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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 101cookbooks.com 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.

    foodblogsearch.com 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: http://foodblogsearch.com/food-blog-s...

    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. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5148... 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 spinach...it'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.

              1. I became a vegetarian at 11 and my father followed suit shortly after, leaving my midwestern mother in a tailspin. but we all survived and she developed some great meals that met everybody's requirements.
                Ar first it was a world of side dishes but she developed a few good standbys.

                veggie crumbles can be substituted for any recipe that uses ground beef. One of my favorites is meatloaf made with crumbles- use any recipe and adjust for the salt in the crumbles but it is a good hearty dish.

                We ate alot of loaded baked potatoes- the potato as vechicle for all sorts of veggie/cheese combinations

                and she would make a lagsagne dish with thinly sliced eggplant as the "noodles" Russ parsons has a recipe in "how to pick a peach" that is a better variation of my Mom's dish.

                also she would make the meat seperatly from dishes and add in after she had our portions set aside.

                Risotto or couscous with all sorts of veggies

                and she did great things with spagehetti squash

                1. Marcella Hazan has some excellent soups that would fit the bill if you change the stock to vegetable stock. One is a chick pea and tomato soup with garlic and rosemary- very simple, and extremely tasty; my two young daughters love it. Also pasta e fagioli... excellent. As a rule, we have vegetarian days every other day, and these two recipes are often a part of our meatless days. There are also some great Indian lentil dishes- lentils with ginger and garlic, or simple lentil soups that are very satisfying

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gromada

                    Do you have a recipe for the lentils with ginger and garlic?

                  2. Pick up a copy of Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone." Great book.


                    1. I had another thought -- Better Than Bouillon makes a no-chicken stock base that's certified vegan and tastes super chickeny. Great for soup or risotto or whatever when you want a meaty, rich flavor.

                      1. Something else to remember, when you are buying foods look at the kosher foods. The ones with a "p" or parve mean that they have no dairy or meat in them and are vegetarian. Look at some of the websites for jewish dairy or parve, there are a lot. Also, let her help and learn to cook.

                        1. People around my house (me included) have been vegetarian off and on over the years. Currently my 17yo daughter is vegetarian and has been for the last four years.

                          Polenta (or grits) topped with roasted veggies is a delicious main course. You can serve the polenta soft or chill it overnight and cut in slices and grill. Louisiana Red Beans and Rice (made without meat) is very tasty and another fave around here. Lots of Mexican, southwestern and Italian dishes are or can be meatless. Try pasta with grilled or roasted summer squash and eggplant and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan. You don't have to have a tomato based sauce with this. Eggplant Parm and Eggplant Rollatini are good meatless main dishes. We are lovers of salad, so often times in the warmer months we have a meal comprised of several salads. We are also quite fond of vegetable soup served with cornbread.

                          Lakewinds Deli Pasta Salad is great.

                          Ina Garten's Pasta, Pesto, and Peas is another one we like a lot.
                          You can use her pesto recipe or your own favourite. I always make a lot of my own pesto every year and freeze it, so that is always on hand at our house. If you have Costco, their pesto works well in this dish, too.

                          Crunchy Pea Salad (sans the bacon) also fits in the vegetarian salad theme.

                          Panzanella is a hearty main dish salad that my DH and I both love.

                          Poached Eggs with Corn Polenta & Roasted Pepper Relish makes a wonderful supper.

                          Another non-tomato sauce pasta dish you might try is Giada's Butternut Squash Lasagna

                          The other day I was watching Julia Child on an old French Chef and she made a corn timbale. Then she served it surrounded by steamed (or boiled) buttered Brussels sprouts. I was thinking I might do something similar, but would roast the Brussels sprouts instead. I plan to serve it with Julia's Provencal Tomatoes and this will be our meal. Might add a green salad for my DH, but these veggies will be plenty for DD and me.

                          Here's a vegetarian pasta recipe I make occasionally that is not tomato sauce based:

                          Mezzi Rigatoni with Roasted Grape Tomatoes

                          2 pints grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
                          olive oil
                          kosher salt
                          freshly ground black pepper
                          1 lb mezzi rigatoni (or whatever pasta you prefer
                          )1 lb ricotta cheese (I use part skim)
                          8 oz mascarpone cheese
                          1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
                          1/2-2/3 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs - I like a combo of basil, flat-leaf parsley and chives
                          3 cloves garlic, finely minced
                          1 tsp red pepper flakes, or equivalent minced fresh hot pepper of choice

                          Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix tomatoes with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread on baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes.

                          Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta well. Put pasta in large bowl.

                          While pasta is cooking, mix the ricotta, mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses with chopped herbs, garlic and red pepper flakes. After the pasta has drained, fold in the cheese mixture, along with the roasted tomatoes. Stir in the reserved pasta water. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

                          Place pasta in a greased 3 qt casserole dish and bake 25-30 minutes.

                          Serve with a nice romaine salad.

