recipe on that of my good friend’s Wesam Massoud. I made a few minor changes for it to fit my new diet. However, I’ll leave a link below for Wesam’s video.
1 Cup risotto rice
½ cup of chopped fresh mushrooms
Stock (Wesam’s recipe utilized meat stock. So I made my own stock by boiling water with an onion, a mushroom, rosemary and thyme, a bay leaf, a cardamom seed, and salt and pepper)
1 minced onion
Rosemary and thyme (Wesam used fresh, but mine was slighty dry because it was a week old. Still worked!)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
Tablespoon Parmesan cheese (I didn’t have parmesan so I substituted it with another cheese)
Salt and pepper
Put some olive oil in a small pan and let the mushrooms cook on very low heat, stirring every so often. Before they are fully cooked, add some rosemary and thyme to them. When they get a nice golden color, add a tiny bit of water to them and set them aside. In a big pan, gently fry the minced onion until it wilts and then add the rice and roast it with the onions. Add your salt and pepper. When the rice is all well and roasted, add the tablespoon of vinegar to it. Then it’s regular risotto making, adding the stock one ladle at a time and stirring constantly until cooked. When you only need one last addition of stock for the risotto to be cooked, add the last ladle of stock to the mushroom and add the mushroom stock mixture to the risotto. Finally, add the butter and cheese. Garnish with a sprinkle of cheese and there you have it, delicious vegetarian mushroom risotto.
Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta
Another recipe I made up in my head. This one is tasty, filling and nutritious. And above all, super easy to make.
4 to 5 mushrooms
2 big pieces of broccoli
½ bag of pasta
1 tablespoon Butter
2 garlic cloves
Sautee the mushrooms and garlic in olive oil, add the pasta, water and salt and pepper and let them cook as a one pot pasta dish. Add the broccoli and thyme 5 minutes before the pasta is done. When the pasta is done, add a tabelspoon of butter to the pasta and serve with a sprinke of cheese on top.
Oven Baked Salmon with Parmesan Butter Pasta and Steamed Broccoli
This is as delicious as it looks and won’t take that long to make.
1 Salmon fillet
Fresh rosemary and thyme
2 Garlic cloves
Juice of one lemon
½ teaspoon Honey
Salt and pepper
Half a tablespoon butter
Marinade the salmon in lemon juice, olive oil, honey, one garlic clove and salt and pepper. Half an hour later, add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme to it and pop that into a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until fully cooked. Steam broccoli and cook pasta by first frying the other garlic clove slightly in olive oil only until you can smell the aromas, add more rosemary and thyme and the pasta and water and let it cook. When done, add butter and parmesan cheese to the pasta.
Wesam Massoud’s Mushroom Risotto Recipe: