This Meatless Monday menu planning blog offers both food for thought and yummy Mexican vegetarian cooking ideas.
I became a vegetarian after having been exposed to vegetarian East Indian cuisine. After a meal, I always felt energized rather than weighed down by my food. I’ve always attributed the sensation to the vegetables and spices. Indian cooking requires a few more ingredients than usual–such as garlic, onions, tumeric, cumin, coriander, and chili powder, but the final blend of flavours is well worth the effort.
A recent blog by Veggie Grettie offers a Channa Masala recipe which is a spicy (not necessarily hot) stew of chickpeas, onions, and tomatoes. This recipe inspired me to cook chickpeas and complementary foods for this upcoming Meatless Monday.
Channa Masala and similar recipes can be eaten with traditional chapati, tortillas, pita breads, brown rice, or basmati rice–whatever grain product is available or preferred.
A related chickpea dish is West Indian roti filled with chickpeas, with or without white or sweet potatoes, spinach or squash. Making rotis is an art best learned from a skilled roti maker, but if you like making flat breads, give this recipe a try: Rotis Stuffed with Curried Chickpeas Filling. I’ll be making the filling and eating it in a tortilla or pita. If you’ve never had a real vegetarian roti, visit a West Indian roti shop for a taste of the “real thing”.
Complementary Dishes–What else might you eat with spicy chickpeas, besides bread or rice? Hot sauce goes well. A green lettuce or spinach salad, or cucumber slices would be refreshing. Other possibilities are cooked spinach, asparagus, or green beans. Here are some more recipe links I have dug up:
There has been a lot of chilly wet weather lately –I found myself cooking minestrone soup with beans and pasta the other day. Today I decided to make Vegetarian Molasses Baked Beans in the slow cooker–it’s cooking as I write. Baked beans can be served hot or cold as a main or side dish. For Meatless Monday, I’ll serve the beans with a spinach salad or hot greens, and perhaps some toast–I might also make some brown rice.
Another food that I’ve talked about in other posts is quinoa–it’s great in raw or grilled vegetable salads. I’ve run out of quinoa so won’t be cooking with it next week, but I just want to mention again that it’s a great, satisfying food–high in protein, fibre, and minerals. It’s also a gluten-free grain (technically not a grain, but it’s grain-like)–important for those who have a gluten sensitivity or allergy. Quinoa recipes can be made using brown rice— brown rice and quinoa are interchangeable in many dishes. Canadian Living Magazine offers a few quinoa recipes, such as:
Grilled Vegetable Quinoa Salad–featuring quinoa, grilled vegetables and feta cheese.
This week for Meatless Monday I’ll be making veggie burgers with Kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) as the key ingredient. This grain is part of East European cuisines and has a distinct flavour. I’ll be following a recipe called “Cajun Veggie Burgers” that comes with a demonstration video. A unique feature of this burger recipe is that it provides instructions for baking as well as frying the burgers.
Changing eating patterns, even for one day takes effort. If you are looking for inspiration, check out the Video of Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), uploaded onto YouTube. In this video, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, also Director General of the Energy and Resources Institute of India,talks about the impact of eating less meat.
Eating lower on the food chain conserves land, water, and crops—one of the reasons why eating less meat has been added to lists of eco-friendly things to do, and one of the rationales behind Meatless Monday. A holiday weekend often involves family potlucks, and other gatherings—so why not grace one of your occasions with a meatless offering?
Feature Recipe: Fast Mexican Lasagna
This week I tested Fast Mexican Lasagna. I would call this dish “Mexican Tortilla Casserole” as it’s made of tortillas and other ingredients you would use in quesadillas (the subject of my last food post). The casserole has four layers of soft 8¨ tortillas covered with refried beans, salsa, grated cheese, and roasted red peppers.
The recipe says that the yield is 6 servings. For a family potluck, I’ll be cutting my dish into slivers as a side for other dishes on the table. A few tips:
- Making refried beans from scratch isn’t difficult if you have the time. Once you prepare them a few times, no recipe will be needed. Try this one: refried beans.
- Cooking beans from scratch allows you to reduce the gas factor. To reduce gas, soak the beans overnight and/or bring them to a boil, skim off the foam, rinse, and cook in a fresh batch of water.
- Red peppers can be “roasted” in a microwave rather than using more electricity in an oven.
More Recipe Ideas for Weekend Celebrations
Vegetarian Nachos—I recently layered baked tortilla chips, with salsa, chopped green onion, chopped cooked asparagus, artichoke slices, and shredded cheese on a cookie sheet and baked it in the oven at 375 degrees F for just over 10 minutes. A heartier version could include refried beans.
Enjoy! Let me know if you have some vegetarian successes this weekend.
I’ve been writing about vegetarian menus for Meatless Monday for about 3 months now. I’ve been realizing that this is one of my favourite blog projects. Why? I’ve been a vegetarian for many years— or almost vegetarian, because in recent years I started eating fish. However since I began this blog series, I’ve looked at the fish question more closely and decided that if I maintain a diverse vegetarian diet, including lots of essential fats (omega 3, 6, and GLA), I’ll be healthy and ‘sane” without fish.
Meatless Monday gives me an extra incentive to plan home meals and cook on the weekend; as an additional bonus, I usually have leftovers that last for at least part of the week.
Meatless Monday Fact—According to a 2006 UN study, global livestock operations generate 18% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Livestock farming involves five GHG emitting sectors: agriculture and forestry, land use, industry, energy and waste. Deforestation for pastures and feed crops, manure, and “enteric fermentation”, aka digestive gas, are major sources of livestock emissions (Source: Livestock’s Long Shadow—Environmental Issues and Options, report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2006).
