A Vegetarian at the Table

May 5th, 2014 · 61 Comments · Vegetarian

Dear Jenny,
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Last winter, my 10-year-old, who is a voracious and wonderfully appreciative eater, started making noises about becoming a vegetarian. We engaged the conversation, of course, which then piqued the interest of my 8-year-old. They both decided that, because of their feelings about animals, they wanted to become vegetarians.  My husband and I totally supported this, but told her that we wouldn’t have the family go full vegetarian because a) our 4-year-old loves meat and b) we like meat.  But we agreed that all meals would have a vegetarian base and possibly some meat on the side, which they could choose to eat or not.  They both felt comfortable with this.
So, here’s my question. I have really tried to expand my beans and lentils repertoire but I feel like I’m running out of new and exciting ideas for vegetarian meals.  I feel slightly overwhelmed by tofu and frankly grossed out by tempeh. So, any good dishes that we could all eat would be a life saver.
Love,
Kate
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Dear Kate,

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten some version of this letter. A few weeks ago, at one of my talks, a mom raised her hand and outlined a very similar story then asked for advice. Frankly, I’m stymied, too, and I have a hard time coming up with anything beyond my usual one-word answer: Pizza. (I was grateful when another mother in the audience took over and started giving advice; her recommendation to visit Oh She Glows was validated by many head nods around the room.) I’m not going to leave you totally high and dry, though. I recommend picking up a few cookbooks that will be key in the inspiration department. Start with these:
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Next, I’ve rounded up a couple vegetarian favorites in my house, focusing on the ones that are flexible, i.e. they can be easily doctored to suit all tastes without a lot of work on the part of the cook:
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  • Vegetable Fritters – They’re like pancakes for dinner; literally your golden ticket
  • Burrito Bowl – Your two vegetarians can opt out of the chicken
  • Salad Bar Night - A medley of fresh salads and leftovers
  • Spaghetti with Mint-Pea Pesto or Regular Pesto
  • Vegetable Dumplings – feel free to brown a quarter pound of ground pork, and stir into a separate bowl with the vegetable filling. Then the vegetarians and the  meat-eaters will both be happy. Note: Do not attempt this on a weeknight when you are pressed for time; you will swear off DALS for all time.
  • Pizza  - The Dinner Elixir; try Salad Pizza or, since ramps will only be in season for another hour or two, this one.
Lastly, I feel certain there are DALS readers out there who are dealing with similar issues around the dinner table, and I feel certain they will share their support, their wisdom, and their recipes.
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Good luck!
Love, Jenny
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61 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark Rubin // May 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Stir fry and loaded baked potatoes are additional base dishes. If the kids are eating cheese grilled cheese night can be lots of fun.

  • 2 Valerie Weak // May 5, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Tofu spaghetti (meatless bolognese) – block of firm tofu, shredded or hand crumbled, marinated with crushed garlic and italian herbs if you have the time, but can be skipped. Then fried until golden/crispy with good olive oil. Mix into spaghetti sauce (even a jar of sauce) – I’m sure someone with more kitchen time could modify this into a meatless sloppy joe, figure out a version that could work as taco filling by altering spices, etc.
    Frozen edamame are a great quick protein fix.

  • 3 Sue // May 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

    My one word answer is tacos! But seriously. I am vegetarian or pescetarian and my daughter and husband are not. We do a lot of vegetarian meals with a rotisserie chicken as their option. We eat a lot of eggs and we eat wild Alaskan salmon once a week (because I feel like that actually enhances conservation of habitat for those fish). I would explore the boundaries of their beliefs by trying farmers market meat and visiting the farms. There is a lot of complexity to loving animals and making decisions about eating them, it’s a good opportunity for discussion of how our spending can support good treatment of animals. Anyway. Quorn is my favorite meat substitute. And seriously, tacos.

  • 4 Betsy // May 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

    If you are squeamish about tofu, try the “super firm” variety (Trader Joe’s usually has it). It’s much firmer and less slimy and crumbly than the usual stuff and is a lot like working with a raw chicken breast.

    Seitan can be another gateway vegetarian food. It’s great for taco filling, stir fry’s, and even stews and chili.

