- Food and Cooking
Meat-free Recipes for One Month
A selection of meat-free recipes
Have you decided to cut down on your overall meat consumption? A lot of people have recently.
Many years ago, when I worked in a health food store, I had many bewildered customers who didn't know where to start making meals without meat, poultry or fish.Did they need special ingredients? What about appliances and tools? Some thought that they'd have to use all sorts of cooking methods that they'd never used before. (Soaking pulses overnight? Making nut roasts?)
Well,the good news is that cooking without meat is just as easy, if not easier. It's healthier, better for the planet and for the bank balance. I hope you'll enjoy the recipes below. I have a tiny kitchen, no posh equipment, very little time (and very little money) and a bloke who is the heartiest trencherman I know - he demands feeding, quickly and well.
Images © BritFlorida.
Himself, the hearty trencherman, says he is vegetarian. I don't because I succumb to the temptations of a tuna melt once in a while.Some people would argue with the word 'vegetarian', because we eat animal by-products (for example, cheese and occasionally eggs). If that's you, most of these recipes can be made totally animal-free by using vegan substitutes.
By the way, I'm not a trained nutritionist so I'm making no claims for these meals but I'm pretty sure that they are better for you than a super-sized fast food deal. (Cheaper too).
The humble cabbage - not my favourite vegetable. This is a hangover from school where they used to boil it for about half an hour. But even I love these stuffed cabbage rolls. What's great is that you can vary the cabbage's stuffing to use up leftovers or oddments.
We love cheese and onion pasties but commercially made ones are so expensive if they are good quality. But they are so very easy to make at home. I cheat and use ready-made pastry but you can save even more money if you prepare it yourself.
When butternut squash is at its cheapest in the supermarket, I often make this baked dish. It uses standard ingredients that you'll find in any pantry and refrigerator. It's lovely served with a crisp salad - baby leaves and sliced tomato is perfect.
Often when I ask himself what he'd like for dinner, the answer is pasta. This is fine by me as it can be prepared so very quickly. This pasta dish takes no more that ten minutes to prepare and is perfectly delicious. Filling too.
If you're eating meat-free there's no need to go without a hearty stew. We have this often and it even includes (non-suet) dumplings which are quick and easy to make. I use celebration potatoes often but any potatoes are just fine in this delicious dish. You can add different ingredients and more vegetables to suit your own tastes.
Souffle omelets are really quick to make and are surprisingly easy too. We often have this for dinner but it makes great lunch. It's also a lovely recipe if you're entertaining guests to a leisurely weekend brunch. I serve it with a simple salad - very very good indeed and easy on the bank balance.
Rice is so very useful, so very cheap and so very filling too. The beauty of a rice dish like this is that you can use leftovers or oddments that might be left in the refrigerator. I also love the way this meal looks - with its rich medley of colours. I top it with egg strips but these can be omitted.
This is wonderful pie that contains Cheddar cheese and leeks. I serve it with a salad that includes pears - they go with it so well. This is great for everyday dinners but also for entertaining. It's so very easy to prepare too, especially when I use ready-made pastry.
When asparagus is a good price at the grocery store, this is usually the first recipe that comes to mind. It combines the asparagus spears with lovely baby potatoes and they are given extra flavour and zing with the addition of lemon. It's great as a meal in itself or as a side dish.
The fact is that it's impossible to make proper Yorkshire puddings in America. (Batter puddings yes, Yorkshire's no). The reason is that the flour in the States is somehow different. But we often enjoy the Yorkshire puddings of our homeland years by using a British mix. A convenience food, yes. Tasty, certainly.
This is much loved recipe and not just in our household. It started when I used to make it as a takeout lunch when I ran a health food store in England. People would honestly come from miles away to get a portion. It's a great way of using up leftovers too - and every inexpensive.
This is a very quick and easy recipe and features mushrooms cooked in red wine and served with pasta. Any shape of pasta is good. It's a lovely family dinner and I've often made it for dinner parties too. Everyone seems to love it - even the meat eaters.
