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Vegetarian & Low Carb?

I'm looking for recipes that are vegetarian, but aren't pasta-based. Every Thursday, my roommate and I alternate cooking. However, I'm trying to cut down on empty carbs and she's a vegetarian. I've made a bunch of eggplant-based dishes, but after that, I'm drawing a blank. Any suggestions?

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  1. No recipes in particular, but if your problem is how to add meaningful starch to a meal, I have some suggestions: Quinoa is a great grain to go with veggie sides. Last night I just cooked up some quinoa with salt and pepper and then served with a quick saute of crimini mushrooms, garlic, roasted red pepper and red onion. A little dollop of Masala Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe's added a spicy kick (I needed to finish the last dregs from an already opened jar, but any other flavorful sauce, chutney or salsa would have worked) and slices of a perfectly ripe Fuerte avocado with some preserved lemon completed the meal.

    Whole wheat cous cous is another starch I use when I want to avoid regular pasta. Lentils or beans can add heartiness and the protein, fiber and antioxidants make the carbs definitely non-empty.

    1. Rice and beans of course are nutritious carbs, even corn as in polenta, corn tortillas or cornbread has some value, chickpeas as in hummus, curried chickpeas and falafel are worth eating. Edaname are healthy.

      1. If you can incorporate some whole grain, try this:
        Cook some barley in flavorful broth. Blanch some rapini, then drain it and saute with lots of garlic and some red pepper flakes. Mix rapini, cooked white beans, some barley (doesn't have to be much, just enough for a bit of chewy texture), and some grated pecorino. Load it into a casserole dish, top it with grated mozz, and bake until toasty (you can skip the mozz and casserole step, it'll still be good, just less pretty).

        1. If you're looking for a pasta/rice substitute, barley is really good. It soaks up extra sauces but has a nice chewy bite to it. I've even seen barley "risotto" recipes before.

          If you're looking for meal suggestions, are you averse to using tofu? Firm tofu, when drained between layers of paper towels and then marinated, takes on lots of flavor but also has a meaty consistency (depends how well you get the excess water out). Portobello mushrooms also have a nice mouthfeel to them.

          Mexican dishes come to mind for easily-converted to vegetarian stuff... Simmer tofu (orginally I wrote chicken, then remembered that kind of goes against vegetarianism) in enchilada sauce with black beans and rice (how about brown rice?). Or roast peppers and stuff them with cheese and black beans.

          Boy, until I started thinking about this, I didn't realize how much meat/seafood I enjoy. Low carb I can do easily, veggie dishes I'm not used to!

          1. You are getting a lot of suggestions for really high carb sides here. I don't eat vegetarian, meat tastes better than veggies but we definitely watch our carbs. Dreamfields pasta is something to look for, 5 net carbs/serving. It is sold on the web and in a lot of major grocery stores. Barley, quinoa, beans and rice just put the lbs. on as well as whole wheat couscous. I use a commercially produced corn tortilla that nets out at about 4 carbs per tortilla. You need to maybe pick up or check out of the library some cookbooks on low carb cooking and start reading lables and watching your glycemic index to keep those carbs low. Check out some diabetic sites. They are pretty low on carbs and sugars.

            1. See if you can get your friend to try some fish. High protein, high energy, low fat, low carb. I have a veggie friend who converted after badly breaking his leg and the doctor told him more protein would help him heal faster. Start with simple, light white fish and work your way towards tuna and other steaky fish.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mojoeater

                I don't recommend trying to "convert" a friend. At best, it comes across as condescending.

                If you want veg low-carb meals, you can make a ton of stuff with eggs. You can replace pasta with spaghetti squash or tofu shirataki noodles, neither of which taste like pasta (but they still taste good). You could also make something like gado-gado, a composed salad served with peanut sauce - just make sure you don't sweeten the sauce too much.

                1. re: piccola

                  Seconding Piccola's remarks. The spaghetti squash idea is great -- I make a Native American influenced dish with spaghetti squash called 'three sisters' on occasion that I could post if you'd like. It's basically spaghetti squash tossed with navy beans, chopped basil, diced red peppers, and corn with a light coating of an olive oil / butter sauce.

                  You could make fajitas using some meat analogs, if the tortillas aren't to carb-heavy. Sliced veggies and lettuce with veg chicken or steak strips is a favorite at my house. Also, veg ground beef substitute (Boca's is best) could be used for tacos.

                  There are lots of folks who scoff at the use of meat 'replacements', but at the end of a long day at work, sometimes they're just what I need. They don't often taste like the meat that they're patterned after, but if you look at them as being their own category, they can be really useful. My partner loves the veggie buffalo wing nuggets and heats them, chops them up, and makes great salads with them. I love seitan -- cut thinly w/ some cucumber/yogurt sauce on a low-carb pita, you can make a veggie gyro with it.

