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Hit me with your best (not too complicated) vegetarian recipes (that can be made in bulk)

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Our new sitter is a vegetarian. She often sweetly texts me asking if the food I have made our kids is vegatarian so she can eat it as well. Being as we probably eat way more meat than we should (I fall back on the great cooking maxim: when all else fails, add bacon) more often than not I have sheepishly texted back that it is not. I now buy her tofu and rice and beans, but being Italian means I feel a certain amount of shame if I haven't actively fed a guest in my house. So I've been trying to make a vegetarian dish every weekend so she has something to eat.

My problem with vegetarian cooking is that I find it's a lot of work if you want to get a decent taste out of the dish. I subscribed to Vegetarian Times a year or so ago and found the recipes to be so multi-layered and complicated and at the end the results were generally not worth the amount of effort I put into it. I've had better results with Moosewood recipes, but again the pain in the ass factor is pretty high on those as well.

So if you have any great vegetarian recipes that don't require a ridiculous amount of time or super wonky components, I'd love to hear about it. I am thinking something that one can make in a vat so she can eat it throughout the week. I looked up a lot of vegetarian chili recipes but felt uninspired. Just wondering what people have done with proven results to yummy.

I made this one this week and it was really tasty, but the PITA factor was on the high side (I'd never peeled and chopped a butternut squash before. I was exhausted.) and the volume was enough for maybe two meals. I share it here because it's worth trying and I'm hoping you will return the favor!

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  1. You could try stocking your freezer with Amy's frozen vegetarian meals. I buy them all of the time. They can be a bit pricey, but if you get them on sale or at a place like Target they will be considerably less expensive. Another thing I love to make is Quinoa salads. You prepare the Quinoa the same way as rice (follow the directions). You can also substitute vegetable broth for the water. When completely cool, add some olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to taste, chopped tomatoes, green onions, feta cheese, cucumber, kalamata olives, eggs (assuming she is not vegan) and salt and pepper. You can really get creative with something like this and you might enjoy it yourself. Another thing you can do is make veggie sandwiches. Whole wheat bread, avocado, lettuce, onion, tomato, cucumber, pickles, sliced cheese, mustard and some smoked tofu. If you have access to a good market it will probably have a nice selection of tofu, or you can just omit it. I like to smash up the avocado and use that in place of mayo. I also like to use spicy mustard, pepper jack cheese and pepperoncini for a kick. These are things I make myself and I find them easy and delicious.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Saluti

      I second the quinoa! I frequently have quinoa and beans, with various spices (aleppo pepper, smoked paprika, kosher sat, garlic powder, just tonight actually). Beans were chickpeas, also added tofu and some thawed frozen corn.

    2. You can get some super-simple ideas from Mark Bittman at

      1. Another thing......How old is your sitter? Can she cook for herself. If you buy pasta and some marinara sauce or pesto she can prepare it herself and I'm sure your children would love it as well.

        1. You simply MUST buy a copy of Jack Bishop's "The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook." I've given away many copies of this book over the years, to vegetarians and omnivores alike. Everyone loves it. The recipes are not complicated, and yield deliciious results.

          1. Mujadarra - It's lentils, rice, and caramelized onion with a Middle Eastern spice profile. I make it in the pressure cooker. First I sautee onions, removing some when golden and translucent, and continuing with the rest until caramelized. Remove and reserve the caramelized onions. Return the golden onions to the pot, with a little additional oil, saute the spices, add the lentils and rice, plus water/broth, and pressure-cook. When finished, garnish with the caramelized onion(chopped tomato, chopped cucumber optional). It is great as a main dish or side, good hot, warm, or room temp.

            1. I recently made a riff on a tabouleh, but very different. I used quinoa as the grain, parsley, feta, olives, cucumber, tomatoes, lemon juice, bell pepper etc. I served it with roasted chicken and roasted cauliflower.

              When we had leftovers (it made a ton!) neither of us wanted to eat the chicken, we both ate the cauliflower and the quinoa mixture right up!

              Another thing that I love to make is israeli couscous with a harissa yogurt mixture. You boil up some israeli couscous. While the couscous is cooking, zest and juice 1-2 lemons and mix the zest and juice with some full fat greek yogurt, harissa spice (you can also approximate the flavors using your own spice mixture very effectively), grate a zucchini or 2 and saute them to take the rawness out, then add cooled couscous and zucchini to the yogurt mixture. For leftovers, just add a little water before serving to loosen it up a hair.

              There's always veggie lasagna, you could make some ravioli and freeze them. I also love making stir fries, and cutting up a block of tofu into little bricks and frying them up in a nonstick pan with some oil to crisp up.

              1. FYI, if you're willing to spend a little extra $ per pound, you can buy butternut squash that's already been peeled and cubed.

                eggs are a godsend for situations like yours. you can whip up a frittata or egg muffins in no time, and both freeze really well.

                my absolute favorite starchy base for countless vegetarian meal variations is polenta - you can prepare it soft or firm (or even buy it prepared in tubes or tubs), and top or serve with everything from mushroom ragu to ratatouille to pesto. you can also pan-fry or grill the firm polenta and drizzle with sauce.

                1. These are just ideas off the top of my head, and not full recipes. I saw you had a hard time with the squash, but I was going to suggest enchiladas calabeza. Instead of peeling and chopping squash, you can roast it and scoop the flesh to make the filling. So much easier, and the filling can be made in advance.

                  -roasted veggies and israeli couscous is good.

                  -any sort of pancake/crepe/pannekoken meal (lemon ricotta, etc.) can be easy and fun, and soy sausage can be good if you want to go the brinner route. cheese stratas can be in a brinner theme too.

                  -any sort of north african stew can be great, and you can get a lot of flavor in it with minimal effort.

                  -split pea soup (use good soup base, aromatics and some good olive oil to replace flavors you miss from the absent meat) is a great hearty meal that you can just serve with warm bread or muffins

                  -I like making ratatouille and using it as lasagne filling instead of the usual bolognese

                  -potato croquettes, or any deep fried veggies can be extremely flavorful (yay deep frying)

                  -with your Italian background, what about old favorites like eggplant parmiggiano, hay and straw pasta, aglio e olio, primavera, etc?

                  -Mediterranean/Greek can either be extremely simple to prepare (hummus, tabouli) or a project for the whole family (spanakopita)

                  -Indian takeout if all else fails

                  1. trying not to repeat suggestions...

                    burritos - breakfast with eggs, cheese, onions, salsa, etc. or beans, cheese, (rice), etc.

                    veggie fajitas - cook and freeze the fillings; have toppings and tortillas on hand

                    portabello mushroom steak (burgers) - marinate and broil the mushies; keep the bun and fixings about

                    roasted veggie sandwiches - roast a ton of veggies, make a few different spreads/pestos/tapenades to have on hand

                    lentil soup - i do mine in the crockpot with diced onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, lentils, veggie broth, cumin, coriander, S & P; serve with crusty bread

                    kebabs with seitan or tempeh and veggies

                    stuffed peppers - with TVP (textured vegetable protein) instead of meat

                    1. We aren't vegetarian, but I try to make at least one or two meals per week that are meat-free. One of my favorites was this cauliflower and chickpea stew (http://smithratliff.com/2011/11/17/ca...). You can make a large amount of the actual stew, freeze it, and then just make the couscous fresh whenever you want to eat it—takes 5 minutes. It has a lot of flavor and even some heft and protein thanks to the chickpeas.

                      1. I like this easy chickpea dish:

                        Also an easy chana masala dish (with perhaps frozen naan from trader joe's--I like the garlic kind).

                        I frequently eat burritos thrown together from frozen brown rice (reheated in micro) along with a combo of whatever is around, possibly includign:
                        canned black beans or chickpeas
                        tofu (cubed and baked in oven or lightly sauteed in a lightly oiled saucepan
                        )frozen corn or even peas
                        plain greek yogurt
                        pickled jalapenos
                        onion, garlic
                        tons of hot sauce
                        various spices like cayenne, epazote, smoke paprika, garlic powder, etc

                        .... .and that's more than enough for a totally awesome burrito or two.

                        Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a great resource, as well. I also subscribe to Martha Rose Shulman's NYT column on recipes for health. Lots of good ideas there.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: IndyGirl

                          I would keep lots of salad greens and ingredients on hand including canned chickpeans, black beans, some good cheeses including feta, hummus for sandwiches and probably make some lentils a couple times of weeks (there are different kinds) to be eaten as soup or added into rice and veggie dishes. Lots of eggs which she can prepare herself as additions to salads or make omelette with cheese, mushrooms. Sometimes varied veggie pizzas or meatless chil can be prepared. Noodles can be prepared ahead and lots of veggies incorporated into final dish. Various quiches can be appetizing. Does she eat fish, if so there can be casseroles or curries made with seafood (canned or fresh). I would expect a sitter to bring her own food even more so if on a special intake regimen. Indian food is great option with flavourful spices and does not need to take long to prepare, the rice can be quickly cooked up and diffferent sauces mixed in. The veggies are cut up rather fine so really dont take long to cook-some people even use sometimes diced frozen vegetables to save time. And there are even deli products which resemble coldcuts, hotdogs, hamburgers that can be provided. A crockpot or pressure cooker is useful when cooking lentils.

                        2. Some people aren't fans of Indian food, but there are a large amount of vegetarians in India and they make many of the most flavorful amazing vegetarian dishes ever, from Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower), to plain old veggie curry to various types of dal (lentil stew) they have you covered.

                          If that's not your cup of curry, some of the following might work for yah.

                          - Gaspacho. Especially in the summer with some garlic bread is great.
                          - Hummus with vegetable pickles and pitas is super easy and quick and yummy.
                          - Falafels with pita pockets and tzatiki is a little more finicky, but super tasty.
                          - Various types of stir fry with either a cantonese, Thai, Korean or other slant to it to change it up.
                          - Pad Thai is awesome with smoked tofu instead of prawns or chicken.
                          - Various soups should work too such as minestrone, veggie barley, split pea etc.

                          Cheers and let us know how it all turns out. :)

                          1. In addition to soups, stews, curries, and other easily reheatable things, I would recommend that you keep trying grain, bean, or lentil salads. They aren't all annoying to make. Some from my bookmarks:

                            And I totally know what you mean about butternut squash. Unless it's a recipe where I roast and scoop, not peel, I usually substitute sweet potatoes instead. Which reminds me of another recipe:

                            And, as a vegetarian, thanks for being so kind to your sitter :)

                            1. I wouldn't make something separate for her. Perhaps something both your kids and she can enjoy like macaroni and cheese, faux chicken noodle soup made with vegetable broth, pizza or grilled cheese and tomato soup. If she's as sweet as she seems, she would probably feel uncomfortable if you made something special just for her. I know that I would.

                              1. Easiest I know that fits the remit:
                                Use some high quality oil (ideally Canola and Sesame in a 70/30 ratio)
                                Slice and fry a large onion. Add other vegetables (potatoes, leeks, carrots, cabbage, anything really, but if you can add some burdock root or jerusalem artichokes this will really help with the flavour).
                                Add boiling water to the onions and vegetables and simmer.
                                Add some miso paste (a couple of tablespoons is fine, you can always add more) and stir in to the simmering vegetables. Miso is salty so don't season until it's added, if at all.
                                Turn off the heat and serve.
                                Can be left covered somewhere cool for a few days.
                                Add some brown rice and it becomes a meal, otherwise it's a nice accompaniment to other foods and snacks. You could always drop some cubed tofu in there for more protein.
                                The recipe was given to me by a guy who lived in the Japanese countryside for a few years, it's a big favourite with my omniverous family.

                                There's also a lovely smitten kitchen recipe for carrot soup with miso that was published recently if you need another use for miso. It's a very simple recipe also.
                                Buy in some good wholewheat bread to go with it and hopefully the kids will tuck in too.

                                1. This is my recipe for homemade manicotti di ricotta. I tend to be elaborate when I write everything out, but the crepes are super easy to make and it's a dish you can enjoy with your family. It's also great to make ahead and freeze for later; just defrost overnight in the fridge. Use your favorite marinara sauce and you're ready to feed a small crowd:

                                  Makes 1 (11x17-inch), 1 (9 x 12-inch) and 1 (8x8-inch), or several smaller sized pans.
                                  Salsa di Marinara:
                                  Prepare marinara sauce and season to taste. Coat the bottom of the pans you'll be using with some of the sauce before adding the manicotti.

