Help Me Eat Things, Preferably Plants
September 30, 2018 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Looking for vegetarian or meat-light casseroles or braised dishes, preferably also low in saturated fat and processed grains/flour. Annoying further considerations inside.

For health (and environmental) reasons, I'm trying to shift into a Mediterranean diet (so, high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil). My anxiety/depression/general ennui is making it hard for me to both cook and eat lately; things that sounds good in the morning (roasted salmon!) turn my stomach by dinner time, and I'm often too exhausted to cook anything complicated anyway.

What does seem appealing now:
Mushy comfort foods (like mashed potatoes)
Spicy foods
Sweet potatoes
Cooked leafy greens
Bitter vegetables like radicchio, broccoli raab
Ground meat

Not working for me:
Chunks of meat
Raw vegetables/greens
Anything requiring a lot of prep work

What I would love is a casserole or chili or ??? that I can make Sunday or Monday and eat throughout the week for dinners. Something I can bring in for lunch would also be helpful. Suggestions?
posted by lazuli to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
I had a lovely salad at a restaurant last night with lettuce, raddicchio, ginger sesame dressing, and woodear mushrooms. It was uncooked but bitter enough that it might appeal to you.
posted by mai at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2018

I, too, have been trying to eat more Mediterrenean, for similar reasons. I made this curried lentil soup last week, and it was divine. I doubled the tomatoes, though, because I wanted a higher ratio of tomatoes to coconut milk. Instead of curry powder, I tossed in my own mix of cumin, turmeric, garam marsala, coriander, and cardamom, but I like to cook a lot and I keep lots of spices on hand. And don't skimp on the ginger, garlic, or lime! They make the dish.

If you want to invest in some good curry powder, you could do a lot worse than the findings at Penzey's, But any mix you find at the supermarket will probably do just fine.

This soup, with a nice slice of bread, or some toasted flatbread, is an easy, comforting, filling dinner.
posted by cleverevans at 9:50 AM on September 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

May I introduce Cheese Spinach Pie? Meatless, casserole-ish, and excellent reheated. Oh, and dead simple, too.

Cheese-Spinach Pie
1 package (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 carton (16-ounce) small curd cottage cheese (any percent milkfat works fine in this recipe)
3 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded or in small cubes
3 T flour
2 T dried minced onion (or ~1/4 c fresh minced onion)
1/2 t garlic powder

Mix ingredients thoroughly. Turn into a buttered 8x8 pan and bake 75 minutes at 325.
posted by DrGail at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2018 [12 favorites]

Vegan Shepherd's Pie sounds like it would be pretty perfect for you. I've made that particular recipe several times and everyone always loves it. It tastes amazing reheated, too.
posted by Polychrome at 9:53 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I should have added -- Fancy ingredients and such are fine! I'm actually still enjoying food shopping, just not the cooking or eating.
posted by lazuli at 9:58 AM on September 30, 2018

I am making these twice baked sweet potatoes with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar as we speak. I haven't eaten them yet :) but judging by the delicious smells coming from my stove I suspect they might do the trick.

They do take some time, but it's mostly unattended baking time.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:00 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

This lobster succotash recipe is far more hearty and comforting than it should be given that it's basically a pot full of vegetables sauted with a little creme fraiche, and it meets every one of your requirements except that there is some chopping to be done with the veggies. It's great for making on Sunday and serving leftovers throughout the week. I usually chop up a few shrimp into smallish pieces instead of the lobster for budgetary reasons, but the recipe is fine without any meat at all.

The link doesn't include the instructions, but all you do is cook the shelling beans (unless you use canned, like me) and boil the green beans for a minute, then drain and set aside. Saute the onion in the butter for about ten minutes, then add in the okra and bell pepper, and saute for another two minutes. Then add the rest of the veggies (shelling and green beans, corn, zucchini, tomato/tomatillo, and chile, though I've found you can sub different vegetables without a problem) and cook for another five minutes over medium heat, season with salt and pepper. Then add the lobster/shrimp and creme fraiche and cook for another 2-3 minutes. That's it!
posted by exutima at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I make a lentil-sweet potato curry that is basically: half a bag of lentils, large chunks of sweet potato, quarter cup of golden raisins, curry powder and salt to taste, covered in chicken broth and simmered until the lentils are cooked, or about twenty minutes for me. Add sunflower seeds, pistachios, or slivered almonds on top for crunch if you like a little crunch.

