Tag Archives: Munchies

Vegetarian Friday: Stocking the pantry

This time of year, some of you will be making New Year’s resolutions. If yours involves losing weight, reducing your meat consumption, saving money, or some combination of the above, you’ll be much more successful if you plan ahead and cook at home as much as possible. About a year and a half ago, we switched from eating out four or five days a week to eating at home five to six days a week.

The transition from eating in restaurants most of the time to cooking at home most of the time could have been a real pain, but I learned early on that the key to sticking with it was making sure eating out was a bigger hassle than making dinner at home. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share several of the tricks I used to accomplish that. Today, we’ll start at the beginning: with the grocery list. The stricter your dietary restrictions, the more important it becomes to have appropriate ingredients on hand at all times.

Below are my suggestions for shopping on a vegan diet; a lacto-ovo diet, which allows eggs and dairy products; and a pesco-pollo diet, which eliminates red meat but keeps fish and poultry — not really vegetarian by any definition of the word, but a good way to lose weight, fuel an athletic goal or start phasing out animal products gradually.

If you’re planning to go vegan, it’s useful to have on hand:

Canned goods:
* Beans — red, black, pinto, garbanzo and blackeyed peas
* Diced tomatoes
* Black olives
* Chopped green chiles
* Salsa
* Marinara sauce
* Tahini (sesame paste)
* Peanut butter
* Pickles
* Lemon juice
* Lime juice
* Cider vinegar

Condiments: relish, giardiniera, Nayonaise, hot sauce, enchilada sauce, wing sauce, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce (or Bragg’s liquid aminos)

Oils: extra-virgin olive oil for sauteing and a heat-stable oil for frying

Grains and dry goods:
* Old-fashioned oats
* Cornmeal
* Rice
* Couscous
* Quinoa
* Dried TVP
* Nutritional yeast
* Flour (all-purpose and whole-wheat)
* Pasta
* Tortillas (large flour, small flour and small corn)
* Breads: hamburger buns and sandwich rounds
* Tortilla chips
* Pita chips
* Leavening: baking soda, baking powder, yeast, cheap beer

Frozen foods:
* Trinity (peppers, onions and celery — buy separately)
* Vegetable blends (Mediterranean-style and stir-fry)
* TVP crumbles
* Veggie burgers
* Berries
* Cut okra

In the fridge:
* Crescent rolls
* Margarine
* Silken tofu in aseptic package
* Soy or almond milk (plain and vanilla)

Yellow or white onions
Sweet potatoes
Celery sticks
Baby carrots
Whatever’s in season for salads

Dried fruit
Nuts and seeds (soynuts, sunflower kernels, mixed nuts, Spanish peanuts, raw cashews)
Clif Bars (most, if not all, are vegan)

From the above ingredients, you can make chili, chili mac, tacos, taco bowls, pasta, stuffed baked potatoes, burgers, Philly sandwiches, nachos, hummus, falafel, hoppin’ John, red beans and rice, fried pickles, burritos, beans and cornbread, minestrone, tortilla soup, smoothies, sloppy Joes, barbecue, and a host of other meals.

If you’re planning to go lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can add to that list:

* Egg noodles
* Grits (yes, they’re vegan, but I only like them with cheese)
* Swap the margarine for butter
* Frozen cheese tortellini or ravioli
* Eggs
* Greek yogurt
* Sour cream
* Cheese: shredded cheddar and mozzarella, cream cheese, string cheese, Parmesan
* Buttermilk or kefir
* Frozen buttermilk waffles

This list will add baked pasta, casseroles, stuffed breadsticks, stroganoff, quesadillas, omelets, fritattas, egg sandwiches, loaded baked potatoes, cheese grits, enchiladas, seven-layer burritos, stuffed mushrooms and huevos rancheros and several other options.

If you’re easing in with a pesco-pollo diet, add:

* Frozen chicken breasts
* Frozen seafood (salmon and shrimp)
* Canned tuna
* Canned biscuits
* Smoked turkey sausage

This extends your options to include tuna salad, chicken and waffles, chicken and dumplings, tuna marinara pasta, seafood gumbo, shrimp and grits, salmon and salad, chicken casserole, chicken-noodle soup and more.

You don’t have to have all of these items, but I try to keep most of them on hand so I can get dinner on the table fast. Stock up on shelf-stable items when they’re on sale, and adjust the list based on what your family enjoys eating.

Happy cooking, and good luck with your goals, whatever they may be.


Vegetarian Friday: Quinoa salad

This fall, we attended a family cookout at my in-laws’ house, and their next-door neighbors — a pair of world-class back-to-the-land hippies — brought this great quinoa and black bean salad that tasted like a cross between tabouli and Texas caviar. Ron and I both liked it, but the cool hippie neighbors left before we had a chance to exchange email addresses with them, so I did some Googling, ran a few Pinterest searches, and cobbled together something I think is pretty close to what we had at the cookout. As always, feel free to adjust proportions to suit your personal taste; the only really important part is that you have a 2:1 water-to-quinoa ratio.