  • 5 catherine // May 5, 2014 at 11:17 am

    We like a lot of vegetarian sandwiches for a quick weeknight supper. You can also add meat if you want, but I don’t think you’ll miss it:
    http://kaleeats.blogspot.ca/2013/09/roasted-beet-spinach-pesto-cheesy-melt.html
    http://kaleeats.blogspot.ca/2012/03/southwest-sandwich.html
    http://kaleeats.blogspot.ca/2012/06/cauliflower-olive-tapenade-sandwich.html
    http://kaleeats.blogspot.ca/2013/03/sweet-potato-salad-wrap.html
    http://kaleeats.blogspot.ca/2012/07/roasted-zucchini-sandwich-with.html
    http://kaleeats.blogspot.ca/2013/09/eggplant-harissa-herb-gremolata-sandwich.html

  • 6 Michelle // May 5, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Our family eats vegetarian meals several times a week. We like veggie chili over brown rice, veggie lasagana, and stir fries with tofu. This is the only way my family likes tofu: drain between layers of paper towels for around 30 mins, cut into slices or cubes, dredge in cornstarch (I use a Ziploc for this and give it a good shake) then fry in rice bran oil (from Trader Joes) for a good ten minutes, making sure you fry each side and get a golden, crispy surface. Yum. Also, check out the cookbook “Isa Does It”, such a great book. We love the California Stir Fry. Good luck!

  • 7 aneelee // May 5, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    We are in Austin, so tacos are a bit of a way of life, but you’d be surprised how open kids are to soups, pastas/noodles with veggies and breakfast for dinner is always a very nice break. The book suggestions up top are solid. I’d add some of Deborah Madison’s other books (Vegetarian Suppers) and Mollie Katzen’s new The Heart of the Plate is a new favorite! Best of luck!

  • 8 Peg // May 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    We eat meat but I’m always looking for veggie options as we try to go vegetarian once or twice a week. Like stir frys, pasta with veggies is always a good base that can be doctored for different tastes, meat added or not. Soups or quiches (if your kids will eat eggs and cheese) are other options. Add some good bread and a salad and it’s a meal. My kids also enjoy breakfast for dinner once in a while – breakfast burritos, frittatas, pancakes, french toast with meat sausage on the side for those that partake and veg substitutes for those that don’t.

  • 9 Eloise // May 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Deborah Madison is definitely the way to go. Every single thing I’ve made from her books has been wonderful. The cauliflower with tomato sauce and feta is heaven.

  • 10 Kathleen // May 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Vegetarians in the family don’t have to be scary. I’ve been vegetarian since I was in elementary school. My family was not vegetarian. I ate everything else in the meal besides the meat. My mom worried about protein to begin with, but luckily she got over it. Most Americans get more protein than they need anyways. Now I have my own family who all eat meat but not me. We treat meat as a side dish just as everything else. I guess you miss out on some of the one pot meals but otherwise just treat meat as one of the components of your meal, not the centerpiece and it should be easy.

  • 11 Courtney // May 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    My fiancé is a HUGE meat eater and I don’t eat meat at all. I look to a lot of Asian and Middle Eastern recipes since their diets are often vegetarian based. Also, go with the extra firm tofu, slice it into thinner slices and let it sit in between two paper towels for an hour or so, so it dries out completely, then throw it in a pan and fry it up! It’s so delicious, even for the meat eaters! (Serve with a peanut sauce and some stir fry. YUM)

    Stuffed peppers (with quinoa and beans/ground beef or turkey), tomato sandwiches with mozzarella and pesto (insert chicken for meat eater), black bean or quinoa burgers, roasted vegetables over quinoa or couscous add meatballs for meaters, and zucchini or carrot or corn fritters (I make them a hearty size so it feels like a main dish served with a light salad) are my weekly go tos. I rarely cook beans or lentils when it gets warmer so I hope this variety helps!

    Also, encourage the meat eaters to go meat free once a week. It’ll lessen the burden and it won’t be THAT bad. :)

  • 12 Sarah // May 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Kid-friendly vegeterian ideas!

    *Vegeterian chili and cornbread

    *Omelettes

    *This coconut lentil soup: http://notwithoutsalt.com/2014/02/10/feed-south-africa-lentil-soup-coconut/

    *Deb’s Parmesean broth with kale and white beans from Smitten Kitchen http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/01/parmesan-broth-with-kale-and-white-beans/

    *Louisa’s awesome veggies can totally be a filling bowl (I make sure to throw in lots of potatoes and sometimes walnuts for more protein) http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_wednesday_chef/2013/07/the-best-roasted-vegetables-ever.html

  • 13 Allison // May 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Roasted butternut squash (roast garlic in butter in the hole, scoop out, and mix with cheese and herbs and put back in skins with more cheese and bread crumbs on top to toast up). Can pre-roast and gratinee just before dinner time. Add lardons to ones for omnivores.

