Vegetarian Meals for a Steak-and-Potatoes kind of guy?
May 19, 2008 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Vegetarian meals for a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy?

I'm an unabashed carnivore but--for philosophical and nutritional reasons--I'd like to eventually go vegetarian (or at least to make meat much less prominent in my diet). I'm looking for vegetarian meals and snacks that can be as filling and savory (and proteinlicious) as a steak dinner or burger...

Meat substitutes are ok (I actually like some of the Gardenburger and Boca brands), but I'm more interested in "legit" vegetarian meals that don't involve tricking myself into thinking I'm eating meat.

P.S. I hate mushrooms with a passion and I have already dismissed the "try a portabello mushroom, it's almost like steak" suggestion, so feel free to skip over that one.
posted by Alabaster to Food & Drink (50 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
A vegan friend once made me something along the lines of this recipe and it was awesome.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:40 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of all sorts of stews. Stews and curries and the like are filling and hearty and you can throw just about anything in there, and serve them up alone or with some sort of carb (rice, couscous, whatever). You might also throw some Textured Vegetable Protein/Textured Soy Protein (TVP/TSP) in there - the texture is more or less identical to mince (or hamburger or whatever it is you call it) and it sucks up all the tasty flavour.

Super-simple recipe:

Get a nice big pot, fry some garlic and onion and pepper in a good slug of olive oil, throw in some diced potato and carrot and a tin or two of crushed tomatoes, let the "hard" vegetables cook, add further herbs and spices to taste, then whatever other vegetables you like, let this bubble and seethe for a little while, and then eat that sucker.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:40 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

(I just noticed that the recipe I posted calls for fake meat--my friend's recipe was just beans, veggies, and spices cooked up and topped with cornbread, no fake meat involved)
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:44 PM on May 19, 2008

Do you like cookbooks at all? There are some GREAT vegetarian cookbooks out there. If you're willing to ignore the somewhat hippy vibes the name evokes, The Passionate Vegetarian would probably be right up your alley. The book has a ton of hearty recipes for stews, soups, casseroles, you name it.

Some favorite hearty meals of mine are tamales stuffed with veggies, shepherd's pie (with Quorn's soy free grounds) I'm also pretty into cooking up a huge batch of mixed veggies (broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, green beans/peas, and garlic) and then mixing in some cheese tortellini and then adding in some pesto and (ricotta if I've got it) you can also add in some tofurkey italian sausage if you want more protein.
posted by nerdcore at 4:45 PM on May 19, 2008

If I had to go vegetarian, I'd definitely stray away from American food.

Asian food seems to have the most variety in vegetarian, do you like tofu? Indian food would also be a good choice.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:45 PM on May 19, 2008

ive mentioned this before, but damn if i dont love it.

tomato avocado sandwiches. the best, man.

slice roma tomatoes. slice half an avocado per sandwich. prepare your favorite bread however you like, layer of avocado, layer of tomato, add some awesome cheese. and spring mix or your favorite lettuce-y stuff.

i gotta say, ive never been one to naturally find vegetarian dishes so tasty on their own (but im learning), but i swear this sandwich is great, even if you love meat. it never leaves me feeling like i was missing anything.
posted by gcat at 4:45 PM on May 19, 2008

posted by The corpse in the library at 4:48 PM on May 19, 2008

Burritos, especially when spicy, do not need any meat to "feel like a meal". In fact, myself (non-veggie) almost always order veggie burritos since the meat doesn't seem to add much flavor-wise.
posted by chrisalbon at 4:50 PM on May 19, 2008

I used to make lentils with spinach and ginger* a lot and the savoury/fillings/proteiny aspect went down particularly well with meat eaters. Serve with rice or baked potatoes and you've got a very easy, tasty, full-bellied meal.

