Four Weeks of Mostly Vegetarian Dinners (winter)

I’ve posted several accounts of our family meals that are all-vegetarian or include a little fish.  That’s the way we eat normally, and it’s the way we ate during most of this four-week period, but this was one of the rare times when we purchased some chicken to eat at home and ordered some in a restaurant, as well as eating quite a bit of ham at a party.  You see, we aren’t strict vegetarians.  We believe that eating meat infrequently is better for our health and the environment, but we like to be flexible.  Sometimes it’s more polite to eat some meat than to make a fuss about what we’re served as guests.  Sometimes we’re away from home and need to eat in a restaurant with limited options.  Sometimes one of us feels a craving for a particular meat, and because of our generally healthy metabolisms we believe that our food cravings are a sign of genuine physical needs.  Sometimes we eat meat just because it tastes good–as is the case with the incidents here!  Moderation in all things. This four-week menu is still mostly vegetarian.  I plan our menu for dinner every night and lunch on days when there’s no school.  Daniel cooks on weeknights, and I cook on weekends and days off, because he works from home whereas I don’t get home from work until just before dinnertime. Week One:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: Leftover Apricot Lentil Soup, cheese, and crackers.
    • Dinner: Salmon Tetrazzini made with canned salmon, whole-wheat pasta, and frozen peas.  Side dish of canned pineapple.  Tetrazzini is just about the only recipe for which I can be bothered to make a white sauce, a task I find annoying but worthwhile for this deliciousness!  My tetrazzini recipe came from a magazine years ago, probably Redbook; it called for turkey, but at various times I’ve made it with salmon, tuna, tofu, or vegetables in place of the turkey.
  • Monday (New Year’s Eve):
  • Tuesday:
    • Lunch: Honey Baked Lentils with a side of apple and orange slices.
    • Dinner: We went to Abby & Franklin‘s party, where there was plenty of food!
  • Wednesday: Frozen cheddar-and-potato pierogies fried in butter and olive oil with carrots and onions.
  • Thursday: Our eight-year-old Nicholas cooked veggie burgers on the George Foreman grill.  I had frozen some of a large batch I made in November, attempting to make up my own recipe using the Granny Smith apples, turnips, rosemary, and pinto beans we needed to use up at that time.  My initial reaction was that they were awful, but both Daniel and Nicholas liked them just fine.  Maybe I was just excessively critical that day, because this time I thought they were okay, though I wouldn’t make that recipe again.  We ate our burgers on whole-wheat buns with a side dish of steamed snap peas.
  • Friday: Beans & Rice using thawed pinto beans, diced tomato left over from the can we opened for Apricot Lentil Soup (still good after a week of storage in a glass jar!), and black olives.
  • Saturday:
    • Lunch: Nicholas wanted to make “bean pockets”.  After some discussion, we sauteed onions, rosemary, and tarragon and mixed in pinto beans, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast flakes.  We made regular cornbread batter (recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook) but with whole-wheat flour.  We attempted to coat each muffin cup with batter, making sort of a bowl to fill with beans and then top with more batter.  The muffins turned out pretty well–somewhat prone to sudden crumbling and spilling of filling–and the filling was delicious.
    • Dinner: We went out to Eat’n’Park, where we ordered two fish dishes and the penne pasta with spinach and mushrooms.

Week Two:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: Leftover muffins!
    • Dinner: After spending the afternoon watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and getting home after 7:00, I cooked frozen spinach ravioli from Costco and heated up some store-bought marinara sauce.
  • Monday:  Cheesy Walnut Burgers, only made with pecans because that’s what we have–my parents brought us several pounds of delicious Oklahoma pecans for Christmas!  (I need to try some more pecan recipes to use more of them while they’re still fresh; we’ve mostly just been snacking on them.)  More whole-wheat buns and snap peas.
  • Tuesday: Frozen flounder fillets baked with olive oil and rosemary, whole-wheat couscous, and broccoli.
  • Wednesday: Whole-wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce.
  • Thursday: Bean Burritos with black and kidney beans, black olives, cheddar cheese, and some green pepper we froze in the summer, on multi-grain tortillas from Costco.
  • Friday: This was the day Daniel finally was able to make the meal Nicholas requested after discovering he likes mushrooms!  I had originally planned it for Wednesday since I was going to the grocery store on Tuesday night, but the store was out of kale, and they were still out of kale when Daniel went back on Wednesday and I went back on Thursday…at which point I just bought a bag of frozen spinach instead.  My plan had called for cooking extra rice when preparing this meal and then making Fried Rice the next day.  We wound up having to juggle the whole schedule!
  • Saturday:
    • Brunch: Scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach and mushrooms and onions, and toast.  I baked Raisin Bran Bread in the afternoon.
    • Dinner: Our friends had a party featuring a gigantic ham.  We brought one loaf of Raisin Bran Bread as our potluck contribution.  We ate plenty of ham and enjoyed it.  Someone had brought a big box of raw spinach, which was really good with the ham.  I think this was the first time I’d eaten ham since my waste-preventing ham binge nearly four years ago.  It’s so tasty!!  But so unhealthy.  Moderation is the key.

