Friday, April 4, 2014

Prepare Vegetarian Dishes that Meat Eaters will Love

Baked Macaroni and Cheese fresh out of the oven.  
Personal Photo

Welcome to my collection of crowd-pleasing vegetarian dishes.  Whether you are a meat eater trying to embrace vegetarianism, a vegetarian with meat eaters in your household, or a vegetarian who entertains guests who are meat eaters, you’re sure to find some new favorites here. 

Vegetarian ideas included in this post: 

Veggie Burgers & Sandwiches
Vegetarian Soup & Chili
Beans as a Meal
Family Style Casseroles
Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Breakfast for Dinner

Veggie Burgers & Sandwiches

Portabella Burger

Portabellas on the grill. Personal Photo.

I was really surprised how good portabella mushroom burgers are.  My favorite version is a grilled portabella mushroom cap served on a Hawaiian roll or onion roll with mashed avocado, caramelized onions, and a slice of cheese. 

I scrape the gills from the mushroom caps and grill them on the Foreman grill.  I mash my avocado like I’m making guacamole and spread it on the bottom bun.  I load the portabella cap down with caramelized onions, using an entire largish onion for two burgers.  I like cheeses such as cheddar, pepper jack, Colby jack, or Swiss. 

Blue Plate Diner Veggie Burger

Veggie Burger with Blue Plate Diner patty.  Personal Photo. 

There are tons of recipes for homemade veggie burgers.  I personally stay away from the TVP (texturized vegetable protein) patties, and prefer something made from ingredients like grains, beans and vegetables. 
I stumbled on a video of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives with Guy Fieri at the Blue Plate Diner, featuring their famous veggie burger.  They revealed all their ingredients, but not a recipe. 

The burger is made with garbanzo beans, black beans, oatmeal, celery, onions, and seasonings.  I gave it a try, but wasn’t satisfied with my proportions.  I wrote up a recipe with modifications based on my lessons learned. 

Italian Lentil and Rice Veggie Burger

Lentil & Rice veggie patty with Swiss, dill spread, lettuce, tomato, 
onion, on sandwich flatbread.  Personal Photo.  

If you want to make a homemade veggie burger patty, but are looking for something a bit simpler than the Blue Plate Burger, try the lentil and rice veggie patty from  I’ve made this one with a few modifications.  You can check it out on my post, VeggieBurger- Italian Lentil and Rice Patty

Want to See More Veggie Burgers? 

Grilled Vegetable Panini

Celebrate summer with a sandwich made from delicious grilled vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, onion, and red peppers.  Spread crusty bread with something interesting like homemade pesto or olive tapenade.  Top with vegetables and your favorite cheese. 

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich

Eggplant Parm Sandwich, Personal Photo

Try your eggplant parmesan on a sandwich, instead of with pasta.  Place your crispy battered eggplant slices on crusty bread with sauce and cheese.  Try a little Panko in your eggplant batter, and serve on garlic bread slices, or a baguette.  Mozzarella cheese is the default, but why not throw on a duo or trio of cheeses. 

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwich- American & sharp cheddar,
 fried in coconut oil.  Personal Photo

Who doesn’t like a great grilled cheese sandwich?  Go one better, and make a grilled 3-cheese sandwich!  Pick two mild cheeses, then maybe a third with a little punch.  Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, and cheddar, for example.  Fry in butter or coconut oil, or heat on a Panini press, and serve with your favorite vegetarian soup.  One of my favorite soups is La Madeline’s Tomato Basil Soup, which you can buy in a jar at the restaurant, or in some grocery stores.  My local HEB (Texas) carries it at the same price as the restaurant. 

Nutella & Banana Panini

Nutella & Banana Panini, Personal Photo

For a sweet treat, try a simple and delicious Panini.  Spread Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread on one side of your bread.  Top with banana and other piece of bread.  Heat on Panini press.  Decadent! 

Sandwich Bar

Sandwich with black bean chipotle patty, fried egg, sweet onion, and 
mashed avocado on an onion roll.  Personal Photo.  

Lay out a spread for DIY sandwiches.  You could fry up a variety of Gardenburger or Morningstar veggie patties, such as Black Bean Chipotle, Portabella, Sundried Tomato Basil, Asian, or Chickpea burger patties.  Fried eggs would also be great.  Lay out the mayo, mustard, salsa, guacamole, and hummus.  Slice up some onions and tomatoes.  Include lettuce, spinach, and cheeses. 

Dozens of Sandwiches

Once you start exploring vegetarian sandwiches, you may find the possibilities are endless.  Check out my effort in my post, Veggie Sandwiches- Over 50 Sandwiches without Meat

Vegetarian Soup & Chili

Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup, Personal Photo

My mom made the best vegetable soup when I was growing up.  She used fresh from the garden vegetables.  I use frozen and canned vegetables, but this soup is still a crowd pleaser.  I make this soup in a huge stock pot.  I used to put half of it in the freezer, but now I share with two of my friends who have fallen in love with it. 

Start with tomato juice, and add shredded cabbage, chopped broccoli, chopped spinach, pureed carrots, diced tomatoes, and sliced okra.  Add cubed potatoes, lima beans, corn, and English peas.  Sometimes I season the soup with Italian seasonings, and sometimes I use Indian spices. 

Vegetarian Chili

5 Bean Vegetarian Chili, Personal Photo

I make chili with three- to five- different kinds of beans, and onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, tomato juice, pureed carrots, and spices such as cardamom, coriander, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon. 

Beans as a Meal

Pinto Beans, Personal Photo

Giant White Lima Beans with Potato Salad, Personal Photo

When I was growing up, we had meat almost every meal.  Usually something battered and fried in pork lard.  Those were the days!  Anyhoo.  Even though we were clearly meat eaters, one of our favorite meals was pinto beans with sweet onion, cornbread and potato salad. 

Mom always cooked the beans in the pressure cooker, then boiled them until the broth got really thick.  I cook them in the crock pot, and cook them on high for a couple hours at the beginning or the end of the cook time.  This usually results in beans with a nice thick sauce.  I could eat myself silly on some good pintos! 

Navy beans, black-eyed peas, giant white lima beans, and 15-bean mix (or 12- or 13-bean) all make great meatless meals too. 

More Beans

There are other creative ways to build a satisfying meal around beans.  A great guide is Romancing the Bean, by Joanne Saltzman.  You can read an overview of these ideas in my post, Bean Dishes- Vegetarian Cookingwith Beans

Family-Style Casseroles

Chicken-less Pot Pie

 Vegetarian Pot Pie with butternut squash, mushrooms, and artichokes.  
Personal Photo

Veggie Pot Pie with broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, and mushrooms.
Personal Photo

I love a good pot pie, and have made a number of vegetarian variations.  I found that I don’t miss the meat at all.  I use an 11” X 13” baking dish, and two cans of cream soup, two cans of milk, a variety of vegetables, and top with a refrigerated or frozen pie shell.  I bake for an hour at 350°. 

My ultra easy version is cream of potato soup and a 16-oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables, usually green beans, green peas, corn, and lima beans.  Another favorite combo is cream of mushroom or cream of potato soup, butternut squash, baby bella mushrooms, broccoli, and artichoke hearts. 

For more ideas and combinations, read my post, MeatlessMonday- Vegetarian Pot Pies and Hand Pies

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Individual Shepherd's Pie from Rachael Ray's recipe
Personal Photo

Serving of Shepherd's Pie made with mushroom-based "meatloaf"
Personal Photo

Why not try a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie?  Rachael Ray has a version with the “meat” patty made from lentils, brown rice, grated carrots, and grated red beet.  It was fairly labor intensive to make, and not that tasty to me.  I suggest finding a favorite veggie burger recipe or veggie meatloaf recipe, and using it for the “meat”.  Many say that the secret to a great textured veggie burger or meatloaf is mushrooms, so I tried this recently.  I liked it much better.  

Top with English peas and corn, then spread with a thick layer of freshly mashed potatoes. 

French Fry Casserole

French Fry Casserole.  Personal Photo.

Inspired by the classic Tater Tot Casserole, we put leftover French fries to good use at our house.  Sometimes we store a variety of fries in the freezer until we get enough to cover the bottom of an 11” X 13” pan.  Lay out the fries, then cover with a mixture of canned cream soup, some milk, and frozen mixed vegetables.  Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.  This is surprisingly good.  You can get the specifics in my post, My Fast and Easy French Fry Casserole.  Just omit the ground beef. 

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Baked Macaroni & Cheese, Personal Photo

Great macaroni and cheese has milk and eggs, resulting in a soufflé-like texture.  I come from a large extended family of Southern women who make homemade baked macaroni and cheese with no recipe.  I did much the same, and it felt like a crap shoot every time, holding my breath hoping it would turn out okay.  I always used elbow macaroni, Cracker Barrel cheese, Carnation evaporated milk, butter, and eggs.  But I could never remember from one time to the next (usually each Thanksgiving) how much of each. 
I finally decided to make myself a recipe.  The next time I made mac and cheese, I measured everything and wrote it down.  After it was done, I promptly made revisions to my recipe, and have been using this recipe ever since. 

Serve my homemade baked macaroni and cheese to your guests along with two or three vegetable sides.  Trust me, no one will care much what the sides are.  You could try variations like adding vegetable such as broccoli or tomatoes. 

You can find my recipe in my post, Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Breakfast for Dinner

When I was growing up, none of us were breakfast eaters.  Sometimes though, we had “breakfast” for “supper” (aka dinner).  Try one of these selections as the centerpiece for your breakfast supper. 


Strata with spinach, onion, mushrooms and cheese.  
Personal Photo

Strata is a layered dish made with bread and eggs.  I save up leftover or stale bread in the freezer.  I like to use a variety of breads.  I tear it into cubes and store in the freezer until I need it. 

Start by soaking your bread in an egg and milk mixture.  Top with vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and bell peppers.  Add some cheese, and top with another few beaten eggs.  I bake mine in an 11” X 13” dish at 350° for about an hour.  I have prepared several versions of this dish, which is always a hit. 

Vegetable Egg Scrambles

Scrambled eggs with sauteed onions, mushrooms and spinach, 
with tomato wedges.  Personal Photo.  

I can’t take the pressure of turning out a perfect, unbroken omelet, or the hassle of having to prepare several.  Or maybe it’s just ADD, and I don’t have the patience.  I just scramble enough eggs for everyone, starting with sautéed vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, or asparagus.  I call it Eggs and Stuff.  

You can sauté your vegetables, then set aside while you prepare your scrambled eggs, then top the eggs with the vegetables.  Usually I sauté my veggies, starting with the more firm ones, and finishing off with the quicker cooking ones like spinach.  I leave the vegetables in the pan and add in the eggs.  I top them off with some shredded cheese. 

Pancakes & Waffles

Chocolate chip pancakes, Personal Photo 

I don’t like sweets first thing in the morning, but I enjoy pancakes for late lunch or dinner on occasion.  My favorite may be chocolate chip pancakes.  I find that the chocolate chips sink to the bottom of the bowl, so I pour out my batter on the griddle, then sprinkle with chocolate chips. 

Fruit works well with pancakes.  Mix in some fresh blueberries, or mashed bananas into your pancake batter.  Slice bananas or strawberries to top pancakes. 

If you like a crispy texture, pull out the waffle iron.  More endless possibilities. 

Grits and Tomato Gravy

Scrambled eggs with cheese, biscuits, grits and tomato gravy
Personal Photo

The secret to grits is to get them really creamy.  This means cooking them a really long time.  I buy the quick cooking 5 minute grits and cook them 20-30 minutes.  In general I like cheese and coconut oil in my grits.  For a special treat, I occasionally make tomato gravy.  I’ve watched my mom make milk gravy and tomato gravy many times.  My milk gravy comes out really good.  My tomato gravy is pretty good too, but never as good as Mom’s. 


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