Vegan for non-Vegans
A good practice, at least in my parts, is to give up meat for a few days to a few weeks before Easter. (We go whole-hog, so to speak, and cut out any and all animal products at this time; i.e. true vegan.) Although I'm not religious, I find this is a good detox regime; something all of us should try from time to time in this age of excess.
We have a good repertoire of dishes we bring to bear at this time of year -- no starving here, that's for sure! (If anything, I sometimes gain weight because of all the extra bread consumed.) I will even post a few recipes for you folks when I get some time.
But, of course, favorites can quickly turn into the same-ol' same-ol' before long.
I was wondering if all good CHers out there can suggest what recipes they turn to when they wish to forgo meat. Actual recipes, or even links to recipes, are fine.
A quick search on the Web yields a dizzying array of choices -- I'd rather rely on CHers first-hand experiences. Thanks in advance.
I heartily recommend the cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I've tried recipes from many vegan cookbooks, but never has the ratio of hits to misses been so high. She really pays attention to flavor. You can probably find the book at your local library to try before you buy.
For free online content, try veganyumyum.com, even if it's just to look at the beautiful photographs. Some recipes of hers that I've tried and loved are:
In general, we tend to eat a lot of stir fry, rice & beans, and pasta dishes. Become friends with nutritional yeast - it adds a lot of flavor and, hence the name, nutrients to whatever you're eating.
We do the same during Lent. Stir frying, and steaming are usual techniques. I like to cook in parchment envelopes with herbs and wine. We make veggies and also fish dishes this way. Risotto is a favorite and the kids swear by Dad's veggie chili. Mom makes a hell of a black bean soup. So essentially anything is possible. As far as vegetarian cookbooks go, I like the Moosewood series and Horn of the Moon is good as well. A lot of Indian and Asian themed cookbooks are heavily laden with vegetarian fare as well.
Here's my foolproof vegan stew, kinda boring, but I like it-esp. the next day. Coursly chop an onion and some garlic, saute in your biggest pan with a little olive oil. Add coursly chopped (skins on) carrots, potatoes (I like yukon gold), zucchini, and tomatoes (the riper the better). Throw a bit of olive oil on top, salt, and let cook at a low-med heat for 45 minutes to an hour. At the same time, make some rice. When all is done, ladle stew over rice. You might need to put a LOT of salt on it though--the potatoes just suck it right up.
I'm unsure what's in your regime of if these suggestions will be redundant. I've eaten meat in awhile and haven't really missed it (although still cook it for SO and family and friends).
Risotto (with oh so many different vegetables and cheese and sometimes other grains), Mac and cheese (ditto), pasta and rice dishes, mushroom ragout. Beans as salads, stew, chilis, mashed/smashed, turned into hummus. Lentils in soups, stew, and mashed. Frittatas, stratas and quiches. Mushrooms by the boatload as accents or as a main (ragout).
Use high umami foods like mushrooms, tomatoes and kombu. Make 2-3 dishes so that plate doesn't look like it's missing the meat - one more complex and the others with simple, natural falvors. Balance texture and color. You can have great food without meat.
I also rely on a mock meat made weekly of tofu and vital wheat gluten. This gets used in more mainline dishes for protein and texture.
Cookbooks - those mentioned plus anything by Debbie Madison. Bittman's is also a good standard reference.
If you provide more structure to the question (eg flavors, what you're tired of, etc), I can provide more specific dishes.
What's the weather like where you are? Is it time for spring foods yet, or are you still in stew-and-soup season?
Either way, lentils are your friend: you can make them super hearty with winter greens and root veggies, or light in a lemony salad or a brothy soup.
I love meal-size salads with roasted veggies, grilled tofu, toasted nuts, etc. Recently discovered Jerusalem artichokes -- they're great roasted or even raw (thinly sliced),
If it's spring already, get some fresh peas. Sauté them and toss with pasta and cheeseless pesto. Or turn them into a dairy-free puréed soup.
Veganomicon, also by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is also a great cookbook. I eat vegan two days a week and use recipes mostly from this cookbook. Everything I've tried has been wonderful. The flavor combination are outstanding and she uses real and mostly easy to find ingredients. I also like the magazine Vegetarian Times, lots of vegan recipes or vegetarian ones that can easily be made vegan.