It’s fast, easy, delicious, filling, healthy, and reheats super duper well.
posted by Andrhia at 10:26 AM on September 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

I love this sweet potato pinto bean chili and it's very easy and quick. You can double the recipe and freeze half, as it reheats beautifully.

A little less-healthy, a little more comfort-food-style: colcannon. (You can lighten it up if you like by just using less butter.) Delicious with leeks, if you can find them. My favourite comfort food is perhaps this swiss chard recipe served on top of mashed potatoes or alongside white beans (would pair well with chickpeas too).

Lots of lovely variations on braised lentils, which are also simple and freeze/reheat well (arguably even better when reheated!)

If you want to get fancy: celery root and white bean gratin (I prefer it without the paprika, with a bit of nutmeg instead).

all of these (except maybe the colcannon) are great reheated or for lunch. the leftover colcannon you can turn into little cakes, like boxty, and have as a light meal with maybe a poached egg on top).
posted by halation at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

We make an easy meat free stovetop sweet potato chilli that has surprising depth of flavour but doesn't need to be cooked for a long time.

Fry an onion and some garlic in oil in a big soup pan with a lid (or equivalent), and when they're soft add a generous amount of smoked paprika and cumin into the pan and let it fry for half a minute or so before stirring it into the onion + garlic. Add cubed sweet potatoes, enough vegetable broth to cover the potatoes, some tomato paste and something like chipotle hot sauce or whatever else you like to use to make stuff spicy. Put the lid on the pot and let the sweet potatoes cook in the spicy broth for 10-20 minutes, until they're reasonably soft.

Then add 3-4 cans of your favourite beans (we usually use a can of chickpeas, a can of kidney beans, a can of black beans and a can of corn, sometimes lentils), and two cans of chopped/crushed tomatoes, mix it all up and taste it. If it's not spicy enough, add more spicy stuff. If it's too sweet/tart from the tomatoes, add more salt/liquid seasoning and maybe more cumin; more cumin/more chipotle if it's lacking depth of flavour; more smoked paprika or chipotle if it needs more smokiness. When it's seasoned how you like it, let it heat on the stove for another ~20 minutes (longer if you want to leave it on a low heat for a while); it should be plenty tasty and ready to eat at that point.

You can also make this in a crock pot if you have one, but it's still worth frying the onion/garlic/spices before starting the rest (potatoes in broth onwards) in the pot.
posted by terretu at 10:39 AM on September 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

This spinach and chickpea braise ticks a lot of your boxes. You can cut down the prep time by using jarred ginger and garlic, frozen pre-chopped onion, and bottled lemon juice.
posted by Naanwhal at 11:30 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Of the dishes in the SemiSalt repatoire, these two are closest;

Black-eyed Pea Chili with Quinoa and Corn. Typical of chilies, this has a long ingredient list, but it very good. Recipe is huge as written; make a half batch.

Chickpea and Spinach Curry. This is amazingly tasty given how easy it is and how few ingredients it requires.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:42 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

We do two easy recipe-less things you might like.

Turkey-sweet potato chili:
Brown a pound of ground turkey with some onions and garlic in some olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Sprinkle in some cumin, coriander, and chipotle chili powder. Once the meat is browned, add cubed sweet potatoes and water to cover. When the sweet potatoes are nearly tender, add anything else you like. I like rinsed canned black beans, frozen corn (no need to thaw), and chopped bell pepper. Kale would be great. Taste and add more spices if necessary.

Super soup:
Remove casings and brown a few spicy sausages (pork or chicken) in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add cubed sweet potatoes and water to cover. When the sweet potatoes are tender, add chopped kale or other greens and simmer till tender.

