Vegetarian meals for this dummy
Hello all, I was hoping to get some ideas to prepare basic lunch and dinners for a first time vegetarian starter. I've never been great a cooking anything and I know I can't go out a purchase fresh frruts and veggies for long periods of time, so if you can spare some pointers, the help would be greatly apreciated.
Hi newlife85! Congratulations on your choice to go vegetarian!
Even if you can't purchase fruits and veggies for long periods of time, you can buy them frozen (such as berries or peaches etc) or canned (such as tomatoes or mushrooms). Some fruits and vegetables keep for long periods of time too. Carrots, snap peas, cauliflower, collards, apples, oranges (if left on the counter), and kiwi and some melons are examples.
I base my diet around beans/legumes, vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and a few products like plant milks and plant based yogurts. I am not big on fake meats and cheeses so tend to avoid those for the most part, but I have tried them a few times so I can give an educated opinion on taste. :) Daiya makes awesome cheese products that are scarily close to the real thing and also soy free. Tofutti makes a nice cream cheese. There are several eggless mayonnaise out there such as Vegannaise, Nayonnaise, and Earth Balance Mindful Mayo (soy free). I tend to make my own but if you don't cook much they might come in handy.
Here are some basic ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as a starter:
oatmeal topped with a banana and/or frozen berries. The oats can be put into a bowl, and add just enough water to soak them and microwave for a minute or two and viola you have cooked oatmeal. Or heat the water and pour it over the raw oats and let them soak for a few minutes. Not much cooking involved. Couscous is another grain that cooks fast and you can add nuts, seeds, fruits, sweeteners, etc to it. I love cinnamon so I add that to a lot of stuff. If you own a crockpot, steel cut oats or millet for breakfast is good. For a four serving batch, you would measure 1 cup of grain to 4 cups of water in the crockpot. You can add a sweetener, fresh chopped fruit or dried fruit or coconut, spices, replace some of the water with milk, whatever you want. Let it cook on low for seven to eight hours (I let it cook overnight) and you will have a nice breakfast cereal in the morning. Millet goes great with cinnamon and apples.
For a more savory breakfast, try cubing or crumbling some tofu in a lightly oiled skillet. Add some chopped celery, onion, bell pepper, carrot, stuff you would put in a scrambled egg omelette. Add spices like turmeric, garlic powder, mustard powder, salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes until the vegetables are soft. I like to saute with a little water or vegetable broth in place of oil. If tofu is intimidating, this works with chickpeas (garbanzo beans) also. Another idea is canned beans over toast and add a dollop of salsa on top. This works well with balck beans or pintos. I will have a bowl of fruit on the side. If you are into cold cereals, there are some that are vegan such as Nature's Path cereals, some Kashi cereals, Barbara's Organic cereals. A lot of commercial cereals would be vegan except that they add vitamin D3 which is animal based (D2 or ergocalciferol is plant based and is the form of D in most plant milks and vegan products). If that is not an issue with you than that is an option. There are so many plant based milks now such as soy, almond, hemp, oat, rice. Most mainstream groceries have soy and almond milks.
Some sandwich ideas: sliced avocado and tomato sandwich. You could even grill the sandwich with Earth Balance butter spread on your bread, much the way you would have with grilled cheese sandwiches. Or just toast the bread and add the stuff inside. Another one is to take a can of chickpeas and add to a bowl. Cut up some celery and onion and add. Add a few dollups of vegan mayonnaise. Mash with a fork or potato masher and add some salt and pepper. Add mixture to sandwich bread for a mock tuna salad sandwich. These sandwiches will keep for a few days to bring to work if you put them in baggies or tupperware. Another sandwich is refried beans and salsa and some lettuce or another leafy green added. Canned fat free refried beans are vegan but the full fat tend to have lard in them so not vegan or vegetarian. Or you could buy a can of pinto beans, add to a blender with a little cumin or chilli powder, and blend to get them creamy. This works well in tortillas and pitas. There are vegan tortillas and pitas, and most corn shell tacos are vegan. My favorite sandwich is to slice some tempeh and add it to a sandwich and add cooked sourkraut and cabbage and onion. Very high protein and filling.
Soups are very easy to make and you can make a huge batch and have lunches all week with it. I make a batch on Sunday and add a little reheated soup to my thermos each day before I head off to work. Chop up some vegetables and add to a large pan and saute for a minute or two. Add spices and seasonings. Add some beans and then add water and/or vegetable broth, usually four or five cups. Cook for twenty minutes or so. Its that simple. Canned tomatoes work well here as well as frozen veggies.
Garden salads, if you make a great big one, will last four or five days sealed in a tupperware and you can divvie it up for lunches. I like to add beans, different kinds of leafy greens, fresh vegetables, maybe a sprinkle of sesame seeds (excellent source of calcium), maybe some fresh/canned/or frozen fruit in there. I'm not big on dressings so I just sprinkle with lemon juice and cracked ground pepper, or I might add a little tamari and squeezed orange juice. There are commercial vegan/vegetarian dressings out there now. Or if you can find tahini, there are tons of recipes on the net for making a salad dressing with it. Even peanut butter can be thinned into a salad dressing. Or just blend a tomato and orange for a simple salad dressing.
cubed tempeh, cut up pineapple or buy a can of it, some fresh or frozen broccoli. Saute all this in a skillet with water, oil, or pineapple juice. Add whatever spices you want. Serve over cooked rice, or millet, or even steel cut oats. Another one is to cook some spaghetti or other pasta (preferable whole wheat or another gluten free whole grain). for the sauce, heat up a can of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste. Add some chopped zuchini, mushroom, bell pepper, onion, or other vegetables in it. Add cooked lentils (red ones work best but any variety will do) to the sauce. You can even add bulgur wheat it in for a "meaty" sauce. Pour sauce over pasta and have a hearty meal. The protein in the lentils and pasta (if whole grain) will help fill you up, along with the fiber from the grain and veggies. Bulgur wheat is a little known but versatile grain that has a texture similar to "ground beef" and absorbs flavors of other foods well. It works for a replacement for ground beef in things like tacos, sloppy joe sandwiches, and spaghetti sauce. Many commercial taco seasoning packets are vegan and you just add that to bulgur grain as you cook it. Bob's Red Mill is a brand that sells bulgur wheat in case you can't find it. It cooks very quickly (1/2 cup grain to 1 cup water).
I could go on and on but this is a few examples. I really used this site a LOT when I first went vegan. Browse the recipes and you will find a ton of great recipes. The key is to figure out what to stock in your pantry so you always have ingredients on hand. Once you get the hang of that everything will fall into place. Invest in some cookbooks or get some vegan/vegetarian cookbooks from the library. I have done this and made copies of recipes that looked easy or interesting to make. And if you are in a pinch, there is always peanut butter sandwiches (great with banana) or just plain nuts and seeds or fresh fruit to snack on. Sometimes a glass of soymilk and an apple hit the spot.
Best wishes on your journey!