                                  Ricotta Filling:
                                  2 pounds Ricotta cheese
                                  2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
                                  1 egg
                                  1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
                                  generous handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
                                  salt and pepper to taste
                                  Mix well and refrigerate a few hours in advance.

                                  6 large eggs
                                  1 1/2 cup milk, more if needed
                                  1 1/2 cup water - added little at a time
                                  3 cups flour
                                  Pinch of salt
                                  Beat the milk and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer; add the flour and salt to combine. Incorporate the water slowly to thin out the batter, you might need more than 1 1/2 cups. (Keep extra milk and water on the side; batter should be thin, add more of either or a combination of both if needed).

                                  Prepare marinara sauce and season to taste. Coat the pans you'll be using to layer the manicotti.

                                  Cook the crepes on one side only! Line your counter with paper towels or waxed paper; flop over the crepes golden side up as you go. The paper absorbs excess moisture from the pale, opposite side, but this side will be dry to the touch by the time the crepe is cooked. The filling gets spooned on the top golden side on the edge of each crepe, then gets rolled so that only the paler side is visible.

                                  Heat an 8-inch non-stick pan lightly coated with cooking spray on medium low heat (respray for each crepe). Use the smaller ladle if you have 2 sizes to spoon enough batter and thinly coat the bottom of the hot pan. Do not flip. Top of crepe should go from a light color to medium then back to light again (subtle color changes) as it dries, and should be opaque and dry to the touch by the time you remove it from the pan.

                                  With your spatula remove the crepes from the pan as you go and flop over on paper towels. After you've made all the crepes, spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling for each crepe or as much as it will hold without overfilling, pressing the filling gently as you roll so it doesn't remain a clump. Begin lining the larger 11x17-inch or 9x12-inch casserole dish in a single layer (make a smaller pan with any remaining crepes). Spoon over tomato sauce and grated mozzarella if desired. Cook in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes before serving. Pans can also be frozen and defrosted in the refrigerator overnight if you wish to make in advance.

                                  What to look for: Crepes should not be nearly as thick as a pancake or stiff. The crepes should be VERY thin with paper-like almost transparent ruffled edges, and they should be very soft and flexible when removed from the pan. When spooning in the batter, use a smaller ladle and quickly tilt the 8-inch non-stick pan in a circular motion to spread out the batter thinly and evenly. Batter should be fairly liquid, easily remedied by adding a combination of more milk and water. Please, don't fill the tray with sauce so that the manicotti is swimming :)

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: lilgi

                                    My all time go-to for vegetarian contributions to potlucks etc. SOUNDS unlikely, but it really is good, honest. A friend called last night from the hospital and said she'd been craving it...if this damn ice storm has let off at all I'll be running some out to her...take a can or two of diced tomatoes, pour them into a shallowish pan (you want the liquid to reduce somewhat, thus the shallow pan), and put into them some vegetables, cleaned, snipped, cut-up, whatever is applicable. i LOVE to use green beans and/or bell pepper chunks, but we've used cauliflower, brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms whatever we have around. If you are using VERY hard stuff (carrots, potatoes) you might want to start them a little earlier than the mushier stuff. When the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced to a very thick, very red, sauce, add some coconut milk (Any asian section in your grocery store will have cans of it). I have sort of a 2 cans of tomatoes/1 can of coconut milk/5or6 cups of veg ratio, but this is really loose, so play it by feel. Let the coconut milk/tomato/vegetables simmer for few minutes, then sprinkle with some pepper flakes and serve over rice.
                                    I second the suggestions for black bean soup (easy-peasy) and a lot of riffs on hummus. Maybe some balls of pizza dough& bags of shredded cheese n the freezer so she can throw together a pizza when she wants to?

                                    1. re: tonifi

                                      Just remembered I can never get enough lentil soup either and I usually make lots at a time to freeze; eaten with a tiny bit of pasta if more of a meal but I mostly serve it plain.