Grilled cheese must be one of the ultimate comfort foods. And it's so quick and easy to make. This isn't the lowest calorie food in the world, I must admit but it's a wonderful lunch or dinner with exciting flavours. Check out the link to learn the secret ingredient.
It seems that we gobbled this up before we could take photographs of the final dish - that does happen sometimes. But rest assured that it's extremely tasty. In our area the price of mushrooms doesn't fluctuate much but if I manage to get a bargain, this will be for dinner.
I think that most British people would agree with me when I say that for us, Indian-inspired dishes are our ultimate comfort food. In fact, for many years now, curry has been considered our national dish. This is a mildly-spiced potato dish that satisfies those Indian food cravings.
These stuffed eggplant rolls are a delicious way to use up leftovers. I make them often though, even if I don't have any oddments that need to be eaten up. Like all my recipes, this dish is quick and easy to prepare. Guests love it too and it can be largely prepared in advance.
This bake, using cheese and vegetables is remarkably easy to make, wonderfully tasty and extremely inexpensive. It uses potatoes and tomatoes but additional vegetables can always be added to give the dish variety. Give it a try.
For this recipe, I used a gorgeous Italian Romanesco which definitely elevates it to dinner party standards. However, it's equally tasty using an ordinary cauliflower. It's almost a cauliflower cheese quiche - very delicious indeed.
The first time I made this - a quick version of cheese quesadillas with guacamole - it was for Cinco de Mayo but now it finds its way onto our dinner table quite often. It's lower in calories than the 'proper' version too - always a bonus.
This pasta bake recipe is so very easy to make but totally delicious. Sometimes, I make two of these and keep one in the fridge - the idea being that I can use it for dinner in a few days time. But I usually find that a certain someone has snacked on it.
This recipe blatantly uses a ready made sauce (because it's better than my own version) but I do add a certain 'secret ingredient'. This recipe deliciously combines vegetables with fruit in a creamy, mildly-spiced sauce.
Ready- prepared doughs are so reasonably priced especially when I buy the grocery store's own brand. It's so easy to make a quick and filling dinner using them as a base. This uses one of our favourite luxuries - the indulgent goat cheese.Yum.
This is a version of a tomato tart that I make quite often. This has a difference though. That week, tomatillos were very reasonably priced at the supermarket as a special offer. If you can't get them though, it's just as good with regular tomatoes, especially the cherry variety.
This would have been eggplant parmesan apart from the fact that I had one vital ingredient missing. That's right, the parmesan. Nevertheless, this is a delicious alternative and now we call it our 'not quite eggplant parmesan' dinner.
We used to spend a small fortune with our local pizza takeout, especially when you factor in the tip for the delivery man.This is thick crust 'takeout' pizza that you can make in ten minutes. That's much quicker service than the local pizza parlour.
These wonderful little asparagus and parmesan croissants are delicious eaten hot or cold - if they have the chance to go cold. Here,they are usually gobbled up within minutes of being taken out of the oven. They use only the top half of the asparagus, leaving the rest to make a tasty soup
Stuffed pasta shells are a great standby and a family favourite in many households. This is a lovely meat-free version which is easy and inexpensive to make. I don't think there has ever been one single shell left over.
These crostini are quick and very simple to make and they have an unusual combination for the topping - that of juicy tomatoes and fresh plums. These two fruits go remarkably well together and in this instance, are topped with cheese including a little brie.
Tortillas are very inexpensive and can be used for variety of wraps - hot and cold. This version has the added spicy fruitiness of mango chutney to elevate this dish into something really special. Click the link below for step-by-step instructions.
Using ready-prepared pastry, these mushroom and zucchini parcels are so easy to make. I've found that people who would never dream of eating 'vegetarian food' absolutely adore these. I often make these for guests or as part of a pre-dinner nibbles selection.
Budgeting notes & tips
Our weekly food bill is normally about $35. That's for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two of us. It could be less. However, the USDA seems to think that it's more realistic for us to be spending over a hundred dollars.
