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Switching from meat to veggie for dinner


So we are normally heavy meat eaters. Each mea (lunch and dinner)l has either meat or fish in it as a main ingredient and majority of my soups are made from scratch using beef / chicken / pork / fish home-made broth.
So, I have been thinking about it and would love to try vegetarian dinners at least once a week to start. I wanted to do Veggie Friday, and tomorrow is Friday, however – here is the dilemma – I have NO idea what to make for dinner so that it has enough protein and we are not reaching for steaks or sausages late at night. I also don’t want to feel hungry and fill up on bread…
I know that beans are an excellent source of protein but I really do Not feel like beans. I am ok incorporating some eggs in my meal for extra protein. Would you please kindly share the recipes? All I can think of for now is fried cabbage Russian style with addition of some egg or avocado-egg salad, but neither feel like a complete meal to me. Please help :)
Thank you

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  1. We also tend to eat a lot of meat and I am trying to make the effort to go meatless at least once a week.
    Here's what is making it into my rotation: frittata with whatever veggies and cheese I have in the fridge along with a salad, pasta, veggie stir fry (you could add tofu) over rice or noodles, tacos or enchiladas with refried beans. Pizza and Mac and cheese are so favourites in this house.
    Looking forward to other responses so I can expand our repertoire.

    1. We are also converting to Vegetarian dinners 3-4 nights a week. I am making the change for both health and economic reasons. The protein sources I am using are beans, lentils, and quinoa. I tend to cook a lot with those anyways, so I am just eliminating the meat from some recipes.

      I have been making a lot of bean soups and chilis. I even found a recipe that I love for lentil and mushroom bolognese.

      1. My initial thoughts were eggplant parmesan (if you like eggplant), or a hearty minestrone soup.

        1. Cheesymama, there you go – we can explore together! I have never cooked frittata, would you please share a good recipe or a link to one? Veggie stir fry over rice sounds like an excellent idea, especially with some egg and tofu in it. Thank you. I am not a big fan of pastas, pizzas or mac and cheese, unless these are made with quinoa – I am trying to keep it healthy and my husband gets stomach ache if he eats lots of wheat products.
          Nat8199, would you please share your favorite lentils recipe?
          Letsindlugle, I have some eggplant in my fridge now and that’s a good idea. What recipe are you using?

          7 Replies
          1. re: Allenkii

            I don't eat wheat at all anymore and very very rarely potatoes (once a year?) as well as eating very low carb but have found that there are all sorts of great recipes using cauliflower in place of those ingredients: cauliflower "mac" and cheese, fauxtatoes, cauliflower crust pizza, and more.

            Bobby Flay's grilled caponata could easily be turned into a dinner salad with the addition of mozzarella for some protein.

            1. re: Allenkii

              Red Lentil and Barley Soup:


              Lentil Minestrone


              Lentil Bolognese


              1 1/2 cups lentils
              3 cups veggie broth4 tbsp olive oil
              1 onion, diced
              4 cloves garlic, minced or chopped fine
              2 carrots, diced finely
              1 cup mushrooms, diced finely
              28 oz can diced tomatoes
              2 oz sundried tomato, chopped roughly
              1 can tomato paste
              1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
              1/4 cup red wine
              2-3 tbsp soy sauce
              2 tsp dried herbs of choice
              Dash of red pepper flakes or squirt of Sriracha.


              Cook the garlic, salt, onion and carrot in the olive oil until they are very soft.

              Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender (20-30 min). Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth.

              1. re: Allenkii

                I love eggs in most forms but especially frittatas. I usually throw in whatever is around in the house - usually a combination of some veggie with broccoli and asparagus being favorites, sliced deli meat usually turkey but sometimes chopped ham, with cheese eon top. Frittatas are incredibly quick and easy to make, saute your ingredients, add lightly beaten eggs with or without milk (your preference), let the bottom set and instead of flipping I just pop it into the oven until it's no longer jiggly.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  I don't work from any recipe for my frittatas. Just as fldh... said, add your favourite (or available) ingredients, mix up some eggs add a little milk and cheese pour into a hot pan. I also like to finish it in the oven to avoid the flip

                2. re: Allenkii

                  I think this is a pretty good lentils recipe. Great over quinoa or brown rice.