                                    2. re: lilgi

                                      Love your recipe but ....I suggest using the filling to stuff giant shells (cooked) and freezing them, The sitter can put several of the frozen shells in a casserole, pour over the tomato sauce and cheese, cover and bake for 1 hour and serve an easy peasy dinner.

                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                        Wonderful, I posted this because the crepes are very easy to make and a much better choice. She can choose either.

                                    3. Thanks for all the terrific suggestions!!

                                      1. you can make a nice lentil stew: lentils, onions, garlic, canned or fresh tomatoes, spinach, s&p. Done!

                                        1. As long as she's not vegan, then it should be fairly easy:
                                          - Quiches and frittatas of various sorts served with salad and/or roasted potatoes
                                          - West African peanut soup served with rice
                                          - Ratatouille with multigrain bread
                                          - Lentil and root vegetable stew and multigrain bread
                                          - Grilled veggies and garlic yogurt sauce with whole wheat pita bread
                                          - Grilled cheese and tomato sandwich with green salad
                                          - Gnocchi with blue cheese sauce and green salad
                                          - Spanokopita with salad

                                          With regards to the squash, the easiest way to do butternut squash is to cut it half length-wise, scoop out seeds, brush with olive oil, place face down on baking sheet, pierce some holes in the skin with a fork, and roast for 20 or 30 mins. When the flesh is tender and done, just scoop the flesh out and do whatever you want with it (you can even directly serve what you've scooped out if you sprinkle some salt and pepper onto it).

                                          1. 101cookbooks.com is filled with great recipes and pantry suggestions. You sound like you and your sitter have a wonderful relationship so you may find sending her the link is a helpful ongoing resource. While not a vegetarian, I do love my veggies and only enjoy non veg dishes 3x's a week as a dietary choice. So many great suggestions above already that all I would add is keeping fresh, raw veggies prep'd in the frig to plan ahead for hummus or dips or to throw a quick stir fry together.


                                            Oh I agree with your point about blandness sometimes. So, keeping some great spices and fresh herbs on hand like cumin, curry, thyme, lemongrass, ginger that all pair well with veggies is a good idea too.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              I like that website a lot, too. Another one I frequent is the Post Punk Kitchen, which offers vegan recipes: http://www.theppk.com/

                                              I'm not a vegetarian, but I do like to cook a few meatless meals a week because it's healthy and affordable. I've bought a few of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbooks since I started reading the Post Punk Kitchen, and they've been my most-used cookbooks in the last six months. What I like so much about her recipes is that they're easy to follow, and most are relatively quick to prepare. I've learned a lot of little tips to help make dishes taste good without having to cook for hours.

                                              I also agree with what HillJ said about fresh herbs and spices. In some dishes, smoked paprika can add the same smokiness that bacon does. Taking just a few minutes to toast cumin, mustard, or coriander seeds before putting them in a dish makes a huge difference, as does making sure you let the root vegetables you might use as a base for a soup or stew get nice and brown before you start adding liquid ingredients.

                                              These are two of my favorite recipes I've made from the Post Punk Kitchen:
                                              (I've made this a few times and have served it with brown rice and quick-cooking polenta...the sweet potatoes were good but a little labor intensive


                                              (I used baby spinach in place of the chard and black beans since I couldn't find adzuki beans. This preparation for broccoli is easy and makes it taste so nutty. You could easily add other veggies, too


                                              My other favorite vegetarian recipe is a broth-based mushroom soup. I sautee chopped onion, garlic, and celery in a little olive oil, then add some carrots, sliced shitake and baby portabella mushrooms, some fresh thyme, black pepper, 8 cups of vegetable broth, and a splash of white wine. When it comes to a boil, I add some orzo. It's very low-maintenance and reheats well. In fact, I'm making a pot tomorrow to take for lunches this week!

                                              1. re: writergeek313

                                                Funny I was reading PPK just the other day. Fun blog. I haven't tried any of the recipes myself yet but a few of the desserts with fresh strawberries got my attention.

                                                1. re: writergeek313

                                                  I've had this recipe from PPK on my que for awhile...still plan to make it.