Our Month as Vegetarians

THE ELSMO FOUR GO VEG HEAD FOR A MONTH
So the kids have decided we should become vegetarians for a month (all three meals a day) and Leif and I jumped on board!  I've mentioned this to a bunch of folks and they thought it was a pretty fun idea and worth following.  I've decided to show you what we have for dinner each night right here.  Hopefully it will turn into a great little healthy recipe collection we can all reference before we pull out the pork chops and slap 'em in the skillet, but maybe by the end I will be pontificating on the virtues of braised red meat while gnawing on a chicken gizzard!  Only time will tell.

This adventure is not about show boating all kinds of chefy skills; this is about finding easy flavorful vegetarian week-night meals my kids will eat and totally enjoy.  I am even using a recipe collection and grocery lists provided on a food blog called Eat Close to Home as a jumping off point for our dinners, but I am sure to put my own spin on things and find fun dishes to whip up on other sites like Peas for Dinner and Herbivoracious as time goes on.

Here we go!

Our Vegetarian Dinners for a Month:  WEEK FOUR

MONDAY:  Baked Acorn Squash with 7 Grains, Mushrooms, Currants, Pinenuts, and Frico
Prep/Cook Time:  45 minutes
Kids Reaction:  We all just loved this combination especially Finn!  The squash offered the perfect textural balance when compared to the rustic grains and the sweet currants, salty Parm, and brothy umami from the mushrooms also played well!
Make it Again?:  Yes, but I would cook the grains a little longer than directed and add a quarter cup more liquid.  This was a hardy winter meatless meal!
What to Have:
2 smaller Acorn Squash
1C water
1/2 C Orange Juice
1/2 C vegetable stock
1 small onion, diced
2t minced fresh garlic
1t rosemary
1 (8oz) pkg sliced cremini mushrooms
1/3 C currants
1/4 C toasted Pinenuts
1/4 C fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan Cheese

How to Cook it:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and place cut side down of baking sheet with a touch of water.  Place in the oven and cook until tender (about 30 minutes).  Cook grains according to package directions substituting the broth, OJ, and water for the liquid (be sure to add some salt). Heat a touch of olive oil in a skillet and add the onion and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary, season to taste.  Add the mushrooms and cook until golden.  Add the currants and stir to combine.  Transfer to bowl.  Dry the skillet, add the pinenuts and toast until golden.  Add to the mushroom mixture.  Stir in the parsley and cooked grains.  Remove the squash from the oven.  Flip over.  Sprinkle a touch of Parmesan into the cavity of each squash.  Scoop some of the Whole grain stuffing into the squash.  Sprinkle a circle of grated Parmesan onto the sheet pan next to each stuffed squash.  Return to the oven and cook until cheese melts and turns golden.  Lift cheese (frico) from the pan and garnish the squash.  Plate up and enjoy!

TUESDAY:  Waffles on the Fly!
Prep/Cook Time: N/A
Kid's Reaction:  Duh!  They thought they were delicious.  We were totally caught up in some hectic driving tonight and pulled off to have some quick waffles.  I don't like waffles very much, but for some reason these totally hit my spot, too!  Yum.  I planned to make a ginger garlic tofu stir fry tonight, but that will have to be on deck for tomorrow!
What you need:
1 Car
2 children
1 busy schedule
1 compulsion to pullover
A few dollars 
A dash of a sweet tooth
How to Cook it:
Combine all ingredients, chew the yummy waffles you ordered, and relax!

WEDNESDAY:  Quick Veggie Burgers and Edamame
Prep/Cook Time: 10 minutes
Kids Reaction:  Just Emma and me tonight.  The boys are away on a school trip.  Emma had ballet and I had a Zumba class so we just threw together a quick dinner on the fly.  We loved it!
Make Again:  Yep.  We had this twice this month!
 
What to have:
Frozen Veggie Burgers (I used Trader Joe's Brand)
Whole Wheat Buns
Toppings.
How to Cook it:
Cook burgers in a skillet according to package directions. Place on the buns, add toppings and serve.

THURSDAY:  Whole Wheat Pasta with  Red Sauce, Olives, Capers, and Asparagus
Prep/Cook Time:  2 hours give or take
Kids' Reaction:  Still just the girls around here and Emma and I both enjoyed this dinnera lot!
Make Again?  Yes.  This is great because you make the tomato sauce and add the olives only to the portion you want.  Save the rest of the red sauce for another dish.  Freezes well, too.
What to have:
For the Red Sauce
Olive Oil
1 lg onion diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 m carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt and Pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3t red pepper flakes
2 (32oz) cans whole tomaotes with basil
1/4 C white wine
2 bay Leaves
2T butter (to round out flavors if sauce is too acidic)

For Plating:
Kalamata Olives
Capers
Pamesan
Whole Wheat Pasta, cooked according to package directions
Asparagus Spears, blanched

How to Cook it:
Heat the olive oil in a skillet until hot.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Season to taste and saute until soft, but not colored (10 minutes).  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 30 seconds.  Add the tomaotes (undrained), wine, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 90 minutes until thickened.  Remove the bay leaves and puree with a food processor or immersion blender until smooth.  Season and add butter as needed.  Serve the sauce over the pasta with olives, capers, Parmesan and asparagus.

FRIDAY:  Family Pizza Night!
Prep/Cook Time:  I was doing a little prep work tonight for a dinner party we are hosting on Saturday and we decided to keep things really simple and order a salad and a nice cheese pizza.  What a treat.
Kids' Reaction:   Loved.
SATURDAY:  A Dinner Party with some seriously good veggie elements!  We enjoyed leftovers on Sunday including this amazing Cauliflower Salad!
MONDAY: Ginger Garlic Tofu Stir Fry with Bok Choy and Poached Egg
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Kids' Reaction:  Both loved this and it was one of my favorites, too. 
Make it Again?  For Sure!
What to Have:
1 pkg. extra firm tofu
4 small bok choy, halved lengthwise
Snow Pea Pods
Asparagus, chopped
Red and Yellow Peppers, sliced
1T ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 C soy sauce
1/4 C water
1T honey
1t cornstarch
1t sesame oil
4 poached eggs
1/4 C toasted almonds
Cooked Rice

How to Cook it:
Blanch the snow peas and chopped asparagus while sauting the tofu in some oil until golden.  Remove to a bowl and cook the bok Choy in the same skillet until slightly colored and cooked through.  Remove to a plate and keep warm.  Add a little more oil to the skillet and cook the peppers until tender.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the snow peas, asparagus and tofu and heat through.  Mix the soy sauce, water, honey and cornstarch until smooth.  Add to skillet and cook until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and add the sesame oil.  Serve the boy choy and rice in bowls topped with the stir fry and a poached egg.  Garnish with almonds and chili garlic paste (optional).

Our Vegetarian Dinners for a Month: WEEK THREE

MONDAY: Leftover Black Beans and Rice with Salad
Prep/Cook Time:  Just a few minutes for reheating and a little chopping.
Kid's Reaction:  They were both huge fans of these long cooked beans at our dinner party last Saturday and still liked them today!
Make Again:  No doubt about it!  These will get you off canned beans for sure!
What to Have:
1# dried black beans rinsed and picked over
4T Olive Oil
1 m. onion diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (adjust to taste)
1T ground Cumin
2t dried Mexican Oregano
salt 
Queso Fresco, Cilantro and Scallions for garnish

How to Cook it:
Place the beans in a bowl with cold water to cover and allow to soak over night.  In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and 1/2 t salt and sweat until tender (about 6 minutes).  Add the jalapeno, garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant (about 45 seconds).  Add the drained beans and oregano.  Stir until combined and cover with cold water (10 cups) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally until beans are tender (about 3 1/2 hours).  Add at least 1T of salt, remove cover and cook until slightly thickened (about 30 more minutes).  Serve over rice if desired and garnished with queso fresco, scallions, and cilantro.

TUESDAY:  Corn Cakes, Kale, and Baked Beans
Make/Prep Time: 30 minutes
Kids Reaction:  Both of them thought this looked strange at first and then proceeded eat it all.  Leif commented, "This tastes like the south."
Make again?:
What to have:
1 Can Organic Vegetarian Baked Beans

For the Cakes:
1C Cornmeal
1T honey
1t salt
1T butter
1C boiling water
1/2 C milk
1 egg
1/2 C flour
2t baking powder

For the Kale:
1 bunch Dinosaur Kale
Olive oil
4 garlic cloves chopped
1/4 C white wine
salt and pepper
1 Lemon half

How to Cook it:
Pour the beans into a saucepan and heat.

Remove the stems from the Kale and chop into 2" pieces and set aside.

Combine the cornmeal, honey, butter, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the boiling water, whisk to combine, cover and set aside for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, add some olive oil to a hot skillet and add garlic.  Cook until golden, add the kale, the salt, pepper, and wine.  Stir to mix, cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile Mix the milk and the egg in a bowl and mix into the cornmeal.  Sift the flour and baking powder together into the cornmeal and stir quickly to combine.  Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and use the batter to make pancakes.  Repeat until you have 8 pancakes. 

Squeeze the lemon half over the greens.  Place 2 pancakes on a plate.  Top with 1/3 C baked beans and a portion of the cooked kale and serve.

WEDNESDAY: Cabbage, Apples, Beans and Noodles
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Kids' Reaction: Mixed.  Emma was not totally thrilled.  Finn liked it a lot.  Leif was a fan and I would eat it again, too!  
Make it again?:  Sorry Emma!  I always seem to end up with a half of a left over cabbage and this is more than a fine way to use it up.  Thanks to Emily from Eat Close to Home for suggesting I use some smoked paprika to round this dish out.  Nice add! I added some Brussels Sprouts for color and a few scallions.
What to Have:
1/2 Pkg cooked whole grain egg noodles (save a little bit of the cooking liquid)
1 sm. onion, sliced
1 Granny Smith Apple, diced
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1C shredded carrots
1 (15oz) can large white beans, drained
Seasoning (I used salt, pepper, Italian Seasoning, Smoked Paprika)

How to Cook it:
Heat some oil in a skillet and add the onion and apple with a little salt and seasoning.  Cook until softened and add the carrots and cabbage.  Saute until wilted and season to taste.  Add pasta cooking water as needed.  Add the beans and pasta.  Stir to combine.  I garnished up with a few boiled and sauteed sprouts, sauteed apple slivers, and scallions.

*This makes a lot!

THURSDAY:  Two Bean, Hominy, and Sweet Potato Chili with Fresh Baked Corn Bread
Prep/Cook Time:
Kids' Reaction:  Both loved this dish.  Hands down this was one of our favorite dinners to date!
Make it again?: Totally!  Maybe the windchill of -25 has biased us, but we all felt like this was a darn good bowl of chili!
What to Have:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small onion minced (2T reserved)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28oz can organic diced tomatoes
2 C Vegetable Stock
Chili Powder, Cumin, Cayenne, Smoked Paprika, Salt, Pepper
1 (15oz) can Black Beans, drained
1 (15oz) can Red Kidney Beans, drained
1 (14 oz) can Hominy, drained
1/2 Square baking Chocolate
2 bay leaves
Garnishes: Sour Cream, Cheddar, Scallions, and reserved minced onions

How to Cook it:
Heat a little oil in a medium stock pot.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until tender.  Add the tomatoes, stock, seasonings as desired, beans, hominy, chocolate, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour.  Meanwhile, cook the diced sweet potato in some simmer water until tender.  Drain and fold into chili.  Check seasoning regularly and stir occasionally.  Remove bay leaves and serve chili topped with garnishes and cornbread on the side.

FRIDAY:  Broccoli Cheese Quiche with Whole Wheat Crust and Baby Greens, Currents, Apples, and Pine Nuts in Balsamic Vinaigrette
Prep/Cook Time: 50 minutes
Kids Reaction:  Everyone loved it!  Requests for seconds all around.
Make again?: Yes, we loved the whole wheat crust!
What to Have:
1 frozen pre-made organic whole wheat pie crust (I used Wholly Wholesome brand)
2 C chopped fresh broccoli
2T butter
1 small onion minced
1 garlic clove minced
salt and pepper
1 C Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 C Milk
3 eggs 
3 eggs

How to Cook it:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a sauce pan filled with water and add the chopped broccoli.  Cook until crisp tender (3minutes) and drain.  Meanwhile melt 2T butter in a skillet and add the onion.  Cook onion until soft, add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Stir in the broccoli and season.  Beat the eggs with the milk and season.  Place the crust on a baking sheet, put broccoli mixture in the pie crust and sprinkle the cheese over the top.  Pour the egg mixture over all.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until set.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Cut quiche and serve with salad.

SATURDAY:  Sleepover Chinese Take-Out.  Vegetable Lo-Mein and Veggie EggRolls
Finn is at a birthday party and Emma has a friend over.  I was supposed to make them Pasta with Olive Sauce, but the grocery store was just jammed with folks shopping for the big Packer/Bear game tomorrow.   What do two teen age girls pick to order in a pinch?  Greasy Chinese of course!


Our Vegetarian Dinners for a Month: WEEK TWO

* I think we are going to be in bean central around here this week!

MONDAY: Veggie Burger with Cheese and Fixin's, Sweet Potato Fries, Salad
Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes
Kids Reaction:  Favorable for sure!  Emma loved veggie burgers before tonight, but skeptical Finn was an instant convert!
Make Again:  For Sure.
What to have:
4 frozen veggie burgers (I used Trader Joe's and cooked them in a skillet)
4 Whole wheat burger buns
4 Slices of cheese
Ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions as desired
2-3 Sm. sweet Potatoes
Olive oil
How to Cook it:  
Peel and cut the potatoes into wedges like french fries.  Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a sheet pan.  Place into a 425 degree oven and roast until spotty brown and cooked through.  About 40 minutes.  Toss once or twice during the cooking.  Meanwhile prep the salad and cook the veggie burgers.  Top the burger with cheese and let it melt.  Place on buns, garnish and serve with sweet potato fries and salad.

TUESDAY:  Whole Wheat Flat Bread Pizzas
Prep/Cook Time:  20 minutes
Kids Reaction:  Terrific!  I opted to add a little pizza sauce to the kids' and kept their toppings simple (cheese and kalamata
Make it again:  Yes.  Emma commented that she would love to see dishes like this on our menu all the time!
What to Have:
1 large tomato
1/2 C pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1/2 T Fresh Rosemary, chopped
1 M red onion
2 whole wheat flat bread rounds
Olive Oil
1/2 C Fresh Ricotta Cheese
1/4 C diced part skim Mozzarella
2 C Wild Arugula
Salt, Pepper, and Red Pepper Flakes

What to Do:
Cut the tomato in half and squeeze the juice and seeds into a medium bowl and reserve.  Dice the seeded tomato and mix with the olives and rosemary.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.  Slice the onion into 1" rounds, brush with olive oil and season with salt.  Place rounds in preheated grill pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side until tender and well colored.  Set aside.  Brush the flat bread with some olive oil and place in the grill pan to toast on both sides and transfer to a sheet pan.  Sprinkle the cheeses over the flat bread.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the tomato- olive mixture  and the grilled onion rings.  Place in a preheated 400 degree oven until cheese melts (about 10 minutes).  Meanwhile, whisk the tomato juice with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place the arugula in the bowl with the tomato dressing and toss to coat.  Remove the pizza from the oven and place the arugula salad on top.  Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.

WEDNESDAY: Time got the better of us...Unplanned Potatoes and Eggs.
Prep/Cook Time:  20 minutes
Kids Reaction:  This is an old family favorite so yes, they liked it.
Make it again:  Been makin' it for years!  Why stop now.
What to Have:
2 T Butter
2 Potatoes, diced and boiled (leftover baked potatoes are great)
6 Eggs
Salt and Pepper
Broccoli, steamed until crisp tender

How to cook it:
Heat butter in a skillet.  Add the potatoes and heat through.  Season with salt. Whisk eggs and season. Add to skillet with potatoes and cook through. Serve with broccoli on the side.

THURSDAY: Curry Chickpeas and Rice
Kids Reaction:  Clean Plates and Happiness
Cook/Prep Time: 40 minutes if you cook the rice.  10 minutes if cooked ahead
Make Again?: Yep.
What to Have:
1 Can of light coconut milk
1 14oz can diced organic tomatoes,drained
1/2 C all natural creamy peanut butter
1/2 C fresh whole basil leaves
1 10oz bag frozen stir fry veggies (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1 15 oz can Garbanzo beans
Curry, brown sugar, and Red Pepper flakes  to taste
Cooked Brown Rice (I cooked mine with orange juice)
Chopped peanuts, Lime, and basil for garnish

How to Cook it:


FRIDAY: Night out with friends to Urban Belly for Beans, Dumplings, Ramen&Margie's for Sundaes
Kids Reaction: Poor Emma was home sick, but loved the Ramen we brought home for her!  Finn was in dumpling heaven all night.  We all cheated  just a tiny bit tonight, but we always said we would save the option to have a little protein on the week-end.  This was our first splurge and I have to admit as delicious as our cheating tasted I felt totally guilty.  We liked all of the dishes, but the vegetarian winkled beans were a family favorite for sure.
Prep/Cook Time: N/A
Visit Again: Oh Yeah!
SATURDAY: Tacos de Rajas de Poblanos
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour plus 24 hours resting time for the onions.
Kids reaction:  Watch the heat, but they were a fan of our Mexican Menu!
Make again?  These were, well...delicioso!
Check the recipe on my food blog at Inspire Mel.

SUNDAY: Edamame and Veggie Fried Rice at Pei Wei Asian Cafe
Prep/Cook Time:  N/A
Kids Reaction:  We were all starving after Finn's soccer game and our quick veg heavy lunch hit the spot, but this was an eye opener for us.  A family looking for a vegetarian quick grab and go lunch option has a challenge on their hands!  There need to be more healthy vegetarian lunch options out there for busy folks. 
Visit again: We could take it or leave it in the future, but we were glad to have found this place in the moment!


Our Vegetarian Dinners for a Month: WEEK ONE

* As per my cooking guide, I cooked up about 4C of brown rice for the week on Monday to cut down on cooking times for our week night dinners. Huge time saver!

MONDAY:  Brown Rice and Black Beans with Roasted Corn, Fresh Salsa, Cilantro and Sour Cream
Prep/Cook Time: 15 minutes including the salad
Kids' reaction: Favorable.  The said it reminded them of tacos in a way.  They filled up fast!
Make it again: Yes!  Super easy dinner to make on a busy night.
What to Have:
1 sm onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2c. black beans (I used canned organic beans, drained)
1-2 T. Chili Powder
½ t cumin
½ t salt
1 T Flour
½-1 c. water
1 ten-oz bag frozen corn (I used Trader Joe's Roasted Corn)
½ jar salsa (I used Trader Joe's fresh salsa)
2 c. cooked rice

How to Cook it: Saute the onion in a little bit of oil and cook until softened. Toss in the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the beans, spices, and salt and heat through.  Sprinkle the flour into the pan.  Stir and whisk in 1/2 C water.  Simmer until thickened.  Add the corn, salsa, and rice.  Stir to combine.  Add more water to moisten as needed.  Heat through and top with more salsa, shredded cheese, and a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, if desired.


TUESDAY: Asian Tofu and Broccoli with Brown Rice and Sauteed Sesame Cabbage
Prep Time
Kids' Reaction: Fantastic!  Both loved the tofu texture and the over all flavor combination.
Make it again: Yes. We didn't miss the meat a bit.
What to Have:
1 package extra firm tofu
4 c steamed fresh broccoli
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c water
1 tsp grated ginger
2 t chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1 T cornstarch
1 T orange juice concentrate
1/2 head read cabbage, shredded
1t sesame oil
2t toasted Sesame Seeds
2C cooked brown rice

How to Cook it: Combine the water, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, OJ concentrate, and cornstarch.  Set aside. Heat some canola oil in a skillet and brown tofu cubes on all sides (in batches if needed) until deep golden brown.  Meanwhile, heat some canola oil in a second skillet and begin cooking the cabbage.  Season with salt and pepper.  When cooked through remove from heat and add the sesame oil and seeds. Recombine the sauce and pour over the brown tofu in the skillet.  Heat to boiling to thicken.the sauce.  Add the broccoli and stir to combine. Serve the tofu over the rice with cabbage on the side.  Serve with hot sauce and soy as desired.

WEDNESDAY: Egg, Brown Rice, and Spinach Scramble with Tomato and Portobello Mushrooms
Prep/Cook Time: 10 minutes
Kids' Reaction: Favorable again.  The ate it all and asked for seconds.
Make it again: Sure.  Super fast dish and the rice made it less breakfast and more dinner.                 
What to Have:
1 10 oz bag Spinach
2 garlic cloves, minced
5eggs beaten with some salt, pepper, and onion powder
2 C cooked brown rice
3 Portabello Mushroom caps, sliced1/2" thick
3 Campari tomatoes quartered

How to Cook it:begining to wilt. Add the garlic.  Stir and push the spinach to the edges of the pan.  Add the eggs to the center and scramble.  As egg begin to set mix in spinach and rice.  Serve in bowls topped with tomatoes and mushrooms. *Seriously this almost took longer to type than it did to cook!

THURSDAY:  Vegetable Pad Thai from a box (Yes from a box.  Thursdays are super busy around here and besides my vegetarian guide told me to do it.)
Prep/Cook Time: 10 minutes because I used a Trader Joe's Fresh Stirfry Veggie Mix.
Kids Reaction:  Not so good.  They ate, but we all missed the meat on this one.
Make it again:  Not like this; I'd have to tweak it pretty hard and totally make my own sauce.
What to Have:
2 Boxes all-natural Pad Thai mix including noodles and sauce
Mixed Veggies of your choice (I used a container of fresh mixed stir fry veggies)

Lime wedges and crushed peanuts for garnish

What to do:
Bring some water to a boil dump it over the dry noodles and set aside.  Heat some oil in a skillet and add the veggies and saute until fragrant.  Add 1/4 water and cover.  Cook until veggies are crisp tender.  Uncover and scoot veggies to the side of the pan and allow water to evaporate.  Add the eggs and scramble.  Mix eggs with veggies and add the sauce.  Toss in the noodles and serve with the limes and nuts.
*I'll redo this within the month my way!

FRIDAY: Lentil and Veggie Shepard's Pie
Prep/Cook Time:  1 hour including cooking the lentils
Kid's Reaction:  Thumbs Up!  Everyone at the table loved this dish.
Make it Again: Yep!
What to have:
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1t salt
1/4t pepper
1/2 t Italian seasoning
1 C dry organic lentils
3 C water
1 bay leaf
1T butter
1T flour
1t Worcestershire Sauce
1 pg. Mixed frozen Veggies (I used trader Joes Organic Quartet: beans, carrots, peas, and corn)
Three Potatoes, peeled cooked and mashed with a little butter and herbs
Smoked Paprika for garnish.

What to do:
Saute the onion in a little oil in a medium sauce pan.  When softened add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the lentils, salt, pepper,  Italian seasoning, bay leaf, and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes until lentils are tender.  Meanwhile make the mashed potatoes and place them in a Ziploc bag.  Thaw the veggies.  Knead the butter and four together to make a paste and stir into the simmering beans.  Boil until thickened.  Remove the bay leaf from the lentils and add the Worcestershire sauce.  Season to taste.  Spoon 1/4 C of lentils into the bottom of an 8oz ramekin and top with some veggies.  Add lentils to cover.  Cut the corner of Ziploc bag and pipe the mashed potatoes into a spiral over the top.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika and place ramekins on a sheet pan and into a 400 degree oven until potatoes brown slightly.

SATURDAY (Family Lunch): Cheese Tortellini Soup
Prep/Cook Time: 10 minutes
Kids Reaction:  Loved!  This idea came from Peas for Dinner and it was a perfectly warming week-end lunch.
Make it again:  Without a doubt!
What to have:
8 C Organic Vegetable Broth (I used Trader Joe's and liked it)
2 m. Zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2" thick
1-2 garlic cloves minced
2 (9oz) pkgs refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 C Frozen Peas
1/4 C chopped Italian Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese to garnish

What to do:
Bring the broth to a simmer and add the garlic and zucchini.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the tortellini and the peas.  Return to a simmer and cook 4-5 mins.  Season to taste and add the parsley.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the cheese.

SUNDAY (Field Trip):  Southern Indian Vegetarian at Udupi Palce on Devon
Prep/cook time: N/A
Kids Reaction: Loved it!  Finn was tired from his soccer game, but powered through the meal and the busy Indian markets.  I even picked up a masala dabba! 
Visit Again?  Yes.  One of my city favorites!

