Confessions from a Meat-eater: Favorite Filling Vegetarian Recipes
Over a year ago, my then fiancé (now husband) came home one night and declared that in his efforts to lose weight he’d like to go vegetarian, at least to some extent. At first I was shocked, he is the definition of a meat and potatoes man. When I got over that I was excited by the idea- I went vegetarian for a period of time in high school and since then have always favored vegetables to meats when picking my meals. It never occurred to me to make a vegetarian meal for my meat-loving guy so I took on the task with gusto. Our loose plan was to make vegetarian meals during the week but eat meat on the weekends, particularly when dining out. Now after about a year and a half of making yummy vegetarian meals I present to you our top picks for filling meals. No side dishes here.
Stacked, Roasted Vegetable Enchilada Casserole (from Red Sky Food found on Pinterest) – The major reason I like this recipe is because it made me think of sweet potato and cauliflower in a new way. Honestly before this whole vegetarian experiment started I didn’t think I liked either of the two, but the way they are prepared-the vegetables are roasted in the oven- and the spice used-Cumin- really makes these veggies shine. With vegetarian dishes there is often a lot of prep work with chopping up the veggies and that is true with this one, but once they are in the oven the first go around it is smooth sailing. After the veggies are roasted you assemble the layers- salsa, roasted veggies, spinach, cheese, corn (or flour) tortilla- then throw it back it the oven. A dollop of sour cream and/or guacamole is good but not necessary. This is such a pretty dish, it’d be a nice one to serve to guests.The orange of the sweet potato, the green of the spinach, and the red salsa make for a vibrant, visually enticing meal.
Make it your own- The recipe calls for half a head of cauliflower but I use a full head. Also sometimes when I make it I use a Poblano pepper as indicated, other times I use green bell pepper instead.
2. Vegetarian Green Chili (from Better Homes and Gardens)- now unlike the first recipe, this recipe when prepared does not look like anything special-at all. But wow can looks be deceiving because it is so yummy. Also unlike the suggestion to add a dollop of sour cream to the first recipe, I insist you add a little sour cream, as well as layering this chili on a bed of white rice. You don’t need much of the rice and the sour cream but they really make the whole chili come together as a meal. Also the fresh avocado chunks are great, I always add it to mine but leave it off my husband’s since he doesn’t like them. The recipe calls for one jar, 16 ounces, of green salsa. The green salsa at my grocery store only comes in one variety HOT so I add it cautiously, approximately 1/3 of the jar, but it definitely elevates the chili so I recommend adding at least a few tablespoons. This is one of those meals that I make a large amount of and then we enjoy as leftovers for weeks afterwards.
Make it your own- I always add a bonus green vegetable, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sugar snap peas, Kale- a different special guest each time I make this recipe.
3. Carrot, Potato, Zucchini Pancakes (from Better Homes & Gardens)- Ok I don’t know how healthy this vegetarian dish is seeing as the veggies are cooked in oil but still when a dish features three veggies how bad can it really be for you? This one is high on the prep work- you need to matchstick each of the three veggies but I cheat a little. I recommend using a peeler for the carrot and making long thin slices instead of making matchsticks of it. It changes up the prep and I find it’s easier to peel the carrot. The zucchini and potato are pretty easy to matchstick and take it from this amateur chef- they do not need to be perfect. Throw them all together in a bowl with the one of the eggs, the flour, and spices and cook them in the oil in a skillet. Now it’s a little tricky to actually make a pancake out of this especially if your cutting skills aren’t perfect (as mine are not). You can put all the ‘batter’ into the skillet at the same time and then form the pancakes on the sheet pan. Ultimately the egg will cook on top of each individual pancake and that will help hold it together. My husband and I make enough for two pancakes since leftovers don’t really work that well for this meal and one pancake per person is filling enough for a meal. We use one full zucchini, one potato and one carrot which gives us enough for two large pancakes. (This way you only need three eggs-one for the batter and then one for the top of each pancake).
Make it your own- After making this recipe several times, I have opted for a slightly easier way out. First I use the pre-sliced carrots that come in a bag at the grocery store. One less thing to chop! Also I now use a veggie spiralizer for the zucchini. Also I have had success making this recipe into a hash in a cast iron skillet instead of trying to make individual pancakes. Cook the hash on the stove top, crack a few eggs on top and pop it in the oven until the egg is cooked.
Vegetable Spiralizer, a good investment for a vegetable-focused diet. I use mine for cucumbers and zucchini mostly.
4. Quinoa Chili (from Damn Delicious found on Pinterest)
The genius of this recipe is you could actually serve this to meat-eaters and not tell them it is a vegetarian dish. The quinoa tastes like ground meat when it soaks up the classic chili flavors-tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, onion etc-it really plans a trick on your mouth. Add in the corn and beans and this meal is hearty, you will not miss the meat! Serve with a little cheese on top if you would like but honestly you don't need it. This is another meal you can make a big pot of and have for leftovers for the week. I usually make a huge batch and give some to my meat-loving dad and brother, they know it is meat-free but they don't care, they love it!
Make it your own- we add a half red pepper and a half green pepper as well. I don't usually add the avocado as suggested in the original recipe but I am sure it is delicious with it. I just don't feel like it needs it.
This vegetarian experiment has really become a lifestyle for us, however we continue to eat meat and now we have re-incorporated meat recipes among our vegetarian recipes. Generally I try to do a one-to-one meat recipe to vegetarian recipe ratio when I meal plan. This experiment has allowed us to make vegetables the star of most of our meals. Even when I find a meat-centered dish, I often add a second vegetable to it to make it more veggie-centric. Overall we've had fun trying out new recipes and incorporating more vegetables to our diet. It can be a bit of a challenge to find filling vegetarian meals but these four are filling and fantastic.