Five really fast, really easy, really tasty things you can do TODAY to eat less meat and become more of an almost vegetarian

It's actually not that difficult to become an almost vegetarian. The trick, in fact, is no more complicated than using vegetarian alternatives for non-vegetarian ingredients. Alternatives that are easy-to-find, easy-to-work with, and totally tasty.

Like these.

1. Use vegetable stock
Instead of a meat-based stock, such as beef or chicken, use a vegetable-based stock. This works equally well in soups and sauces. And, when you do make a vegetable stock, make a lot and freeze the leftovers.

What! No vegetable stock and no time to make one? Well, certainly you could buy one, but, hey, why not use some wine? This might not work well where you need a lot of liquid, such as for a soup, but it is gorgeous in sauces.

Oh, and bonus: Veg stock is lower in fat and calories than a meat-based stock.

2. Sauté with oil
The next time you sauté, use oil, such as extra virgin olive oil or safflower oil, instead of bacon grease, butter, or other animal fat.

Not sure what oil to use? In this case, you would choose the olive oil when you want the good olive taste and you don’t need a very high heat and don’t need to cook for longer than a few minutes (otherwise you may hit the smoking point which can ruin foods). Choose the safflower oil if you do need high heat or if you need to cook for more than a few minutes (drizzle olive oil on afterward if you want the olive taste).

3. Replace gelatin with agar-agar
Gelatin is boiled animal bits (I don’t want to tell you what bits, but it is bits you never want to eat). Agar-agar is seaweed. To use agar-agar in place of gelatin, simply substitute agar-agar powder for the gelatin (this is really easy because you can use the exact amount in agar-agar that the recipe calls for in gelatin). Oops, accidentally got agar-agar in flaked or bar form, instead of powdered? No problem. Just pop it into your food processor and let whirr to turn it into a powder.

Oh, and you should know, that recipes with acidic ingredients, such as lemons and oranges, need a bit more agar-agar than the recipe calls for. And recipes with fresh mangoes, pineapples, and papayas won't set. In the former case, add an extra pinch or two and know that the more experience you have with agar-agar, the easier it will be to judge exactly how much is needed. And, in the latter case, just cook the fruit before adding it to your recipe.

4. Give up the butter and egg-based spreads
Like mayonnaise, for example. Instead, try a nice mustard (there are so many varieties, from your classic Dijon to raspberry, to choose from) or even something different, such as Tahini (it’s made from sesame seeds, you've had it in a falafel, and we’re quite fond of it).

5. Move over meat, there’s a tofu in town
Try substituting tofu for meat in some of your meat dishes. Such as a chicken stir fry. In this case, you just pass on the chicken and use tofu, instead. The cooking process doesn’t change.

Confused about tofu? Here's a quick primer. The stuff is like a blank slate: It doesn’t have much in the way of texture or taste and is just waiting for you to add either. To do so, you simply marinate it for half an hour or so in whatever sauce you would normally use. This gives it a good taste. Then you add it to your stir fry. Or you fry it. Or you broil it. And so on. And this gives it a good texture (fried tofu, for example, is crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside - somewhat like a potato wedge).

This is what I do. I buy firm or extra-firm tofu (use the silken tofu for desserts). Because tofu is packed in water, I press it out the extra moisture by wrapping the tofu in a towel and putting a heavy pot on top for half an hour or so. Then I cut it into bite-size pieces which I marinate. The marinade can be as simple as soy sauce with a dash of ginger, garlic, and brown sugar. While marinating is going on, I cut up my veg for my stir fry (onions, broccoli, snow peas, cashews, and so on). Then I add the tofu and the veg to my pot and cook.

See, I told you it was easy.