You read our piece, “Save the Planet: Eat Less Meat.” So now you know: today, a war on meat is underway—a war waged not by doctors or animal rights activists, but by environmentalists who are primarily preoccupied with the health of our planet.
And now you’re looking around. Maybe the idea of eschewing meat for one day each week tickled your fancy. Maybe you want to go further, branching into the realm of the flexitarian. Or, maybe you’re just veggie-curious—still mulling over the ideas behind the moderate meat movements.
To help you out, Maclean’s has cast far and wide for delicious and nutritious meat-free recipes. Some of these suggestions come from the cooks and nutritionists you read about in our piece. Others are personal favourites. But each of the recipes describes a simple-to-make, protein-rich, main course meal that we think could make converts out of even the most tofuphobic.
When you think vegetarian and beans, you probably think burger. And for good reason! Veggie burgers are cheap and cheerful ways to get full—whether you use lentils, chickpeas, or spicy black beans.
But there’s plenty of other ways to make beans a dinner table staple. One of my favourite legumes is the chickpea. And one of my favourite things to do with chickpeas is turn them into a casserole. This Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea Casserole comes from Martha Rose Shulman, the New York Times’s fabulous, mostly-vegetarian food writer. With a hint of cinnamon for some Middle Eastern flair, this makes a cozy-warm casserole that, most conveniently, keeps for days in the fridge without spoiling.
My second favourite thing to do with a chickpea? Toss on the curry powder! This Sweet Potato Curry comes from Canadian chef Anna Olsen. As a plus, this one is made with yogurt, for extra protein. (Hint: Microwave the sweet potato cubes for just a few minutes to soften before continuing on with the instructions.)
Not beaned out yet? Get creative. Jamie Oliver uses beans in his mexican wraps. Dawn Jackson Blatner (Remember her? She helped coin the term flexitarian) stuffs molasses beans and greens inside of sweet potatoes. And the folks at Planet Forward have come up with a mean lentil-based sloppy joe.
I’ll hold your hand on this one. For starters, it’s pronounced key-nwa. And while it looks a lot like a grain, it’s actually a chenopod, like beets and spinach. Quinoa is a staple dish in many regions of South America. (The Incas apparently called in the “mother of all grains.”) Today, it remains popular because, unlike rice and wheat, quinoa is a complete protein. In other words, it contains all the essential amino acids that humans need.
That said, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. So here’s what I recommend if you haven’t had it before: drench it in peanut sauce! It’s a baby step into the quinoa world. And hey, what doesn’t taste good with peanut butter? Here is a simple Peanut Sauce Vegetable Stir Fry with Tofu. When I make this, I forget the tofu entirely.
Once you’re used to it, try this Quinoa, Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Seed Salad. The maple syrup in the sauce gives it a light, sweet taste. And the raisins and pumpkin seeds mixed in give it lots of texture. I even throw feta in when I’ve got some on hand. (Hint: microwave the squash for a few minutes before sautéing.)
Quinoa is also great as a risotto. Try this Quinoa Risotto with Arugula and Parmesan (from, of all places, the Mayo Clinic’s website).
It seems everyone has a love-hate relationships with soybeans. While there are hoards of soy-crazed vegetarians out there, there are also a lot of people who see the soybean as a nutritional anti-Christ. I’ll let you decide for yourself. (Hey, I’m a journalist, not a doctor). In any event, here are some good ones:
Plain soy beans (or, edamame) can be used almost everywhere. Here, they are mixed with chickpeas to make a more protein-rich hummus. Here, they are combined with corn and tomatoes to make a satisfying salad:
When you process soy beans, you get tofu. (Don’t make that face!)
I know: only the very resilient enjoy the taste of plain tofu. But the rest of us can still take advantage of tofu’s great ability to soak up whatever spices it’s cooked with. Typically, you find tofu in a stir fry. I like this Spinach, Tofu and Sesame Stir-Fry because it’s got lots of green stuff in it and the sesame seeds add a nice crunch. Recently, I stumbled on this Baked Tofu with Tahini recipe, which really shook up everything I thought a new about the stuff.
This is what you get when you ferment soybeans. It sounds frightening, but really—when cooked the right way—tempeh has a rich, nutty taste that many find preferable to tofu.
Once you get used to it, marinated tofu works well in a sandwich. Here’s tempeh pretending to be bacon in a “TLT” with avocado. Here’s tempeh pretending to be beef in a Tempeh Bourgignon. And here’s Tempeh doing more pretending in a Jamaican Jerk Tempeh dish.
There’s a whole wide world of grains that are here to help keep your meat-free plates interesting. One of my go-to grains has always been barley. This chilled Barley Salad with Tomato and Corn has just enough Parmesan to give it a meaty, savoury flavour. And I love the tahini-herb sauce coating this Bulgur Lentil Pilaf. (Although I must admit that this one is unabashedly ‘healthy’ tasting.) But remember that you don’t have to stick with the tomato and parsley toppings that are recommended; it’s easy to throw any veg on top of a big bowl of saucy grains.
If you’re feeling a bit lazy – this Creole Vegetable Jambalaya from Emeril Lagasse, which features eggplant and yellow squash, is just about the easiest thing to throw together. Just put it all in a big pot and simmer!
You already know how to cook pasta, but you have tried soba noodles? These Japanese noodles are made from buckwheat – which, despite the name, is not related to wheat at all. Health nuts like it because it has a lot of essential amino acids and is also high in protein. Soba noodles are great in Thai-inspired dishes like this Buckwheat Noodle Salad, made with mango and peanuts. Or, Japanese-inspired dishes, like these spicy soba noodles tossed with soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms. But they can also be prepared just like traditional pasta. Here, these garlicky soba noodles are covered with Parmesan cheese.
Sometimes meatless eating is easy. We eat a lot of egg and nuts anyway. So why not stretch them out into a full meal?
Martha Stewart has a really fun Family-Style Rolled Omelet with Spinach and Cheddar. (I didn’t even know that Omelets could be rolled this way. But hey, that’s why she’s Martha Stewart.) When low on time, it’s also easy to whip up a simple breakfast burrito around supper time.
Making nuts the star of the meal takes a bit more creativity. This Salad of Wild Rice, Charred Sweet Corn, Spiced Pecans, Avocado and Feta—from Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Mondays website—has enough components in it to fill anyone up. And there’s nothing like a whack of peanut butter to make a stew feel substantial. This West African Groundnut Stew is from the Moosewood Restaurant, one of the historic birthplaces of fine vegetarian dining.