* my version was ad hoc, but that recipe is pretty close. Use split red lentils to reduce the lentil cooking time to about 20 mins, coriander is optional, frozen spinach works fine and you can just adjust 'wilt' to 'thaw' in the spinach cooking, nutmeg is a great addition, and, in a heretical act of desperate kitchen improvisation, I discovered that a good dash of (light) soy sauce is tastier than lemon...
posted by carbide at 4:52 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cheeses are great, having a substantial feel to them. Plus, you can fry provolone to make a vegetarian BLT.
posted by jeffmshaw at 4:52 PM on May 19, 2008

Tortilla. Grab five or six fist-sized potatoes, five eggs and an onion. Chop the potatoes into irregular chunks and fry or bake them until they've just got a bit of a crisp skin. Take them out, put them hot into a big bowl with the onion (chopped finely) the eggs (beaten a little bit) and some salt and pepper, mix it around, then pour into a hot saucepan, turning it over to seal it nicely.
Eat it hot, or save it for later cold. Have a slice as a snack or a half as a meal. I like mine with a salad, some sweet chilli sauce and lots of beer.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:55 PM on May 19, 2008

I love fried gluten, and I'm not a vegetarian. This is what I usually get. It works great in stir-fries, but I actually just buy it to throw in some ramen if I'm feeling lazy. :)
posted by reebear at 4:57 PM on May 19, 2008

Chili, hearty stew, burritos are all great suggestions. Pasta is a classic.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:07 PM on May 19, 2008

Indian curries with paneer (a type of cheese usually in chunks similar to the way tofu is sometimes found) are great. Seconding Asian food in general.

A fried egg and/or a slab of mozzarella can flesh out many sandwiches.
posted by ecsh at 5:07 PM on May 19, 2008

When I was a veg, my favorite comfort-food meal was a version of this lentil-barley soup. It's very filling.

However, I reduced the stock to maybe 3 cups (just enough to cook everything in, with a little to spare) and the trick was that then you put it in the fridge overnight. The barley finished soaking up the veg stock and you have a pottage that's very thick and very filling. I also added more peas. One does have to add a little water when reheating or it could get dry.

Sandwich-wise, nothing's better than fresh mozz and tomato with pesto on good bread. Add other Italian veg (roasted red peppers, small amount of artichoke hearts) as you want and a thin drizzle of olive oil.

Overall, I found Indian bean/legume recipes more filling than other cuisines. I was also anti-mushroom (got better), thought I was allergic to avocados (got tested), and I'm not comfortable with large amounts of soy.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:10 PM on May 19, 2008

i second the gluten. particularly fond of seitan, or wheat gluten.

i think another thing that really helped me was becoming more familiar with the sauces of the world. once you get good at making a curry, for example, you can toss just about any ingredient in and voila -- tasty food.

but i have to say, meat "substitutes" are a staple for me. it's not because i'm "tricking myself" into thinking i'm eating meat (most of the meatsubs out there are really not that close to the product they're supposed to be immitating). really, it's about convenience. veggie hot dogs and chicken nuggets are a staple for me. most of my protein comes in the form of meat substitutes, tofu and seitan.

i'm with you, too, on the mushroom thing -- ew. so, do note that quorn brand products are made from a fungus. also, many veggie burgers use mushrooms as a main ingredient.
posted by CitizenD at 5:12 PM on May 19, 2008

I never had a meat eater complain about sweet potato and black bean enchiladas.

Dice up sweet potatoes into about 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. Toss in oil and roast in a casserole in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or until they're tender. Meanwhile dice up onion and cook in oil in the largest pan you have, until the onion is translucent, then throw in some garlic for a few minutes. Drop in the sweet potatoes and a drained can of black beans. Spice with cumin and chili powder. Cook until heated through. Throw in some diced greens (spinach or some such) and wilt. If you want, put in some diced tomato, but I think it's better without. Get two cans of enchilada sauce. Pour one in the base of a 13" baking pan. Roll up your filling in microwaved corn tortillas, put the tortillas seam-side down in the pan and pour the other can of sauce over top. A cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top. Bake until cheese is melted and the edges are browning. Mexican rice on the side and Negro Modelo.
posted by dosterm at 5:12 PM on May 19, 2008 [11 favorites]

Grilled cheese. Peanuts are a great snack. I live on vegi burritos. Pizza. Beer. Spaghetti. Fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwiches. The Gardenburger fake ribs are pretty good.

Eating meat substitutes doesn't make you less of a vegetarian. There's always someone more punk than you.
posted by spork at 5:17 PM on May 19, 2008

P.S. are you sure you hate mushrooms? Because I used to kinda not be a fan either, until I sauteed them a bit more than other people usually do. If you brown 'em up real nice in butter or olive oil (depending on whether you're gonna eat butter), so that they've released all of the water they're inclined to, throw some salt and pepper and paprika in there.... oh man, it's pure savory umami. And umami is what you're looking for, to replace that ZOMGdelicious charred steak goodness that you'll be missing. Seriously. I've grown, now, to appreciate the virtues of a plumper, more juicy shroom, but cooking it down as described is where it's at.

