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FORAY INTO VEGETARIANISM

After close to 50 years, my DH has decided that perhaps, just perhaps, that going veggie might not be a bad idea, following the warning here in CA about recalled pork products, e coli and spinach and lettuce, beef in general, a bad grilled chicken last summer at a friend's BBQ, etc., etc. I've been a semi veg (ovo lacto) for about 15 years now, but he's from Chicago (!). Any suggestions for leading a devout carnivore down the green path, slowly and gently, maybe starting with a veg meal one or twice a week? Any suggestions appreciated!

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  1. I have made my hubby a casserole with premade polenta, sauteed veggies, some cheese, spices, etc, baked. With a salad and maybe a slice of bread, it's a very filling and enjoyable meal.
    You could also try Mexican - tacos, etc - that have lots of veggies and beans but no meat.
    Or use soy sausage or soy crumbles in place of meat for sloppy joes or something.
    Stuffed pasta
    Veggie lasagna

    Hope that helps you with some ideas!

    1. I think Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a great intro to vegetarianism cookbook. Lot's of easy recipes that can be made as main dishes or as side dishes. Also, if you are interested in exploring tofu, Deborah Madison has another book called This Can't Be Tofu that's terrific for tofu-phobes and tofu-philes alike. The cookbook that Andrew Weil put out a few years ago (The Healthy Kitchen, or something like that) is something like 80% vegetarian recipes with a few chicken and fish dishes thrown in.

      I also thought I'd mention that if your main concern is food safety, there are other options besides going veg. I don't know where in CA you are, but in the Bay Area there are plenty of small meat producers who treat their animals and their meat right, thus greatly reducing the chances of getting contaminated meat. As you noted, vegetables produced in an industrial environment are hardly immune from contamination, so it isn't necessarily eliminating meat but choosing your sources that does a better job of managing risk of illness.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Pistou

        I have one Deborah Madison book, the one on farmers markets, but I'll have to look into the others you mentioned. His concern is food safety, mine, I'm still eating spinach. We live in Fremont, and not a lot of options there for small meat producers, but I work in downtown San Jose, so that's a good option for a lunch time run to somewhere in the area. Any suggestions? I like the idea of the polenta with grilled veggies and cheese though, with one of his favorites, a caprese salad.

        1. re: Pistou

          i second the rec for all of d. madison's books, especially vegetarian cooking for everyone. it is a great book and should be in every cook's library right between julia child and joy of cooking. i also really like crescent dragonwagon's "passionate vegetarian" or whatever the name of her big book is called. don't be afraid to try the book because of the pic on the cover or her goofy name, it's a very solid cookbook with practical recipes, a good value for the $$. remember when trying a veg diet that you should concentrate on eating MORE veggies, lentils, nuts & seeds, whole grains, etc rather than just substituting with meat substitutes-- whatever you do don't use cheese all the time as a protein source/substitution for meat (a common nubie-veg mistake, & one that isn't healthy).

          1. re: Pistou

            I'd third the recommendation -- we're absolutely not vegetarian, but I love cooking out of Cooking for Everyone and my guy has adapted to the occasional vegetarian meal readily. Still no chance he'll try tofu, but I'm working on it...

            1. re: dietfoodie

              I've been slipping tofu into my pasta sauces and stir fries TOGETHER with meat. It's been working quite nicely, actually. As long as there's meat in there, the tofu doesn't seem to be that objectionable. You can easily cut the meat by half this way.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: dietfoodie

                I crumble firm tofu into my spaghetti sauce. My hubby loves it. It seems like ricotta.

            2. We are not vegetarian in our household, but I (the cook) lean toward veggies as the bulk of the meal. The Hub is a long-term member of the devotees-of-meat (disclosure - I do eat meat and love it) and I have had to resort to tricks to get him on the veg. bandwagon.

              One of the best "tricks" is the roasted vegetable platter. No - not served as such, but left on the counter to cool as if it's going into some other dish. Snacky-Hub comes along and starts tasting: roasted carrots, parsnips, zucchini, peppers, etc. After a mumbled "sorry if I've eaten your ingredients, but can I have more?" I send him off with his plate of veggies. Confession of having an evil plan: I almost never have these things saved for anything else (even though they can be useful for many applications). The fact that they seem a) like a snack and b) forbidden (i.e. poached from another purpose) seemed to make roasted veg. seem attractive. He's eased into actually asking for more vegetarian meals. And liking them.

              I'm no psychologist, but I have been a mom for a long time. This works for kids too. I often think that the whole "if you build it, they will come" thinking works well in this case. If you make a lot of vegetable dishes for your husband (without pushing), he may start to gravitate toward them. As soupkitten noted, don't take the step of smothering every veggie dish in cheese - vegetables, as you know, are taste-worthy in their own right. Maybe if you try intro-ing them as snacks or treats, it will become a habit...and then you go from there to deepen the veg. habit. Pasta dishes are great for this - saute this-and-that, toss with your what-have-ya, and you have a satisfying meal sans meat.