                  You can make most curries and stir fries with tofu instead of meat.

                  You should think about trying some of the new faux-meat products. There's a relatively new company called Beyond Meat that sells vegan "chicken" strips that some people say taste very much like chicken. Apparently it fooled Mark Bittman in a blind taste test.

                  1. re: Allenkii

                    I definitely recommend veggie stir-fries. I would give you a recipe, but mine are always what-do-I-have-in-the-fridge events. My favorites are broccoli, snap or snow peas, carrots (I usually julienne them, but bias-cut is good too), bean sprouts, cabbage.... Just about anything except mushrooms and bell peppers, really.

                    I normally use chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil for the sauce, but you could obviously just sub in veggie broth and be good to roll.

                    Even without a protein source like eggs or tofu, I find these stir-fries to be very filling. I normally eat one cup of rice with 1-1.5 cups of stir-fry and am satisfied.

                    1. re: Kontxesi

                      I did a stir fry recently and even threw in some aging iceberg lettuce :)

                      @OP: I love to roast vegetables. Almost anything. I put in a CI skillet, drizzle with oo, season as you wish, cover with foil. Roast at 425 for 30 minutes, remove foil, stir and roast about 25 minutes.

                  2. These are a few of my favorite things:
                    --cheesy polenta or rice pilaf or lemony quinoa etc. topped with any number of yummy things like:
                    -sherry mushrooms
                    -sauteed garlic spinach
                    -roasted asparagus
                    -poached egg
                    --quesadillas filled w/sauteed onions & peppers, black beans; served w/salsa, guac, sour cream
                    --tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches
                    --veggie burgers
                    --paninis with roasted eggplant, portobella mushrooms, provolone, baby spinach, tapenade

                    Or mix-and-match a few things, like:
                    --chilled beets and greens with vinaigrette and goat or blue cheese; walnuts
                    --potatoes: cut & roasted or potato salad or blue cheese mashed or twice baked
                    --roasted sweet potatoes with butter
                    --roasted veg like cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus; olive oil, s&p
                    --corn on the cob in season
                    --caprese: sliced tomato, basil, mozzarella; balsamic & olive oil
                    --steamed artichokes with vinaigrette or sriracha-mayo-lime dip
                    --cubes of cheese and grapes
                    --carrot cake for dessert

                    ETA: I just saw this recipe for celery root soup that looks delicious: http://www.chow.com/recipes/28907-cel...

                    1. If your family likes mushrooms, there's lots of room to play with portobellos. You can grill them as is or marinate and then grill, and put on a sandwich. Or you can scoop out the stems and stuff them, and then either bake or grill. I made this recipe for stuffed portobellos recently and it was a huge hit: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gr...

                      I've made a mexican-inspired stuffing with beans, chilis and cheese and that was equally popular. I saw that you don't want to do beans but you could use corn, avocado, etc.

                      You could do the same stuffing idea with bell peppers or zucchini. Stuff them with a rice-based mixture or a breadcrumb-based mixture, adding chopped veggies/cheese/spices in the filling to your liking. Here's a recipe that looks good for stuffed peppers: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi... It calls for chicken broth but you could sub in vegetable broth.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Aravisea

                        I agree, the options with stuffed portobellos are endless and always tasty.

                      2. Curries and quiches are my favorite vegetarian meals. You can change them up a million ways and they're super filling.

                        1. I tend towards Asian foods on vegetarian nights (meatless Monday for me!) and we never feel hungry. Suggestion:
                          - quinoa instead of white rice
                          - a veggie stir fry with tofu, zucchini, bell pepper, or other hearty veggies

                          We mix it up by changing the stir fry sauce often. Sometimes it's a chicken broth & oyster sauce based sauce, sometimes it's black bean sauce, sometimes it's chili bean sauce. It keeps it interesting and is filling, without feeling sluggish afterwards! Quinoa works well for black bean sauce or other heavier sauces.