Err, and while you're making dietary adjustments, it might be good to look into more complex whole grains, like barley, quinoa, amaranth, spelt, wild rices etc. to replace those potatoes, too. I find myself eating a lot of barley or brown/wild rice pilafs these days. Those slow-cooking grains can absorb a whole lotta savory flavor from being cooked in vegetable broth, and some of them have loads of protein, too.
posted by mumkin at 5:17 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

You don't say whereabouts you live, but try to check out Asian (Chinese/Taiwanese) groceries.

Wheat gluten (either in a can, shrink wrapped bags, or fresh in bulk) is a great and tasty source of protein. Good in stews and curries of all kinds.

Textured soy protein - available in a variety of flavours, shapes, and textures. Directly substitute for meat. There's a TSP cocktail weiner that I like better than actual cocktail weiners.

Firm tofu; not that stupid squishy white soft block kind. [b]Firm[/b] tofu. Great stuff. Has lots of flavour already. Cut into cubes/crumble and use it as a substitute for ground beef. Works well in chilies. Can also be served cold, cut into strips. Add some hot sauce and fresh bamboo shoots.

Other tofu; there're all kinds. Deep fried tofu, puffed tofu, sweet light desert tofu, you name it. There's also a 50/50 tofu/fish ball that's [i]fantastic[/i].

Toro jelly; can be found in a "firm" variety. Good in Asian-style stews.
posted by porpoise at 5:25 PM on May 19, 2008

And yeah, don't worry overmuch about Gardenburgers, tofu pups and whatnot. Seriously... a patty or sausage isn't a natural form for meat, either. It's just a really convenient way to fit your protein into the middle some sauces and vegetables between two buns.

You are, on the other hand, completely justified in avoiding shit like the Veat Vegetarian Breast, which is actually molded in the form of a chicken, complete with neck stump, wing and leg.
posted by mumkin at 5:25 PM on May 19, 2008

Also, a lot of the meals suggested here are best served hot. If you're looking for some cold dishes: I recommend:

Pasta salad with either rotini or cellantini, pesto or olive oil, black beans, canned corn, peas, zucchini, diced carrots, and tons of pine nuts.

Lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwiches with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the bread.

Quinoa cooked in vegetable broth or with bouillon cubes, then after the quinoa has chilled add: black or garbanzo beans, cucumber, feta, tomato, and olives.
posted by nerdcore at 5:34 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

nthing burritos.

I cook rice, beans, salsa, peppers, corn, maybe an egg in a skillet, wrap it up, a little sour cream and guac, and you won't remember for a second why you ever ate meat to begin with.
posted by docpops at 5:38 PM on May 19, 2008

Plus you can refrig. the leftovers and make another burrito in about two minutes that counts as dinner, lunch, or breakfast.
posted by docpops at 5:38 PM on May 19, 2008

I think you should start with hearty and umami vegetarian meals. Chickpeas and other beans are particularly filling, and have a nice rich taste which is good for beginner veggies. Do you hate all mushrooms? Perhaps try shitakes. I also find that artchokes (when cooked well) have an almost meaty flavor. The minimalist, a confirmed meat lover has a book out you might like, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Personally, I hate faux meat, and as someone who likes meat, I think it will always disappoint you. I would encourage you to try really good vegetarian dishes that don't pretend to substitute meat, or perhaps dishes that use meat as a flavoring, rather than as a main ingredient. We had a Tuscan fava bean soup flavored with a few slices of pancetta last night. Absolute.Culinary.Bliss.

It sounds like you have a good attitude. Personally I love vegetarian food, but still tuck into a good steak/ game animal/ sausage when I really feel like it. Eating veggie dishes doesn't feel like a penance;they actually make me feel healthier and appeal to me now. If you start slowly, I have a feeling you'll feel the same way.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:43 PM on May 19, 2008

SOme umami foods that satisfy meat eaters: eggplant/ avocado/ squash/ roasted cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:46 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Chickpea cutlets from the Veganomicon.

I'm the kind of person who thinks a fantastic meal involves a steak waved in the general direction of a fire, then slapped on a plate next to big, beautiful roasted taters, and yet I love these. Easy to make, absolutely delicious piping hot from either the oven or the frying pan, and with a really satisfying, toothsome texture for a meateaters. I've even developed a specific craving for these.

