Meatless Meals Challenge

We’ve just returned home from Mazatlán, Mexico. Even though we consider ourselves to be (fairly) health-conscious and we (usually) eat and drink in moderation, all-inclusive resorts have a way of messing with any well-intended eating plan. Here’s a sample of some of our meals and refreshments from the past week.

Good thing we packed the Tums!

At home,  I frequently cook meatless meals…which includes many chilis and stir-frys. Recently, with numerous reminders to reduce our meat consumption (both from a health perspective and an environmental point of view), I set myself a February Challenge to expand my vegetarian cooking recipes.  Here’s a sample of some of our at-home dinners that resulted from this mission.

Veggie Puttanesca
Recipe From: BBC Food Recipes

Being a huge pasta fan, this dish was Richard’s favourite. If you’ve never tried Puttanesca, you may have heard of it in such movies as Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. This recipe has a rich and colourful history.  It is frequently called “Lady of the Night Pasta” (How intriguing is that?!) One origin story suggests that this meal was first prepared in the 1950s by Italian restaurant owner, Sandro Petro. As that version goes, customers came in late one evening. The only items that Petro had left for making sauce were “four tomatoes, two olives, and some capers.” Regardless of its beginnings, this ingredient combination is delicious!

Pita Pizzas
Recipe From: This Savory Vegan

Although I also loved the Veggie Puttanesca,  the ease and convenience of preparing these little pizzas (along with their great taste) made them my absolute favourite.  I seldom follow a recipe exactly (understatement)! The original recipe that I used here was vegan. However, I couldn’t resist adding a few bits of feta, and sprinkles of shredded cheddar because, well…CHEESE!! We enjoyed this pizza so much that I made similar ones for breakfast, adding scrambled eggs and omitting the olives and yellow pepper. Both were delicious, but the non-egg version was my first choice.

Polenta & Vegetable Kabobs
Combo Recipe From: Naturally Ella and Damn Delicious

What can be more perfect than a dinner that tastes good, looks good, and is fun to prepare and to eat? You could leave out the polenta in these skewers, but Richard and I both agreed that this ingredient took the meal up a notch (or even two)! You should be able to find tubed polenta at your grocery store.

Zucchini Pasta Casserole
Recipe From:  Trial and Eater

I am a long-time fan of one-pot cooking. This casserole dish can be served alone, or as shown with a small side salad. As with most casseroles, this one is easy, time saving, economical, can be made ahead of time and leftovers can be stored in your freezer. It is also healthy and hearty. Now that’s a multi-win dish!

Meatless Shepherd’s Pie
Recipe From:  She Does The City

Who doesn’t love Shepherd’s Pie? The Ground Vegetable Round makes a perfect substitute for meat in this dish. Try it — your dinner guests may never realize that there is not eating ground beef! In a hurry? You can also use pre-made, frozen or instant mashed potatoes….I’ll never tell!

Yves Veggie Ground Round Chili
Recipe From:  Yves Veggie Cuisine

I know, I know! The goal of this exercise was to push myself out of my comfort zone and try some new-to-me vegetarian recipes. Chili is cheating. It is my go-to comfort food that I can make with my eyes shut. In my defense, I did use a recipe which I mostly followed. Okay, so maybe I did omit the brown sugar, some of the spices and the entire cup of vegetable broth. And I adapted this to my Slow Cooker. But I didn’t add tomato sauce which I usually would, so that was new.

Richard and I liked this “meaty”  vegetarian chili so much that the following night we magically transformed it into ‘Sloppy Joes’ (just reheat, scoop onto warm hamburger buns, and add your favourite fixings). Delicious….and oh so comforting!

Tortilla Soup
Recipe From:  COOKIE + Kate

To ease the transition back from our Mexican meals, here was our ‘return home dinner.’ It had a wonderful Tex-Mex flavour. It was also substantially lighter (and a fair amount healthier) than our vacation dinners.

Do you have a favourite vegetarian recipe to share? If so, please include a link to it in the comments below. I look forward to expanding my meatless repertoire further with your recommendations!

86 Replies to “Meatless Meals Challenge”

  1. Hi Donna,
    We eat this way (as you know), but avoid ALL animal products, including cheese and other dairy due to fats and casein. Lots of great recipes on Pinterest. We also use whole wheat pastas, and other whole foods as much as possible.
    Be cautious when using prepared meat substitutes…they are highly processed and have lots of unpronounceable ingredients. As Michael Pollan suggests, if your Grandmother would not have recognized it as an ingredient in her cooking, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

    I also like Pollan’s famous saying

    Eat Food (he means whole, recognizable ingredients here)
    Not Too Much
    Mostly Plants

    Good for you for pursuing this direction in eating!

