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There are many health benefits to the vegetarian diet, both to the individual as well as to the planet.

Incorporating vegetarian meals into your diet is actually quite easy, even if you’re used to a heavier, meat-based diet.

Nutburgers

An all-time favorite meatless burger, the nutburger is tasty, satisfying, and filling, without leaving you with the heavy feeling after eating a beef burger. And it’s healthier too!

Ingredients:

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 eggs
1 cup toasted wheat germ or cooked rice
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, minced
1 onion, minced
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 green or red pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp basil
2 tsp curry powder

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl until blended.
  2. Form batter into patties and drop into hot olive oil in skillet (use just enough oil to cover the pan bottom). Cook until golden brown.
  3. Serve on a bun just like a hamburger, with red onion slices, lettuce, tomato slices … the works!

Irish Colcannon

This simple dish is hearty and healthful, and is a great way to use kale. Kale is valued as a vitamin packed leafy green which grows throughout the winter. A few kale plants in your backyard garden are a ready source of winter greens.

Colcannon is a traditional dish in Ireland, and it can be served as a breakfast, lunch or dinner meal. Generous amounts of egg and potato make this a filling recipe. A breakfast of Colcannon will give you the fuel to work hard till lunch, and without needing meat.

Ingredients:

6 cups frozen hash browns with peppers, if available
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup milk
5 cups kale (with stems removed), cleaned and chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg, or to taste
6 eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Oil a 9×13 pan. Set oven to 375°F. Saute onion in small amount olive oil until brown and soft.
  2. Add kale and stir until slightly cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste, then and nutmeg.
    Remove from heat.
  3. Spread frozen hash browns in bottom of casserole. Add milk. Top with kale and onion mixture. If using skillet, mix potatoes into sauteed vegetables, then pour milk over.
  4. Make six ‘wells’ and break an egg into each well. Top casserole with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake until eggs are set, usually 35-40 minutes.

Tofu Tamale Pie

Freezing, thawing and squeezing tofu makes it more chewy and meat-like in texture, and also makes it absorb more of the juices in the dish. Some tofu brands lends themselves to this process better than others, but since not all tofu brands are available everywhere, one has to figure this out by trial and error.

Denver brand tofu works well with this method, Melissa’s brand not so much. White Wave extra firm tofu has a good, meaty texture: just dice it and toss it in.

Ingredients:

1 lb tofu (firm or extra-firm)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz can tomatoes, chopped
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1 cup black olives, sliced;
1 12 oz can corn or 10-oz package frozen cut corn
1 6 oz can green chilies (optional)

For Cornbread Topping:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp honey

Directions:

  1. Place the tofu in the freezer and leave until frozen. Remove from freezer, thaw, and squeeze out all excess moisture. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a large skillet. Saute onion, pepper, cilantro, and garlic together until soft.
  3. Stir in the prepared tofu. Add tomatoes, sauce, remaining herbs and spices, olives, corn, and chilies, if desired. (You can also add 1 to 2 cups of canned red or black beans, rinsed and drained.) Pour into a 9″X13″ oiled baking dish.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, mix together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, 2 tbsp oil, and honey. Combine both mixtures into cornbread topping.
  5. Pour this over the filling in oiled baking dish and bake about 45 minutes, or until cornbread is browned. Grated cheddar can be sprinkled on top about 15 min before taking out of oven.

Adapted from “Tofu Cookery” by Louise Hagler.

Tofu Loaf

This tofu loaf is an excellent meatloaf substitute and is also good sliced and fried for sandwiches the next day.

Ingredients:

1 lb tofu, mashed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F and mix together all ingredients.
  2. Oil a loaf pan with olive oil. Press the tofu mixture into the oiled loaf pan and bake for about one hour. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
  3. Garnish with catsup and parsley. Sprinkle generously with paprika on the top of the loaf before putting it in the oven.

Grilled Polenta with Portobello Mushrooms

Portobello mushrooms are a great meat substitute. The portobello mushrooms in this recipe give the meal a hearty taste one associates with meat-based meals.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
1 15 oz can vegetable broth or 2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
4 large portobello mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp red wine
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 roasted red pepper, cut into thin strips for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine the polenta, vegetable broth, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until very thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour into a 9 x 9-inch baking dish and chill completely (at least 2 hours).
  2. To grill, cut into wedges, brush lightly with olive oil, place on medium-hot grill until hot and grill marks show.
  3. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Prepare the marinade by stirring the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Place the mushrooms upside down in the marinade and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Turn right side up and grill over medium-hot coals about 5 minutes. Turn and pour some of the marinade into each of the cavities. Grill until mushrooms can be pierced with a skewer, about 5 minutes longer.
  5. Serve with grilled polenta. Garnish with roasted red pepper strips, if desired.

Note: Many other vegetables are delicious grilled as well. Grilled zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes, peppers, or asparagus would make great accompaniments.

Vegetable Fajitas

This is a favorite: quick, easy and satisfying.

Ingredients:

1 onion
1 each of red, green, yellow bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
8 oz mushrooms
several broccoli crowns, cut small
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp lime juice
fajita seasoning
lemon pepper
guacamole (recipe below)
vegan sour cream
flour tortillas

Directions:

  1. Slice onion and peppers into strips. Remove mushroom stems and slice the mushrooms thickly. Combine in a bowl, add the crushed garlic and mix slightly.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, chili powder, lime juice, fajita seasoning and lemon pepper and pour over the vegetable mixture. Stir well and set aside for an hour or more.
  3. After the vegetables have marinated, heat a frying pan or wok until very hot. Add the marinated vegetables and stir-fry over high heat for 5-6 minutes, until the mushrooms and peppers are just tender.
  4. Spoon the filling onto each tortilla, garnish with guacamole, sour cream (and if desired, picante sauce or salsa) and roll up. Makes wonderful leftovers (if there are any!)

From Vegetarian: The Greatest Ever Vegetarian Cookbook, edited by Nicola Graimes

Easy Guacamole:

5 – 6 avocados
2/3 of a jar of organic salsa
fresh cilantro (about half of a store-sized bundle)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
generous dash of cayenne

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend till fairly smooth. Season to taste.
Refrigerate in airtight container.

Penne alla Cecca

This recipe is very easy, and fast to make. It’s a great meal for summer, too: not heavy or hot, but filling and refreshing! Great with tossed salads and bruschetta or garlic bread.

Ingredients:

5 large tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
one garlic clove sliced in half
2/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp (or to taste) hot red pepper flakes
1 lb pasta of your choice

Directions:

  1. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for one full minute. Peel, seed, and chop (or use 1 28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes.)
  2. Put tomatoes into large bowl with olive oil, garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes. Let sit for a couple of hours, then remove the garlic.
  3. Boil, drain, and toss the pasta with the cold tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Note: This recipe can be doubled, because the leftovers are so good! You can make it easier to fish the garlic halves out later by sticking a toothpick through them before adding them to the mixture.

Adapted from the Linguini alla Cecca recipe in the book “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron. Thank you Laurie for this recipe!

Hearty Bean and Pasta Stew

Ingredients:

1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
16 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
15 oz can black beans, rinsed
15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed
15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed
4 oz., about 1/2 cup, shell macaroni
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/8 tsp pepper
3 oz, about 1/3 cup, salsa (or more to taste)
3 cups water

Directions:

  1. Saute the onions and green pepper in olive oil.
  2. Add tomatoes, water and beans and bring to a boil.
  3. Add pasta, oregano, basil and pepper and cook 10 mins.
  4. Add salsa and heat until it’s warm.

Thanks Joanne for this recipe!

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