                          I also try tofu & veggie heavy pad thai (rice noodles, I think) or Thai red curry with glass noodles (mung bean noodles) instead of rice, which soaks up the curry sauce really well!

                          1. This recipe was also a major hit with my family and my meat loving in-laws.

                            Pineapple and Black Bean Chili

                            1 cup dried pinto beans
                            1 cup dried black beans
                            2 cups water
                            1 tsp kosher salt

                            28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
                            1 cup frozen corn
                            1 onion, diced
                            1 zucchini, diced
                            2-4 cloves garlic
                            2 tbsp chili powder
                            2 tsp Mexican oregano
                            1 can pineapple chunks with liquid
                            Salt and pepper to taste

                            Combine beans through salt in slow cooker. Cook on HIGH 3 hours.

                            Add the remaining ingredients and cook on LOW 4-6 hours.

                            1. Our local paper had a write-up about Vegan Secret Supper cookbook which sounds very interesting and so I ordered it! There are a few recipes and they sound delicious. Check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Vegan-Secret-Su...

                              1. When you say no beans, does that include lentils? If not, I suggest mujadarra, which is great as a main or side. You could bake eggs into finished mujadarra (a take on eggs in purgatory) if you want something even heartier.

                                If you are near a Trader Joe's, I can't recommend the frozen meatless meatballs more enthusiastically. I too am a meat-eater but if I didn't know better I'd think these contained beef.

                                2 Replies
                                1. Nuts are also an excellent source of nutrition, as are peanuts (which I'm told are actually a legume/bean, but a nut to me!). Toss some cashews or slivered almonds on top of your stirfry rice, or steamed green beans.

                                  This Hot Peanut Sauce recipe (from 1973 cookbook "Tasty Cooking for Good Health" by Anne Marshall with my substitutions and cooking instructions) included a list of suggested veggie combinations.

                                  Hot Peanut Sauce
                                  Makes 4 servings

                                  1 Cup crunch peanut butter
                                  4 Tablespoons soy sauce
                                  1 1/2 T. lemon juice (fresh is best)
                                  1 generous tsp. honey (or more, to taste)
                                  2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 1 tsp. from a jar of minced garlic)
                                  1 tsp. chili powder

                                  Mix all together in a saucepan & heat briefly to warm (or put in a glass bowl / 4-cup measure and microwave 1 - 2 minute on medium-- careful not to overcook). It should be a thick pouring sauce. Add teaspoons of warm water to thin sauce, if needed.

                                  Pour over cooked rice (or brown rice), topped with cooked vegetables.

                                  Vegetables should include 1 legume beans (chick peas, kidney beans, lima beans or butter beans) and at least 2 others (try to vary texture & color) - spinach, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, peas, celery, corn.

                                  Alternate - serve with a bowl of cold raw vegetables and hard cooked eggs (vegetable suggestions: shedded cabbage/coleslaw mix, grated carrots, young beans, bean sprouts, diced cucumber, celery, tomato), and any cold cooked legume bean.

                                  1. Other ideas -

                                    Stuffed green peppers, using chickpeas or black beans & corn in place of the usual meat.

                                    Stuffed Acorn squash

                                    1. I find that if you're switching to a veggie meal, and you're used to a big chunk of meat, you need something that has some substance to it, and will fill you up, so you don't feel unsatisfied, or hungry an hour later.

                                      Beans, lentils and chickpeas are good for this - fried beans and rice, chili, stewed lentils, chickpea curry, burritos or tacos with refried beans, etc.

                                      Whole grains can help, as they have more nutrition and - use a brown rice or a red rice instead of white with a stirfry or sauce or curry, for example, or a millet or quinoa pilaf, or barley cooked with mushrooms and onions.

                                      For egg dishes that feel like a full meal - try a quiche, or a fritatta, or baked eggs, or pasta with egg and parmesan cheese, or a spanish tortilla, or a Japanese rice omlette (huge omlette stuffed with tomato rice).

