Meatless Meal Plans, Part I

All sorts of vegetables can be found in tasty, healthy, and meat-free main courses. And unless someone gives you the list of ingredients, you might never know the difference. 

With the potential for meat supplies to be limited and/or see sharp price increases, what better time to give a meatless diet a try? Even if your family is not ready to jump on the meatless wagon, Meatless Mondays offer a perfect opportunity for baby steps. If you’re the chef in your home, I’ll bet you can even introduce a number of plant-based and other meatless main dishes into your menu without anyone even noticing the absence of their meaty entrée. Below are two meatless main dishes for you to try.

This meatless loaf makes one of best ‘meatloaves’ I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve had the best—my mom’s. Whenever I introduce this recipe to a group, they always beg for more. I always make a double batch because it’s so addictive. If you’re lucky enough to have extra, it can be refrigerated or frozen for another delicious meal.

Choose the same go-togethers as you would for a traditional meatloaf. Maybe mashed potatoes, a green or yellow vegetable, and a salad. Since my sister-in-law introduced this one to me, it bears her name.

BECKIE’S SPECIAL K LOAF

(eight servings, approximately 300 calories per serving) 

1 lb cottage cheese

¼ c vegetable oil (can reduce to 2 Tbsp)

1 T soy or tamari sauce

3 eggs, beaten

¼ c finely chopped walnuts or pecans

4 c Special K cereal

1 tsp sage

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 envelope Lipton dry onion soup and dip mix (the only meat-free onion soup mix)

Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Hands work best for this.

Place mixture in well-greased loaf pan. (Don’t use spray—the loaf will still stick.)

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Cool completely before removing from pan.

Here’s another family favorite we discovered decades ago in Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet. Rice con Queso is a deceptively simple name for a truly hearty and tasty dish. A green salad and some crunchy nacho chips will round out the meal.

First, prepare three cups of cooked rice. We only use brown rice, but white will do. Hint: Make a big batch of rice the day before. Save three cups, refrigerated, for this dish and freeze the rest, measured for future rice-containing recipes. Be sure to label amount and intended use.

You can used canned or pre-cooked dried beans in this recipe. If you prefer dried, go ahead and cook up a potful. As with rice, you can freeze extra for easy meal prep another day.

Now that it’s time for meal preparation, set the oven for 350.

Oil a casserole dish (8×8 or so).

You can prepare the dish in layers as shown below, or you can do what I do and dump all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

RICE CON QUESO (gluten free)

(Six servings, approximately 500 calories per serving)

3 c cooked rice

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed or 1 1/3 cups of cooked dried black beans (1/3 c dry)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, well chopped

1 small can green chilies (4 oz)

½ lb ricotta or cottage cheese

¾ lb jack or cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Mix first five ingredients together in mixing bowl.

In the casserole dish, layer half the rice mixture, followed by the cottage cheese, then the ¾ lb grated cheese. Add remaining rice mixture as top layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, sprinkling ½ cup grated cheddar over the top after 25 minutes.

I’ll add more simple meatless recipes in future blog posts. Neither of these recipes is vegan and their reliance on dairy and/or egg products makes them high fat and relatively high in calories, but they are yummy, which makes them a good intro to meatless meals. In future posts, I’ll have some lower calorie and vegan recipes. And they all taste delicious, I promise! So be sure to check back.

Stay tuned for this tasty chili recipe.

And if you have a favorite meatless recipe, send it along in the comments.