Tuesday’s Tip: Pain-free meatless meal planning

May 03,2011
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird( )

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

A recent email asked me:  “Any tips for introducing more vegetarian meals for my family?”  Here are some ideas to introduce vegetarian meals to your family:

First, try this month’s challenge of Meatless Mondays, or begin whenever you are ready.   When you are ready to take the plunge, introduce the idea to your family.  Give you children a voice in the process and explain your reasons for wanting to incorporate more meatless eating.  Be it health reasons, wanting to tread more lightly on the earth or just trying something new, share this with your family.

Next, brainstorm ideas for meatless meals that may already be a part of your family’s favorite recipes list. With a little bit of thinking, you may realize that your favorite pastas and other recipes already fit the vegetarian bill.

Third, take the plunge and start to develop ideas for new meatless recipes to try.  When we gave up meat, I found it helpful to plan our weekly meals around the idea of categories of vegetarian food:  ethnic dishes, egg/cheese dishes, pasta, and whole grains paired with legumes (pairing any whole grain with a legume gives you a complete spectrum of the amino acids found in a complete protein).  I have found that cuisines such as Mexican and Asian really lend themselves to vegetarian cooking, such as black bean enchiladas or a tofu stir-fry.  If you haven’t cooked with tofu, it can seem imposing, but it is really, really tasty when cooked properly.  In lieu of tofu, you can use things like edamame or nuts in a stir-fry.

Fourth, use outside resources to find new ideas for vegetarian recipes.  Sites such as this blog (you can search for all posts labeled “Vegetarian Recipes”), Sweet Peas and Pumpkins and other cooking websites offer seemingly endless ideas.  Ask friends if they have a favorite vegetarian recipe to share.  You may be surprised with all the great new ideas you gather!

Lastly, once you continue on your journey, if you have success with doing it one day a week, then the progression to other nights can begin much more easily.  Yes, I said more than one night a week.  Honestly, your health, your wallet and your earth will thank you.  We have been surprised at how little we crave meat now that we have completed our vegetarian experiment.  True, we still eat meat, but it is far less than our pre-Lenten experiment.  I challenge to experiment a little yourself!