    Quiche is fast if you buy or pre-make the crust. Can make mini ones to adjust for various dietary preferences.

    We just discovered haloumi and while I wouldn’t want to cook it often because of the salt factor, it’s super yummy.

    Bean salads are awesome in the summer and you can easily add a can of tuna to the omnivore portion. Ditto something like potato salad. With hard boiled eggs and other veg added, it can be a complete meal rather than a side dish.

  • 14 Laura // May 5, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    In addition to all of the great suggestions just wanted to mention a few things… The Oh She Glows site is great and she has a new book out. I would suggest Alicia Silverstone’s book, the Kind Diet. I am not kidding. The recipes in there are easy to make and some are quite good. Middle Eastern food is a great option. My kids love it when I make falafel, tahini, and humus at home, pair it all with cucumber/tomato salad and let them stuff their own pitas. Veggie burritos and tacos are great ways to make beans more interesting. Also check out the DALS minestrone. I know you recommend that one for a Sunday but after making it so many times, I have gotten pretty fast at it. Edamame is a great protein snack for kids. Vegetarian sushi rolls using cucumber, avocado and just about any other fun vegetable or fruit is also fun to make at home. Kids love to get involved. Serve with Miso soup or salad with ginger dressing. Once you get used to it, vegetarian cooking is so much fun.

  • 15 Joanna // May 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Jenny – you forgot one of our DALS favorites – blackbean and goat cheese quesadillas!

  • 16 Kat // May 5, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    My husband and I are neither vegetarians nor parents (yet), but we eat a flexitarian/mostly vegetable diet for health/money/political reasons. Also, we just really like vegetables.

    Our favorite lately has been a vegetable sandwich that Everday Food published a few years ago, and that Shutterbean just blogged about within the last few weeks, found here: http://www.shutterbean.com/2014/the-ultimate-veggie-sandwich/ Basically, you shred up some hearty veggies (beets, carrots), slice up some cukes, tomato, radish, avocado, slather your bread with hummus, and load it all up. There are tons of variations, including a mixture of cooked and raw veggies, and you can build it so that the meat eaters can add chicken or whatever. We’ve been doing the raw version because we live in Florida and it’s already well into the 80s every day, but for cooler climates, a goat cheese and roasted beet sandwich, or roasted broccoli with a little cheddar, would be awesome.

    Another meal with endless variations is the pasta with some kind of vegetable, in about 50/50 ratio. That is, 50% pasta and 50% vegetable, and add meat if you eat it. My faves are bucatini with green beans and asparagus (simply blanched or roasted), cappellini with mashed brocolli/cauliflower with garlic and tons of parm (recipe in Tamar Adler’s book, see below), and penne with roasted grape tomatoes and summer squash/zucchini, with garlic and parm; you can add a fried or poached egg on any of the above. Also, pesto! We make pesto with nearly any leafy herb/ delicate green, and nearly any nut (parsley and walnut or almond is a fave, but we’ve also used arugula, mizuna, red frills, and carrot tops). We’re also huge fans of the mezze platter, (roasted red peppers, hummus, tabouli, pita, etc.), and good ol’ caprese salad. Nearly any vegetable can be made into a soup – we recently did a pureed fava bean soup and it was so satisfying and delicious – and you can serve it with a panini or grilled cheese. We also love the omlette with salad dinner. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned any of the amazing Asian dishes that we make. Asian kale salad with edamame, or soba noodles with fried tofu mango, and cilantro. There’s a whole world of exciting options there that don’t include a scrap of meat! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it all.

    A great book to read to get the creative juices flowing is “An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace” by Tamar Adler. It’s all about making the most of your ingredients, and making your meals transition smoothly one into the other. The author relies heavily on vegetables, as they are the most economical way of eating, but there are also some meat dishes, too. It’s beautifully written, and as soon as I finished it, I re-read it, highlighting all of the excellent ideas the author has.