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    1. Hi, Nancy – Thank you so much for stopping by. Richard and I are not as disciplined in our eating as you and your husband. You are a true inspiration!
      We do avoid most processed foods and carefully read food labels. When wanting a vegetarian dish that is easy to prepare and still tastes “meaty”, we have been happy with the Yves Cuisine products. The top ingredients in their Veggie Ground Round are: Water, soy protein, wheat protein, onions, canola oil, salt,, evaporated cane juice, barley, mustard and yeast. Not perfect — but definitely baby steps for us . 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a long standing veggie (since 1982 I think) I should have something to add, but I’m afraid my cooking is almost all of the one-pot variety which the spice / herb additions determine as pasta sauce, chilli, curry, or couscous etc. I rarely use a recipe. Neither does John, but he is more adventurous and often produces art on a plate. Substantial art, none of that nouvelle cuisine here! Of my one pot wonders he declares Thai style coconut curry is the best. Lots of veg, marinated tofu, and coconut milk seasoned with chilli, lime, ginger, lemongrass, tamarind and basil (or sometimes coriander). Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not a recipe follower – unlike many I know who make amazing and delicious food. I throw things together but a newish something for me is cooking up baby potatoes with their skins and cauliflower together, mashing them (I use a fork) and adding butter, salt, pepper, garlic flakes, chili flakes or whatever’s at hand and voila! Caulimash –

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    1. Hi, Perpetua – Thanks so much for stopping by. I agree that there is much to explore when attempting to take our healthy eating up a notch or two. The (trial and error) exploration itself can be fun and enlightening.
      BTW – I just stopped by your blog. Your “About Page” totally cracked me up. Thank you for the afternoon smile!

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  4. Hi Donna – Your vegetarian meal preparation and recipes are inspiring. We’re still eating lean meat and I rarely use a recipe so unfortunately, I don’t have any meatless recipes to share.

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    1. Hi, Natalie – Thank you for stopping by. Prior to this challenge, I rarely used recipes myself. It has been fun expanding my repertoire in this area. I just stopped by your blog. As usual, your Wellness Wednesday post was very inspirational!

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    1. Hi, Jill – I’m totally with you regarding cheese. I’ve also never met a cheese that I didn’t like….except for the dairy-free alternatives. Sadly, the vegan cheese substitutes just don’t work for me! Dairy is also one of my main sources of calcium — my excuse and I’m sticking with it! 🙂

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  5. Most of our meatless meals involve eggs. I love potatoes any way, any seasoning and during the summer there is nothing as wonderful as a fresh ripe tomato sandwich with butter. Yum! We don’t eat much meat. We actually follow the 4 oz. per serving guideline.

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  6. This is great Donna and very timely for me as we are trying to reduce meat intake since my recent health scare. I make a vegetarian pasta but I do like the sound of your Polenta and Vegetable Kebabs, Zuchinni Pasta casserole and the Veggie Round chilli. Thank you for sharing at #MLSTL and I will be sharing this post on my ST60 & Beyond Facebook Group for #FitFabFeb2019.

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  7. Hi, Sue – Thank you for not putting the kibosh on my “Meatless Meals” post at #MLSTL. I was afraid that you and Leanne may view it as a “recipe” post. But it was written as a “trying new things/wellness” post. Honest! 🙂
    Glad you liked the recipes. Although they are all quite different from each other, Richard and I truly enjoyed each of them.

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  8. Donna, I had to laugh at you referring to taking your “tums” with you, I have found the older I get spicy hot foods are not suitable for digestion, though I do enjoy a small amount of spicy chilli foods at lunchtime than at dinner. Authentic Mexican food is I am sure would be much tastier than the stuff that is available elsewhere. Which is the same for most meals, such as Turkish food, is much more delicious and authentic in Turkey than in NZ. We are fans of one bowl meals, lots of vegetables, and yes we eat less red meat the older we have got.

