Drop the meat and nobody gets hurt
February 27, 2017 9:56 PM   Subscribe

Help us shift away from meat-centric meals and toward high-protein vegetable-based options. Vegetarian ok but not required.

We are in a food rut. And as we strive for change, we want our meals to revolve less around the meat we pull from the freezer and more around the other stuff. We don't need to go veg, but it would be completely ok if we found so many great alternatives that meat figured into only a few meals per week.

Some things to know:
-Mr Origami went veg twice (2 years and 3 years) and was never warm enough. He is also gluten free.
-We've tried all the GF pastas and ...gross, so pasta is out.
-We regularly have pressure-cooked pintos on hand. Beans are fine. Lentils, meh, but willing to experiment.
-We've never particularly liked tofu or TVP, but I'm open to trying again.
-Our standards include things like street tacos (usually chicken and onions sautéed with chipotle and adobo, plus beans and greens), beef bowl, curries, pork chops/mashers/salad, tortilla soup.
-If we go out, it's rare and usually for a burger/fry fix or for ethnic food (usually Asian).
-We are generally healthy shoppers and eaters—we shop the perimeter of the market and don't eat frozen meals or prepared foods, but we aren't above resorting to the occasional store-roasted chicken when things get busy.
-We really like the big clamshell of super greens and aim to incorporate green things in new ways.
-We like bowl ideas, like a selection of complementary things atop a bowl of rice or quinoa.
-If money didn't matter, we'd eat a lot of seafood and always buy organic.
-If it really really didn't matter, a private chef would serve up sushi and Mexican food and we'd be all set.

We love food and we enjoy preparing it, but like everyone else, on weekdays it's best if we're not cooking for an hour before we can eat. Please share your strategies and suggestions for reducing the importance of meat in the meal, and your favorite high-protein recipes. Weekend prep-ahead is ok.
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
For bowls or tacos, I really like roasted sweet potatoes. I prefer them seasoned with chili powder/cayenne for a sweet/spicy combo. Really tasty alongside guacamole, if you have access to fresh avocados for some good fat.

Bonus: after less than 5 minutes of prep, you just throw 'em in the oven for 20-25 and you're all set. Pretty easy.
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:38 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should have mentioned that I did read this from 2010 and it's great. A lot of fabulous web sites have entered the picture in the seven years since it was posted, and it seemed worth a follow up.

I will definitely check out Bittman's book, and we already have Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:40 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Crunchy roasted chickpeas are so good and versatile. I eat them like a snack tossed with different spice blends depending on my mood when I make them, but they are also just the trick for adding much-needed crunchiness and nuttiness to many kinds of dishes. You can roast other types of legumes of course, soybeans being a classic, but I like chickpeas for reasons of texture and size and because I'm lazy I usually use canned ones to roast so I get to skip the long bean cooking process. Just drain and pat dry, toss with oil salt and spice blend, roast in single layer on medium heat until crispy.

Try a combo of something soft (like roasted sweet potatoes mentioned above, or shredded chicken) with the crunchy roasted chickpeas spiced with chili and cinnamon in tacos. Toast them quick a second time and then lightly crush with a few whacks of something heavy to get warm crispy crumbles, use as you would bacon bits, or as a "breading" on anything you want to bake like veggie patties or tofu slabs or robust fish like trout.
posted by Mizu at 11:26 PM on February 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Roasted sweet potato and black beans are an incredible meat substitution in Mexican. Really truly great. This taco recipe is a great place to start, but I think it could be used in almost any dish.

Chickpeas do well in coconut milk based curries and soup. This one is utterly bizzare, but incredibly tasty.

There are some good marinated tofus out there, and you can use those as protein in fresh vietnamese spring rolls. My housemate also makes Banh Xeo with marinated tofu, which is really tasty (rice flour pancake).