                  Carb-y but some other favorites -- corn dog casserole (w/ veggie hot dogs) and vegetable pulao (w/ tofu, peas, green beans, & cashews).

              2. A few of my favorite non-pasta veggie dishes:

                Black beans (w/ cheese?), "fajita-style" onions, peppers and onions, guacamole, tortillas optional

                Saute onions and garlic (quite a bit), add diced tomatoes (fresh or canned), rinsed canned white beans, a little bit of vegetable broth, spinach (fresh or frozen), various italian herbs and a bit of black pepper

                Corn soup (onions and red pepper in a little butter, add flour, cook for a few minutes, then add mixture of vegetable broth, milk and half and half, you could add a few potatoes if you are just trying to cut down a bit, add corn and spices to taste - I would definitely recommend a bit of something like smoked paprika or chipotle to get that little bit of smokiness that you get from bacon in the non-veggie version).

                1. I'd blacken poblanos (to get the skin off), split, get rid of seeds and stuff with goat and jack cheese, sauted shallots and diced portebellos and roast. top with a roated pepper cream sauce. Sliced avacado as a garnish...that is really low carb. add a side of black beans if you want to add "good" carbs. Although black soy beans are low carb/high fiber.

                  1. Pizzas made in portobello mushrooms-- clean and salt, top with sauce, cheese and a couple of toppings.

                    Chick peas-- google, there are lots of stews and soups.

                    Eggs-- frittatas, omelettes, stratas (thought they have bread)

                    1. i like making a veggie filled frittata and serving with a lemony, lightly dressed salad. that's a lot like a quiche with side salad.

                      i also recommend the shirataki noodles and dreamfield pasta for the low carb noodle thing. dreamfield tastes almost exactly like pasta and shirataki would be good for any asian inspired dish. it's fairly easy to make an entire asian, low carb and veggie meal actually.

                      cold cucumber salad with sesame dressing
                      silken tofu topped with scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil (sounds simple, but it's delicious)
                      shirataki noodle stirfry or noodle soup

                      1. Make lasagna using zucchini and/or eggplant instead of noodles, and use low-fat or fat-free ricotta, along w/ tons of other veggies.

                        I make miso broth w/ chopped garlic, wild mushrooms (shiitakes, portabellos, oysters, creminis), greens (collards, kale, mustard), asparagus; then, once the veggies are soft, I stir in chopped tofu or egg whites mixed with garlic seasoning (like egg drop soup), and then add in a little Bragg's Amino Acids and lemon juice to adjust the acidity.

                        You could do a crustless quiche w/ whatever veggies you like, and serve a side salad.

                        As a salad, I love the simplicity of red onion and tomatoes chopped and tossed with TJ's fat free Balsamic Vinegarette.

                        Quesadillas made with La Tortilla Factory low carb tortillas

                        Lentil Soup

                        Tofu Parmigiana w/ either Shiratakis or preferably spaghetti squash

                        Eggplant Rollatini

                        Egg Salad made w/ white only (if you're trying to lower fat) and low fat mayo

                        Made this for my ex using tempeh instead of those strips http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Mediterr...

                        Stuffed pepper using tempeh or TVP or Cabbage Rolls

                        Mediterranean night... babaghanous, hummus (a little), marinated olives, falafel, etc. (this night might be a higher carb more indulgent evening


                        Egg white omelettes filled with ratatouille

                        Chili light on the beans, heavy on TVP and/or crumbled tempeh or seitan

                        Tofu stuffed Delicata or Butternut Squash

                        Non-fried spring rolls wrapped in rice paper w/ whatever fillings you'd like (shiratakis are good for this)

                        Make ravioli using won ton wrappers yourself (they have fewer carbs than traditional ravioli wrappers/ pasta dough)

                        Steamed artichoke with a bowl of navy bean soup

                        TVP is also a good thickener or additive to soups or stews

                        Just a few ideas to get ya going!

                        1. My hubby turned vegetarian two years ago and I constantly struggle with lowering the carbs.

                          When I make a pasta based dish I use 100% whole wheat pasta and load up on veggies in the sauce such as squash, mushrooms, onion, pepper, cauliflower, broccoli etc. Focus is on the veggies and sauce with just a touch of pasta.

                          A few evenings a week I will roast an assortment of vegetables and serve with a roasted stuffed tomato and side salad. I use EVOO and garlic or a low fat salad dressing to lightly coat the vegetables.

                          Another standard in our house is stir fried vegetables served over a small amount of brown rice. Again, the focus is on the vegetables and not the whole grain starch.

                          Curried eggs make a nice main course for dinner. There are also a number of Indian curry vegetable dishes to try.

                          I always have homemade vegetable soup or chili on hand to serve with a salad for lunch or a light dinner.

