Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My kids think they are vegetarians if they eat one tiny broccoli floret.

When people hear that I cook vegetarian two to three times a week, I usually get incredulous stares. “Your kids really will eat like that?” Yes they do. This was not an overnight decision. If I had sprung it on them all at once there would have been mutiny. Some days I still get a few grumbles.

Wednesdays at our house became “Spaghetti Wednesdays”, a nod to the east coast Prince Spaghetti Day (can anyone remember that commercial? Go find it on Youtube). Homemade meatless spaghetti sauce. The kids and Mr. Wonderful missed the Bolognese sauce I used to make , but they got used to it after a few weeks.

The next meatless day became Monday. Why Monday? I learned very quickly not to mess with the traditional meat-and-potatoes Sunday dinner. By Monday, I look forward to a vegetarian meal. Besides, if Monday’s dinner is a bust, there is still Family Home Evening Treat to look forward to. The only one who complains on this day is my carnivore Firstborn. He claims his 15 year old body needs more protein. When I point out the protein in the meal (legumes, grains, and certain veggies) he usually stops grumbling, at least vocally. And he eats. At my house you eat what is on the table or you starve.

Sometimes I’ll add a third meatless meal on Friday or Saturday. Pizzas on homemade whole grain crust are great meatless meal – how many kids usually prefer cheese pizza? I leave this day as optional. Since we make our own pizza, I leave the choice of topping up to each family member, making sure that I provide lots of veggie toppings and just one meat choice (usually turkey pepperoni.)

There you have it. An easy way to get started: turn your first veggie night into a learning experience. Try an ethnic vegetarian dish. Play some music from that country. Learn a few words. Tell you kids that they might serve a mission there someday (I get a few eyerolls with that one but I persevere). Start a family night tradition.

Jop Chai
Pull out your chopsticks. Find Korea on a map. Put together music and language for a family night.
Serves 4-6
Adapted from Moosewood Simple Suppers
My changes and additions in italics

4 ounces bean thread noodles
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 Cups thinly sliced onion - I like to use half white onion and half green onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage or coleslaw mix (napa cabbage or bok choy work well, too)
1 Cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 can stirfry baby corn , drained

8 ounces veggie crumbles (I make an omelet using 1 egg per person. Finish the omelet and slice thin like the veggies. Sometimes I use tofu instead. Yes, my kids eat tofu - but that's another story)

¼ Cup low sodium soy sauce
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar or cider vinegar
½ Cup water
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

Soak bean thread noodles in hot tap water to cover until softened, about 15-20 minutes. When soft, drain and cut into more easily eaten lengths, 4-5”. Toss with a little oil to keep from clumping.

While noodles are soaking, heat oil in large pan or wok, add the onions and garlic, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir in the peppers and continue to sauté until crisp-tender (add the mushrooms here). Add the veggie crumbles (or egg, and stirfry baby corn) and cook for another minute or two. Combine the sauce ingredients and add them to the vegetables. Add the drained noodles and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until noodles have absorbed most of the sauce. Serve hot.


Johnna said...

heh. Sometimes my younger children beg to be vegetarian too. I tell them first they have to eat their vegetables. Spaghetti and pizza do make good gateway foods. I love how you're leveraging the dessert of Family Home Evening.

The protein from vegetables is most effective when you combine them, i.e. whole grain with legumes, or whole grain with veggies. The 15-year-old does need protein and iron. Protein RDA for ages 15-18, according to my old nutrition book, is 0.39 grams per pound of ideal body weight. So, if he's a lean 110 lbs, 43 grams of protein is the recommended amount.

I'm probably too much of a pushover, but I was thinking--if he continues to speak of his protein needs, would it torpedo everything if he were to cook himself, and for anyone who opts in, ONE hamburger patty each to go along with the vegetarian meal? Cooking, cleaning, and service are missionary skills too. When my nephew came to visit between assignments in the army, and when I had a 20-something male house guest for several months, I found that they really seemed to need the meat in a way I did not. One even brought powdered protein shake into the house. Yuck!

Though I do know some 30-something guys who have been *vegan* since college, who certainly don't seem to be lacking in the muscles department.

I love how you're doing this incrementally.

Heffalump said...

My husband served his mission in Korea, and we recently made Jap Chae for the first time.
There are tons of good Asian recipes that you can just omit the meat from, as well as many that are just vegetarian to begin with. Thanks for the recipe!

Millie said...

There's a protein needs chart on the sidebar - in one of the protein links.

It looks good. :)