Avocado and egg sushi rolls.
posted by kjs4 at 11:46 PM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

buddha bowls are so hot right now
posted by changeling at 11:56 PM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm addicted to a bean salad that is apparently nicknamed 'vegan crack' (!) because it's so damn tasty:

1 tin Black beans
2 red peppers (finely chopped)
corn from 2 cobs
2 avocados, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic
juice of 2 limes
olive oil

The salad is crunchy, sweet and quick to prepare, and is even more delicious the next day when the dressing has infused its flavour more. We usually have it with a bit of pan-fried salmon for a quick, tasty and super-nutritious weeknight dinner.
posted by matthew.alexander at 1:18 AM on February 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

Chickpea flour is also a useful thing to have around. Just add a bit of water and some seasoning and it makes a thick batter you can turn into crepes. I like this recipe , or you can make the western version. Also makes great pakora but you have to dig out the fryer for that.

Speaking of Manjula, you seem nonplussed with lentils but like curry --- maybe give her version of dal tadka? There's tons of versions out there, I also use one that calls for curry leaves myself. She uses a pressure cooker, but you don't require one.
posted by Diablevert at 1:51 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

You haven't mentioned eggs. Have you considered omelette, quiche and frittata recipes? Even good old boiled or scrambled eggs can give your evening meal a tasty, economical protein hit. Sometimes eggs are associated with breakfast or brunch but there is no reason they can't be for dinner or supper too. I sometimes do an easy-to-google quiche for dinner that takes 45 minutes to prep and cook. And it's good cold or gently reheated the next day too.
posted by esto-again at 2:16 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sardines pack a lot of flavor and good fat but without being the bulk of the meal. It can help increase the satisfaction of say...chickpeas...without a ton of prep.
posted by ian1977 at 2:35 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Barilla or Ronzoni gf pastas? I have Celiac and they're really good.

I'm also a vegetarian and some of my favorite things to cook and eat all week are:
pomodoro sauce with lentils
black bean chili
spanokopita filling -- I literally make just the filling in turkey-roasting pans with 10 lbs of spinach, kale, eggs, lemon juice, feta and cottage cheese and eat it every day for lunch
vegan bean fettuccini "alfredo" - use Barilla or Ronzoni pasta, it is the best thing ever
Isa Chandra's Post Punk Kitchen has a lot of good vegetarian recipes
I would also try ALL the veggie burgers you can and create your own burger night.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:35 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pick up a copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone!

Many of the recipes have suggestions on what meat to include if you are going to include meat and how to cook it for that recipe, so it's not straight up vegetarian food. There's a lot of great stuff in there for healthier meals, fancier meals, comfort foods, etc.

It's a little more wider spread in its offerings than what you're looking for here, but it has all kinds of stuff that it's worth being a staple in everyone's kitchen for all kinds of diets, preferences, and needs.
posted by zizzle at 3:43 AM on February 28, 2017

Look for dishes which include a small amount of meat as a flavoring, not a main ingredient. Beans and Rice, with your favorite color of bean, is a good example, flavored with chorizo or andouille. Spaghetti and meatballs could be another example if you go light on the meatballs.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:12 AM on February 28, 2017

These veggie sofritas bowls are so good my meat-loving bf loves them. I know you said you're meh on tofu but this is so far removed that I think you'd like them.

These black bean & sweet potato burritos are good, though in burrito form idk if you can get a GF tortilla. I've also made it without mashing the sweet potato (so just cubed) and that would make a good taco filling, or topping over rice or a grain as a bowl. Black beans + sweet potatoes + chipotles in adobo is a really great combo to add to your street taco rotation.

I just made this chickpea stew with orzo and mustard greens (I used rainbow chard, actually) last night and it's super good. If GF orzo is a no-go, maybe there's another grain you could use instead.

Quinoa and rice bowl with kimchi and egg is good, if a bit fussy as NY Times recipes can sometimes be.

I just found this recipe and it blew my mind, it's so good. And filling, thanks to the chickpeas! Roasted cauliflower salad with lemon tahini dressing; I threw some chicken thighs on the sheet pan but you could easily do without.

Warm farro salad with asparagus, peas, and feta is in regular rotation in my house.

And don't forget egg dishes, for non-meat protein: crustless quiches and fritattas and stuff are so quick and easy to make and just fill with whatever veg you've got on hand.
posted by misskaz at 6:32 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The taco filling in this lentil-walnut taco recipe is incredibly delicious and versatile. I make a big batch and use it for tacos, burritos, bowls and sandwiches. The lentil-walnut pairing, while odd, is fantastic. Here are some other recipes to consider.