              After years of the "I-must-have-beef" refrain, my Hub eats at least three veg. dinners per week. And likes it, to hear his report. Hang in there.

              3 Replies
              1. re: cayjohan

                Thanks for the encouragement. The good thing is that he's not a big cheese fan, so there's no problem there. However, he does love his pasta, so I'm trying to cut that down a bit. He's just now figuring out what a carb is, and is frankly shocked! I told him that basically, if its white in coloration, it's a carb.

                1. re: lrostron

                  Yep, I dealt with the "white" issue a lot. It takes a while to sink in. So....I used a lot of white-ish veggies in my meals. A LOT of grated parsnips in the hashed-browns, a LOT of slivered bok choy in a noodle dish, a LOT of sauteed veg.(like mushrooms) in the pasta, a LOT of cauliflower mashed into the the mashed potatoes. Slowly, this has caught on...flavorwise...and than I have moved on to *gasp* green things! :) It eventually works, at least in my case. Your DH sounds motivated, so you might not have a long leap to make.

                  1. re: lrostron

                    One thing you can do is at least switch to whole wheat pastas. We really like soba noodles at our house, too. We're also quietly switching from potatoes to sweet potatoes. White rice to wild or brown rice. Not dramatically for every single meal, of course, but again, if you can do half and half or just gently go down that path by serving it once or twice a week....

                    We haven't gone crazy with other kinds of grains, amaranth and quinoa and such, but we do those for breakfast occasionally in winter, and we're occasionally doing polenta these days. Every little step of introducing these healthier grains into your diet helps, particularly in helping you feel and stay fuller longer. That's often one of the complaints I hear about meals that rely less on meat, is that they aren't filling. But, if you're amping up the fiber and whole grains, and of course, vegetables, it will help you feel more full, even with less meat.

                    ~TDQ

                2. Make a great tomato sauce for pasta, no meat needed (but Muir Glen tomatoes necessary if fresh is out of season).
                  Grilled vegetable sandwiches (red peppers, onions, zucchini) with a drizzle of balsamic and maybe some fresh mozz.
                  You can use TVP as a sub for ground meat in many recipes that are "saucy"...macaroni and beef, nachos, tacos, etc.
                  Beans are great for veggie tacos too, or as a spread or a dip

                  1. There are so many ethnic vegetarian recipes out there that you could eat vegetarian every night of the week without really knowing it. My husband and I do, about 2-3 times a week, cooking Mediterranean and Asian, mostly. I will NOT, however, touch any yucky meat analogs.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: pikawicca

                      Before you or anyone else comments on "yucky meat analogs" note that TVP is very low in calories, high in protein and fiber and has no cholesterol. I would argue it is much less "processed" or "yucky" than a hunk o' steer or tenderloin of an intelligent pig and probably takes less fertilizer and water than those food choices to boot.

                      1. re: gourmanda

                        Meat analogs may be politically correct, but they're still yucky in my book. As for being low in calories, there are a lot of things that are extremely low in calories that I would never consider putting in my mouth. If something isn't delicious, why eat it?

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Oh, but it is delicious. At least the way that I cook it is....

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            There are so many bad ones out there. I have tried many that taste something like play-doh (hey, I was a kid once). None of them, as far as I am concerned, taste like meat, though that doesn't concern me so much. I just wished they tasted GOOD.

                            1. re: Snackish

                              i must confess a certain bizarre fondness for the Quorn products (mmm, mycoprotein. . .). and i like using bulk TVP in my own recipes-- it's retro!

                              a lot of veggie fake-meat cooking technique takes some practice-- homemade seitan; mastering the art of cooking tofu well (the upcoming bestseller by soupkitten). . . making your own "veggie burger" mix can be fun and lots of people seem to have an at-home fave.

                              if the op is so inclined faux meats can be fun-- i like "vegan with a vengeance" by isa moskowitz for this. the fake meat stuff in the store however is NOT economical, or even in most cases very healthy. they're a turn-off for many people. it's also not necessary to eat these products to eat a plant-based diet-- the veggies, grains, beans etc. will give you all you need for a healthy balanced eating plan. most people who have been veg for a number of years rarely have meals designed around a "main" dish like a veggie burger that is a meat sub. they tend to have big one-dish meals, main dish stews, or many component veg items on their plate with no one item dominating. i'd rec starting with veggie chilis and curries, soups, pizzas that are very satisfying for all eaters. the family members can decide whether they really miss the meat-- in many cases it will be no-- if they want meat they can add a small amt to their own portion & it's still healthier than eating a prok chop or burger.

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                It may or may not be a way to change a meat eater more easily. For us it's just nice once in a while to have a "ground meat" dish because they taste good and/or are just plain easy. We eat a great variety of plant-based meals w/o the use of TVP-type products. Also, we do include fish once or twice a week. Sometimes you just need an easy yet delicious dinner and I think it's much easier to do that with protein...while I love vegetarian fare, it often takes a bit more planning and preparation. I love to cook and plan but you know those nights when easy, healthful and delicious wins over time-consuming, healthful and delicious.