    And obviously, Deborah Madison is the queen of exciting vegetarian, and I love Mark Bittman’s Vegetarian Tome. Oh, and Smitten Kitchen is great because, although Deb isn’t a vegetarian, she was for many years and tends to focus more on these bright, happy vegetable-based dishes. She’s awesome.

  • 17 Kat // May 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    OMG, I totally forgot to mention “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi. If that doesn’t make you fall in love with vegetables (I mean, head over heels, can’t get enough), nothing will. It is, hands down, the most beautiful cookbook I have ever seen. Yep, I said it.

  • 18 Jessica // May 5, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    I’d like to toss in a suggestion of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s book Veg Everyday. (isbn 978-1408812129). I like seitan alot but am also in for tofu. Go with firm and extra-firm, and marinate it. Also, don’t use too much, just a tiny bit to give the dish a bit of body.

  • 19 Traci // May 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Veggie tacos! Saute or roast any variety of vegetables, garbanzo beans, and top with hot sauce/salsa, avocado slices, and cheese. Feeding vegetarians can be fun and delicious!

  • 20 Sara // May 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    We tend to go with a basic bowl formula for fall back vegetarian dinners, when I’m feeling less than inspired. A grain or starch + protein + veggies and greens that we have on hand, and some kind of sauce. This is often rice and black beans with corn and squash, topped with salsa or hot sauce. We’ve also done Asian variations or pasta variations. Additions like cheese and meat are easy for any who want.

    Check out Daily Garnish for some very easy veg options too.

  • 21 erinn johnson // May 5, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Plenty should be on the list, it is an amazing cookbook.

    I eat meat about once a month and my kids only eat it on weekends. There is a world of dishes to make besides beans and lentils. Mushrooms are a great addition to your rotation. You can put them in pastas, stir fry and serve with rice, over polenta…Soups are a great dinner, you can turn broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots into great soups and serve with a nice crusty bread.

  • 22 Erika // May 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I always liked the Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook for its quick and cheap recipes like black beans & brown rice cooked in dark beer, topped with salsa, cheese and avocados. Also shredded sweet potato and black bean quesadillas. It’s definitely not on par with Plenty, but a lot easier to make on a weeknight!

  • 23 Katrina // May 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    So many great suggestions here! I’m pescetarian, but can echo most of the meals that people have pointed out. I definitely second the person who mentioned seitan as a great meat alternative – check out Upton’s. We also adore Field Roast veg sausages. And to add to the chorus of “tacos!!” – check out the sweet potato tacos from bevcooks -http://bevcooks.com/2012/01/black-bean-and-sweet-potato-tacos-with-swiss-chard-pesto/ – they will seriously ROCK your world.

  • 24 Sammi @Sammi Sunshine // May 5, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for being a parent who takes your children’s choices seriously! When I was about 10, I decided to become a vegetarian, and my parents laughed at me! They didn’t have a conversation with me about it or even try to educate me about what it really meant.

    Sammi

  • 25 Sally // May 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Many blogs now have some vegetarian recipes. I’ve flirted with vegetarianism most of my adult life and followed a vegan diet for about five years. I’m now a committed omnivore, but I eat meals without meat often.

    Check ethnic cuisines – most have a variety of main dishes that don’t include meat. Just Italian, Mexican and Chinese offer a huge variety.

  • 26 Emily @ Life on Food // May 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I love the cookbook Super Natural Every Day. We are not vegetarians but make tons of use of this cookbook. Mexican and Indian foods are also delicious and filling as vegetarian dishes. Find a few you like.

  • 27 Erika // May 5, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Highly recommend The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley. Exactly designed for this case–you start a meal, split it into potions, then add the protein–veg or not. Super yummy recipes, and great starting points for a ton of other ideas.
    Enjoy!

  • 28 Alyssa // May 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I would wholeheartedly recommend the Quick Vegetarian Pleasures cookbook . It’s a golden oldie from the 90s, but has great, simple recipes that truly are quickly made.

  • 29 Jane // May 5, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    One of my favorite recipes from my childhood was something my grandfather created, which he appropriately named Pasta Picasso. It sounds strange, but bear with me! The base is fresh fettuccine, either plan or with spinach (often we got those Butoni packages). Next is a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt), and then everyone gets to choose from themselves what goes on it from little bowls that you set out… the possibilities are endless, but we ALWAYS had sliced black olives, cubed ham, grated swiss and cheddar cheese, green onions, bacon crumbles, tomatoes, sliced radishes, sliced mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and even fried chow mein noodles! The beauty of it is that everyone gets to make their own little work of art :) Always a favorite.

