Full disclosure. I used to be a vegetarian. I don’t know why I feel the need to confess that–it’s not like the reason I’m writing this is to try to convert you. But I am assuming you want to eat less meat–don’t we all these days?–and that unless you too went ten years without eating an animal yet cooking every day, that you might struggle sometimes to think of how to make a meal you actually want to eat that is centred around vegetables.
So how to cook without meat once in a while and not despise your dinner? You have to think.
Think about protein so that you don’t go hungry. I’m no nutritionist so I’m not going to advise you on how much protein you need or how to get it, and I don’t think you have to be an expert on this to any degree. But eggs, tofu, quinoa and some combo or grains and legumes equal complete proteins and make you feel fuller than a meal of carbs and vegetables alone. This is the only part that really requires any effort–learn to cook quinoa (rinse, boil in a ratio of 2:1 quinoa to water for 20 minutes…there, you’re done) and to like tofu–which I swear to you, is so awesome when cooked properly, you’ll crave it. Swear.
Make salads awesome. Not good. Awesome. Put everything you love to eat into a salad. Love guacamole? Put avocados in your salad every time. Like cheese? Throw it in. That was easy. But you can do better. You know that crunchy, crusty cheese that you pick off your pizza crust? You can make that by grating Parmesan cheese into a non-stick skillet and letting it form into a crust. Once it cools, lift it out and break it into cheese croutons. If you get creative (or crazy) your salad is going to rival any dinner you ever made for yourself before.
Plan ahead because if you don’t you’re sabotaging yourself. Even if you were making your famous (or at least your standby) grilled chicken, you couldn’t make it if you didn’t have your marinade or at the very least your chicken on hand when you get home after a long day of work. Make sure you have at least an idea of what your meat-free meals are going to look like for the week, if not a whole menu planned, and have lots of options to reach for.
And splurge on those meat-free (and likely less-expensive anyway) ingredients so you’re more likely to want to reach for them too. You’re trying not to eat as much meat, not trying to deprive yourself of great food.
To get you started, here are some meals I want just as much even now that I’m eating four-legged things. Make them your own and you’ll like them even more.
Quinoa you’d even serve your guests: Quinoa Caprese With Tomato Carpaccio
Beans–and no, it’s not chili: Go To Meal Mexican Pot Beans And All The Fixings
A lazy, flavour-packed pasta: Fried Almond And Olive Pasta With Fresh Cilantro And Parsley