The way our family eats today is completely different than when Andy and I first married. It’s largely thanks to the internet and the WIDE variety of recipes available at our fingertips. It’s also thanks to some fairly horrifying documentaries on the state of the food industry and meat in particular.
For the record, we have not given up meat. We have no plans to give up meat. However, we have greatly reduced the amount of meat we consume. This was based mainly on two factors: 1) We decided it is not okay for animals to be tortured in order for us to be fed. So I found a local butcher who sells meat only from smaller, local farms where the animals are humanely treated and humanely killed. They are organic, free range and all that jazz. I switched for ethical reasons but as an added bonus, this meat turns out to be WAY more tasty. This does, however, come with a price tag which leads to factor #2) If we’re going to be spending more for our meat, then we are going to cut back on how much of it we eat. We already ate vegetarian at least once a week so increasing that to 2-5 days a week was much less of a stretch than you would think. How many days are vegetarian/vegan depend upon how much leftovers we have from any given recipe.
I had a certain number of go-to vegetarian recipes but I get bored easily and prefer a lot of variety in the foods we eat. We still have favorites we come back to regularly but Pinterest and the blogging world have greatly helped me in the quest to increase my reserves of vegetarian options.
We’ve tried a lot over the past year and I decided, since we did all the work of finding meat-eater-family-approved-vegetarian recipes, I may as well do a post on the ones we like most. Hopefully it will save some work for someone out there looking for ways to add more plant-based foods to their diet.
Every recipe here has gotten the family approval. For a little background: Our family rule is: you eat what is put in front of you or you don’t eat. And with rare exception, our kids eat virtually anything. Lilly is a little pickier than Trin but she generally eats without complaining because she has learned there is no point in arguing. When she was younger, things were much more of a battle. Lilly used to fuss a LOT over salad. Oh the battles we had!!!! So I made it every day for two weeks straight until she would finally sit down at the table and eat her salad without complaining. It’s still not her favorite but she eats her salad first (and without complaining!) any time it is served. “Save the best for last!” she says, then digs in to the rest of her meal. Sometimes, she comes into the kitchen and sees me making salad and asks, “Can I eat mine now?” so that she doesn’t have to deal with it at the dinner table. Sure! I don’t care WHERE she eats it or if it’s fifteen minutes before the rest of dinner is served, as long as she eats it.
I do make very occasional exceptions. Lilly hates crab and refuses to try lobster. They are massively expensive and we almost never eat them…so that’s a battle I just don’t care about having. Special things like that are the only time I make a separate meal for the girls if they want. Our neighbor brought us a bunch of crabs he caught and steamed for us this past fall. If Lilly wanted a grilled cheese sandwich that night…that was fine with me!
I suppose I’m going on about this because years ago I invited a family over for dinner and the mom brought over chicken nuggets to microwave for her daughter. “She only eats hot dogs and chicken nuggets,” she said. I REALLY had to bite my tongue from saying, “Ummmm….maybe that’s because you ALLOW her to eat nothing but those things and ENABLE her by giving in??”
My point is: If you want your kids to be good eaters, then make good food for them. Worried they won’t like it? Just keep plugging along.
Any recipe posted here got the “You should make this again!” thumbs up from the whole family.
Two tips before I add all the links:
- Any time a recipe calls for lentils, I cheat! A couple of years ago my cousin’s wife, Kim, introduced us to Trader Joe’s precooked lentils. They are steamed and then vacuum sealed. They save time AND a cooking pot. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, try your local health food store. They probably carry something to this effect. And if you have leftover lentils, just mix them with some TJ’s bruschetta mixture and serve warm or cold over pita or your favorite crackers. That’s how we had them the first time we tried them and it was kind of addictive.
- Whenever a recipe calls for serving something over rice, I like to make “veggie rice.” I was given a spiralizer for my birthday last year and I LOVE it. I highly recommend getting one. It makes getting extra veggies into our diet super easy. Veggie Rice is simply spiralized zucchini and/or summer squash that I then hack away at with my kitchen scissors until it’s all smaller pieces and then mix into cooked rice. (If you don’t have a spiralizer you could just grate the zucchini.) I end up making half the rice I normally would and mixing in all the zucchini. Rice is delicious. We don’t want to give it up altogether but we have now halved how much we consume, while adding in an extra veggie serving for the day!
