It's time to veg out with these meat-free meals

    Vegetables on parade. Photo by karimian on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    I recently realized that I’ve hardly eaten any kind of meat or poultry in more than six months, and have had none since I returned to school from studying abroad. This wasn’t a conscious decision by any means, as I’ve always considered myself a passionate omnivore; but I guess rarely being able to afford meat dishes in Europe caused my body to lose the craving.

    So it’s safe to say I’ve been toying with the idea of trying out the whole vegetarian thing, especially after my roommate recently proclaimed herself a pescatarian. Lately I’ve been experimenting with some totally vegetarian-friendly meals and I figured I’d share my findings with those of you who are beloved vegetarians, are contemplating making the change or just want a little break from your meat-filled diets.

    Squash, with the seeds removed. Photo by semarr on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Spaghetti Squash with Toasted Walnuts and Herbs

    People love meat and poultry because they’re filling and satisfying. When you’re missing those ingredients, it can be challenging to find ways to attain that same level of fullness. I find that great ingredients to supplement with are nuts and hearty vegetables like squash and potatoes. This recipe for spaghetti squash combines both and is a great alternative to a basic pasta dish.

    What You’ll Need:

    • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
    • 3 tbsps. unsalted butter
    • 3 tbsps. finely chopped parsley, basil, or combination of both
    • ½ cup toasted and chopped walnuts (to toast just place on baking sheet and bake in 350 degree oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes)
    • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
    • Salt and pepper, to taste


    1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down in a baking dish.
    3. Cover with about ½ inch of water and then cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.
    4. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, remove foil and turn over the squash.
    5. Cover again with foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
    6. Remove squash from oven, uncover and allow to cool slightly.
    7. Spoon out seeds and discard.
    8. Using a fork, gently pull away the squash flesh from the peel. It will look like strands of spaghetti, hence the name.
    9. Put spaghetti strands in a bowl and set aside.
    10. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the spaghetti squash once the butter is melted.
    11. Toss the ingredients to combine and add the nuts, salt and pepper and cheese.
    12. Quickly toss everything together and serve immediately.

    Eggplant and bruschetta. Photo by jugglerpm on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    Eggplant Steaks with Bruschetta Topping

    I’m not a fan of “fake-out” vegetarian style cooking, but I am a huge fan of eggplant. Eggplant is hearty and flavorful and this dish will please both your vegetarian and meat-loving guests alike. And if you’re not fond of eggplant, portabella mushrooms will work well in this dish as well.

    What You’ll Need:

    • 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into 4 even slices
    • 3 tbsps. olive oil
    • 3 tbsps. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 medium tomato, diced
    • ½ cup black or kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
    • ½ red onion, finely diced
    • 3 tbsps. fresh basil, finely chopped
    • 4 tbsps. hummus (any flavor will work)


    1. Whisk together olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
    2. Brush eggplant on both sides with mixture and season liberally with salt and pepper. Don’t worry if there is leftover olive oil and vinegar.
    3. Place eggplant in a large skillet over medium high heat and cook for about 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until eggplant is browned on both sides and fork tender.
    4. While eggplant is cooking, toss together tomatoes, olives, red onion and basil. Pour over remaining olive oil and vinegar and toss to coat.
    5. Once eggplant is cooked, place onto serving platter and spread 1 tablespoon of hummus over each steak and top with an equal amount of the bruschetta mixture on each. A lot healthier than a big ol’ steak, but just as delicious!

    And if those don’t excite you and compel you to take up the veggie cause, here are some other ideas:

    • Combine white beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs in a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture is the consistency of hummus. Spread over toasted pita, pile on a ton of fresh vegetables and you’re good to go!
    • Cook up a batch of couscous or quinoa in vegetable stock rather than water and toss in a ton of dried fruit, seeds and nuts– almonds, cashews, dried apricots, raisins, dates, dried cranberries, pistachios, flax seeds and sunflower seeds will all work. Drizzle in a bit of honey for added sweetness or flavor with cinnamon and citrus zest.
    • Only eat dessert. Kidding! Well, not entirely….

    If you’re on the fence about going to the herbivore side, try out a few of these dishes or experiment with some of your own vegetarian-friendly recipes and see if you’re ready to ditch the meat for good.


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