Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Tipsy"s & Staples for Meatless Mondays

Meatless "Tipsy"s
Here are some general guidelines to get you started in planning easy and successful (translation: edible for the whole family) vegetarian meals.
  1. Think protein.  In my experience, the key to cooking sans meat is figuring out the whole protein thing. Protein makes you feel full and if you don't have the right amount in your meal, you'll be looking for the second course while you're doing dishes.  
  2. Keep it simple.  At least at first, the more you keep your vegetarian escapades simple, the more likely you will be to stick with the challenge. Then, once you have a few standbys established, go outside your comfort zone to try something more elaborate.
  3. Amp up the flavor.  Aside from the fact that flavor is what makes food taste good (duh!), flavorful foods can also make you feel full faster. Think bold and rich flavors like citrus and spice and fresh herbs.
  4. Start with what you love.  Figure out the vegetables that your family loves and build from there. If you have some picky eaters, let them choose which veg to include or try making something that builds in choices, like pick-your-own-topping pita pizzas or veggie omelette.
Stocking Up with Staples:
Aside from the obvious veggies, here is a list of some meatless proteins and flavor powerhouses to keep on hand so that you can easily build a quick meatless meal.
Great proteins & bases:
  • beans (kidney, garbanzo, cannelini, black, etc.)
  • eggs
  • lentils (green and brown for salads and bases, red for soups)
  • tofu (extra firm for crumbling and mixing into chilis and soups)
  • veggie broth
  • cheeses to top pizzas and pasta
  • more favorite cheeses for mix-ins (fresh mozzarella, feta, bleu, etc.)
  • rice, pasta & wraps to act as vessels for the yumminess
Flavorful must-haves:
  • fresh herbs (the most versatile seem to be basil, cilantro, and italian parsley)
  • lemons & limes
  • chili & paprika
  • a favorite salsa or hot sauce
  • black olives (maybe it's just my family but these seem to be a hit no matter what they are mixed in with)
  • onion (red if eaten raw, white or yellow for cooking)
  • garlic (fresh is best)

What am I missing?  What's your go-to, must-have veggie ingredient?

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