Veggie meal planning
July 22, 2014 4:49 AM   Subscribe

So, at the omniverous .kobayashi. household, I cook dinner. Last week, my partner has expressed a desire to eat meat no more than once per week. I'm on board, but there's a complicating factor: she will not eat seafood, and has just decided that she does not like tofu. I need help planning out our weekly meals. Can you offer ideas for wonderful cookbooks/websites that would help me to meet these restrictions, and/or (especially) ideas for kitchen/pantry staples and hacks that might help make figuring out our weekly dinners easier?

Three thoughts: 1) I've seen questions like this but would ideally prefer to avoid subscription vegetarian meal-planning sites because: a) without seafood and tofu, I'm not sure how helpful they'll be and, b) the concept of following a meal plan I didn't create seems unduly restrictive to me. 2) She's not dictating my dietary preferences and is open to separate meals, but I enjoy cooking a shared dinner, am open to restricting meat, and am looking forward to developing a wider cooking repertoire. 3) Apart from the protein restrictions above, there are no dietary restrictions: we are not embracing veganism, gluten is just fine by us, and any culinary styles I don't know, well, I'm happy to learn.
posted by .kobayashi. to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Kenji's "Vegan Experience" at Serious Eats (totally vegan for a month; here's the previous year's roundup) almost makes me want to do the same. I can't imagine that they'd be any worse with some sour cream or cheese added.
posted by supercres at 5:04 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'd break down the week into meal types, and then work with that.


Soup and sandwich

Quiche or Frittatta or Omelet

Bean-Burger night (or Boca Burgers)

Mexican, Cheese enchiladas, bean burritos, bean chili

Blintz and Bagels, you can have smoked fish or tuna on the side for you.

Moosewood cookbooks are a place to start for ideas and recipes.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:05 AM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

We're not vegetarian but How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman has earned a spot on my counter for its versatility.
posted by workerant at 5:33 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Learn how to cook curries and tagines. Both are easy to prepare in large quantities and make great leftovers. Any well-spiced simmer sauce with fresh veggies poured over some grain (rice/couscous) is usually a hit with everyone.

Also seconding Moosewood and the Bittman book.
posted by deathpanels at 5:36 AM on July 22, 2014

I'm in the same boat as your partner. Two words: Tagine and falafel. I think basically look to north African and central Asian (e.g. Indian) cuisines, and you'll find plenty of ideas.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:47 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Beans and rice, eggs, and cheese will be your friends.

I cook mostly vegetarian because I hate cooking meat. My staples: Pasta with sauce (tomato, lemon-cream, fresh chopped tomato, etc.) and a side salad. Tomato soup, finished with cream and brandy, served with a salad and fresh-baked bread (or Trader Joe's frozen naan, if I'm feeling lazy; it heats easily in a toaster or toaster oven). Veggie quesidillas with two cheeses (goat cheese plus cheddar or pepper jack is nice). Black bean stew (which freezes beautifully!) with naan. Baked potato with sour cream and a side veggie. Latkes/potato pancakes (add an egg for extra protein and binding action) with sour cream and a side veggie.

Is she OK with using meat as a seasoning rather than a staple? If so, that opens up a lot -- pasta with frozen peas and bits of bacon and maybe some goat cheese or ricotta. Bean stew or baked beans are great vegetarian but even better with some chopped bacon rendered in the pot before cooking.

I don't cook much with eggs, but you can't beat them for cheap and healthy food. Frittattas, quiche, fried rice, etc. are all good ways to add protein and make a meal feel like a meal.

A Girl Called Jack focuses on budget cooking, which includes some great vegetarian options like homemade bean burgers, stews, tangines, etc.
posted by pie ninja at 5:48 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ditto on the Bittman. That particular cookbook is great because it does a good job of breaking down recipes buy ingredient, then showing you how the pieces come together and offering tons of substitutions, so you can basically just look in the fridge, see what you've got, and have ten options for how to cook it.

Easy stuff for days when you're out of ideas: breakfast for dinner (omelettes and hash browns ahoy!), baked sweet potatoes or regular potatoes loaded with stuff (I do avocados and pickled jalapeƱos), friied rice with any veggies you have.
posted by theweasel at 5:57 AM on July 22, 2014

I agree with How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (if you have How to Cook Everything and are skeptical I'll say that I find the vegetarian version much better-tested and more useful than the original), and I LOVE Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. We use it constantly and probably a third of the recipes that are staples of our meal rotation came originally from her.
posted by gerstle at 6:18 AM on July 22, 2014

We've got the Bittman, a couple of the Moosewood cookbooks, and Simple Vegetarian Pleasures, and we use them all regularly. They're all pretty light on the tofu. Some of the Moosewood cookbooks have a seafood section, but you won't find fish dishes outside of that one section.