You can get fancy with these - broth instead of water, etc. - but I find them really flavorful as is. For time savers, if you’re near a Trader Joe’s look for precut sweet potatoes or sub their butternut squash zigzags, and use their precut Kale: Greens for Cooking. Both recipes make great leftovers too.
posted by bananacabana at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

I put lentils and brown basmati rice + chopped garlic in a lot of water and simmer until cooked. Ratio is 1 Rice: 2.5 Lentils.

I add stuff to this per meal. My favorite is to gently heat a serving of lentils + rice then crumble in some wakame seaweed, a little water for consistency, a tsp of dijon mustard, olive oil or flax seed oil, and sea salt to taste. I love this combo and it sounds gross, but it is delicious and packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. It’s vegan and perfect to me.

I’ve also been known to make a large batch of ground beef + chopped red onion, crushed garlic, loads of paprika, oregano, + Salt & Pepper. Maybe tomato paste if I have any. Kept in the fridge, add it to rice, pasta, wilted greens, or my favorite - chopped sautéed zucchini. Zucchini is so quick to prep, chop and cook, it’s my go to veg. You can also add fresh or frozen pre-sliced mushrooms.

I always dump frozen green beans into every dish to increase the amt of vegetables in my diet. If it’s the ling skinny frozen green beans, I use kitchen scissors to slice them in the pan while cooking.

Those are some tricks you can buikd off of, hope it helped.
posted by jbenben at 12:03 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also want to add that frozen or jars of artichoke hearts, jarred roasted red peppers, marinated sun dried tomatoes, jarred olives, capers, and pickled vegetables are all SUPER useful to have on hand.
posted by jbenben at 12:06 PM on September 30, 2018

I present to you a recipe but mostly a methodology you can riff on, based on a keto staple called Egg Roll In A Bowl, which sometimes I prep all my vegetables from scratch but most of the time I do this (which will make easily 8 servings, I often cook half of this at one time and either cook in two rounds and freeze some or cook the second round a couple days later):

1 bag shredded green cabbage (slaw mix, whatever) 10-12 ounces
1 smaller bag or salad kit of "superfood mix" (chopped/sliced kale, brussels sprouts, more cabbage, other stuff)
8-12 ounces riced cauliflower
Optional sliced mushrooms, green beans/haricot verts/snap peas, sprouts
Seasonings in the general manner of Asian or Taco
Ground meat or ground fake meat or tofu

If you're using something that needs a longer cook time, like ground meat or mushrooms, heat the pan and saute those in some oil first until they're nearly done, then add seasonings and all the vegetables. For an Asian-style seasoning set, use a little mix of soy sauce + vinegar + sesame oil or just "Asian Dressing" to get some moisture into the pan to help steam the vegetables; for Taco-style you can use tomato paste and water or salsa or ketchup and water (sorry, but it works fine).

Stir-fry until the vegetables are as soft as you like, or stop a little short of that if you want it to be a little more microwave-friendly.

For Asian style, you can add quinoa or rice or noodles, and for Taco style you can add a tortilla or chips, but also serve it (if you like) with cheese, avocado/guac, sour cream, salsa, and/or canned beans. If you want to freeze it, leave the dairy out until serving.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:09 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I made this sweet potato, coconut and tomato dahl on Friday night and it was just delicious, a great big bowl of comfort food and so easy (even used a pack of precooked Puy lentils that were due to expire). I skipped the lime and coriander but doubled the tomatoes (also needed using up) and it was such a success, it'll become a Friday night regular.