  • 30 Colleen // May 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    I recommend “The Meat Free Monday Cookbook”. We’ve been trying to have a couple meat free meals a week and I didn’t know where to begin. This book had lots of great ideas and I could get it from the library!

  • 31 Elisa // May 5, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I was a vegetarian for many years but now I try to limit the meat I eat. At home my husband and I eat mainly veggie meals with the occasional chicken dish.

    Since we love spicy food Indian is one of our go to cuisines. Biriyanis are great: you can add meat later for the meat lovers or just keep it veggie all the way since this can be a hearty dish too. If you are starting out I recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Indian-Vegetarian-Cooking-Healthy-Cuisine/dp/1570670048/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399336151&sr=1-5&keywords=sunetra

    We also enjoy Falafel. This has lately become a favorite in my house: http://www.justataste.com/2011/08/homemade-falafel-with-tahini-sauce/

    I am also a fan of Thug Kitchen. Just FYI there is a fair bit of swearing on the blog but the recipes are top notch.
    http://thugkitchen.com/

    Stamppot, a traditional Dutch dish, is great for the winter months. The varieties are endless and the meat is cooked separately. I also suggest adding some mild cheddar on top – yum. http://www.food.com/recipe/boerenkool-stamppot-kale-hash-33269

  • 32 eila // May 5, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    I have one child who doesn’t enjoy meat, and the other that claims he is a “meatatarian”. I recently put together a make-ahead meal ebook that offers up a bunch of veg options for freezer-friendly meals. This might be of interest? Here’s the link with the scoop:

    http://fullplatecookinglessons.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-scoop-on-bonus-hours-faq-on-stock.html

    Or, I try to label all of my veg recipes and you can feel free to scroll through them and pin or print any that catch your eye: http://fullplatecookinglessons.blogspot.com/search/label/vegetarian%20main%20dishes

  • 33 Elizabeth // May 5, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    My 12 year old, multi-sport (soccer +track), picky (read: spoiled rotten) and opinionated girl is a challenge to feed, but here is how I approach it: She loves vegetables above all else other than cheese, so I am constantly chopping and stirfrying. Pasta and parmigianno with Greek salad (no lettuce! Not authentic!) makes a good meal. TVP (textured vegetable protein) added to a marinara sauce makes pasta better. Lasagna made with said sauce and a filling of tofu mixed with spinach and egg/bread crumbs/garlic in place of the ricotta is delicious.
    Asian noodles with sesame oil and stirfried vegetables are also good. Speaking of sesame oil, hummus made with that if you do not have tahini is delicious.
    Good luck, and cheers to respecting your daughter’s wishes.

  • 34 AnneL // May 5, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Loaded sweet potatoes are also a great switch from regular (Hummus is particularly good on a sweet potato as is sour cream and sauteed bell peppers).

    How about a savory oatmeal (or a sweet one for that manner in the breakfast for dinner vein)?

    At my children’s school, they make their own snacks in the early childhood and my kids always loved “Kindergarden Soup”- really just a mixed vegetable soup (onions, carrots, squash, potatoes, broccoli and kale) in a veggie broth with or without pasta.

  • 35 allison // May 5, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Like another commenter above, I stopped eating meat as a young child. I was the only vegetarian in my family growing up, and am now the only one in my own family that I cook for as an adult.

    I agree that there’s no need to replicate the place of meat on your kids’ plates. Growing up in a meat-heavy household, I enjoyed a lot of meals of buttered mashed potatoes, salad, and green beans (while my parents also ate pot roast). Don’t fret about the protein intake. Dairy products, eggs, nuts, even crunchy soy nuts offered as a snack will all boost the amount that your vegetarian kids will get from their veggies and carbs. Just cook what you usually do, make the meat an optional add-on if you can, and add an additional veggie side dish if you can’t.

    Also, in addition to Peter Berley’s Flexitarian Table, check out Ivy Manning’s book The Adaptable Feast.