Week Three:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: After getting home kind of late from church, I heated up a can of baked beans, and we ate them with cheese and Raisin Bran Bread.
    • Dinner: Fried Rice with carrots and mushrooms and fresh ginger root.
  • Monday: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, steamed broccoli and cauliflower for Daniel and me, raw cucumber slices for Nicholas.
  • Tuesday: Red & Green Pockets using some diced tomato I’d found in the freezer and decided we needed to use because it had been frozen for 4 months and because Daniel had written “tomatoes” on it in tiny letters using a thin marker that was not adequate for crossing out the bag’s previous label of “blueberries” in larger letters with a fatter marker, and the repeated experience of thinking, “Blueberries?  Why are they red?” was making me crazy!  When I tasted the Red food, I realized he must have diced and frozen those tomatoes because they were about to go bad; they tasted very over-ripe and not so good, but they didn’t make any of us sick or anything.
  • Wednesday: We went out to use a Groupon at Cuzamil Restaurante Mexicano, but it was closed!  Instead we went to the New Dumpling House, a nearby Chinese restaurant.  Nicholas asked for Cashew Chicken and ate most of the chicken out of it, neglecting the other ingredients.  Special treat.  Moderation is the key.  I like the cashews, myself, and actually once ordered Cashew Chicken with double cashews instead of the chicken!  (The waiter looked at me funny, but he did get the chef to make it.)
  • Thursday: Daniel made a big batch of Mexican-style black and kidney beans while I made a big batch of guacamole.  Some of us made burritos, and others had beans and guacamole in a bowl and dipped corn chips.
  • Friday: Flounder baked in honeyaki sauce (a bottled teriyaki sauce with a lot of honey in it, given to us by Daniel’s grandfather who had gotten it in a gift basket), rice, and pineapple.
  • Saturday:
    • Lunch: Frozen pizza and apple slices.  Nicholas and I were in a hurry to set off on a big shopping expedition.
    • Afternoon: We went to Shadyside Market to redeem a gift certificate.  I hadn’t been in there since I lived in Shadyside for a summer 20 years ago.  It’s still a nice little neighborhood market with a variety of foods ranging from basic to gourmet.  The prices of some of the basic items are a bit high, but I still would shop there sometimes if we lived in Shadyside.  (It’s only a couple miles away, but parking is terrible, and the walk home is up a steep hill.)  We knew that one thing we wanted to buy with our gift certificate was the deli chicken salad that a friend has often brought to church potluck dinners–it’s really good, with roasted chicken breast, grapes, and walnuts in a sauce that’s much tastier than plain mayonnaise.  We were surprised to find that a quart of the stuff costs more than $15!  We used the remaining $20 of our gift certificate for a pint of blackberries (in January! Such luxury!) for breakfasts, deli spinach dip, white-flour hamburger buns with sesame seeds, kale (last week’s no-kale experience had given me a craving), a cucumber, ranch salad dressing free of soybean oil and corn syrup, and a small tube of marzipan.  We then drove out to suburbia to shop at GFS Marketplace, where I spent $70, twice as much as the value of my Shadyside Market gift certificate, for about four times as much food by weight or volume–but of course, it’s different kinds of food.  By the time we finished shopping, I was ready for a coffee break and offered to reward Nick’s good behavior with a treat at Panera, which is on the way home.  I meant a muffin or cookie, but he was very hungry and wanted tomato soup in a sourdough bread bowl–probably better for him than a sweet.
    • Dinner: Masoor Dal, roasted okra, and rice.  I had recently read that okra, even if it’s been frozen, can be roasted like most other vegetables and is very tasty.  We had a one-pound bag of frozen okra that had been in the freezer for 8 or 9 months because I’d grabbed it on sale thinking I would someday make fried okra, but I hadn’t because I’m nervous of frying in hot oil and the guys don’t like Oklahoma-style fried okra as much as I do….  I put the okra in a colander over a bowl to thaw and drain while we were out shopping, and when we got home it had thawed enough that the pieces no longer clumped together.  I tossed it with olive oil and curry powder (to go with the Indian-style meal) and put it on a cookie sheet in the oven.  As Mary Beth’s post had warned me, it took a good 40 minutes to get crisp because okra (especially if it’s been frozen) is so moist, but ultimately it was delicious!  Meanwhile, because the onions I was using in the Masoor Dal also had been frozen and were very wet, I heated them for a long time, gradually increasing the heat, and boiled off  a lot of the water before I added the carrots (which I’d been grating while I waited) and proceeded with the recipe.  This made the onions, and the whole batch of dal, very delicious!

