Cooking two dinners each night? I’ll show you how to simplify your dinner preparations and prepare meals that will please both the vegetarians and the meat-eaters in your family! What’s more, it will improve everyone’s nutrition.
When your teen daughter or son suddenly announces that they’ve become vegetarian and everyone else in the house is happy eating fish, meat and chicken, how do you cope? And how do you ensure they get a balanced intake for growth? Or maybe you have vegetarian friends coming around for dinner and are not sure what to cook?
Shift your meal planning from ‘meat plus vegetables’ to thinking of ‘vegetables plus a little meat’.
More vegies, less meat will improve the whole family’s nutrition as most males overdo red meat, even though it’s great for protein, iron, zinc, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids (if grass fed). And this means you’re likely to get the recommended five serves of vegetables each day.
The best way to cope is to cook the meat simply by grilling or baking but really ‘dress up’ the vegetables. This means turning a side dish accompaniment into a vegetarian main course.
Here are three easy and familiar examples:
You could serve ratatouille vegetables with a layered potato and cheese casserole to your vegetarian, then add grilled fish or lamb cutlets for everyone else.
A typical vegetarian lasagne can be a complete balanced vegetarian dinner (thanks to its combination of lentils, pasta sheets and ricotta or melted cheese) but it can also double as a side dish to barbecued steak or a chicken breast for meat-lovers.
Make a pasta sauce by sauteing onions, mushrooms, eggplant chunks, sliced zucchini and grated carrots with garlic, chilli, a little chopped ginger and a pinch or two of dried oregano and basil in some good quality olive oil. When slightly caramelised and the onions are translucent, add a large can of chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Add a cup and a half of vegetable stock and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. This sauce can then be used as a base for both vegetarian and meat dishes. Split the sauce into two and add a can of chickpeas to one half and some browned mince to the other and then serve with your favourite pasta.
Look at ethnic recipes for vegetarian inspiration. Indian cuisine with its lentil dahls and potato pea curries lends itself to interesting meatless meals (and they don’t have to be hot, just spicy). Asian vegetable noodle stir-fries (minus the chilli) can be cooked, one portion removed, then chicken strips tossed through at the end.
Here are four easy recipes to get your started:
Cook up a big pot of these mixed beans and peas flavoured with tomato, onion and spices and you’ll find endless uses for it. Check out these versions:
I’m a fan of zucchini slice and always throw in a small cup of cooked rice or quinoa to thicken. This becomes the main for the vegetarian. Here are a couple of my favourite slice recipes:
Nothing beats a warming veg curry. I like these...
Cook up these ...
Keep two or three meat substitutes like soy burgers or sausages or Quorn rissoles in the freezer. If the family is going to a barbecue, grab one of these as a quick steak replacement.
Adding legumes, tofu or soy foods means your teen is getting most of those nutrients that are lacking in vegetarian diets - protein, iron and zinc. Teens also need to eat enough dairy food or calcium-fortified soy or almond drinks to ensure a good calcium intake (aim for 1,300mg a day), vital for strong bones and teeth. Check the label for added calcium.
Avoid the typical teen mistake - eating a plate of vegetables alone, say steamed carrots, broccoli, zucchini and green beans.
While amazingly healthy, vegetables on their own don’t make a balanced meal as they’re short on protein with virtually no fat or fat-soluble vitamins nor much bio-available calcium or iron.
When time is short, remember those throw-together meals like baked beans on toast or scrambled eggs with tomatoes or mushrooms. They provide protein and can be a filling meal-in-a-hurry.
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