Cutting our costs and lowering our consumption are two good reasons to eat vegetarian meals. At least once or twice in our menu for the week, I take the focus off of meat. This benefits our budget and our health. To these “vegetarian” family favorites I sometimes do add a little chopped ham or turkey ham. Still, the point for me is to reduce our overall meat consumption. All of these dishes feature ingredients that are grains and/or legumes. They are also simple recipes, which means after making one of these meals just once or twice, I no longer have to consult a recipe. So when I want something easy to make, refreshing to my body and easy on my pocketbook, I enjoy one of these meals–no meat required.
1. French Bread Pizza
Making pizza with French bread is practically as easy as putting together a sandwich. I can make two meals at once by freezing an extra set of pizzas for later. So why would anyone buy these in a package?
2. Fried Rice
Frying rice takes some skill to do well. But it is a filling and resourceful dish to make, since I can include whatever protein I have on hand–eggs, shrimp, tofu, etc.
3. Fried Tofu with Tomato Sauce
Fresh tomatoes and spring onions make this an exquisite dish, even for us non-vegetarians. Serve with rice or use as a sandwich filling.
4. Frozen Tofu and Cabbage Soup
Although tofu is not always a bargain, it ceratinly can be. I’ve seen blocks for anywhere from $1.29 (a good deal) to over $3.00 each (ridiculous!). The key to this soup is to freeze and then thaw firm or extra firm tofu, which yields a delicious texture that you cannot achieve any other way. For the second main component, Napa cabbage is best.
5. Bean burritos or Chalupas
My children like it when I make these with vegetarian black refried beans (from a can). I can only consider this meal option “cooking” because I like to make fresh tortillas myself. They have an unbeatably good flavor and texture. For toppings we use shredded cheese, salsa, rice, as well as avocado, lettuce, and fresh tomatoes (sometimes). Some people also like to top chalupas with sliced radishes and sour cream.
6. Lentil Soup
I serve lentil soup with rice, deviled eggs, sandwiches, or some combination of these.
7. Russian Potato Salad
Why it is called “Russian” I was never able to guess. Perhaps it is because the salad can include beets, which gives it a colorful twist. I don’t like beets for the most part, but the flavor is masked in this salad. Usually I leave the beets out and put it a bit of chopped ham or smoked turkey (sorry, vegetarians!). Chopped boiled eggs can also add protein.
8. Minestrone Soup
I make this from scratch if I have the time and ingredients. Alternatively, I have added broth and other ingredients to canned minestrone with happy results. Either way, it is a scrumptious use up whatever fresh, frozen, or leftover vegetables your refrigerator is harboring.
9. Chinese Eggplant, Potato and Green Pepper Stir-fry
“Di San Xian” is one of my all-time favorite stir-fries; I discovered it while living in China. If you use a good amount of oil, it is very savory and stick-to-your-ribs satisfying. Just serve with rice, and perhaps some tofu soup or fried peanuts.
10. “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest”
My kids enjoyed the concept and the taste of this dish invented by cookbook author Molly Katzen. The basic ingredients are rice, sunflower seeds and broccoli. Serve with any of the soups above.
Molly Katzen, “Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.” FabulousFoods.