Now for some of our favorite Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes:
Black Bean Sweet Potato Burgers by Yankee Kitchen Ninja
photo by Yankee Kitchen Ninja
I’ve tried at least four different Sweet Potato Black Bean burger recipes. This one wins, hands down, both for flavor and for how well they stick together. Instead of the whole wheat flour, I use rolled oat flour. (Mostly because I was too lazy to go get my whole wheat flour when oats were right at my fingertips and my food processor was already out. I take that back. It was ENTIRELY for that reason.) I also diced and sauteed 1/4 of a large sweet onion (and threw the garlic in with it) in place of the green onion. We served Clean Eating BBQ sauce on these but it would also be really great with some kind of Chipotle Ranch sauce.
Mushroom Lentil Veggie Burgers by Siriously Delicious
photo by Siriously Delicious
Not gonna lie. I only made these because I had both mushrooms and lentils I needed to use up. But yum. These were good. They DO call for Worcestershire sauce and an egg, so if you care about it being Vegan…make sure you have the vegan version of Worcestershire and omit the egg.
General Tso’s Tofu by Domestic Superhero
Photo by Domestic Superhero
“This chicken is really good, Mommy!” were Lilly’s words when she tasted this. I waited until she had eaten 2/3 of it before telling her it was tofu. She was already hooked. Now eating tofu is no big deal around here. I’ve only made this once but the troops have requested I make it again. I would definitely slash the sugar next time but it is very tasty. I added chopped asparagus to it but broccoli would also be good. Serve with Veggie Rice!
Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf by Oh She Glows
photo by OhSheGlows
This is a sort of meatless “meatloaf.” We’re not even meatloaf people but this was super yummy. A great recipe for fall or winter when you want a cozy meal. Seriously. Make it.
Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls with Cranberry Pear Sauce by Oh She Glows
Photo by Oh She Glows
These have very similar ingredients to the loaf recipe above. They are also great for Fall or winter. Bonus: They can be made ahead of time and frozen for later use. I have some in my freezer right now. Can’t wait to get them out when my parents are in town for a delicious dinner with zero cooking or dishes to do! I make both of these recipe with pecans instead of walnuts because I always have pecans on hand. Also, I skip the kale. Because…well….I’ve tried to give kale a fair shake but…it’s kale. Some things don’t get better no matter how many times you try them.
Vegetable Bolognese by Eat Within Your Means
Photo by Eat Within Your Means
This is surprisingly good. It is hearty, makes a TON, and satisfies a craving for Italian food. Plus you can eat this until you are stuffed beyond stuffed and you’ve probably still only consumed about 200 calories. I have found that we like it better over a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of whole wheat pasta and spiralized zucchini rather than over 100% spiralized veggies. It keeps us full longer.
Baked Margherita Spaghetti Squash by Fancy Edibles
Photo by Fancy Edibles
We eat a lot of spaghetti squash. This is one of my favorite summer recipes when fresh tomatoes and basil are in season.
Skinny Spaghetti Squash Alfredo by The Comfort of Cooking
Photo by The Comfort of Cooking
Guilt free comfort food is a win win in my book. This is also good with peas mixed in. Sometimes we eat this non-vegetarian too with chopped up leftover ham or chicken.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos by Cookie and Kate
Photo by Cookie and Kate
I love sweet potatoes and any excuse to eat avocados! I have goat cheese on hand more regularly than feta, so that’s typically what I use. They are yummy both ways.
Creamy Cashew Indian Butter Paneer by Half Baked Harvest
Photo by Half Baked Harvest
This is one of our all time favorites. In fact, I made it last night and can’t wait to eat the leftovers. 🙂 I use my home-made Garam Masala. I always add extra fresh ginger and go heavy on the spices. Mmmmm. Seriously. I might need to go heat some up right now.
Full disclosure, I don’t make this with the Paneer. I use tofu instead. (Prepared the same way as in General Tso’s Tofu.) Since paneer has about as much flavor as tofu…we don’t miss the cheese at all. Of course, I’ve also made it with chicken. Shhhhh.
Serve with Veggie Rice.
Ziti with Portabello Mushrooms, Carmelized Onions, and Goat Cheese by Food and Wine
Oh. My. Just make this. Trust me. I sometimes add fresh arugula to the bowls as I serve for a peppery fresh crunch.
Well, there you go! Eleven Meat Eater (and Family!) Approved Vegetarian recipes. I hope you’ll find some you love. Happy eating!