If you’re a vegetarian or live or spend time with one, you’ll want more than salad or rice and beans every meal. Finding variety, flavor or good nutrition in vegetarian meals is fairly easy–finding all three may take a little more effort. Follow the USDA Food Pyramid for healthy eating and even without meat, you’ll be able to create satisfying vegetarian meals.
Go South of the Border
Start with a tortilla soup made from vegetable stock with a variety of vegetables and rice. Make it Latin with lime, cilantro and chili powder for some heat, and then add crispy tortillas just before serving. Let people create their own burritos and tacos by offering a variety of vegetarian fillings, including refried beans, avocados or guacamole, sour cream, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce and cheese. Substitute spinach for lettuce to increase iron intake — something vegetarians need to watch.
Use low-fat ingredients for healthier choices. If you are a pecto vegetarian (eat seafood) offer fish tacos or serve shrimp fajitas with plenty of onions and green and red peppers. As a side dish, offer Spanish rice or protein-rich black beans. For dessert, try flan.
Take a Trip to Italy
To “mange Italiano,” begin your meal with an antipasti of olives, roasted peppers, marinated artichokes and cheese. Serve a vegetarian minestrone soup with beans to increase the protein content. For the salad course, a classic Caesar will fill the bill; use romaine lettuce for added iron. Add nuts instead of croutons to increase protein in the meal.
Skip the hamburger in your spaghetti sauce and you’ll decrease saturated fat while you stick to your vegetarian theme. Dice large chunks of veggies and add to your tomato sauce for more texture and flavor. If you eat fish, try canned tuna on top of your pasta for flavor, added protein and healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Try a veggie lasagna with large chunks of diced vegetables, including zucchini, mushrooms and yellow squash. Use shitake mushrooms if you want more iron. Finish with gelato for dessert.
Wok Around the Clock
A wok requires very little oil for cooking, is versatile (you can use it to prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner), is easy to clean. Some night or weekend when you have time for an experiment, use a wok create several different stir-fry dishes as once.
Fry up a variety of vegetables, including broccoli, onions, carrots, celery, peppers and water chestnuts until soft and translucent. Remove the vegetables, and introduce them back into the wok in small portions to create different dishes. Add honey and sesame seeds with soy sauce for one dish. For another, stir in orange juice, garlic and ginger. Put curry powder into lime juice and add coconut milk or flakes for a Thai curry.
To add protein to the stir fry dishes, try tofu. Nutritionists recommend it as an alternative to red meat, but some health experts are beginning to warn people off because of allergies. If you don’t want to add soy to your stir-fry vegetables as your protein, add diced or slivered walnuts, almonds or other nuts for your protein. Serve with brown rice or whole-grain noodles. Liberally sprinkle parsley on your dishes to add iron. For dessert, try fortune or almond cookies.