                                      Check out vegetarian Indian recipes - I find these tend to be filling and satisfying without using meat substitutes.

                                      Some hearty veggie dishes I like - roasted cauliflower (i've got a great recipe which uses parmesan, breadcrumbs, olive oil, lemon, and a bit of anchovy paste which is not strictly veggie, but is amazingly good). Malaysian or thai style vegetable curry (we've found a good malaysian veggie curry paste recently). Roasted vegetables, diced and seasoned, and served over pasta or rice. Barbecued corn on the cob. Potato and cauliflower curry. A vaguely mexican style soup with canned tomatoes, corn, onion, cilantro, garlic and cumin. Palak paneer (spinach, cream and Indian cheese - fantastic, but not exactly low fat).

                                      I'm not a wild fan of pressed tofu as a meat substitute (due to the fact that it doesn't taste, look, feel or cook like any meat I've encountered). I do quite like the soft tofu prepared on its own merits, though.

                                      1. I have to first recommend the best book EVER- mark bittman's "how to cook everything vegetarian", which will really teach you how to create meals vs just to follow a recipe. Sections include how to make salads a meal, how to make soups more satisfying etc. It is also now an iphone app for $9.99. (No i have nothing to do with him or the book, just a big fan :)

                                        A few threads that will be helpful here:


                                        I often make "traditional" meals with a swap, such as tacos with a lentil walnut filling instead of the meat, burgers with a roasted portabello with or without cheese, or this summer lots of salads. For a salad that is a meal i always include a grain (leftover cooked quinoa, rice, or even pasta), and you could add a hardboiled egg, lots of veggies and some chopped nuts and you have a quick delicious dinner.

                                        You may also want to try tempeh which is a compressed soybean/rice combo that is unprocessed and a great source of protein, lots of great ideas here:

                                        Websites i love for veg recipes include:
                                        Hungryhungryhippie.com (great examples of packed meals as well since she works long days
                                        )Peasandthankyou.com (she also now has a book)

                                        1. If you are eating meat regularly, I wouldn't worry about how much protein you are getting with a one night a week vegetarian meal. I'd just start searching for vegetarian meals or dishes you really enjoy. If you have a grill, one we like a lot is heat olive oil, a good bit, in a deep skillet and crush a couple of cloves of garlic in it. Peel and slice a couple of eggplants in half inch slices and brush them with the garlicky oil and grill them. In the remaining oil, sweat a diced onion. Add a couple of diced fresh tomatoes, a few capers, some pitted kalamata olives, a few crushed red pepper flakes, and a little dry white wine. Layer the sauce and grilled eggplant in a shallow baking dish, with or without cheese. I tend to use a little mozzarella in the dish and grate Romano on top. Heat. Garnish with a little fresh basil if you like fresh basil.

                                          As regards frittatas, I don't think there is a right or wrong, but I use them to clean out the fridge. One I did recently was: melt butter in a heavy skillet, beat desired number of eggs well (I like to do the in a blender), cook until you figure bottom is browning, drop in some leftover broccoli and top with thin slices of cheddar here are there. Sprinkle on herbs of your choice. Tarragon usually pairs well with eggs. I also like herbs d' Provence, finish under a broiler. Seriously, lots of things are great in frittatas...drips and draps of leftover Chinese takeout, leftover spaghetti, roasted peppers...most anything.

                                          In our house Friday is usually pizza night and we often pile on bell pepper and onion sliced extremely thin, olives, sundried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts.

                                          When the weather cools I love boeuf Bourginonne without the beef...mushrooms, glacé onions, matchstick carrots, and a hearty wine and stock reduction made with homemade vegetable broth. Try serving it on faro...OMG.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: tim irvine

                                            What tim irvine said: if you're normally eating a meat-centric diet, a few meals without heavy proteins are fine. If you've had a meat-heavy lunch,there's nothing wrong with just a good salad, especially now that tomatoes are finally coming into season. I like a tomato/avocado/red onion salad made with a lime vinaigrette: I'll add feta or black beans if I have them handy. I also like composed salads, like salade nicoise (tuna, sliced potatoes, cooked string beans, eggs) or an antepasto style plate with greens, olives, cheeses, an assortment of fresh and pickled vegetables, garbanzos. Vegetables are IMHO a lot more filling than meat: by the time you finish chewing them you feel like you've eaten a lot!