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    1. Hi, Suzanne – Sad but true about the Tums. I also had forgotten my travel probiotic in Vancouver before we left. The first thing that I did when we arrived in Mexico was to go to the pharmacy for another probiotic. Somehow my younger self never thought of these things when she traveled! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I would like to eat more meatless meals, but I usually eat turkey or chicken as my dinner meal for the protein; the rest of my meals are mostly meatless. Hubby cooks meat all week so it’s difficult not to enjoy some of it. Your recipes look great, Donna I make a wonderful 15-bean soup/chili but do use ground turkey breast, still low cal/low fat and filling! Saw this on #MLSTL and beyond, LOL!

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  10. I really enjoyed seeing all your recipes, the ingredients and the final dish Donna! Some of these interest me a lot and I’ve saved a few already! I am enjoying zucchini noodles lately instead of traditional pasta and it adds a different touch to melas that may have felt too heavy before. Other than that I’m not much use to you for inspiration, we try to limit our red meat and I love salmon! Your trip sounds delightful by the way but oh my, all that food!!!! #mlstl

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    1. Hi, Debbie – Yup – the “All-Inclusive Food and Drink” was A LOT of food. We did try to pace ourselves — sometimes more successfully than other times. 🙂
      I’m glad that you found a few recipes to save. I love your “zucchini noodle” tip. That is one of my favourite kinds of “noodles”.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. They all look delicious Donna (but so did all that eating you did in Mexico!) I think it’s all about balance, we eat meat – but in smallish serves and not too much red meat, so don’t tend to go completely meatless in our meal prepping. Some of those recipes looked pretty tempting though.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

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    1. HI, Leanne – I completely agree with you about balance. Although Richard and I frequently eat a vegetarian(ish) diet, there are many times when our body crave more protein or iron. I believe that listening to our bodies is key.
      Thank you so much for stopping by and for sharing this on your SM.

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  12. Even as a confirmed meat lover, I do enjoy regular meat-free meals or meals where meat is more of a garnish, rather than the main event. One of my favourites is chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and lemon sautéed together, with baby spinach thrown in the pan at the last minute. I serve it on top of basmati rice.
    Love your recipe ideas, Donna. I’ll be cutting back too, when I get home from Barbados – it’s been an indulgent vacation, food and drink-wise 😜

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  13. Hi Donna – great ideas here … though that holiday looks good! I just love cauliflower cheese – my go to veggie recipe … but I always cook Spanokopita for (minor) events … but make it easy … (don’t worry too much about the filo – it is resilient …

    brush each filo sheet with melted butter
    put two or three in a dish (single layered on top of the other)
    on top put mix
    then again put two or three buttered sheets on top
    score pastry – large diamond shapes
    sprinkle with a little cold water
    bake in a medium hot oven for 40 mins or so … check!

    Mix: Spinach – the chard type … chopped up and pre-cooked, add mix of cheese – I use cheddar, feta and some cream cheese, s&p, and nutmeg (PS I don’t put onions in); add in 4 – 6 beaten eggs … depending on size of dish … mix together thoroughly ( roughly) … and put in middle of filo …

    If you’re a get on with it cook – which sounds like you are … then you’ll adjust … I just love this dish – the nutmeg is the thing … but it’s moorish!

    Good luck and yes we all need to be careful … cheers Hilary

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  14. I like to eat vegetarian-ish. Every one of these recipes looks good to me. Thanks for compiling them here. The only vegetarian recipe I can think of that we like isn’t one I can link to but is an old-fashioned way of stretching food by making brown rice + corn patties, fried in a pan, then served on buns like burgers. Makes for a decent dinner on the cheap.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Susan – I had the same question myself. I found a couple of different recipes for “Rice and Corn Patties” that seemed to use egg as the binding. These recipes also added other ingredients, but I liked Ally’s simpler version better. You can check out the recipes that I found at: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/251766/rice-corn-cakes-with-spicy-black-beans and https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/220697/brown-rice-and-corn-cakes/. I’ll be trying them out myself!

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  15. I’ve read that we lose an enzyme that digests beef as we age. I’m a meat eater but find beef doesn’t sit well in my stomach any more so I’m eating more pork, chicken & fish than previously. Like the Widow Badass says, it’s more of a garnish than the main event.
    Here’s one of my favorites: Tikka Masala Naan Pizza (I think I found this recipe in an O Magazine)
    4 garlic or plain naan bread
    2 c. cubed butternut squash, cooked (frozen works well)
    3 c. packed baby spinach (or Kale, collard greens, beet leaves)
    1 c. jarred tikka masala sauce
    1 c. drained, rinsed chickpeas
    1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
    Coarsely chop spinach. Stir into tikka masala sauce. Spread evenly over naan bread. Top with squash, chickpeas and cheese. Bake at 425F until edges are crisp, 10-15 min. Top with fresh spinach.