  • 36 Amanda // May 5, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Three meatless favorites from our meat-eating but eating less of it family: Garbage Bowl–beans/rice/avocado/salsa/whatever else is in the fridge/Annie’s Goddess Dressing or the TJ’s knock-off equivalent/olives; omlettes with whatever you can find; tostadas (buy the crispy flat shells) with roasted sweet potato (mix in lime zest and lime juice), black beans, avocado, and a fried egg on top.

  • 37 Pia // May 6, 2014 at 1:07 am

    I’ve been a vegetarian all my life and so is my family. We are Indian and if you like Indian food at all and are willing to be adventurous – there is a plethora of options for vegetarian food that is anything but bland and dull. A good blog I often frequent is “One Hot Stove” – the blogger is Indian and vegetarian but lives in the U.S. and makes a lot of Indian/fusion dishes. She takes the fuss out of a lot of dishes and simplifies it. She also has a lot of non-Indian vegetarian recipes too.

  • 38 Vanessa // May 6, 2014 at 3:50 am

    I was squeamish about tofu until I discovered the seasoned baked (super firm) tofu – SoyBoy Tofu Lin is our favorite, but TJ’s also sells some. All you have to do is cube it and crisp it up in a pan with a little veggie oil and it makes a great, tasty addition to stir fries, etc.

    One our our standby weeknight meals is stir fry with soba noodles. The soba noodles cook in about 6 minutes so they are even faster than rice, and full of good healthy stuff. I usually toss them in a bowl with a little dressing (either ginger-peanut sauce or some kind of soy-honey-sesame oil-rice vinegar concoction). In a separate pan, I stir fry some of the baked tofu and some TJ’s frozen edamame or stir fry veggies. The non-vegetable eater in the family gets soba noodles + tofu; the rest of us get them all mixed together. If I have more time I top with toasted peanuts, sliced scallions, and cilantro.

  • 39 A Life From Scratch // May 6, 2014 at 7:28 am

    I tend to eat vegetarian whenever my husband travels, which is pretty often. Here is one of my favorite dishes…mexican quinoa!

    http://a-life-from-scratch.com/mexican-quinoa/

  • 40 Elemjay // May 6, 2014 at 7:32 am

    ELISA – how come I have never heard of Thug Kitchen??? Just spent an hour reading that s**t and laughing out loud. Nice one!

  • 41 aprilshowers // May 6, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Now that grilling season is upon us, kebabs are so versatile and easy. Press extra-firm tofu for half an hour before marinating. You can use the same marinade for tofu and meat (in separate dishes/bags, of course). Add veggies and grill.

    I find tofu that has been pressed, frozen and thawed to have the best texture for grilling so if you buy a few containers to throw in the freezer, you will always have it on hand for grilling.

  • 42 Sasha // May 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Vegetable fritters – what a great idea!

    Another simple vegetarian dinner idea is to roast or stir-fry fresh veggies in any variety of flavorings, and mix with any cooked grains. One can even go a step further and top with pumpkin, sunflower or chia seeds.

  • 43 Mary // May 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Pasta is a great choice. You can do meatless sauces (marinara, alfredo, pesto) or toss pasta in a saute pan with roasted veggies and a little olive oil – very filling and yummy and changable by what is in season or what you have on hand. My mom always made lasagna without meat and served meatballs or italian sausage on the side. You could also make baked ziti without meat.

  • 44 Erika // May 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I have been a vegetarian for my entire life, but have spent the last 10+ cooking for a non vegetarian significant other. Many of the above dishes and cookbooks are ones I also use and recommend.

    But I did notice someone say that you can’t do 1 pot dinners for both meat and vegetarians. But that implies that this has to be hard. I bet you could make almost any one-pot meal and wait to add the meat at the end, or start the base and then divide into two pots, one with meat and one without. Yes, then you have two pots to clean, but really is that so horrible? For example, start chicken cacciatore, divide into two pots, add chicken to one, white beans to another.

    Also, I cook up some meat at the beginning of the week – ground beef, diced chicken, ground sausage, etc. Then I make a veggie dish, heat some of the meat on his plate in the microwave and then serve the vegetarian meal, mixing his meat into it. This works with almost anything – soup, stew, chili, curry, stir-fry, tacos, pasta, pizza, salad. (And leaves you with no extra pans to clean!)

    Mild cannelinni beans are a great substitute for recipes that call for chicken. Whereas stronger flavored beans like black or kidney beans are good subs for beef.