                                            Soups with a side of a green salad or a whole-grain bread are also good for quick meals: you can make them anything from very simple (e.g., roasted red peppers pureed and cooked with some stock) to complex (minestone, mixed vegetable soups, all the way up to vegetarian chili).

                                            There is a wrong way to make frittatas, btw: it's the way where you grab the hot pan handle in the wrong way and drop the whole thing on the floor :-)

                                            1. re: tardigrade

                                              Great ideas! I'm bookmarking this thread.

                                              I cook vegetarian meals everyday. We've two young children, so many times it's a one dish meal. So it definitely needs to be filling and nutritious. I heartily agree with tardigrade's comment that veggies are very filling. It's been a while since I ate meat, so I'm stopping short of endorsing the full comment. :-)

                                              Here are some filling meals I've made recently:

                                              A green salad with stone fruit, avocado, pecans, goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette + fantastic lentil salad from here:
                                              My additions/substitutions to the salad were two small persian cucumbers, diced and another time a small bunch of lacinato kale. I also used a garam masala mix instead of much of the individual spices and diced dried apricots instead of raisins.

                                              I also heartily second a Nicoise-ish salad with green beans, potatoes, olives, garlicky dressing, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes.

                                              I frequently make quinoa or whole wheat couscous salads with veggies, tofu (have you tried baked tofu from trader joe's?) and nuts. I find that some orange or lemon zest and complimentary fresh herbs like cilantro or mint really perk them up.

                                              Last night I needed to use up a package of corn tortillas that had gotten buried and tortillas had broken into pieces. So I made a layered enchilada-ish dish with those. Made up a filling with pan toasted cubes of firm tofu, roasted corn kernels, drained can of black beans, sauteed onion and garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, and a sauce that I winged with a tomato paste base. Dipped (yes, I fried them in oil first. Hangs head in shame.) tortillas in sauce, layered in baking dish with filling and a total of about 8 ounces of shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Baked for 25 minutes. It was very filling.

                                              Dishes with eggs: heartily second frittatas. Also, shakshouka (many recipes available on blogs or in cookbooks). Another one my family likes is eggs baked in a bed of creamed leeks. I'll paraphrase a recipe from a cookbook if you're interested. That + soup or salad and whole grain bread is a very filling meal.

                                              I know you said no beans, but a favorite meal of ours is Pinto beans or black beans with quesadillas. I make a filling with sauteed summer squash, onions, garlic and peppers and add cheese once it cools down. Use to fill whole wheat tortillas. Serve with soup, sliced radishes, avocado, chopped cilantro and wedges of lemon/lime. Another filling is mushrooms sauteed on high heat, seasoned with garlic and thyme at the end. Sauteed onions and spinach or other greens and cumin is yet another.

                                              Gnocchi + roasted kabocha squash + gorgonzola cream sauce + toasted walnuts with a green salad.

                                              It's been warm so I can't think of soups right now, but that is often on the menu in winter and fall. Also risottos.

                                              We're Indian, so that is on the menu 3 times a week or so. Are you familiar with Indian ingredients? Do you tend to have some on hand? I can point out recipes/ideas if so.

                                          2. Thank you all for wonderful suggestions! So many replies! I am keeping this threat as I am hoping to do this weekly, and then move to 2 times a week vegetarian, 2 times fish and 3 times meat
                                            I have some swis chard, kale, celery, eggplant, cabbage and tomatoes at home. I am thinking of just frying it all together (add couple of eggs as well) on some sesame oil with maybe some garlic and serving over purple rice. What do you think of that idea?
                                            Next week I think I will make hearty soup and salad. As it gets cooler and fall vegetables start appearing, I will be making butternut squash soup, ratatouille, etc. :)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Allenkii

                                              I'd add onions, but that's probably a personal-taste thing. Also perhaps the option to sprinkle some shredded cheese, from side bowl at the table.

