Saturday, November 6, 2010

Project Vegetarian Recipes

My first post about eating vegetarian is here.  Based on comments from that post I invited a guest poster, my dear friend Jenny to comment on eating vegetarian with a preschooler.  Her first post has some general advice, followed here with recipes.  Enjoy!

As promised, I am back with some easy, kid-friendly vegetarian recipes.

First, my obligatory tofu PSA.

Tofu: It isn’t half as gross as you think it is

You don’t have to eat tofu to be a vegetarian, but by golly, it is jam packed with so much good stuff that I just can’t pass it up. Calcium, iron, and protein are all abundant in the mysterious white, jiggly substance. Tofu has a reputation as the dull, awkward and nerdy kid in the class. As many of us well know, those nerdy kids have a lot of personality given the right environment and opportunities, and tofu is no exception.

Here is what I do for every block of tofu I buy:

1) Get the stuff from the refrigerated health food section. The vacuum packed shelf stable tofu is great for smoothies and pies but has no place front and center on the dinner plate.

2) Naked tofu is bland, boring and pathetic. Fortunately, it takes on the flavor of whatever you marinate/cook it in. What does this mean? Versatility!!!!

3) Tofu is packed in water. If you use it straight out of the package it will be slippery and won’t take on much marinade. (See above comment regarding bland, boring and pathetic.) Before you use it, follow these steps:

a. Open the package and remove the block of tofu from the water

b. Wrap up the block in a clean dishtowel

c. Get two small plates. Put one upside down on a stable surface. Put the wrapped tofu on top of that. Top with the second plate, right side up. On top of that plate put something heavyish that balances well enough to not come crashing down. I usually use a couple of medium sized cookbooks. Canned goods work, but have a higher center of gravity than cookbooks, so evaluate your bravery and tolerance for loud noises and messes before you chance it.

d. Be patient. Let it press for 15 minutes or so. Have a glass of wine. Or beer. Or kool-aid with rum if you’re in a real pinch.

e. For a meatier texture, when you bring it home from the grocery, pop the whole package into the freezer for a day or two and then thaw it for another couple days in the fridge. I never remember to do this but I like the firmer texture on the rare occasion that I do remember.

The Recipes:

Tofu “fish” sticks
(serves 4)

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, pressed
½ cup wheat germ
1 tbsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
Milk (I use soy or almond milk)

Preheat oven to 400. Cut the block of tofu into fish stick shaped pieces. Set out a small, shallow bowl with milk. In a cereal bowl, mix up everything else. Dip each stick in milk and then roll in the coating. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes until they’re nice and firm. Dip them in whatever you would use for chicken nuggets. I like BBQ sauce and honey.

I typically serve these with baked sweet potato fries from the freezer section.

Tofu sloppy joes
(serves 4)

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, pressed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp onion, diced frozen
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
½ tsp cumin
¼ c BBQ sauce
½ tsp salt
Hamburger buns

In olive oil, brown onion and garlic. Add tomato sauce, cumin, BBQ sauce and salt. Crumble in tofu and let it sit and think about what it has done – maybe 15 minutes. It has to have time to soak up the flavors. Serve on buns with pickles and some cheese if you dig. This is even better reheated the next day.

Baked Tofu
(serves 4)

This is a versatile recipe. You can really use any marinade you want – I like a homemade teriyaki the best but anything works. You can also slice it into tofu “steaks”, marinate, and cook on the grill the same amount of time you would cook a steak.

Modified from


1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. minced ginger root
1 block firm or extra firm tofu, pressed

Cut up tofu into cubes, 1 inch or so. Lay them in a big container or gallon Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Pop it in the fridge and marinate while you’re at work or overnight. If you get a chance to flip them over midway through, cool. If not, it isn’t the end of the world.

Preheat the oven to 375. Arrange the tofu in a 9 X 13 baking dish. If you didn’t get a chance to flip them while marinating, make sure the unmarinated side is down. Pour all the rest of the marinade over the cubes. Bake for 45 minutes or until browned and chewy looking. Serve with brown rice and stir fry veggies and pineapple if you’re feeling froggy.

The Musical Fruit

Now let’s step away from the noble soybean for a spell and talk about the other magical beans out there. I love beans. My kid loves beans. My husband likes them well enough and is kind enough to never complain about their starring role in many of our meals. The thing I like about beans is that they are easy. Dried beans can be cooked in large batches and frozen for later. Canned beans are cheap and ready to eat straight out of the can. Dried or canned, there is such a variety available that you can switch them up every night and not feel like you’re eating the same thing over and over again.

Chickpeas and Couscous, my preschooler’s #1 favorite dish:
(serves 4)

1-1/4 c water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp salt
Pinch of black pepper
¼ cup frozen spinach
1 cup couscous
1 can chickpeas
¼ cup raisins

Bring water, spices, and spinach to a boil. Add couscous. Remove from heat, cover, let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse and drain chickpeas. Add chickpeas and raisins to pan, cover again. Let sit for 2 more minutes, fluff and combine with a fork, serve.

Refried Beans
(serves 4)

Onion (I use frozen, pre-diced)
1 can of pinto or black beans
Scant ¼ cup veggie broth
Chili powder
Garlic salt

Brown about 2 tbsp onion in 1tbsp of olive oil. Add a can of rinsed and drained beans and veggie broth. Sprinkle generously with chili powder and less generously with garlic salt. Mash with a potato masher until desired consistency. We usually serve these over brown rice (cooked in broth and chili powder and salt) with diced tomatoes, taco sauce and shredded cheddar.

Black bean and sweet potato quesadillas
(serves 4)

1 medium sweet potato
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Salsa, if you dig (my kid doesn’t)
Chili powder
Whole grain tortillas

Peel and chunk sweet potato. Boil in water 10 minutes or so, until fork tender. Drain and mash with a potato masher. While you have the masher handy, mash up a can of black beans, because they won’t roll off the tortilla if they’re squished. On half of a tortilla, spread ¼ of the beans, topped by ¼ of the sweet potato. Sprinkle on some chili powder, salsa. If you’re into that sort of thing add a little shredded cheddar. Fold in half and grill (heavy side up so that it doesn’t pop open) in a dry, heated skillet until it is browned and the cheese is melty. You should only have to flip it once.

Garlicky pasta w/ white beans and peas
(serves 4)

2 cloves garlic, minced
½ of a box of random pasta
1 can of great northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup frozen peas
Grated parmesan or asiago cheese

Cook pasta per box directions, adding frozen peas to the last 5 or so minutes of cooking. Brown garlic in olive oil until it smells too good to be true. Add beans and salt and heat through. Mix it all together and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Jenny’s Favorite Baked Sweet Potato
(serves 4)

4 sweet potatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Apple butter

Wash taters. Either bake at 400 until tender (1 hr – 1 hr, 15 minutes) or microwave for 10 minutes or until tender. I have a potato button on my microwave, so I use that. Top each with ¼ c black beans and 2 tbsp of apple butter.

1 comment:

Genkicat said...

yippee!! I'm so glad you are doing this. I've made the decision to no longer buy meat for home. When we are out we will eat whatever someone is nice enough to make for us. But at home we're veg. Its going well.

Since I just got back to work this week, I spend Sunday's prepping and cooking most of our meals for the week and I'm totally going to try the couscous and chickpea one. Oh and the sweet potatoes with black beans. Yum!! And soooo good for us.

Keep 'em coming