Proteins: beans, eggs, dairy. For meat substitutes, some people prefer seitan or tempeh (which are usually in the dairy section or in the refrigerated natural foods section depending on the layout of your local store), or various soy fake-meats, which are usually in the frozen section. And I feel like I ought to mention that tofu comes in a lot of different forms, many of which an average omnivore hasn't encountered. If she doesn't like the raw texture, baking or frying it to a fare-thee-well can dry it out significantly, and if she doesn't like the bland flavor, marinating it can help a lot. My local grocery has pre-marinated pre-baked tofu that's a very different texture than the usual.

Quesadillas, beans and rice, pasta with a big salad, pita with hummus, falafel, and veggies, cold peanut noodles, veggie chili, curries, stir fries, omelettes, homemade pizzas, and preprepared box o' starch and veggie burgers are all regular meals in our mostly-vegetarian house. Some of those things are easy to make with a meat side option. (Meat sausages with veggie burgers, stir-fried meat cooked in a separate pan, bacon as a side to the omelette. Basically in our house meat ends up being the side rather than the main event.) Quiche has lots of protein and is easy to make in a variety of vegetable heavy ways. Roasted veggies and chickpeas with some good bread is a great warming dish in the wintertime.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:21 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are tons of amazing Indian vegetarian dishes (generally using lentils / lentil flour for protein). This site is fantastic for recipes and cooking videos.
posted by Mchelly at 6:32 AM on July 22, 2014

Response by poster: A quick interruption: I'm pretty tofu-savvy for an omnivore. We've tried variously-textured tofus marinated and prepared several ways, most of which I thought were delicious. The problem with tofu, whatever it is, doesn't lie in its preparation.

Lentils on the other hand, I know nothing about.

Lots of good ideas here; thanks! Keep 'em coming!

posted by .kobayashi. at 6:34 AM on July 22, 2014

Just so you know, the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian IOS app is AMAZING. I owned both the book and the app, but sold the book after I used the app weekly and the book gathered dust.

Smitten Kitchen is mostly (although not totally) vegetarian, and every recipe I've made from it has gotten rave reviews.

101 Cookbooks is also great (and has a fabulous lentil recipe on the front page now).

The biggest "hack", I guess, that got my really perfecting my totally-vegetarian cooking regime was not attempting to replace the meat. No soy-chicken on the side of rice, very few veggie burgs or sausages, tofu in moderation and never as a straight meat replacer. MAke meals that don't revolve around meat and get out of the starch + meat + veg mindset.
posted by AmandaA at 7:17 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Bittman is indeed great.
Look into beans. Lotsa beans.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:24 AM on July 22, 2014

My wife and I eat primarily vegetarian (my wife is vegetarian, which kind of makes me a vegetarian...unless we go out to eat or something) and it's pretty rare that we do anything with tofu. We've got the Bittman, which is really pretty good. We've tried a bunch of stuff in it and I can't think of anything that's been a spectacular failure, and it's also really good for just basic stuff that never really needs to have meat in it anyway, like waffles or pizza dough. Bittman has a bunch of lentil recipes - there's one with potatoes, curry and rice that we like a lot.

Additionally, we have a few vegan cookbooks that we use quite a bit, mostly by Isa Chandra Moskovitz. It may raise your hackles a bit that they're vegan, but for the most part the recipes we use are things where you're not really trying to substitute for an animal product - they're just non-animal dishes and that's that and you don't really "miss" anything. Veganomicon is pretty good, but many of the recipes are time and labor-intensive. We make the cassoulet for special occasions (although I use Bittman's recipe for the biscuits that go on top of it). Appetite for Reduction is meant to be sort of a diet book, but has the additional benefit of generally having pretty quick, simple recipes with easy-to-find ingredients, and hints on where to get things that aren't so easy. Isa Does It just came out recently, but we haven't been able to play with it too much yet - no disappointments so far.

One website we get a lot of recipes from is Budget Bytes. It also has a bunch of meat dishes, but given the low-cost focus of the site, there's a decently large vegetarian section. Things are generally pretty quick and easy, and we get some of our favorite regular meals from there.
posted by LionIndex at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would highly recommend Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I find her recipes are generally more sophisticated than the usual Moosewood fare, and are also more specific than Bittman, who I feel often goes for completeness at the expense of creating a single truly great recipe for a dish. She also doesn't lean much on soy, which should meet your needs well.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 8:43 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding Smitten Kitchen. She's a former vegetarian and many of her recipes don't use meat. I don't remember seeing any that use tofu.

I also like Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbook, Plenty. His recipes can call for exotic spices, although I've always found stuff, I just sometimes checked a couple of stores. Jerusalem, one of his other cookbooks, isn't explicitly vegetarian, but does have a fair number of veggie dishes.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:43 AM on July 22, 2014

I'll second Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for the same reasons as Lazio Hollyfield. There is very little soy, and the dishes are, well, from a great chef with decades of hard-core commercial cooking. Most everything I cook from that book when served is like you have gone to a fancy restaurant. And you can build a pantry around her book, with common ingredients, tending towards Mediterranean.