Also, Power Vegetables is a fantastic cookbook with a lot of great recipes that fit your description.
posted by slogger at 7:33 AM on February 28, 2017

Also also, if you want to give lentils another chance, this recipe for lentils and eggplant is one of my all time faves. It's especially great over brown rice.
posted by slogger at 7:37 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you feel about tempeh? High protein, but an acquired taste for some folks. Steaming it for a couple minutes first helps.

Baja tempeh tacos with spicy slaw are amazing, also good as a bowl.
posted by momus_window at 8:56 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I asked this question a while ago. You might find it helpful.
posted by monologish at 9:06 AM on February 28, 2017

Mr Origami went veg twice (2 years and 3 years) and was never warm enough. He is also gluten free.

When I am having trouble staying warm in winter, my go to is cheese, especially hot cheese, like a large quesadilla. You could also experiment with fondue.
posted by Michele in California at 9:31 AM on February 28, 2017

I know you said gluten-free pastas are gross, but have you tried soba noodles? We are eating a lot of those these days - they are delicious in a lunchbox cold with a soy-based sauce and maybe cucumber and onion greens and thinly sliced cabbage. Or something else you like. And they are equally delicious in all types of soup.

Recently, I've started using diced or sliced eggplant everywhere I would have used meat: for stews, lasagna, sandwiches etc. It really needs to be cooked through, but when it is, I get rave reviews. I use the pressure cooker to make sure it is cooked through in less than 15 minutes.

Since you are not planning to go all vegetarian, a simple trick for better tasting lentil stew is to add an inch of bacon or salami while cooking, take it out and throw it away or give it to the dog before serving. And again, eggplant, both for taste and texture. Another version of this is to have good stocks in the freezer that you can add to stews and sauces.

When I've had good Mexican food, I feel that it has been a point that they served very little seafood at a time, but that little bite was delicious. So maybe making a Mexican-inspired bowl with just a handfull of fish on top will be delicious but not too expensive? And that reminds me of a Japanese restaurant near my former workplace, where you could get a bowl of seaweed with a sesame-soy sauce and little pieces of raw salmon on top for 3 dollars. Short version: think about scale. Often when we think about food, meat/fish is the main, and the only alternative is vegetarian or vegan food. But maybe another approach could be to think of meat/fish as a side, or a garnish? Yesterday, my daughter and I had two filling vegs and then shared a pork chop rather than had one each.
posted by mumimor at 4:40 PM on February 28, 2017

Most soba noodles are made from buckwheat, so gluten free people can't eat them. Same for soy sauce.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:03 AM on March 1, 2017

This was the first article that came up when I googled "buckwheat gluten" — which confirms what I thought I knew: buckwheat has nothing to do with wheat. The brand I buy is certified gluten free (meaning they avoid cross-contamination), but since I don't have celiac disease I just buy it because I prefer it. Unfortunately, my daughter just had the last bundle for lunch and I don't remember the name. It's a Japanese brand.
posted by mumimor at 12:13 PM on March 1, 2017

Response by poster: I'm sure they're all good and I can't possibly choose any bests just yet, but I'm back to share a bit and resolve my post. I'm enjoying the process of picking my way through the list.

Was excited about the veggie sofritas bowl, but it was way too hot for Mr Origami. I'll revisit that sometime and tame the heat. Good flavor there. The Buddha bowls are great and have so many variations! My latest: a bed of quinoa, sheet-pan roasted veggies (similar to this but just tossed in olive oil and S&P, no other flavorings). I've used yukon and sweet potatoes, pattypan squash, red onion wedges, carrots, garbanzo beans, with a pile of greens tossed on for the last 5 mins, plus toasted pepitas and sesame seeds as topping. Was nice with a dressing on top, and I'm experimenting with those (the last one was a nice tahini, lemon, maple, olive oil). This wasn't the recipe, but it's close. Mr Origami has never been a big fan of hummus, but reports that the can of chickpeas that had been rinsed and roasted completely changed the flavor for him, and he loved it. It does add a nice nutty component. Other veggies I look forward to roasting: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, cauliflower, more onions and squashes of kinds. The key for me I think is doing a lot of that chopping and chunking ahead of time.

Another big hit that has now become a standard is this Satay Noodles and Greens.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:39 AM on April 22, 2017

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