As a vegetarian, I have endured a lot of ribbing over the years. At a powwow a few years ago, one man announced, “Vegetarian chili? My food eats your food!”
Unfortunately, buffalo has been replaced by whatever meat is commercially available, and hunting today is usually reserved for the aisles of the grocery store. Sorry to say, meat isn’t what it used to be and neither is corn, the modern food of most commercial meat sources.
Today’s corn is most often the food of cattle and chicken, and most of the corn in this country is genetically modified, making it almost impossible to eat as healthy as our ancestors did. With Type-1 diabetes, limiting corn and other starches is important.
Enter vegetables! They have always been a part of a traditional diet. Whether wild turnips, onions and carrots were gathered growing along streams, or chokecherries and plums picked along the way, our ancestors enhanced their diets with plenty of fresh, wild produce.
When you include more fresh vegetables in your daily diet, you will feel healthier and lighter on your feet; and they are tastier and easier to prepare for a full meal than you think.
Here are six recipes, some my own, some not, designed to keep some change in your pocket, and to keep your family healthy with nutritious dinners all week long. You can even choose five of the six meals presented here, and you will still provide dinner for a family of four, for an entire week, with leftovers, for less than $3 a person.
An important advantage to keeping healthy leftovers visible in the fridge is that the kids may reach for them after school, often instead of an unhealthy snack.
These recipes are nutritionally balanced, have plenty of protein, and they even hide the greens so the kids will eat it. They are more soulfully fulfilling and delicious than you think, and if you must, you can add meat to some of them.
Follow the amounts in each recipe. Leftover ingredients from one recipe will be included in following recipes. At the end of the recipes, there is a shopping list to print out and take along with you to the store.
Nutritious, delicious and filling, this dinner for four will leave enough leftovers for another night’s dinner, and maybe even a few lunches.
If you have random vegetables in your fridge that risk going bad, add them. Squash of all kinds work well, and so do cauliflower, green beans, and peas. DO NOT add broccoli, cabbage or sweet potatoes. They don’t work well.
1 lb. bag of green or white lentils, soaked for two hours
1 lb. yellow or Spanish onion, chopped
garlic to taste, chopped
1 4 oz. package of baby bella or brown mushrooms
1 green pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 bag spinach, chopped
12 oz. can chopped tomatoes, fire roasted work best
1 small can chick peas
1 head of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch fresh thyme or 2 tbsp. dried
2-3 tbsp curry to taste
Soak lentils in a bowl of water for two hours. When ready to cook:
Sauté, stir fry or fry onions and garlic lightly in olive oil that covers the bottom of a soup pan. When onions are translucent, add all of the other chopped veggies in order above, cooking each one for a minute before adding the next.
Add lentils, thyme, salt and pepper, and stir. Add water (or any kind of broth if you have it) to cover and cook on medium heat until boiling, then turn down heat to low and check after 20 minutes, add more water to barely cover if necessary.
Cook on low for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
This is way more substantial and interesting than a quiche and costs under $10 for dinner for four.
1/2 yellow or Spanish onion, chopped
1/2 bag fresh spinach leaves, chopped finely or into thin strips
1/2 head of cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. dried thyme or 4 tbsp. fresh
1 head of parsley
4 oz. cream cheese, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of baking soda if you have it, not necessary if you don’t
Sliced tomato, optional
Sauté chopped onions until translucent, then add spinach, allow to cool.
Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl, then add onion and spinach mixture after it has cooled. Stir together and pour into a well-greased (bottom and sides, with olive oil) large cast iron pan or 8-inch glass baking dish. Garnish top with sliced tomato and sprinkle with herbs and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until set. When a knife is inserted in the center and comes out dry, it’s done.
Hearty Vegetable Soup
This one works with what you may already have. If you feel the need for meat, you can add one pound of ground beef or buffalo. Sauté meat in the soup pan first, then follow directions, but this soup is delicious even without the meat.
It looks pitiful in the shopping cart, but bountiful in the soup pot.
2 large yellow or Spanish onions
1/2 head garlic
4 oz. package of sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 green pepper
2 carrots, chopped
1 yellow summer squash
1 small head of cauliflower, cut or broken into small pieces
1 potato chopped into very small pieces
1 8 oz. can white beans (or 1 cup dried, soaked 24 hours)
1 8 oz. can red beans (or 1 cup dried, soaked 24 hours)
1 24 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 12 oz. cans all natural vegetable broth
2 cans water
Optional: 2 tbsp. worchestershire sauce
Any other canned vegetables or leftover vegetables you have in the fridge can be added to this soup.
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
3 tbsp. dried thyme, 1/2 head of cilantro, and any other leftover herbs, such as parsley or basil, including the stems, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice all of the vegetables and sauté in the soup pot, onions and garlic first, then add other vegetables in order of appearance. Add remaining ingredients, cover with two cans stock and three cans water.
If you like spicy food, be generous with the black pepper, use up to a 1/2 teaspoon, but that’s probably too much for the children. It adds a delicious and unexpected flavor as well as heat.
Bring to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes. If you like a thicker soup, pour a cup of soup and vegetables in a blender and puree, then return to the soup pot.
Serve parmesan cheese on the side.
Tuna and Pasta
Not the tuna casserole mama used to make. This is the quickest dish to make: it’s ready as soon as the pasta is cooked!
1/2 cup olive oil
Three cans of tuna
2 heads parsley, chopped
1/2 head of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Spaghetti or your favorite pasta
Prepare pasta according to directions, drain and set aside.
Pour half of the olive oil (1/4 cup) into a large frying pan. At medium-high heat, sauté garlic and parsley, add tuna and parmesan cheese, and remaining 1/4 cup oil. Stir and squeeze half the lemon over everything.
Drain the pasta and place in serving bowl, add ingredients from frying pan and mix. Add more oil or parmesan to taste.
(This recipe is one of my favorites from The Top 100 Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed)
Spaghetti Squash Italian Style
This might be a little more expensive than regular spaghetti, but it is much healthier and you’ll get the family eating vegetables—they may not even notice. It still prices out at about $10 for a family of four.
4 lb. spaghetti squash
1 24 oz. jar tomato sauce or easily make your own:
24 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. dried or fresh oregano, don’t skimp (the herbs play an important part in this dish)
salt and pepper
1 lb. mozzarella
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and an additional 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top
If you are working, cook the spaghetti squash the night before, cover and put in the refrigerator. Prepare as below, but heat for 1/2 hour before serving.
Split the squash in half and remove the seeds. (Save the seeds and roast them as a snack!) Place the squash halves, seed side down, in a long baking dish and add about an inch of water. Cover with tin foil or lid. Cook the spaghetti squash in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes, then turn squash seed-side up and continue cooking another 15 minutes. Do not turn the oven off when done.
If you choose to make your own sauce, prepare while squash is cooking. Sauté onions and garlic, add green pepper, oregano salt and pepper, sauté another five minutes, then pour crushed tomatoes into vegetables. Or simply heat store bought sauce.
Remove squash from oven. Pull the pulp from the sides with a fork. It will come off in strands. Place the squash in a large serving dish that can be heated. Sprinkle parmesan over squash and toss with thyme or oregano, salt and pepper. Pour heated sauce over squash, dot top with slices of mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle last 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over top.
Place back in oven, turn heat to 375 degrees, cook for 10 minutes or until mozzarella is melted. Serve.
You can add one pound of ground beef if you must, but you won’t miss it the way it is.
1 large yellow or Spanish onion, chopped
1 whole head of garlic, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, broken into tiny pieces (Do not substitute broccoli. The flavor is too strong.)
1 large potato, chopped and diced
10 fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium to large zucchini, chopped
1 medium to large yellow squash, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 can black beans
1 can red beans
1 can garbanzo beans
2 24 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
Fistful of fresh herbs to your taste, or 2 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. chili powder or more to taste
1/2 head of cilantro
2 tbsp. of cumin
Sauté onions and garlic in a large pot, and add other vegetables one at a time. Add one cup of water, and only add more as needed to maintain a chili consistency. Add tomatoes and herbs.
Cook on medium-low for 45 minutes or until done.