    For anyone becoming a vegetarian, it is good to become a label reader. There are many foods that have animal products that you would never expect. Just one example – many BBQ chips have beef fat. Reading labels is a healthy habit for everyone, not just the vegetarians. Its a great opportunity to teach your children about what they eat.

  • 45 jenn wilkinson // May 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Gnocchi!! It is very mild and there are a variety of tasty things to do with it from Veggies to cheese, to even brown butter with sage- delish!
    It is also kind of fun to make with the kids and they can “score”them and take pleasure in knowing they helped.

  • 46 Miche // May 6, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I like to make tofu stir frys by first cubing drained tofu and cooking it in a non-stick pan with some sesame oil until the outside it crisp. Then I stir fry it in a wok with lots of veggies and a homemade teriyaki sauce. Since most Asian cooking combines tofu with meat, this is an easy way to make it taste good sans the meat. The crispy exterior is really delicious and keeps you from wishing it was actually chicken. or steak. When I want tofu to taste REALLY good, I coat it in cornstarch and deep fry it to make agedashi tofu. But I wouldn’t bother for a weeknight meal.

  • 47 Jess. // May 6, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    My kids go crazy for these:
    http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/05/japanese-cabbage-and-vegetable-pancakes/

    We love this, and nobody ever wonders where the meat is:
    http://www.marthastewart.com/331729/butternut-squash-baked-risotto

    One-pot spaghetti, or this alternative, which we are trying for the first time tonight (I’ve heard it’s great with the sauce from DALS pizza spaghetti):
    http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/07/one-pan-farro-with-tomatoes/

    Saag Paneer!!! (also, so, so fun to make your own cheese with your kids)

    Green smoothies + grilled cheese sandwiches.

    Spanish Tortilla with a big green salad (again, nobody ever complains that there is no meat).

    Peanut sauce on noodles, served with cooked carrots.

  • 48 Daniel // May 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    A great vegetarian dish is home made tofu. It sounds complicated, but the process is quite simple. You end up with tofu and okara, the soybean solids, which can be used is hundreds of dishes. Mixed with a little flour, they make incredible pancakes. Here is in great detail how I make tofu: http://wp.me/p44c6k-b7

  • 49 Barb // May 6, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    My eldest daughter became vegetarian 2 weeks before Thanksgiving in 8th grade (“Will there be any meatless alternatives?”) quickly followed by her younger sister, 5th grade. I made lots of stir fries (meat stir fried on the side). Extra firm tofu with Louisa Shafia’s Almond butter sauce (almond butter, soy, maple syrup, sesame oil and a hit of chile garlic sauce- YUM); the best fake meat is by Qorn, made from mushrooms. Rosti with fried eggs became a favorite.

  • 50 Susan // May 6, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Rice with curry peanut sauce (you can use sweet curry powder so it’s not too spicy hot) and an array of vegetables, whatever is in season. It’s really good with cucumbers on the side and topped with cilantro.

    Bibimbap is delicious, too: Korean dish with sticky rice, tons of vegetables, a soft boiled egg and dipping sauce with soy sauce, sugar, green onions and sesame oil. Kimchi on the side of course. I never get this quite right so it’s best to get the actual recipe from someone who knows how to make it!

    Both of these things are dairy-free which is nice if you’re trying to avoid loading up with cheese as a meat substitute every meal. And both can easily have meat added for those who want it-chicken with peanut sauce, Korean BBQ (bulgogi) with the sticky rice.

  • 51 Susan // May 6, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Oh, and falafel with hummus. Can’t forget that! Kind of a lot of work but so worth it, and you can bake falafel instead of frying it so it’s less trouble and less greasy.

  • 52 Jen // May 7, 2014 at 9:17 am

    We are absolutely not vegetarians, but I do find that more often than not, the meals I cook at home are vegetarian. My supermarket cart rarely contains meat. Maybe some bacon on occasion.

    With that in mind, I have one word for you: Eggs. Egg salad, hard boiled eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs. I make a lot of quiche and frittatas for dinner. They are a great way to get a lot of veggies in your diet, and they really don’t take a lot of time to make. Also very flexible because you can use whatever you want/have on hand to make them, provided you have eggs and some milk or cream. Also they make great leftovers (I often cook once and eat twice, so we eat the same dinner twice each week, maybe with a different side dish). Quiche is usually best made the day before and then heated up the next day – less watery that way, I’ve found.