This cauliflower pasanda is another comfort food regular.
posted by humph at 2:55 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can 100% recommend this as a quick, easy, comforting dish that can be spiced up to your liking. It is also excellent for lunches during the week and stores well in the fridge. I like it because I don't have to do it all at once if I am struggling. You can roast the vegetables the day (or days) beforehand and then cook the lentils when you feel like it. Note: all measurements are metric and temperature is celsius

Lentil curry with sweet potato and cauliflower

400g sweet potato, scrubbed and sliced into 2mm thick rounds
250g cauliflower, cut into medium florets
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2-3 tbsp curry paste (indonesian vegetable, thai yellow/green or red or whatever curry you like!)
270ml coconut milk
400g can lentils, drained and rinsed
¼ cup water
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup zucchini, sliced
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 220c. Place sweet potato and cauliflower on roasting trays and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 20-25mins or until tender.

Once vegetables are in the oven, start your curry! Finely chop onion and garlic then heat oil in large, deep frypan. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant. Add coconut milk and water and simmer for 5mins. Season with salt and pepper.

Add zucchini and cook for 3 mins. Then stir through lentils and peas for 2mins or until warmed through.

Divide sweet potato and cauliflower among bowls and spoon over the lentil curry.
posted by latch24 at 4:52 PM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm thinking you could make a cheat version of Mole Verde, using pumpkin or squash as the "meat."

Toast some pumpkin seeds, maybe 1/2 cup. Then add about 1/4 cup of toasted sesame seeds (you can buy them pre-toasted). Grind it all up with some chicken broth in a blender or food processor and cook it a bit in a sauce pan.

Then you could just dump in a big jar of tomatillo (verde) sauce, and some chicken broth. The point is, the ground up pumpkin and/or sesame thickens the sauce, and adds nutrients. You can also dice onions and jalapenos and fry them to add, but that's up to you, if you feel like it, on a Sunday. You can add whatever you want.

Pour it all over some cut up squash or pumpkin, or just simmer it all and add some cut up zucchini. Add a bunch of cilantro at the end.

I think the main thing is you said nuts, and pumpkin seeds are great, if you toast them and blend them, they will thicken a mole verde, and it's very tasty and filling, and you could indeed eat it throughout the week, over many things, rice, or sweet potatoes, etc. I put roasted tomatillos, poblanos and jalapenos in mine, but again, that's optional.

You can grind any nut and add it to your stews. That is the essence of many moles. This is just mole verde, which uses pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. And it also uses cooked Romaine, which you said you liked, but you can use spinach or any other green, of course. It's very a very versatile recipe.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:14 PM on September 30, 2018

Thank you for this AskMe. The coping skills I use to haul myself out of depression are almost all food-related. I generally know I'm getting better when I haul out the pressure cooker and start restocking my freezer with 2-cup containers of beans and grains.

I can wholeheartedly recommend a couple of recipes that reheat well: Mollie Katzen's and, if you're a soup person, Katzen's curried squash soup is delicious.

The Saucy Vegetarian (in fact, all recipes in this book are vegan) is often recommended on AskMe; if one is too tired or anxious to prepare a complete supper, there's a lot to be said for having a few leftover jelly jars in the freezer, filled with various dressings and sauces. Prepping sauces/dressings doesn't take long and can be a lifesaver (right now I've got cooked wheatberries and chickpeas in the fridge).
posted by catlet at 5:14 PM on September 30, 2018

If you whiz together tahini, lemon, and miso (I usually also add garlic), it makes a great sauce/dressing, especially for green lentils and roast broccoli.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:20 PM on September 30, 2018

You can get frozen falafel, which re-heats pretty quickly, and then the amount of effort required to make a falafel wrap of some type can vary based on the amount of effort you want to put into chopping up vegetables. I bet en forme de poire's sauce would go great too.
posted by XMLicious at 5:55 PM on September 30, 2018

I love this red kidney bean curry/rajma from Smitten Kitchen. It’s mostly spices and shelf staples, and it comes out really luxurious and spicy and delicious and freezes great with rice.
posted by MadamM at 6:25 PM on September 30, 2018

You people are so wonderful. THANK YOU! I had already found a couple casserole/chili recipes I'll try to get me through this week, but I am looking forward to trying so many of these in the future, and a lot of the comments helped remind me of things I've made in the past that seem like I'd be willing to eat again now.

