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Sep 25, 2010 07:27 AM

Mom Needs Help Cooking for Vegetarian Teen!

One of my daughters has decided to be vegetarian and its making meal planning for the family a real challenge for me! I've come up with a few meatless meals that please the whole family but I need more ideas besides spinach lasagne, meatless chili, and pasta with tomato sauce. Could use some more ideas for vegetarian meals or hearty vegetarian side dishes I can serve along with a meat, fish or chicken. Thanks for any help and ideas!

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  1. Check out right away -- beautiful, creative, tasty veg dishes. The site is easily searchable too, so you can check for recipes for stuff you already have on hand.

    Also, just as a general principle, why not have your daughter research some vegetarian meals she'd like to eat, and then learn together how to cook them? If she's teen-aged she can work up to cooking on her own once a week and that can be the whole family's meatless night. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that she would contribute to the meal-making, especially if you're being so kind as to work around her new convictions. is another good source -- you can refine your search to include only vegetarian blogs or recipes. I searched for the word "hearty" and here's what came up:

    Hope you find some inspiration! Good luck! :)

    1. As far as specific recipes...

      Stuffed acorn squash (serves 4). Halve and seed two acorn squash and place them cut side down in a microwave-safe dish with about 1" of water in it. Cook on high for ten minutes. Meanwhile, chop and saute some onions and garlic in olive oil, add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cumin seed. Drain and rinse two cans of black beans and add those. Drain a can of diced tomatoes (or use halved cherry tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes) and add those. Toss in several handfuls of fresh spinach (or thawed frozen spinach, drained) and cook just until wilted. Add a cup or two of cubed bread OR a couple handfuls of bread crumbs OR some leftover rice. Put the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet and fill with the stuffing, packing it in very firmly and piling it up. Top with grated parmigiano or another dry cheese, and broil until brown and bubbly.

      Meat eaters can have grilled or roast chicken, kielbasa, or just about anything alongside. Non-meat-eaters can just chow down! Very hearty and filling.

      1. Not exactly responsive to your question, but there is a book by Peter Berley called the Flexitarian Table that was a Cookbook of the Month awhile back. The premise of the book is that it's organized by menu. Each menu offers a "meat" option and a meatless option. So a menu might be: Asian Noodles in Broth with Vegetables and Steak (or Tofu) OR Smoked Salmon/Sun-Dried-Tomato Croque Monsieur Or Gratin of Cherry Tomatoes and White Beans/Sardines or Crispy pressed chicken/tofu.

        Berley assumes you're making both veg and meat meals side by side, so, he incorporates that into the steps.


        1. Assuming that she isn't going vegan, roasted vegetable terrine. Layer in roasted in-season vegetables with some goat cheese and some tomato sauce. I love to add some thyme plus chives if I haven't grilled onions for the dish.

          Greek Meze plates are wonderful. Hummus, tabouli or rice, a yogurt/cucumber sauce, some kind of salad with lemon and oil and stuffed grape leaves. Serve with some grilled meat chunks for the meat eaters in the family. Great for leftovers as well.

          Mexican food is actually very vegetarian friendly. For an easy meal, enchiladas, cheese for her, chicken for everyone else with a salsa verde.

          And the motherload of vegetarian food: Indian! Full of flavor, the correct balance of amino acids so she gets her proteins. Take a look at Indian month on the COTM threads.

          As a reformed vegetarian, the issues really are that you can't serve the traditional American three piles of food on a plate: meat, starch, veg. It simply is too limiting. The spice drawer is your friend. And if she is a vegetarian who will actually eat vegetables, it isn't so hard, especially during the local growing season.

          3 Replies
          1. re: smtucker

            "the issues really are that you can't serve the traditional American three piles of food on a plate: meat, start, veg."

            Agreed. It's such a bummer to be faced with a table full of food from which you have to select the stuff that had the least thought put into it. I recently went to an event where there was a burrito bar, and despite the fact that nothing's more natural than a meatless burrito, there was nary a roasted veggie, not so much as beans, for heaven's sake!

            1. re: smtucker

              I agree with Mexican and Indian food. We have a four sons - a 14 year old vegetarian (for 2 years), a 6 year old who only eats bacon, a 4 year old with a great appetite and my husband and I. The easiest trick I've found is to label each night - Monday's Mexican, Tuesday is Indian/Asian, Wednesday's Italian, etc.
              We eat a lot of homemade pizza, soups w/good bread, fajitas and taco salad. Breakfast for dinner is also a great option - eggs, quiche, etc. Meat is now our side dish and we serve vegetarian entrees so everyone's nutrition needs are met.
              Some of our favorite recipes are;

              I play with this recipe endlessly - cheaper mushrooms and cheese, veggie broth instead of sherry, added's still delicious.

              I often leave the cashews out - double the sauce and add tofu or mushrooms in place of chicken.


              1. re: sherrycakes

                "...a 6 year old who only eats bacon..."

                Wise kid. ;)

            2. Pizza with lots of vegetables -- mushrooms, red pepper, onions and sausage for the meat eaters.

              Pasta with pesto. Not just regular basil based pesto, but also cilantro-walnut, arugula, or red pepper pesto. Add shredded roasted chicken for the meat eaters, if you like.

              Soft polenta topped with a sauce of slow cooked peppers and onions, tomato sauce. Again, sausage for the meat eaters.

              Curries also spring to mind. Lots of choices.