This is one of her recipes someone has reprinted on the web, it's killer: Orechiette with Broccoli Rabe.
posted by nanook at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love 101cookbooks for recipes. Thug Kitchen also has some good ones.

Here are a few other no-soy favorites:

braised coconut spinach and chickpeas
roasted butternut penne with pesto
quinoa and sweet potato chili

Beans and lentils will be staples. I make this red lentil recipe a lot.

Also, if she doesn't like tofu, what about tempeh? My go-to weeknight lazy-woman dinner is a bowl of some type of grain (quinoa, brown rice) topped with a green vegetable, avocado, and pan-fried tempeh (slice it into strips, put it in a skillet with equal portions of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, oil, maple syrup, and water; cook on both sides until nicely browned). Goes well with a tahini sauce.
posted by baby beluga at 10:06 AM on July 22, 2014

How does your mate feel about meat replacements (i.e., Morningstar Farms, Boca, or Gardein faux-ground beef, chicken patties, chik strips, etc.)? You can tweak many regular recipes with these and they'll work. You may need to play around a little with cooking times and techniques to avoid drying your protein substitutes out, but that just grows with experience.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:10 AM on July 22, 2014

If she's fine with you eating meat, then you could continue to make many of the same entrees with the meat as a side (which you can add). The thing about it is that if you learn to cook even just 3-4 good dishes that happen to not have meat in them, you are well on your way there. Once you are comfortable with a wide variety of casseroles, pasta dishes, rice dishes, soups and sauces, meat can become entirely optional.

I am not a spicy-foods person, so a lot of curries and hotter dishes were always out for me, but simply learning to roast some vegetables in a flavorful way and combine them with rice (and a good sauce, which can be bought!) expanded my options quite a bit. With the benefit that veggie cleanup is less messy/gross than meat cleanup in the kitchen.
posted by emjaybee at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2014

Black bean quesadillas: spread a tortilla with plenty shredded cheese, a drained (small) can of black beans, plenty of shredded pickled jalapeƱos, and cumin and oregano. Cover with another tortilla, and cook until one side is crispy, flip over (use a plate), then cook the other side until done.
posted by monospace at 10:43 AM on July 22, 2014

Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking is a great resource for this. It's broken out into sections focusing on different types of main ingredients, and includes recipes from India, Japan, China, Bali, etc.

Easy to follow, and the recipes are delicious! I love cooking Indian food, because you can do so much with relatively few ingredients and some basic spices.

You can skip the tofu chapter, but there are many other non-meat proteins like tempeh and seitan for you to try.

My favorite recipe from this book is pakoris, which are veggies dipped in chickpea flour batter and fried, and served with a dead simple tamarind mint chutney you can make in a food processor in under a minute.

You can also check out indian cooking blogs like Mahanandi that teach general technique along with detailed recipes. I've cooked enough from this blog that now I can pretty much cook Indian dishes without a recipe, just by knowing the spice and flavor families that go with different ingredients.
posted by ananci at 11:13 AM on July 22, 2014

I'd also recommend any cookbook by Ottolenghi, especially Plenty. Vegetables are the stars of all of his dishes, sometimes meat, pretty much never tofu.

My household is half omni / half veggie. We eat a lot of curries and tacos, but that's more personal preference than anything. Usually we buy meat when it's on sale and put it in the freezer. We plan vegetarian dishes, but if the omni half doesn't think it will satisfy, we'll defrost and cook a chicken breast or fry up some sausage to serve along side it.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:07 PM on July 22, 2014

Best answer: I often eat just vegetable dishes, I think it's pretty delicious. Dinner tonight was grilled romaine with caesar dressing and . Lunch yesterday was leftover stir-fried veggies over rice and a pear. Lunch tomorrow is probably going to be salad with a nectarine and an avocado in it, but pasta with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes has a good chance too.

Not being strictly vegetarian means you don't really need to worry about diet and 'getting enough protein' and so on. (Not sure if you'd even need to worry about those things if you were, as long as you were eating eggs and cheese and nuts and beans with some regularity.)

Basically what you're trying to do is go back to a time when there wasn't so much meat readily available. Instead of throwing in chicken to your pasta, throw in more vegetables or some cheese. Instead of stir-fried chicken with zucchini and red bell peppers, try it plain or add some water chestnuts. Make a vegetable soup or tuscan bean soup without sausage/ham/chicken. Curries and stir-fries are terrific too, of course.
posted by Lady Li at 9:33 PM on July 22, 2014

If you like curries then Prashad cookbook is great. It has quickly become my favourite cookbook ever - delicious veggie curries with simple to follow instructions, and I am continually amazed that what I make looks like the photos, which never happens!
posted by london explorer girl at 4:35 AM on July 23, 2014

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