Meal Planning Monday ~ The Vegetarian Adventure

 

This week’s blog post is by Leah Kelley. 

Last month I decided to become a vegetarian. Why, you ask? For one my husband has begged me for years to give it a try but I always shot him down and two, I watched the documentary “Vegucated.” It changed the way I thought about food. If you have the time, I definitely recommend watching it. Three people took a six-week challenge to be vegans. It was interesting to see their journey and if they continued to be vegan after the challenge or go back to eating meat. I also recommend watching “Food Matters,” even if you’re not on a vegetarian journey. It will open your eyes to how food is processed and how our body processes food.

After watching Vegucated, I wanted to throw away every last bit of food in my house! That wasn’t realistic since I have a family of five to feed on one income, so we finished up all the meat in the fridge and freezer. My next grocery shopping trip, I planned for all meatless meals. How easy is that, right? Wrong. I’ve been so used to basing my meals around meat, so now it’s a whole new ballgame. What do I serve as a main dish? What do I serve as a side dish? What the heck is a turnip and how the heck do you cook it?! After my initial freak out moment, I calmed down and picked a few meatless meals I already knew my family liked and few that looked fun and easy to make.

For the first week we had homemade black bean burgers, spinach, potato, and feta gratin, kale lasagna, enchilada bake, and shepherd’s pie made with Boca crumbles. The lasagna was amazing. The other four dishes were horrible.  I could taste the difference in the non-meat crumbles (versus ground beef) and was not a fan.  My burgers didn’t stick together and the potato gratin was just inedible. I started to get discouraged, but fortunately I have a friend going through the process with me and she started a Facebook Veggie Group for support. That meant the world to me to know that other people were facing the same challenges as me. I was able to get a lot of great recipes ideas there, too.

I’m not perfect, and I did have a few slip ups the past few weeks. I ate a piece of chicken that was on my pizza from Mellow Mushroom. Their Mellowteranean pizza is just so hard to pass up! I also had a chicken tender at Chuy’s, because I wasn’t feeling my veggie enchilada.

         I thought I would share a few recipes I’ve found – on Pinterest, of course – that were hits with my family.  (I’ve also created a Vegetarian Dishes Pinterest board, if you want to check it out.)

 

Classic Cheese Lasagna from www.marthastewart.com ~ I used cottage cheese and ricotta in this recipe and it turned out fantastic! A friend of mine recommended using half tofu and half ricotta.

Veggie Enchiladas from www.recipegirl.com~ These were awesome!

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup from www.thecurvycarrot.com~ This was great with a little extra salt and red chili pepper flakes.

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushrooms and Kale from www.savoringthethyme.com.  This was by far our favorite meal so far.  Here’s the recipe.

 

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna with Mushrooms & Kale (Yield = 6-8 servings)


Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
20 ounces from a 32 oz. container part-skim ricotta
4-5 ounces of low-fat cottage cheese
1 large egg
1 cup coarsely chopped Kale leaves
6 oz. mushroom caps, stems removed, roughly minced
3 1/2 cups or so (maybe 30 ounces) of high quality marinara sauce (low sugar, low salt)
15 lasagna noodles (whole-wheat preferred), uncooked
1 cup shredded parmesan or reduced-fat cheddar
Coarse salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. In a skillet (I used the ninja cooking system so I cooked in it on stove-top function), heat the oil over medium heat. Begin sautéing the onion and green pepper, stirring often for about 5 minutes. Turn of the heat, toss in the garlic, stir and allow to cook 30 seconds or so.

2. Meanwhile combine ricotta, cottage cheese, egg, kale and mushrooms in a large bowl. Mix the sauté mixture into the ricotta mixture and mix well.

3. Unless nonstick, coat a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray and spread 1 cup or so of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place 4-5 noodles over the sauce, overlapping them slightly and breaking into pieces as necessary to fill up the space.

4. Spread some of the ricotta-vegetable mixture over the noodles followed by some marinara sauce. Repeat until you have used up all of the luscious ingredients.

5. Sprinkle the Parmesan or cheddar on top and set the slow-cooker on high for 2 hours (or 4 hours on low). I found mine was done at about 1 hour and 40 minutes.