Did anybody else know yesterday was World Vegan Day? I feel like I can’t let it go unrecognized in this little space, even though we are not vegan. Chuck and I are flexitarians [no, I didn’t make that up], if you feel the need to label us. We try to eat healthy but we don’t have strict rules about what we can’t eat. We focus instead on what we do want to eat.
One of the hardest things I faced when deciding to take the meat out of some of our dinners was how to put together a full meal without meat as the anchor dish. Meat is heavy and calorie dense. It’s flavorful and easy to build a meal around. So how [in the world] do you make up a dinner plate sans meat?
Start by thinking of what you do want on the plate. Think about adding something that will replace the meat protein: beans, lentils, leafy greens, nut butters, and quinoa all pack a bit of a protein punch.
Of course you’ll also want some veggies on the plate. I like to see how many veggies I can sneak on there. I’m always looking to beat my personal best of nine veggies in one dinner. I know, I’m a total nerd.
I also like to try to add a whole grain in with dinner. Not only are they hearty but they’re super good for you [So says the Mayo Clinic].
Fruit is a good option for the dinner dessert. After your savory feast those natural sugars are sure to delight. And let’s face it, cutting up some fruit is way faster than baking up a tasty treat. You may have to shift the family’s view of dessert a little.
So here’s an example of one of our meat-free meals this week:
We had wild rice pilaf with a side of roasted zucchini and a veggie muffin.
The rice pilaf recipe was created to be a side dish so I had to beef [hehe] it up to make it work as our main dish.
Wild Rice Pilaf with Squash and Herbs
A Whole Foods Health Starts Here recipe
1 cup wild rice
3 1/2 cups broth, divided
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 cup diced zucchini
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cook the rice in 3 cups broth. While that’s going add your onion and garlic to a hot skillet. When it begins to stick add 1/4 cup broth. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until onion turns translucent. Add in the squash and zucchini with the last 1/4 cup broth and cook about 8 minutes longer until the veggies are tender. Stir in your herbs and seasonings. Mix in the rice.
So here’s how I changed it up to make it a bit more hardy:
I added 3 carrots and 2 stalks of celery in with the onions. After those were softened I added about 3/4 cup of chopped mushrooms. When the mushrooms had cooked down a bit I realized I wouldn’t have room in my skillet for the zucchini [I just used 2 cups of zucchini; it was what I had on hand]. So I threw the zucchini in the oven which was still warm from the veggie muffins. To finish off the pilaf I added a big handful of chopped pecans. I held off on the seasonings until I served the kids because they both cannot handle black pepper. It makes them crazy-eyed.
So here’s the rice pilaf before seasoning. I used mostly dried herbs so I used at least half of what the recipe called for. I wish I had a bounty of fresh herbs at my constant disposal…
p.s. For the veggie muffins I cut the coconut oil to 1/2 cup and added 1/2 cup apple butter. And I sprinkled the top with roasted sunflower seeds.
I think the thing I’ve noticed most about our meat-free meals is that you have to eat more vegetables to feel full. I mean, as I type that I’m thinking, “Duh”. But when we started this journey that thought never occurred to me and I still have to be cognizant of that while I’m cooking to make sure I prepare enough.