Monday, September 15, 2008

A Lazy Woman's Strategy for Feeding The Part-Vegetarian Family

Yes, I was once vegetarian too; now I am only half the days of the week. However, one of my daughters is a full-time vegetarian.

And once I flipped through food magazines and great cookbooks and made beautiful meals. I still love the family dinner, but I don't love the planning and creating time anymore. I'm all about dinner on the table at 6:00 night after night after night, so someone can help with the dishes and everyone can do their homework. Perhaps after a few years of rest I'll be interested in cooking again--right now we just need to eat.

Despite my avowed non-interest in preparing food, I've managed to get a lot of split dinners on the table for the last three years. My daughter went veggie at age 11 (ovo-lacto). I had been telling her to wait until she goes to college to become vegetarian, like her father and I did, but once she was taller than me the "stunt your growth" lie wasn't very effective. Though it was typical for us to happily have two or more vegetarian dinners a week, the entire family didn't want to be pulled into meatlessness because of one preteen. Hence the split meals: dinners that have a vegetarian and meat version at the same table.

For example, after church today we had pulao rice (a sort of saffron rice) [rice recipe] in the rice cooker, with an approximately indian tomato curry garnished with hard-boiled eggs [tomato curry recipe], and some rewarmed chicken leftovers. Served with some green salad and carrot sticks, each person in the family made his or her own plate, though I do expect the younger ones to have a taste of everything. And that simple meal, with pretensions to ethnicity, is considered a fancy one in my current reign of culinary laziness.

Here are some other split meals. I'm sure you've already done some of these, and I'd love to hear what other ones you've done that I haven't thought of.

Tacos--tacos are a natural meal for the vegetarian/meat loving family. Put out the beans and meat in separate bowls, along with the bowls for cheese, lettuce, and salsa, and let everyone assemble their own. imo, watermelon is always a good accompaniment to tacos.

Spaghetti--we went through a phase where one kid wanted spaghetti every night. Once a week is really over my limit. I bought frozen meatballs and cooked a few each time to supplement the meat-eaters, and provided scrambled eggs for the vegetarians. Hey, scrambled eggs with marinara sauce is really good. A couple times I was caught skipping the pasta. I love it with green beans and a green salad. Isn't it almost blue lake season?

Chili Dogs. I've got to have them every month or two. I don't make my chili--remember I'm lazy--I just keep a few commercially canned cans of vegetarian chili in the pantry. The young meat-hungry purist child wants a dog and a bun and wouldn't allow even ketchup--the vegetarian happily fills her bun with chili and tops it with cheese. I'm somewhere in the middle, with chopped onion and pickle relish.

Stir-fry. Remember how in all the recipes have you cook the meat, set it aside, stir fry the vegetables, and then return the meat to the pan? Stir fry for a split family means the meat and vegetables each get their own pan, then maybe a small third pan for a little stir-fried egg or tofu. I love it when I can splurge on commercial vegetarian spring rolls or pot stickers as a side, or follow up with family-pleasing fortune cookies from a box.

Pumpkin pancakes. I love pumpkin pancakes. The easiest way is with a whole-wheat pancake mix--you just make it as usual and throw in a couple spoonfuls of canned cooked pumpkin and a dash of cinnamon. Fancier ways are to make the pancakes from scratch, and to throw in mashed winter squash leftover from dinner two nights before. I like to microwave a couple frozen sausage patties to serve with the pancakes. It helps throw off the non-vegetarians who are keeping score.

Hawaiian haystacks, a nostalgic delight. I did something with cream of mushroom soup and curry powder as the sauce, and offered the cooked chicken separately. No one but you will realize, it's just another form of taco bar.

Vegetarian Soups of all sorts, serve with baked chicken or pork chop--from today or from leftovers--as an optional side. They say the meat-eaters only need a serving the size of a deck of cards anyway, and they don't mean an Uno deck. Add some whole wheat rolls and milk (we're not vegan) and we're all covered.

And finally, keep some gardenburgers in the freezer. For those days when someone just has to have broiled red snapper, or aunt lucy's casserole spam delight.


Millie said...

I told my mom about becoming a vegetarian yesterday and she was excited for me (she's great that way). She asked me if I was going to eat tofu and veggie burgers and I said, "NOOOOOOOO" and she sighed and said, "Have you ever even tried a veggie burger?" :) I have a long way to go.

I love the split dinner idea. When you have kids, there's just no other way to do it. These are some really great suggestions.

Elizabeth-W said...

I'm really sad b/c our Winco stopped carrying the gardenburger brand. I loved the sun-dried tomato one.
My kids LOVE gardenburgers. I have several recipes for making my own but it really takes practice. I ought to start working on them for the sake of this blog.

Scarehaircare said...

I cook vegetarian 2-3 times a week. The only loud complaints are from my 15 year old Firstborn. Last night's Roasted Ratatouille over Polenta did not go over well with him. But he will eat a garden burger.

Rule in our house: eat what's on the table or starve.

Loved your suggestions. I will put the recipes onto next week's menu list.

nikko said...

These are great ideas! Our grocery store stopped carrying the gardenburgers, too. They only have the morningstar brand now. Sigh.

Elizabeth-W said...

And my family does not like that brand AT ALL. We tried the Amy's brand and they were a little better, but my kids thought they were really dry. If a kid notices, you know there's a problem.

Johnna said...

elizabeth-w: we tried the Gardenburger Portabello last week. Best by far. I'm impressed that you're even taking on the task of making your own gardenburgers.

scarehaircare: Roasted Ratatouille over Polenta? That's real food. Yum!

Nikko: I'm with you. The morningstar burgers are not good. But we do like the MorningStar Veggie Bites Spinach Artichoke. When I get talked into serving commercial chicken nuggets, the vegetarians and others eat these.

Robyn said...

My favorite gardenburger is the black bean one. I love the flavor of that one especially, but the portabello is really good too. I like the idea of this blog, and wow new recipes! whoopee!