1/2 c. red quinoa
1 c. water
At least a dozen cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 bell pepper
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 bunch scallions
2 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Cumin and chili powder to taste (I used my homemade taco seasoning)
1 can black beans

Several hours before you plan to serve the salad, put quinoa in a strainer and rinse thoroughly. (Don’t skip this step, or the quinoa will taste bitter.) Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed — about 15 minutes.

While quinoa cooks, prep your vegetables: Rinse the tomatoes and halve them if desired, dice the pepper, and mince the cilantro and scallions.

Drain and rinse beans and stir them into the finished quinoa, along with the olive oil, lime juice, and spices.

Chill the quinoa-bean mixture for several hours. Stir in the vegetables just before serving. (If you add the vegetables while the quinoa is still hot, they’ll wilt.)

Makes about four big servings. This salad makes a good lunch all by itself, as quinoa is very high in protein.


Vegetarian Friday: Stuffed breadsticks

You thought I’d never post another recipe, didn’t you?


Well, sort of wrong. This is basically just sticking three prefabbed products together, so I’m not sure it counts as a legit recipe, but it’s a good snack, appetizer or lunch option that’s relatively high in protein, so I’m posting it anyway. I trust you’ll approve once you try it.

1 can crescent rolls (reduced-fat is fine)
4 pieces of string cheese
1/2 c. of your favorite marinara sauce (we like Viviano’s store brand)

Step 1: Unwrap each piece of string cheese and cut it in half.

Step 2: Wrap each piece of string cheese in a crescent roll, like this:

Lay the cheese on top of the widest part of the crescent roll.
Lay the cheese on top of the widest part of the crescent roll.
Fold the corners over so they cover the ends of the cheese.
Fold the corners over so they cover the ends of the cheese.
Roll the rest of the dough around the cheese and mash down the seams to seal them.
Roll the rest of the dough around the cheese and mash down the seams to seal them.

Step 3: Bake according to the directions on the crescent-roll package.

Following the baking instructions on the crescent-roll can. I spritzed mine with olive oil when they came out of the oven to make them look pretty for the picture, but you don't have to.
Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping. 

Step 4: Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping. I spritzed mine with olive oil when they came out of the oven so they’d look pretty for the picture, but that step is totally optional. You could sprinkle them with Parmesan and Italian seasoning if you wanted to add more flavor, but I think they’re just fine plain.

If you’re a full-time vegetarian, be sure to read the label on the crescent rolls; some brands may contain animal fat.

I made a batch of these the other night to try to use up some of the string cheese I bought at Costco before it expires. I’ve got enough cheese left for another batch, so we’ll probably have some next week. They make a quick lunch, and they bake just fine in the toaster oven if you don’t want to heat up the whole oven just for a snack.


Vegan Friday: Sushi

Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to make vegetarian sushi. That’s because — also contrary to popular belief — the word sushi refers to the rice preparation technique, not the other ingredients. Pieces of raw tuna or salmon artfully arranged on a plate are delicious, but they are not sushi. They are sashimi. If you don’t have rice flavored with rice vinegar, you don’t have sushi.

With that in mind, here’s how to make a fantastic lunch.

1 1/2 c. sushi rice, cooked
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
3 nori sheets, toasted (available from the health-food store; do yourself a favor and buy the pre-toasted kind so you don’t have to toast it yourself)
Mild-flavored vegetables such as avocado, cucumber or carrots
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger

You’ll also need a sushi mat, available for about $5 at most health-food stores and Asian groceries. (Aluminum foil will work in a pinch, but I don’t recommend it, especially if you’re not used to working with sushi.)

Stir the sugar and vinegar into the rice and refrigerate it for an hour or so.  If you’re not great at making rice, get yourself an automatic rice cooker; they cost about $20 at most big retailers and will save you a lot of time and effort.

After the rice cools, cut your vegetables into thin strips.

Lay a toasted nori sheet on the sushi mat. Place about a third of the rice on the end of the sheet closest to you and use the back of a spoon to spread it to about 1/2 inch thick.

Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.
Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.

Make an indentation in the middle of the rice and lay vegetable strips in the indentation.

Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.
Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.

Starting with the side closest to you, roll the nori sheet up around the filling as tightly as possible, rolling the mat with it as needed to keep everything together.

The roll should look something like this.
The roll should look something like this.

Unroll the mat. Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and use them to moisten the loose edge of the nori, smoothing it down against the roll.

Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.
Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into slices.

Arrange the slices on a plate. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. (Pickled ginger and wasabi both should be available from most grocery stores.)

Makes three rolls.