Quick and Easy Meatless Meals

I'm writing these posts because I've had a few friends ask me for meatless recipe ideas lately. Freezer meals are good because they eliminate preparation time, but they still need time to cook and require advance planning to make sure they are thawed in time. I thought I'd write up a few of the quick meals that we have on hand for days when I'm busy or when I don't really feel like cooking.

Eggs

Eggs are a wonderful, cheap source of protein that are easy to cook. If you aren't eating a lot of meat or other saturated fats, having eggs one or two times a week is usually not a health issue either. Eggs are a great food for little kids too. You can also replace some of the whole eggs with egg whites in order to make your recipes even healthier.

Fried or scrambled eggs with toast are a great, simple dinner. Sometimes we will make omelettes, which are fun for kids because they can choose what they want to have inside (cheese, green onion, mushrooms, peppers, olives, tomatoes, etc). If you have a little more time you can fry some potatoes (or use frozen hash browns) and put a fried egg on top. I also like to eat a fried egg with some salad greens drizzled in olive oil and vinegar. Another one of our favorite dinners is egg burritos. We put scrambled eggs and cheese in a tortilla with some salsa for the grownups. They're even better with some hash browns if you have a little more time.

Hard boiled eggs are easy to make ahead of time and will keep for several days in the fridge. You can peel some and make egg salad sandwiches. They are also great to add to salads in place of meat. Cesar salad with hard-cooked eggs instead of chicken is very tasty. We also like to have chef salad with hard-boiled eggs, kidney beans, cheddar cheese and ranch dressing served on lettuce and chopped veggies.

Beans

I have heard mixed things about using canned beans. They do have added salt, and some people worry about the cans adding chemicals to the food. I still use them often because they are a quick and easy source of protein and fiber. I generally try to put them in a colander and rinse them off before using. You can also cook dry beans and freeze portions of them, but you will have to thaw them before using.

Salads with beans are great in the summer when it is hot. For taco salad I mix a can of black beans with a can of corn and microwave it until warm. Then mix it with greens, tortilla chips, olives, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and/or ranch dressing, etc. You can make a tasty Mediterranean salad with garbanzos, cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, feta cheese, olives, and a red-wine or balsamic vinaigrette. Kidney beans or garbanzos are tasty in pasta salad as well.

I like to put refried beans in quesadillas or burritos, and you can even have a fun meal by putting them in a bowl with some cheese, warming it up, and serving with tortilla chips to dip in it. If you have leftover cooked rice you can make quick beans and rice by mixing it with drained black or pinto beans and some seasonings (like cumin, chili powder, or even just seasoned salt).

Breakfast Foods

We often have pancakes, waffles, or French toast for dinner. I don't usually cook a hot breakfast, so they aren't redundant. We always have some kind of fruit with them, like smoothies, cut-up berries, or applesauce. Sometimes I cook hash browns or some veggie sausages (we really like these veggie sausages and they are much lower in fat than the meat kind).

Pasta

Pasta is another quick and cheap meal option. While it cooks you can make a quick sauce or even just open a jar. I sometimes buy jarred sauce to have on hand for nights when I'm in a hurry; check the label to find a kind that's low in sugar and that doesn't have a lot of junk in it (I like Barilla or Classico). You can also cut up and saute some veggies like broccoli, carrots, peppers, and/or zucchini and either add them to sauce or just toss them with pasta and some Parmesan cheese.

Other Stuff

I already mentioned that we like to do refried bean quesadillas. Another idea is to sautee some veggies, like mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini and put them in your quesadilla. Yummy.

Sandwiches are another easy dinner, but sometimes tricky without meat. You can make grilled cheese sandwiches with tomatoes or even apple slices in them. Another fun idea for kids are wraps made with cream cheese or hummus and some sliced veggies. Mashed avocado or mashed beans are tasty in wraps as well.

Baked potatoes are simple to make in the microwave and taste great with meatless chili, sauteed veggies, cheese, sour cream, or even beans and salsa. They're also a good dinner for a group because they give people options.

I hope some of these ideas are useful for people who are trying to think of healthy, easy things to feed their families. My kids usually like most of these things; we almost always have some kind of fruit for a side dish, as well as salad, a steamed vegetable, or veggies and dip. I also keep on hand a few cans of vegetarian baked beans to serve with things like veggie wraps or sandwiches, because I know my kids love baked beans. Whole-grain bread with butter is another good side dish that kids like, and if you get the healthy kind it will add additional protein and fiber to your meal.

Comments

Tina said…
Sounds yummy. I wish we lived closer so I could sample some of your food more often!
skyeJ said…
This post is making me hungry. Did you know that Hugh Hefner likes to eat a boiled egg every day? I learned that watching The Girls Next Door.
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