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New to eating veggie - need hearty dinner ideas

BF and I are college students trying to get into serious home cooking. I have novice-level skills, he's pretty great at scrambled eggs and bacon.

In an effort to save money/the environment/not be awful, we're going to try to eat vegetarian one night a week.

Here's the catch: He's not huge on veggies. (I know, I know. His mom was definitely a convenience chef vs. a nutrition chef, but I'm bringing him around.) He does like potatoes and soup especially, but not mushrooms. Beans are fine.

I'd really like a WOW! veggie recipe to try to win him over. Any ideas or tips would be great. Thanks!

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  1. This might get him to eat tofu....it's an awesome recipe that's easy to make. I use cashew butter and garnish with scallions/sesame seeds

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    4 Replies
    1. re: Science Chick

      Oh, that looks so very good. Do you think that there would be a way to bake the tofu? (I'd love it fried, my SO would faint at the thought [though likely love the taste / texture].)

      1. re: ElsieDee

        The frying is just pan frying with a couple of T of oil. If you press the water out of tofu before browning, it gets VERY crispy with little oil. There certainly are many recipes around for baking tofu too...I think it takes a while though, to get is crispy. Remember, when you aren't eating meat it is helpful to get a richness in the palate in other ways. A little healthy olive or peanut oil goes a long way for flavor/satiety. The dish prepared as the recipe indicates has 354 calories per serving (4 servings total), so really not bad for a dinner. Pair that with 1/2 c. brown rice (~100 calories) and you've got a hearty satisfying dinner for 454 calories!

      2. re: Science Chick

        This is a favorite at our house and we use tahini or peanut butter if that's what's on hand. I brush oil onto my griddle and the thin layer is enough to get nice browning and a bit of crispness. It usually takes 5-6 minutes on each side over medium heat to brown. The nice thing is that the tofu is not mushy. It has a much better texture than average tofu. You can use the same technique with other sauces.

        1. re: Jaimie

          Yes, definitely any nut butter works great!

      3. Also, this cream of spinach soup from Moosewood Cookbook is a real winner. I substitute soymilk and you can't tell AT ALL. Good with all types of greens...experiment! Kale and collards work really well.

        40 minutes to prepare 4-6 servings

        1 carrot
        1 onion
        1 clove garlic
        1 potato
        Cover w/ water. Steam until tender. Puree in it's own water.

        Steam 1lb. spincah in 1 cup water till wilted. Puree.

        Make roux by whisking 1/3 cup flour into 1/3 cup melted butter. Whisk in 2 cups mild and cook over very low heat, stirring, until thickened.

        Add the spinach to the roux, along with:
        1/2 tsp. salt ( or more)
        pepper
        1/2 tsp. basil
        pinch nutmeg
        pinch thyme
        (any fresh herb like parsley or marjoram)

        Add first mixture to second. Adjust seasoning and, if too thick, add milk.
        Heat (very low flame) and stir till smooth,
        creamy,
        green,
        fragrant.

        1. This soup is delicious: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/...

          Even my dad who is staunchly anti-vegetarian and hates lentils likes it.

          1. I'm not a veggie but have gone veggie for lent.
            The missus made a great lentil hot pot and I didn't miss the meat.
            Can't remember the exact recipe but this one (apart from the curry powder ) is pretty close.
            You could also use mash potato as a topping instead,

            http://www.food.com/recipe/potato-cru...

            1. Veg chili ;) easy way to hide veggies and you can use beans

              1 Reply
              1. All men I know love spanakopita, this recipe is similar to how I make it, a few steps are involved but it comes together easily: http://greekfood.about.com/od/pansize...

                Or maybe you can try a spinach lasagna.

                Or tacos, you can use re-fried beans from a can or cook canned pinto beans with some taco seasoning as the base then add all the fixings: salsa, guac, cheese, sour cream, shredded lettuce

                1 Reply
                1. re: WhatsEatingYou

                  I'd never thought of spanakopita - great idea!

                2. I also use "Smart Ground" protein crumbles as a basis for a spaghetti "meat" sauce. It is seitan (gluten) based and very high in protein. I use 2-28 oz cans tomatoes per package. I add it in after the onions/garlic are all sauteed/softened and saute it a bit in the oil before adding the tomatoes. Once you add all the onions, garlic, spices, wine, etc you are hard pressed to miss the meat. Serve with your favorite pasta and the leftovers freeze well for future meals. I do the same with my favorite chili/beans recipe.

                  1. One of the easiest and most delicious way to eat your vegetables is to roast them in the oven. Group seasonal vegetables, wash/peel/slice them in medium sized chinks, season them with Kosher salt & freshly round black pepper and dried herbs such as thyme/rosemary/oregano, drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil,toss to mix well, roast in a pre-heated 400F oven for 40 - 45 minutes.

                    One combination of vegetables might be: carrots, onions, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, winter squash, sweet potatoes. Choose 3 or 4.

                    Another combination might be: zucchini, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, new potatoes, garlic... less roasting time here.

                    Single vegetables roast very well too... like:
                    asparagus, green beans, cabbage, beets. You get the idea. Good luck & have fun

                    1. Harira Soup - look it up on youtube or google it. Loaded with veggies, chick peas, lentils - wonderful tasting and serve it with rustic bread. BTW if the recipe you find calls for chicken or beef - just make it without.
                      or
                      Cut up into large chunks 2 squash, 2 red peppers, 1 red onion and 5 carrots - sprinkle with olive oil, salt and a bit cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Cook them for an hour in a 375 degree oven. Delicious!
                      or
                      Garlic Cauliflower - remove stems, chop up and place on cookie sheet - take 1 head of garlic (not one clove but one whole head), peel and mince and mix with about 1/3 cup of olive oil and pour over cauliflower and then bake at 375 until browned - about 30-40 minutes.

                      1. Thanks so much to everyone for the replies! :)

                        I forgot to mention that he loves rice, as well as onions, so this week I'm going to try mujaddara.

                        All of your recipes have been copied and saved :) Thanks again!

                        1. any cuisine/dish that focuses on legumes (beans, peanuts, lentils, peas) will normally be "hearty."

                          in my house, this means persian (ghormeh sabzi, adas polo made with brown rice and lentils), indian (tons of vegetarian curries), mexican (pinto and black beans in all their variations, have also made fajitas using super firm tofu), soups (lentil, white bean, split pea, etc. know that when making soup, mirepoix is your friend), salads (white bean, black eyed pea), and "burgers" made with sauteed tempeh on a toasted whole wheat bun with sauteed onions, avocado, tomato, and lettuce.

                          also, hummus dip with toasted whole wheat pita chips for appetizer.

                          1. Make a Greek salad (tomato, red onion, green pepper, cucumber, feta, olives) and serve with homemade hummus, tzatziki and pita bread.

                            Make an easy pasta dish by roasting a bunch of vegetables (red peppers, eggplant, zucchini, red onion, fennel, etc.), mix with fresh linguini, toss with balsamic and grate some parmesan on top too.

                            Make a meal-sized salad. I like leafy greens with grated aged cheddar, roasted red peppers, toasted pine nuts and avocado slices, with a homemade maple-balsamic vinaigrette, with cornbread on the side. I have a great recipe for Catalan Couscous Salad (from "Appetite for Reduction) with spinach, sliced pears, couscous and toasted almonds topped with a homemade romesco sauce.

                            More ideas: http://foodgawker.com/?s=vegetarian

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jetgirly

                              "Make a Greek salad (tomato, red onion, green pepper, cucumber, feta, olives) and serve with homemade hummus, tzatziki and pita bread."

                              I love this meal! I also frequently add baba ganoush (eggplant dip) or falafel (little fried chickpea patties - very hearty and a great meat substitute) to dip in the tzatziki. Trader Joes even sells falafel if you are near one. Otherwise, there are plenty of pretty easy recipes.

                            2. I make a beans and rice burrito: black bean soup, drained of excess liquid, mixed with steamed rice and a drained can of kidney beans. Steam some tortillas and then assemble with favorite toppings: cheese, tomatoes, onions, avocado, guacamole, salsa, chopped black olives, etc.

                              1. Cuban black beans and rice is a fantastic staple meal. I always cook my black beans from scratch but if you have access to canned black beans then it is super easy.

                                There are lots of Indian bean dals that are fantastic with rice but as a novice cook the spicing can be a little intimidating. Madhur Jaffrey has a fantastic book called Curry Easy which has a very simple Indian recipes for both vegetarian and meat eaters.

                                Refried beans are also good, served with tortillas and sides - sour cream, lettuce, grated carrot and hot sauce - it's simple meal but amped up with sides it becomes a feast.

                                1. While faux meat can be a good substitute, it isn't very cheap, and I think one of the reasons for going veg was to save money right? Are you familiar with Quinoa? It is usually used like rice in recipes but technically is a seed and has more protein.

                                  Quinoa stuffed peppers
                                  http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe...

                                  Quinoa tamale (don't be intimidated by the tomatillo salsa
                                  )http://markbittman.com/giant-quinoa-t...

                                  Will you guys eat mushrooms? Portobellos are kinda "meaty"
                                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...
                                  /mushroom-parmesan-recipe/index.html

                                  Veggie bibimbap
                                  http://herbivoracious.com/2012/12/veg...

                                  serious eats recipe ideas
                                  http://www.seriouseats.com/vegetarian...

                                  1. Do a Google search for Thai peanut sauce. there are many recipes... I do my own without really measuring. Its basically peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar (or honey), some hot sauce (I keep it mild with just a dash), and some Thai curry paste (or even just curry powder).
                                    This is great mixed with noodles and sautéed veggies. Can add tofu for protein if you like. Alternatively a sprinkle of peanuts can add some heartiness. You can also make up veggie spring rolls and use the sauce as a dip. (on your meat eating days, its also really yummy with chicken satay!)

                                    I also like making Indian dishes - such as paneer masala or navartan korma.

                                    Minestrone soup (like Olive Garden) can be pretty hearty from the beans and pasta. I actually love making it with mostly veggies, though!

                                    Are eggs "allowed" on your vegetarian nights? Omelets with sautéed mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheese... or eggs scrambled into fried rice... or eggs baked in a tomato.... lots of possibilities with eggs!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Mellicita

                                      This minestrone looks simple and tasty
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/903813

                                      Tortilla Espanola idea if eggs are in fact "allowed"
                                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                    2. Shepherd's pie with all-vegetable base...carrots, onions, green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, roasted, mixed with an onion gravy and then topped with mashed potatoes, flashed under the broiler until the top browns. Navratan korma, LOADS of vegetables in a creamy curry sauce with golden raisins and cashews. Vegetable fajitas using roasted tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Black-bean soup, which is so easy it's almost embarrassing...can o'black beans added to some aromatics like onion & garlic that have been sauteed in olive oil, then add a cup of vegetable stock...we like to ladle some of it on top of a big slab of cornbread. Vegetable chili. Asparagus quiche. Vegetable skewers, grilled and served on pita bread with a smear of hummus. We're meat-eaters, but we have to accommodate a lot of vegetarian (and even vegan) friends. I usually slide a vegetarian meal by the family once a week or so, the don't even notice. This week I made manicotti with a LOT of vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes) in the sauce, and spinach mixed into the ricotta. Turned out great.

                                      1. I absolutely love these quinoa patties topped with an eggplant or mushroom ragu or even just stuffed into a sandwich http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                                        Semolina gnocchi are delicious as well topped with the same as above or with tomato sauce. http://leitesculinaria.com/70863/reci...
                                        I don’t particularly care for meat substitutes or dishes that are supposed to take like their meat counterparts but I love these snobby joes from ppk http://www.theppk.com/2009/11/snobby-...
                                        You can make lots of different risottos, I actually really like making beet risotto with hulless barley these days.
                                        Do you like ethnic foods? If you like Indian food, paneer makes a dish hearty. Also there are a variety of curries that you can use chick peas or red beans.
                                        Eggplant stacks or rollatini are delicious and hearty as well.

                                        1. If you like spicy street-style food, JanetofReno had a great chat going on pao-bhaji (Mumbai style street food, a mixed vegetable slurry served on soft bread similar to hamburger buns, topped with spicy notes of green chilli, grated ginger, fine diced onion, lime wedges, etc.).
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892184

                                          Google for recipes. It's very easy to make when you get the customized spice mix from any Indian store.

                                          1. I know I've said it before on here but cant help myself. Microwave your veggies. This is so far the best way of cooking them. They keep their color, they stay crisp, and they supposedly have the highest nutrition content this way. Oven and boiling, even steaming destroy most of the nutrients, which is kind of the reason we eat veggies in the first place.

                                            For ideas, oven fried zucchini is great, just coat with eggs (not vegetarian sorry), then panko/bread crumbs, typical breaded thing, then bake on high temp (450) till cripsy and golden. Soups are great ways to sneak in veggies. Pizza is also a great way to hide veggies as a topping. Tempura is great for non veggie lovers. Can sneak them into smoothies as well very easily. Burritos or Mexican is also very easy to hide when using plenty of beans or in your refried bean recipe.

                                            1. Almost forgot to mention my easiest go-to veg meal for a weekday: Burritos!
                                              - Saute a little diced onion, garlic, peppers til soft.
                                              - Add diced tomatoes and corn cut off the cob (seasonal....but TJs frozen roasted corn works really well if available), salt pepper, cumin/chipotle or whatever flavors you like.
                                              - Stir in a can of rinsed black beans, chopped cilantro and juice of half a lime.

                                              There's your filling! Obviously you can substitute in anything you like. I often will wilt some nice chopped greens into the filling....well hidden with all the other action going on!

                                              To assemble:
                                              - Warm flour tortillas (one at a time) on one side in a hot skillet, flip and sprinkle with your favorite shredded cheese. Let soften a minute
                                              - Spread in some filling, roll and enjoy with salsa, sour cream, guac or your favorite topping.