  • 53 M // May 7, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I am wondering how many dinners each week the poster needs? For some of those, I would just settle into a routine and not worry about the “exciting” part. For example, every Monday do baked potato bar, every Tuesday do tacos/burrito bowls, and every Friday do grilled pizza. All 3 of those are super easy to have assorted toppings that can satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters. Then if you do take out or go out one night, you still have 3 nights to do more adventurous cooking.

  • 54 J // May 7, 2014 at 11:35 am

    If you need some more cookbook suggestions, I would take a look at the Moosewood restaurant’s collections:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=moosewood

    Some truly delicious recipes (many that don’t rely on meat substitutes like tofu).

  • 55 Joy // May 7, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    My girls always love abby & phoebe’s books suggestions! What are they reading now? We need a goody!
    Thanks!

  • 56 Ellie H // May 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Tofu isn’t that hard! Buy extra firm, press it for a while in some paper towels under some cans (if lazy or pressed for time, don’t – it just sizzles more, you might have to open a window), slice into cubes or rectangles (more surface area for browning), saute in a hot pan. Then it’s a basic protein, use like chicken.

  • 57 JenP // May 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    The Peas and Thank you blog isn’t up anymore, but the two cookbooks are fabulous and kid approved!

  • 58 Rony // May 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    I recommend Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals. Everything I have ever made from that book is a crowd-pleaser. Her books and DALS are my daily inspirations.

  • 59 Lauren // May 16, 2014 at 3:44 am

    Definitely falafels.
    I like these baked ones from Sprouted Kitchen – you can either use canned or cooked from scratch chickpeas.
    http://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2013/5/8/baked-herb-pistachio-falafel.html
    (I’ve never included the pistachios)
    Easy to put together, you can double up the recipe, and freeze the extras for when you’re in a hurry.
    Serve with pitas, hummus, fried eggplant, salsa etc etc.. you get the idea :)

  • 60 Annie G // May 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    OK, what about
    Cheese and mushroom omelettes
    Spinach + asparagus quiche
    Fish….or doesn’t that count?
    Burgers using big field mushrooms instead of meat.
    Pasta with olive oil and crushed cherry tomatoes and black olives
    Pasta with pesto
    Spanakopita
    Pissaladiere
    Margarita pizza
    Pizza with spinach, feta and olives
    Cheese souffle
    Toasted cheese and avocado sandwiches
    Vegetable soup
    Eggs florentine
    Chickpea curry and rice/nan bread
    Potato cakes
    Tomato curry

    I could go on, as a fish eating veggie.
    Ignore the lentils, they have their place but not as a main course. Except, of course, as dhal. With chapatti. Better go. Getting hungry….

  • 61 Traca // May 20, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I’m thinking:
    Baked stuffed pasta shells with ricotta and spinach, topped with your favorite tomato sauce and cheese.

    I’m surprised curry hasn’t come up in the suggestions. A wealth of options to explore (even if it’s just pre-made curries) I love the Mai Ploy curry pastes–yellow, green or red. They’re all good.

    Root Vegetable Tagine – I used to work for a caterer. This was our go to main dish for vegetarians http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Root-Vegetable-Tagine-with-Sweet-Potatoes-Carrots-Turnips-and-Spice-Roasted-Chickpeas-361252

    Eggplant Parmesan or Moussaka for a Sunday Supper option

    Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup (substitute kale) this was a favorite at a restaurant I worked at. http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?search=lentil+and+swiss+chard+soup&x=0&y=0

    Thomas Keller’s Mushroom Quiche – I’ll shout from the rooftops about this recipe. His quiche base is outstanding. Use a pre-made crust if time runs short (since this is for a deep dish quiche, you may be able to get two quiche from one recipe, using the premade pie crust shells) http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/over-the-top-mushroom-quiche

    Besides the cookbooks noted above–all very good–I use the Passionate Vegetarian (James Beard award winning book) and have been delighted with the vegetarian recipes in “Ancient Grains.”

    Also, one thought. At 10 years old, perhaps she/he could select their own recipes? Becoming a vegetarian is a big deal and requires additional research. Like all things, eventually you figure it out, but if they’re old enough to make ethical choices, they’re old enough to have some “skin in the game” — helping to choose and create vegetarian meals.

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