More recipes certainly welcome, too! I definitely should have included cauliflower and broccoli as things in the "seems appealing now" column, along with Brussels sprouts, so additional recipes including (cooked) cruciferous vegetables particularly welcome.
posted by lazuli at 6:39 PM on September 30, 2018

Whoops, my link for Mollie Katzen's Jeweled Rice Salad broke, so here it is: Jeweled Rice Salad. It's kind of a throwback recipe, but it's been a surprising hit when I've served it.
posted by catlet at 7:47 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love this sweet potato tian which is just lovely homey roast veggie goodness. I often add chickpeas or white beans to add some protein, and they go well.

The recipe is from a cookbook called “Simple Vegetarian Pleasures” and is loaded with the kinds of flavor profiles you are into right now.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:55 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Based on this thread, we made a variant of terretu's recipe-not-recipe last night, and it was out-freaking-standing.

We used two pounds of ground beef, browned in the pot and removed from the pot for the onion cooking/sweet potato cooking stage, two large sweet onions, four pounds of sweet potatoes and vegetable stock to cover, one can of tomato paste, one can of fire-roasted tomatoes, one can of regular canned chopped tomatoes, one can of corn, one can of kidney beans, and one can of black beans. With sour cream, a little cheese for topping, and a side of cornbread muffins, it fed six adults with 1/3rd of the pot being left over for leftovers. For a single person, I'd probably halve the recipe.

You can definitely stir in a bag of frozen cruciferous vegetables in there there to cook through along while the canned beans and corn warm and blend.

And we omitted the cumin (due to preferences of the diners), but used lots of Penzey's smoked paprika and regular paprika, and this smoked sea salt, the latter of which makes any stew add an additional 50 cozy comfort points.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:26 AM on October 1, 2018

This quinoa enchilada casserole is really yummy, and you could cut down on the cheese or adapt it a bit if you wanted to reduce fat. You can make it ahead of time and it reheats and freezes beautifully. We eat it with avocado and sour cream, but highly adaptable.
posted by LKWorking at 8:30 AM on October 1, 2018

Cannot speak highly enough of this recipe from special-k in a 2010 recipe thread. It is SO GOOD. (Vegan as written, but I love adding a dollop of sour cream right before eating.)

Reproducing here to save you a click:

"My other favorite winter one pot meal is an amazing coconut stew.

First cook up two cups of brown/wild rice in your pot.
Drain and save.

Then, heat up some olive oil in same pot.
Add 2 tbsp of curry powder (easy to find), and saute one large onion (sliced), one bell pepper (cut into strips; red/yellow peppers work fine too).
Empty one can each of tomatoes, red kidney beans, coconut milk.
Add 1/2 cup of water, the cooked rice and let it simmer for a half hour
Then add salt and more curry powder if you like it hotter.

Again, this is an amazing one pot meal (has starch, protein and veg!). This also freezes beautifully and leftovers taste even better. OMG, so nom."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:09 AM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm just spitballing here, but I'll bet you could make a really hearty casserole with barley and mushrooms. Beef or beef broth would be optional.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:42 PM on October 1, 2018

My favorite lentil dish these days is mujadarah (this version uses bulghur but I just make it with brown rice, the critical thing is frying the bejeezus out of the onions in plenty of oil at low heat for a long time, then using the resulting oniony olive oil to flavor the dish.) I do massive batches with two pounds of dry lentils at a time and have hearty, tasty meals to eat just by plopping some in a bowl with a big dollop of greek yogurt and fried onion bits on top.

Another one I like along the same lines (big ol' pot of pulses and rice) is gallo pinto (Costa Rican black beans with rice.) It's not so Mediterranean, I guess, but it's vegetarian, filling, and lends itself well to being fancied up various ways if you're feeling like it (I like it with escabeche and sour cream, and sometimes I'll use it to fill a burrito along with some mahi mahi quick-broiled in the toaster oven.)

Definitely get a pressure cooker if you're going to be cooking a lot of dry beans (which you should, they're cheap and healthy!)
posted by contraption at 3:51 PM on October 1, 2018

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