                          Lightly saute a whole wheat tortilla in olive oil and make a tostada with fat free refried black beans, seasoned veggie burger crumbles and loaded up with lettuce, tomato, onion, black olive slices, fat free sour cream, shredded cheese and a good salsa.

                          I am not a huge fan of the soy based meat substitutes. Our local Publix carries a brand in the produce section Veggie Patch-Meatless Gourmet Sausage that is actually pretty good. I will serve it with scrambled eggs for a Sunday breakfast or with veggies for dinner.

                          Saute portabella mushrooms with garlic and onions...sort of takes the place of steak in our house.

                          Bean Cuisine makes some decent soup mixes that call for 1lb. of chicken. I substitute loads of chopped veggies for the chicken.

                          Try making your own falafal using just a touch of olive oil instead of deep frying and serve in whole wheat pita bread with hummus, tabbouli, chopped onion, lettuce, cucumber and a low fat yogurt.

                          I hope this thread keeps going, I am always up for new ideas!

                          1. ricotta pie or baked ricotta- I enjoy it with spinach & roasted red peppers, have also done asparagus.

                            1. To all you recommending low-carb pasta: I don't get the impression the poster is trying to ride the Atkins wave or anything; just trying to do something other than pasta or analogs. We have a veggie kitchen and the lack-of-imagination pasta fallback can be a problem, especially on weeknights. It hasn't been an "empty carb" issue for us, we just want to have variety and decent nutritional value. Besides, pasta without reasonable compliments won't make you feel full for very long. We like a whole head of cauliflower broken into florets, fresh sage, garlic, bread crumbs, and a few crumbled veggie sausage patties in with a half-pound of cooked pasta for the three of us, or a bunch of broccoli rabe, garlic, red pepper, some raisins and pine nuts. Good olive oil is key here.

                              We are also fond of Morningstar hot dogs, which make a pretty nifty addition to veggie toad-in-the-hole (think Yorkshire pudding with embellishment), or even beans-and-franks (to which we usually add corn, zucchini and peppers).

                              Roasted veggies are a great idea -- our favorites are cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and parsnips. If we're feeling lazy, we'll also put a pan in the oven with marinated tempeh or tofu slices, and we've got a whole meal. I like to use a glaze of soy, apricot jam, and mustard on that.

                              Bean and green combos are awesome. We make a spinach-tomato-chickpea stew with garlic & paprika that goes great over the rice or grain of your choice with a sprinkling of nice feta. Also do a combo of shelled edamame and choy sum or pea shoots, garlic, brown sugar, and soy (very fast and nice with rice!) , or collards and white beans with olive oil, and garlic. Broccoli rabe with garlic usually goes on pizza or pasta, though, bean free, though some people like that with white beans as well.

                              Just want to say this: This should be obvious in this forum, but please cook food because it's good, not because it has some nutritional profile that's trendy. Food that's crappy makes you feel crappy; good food makes you feel good too.

                              1. soups (cold and hot), stews, salads, egg dishes (quiche, souffles, frittatas, casseroles, etc) are all my stand-by low-carb dishes.

                                But I don't worry too much about "carbs" per se because anything in our house is whole grain. All of the pastas, grains, rices, everything I purchase are whole grain. And potatoes? Those are a once in a while food. For the three of us I might use one big potato chopped small, or two small potatoes. Beans play a major role too, but they aren't a daily food, and they're balanced with lots of vegetables.

                                1. I have similar dietary restrictions, though I eat fish. Some of my totally vegetarian standbys are:

                                  Frittatas filled with vegetables and cheese
                                  Turnips, mashed, roasted or boiled
                                  Escarole sauteed with garlic and anchovies or olives
                                  Cream of vegetable soups (substituting half and half for cream)
                                  Cauliflower cheese (basically mac-n-cheese made with cauliflower instead of macaroni)
                                  Vegetable wraps (lettuce filled with spring roll vegetables and seasoned with hoisin)
                                  Malai kofta (vegetarian dumplings in an almond curry)
                                  Spicy tofu salad (mayo, turmeric, mustard, herbs, celery, jalapenos, cheddar and chipotle powder)

                                  I have to admit that frittatas and turnips really help me get through it. Both are satisfying and filling with minimal carbs. And both are versatile enough that you can prepare them a myriad ways to keep the tastebuds from getting bored. Vegetarian curries are good, too, but you have to watch your usage of butter and cream to make sure you're not overdoing it on the carbs.

                                  1. i just thought of another really delicious low carb veggie dish- vegetarian soon dubu (korean tofu soup) filled with mushrooms and other veggies. it's utterly delicious. i've never tried to make it, but i order it a lot at restaurants. a complete meal in itself- you can stir in an egg for extra protein, but i've never found the side rice to be necessary.