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    1. Thanks, Marty – This “challenge” taught me many things — including the realization that I would never make it as a food blogger. As soon as my meal is made, I don’t have the patience it takes to mess around with photography. I simply want to eat it! 🙂

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    1. Hi, Christie – Thank you so much for stopping by. Richard and I are not vegetarians, but do eat a fair share of vegetarian meals. I am glad that you found a couple here that you would like to try. Of course they can all be made with extra protein — and would still be delicious! 🙂

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  16. Hi, Donna! The recipes sound great! I am mostly vegetarian, if only because it’s easier and my closest family is. If you like Yves products, I make a wrap with rice and their ground chicken-ish and loads of diced veggies. Drizzle with your favourite sauce before rolling and baking. Another recipe I sort of created trying to create something hearty for a vegan friend is a warm fusilli salad with spicy peanut sauce, chopped apples, dried apricots, raisins (and anything else you think complements) and sprinkled with shredded coconut just before serving!! The nice thing about veggie/vegan dishes is you can always add a meat side if you have a carnivore at the table.

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  17. Donna these recipes look yummy! I too am trying to go meatless although I fail because I’m a fish lover, but honestly, after being a meat lover most of my life, I could totally do without it now. (Especially as I hear more of animal cruelty) It was interesting to read one of your previous comments about as we get older we lose enzymes so making it harder to digest red meat, because I literally cannot digest meat anymore. I don’t miss it though 😊

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  18. Hi, Sam – Animal-Cruelty is a definite factor in Richard’s and my attempts to have more meatless meals. We are also inspired by the new Canadian Food Guide, which basically boils down to:
    1. “Eat more fruit and vegetables, less meat.
    2. Drink more water, less alcohol and chocolate milk.
    3. Have more home-cooked meals with others, less frozen pizza alone.”
    So far, we’re pretty good with numbers 1 and 3! 🙂

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  19. We love pretty much all food but focus on moderation. One of my favorite vegetarian recipes is from the Indian Instant Pot Cookbook by Urvashi Pitre. The recipe is also on her website at:

    https://twosleevers.com/pressure-cooker-homestyle-chana-masala/

    As for Mexican, I consider tostadas health food. A corn tortilla fried crisp in vegetable oil. Homemade pinto or black beans mashed with the liquid they cook in (not exactly refried). Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, guacamole and homemade salsa.

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  20. I LOVE Chana Masala but have never tried to make it myself. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I look forward to trying it.
    I like how you think — Tostadas are a definite health food for me as well. 🙂 I’ve made a slightly different version before and look forward to trying yours as well.
    Thank you for stopping by. I greatly appreciate it.

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  21. Hi Donna! Great looking recipes… I’ll definitely try a few. We don’t eat a lot of beef, but I do like a nice grilled steak once in a while. I would estimate that we eat vegetarian or seafood only about 2 – 3x a week. Our meat of choice is usually chicken (I’m the stir-fry queen). And, btw, the next time you head out for an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico, let us know! We’ll fly down and meet you (and help you eat all that yummy food 🙂 )!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Some great recipes here. I’m going to check out the puttanesca, chilli and tortilla soup. We don’t have nearly enough meatless meals and you’ve inspired me to do something about that.

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    1. Hi, Jo – Richard stands firm on the puttanesca being his absolute favourite. Although I liked them all, for taste alone, I believe that the Tortilla Soup was mine (it was also incredibly delicious as a leftover).
      I am hoping that there will be a meatless dish or two in the Nigella series. 🙂

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  23. I’d say that was/is a successful veggie month! All your recipes and photos are mouth-watering. As you might already know, Mark and I stick to a “plant-based diet”, which means we do still eat meat, but not often. It allows us to eat healthy and feel good, yet, we can still eat whatever anyone is willing to prepare for us when invited over for dinner and the rare times we go out to a restaurant, the menu is our oyster. 🙂

    We love pasta Puttanesca, but to get enough veggies in you with that dish, a side salad is needed. Recently, we have added frittata to our repertoire in the camper. I call it a glorified omelette, but it’s vegetarian, packed with veggies and so tasty. Especially with homemade bread, which Mark is attempting in a pan, as we don’t have an oven. Cheers!