Week Four:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: Chicken salad, spinach dip, and cucumber slices from Shadyside Market.
    • Dinner: I made a batch of less-acidic spaghetti sauce and successfully avoided further irritation of my stomach and taste buds, which had been bothering me.  We ate the sauce with some of the whole-wheat spaghetti we’d bought at GFS.  For dessert, we ate some of the marzipan sculptures Nicholas and I had made in the afternoon.
  • Monday: Mexican Pizza!  This is an easy, versatile meal my mom used to make really frequently.  What I (off work for Martin Luther King Day) did for this batch was to brown onions and green peppers (both thawed from frozen) in olive oil, drain and rinse a can of pinto beans, make whole-wheat cornbread batter (enough for a 9″ square pan) and spread it on a cookie sheet well-greased with coconut oil, sprinkle the onions and peppers and beans on it, top it with slices of cheddar cheese, and bake at 425F until I could lift the edge of the crust with a spatula–I checked it after 10 minutes and every 3 minutes thereafter.
  • Tuesday: We finished the weird apple-turnip burgers, on sesame-seed buns, with cucumber slices and garlicky sauteed kale eaten either as burger toppings or as side dishes, according to individual preference.
  • Wednesday: Flounder baked in lemon juice, rice, and steamed “Normandy vegetables” (broccoli, cauliflower, and orange and yellow carrots).
  • Thursday: Leftover Masoor Dal, chicken salad, and Mexican pizza.
  • Friday: We succeeded in using our Cuzamil Groupon.  They explained that they had been closed to renovate their kitchen and repaint the dining room, which looks very nice now.  We enjoyed vegetable fajitas, cheese enchiladas, and bean burritos.
  • Saturday:
    • Lunch: Nicholas and I were visiting Carnegie Science Center with friends and ate in the cafeteria there: roasted vegetable and hummus sandwich, French fries, and fruit cup.
    • Dinner: We went to a party with plenty of broccoli-mushroom quiche, lasagna, hummus, fruit salad, wrap sandwiches…oh, and birthday cake! 🙂

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more cooking articles!  Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday for hundreds of tips on many topics!  Visit Your Green Resource for more ideas for decreasing your environmental impact!

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

7 Responses to Four Weeks of Mostly Vegetarian Dinners (winter)

  1. pmoppins says:

    Sounds like a great month’s worth of menus!

  2. Wonderful menu! This post is a great resource. I particularly like the recipes for Honey Baked Lentils and Cheesy Walnut Burgers. Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  3. pmoppins says:

    Howdy! I’ve nominated you for a Leibster Award. Details can be found here: http://www.parymoppins.net/2013/02/leibster-award.html

    • 'Becca says:

      Wow, thanks! I actually won one already…but it seems the rules are different now than they were then…so I’ll have to cook up a new post for this! Soon….

  4. Heather says:

    We try to eat at least 3 or 4 vegetarian dinners a week. Great ideas here. Thanks for dropping by earlier. Some great information here on your site.

  5. Pingback: Mexican Pizza | The Earthling's Handbook

  6. Pingback: Four Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (winter, with a baby) | The Earthling's Handbook

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