- We usually have one dinner a week that is based on pastry or dough (pizza, quiche, pie etc). I confess that these are more often than not, the bought versions for the sake of speed. But eight (supermarket own-brand) ready-to-bake biscuits are $1.70 ... I could save a little by making pastry but speed is an issue for me.
- I make oatmeal for breakfast. A big can of oats seems to last forever. We don't buy commercial cereals and the oatmeal requires no milk.
- Every Monday, himself takes five cans of soup, some fruit and some salad into the work kitchen area where he keeps them in the fridge. By taking a few slices of bread daily, this makes a great lunch. No popping out to the fast food joint. I generally have cheese on toast.
- Almost every week we have one meal to use up leftovers.I don't mean cooked leftovers (himself is like a vacuum cleaner - he always eats every last bit) I mean those odd crusts of bread, that overlooked tomato, the ounce of cheese that's beginning to go hard. You'll see ideas below.
- Every meal has what I refer to as 'the stodge'. (Chefs would be more polite). This will be rice, pasta, pastry or dough to make sure that the meal is filling. To counteract this, almost every meal is served with a small salad - simple green salad or sliced tomatoes for example,
- We grow herbs in pots. Buying herbs at the supermarket can be ridiculously expensive. But when you have your own growing, they add a great deal to the most simple meals.
- We don't rigidly stick to a budget, especially if bargains are to be had. Recently there was an offer of ten cans of chopped tomatoes for $7. At $0.70 each, that was a good saving and I use them often. With fresh herbs, garlic and black pepper, they are instant pasta sauces.
- My first stop is usually the produce department where there are always bargains depending on what's in season. For example, if asparagus is really cheap that week I can buy one pack, use the spears for one meal (there are a couple of recipes below) and then use the remainder in another dish later in the week.
- I use convenience foods if necessary. For example, a jar of prepared curry sauce is enough for two meals and tastes far better than any sauce I could make (at least I'm realistic!)
- When I'm in the aisles that have the canned goods and the dried goods, I look for 'two for the price of one' deals. But I'll only buy them if they are items I use regularly and that won't go out of date - canned chickpeas, rice and so on.They'll save me money next week.
- The day before grocery shopping,I spent ten minutes or so on the supermarket's website seeing what's on offer that week. If I see, for example, that eggplant is a particularly good price at the moment, I'll make a note so that I buy any ingredients I might need to make an eggplant dish.
- I remain open to the idea of adding fruit to savoury dishes if a particular fruit is on offer. After all, ham with pineapple has been common for years so there's no reason why a mango can't be cubed and added to a salad of baby spinach leaves (delicious actually).
- When I'm buying something with a sell-by date, let's say a pint of milk, I reach to the back of the cabinet and take one from there. Often, they have longer dates than the ones that are up front.
- I think that every one of these recipes lends itself to substitution. For example, the stuffed cabbage rolls contain pine nuts - because I happened to have some. Chopped walnuts or slivered almonds would have been just as good.
- I keep a small storage box in my refrigerator that I call my 'needs eating up' box. If I'm lurking in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil or some toast to brown, I do a one minute inventory of the fridge. If I find a tomato that's not quite at its best, or a forgotten zucchini, then it goes into the box and I know to check in there every time I cook.Throwing food away is throwing money away.
- I never, ever, ever buy snacks, cookies, ice cream or any of those money-draining items. Ever. But before you think I'm an impossibly virtuous paragon of virtue let me add that himself, when shopping unsupervised (especially at the British store) does :)
A recommended energy saver
One of our neighbours had a small fire in her kitchen. There wasn't much damage but her stove refused to work afterwards. This is what she used instead. She recommended it to us so highly that we bought one too and it's invaluable.
There's no point in saving money at the grocery store if you then use lots of electricity. This is the answer.
If you need more ideas for meat-free meals, these books are highly recommended
© 2014 Jackie Jackson