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    1. Hi, Liesbet – You are Mark are incredible cooks who can prepare delicious, healthy meals in the simplest of kitchens. I can still fondly taste the pizza that you made for Richard and I last September. I would love to sample the homemade bread as well. You’ll need to come back for another visit! 🙂

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  24. Yum Yum Yum! My guy and I are also almost finished with our vacation break. The good news is that here most of the food available is seafood and pineapple. We cook in a lot also and barbecue mostly chicken. I am going to try everyone of your recipes here. One of my favorite veggie dinners? Dare I say-mac & cheese with lots of broccoli ! 🙃

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  25. Definitely pinning to my #mlstl board for future reference. I am in desperate need of tasty, healthy home-cooked meals. These all look delicious!

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    1. Hi, Molly – Thanks so much for stopping by. Definitely check out the comment section of this post as well — there are some great meatless recipe suggestions listed there. Last night, we tried Anabel’s Thai Curry with Veggies, Lemongrass and Lime. It was delicious!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Donna,
    We try not to too much meat in our diet also. We have a lot of roast veggie and salad mixes. Roast veg and brown rice and quinoa. Buddha bowls have been very fashionable in Australia for a few years. it is amazing how in a nice hand made ceramic bowl and throwing all these bits together can be quite yummy, easy and pleasing to eat. I found this link ttps://www.becomingness.com.au/blog/8-beautiful-buddha-bowls-that-you-need-in-your-life-right-now/

    Mexican seems to be enjoying a resurgence in Australia again. Last time they were r very popular was the 70s.

    I hope these links are working. not sure why they are not turning into hyperlinks after I click off them.

    Have a great week. Louise

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  27. This post is chock full of great information. I really don’t like to cook and when I do it needs to be fast. I’m also not a fan of bread or pasta and I look to other options (and of course as you outline, there are plenty) for meatless meals. I always have quinoa on hand, in addition to soba noodles and rice noodles. I’m also going to look into red lentil pasta. I also keep frozen organic vegetables in the freezer. Since I travel between Northern and Southern California quite a bit, I get back to Norcal and I face an empty refrigerator. The soba noddles and frozen vegetables really save me in a pinch.

    The weather is stormy, dreary and miserable where I am. After morning exercise and lunch with my daughter, I retreated to my little apartment and worked on my blog all afternoon for more than 5 hours (ouch!). Due to the wintry weather, I craved heavy comfort food and didn’t feel like making my organic free-range chicken thighs. Ooh, I thought, I’ve got red lentils in my pantry and they have sat there forever. Let me see what I can conjure up. The lentils were so easy and quick to cook. I also blanched some organic tomatoes, peeled them and added them to the lentils. In addition, I sauteed some spinach and chard and added them to my mush (yes the soggy lentils turn to mush but that’s part of their charm!) Toss in some himalayan pink salt, curry, pepper, and my old favorite stand by, California Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and I had a satisfying comfort meal that warmed the tummy. Since it was fast and easy, I was a happy camper.

    Anyway, I thought I would share this and catch up with you as I’ve been a bit off the computer. I hosted two granddaughters in the desert recently for a week and devoted every minute to them. I flew back with them to the S.F. Bay Area where I will stay 5 weeks or so helping grandchildren and my 87 year old Mother. I hope that there a few more meatless meals in my future – quick to make, and delicious. I will re-read your blog for more hints. Thanks Donna! You gave us so much to chew on 🙂

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    1. HI, Susan – You’ve been busy….and cold! I am off to help out with my two granddaughters (two-years-old and a newborn) shortly. I love that our kids still want our help — I wouldn’t like it any other way!!
      Thank you for sharing your Red Lentil Recipe it sounds yummy….and comforting!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Janet – Thanks so much for commenting. I don’t typically cook with recipes – but wanted to expand my horizons with a meatless focus. I’m still continuing with the suggestions that other bloggers have shared. There were some truly great recommendations given!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Mmmmm, all the photos of food have me drooling. I like to cook and have bookshelf full of recipe books. But most of the time I don’t look at a recipe when I cook. Trying some of these vegetarian recipes might get me fired up about cooking more vegetarian dinners (not just the same old standbys).

    Jude

    P.s. your blogsite doesn’t recognize me anymore and is making me fill in my credentials every time.

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