Snack Bars—Protein bars are convenient quick snacks that can be carried with you while you are out and about. This week I tried a peanut butter granola bar recipe which I will make again. Very easy to prepare and bake, the ingredients are peanut butter, honey,oil, rolled oats, wheat germ, raisins, and chopped dried apricots. I excluded the dried fruit and used slivered almonds instead (that’s what I had on hand). Recipe link: Peanut Butter Granola Bars.
Cooking Greens—Eating green vegetables is important every day. This recipe includes beans, adding extra protein. Cooking fresh vegetables takes a little effort—washing and chopping is part of the bargain. However I find, once I get into it, the process and results are rewarding.
Collards are big leafy greens with sturdy stems (the picture shows asian kale, similar, but with softer, narrower leaves). I prepare them by soaking in water and vinegar, rinsing, cutting out the stems, rolling up each leaf and slicing the roll in ¼ to ½ inch strips, resulting in long green ribbons. Like any greens, collards can be steamed or sautéed in garlic, ginger or onion.
Recipes that combine collards or kale with beans, with or without tomatoes, provide delicious and satisfying results—the starch of the added beans complements the vegetables. Recipe link: Collards with Lentils, Tomatoes, and Indian Spices. Yesterday I cooked this using white kidney beans, instead of lentils, and leftover tomato paste, instead of chopped tomatoes.
Swiss chard is a sweeter, lighter green leafy vegetable. For preparations tips and a swiss chard quesadilla filling, take a look at the video at the end of this blog.
Dinner/ Lunch Selection: Quesadillas
Last week the bean burritos were so successful I decided to continue on the Mexican theme with Quesadillas. These foods are suitable for lunch or dinner, hot or cold. Bite size pieces can be used as appetizers—something to keep in mind as we approach weekend celebrations for Easter and Earth Day (April 22).
What’s a quesadilla? It’s a grilled tortilla sandwich—a tortilla is topped with a filling, such as cheese, vegetables, or refried beans, followed by another tortilla and then fried on both sides, like a grilled sandwich.
I’ll be trying two or three of these recipes on Monday:
Corn Tortilla Quesadillas with Summer Veg (zucchini, red pepper, and cheese filling)
Swiss Chard Quesadilla—the video below shows swiss chard being harvested from the garden, and cooked for quesadillas, with full recipe details. In this approach to quesadillas, the chef folds one tortilla in half for frying, rather than using two tortillas—it looks delicious.
View the video by clicking on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BzuPPIFkRk
Meatless Monday is on its way. Here are some ideas for lunch and dinner. I’ll be having veggie pate sandwiches for lunch and refried bean burritos for dinner.
Vegetarian Bean Burritos are great for lunch or dinner, hot or cold. A hot variation is refried beans and brown rice.
For lunch, make burritos at home or purchase premade frozen bean burritos–it won’t be as hearty as what you’d make at home, but sometimes there isn’t enough time to make everything. For homemade burritos, the basic ingredients are:
- refried beans or other filling
- “fixings”, such as grated cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and chopped green onions
- condiments–perhaps salsa and sour cream.
For a Vegweb recipe, click Refried Beans. This recipe includes tomatoes–which could be optional—in the past I haven’t used tomatoes–the key ingredients are pre-cooked beans fried with lots of garlic, onions, hot or sweet pepper, and seasonings, such as oregano and cumin. The beans are partly mashed as they fry and taste best the next day when the flavours have deepened.
For instructions on how to roll a tortilla, take a look at “How to Make Bean Burrito Bites” a video by Expertvillage. Burrito bites are a cold variation that are presented as an appetizer, but also would work for lunch. The burritos are spread with cream cheese and filled with refried beans, chopped cilantro, raw pepper slices, and cucumber strips.
More Lunch Ideas
In a previous blog I introduced the idea of buying or making vegetarian pate for sandwiches. Since then I made the Vegweb veggie pate recipe, as I was unable to find a premade version in the store. It was fairly easy to make, once the ingredients were assembled (as is often the case).
The pate consists of ground nuts, grated raw vegetables, oil, soy sauce, nutritional yeast and other seasonings. A coffee grinder is handy for grinding the nuts. Nutritional yeast adds flavour and texture. The mixture is spread in a large baking dish and baked in the oven. The result is delicious hot or cold.
I experimented with a variation of the recipe, accidentally and on purpose. I used only ground sunflower seeds and now realize that the recipe also calls for ground sesame. The recipe uses shredded carrots, beets, and zucchini. I used shredded carrots, mushrooms, and bok choy stems—what I had on hand.
Another quicker idea for a luncheon spread is to mix tahini (or another favourite seed or nut spread) with grated carrots, nutritional yeast, mayo, and chopped green onions. For proportions, take a look at “Vegan Sandwich Recipes” on the Toronto Vegetarian Association website. As usual, improvising is the way to go. If you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, try a small amount of soy sauce and reduce the mayo.
Nutritional yeast is sometimes referred to in recipes as brewer’s yeast, torula yeast or engevita yeast—it’s not an active yeast that would be used in bread making. I used “debittered” brewer’s yeast from a local natural food store. Yeast deepens flavours for spreads, soups, stews, and sauces etc.–it also has nutritional qualities as a source of protein, iron, and vitamin B. I’ve tried it on popcorn with spices, instead of butter and salt.
Enjoy your vegetarian meals for Meatless Monday–experiment with new foods, but keep it simple!