My only recommendation is to use a food processor to mash the chickpeas and olive oil, as chickpeas from a can can be a bit hard to do by hand. Also, for extra flavor, I use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs that have a little cheese already mixed into them.
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:52 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Use reductions to get juicy, dark concentrated flavors like you'd get with meat dishes.

For example, splash some sweet sherry into a hot saute pan, add chopped garlic and onions, and just let it cook until it's good and brown. Add other seasonings as appropriate. This makes a great garnish for any of the recipes above, or you can mix it into chopped hard boiled eggs to get mock chicken liver.
posted by Araucaria at 5:57 PM on May 19, 2008

i had an amazing lentil shepherd's pie. the lentils seemed to be cooked with sauteed carrots, onions, and peas (maybe a glug of beer and a bay leaf for flavor, plus salt and pepper). it was topped with scallion-loaded mashed potatoes and shredded cheddar, then baked in the oven until the cheese was brown and crunchy.

i just made myself hungry.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:58 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook.

And I do not expect you to believe how much these rock.
posted by Morrigan at 6:01 PM on May 19, 2008

Personally, I think falafel has some of the heartiness of meat, and it's especially good in pita sandwich form with hummus. I'd also nth the suggestion of seitan. I'm not sure exactly how they did it, but some of my housemates used to add spice, roll it up and bake it with tinfoil so that it was very much like sausage (at least to someone who hasn't eaten meat sausage in years).
posted by overglow at 6:19 PM on May 19, 2008

One of my favorite things to make lately is a curried peanut butter and butternut squash soup. It's CRAZY good and the recipe comes from a firefighter, which is a definite vote of confidence in my book.
posted by pluckysparrow at 6:21 PM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Falafel / Hummus / Tahini / Tabouli, or some combination thereof.
posted by spatula at 6:21 PM on May 19, 2008

I know you say that you want to avoid meat substitutes, buy there's some vegetarian corndogs that are the bomb. I don't remember what the namebrand was, I ate it at a friend's house. I assume it would be something you'll find in the organic foods section.
posted by sixcolors at 6:30 PM on May 19, 2008

Wow. Several things spring to mind. Tomato/avocado/mozzarella sandwiches on ciabatta are fucking spectacular. Shepherd's pie is a good one, for sure. You can make some good patties with grains and whatnot, too. I apologize for the length here, but I want to share a couple of favorites. Also note that all items are approximate. I apologize for that, too, but I don't really cook out of books much. Anyway, here goes:

Pasta Salad
  • 1 lb cooked penne rigate
  • maybe 1/2 cup or more of mayo
  • maybe 2 Tsp or more of white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 ball of smoked mozzarella, cubed
  • 1 roast red bell pepper, diced
  • fistful of fresh spinach or arugula... or more.
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • maybe 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Toss all that goodness into a bowl and mix it on up. Adjust the mayo/vinegar to make it as wet or dry as you want.

Black Bean and Brown Rice Patties with Corn and Avocado Salsas
  • 1 can black beans, half mashed
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 small white onions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1 ear of cooked corn
  • 2 avocados
  • 4 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • spices: garlic salt, chipotle powder, cumin powder
  • small splash of olive oil
For the corn salsa, take the corn, one chopped white onion, the chopped poblano pepper, and some of the cilantro, and mix it in a bowl with salt, pepper, and just a touch of olive oil. Set it aside.

For the avocado salsa, put the other white onion, the jalapeno, avocados, water, vinegar, and a generous amount of cilantro in a blender and puree until smooth. Add more water if it's too thick, and season to taste with salt. (If you like it heavier and creamier, you can then add either mayo or sour cream -- I like it best without, however)

For the patties, mix the black beans, rice, chipotle powder, cumin powder, garlic salt, and some more cilantro into a bowl. Form into patties and lay out on a greased cookie sheet. Broil each side until a crust has formed. These can fall apart easily... if you want, you can add some flour to them to bind them better.

Spoon some avocado salsa on a small plate, place two patties atop the salsa, and top with the corn mix. Tasty!

OMG UMAMI, or Crostini with Wild Mushrooms, Fontina Cheese, and Truffle Oil
  • Several slices of good bread, toasted, grilled, or otherwise made hard-ish
  • Mix of wild mushrooms... shiitake, cremini, chanterelle, trumpet, morel, oyster....
  • Black truffle oil
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • salt and pepper
  • Fontina cheese
Sautee your mushrooms with your chopped rosemary in a mix of olive oil and butter and a little black pepper (and salt if you want), until the mushrooms are soft and have lost most of their moisture.

