National Vegetarian Month may have ended on November 1st, but it’s still as good a time as any to experiment with meatless meals. Going meatless just one day each week can help to lower fat and cholesterol intake, and it will certainly have an immediate effect on your wallet.
You don’t have to identify as a vegetarian to institute a “Meatless Monday” and introduce more vegetarian options to your diet. I personally eat a lot of vegetarian options because it’s cheap, it’s easy, and I can keep products on hand for a lot longer. Consider the shelf life of a bag of dried chick peas contrasted with the shelf life of a package of low fat chicken breasts. Meat spoils, but the rice and beans you bought six months ago has just been sitting patiently in your cabinets, waiting for you to remember they exist!
One of my favorite ways to cook an easy veggie meal is by throwing some beans into a crock pot with diced tomatoes, onions, and peppers. I’ll turn the slow cooker on low, leave for a few hours, and when I come home, I have a heart-healthy stew that goes great over rice or pasta (and probably cost all of three dollars to make).
Here are a few vegetarian staples that I try to keep in my kitchen at all times.
1. Dried Beans
Dried beans are cheaper than canned beans and they don’t have all the added salt and preservatives. I always soak mine overnight before adding to any recipe.
2. Boca Crumbles
A super easy substitute for taco meat or in a pasta sauce. Unless you tell your family, they probably won’t guess it’s not ground beef!
3. Bulgur Wheat
I always have a package of this on hand in order to whip up a quick tabbouleh side salad made with parsley and tomatoes. Lately, I’ve been adding mini cucumbers for extra crunch.
4. Quorn Products
You may not want to know what this is made from, because it’s technically fungus that grown in a vat. Then again, so are mushrooms. However, Quorn is technically not a mushroom, it’s a fungus. If that doesn’t turn you off, my personal favorite are in the “Chik’n” line, such as the Chik’n Patties. Just heat and serve on a bun like a regular chicken sandwich.
5. “So Delicious” Coconut Creamer
If you’re like me, you love cream in your coffee. But cutting down on dairy could help your skin and allergies, especially if you have an intolerance. There are several varieties of nondairy creamer, but this is my personal favorite.
6. Rice and Quinoa
Beans with rice make a complete protein, so I always have rice on hand – preferably a hearty brown rice. Quinoa is even higher in the protein department, and more filling. It also makes a great base for salads.
7. “Better than Boullion” soup base
I tried this on a whim when I ran out of chicken stock one night, and now it’s my new go-to for adding flavor to broth. It’s also nice for flavoring a thrifty split pea soup in lieu of ham.
8. Peanut Butter and Jelly
Honestly, what’s more comforting than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? If you’re feeling nostalgic, have it on white bread with the crusts cut off!
9. Seasoned Tofu
I don’t know about you, but I hate tofu. What I do is marinate it overnight and then grill it on the George Foreman grill or broil it in the oven. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like tofu made this way, including myself.
Below is one of my favorite vegan recipes. I probably make this two or three times a month, and top it with grilled tofu. If you have all these things in your refrigerator, you’ll have dinner made in 15 minutes.
Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles
Juice of one or two limes
Two tablespoons of soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
¼ cup of rice wine vinegar or organic apple cider vinegar
Two cloves of garlic, crushed
½ tsp of grated ginger
Sriracha sauce, or other spice to taste
½ cup of water
About ¼ cup of peanut butter
Brown sugar (optional)
1) Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat. Remove saucepan from heat, add peanut butter and stir until melted. Add more hot water, if needed, to thin.
2) Serve over udon or soba noodles. Sprinkle with chopped green onion before serving.