                                              1. re: Allenkii

                                                Don't forget the ginger, if you've got it! My stir-fries just don't feel complete without it.

                                              2. We eat frittatas about every other week, maybe a bit more often, because they are fast, cheap, healthy and delicious. I like Mark Bittman's frittata method from How to Cook Everything. You can find a variation of it here if you don't have the book. http://markbittman.com/dinner-with-bi...
                                                Instead of pasta, add 1-2 cups cooked vegetables (chopped sauteed greens or mushrooms are what I use most often). You can use any kind of cheese or no cheese, but to make it more filling, I'd use the cheese. Oh, and mine doesn't take as long to cook as he says.

                                                I also recently made this recipe, and it was delish. I added some sauteed zucchini, diced small, to it: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/hea...

                                                With the frittata I usually serve a vegetable side dish or salad and bread. And cheese if there's no cheese in the frittata. If you prefer to avoid bread, do a heartier side like a barley, quinoa or bean salad or this time of year you could have corn on the cob and a tomato salad. If you are really worried that this won't fill you up, incorporate some nuts into your salad.

                                                1. If you eat meat and fish the rest of the week, a day without protein won't hurt.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Peg

                                                    i think the op's concern is feeling sated.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      Yep. However, I think one of the objectives I have when I purposefully fashion meatless meals is to change what constitutes satiety. A cheese soufflé and a light salad with a glass of pinot gris generally leave me happier than all the Mac and cheese I can eat and a Nutty Buddy, but i have to fight the urge to pick the latter!

                                                      1. re: tim irvine

                                                        i no longer eat legumes or grains and find animal protein to be the most sating when i have a meal, even if it's just eggs.

                                                        this whole part-time veganism just makes me scratch my head. we evolved as omnivores.

                                                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        Ah, then I'd recommend eating something that takes a fair amount of chewing. So nuts, wholegrains, raw veggies... or something baked till it goes crunchy on top. I find a lot of vegetarian food is quite soft, and you can easily eat too much as it goes down too fast.
                                                        It's also easy to add a lot of fat (cheese, mayo, oil) if you think vegetarian food is somehow leaving you deprived of yumminess.
                                                        Personally, if I was eating animal protein for 6 days - then on the 7th I'd stick to a selection of raw salads, with probably very little protein. If I wasn't 'sated' I'd just have another bowl of salad!

                                                        1. re: Peg

                                                          most days i eat once, sometimes twice.

                                                          i don't eat grains. whole, or otherwise.

                                                          i eat nuts sparingly. they are a condiment, not a food group.

                                                          i will not touch soy with a 10-foot pole.

                                                          as for raw veggies? we tamed fire long ago, ya know? i find cooked much easier to digest and i don't like feeling like i have a belly full of lawn clippings.

                                                          my weight and cw health markers are excellent -- far superior to when my diet was heavy in "healthy, whole grains."

                                                          i realize these are all personal choices, but it's the high carb + high fat that spells doom. animal proteins are not the devil. as a vegetarian? i was ALWAYS sick. ALWAYS.

                                                    2. ++ on the eggplant meatless balls. We use Christopher Styler's recipe from Primi Piatti. They do NOT freeze well. Get watery after thawing. But delicious freshly made. They get sort of triangular because they're soft and don't hold a round shape when sauteed. But who cares.

                                                      Here's a link to arepas. It's a corn-based dough bun that can be filled with anything from roasted vegetables and cheese to avocado to black beans (I know you're not fond of beans, but put enough cheese in and it's a good protein hit) and cotija cheese.


                                                      Get masa arepa and not masa harina. Masa harina is for tortillas.

                                                      Also, stuffed zucchini may be an avenue to explore...especially at this time of year when they are rampant.

                                                      1. I made this vegan ma po tofu a few months ago and loved it.


                                                        Keep meaning to cook similar from Fuschia Dunlop version: