Friday, November 1, 2013

7 Easy Ways To Add Meatless Meals To Your Table

Welcome to the first Friday of the month. Usually I share a delicious recipe with you, but this month I decided to do something a bit different. We've talked about the many reasons to eat meatless meals and we've explored some wonderful dishes from people all over the world. But once we've made the decision to incorporate more vegan foods into our lives, how do we get started? I'm glad you asked!

Here are some proven ways to easily add meatless meals to your table:

  1. Simply remove the meat.
  2. Many dishes work well without the addition of beef, pork, etc. For example, spaghetti marinara, fajitas, stew and lasagna can all be made vegan. Just remember that animal fat contains a lot of flavor; when we remove it, we need to add in other bold flavors to compensate. Here are some suggestions:
    • Herbs and spices add interest to a dish and can mimic the taste of animal products. Thyme makes our brain think "poultry". Chili powder, paprika, cumin, and (here's a surprise) cocoa give a recipe a "beefy" taste.
    • Experiment with aromatics such as onion, garlic, pepper and ginger.
    • Try Amino Liquids or soy sauce for a robust flavor enhancement.

  3. Build a meal around a vegetable.
  4. Most people design a meal around a animal-based protein. To go meatless, try using a vegetable as the focus of your plate.
    • Start with a baked potato and top with chili and salsa.
    • Grill a Portobello mushroom and serve as a "steak".
    • Stuff an eggplant or squash with rice pilaf or a quinoa & lentil mixture.
    • Build a hearty salad with a variety of raw vegetables, beans and pasta.

    Delicious Vegan Salad
  5. Try something new.
  6. Broaden your culinary expertise by trying new recipes and cooking techniques.
    • Consider dishes from other cultures. Exciting meatless dishes are featured in Indian, Asian and Mexican cuisine (among others).
    • Prepare a vegetable in a new way. If you always steam greens, for example, try sauteing them with garlic in some olive oil. Experiment with roasting vegetables to bring out their sweetness. Consider raw veggies and play around with cutting them (grate, dice or slice them for variety).
    • Prepare beans and lentils in unique ways ... try mashing them with herbs to make dips or use them as the base of a "meat" ball. Try them in place of meat in stews, pot pies, stuffed cabbage or casseroles. And while you're at it, try different varieties ... there are beans of every color and flavor on the market.

    Versatile Chick Peas.
  7. Use what you have.
  8. Vegan cooking doesn't require a pantry full of "weird" ingredients. Check out your shelves and use what you find.
    • Take stock of the foods on your shelves and get creative.
    • Remember that spice or sauce you bought a long time ago? Now might be a great time to test it out.
    • Combine pasta or rice with vegetables and beans to create unique, nutritious meals.

    Pasta with Spinach Sauce
  9. Think "nourish".
  10. As with any dietary plan, care must be taken to ensure that a meal nourishes, as well as, satisfies us.
    • Get protein from mushrooms, legumes, lentils, nuts, grains, miso, tempeh and non-dairy "milk".
    • To ensure that you're getting enough iron, include a bit of citrus with dark leafy greens, like spinach (even a squeeze of lemon in a glass of water will do the trick).
    • Use Nutritional Yeast, which has a cheesy flavor, to add vitamin B12 to your diet ... or take a daily vegan B12 supplement.
    • Eat plenty of fruits to satisfy your "sweet tooth" (and keep those candy cravings away).
    • Get potassium from potatoes and bananas.
    • Drink plenty of water!
    • Since most canned products contain BPA, consider cooking whole foods. Don't have the time? Try a crock pot or, my personal favorite (especially for beans), a pressure cooker.
    • Eat a variety of foods ... each item comes with it's own health benefits so eating a good variety of food ensures that you get the complete range of essential vitamins and minerals.
    • Avoid processed foods and empty calories (foods high in calories but low in nutrition). Don't be fooled by vegan and vegetarian offerings ... processed foods are less than desirable in any dietary plan.
    • Get nutrition advice from your medical care provider, vegan nutrition web pages, and ... other vegans.

  11. Use the Internet.
  12. You have a brilliant resource at the tip of your fingers.
    • If you are a Google+ member, check out this COMMUNITY for a wide range of information on all things vegan (including some insanely good recipes).
    • On Facebook, visit VEGAN COACH, VEGAN RECIPE CLUB, PLANET VEGAN, and VEGAN RECIPES for inspiration and information.
    • Are you WOWED by the photos on Pinterest? Check out my BOARD for some of the pins that make my mouth water.
    • Use the search term "Vegan Recipes" for a list of great ideas.
    • Add an ethnicity to your search term (such as "Italian Vegan Recipes") for even more great ideas.

    Italian Bruschetta
  13. Just DO IT.
  14. In the end, our attitude will make or break any dietary choice. Jump in, with both feet, and give meatless meals a fair try.
If you've made the decision to add more plant-based meals to your life, congratulations!! You are doing something great for your health and the planet ... and animals, everywhere, are singing your praises! With a little planning and consideration, you can easily add delicious and exciting meatless meals to your table. I hope you'll give it a try!

If you have a vegan recipe which you'd like to share, please contact me HERE. And for all the recipes we've shared so far, be sure to visit our recipe page using the tabs at the top of this blog ... or by clicking HERE.

Images courtesy of Apolonia, Simon Howden, nuchylee, and KEKO64 /