Spoon the mushroom mix onto slices of bread and top with fontina cheese. Put them under the broiler until the cheese is good and melty. Drizzle just the faintest amount of truffle oil on top when done. Find heaven.
posted by kaseijin at 6:31 PM on May 19, 2008

If you want a little meat flavor and a small amount of meat, sausages, pancetta, and ham hocks all add great flavor to many things. I eat less meat, and find that highly flavored, smokey, or spicy meats with a good fat content added to lentils or beans make me forget that it's mostly not meaty.

Favorite quick dinner: 1 can white beans, 1/2 big can crushed tomato, 2 sausages (hot italian are great), one onion. Brown sausage, add onion, cook til brown and soft. Add beans and tomato, herbs, and cook until a thick consistency.
posted by beezy at 6:33 PM on May 19, 2008

Also, learn to make your own dressings and sauces for veggies, and you will have more appreciation for them. Walnut oil, dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, and a little salt and pepper make a spectacular light dressing.

Which makes me think of a great dinner salad that we like:

Strawberry Salad with Black Pepper Tarragon Vinaigrette and Manchego Cheese
  • Bunch of sliced strawberries
  • mixed baby greens... frisee, lettuces...etc
  • fresh tarragon
  • 1 granny smith apple, sliced thin
  • a few slices of manchego cheese
  • walnuts
  • sherry vinegar
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
Whisk up a dressing of the olive oil, vinegar, a generous amount each of black pepper and sugar, and some chopped fresh tarragon. Toss this with your greens, strawberries, walnuts, and some more fresh tarragon. Top with slices of apple and cheese.
posted by kaseijin at 6:37 PM on May 19, 2008

Also... um... I almost hate to advocate this given the HFCS and MSG in it...but...Bacon Salt. Seriously.

Fry some provelone cheese like jeffmshaw mentioned above, add your tomato and lettuce and all. But do this: add a heap of bacon salt to your mayonnaise. Ghetto, and so very very tasty.
posted by kaseijin at 6:45 PM on May 19, 2008

Try vegetarian lasagna, or pumpkin and mango curry. yum! nice and hearty.
I use mushrooms extensively so I can't make a lot of recommendations, but I suggest you experiment a lot with pasta. Takes a while to get used to "lighter" meals but you feel a lot better afterwards than if you had something heavier. Try just cooking up some penne, frying some vege in a pan and throwing in what looks good to you. You'd be surprised what you can come up with.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 6:45 PM on May 19, 2008

You might also want to try finding some smoked garlic. Goes great in a risotto, and some people confuse it for bacon flavour, without the MSG.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 6:47 PM on May 19, 2008

Vegetarian Indian food offers a lot of variety and can be very filling. A great source of vegetarian Indian recipes is this blog: One Hot Stove. She's vegetarian so all the recipes are vegetarian and since she lives in the US you should be able to find all the ingredients.
posted by peacheater at 6:59 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Olives, soy sauce, cheese (especially parmesan), beer and red wine are all right up there on the umami scale with The Dreaded Mushroom. Flavor-wise, they'll give you some of what you're missing.

As for not-really-bacon smokiness, another source is smoked paprika. You can get smoked cheeses too, although the (cheap) ones I've had didn't have a very convincing smoke flavor.

I've also found that fat is crucial. Sadly, a lot of the vegetarian recipes you see, at least in the US, are Health Food, and that means they're not written for flavor. So round up. Use real butter, and use a lot of it. Use whole eggs. Glob on the cheese and sour cream. Seriously, that slab of eggplant is so much less fatty than the steak it replaced that you may as well serve it in a pool of garlic butter. Unless you're trying to cut your fat intake to the bone, it won't do any harm.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:31 PM on May 19, 2008

I don't know what they call it where you're from, but here we call it the Freeber. Frijole Burrito. Beans. They are the key.

Beans have fiber and protein, and they are cheap. You won't be harmed by eating a ton of them, so go make yourself a big pile, with some rice and cheese and hot salsa and such. There are a ton of different kinds that taste all different, and after eating them, you can take a big manly crap. I am speaking from experience here. Put white kidney beans in a tomato based stew, make chili with regular kidney beans, put black beans in a burrito, eat some chick peas in a sandwich, have aduki beans over toasted millet (ok that is really health foody but whatever) and it is all good. A bean burrito is a manly thing that is large and in charge, but can also be vegetarian and strangely healthy.

I agree that fat is also important, though. Really good olive oil is very worth investing in, as well as really good butter or Earth Balance margarine if you don't do dairy. If you can ever go to an olive oil tasting or store that lets you sample things, it is heaven. It's like drinking love and sex. Ok maybe not that great. But pretty damn good.
posted by Tesseractive at 9:28 PM on May 19, 2008

If you like Boca burgers - you might like to try my recipe for "Boca Swiss Steak." Basically you take a Boca burger, drench it in flour and fry it in butter and onions. After that, you add water and, for the best flavor, a dash of nutritional yeast. This makes a delicious gravy that you can put over the "steak" and onto a nice mound of mashed potatoes.

Also, try Seitan, a wheat gluten product that has an amazingly meaty texture. I like it with Jerk seasonings or barbeque sauce and cooked on the grill.

Also try Veat - which is a great chicken substitute. You can also barbeque this - or use it in enchiladas or tacos
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:00 AM on May 20, 2008

Just interjecting a gentle reminder to talk to your doctor before you seriously go vegetarian; on another board I'm also participating in a discussion with someone who went vegetarian recently and was wondering why he was so tired all the time now, and then it came to light he'd been having a lot of cheese pizza and salad and not much else. A doctor can help make the best choices from a nutritional standpoint.

But that said --

Beans are your friends. Bean soups, black bean chili, beans and rice...

You could also be pescetarian (fish are okay) or ovo-lacto vegetarian (eggs and dairy are okay), and eat very well -- pasta alfredo is a wonderful thing, and tuna steaks are as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:01 AM on May 20, 2008

We're mostly vegan right now, and I've really enjoyed the recipes on Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. Most of these are really flavorful and (as an added bonus) really low in fat and high in fiber. We've especially enjoyed the Easy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne (you could sub eggplant for the mushrooms-- I've done it and it's equally as good) and the Thai Eggplants and Chickpeas in Peanut Masala. Both delicious.
posted by weezetr at 5:43 AM on May 20, 2008

Avoid a lot of tofu at the beginning. Save major cooking with tofu for when you have advanced beyond the beginning stages. Tofu is a fantastic, versatile staple and can be used in a multitude of ways. But it's not a meat substitute. The better analogy for tofu is cheese, but it's so much more versatile than cheese. It takes a little bit of skill to work with it successfully. The thing is, though, so many new vegetarians wade into the tofu pool at the deep end, expecting their tofu to be their new "meat" and the result is a bad tofu impression and a dislike of tofu. I know this happened to me. I *cringe* when I think back on my tofu atrocities. Try scrambling it. Then try it in pad thai.
And remember that a cup of cooked lentils gives you 18 grams of protein. Lentils are the unsung heros of the vegetarian world.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:21 AM on May 20, 2008

I have a similar relationship to fake meat, and one thing I find myself using to go with potatoes and vegetables for dinner is baked tofu. You can find recipes on google, but the method is basically: cut firm or extra-firm tofu into desired slices, put in baking pan with choice of marinade (usually something soy saucey*), bake in hot (400F) oven for 45-60 minutes, until kind browned and chewy. You can use the leftovers in sandwiches or whatever too.

It won't taste at all like meat, but it's all brown and chewy and pretty hearty. You might not like it if you're used to having steak and potatoes, but it's good.

My other favourite recipe right now is peanut sesame noodles.

*My favourite is a lot like this lemon-rosemary one, but the recipe I use doesn't have balsamic.
posted by SoftRain at 8:36 AM on May 20, 2008

Fantastic Foods Vegetarian Chilli. I've found it at most grocery stores or you can buy it from their website. So awesome. I recommend making it with kidney beans but they have multiple options on the box. Top with a little grated cheese and a side of cornbread. Yum!
posted by radioamy at 8:52 AM on May 20, 2008

In case you do have a fake meat craving some day, these sausages are really popular in vegan food blogs at the moment. They are really versatile, lending themselves to many variations. I do second the suggestion that if you are starting out you do not eat these on their own as if they were meat. They are great chopped up in stews and other meals when you want a little bit of meaty flavour or texture.
posted by davar at 10:21 AM on May 20, 2008

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