 OUR MONTH AS VEGETARIANS:  THE RECAP

This evening marked the end of our month long vegetarian odyssey!  We finished out our adventure with a lovely tofu stir fry and a little conversation about our experience for the month.  I have included a transcript of our conversation below.  Enjoy!
 Mel:  
Well, we're done!  We should probably talk about what this experience has done for our family. Personally, I loved the newness of these Monday through Friday meals.  Living with such a tight schedule saps a lot of my week-night kitchen creativity and these meals were both satisfying to cook and to eat.  My favorite dinners were the Greek Whole Grain Pizza and the Hominy and Sweet Potato Chili.
Leif:   
I thought this was an excellent experience and I found myself being more thoughtful about my choices throughout the day.  I went a little lower on the food chain and learned I don't need meat with every meal.  My favorite dinners were the Cabbage and Tofu Stir Fry and the Lentil Shepard's Pie.
Emma:   
When you are a vegetarian you have to think about it all the time.  It is so easy to misstep, but being a vegetarian feels really good for your body.  My favorite dinners were the Potato and Eggs and the Olive Pasta I had with Mom.
Finn:   
When you eat vegetarian for so long and you get to eat one bite of meat it tastes better than it ever has before!  My favorite dinners were the the Spinach Brown Rice and Eggs and the Quiche.

Emma:  Honestly, I think I could keep this up if we could eat meat like two days a week.
Finn:  Whoa!  I'm gonna disagree!  I REALLY missed the meat so I'd say I'd like meat three days a week.
Mel:  So you could eat vegetarian four days a week?
Finn:  Yep, I could totally do that as long as you throw down at least one day a week.  Like maybe Sundays.
Leif:  I could easily eat a vegetarian diet four to five days per week.
Mel:  I think that would make us Flexatarians!
Emma:  Besides I bet this saved us money.  Isn't meat expensive?
Mel:  I think we did save some money and we ate an almost all organic diet in the dead of a Chicago winter.  We also hardly had any pasta.  I am not an expert, but I'd bet that is a big mistake people make when they drop meat from their diet.  We ate a ton of whole grains, beans, and fresh veggies.  Super healthy!

Mel:  Here is the big question.  What do you want for dinner tomorrow?
Emma:  Greek Chicken Feta Pitas!
Finn:  Steak and Crab Legs.  Hey, I missed it okay?
Mel:  So much for saving money!
Leif:  Should I say something vegetarian?
Mel:  Nope.  Just say what you really want.
Leif: Okay, I want some ribs.  That's how I'm feeling right now, but you can put some beautiful  veggies next to them!
Emma: Mom?
Mel:  I want some more tofu!
Emma: Honest?
Mel:  No.  I'd like a pork chop, but I'd be fine with tofu for a few days after that.

Mel:  Did you ever cheat at lunch when you were on your own?
Finn:  Once.  I ate a turkey sandwich instead of a salad.
Mel:  Only once? 
Finn:  Yep.  Just once.
Mel:  What did your friends think?
Finn:  They didn't seem to care.  Except for Clare because she is a vegetarian, too.
Emma:  My friends thought it was really cool, but I cheated in Family Consumer Ed.  We learned to cook bacon and I totally ate some.  Who can blame me?
Leif: No-One.
Finn:  Yeah, everything is better with bacon.
Leif:  Cheat is such a harsh word.  I'll say I deviated from the plan while I was chaperoning the outdoor education field trip.  I willingly participated in turkey taco night.
Finn:  What?  I TOTALLY ate vegetarian that night!
Emma:  Mom?
Mel:  I cheated when I had lunch at Cemitas Puebla.  I had the vegetarian cemita, but also had a taco arabes.  It was totally worth it!

Mel:  What have you learned from this experience?
Emma:  I learned there are so many good choices to make out there.  Skip the salami and take a salad; you'll feel so much better!
Leif:  A couple of things...it underscored the importance of thinking about what you are eating.  Food choices impact your personal heath and energy levels, but there are deeper global and environmental aspects to altering the amount of meat you consume.  What an easy way to reduce our carbon foot print!
Finn: I learned that when you put your mind to something it isn't that hard to complete it.
Mel:  Cool.  Thanks guys!

The truth is were were a meat for dinner everyday kind of family and all four of us can count the number of times we consumed meat of any kind in the past 31 days on one hand.  This experience has completely shifted the way we view our family table and I don't think we could ever go back.
  Thanks to Emily from Eat Close to Home for being our guide for the month!  You would be welcome at our table anytime!

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