Friday, May 13, 2011

April Vegetarian Recipes

April was a successful month for vegetarian recipes.  March, on the other hand, was full of learning experiences.  We had several recipes completely bomb.  Lessons learned:
  • Don't try a recipe with an ingredient you've never had.  You will have no way of knowing whether it tastes like it's supposed to or not.  Case in point: we tried eggplant parmesan yet neither of us had ever had eggplant.  Tasted bitter and moldy.  Will be one to try in a restaurant or at a friend's before we attempt again.

  • The more ingredients, the more expensive a meal will be.  I'm not talking about a butt load of spices, but sheer number of items that must be used.  Particularly if they are not pantry items, are expensive products, have short shelf lives, or ones you simply don't use them often.

  • Don't schedule new recipes on nights you know are busy or after a hard day.  Experimenting with new dishes is fun, but not when you're completely depleted of energy.  We've found it's better to do "Meatless Monday" on the weekends, when there's more time to prepare (or make a second meal if it's a bust).
Here are our recent successes (click on titles for recipes).

1. Quick Bean and Veggie Couscous or Bulgar Pilaf

We made this after a lazy morning of sleeping in and not getting lunch started until 2pm.  We have couscous often, but usually plain and with marinated meats.  This was a new venture to make it into a pilaf.  We made this as directed but replaced the onion with onion powder and skipped the carrot.

  • Pantry ingredients with long shelf lives
  • Good source of whole grain and protein
  • Easy to customize (ie: vegans can skip cheese)
  • Good two-person recipe with leftovers, or nice side
  • Reheats well 
  • Recommend a mild cheese, not aged as suggested.  Havarti was delicious!
  • Canned tomatoes were a little too sweet, will use fresh next time. 

2. Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas

Every quarter, my insurance company (Wellmark) sends out a newsletter.  They always include several recipes, and they recently offered some vegetarian ones.  As a chronic meat eater, I was skeptical of this recipe.  So many veggies, plus prep time.  We'd also never used zucchini before but took the risk since the amount was small.  Surprise of all surprises, this is entirely delicious!  I loved everything about this dish.

  • Don't let the amount of ingredients deter you.  The even quantities ensure a great blend of veggies without being overwhelming.
  • Anything smothered in enchilada sauce is tasty.
  • Leftovers taste virtually the same and will make your coworkers jealous.
  • Prep was surprisingly fast.
  • Roasting corn is the best thing ever!  Take the extra 10 minutes for this step.  It's well worth your time!
  • You will have leftover ingredients.  You need to plan a companion dish for them to not waste food.  Thankfully, they all keep well in the fridge.
  • Corn tortillas always tear on me when rolling.  Gotta find a way to make them stay pretty.

3. Chilaquiles Casserole

This casserole is the perfect medium for the leftovers mentioned above.  We made it three days later with no spoilage of ingredients.  Made as directed but skipped onion, added onion powder (yes, I'm an onion hater, Mike deals).  Overall decent.  Much more of a corn and zucchini presence in this one, something I personally just need to get used to.  

  • Great way to use leftovers
  • Pantry staples
  • Speedy prep
  • Can be made night before
  • I actually preferred the leftovers better, but that's just me.  
  • Could roast corn for this one too
  • Massive amount of leftovers for two people
  • Too much cheese, or maybe needs a mix of mozzarella and cheddar 

4. Souffled Pumpkin Pancake

Pumpkin is awesome.  I don't know why the majority of people only eat it in the fall.  Well, I do, seasonal ingredient and the holidays, but I love it year round.  Pumpkin smoothies, muffins, breads, pancakes - I'll eat it all.  This recipe combines my love of pumpkin with my joy of egg dishes.

  • Mouthwatering awesome yet completely filling
  • Great for two people with leftovers
  • Not too much sugar and doesn't need to be drenched in syrup
  • Uses all pantry items
  • Leftover pumpkin freeze well, in case you didn't know
  • Beware, you need a 10" oven-proof skillet for this dish.
  • It's a Paula Dean recipe, which means it's more decadent than it should be.  We skipped the pecans, which eliminates the fat from the nuts and the 2 T of butter and 1 T of sugar they're caramelized in.
  • Calls for buttermilk.  First of all, infrequent ingredient in our house, meaning special purchase.  Second, infamous for high fat content.  Here's the waist- and budget-friendly alternative: Mix 1T of white vinegar with 1 cup of skim milk.  Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.  Voila, a chemical reaction has produced something akin to buttermilk but will not kill you.
  • Prep is ok, but getting your egg whites to peak is an extra step.  Just plan accordingly.  Also, there is a difference between soft and stiff peaks - overbeating will change the texture.  
  • You don't need to buy pumpkin pie spice specially for this.  A combination of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, or cloves usually does the trick.  We used chai spice and enjoyed the mellow flavor.  Next time, I might use just cinnamon.

5. Plain Yogurt in Smoothies

A great way of getting in fruit is to have a smoothie.  Frozen fruit is cheap, there's many varieties or blends, and yogurt is inexpensive.  We've been experimenting with smoothies lately, partially with the help of the last Food Network Magazine issue, which included 50 smoothie recipes.

One thing that can kill a healthy smoothie is added sugar.  Fruit and juice already have a high sugar content, which can be of concern to some.  Then if you add a flavored yogurt, honey, or flavored milks, your intakes goes up.  I've even seen some recipes call for adding straight sugar.

We enjoy smoothies with yogurt.  The extra protein is helpful, and they also go great with any of the above veggies recipes or as a light meal.  We've been using vanilla yogurt but wanted to find an alternative.  Part of this was added sugar, the other was that it's hard around here to find a natural yogurt that won't cost you an arm and a leg.  I just don't want to be eating a bunch of dye and artificial flavor.

Plain yogurt is the answer.  It adds protein and a nice creaminess that allows the fruit to come through.  We've tried two brands so far: Stony Brook has zero sugar and is very tart, but A&E only adds a subtly tanginess.  

Question of the Day: What are your staple vegetarian dishes?  


  1. I am definitely going to try your bulgar recipe and the black bean enchiladas! mmmmmmmmmmmm.

  2. Thanks! We keep plugging away at it. We're consistently getting in 2 vegetarian meals a week. Small steps!