                          Really, cooking vegetarian is not as daunting as it may seem. It just takes thinking a little outside the typical American diet box at first. Good luck! I know you will find a lot of tasty vegetarian foods for your meals.

                          1. vegan junk food: Tofu tots! cube extra firm tofu, pat dry, roll in cornstarch and fry in peanut oil until crunchy on the outside and creamy inside.

                            Bittman's Everything Vegetarian is a pretty good resource as well

                            1. Roasted vegetables are a new (last five years) favorite for me. I like most of the ideas people have already presented, but I draw the line at calling tofu some fake, "meat-y" name. If you like tofu, call it what it is. Own your vegetarianism.

                              "Cream" of _________ (vegetable) soup is one of the easiest things in the world to make. Cook onion and your vegetable of choice until it's all cooked. I just use water. When it's done, either immersion-blend it or use your regular blender or Cuisinart to puree the solids, adding back as much of the cooking liquid, cream, or yogurt you want.

                              I like pasta a whole lot, cheese and bread, crudites and dip. Almost anything tastes better with parmigiano-reggiano grated over it.

                              I've been eating beans a lot lately. So many things to make with white beans (cannellini, Navy, Great Northern). You don't need meat for any of them.

                              Will your daughter eat fish?

                              1. i'm going to try to avoid redundancy but forgive me if i repeat...

                                i heartily echo the sentiment of finding meals that can be "flexed" with meat or tofu or veggies.

                                frittatas and quiches will work well. either make one mini version or two versions one meat and one non for everyone to enjoy.

                                lentil, bean and rice salads are good protein and fiber rich side dishes (or mains for your daughter).

                                stuffed sweet and sour cabbage - use veggie crumbles for veggie meatballs

                                breakfast for dinner - eggs, bacon (veggie), pancakes, waffles, biscuits, etc.

                                quinoa salads or warm preparation for protein

                                ratatouille - hearty and protein if you add some feta or ricotta or garbanzo beans

                                TVP (textured vegetable protein) comes in crumbles and is good for sloppy joes, TVP burger patties, chili, stuffing veggies, etc. i even coat my eggplant parm using a mixture of TVP and cornmeal.

                                veggie sushi

                                vegetable spring rolls or summer rolls, teriyaki, tempura



                                1. Try one of the Moosewood cookbooks. Their recipes tend to be easy, hearty, accessible to non-vegetarians and made from mostly familiar ingredients that you'll be able to find at Ye Olde Grocery Store. Also, the books are available in softcover and so it won't feel like quite as much of an investment as Deborah Madison or Mark Bittman. A tasty noodle casserole won't disappoint next to a chicken breast, a soup made with veggie broth can quite happily share a plate with sandwiches of both the grilled cheese and grilled ham-and-cheese variety . . . well, the soup will have to be in a bowl, technically, but you get the idea.

                                  I love Heidi Swanson's 101cookbooks, too, but you're less likely to find familiar ingredients there.

                                  1. I see a lot of cookbooks being recommended (including by me) in this thread. Don't forget your local library as a resource. Not every cookbook is for everyone (not even Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone!, which I find to be unreliable and somewhat bland--it was also a Cookbook of the Month here on Chowhound http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5343...) so take them for a test drive before buying. Also, you can just flip through them for inspiration.

                                    Yotam Ottolenghi, whose "Ottolenghi" cookbook has generated a lot of excitement here on Home Cooking, writes a weekly column for the Guardian called "The New Vegetarian"--http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl... The challenge is converting from British measures and nomenclature to Standard American, but once you get beyond that, the recipes are appealing and delicious, even for avowed meat lovers. Even the photos are fun to look at. There are a lot of people here on Home Cooking who are familiar with the terminology etc. if you find you need input on that.

                                    I liked this special in the Guardian, too. There's another link I'll try to find later. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...

                                    Heidi Swanson's 101cookbooks.com as previously recommended is pretty great, too.


                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      thanks for all your advice and ideas! I'll definitely check out some of the recipes above, and visit my local library to check out the recommended cookbooks. I had recently purchased Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home and was disappointed in the recipes.

                                      1. re: rocknroll52

                                        you've gotten great advice and i love my deborah madison books. paula wolfert is another favorite, and she has many many recipes for vegetarian (read: peasant food) from all around the mediterranean.

                                        upthread was a recommendation that your daughter do some research. i can't agree more wholeheartedly with this. what does she find appealing? she needs to become involved fully in her health and should be helping you with new meals and special planning. relying on carbs for most of her calories, especially so-called "healthy carbs" like grains and legumes, is not a healthy long-term strategy. will she eat eggs? tofu? dairy? tempeh? or will she be living on pasta? in my early 20s, i wound up anemic that way. she needs to work with you on this way and make sure she's making smart choices.

                                      2. I did this to my mum aged 17 and she started out making food for me and trying to tweak the family roasts and other meals but then she said enough, I was old enough to cook for myself and that was probably the best thing she did. Get her in the kitchen and get her to tweak what you are making for the family or to make veggie meals for everyone. Did the same thing to my 20 year old and she is learning to cook.