Becoming Vegetarian - One Recipe at a Time

Becoming Vegetarian - One Recipe at a Time

Becoming Vegetarian - One Recipe at a Time

By Sallie Niehoff, R.D., L.D.

Thinking of reducing your meat intake but just don''t know how to get started? A gradual approach may work best. Start by giving up meat at just one meal - say breakfast - for a couple of weeks. Use these weeks to try a variety of plant-based foods (include dairy and egg foods if you like) to see which foods you enjoy and find satisfying. I recommend using vegetarian cookbooks to get ideas. Borrow cookbooks from the library to see if you like them before purchasing.

When you are comfortable with your repertoire of breakfast foods, move on to lunch; when ready, focus your attention on dinner. If you eat away from home, look for salad bars, vegetable pizzas, or restaurants that serve Chinese, Thai, Indian or Middle Eastern foods.

The Healthy Vegetarian Diet

Just giving up meat doesn''t make you a vegetarian. A vegetarian diet needs to include a wide variety of whole grains, legumes (dried beans, dried peas and lentils), nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruits. Lacto-ovo vegetarians also include eggs and low-fat dairy products in their diets.

Sweet Beans and Carrots

Fresh, green soybeans that are sold and eaten still in the pod are called "edamame" (pronounced: ed-a-mah-may). When the beans are removed from the shell, they are called "sweet beans." Soy is one of the very few plant foods that are a complete protein. You get a double bonus in this recipe - protein and isoflavones (healthy nutrients that are specific to unprocessed soy foods).

Nutrition : 122 calories, 3.8 grams fat, 0.3 grams saturated fat, 164 mg. sodium, 17 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 8.2 grams protein

Preparation time : 5 minutes. Cook time : 11 minutes.

Servings : 4. Serving size : 1 cup.

  • 2 cups frozen sweet beans (shelled edamame)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

In a medium saucepan combine sweet beans and water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low; cover and cook 3 minutes. Add carrots and continue cooking an additional 5 minutes. Stir in next 4 ingredients and continue to cook, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced and thickened.

Shopping list :

  • Sweet beans
  • Carrots
  • Orange juice
  • Brown sugar
  • Lite soy sauce
  • Fresh ginger

Pecan Apple Salad

Studies indicate that people who eat five servings of nuts per week reduce their risks for heart disease and cancer. Nuts are good sources of protein and monosaturated fats . Toasting the nuts brings out the best of their flavor and crunch.

Nutrition : 295 calories, 16 grams fat, 0.3 grams saturated fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 105 mg. sodium, 35 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 4 grams protein.

Preparation time : 15 minutes.

Servings : 6. Serving size : 1 cup salad, 2 graham cracker squares.

  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 2 crisp apples, 1/2-inch diced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons lite vanilla yogurt
  • Dash ground cinnamon
  • 24 graham cracker squares

Toast pecans by placing in a dry skillet over medium low heat; stirring frequently for 3 minutes or until a toasted aroma develops. Remove from heat; transfer nuts to a room-temperature dish to cool.

In a large bowl, toss apples with lime juice; add celery, carrots and raisins. In a small bowl, stir sour cream, yogurt and cinnamon together until well blended. Pour sour cream/yogurt mixture over fruit/vegetable mixture; gently stir until fruit and vegetables are evenly coated.

To serve, divide salad into 6 serving dishes. Top each with 2 1/2 tablespoons of pecans and serve graham crackers on the side.

Shopping list :

  • Pecans
  • Raisins
  • Apples
  • Sour cream
  • Carrots
  • Yogurt
  • Limes
  • Graham crackers
  • Celery
  • Cinnamon

Ginger Sesame Tofu and Sauce

Tofu suffers from an identity problem because it lacks texture and flavor. To give it texture, first start with a "meaty" brand of firm tofu (such as White Wave® and SpringCreek® brands). Next give it a crunchy coating by using nuts, seeds or a batter; then bake or sauté using high heat. To give flavor, use rubs or marinades to coat tofu slices or cubes before cooking.

Nutrition : 334 calories, 18 grams fat, 3.7 grams saturated fat, 281 mg. sodium, 18 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 23 grams protein.

Preparation time : 15 minutes. Stand time : 1 hour. Cook time : 10 minutes.

Servings : 3. Serving size : 2 slices tofu & 2 tablespoons sauce.

  • 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup crushed ginger snap cookies (about 8 whole cookies)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water

Remove tofu from packaging, discarding any liquid. Slice tofu into 6 pieces. To remove excess liquid, place tofu slices down the center of a clean, dry dishtowel. Fold sides of towel over tofu so a double layer of towel is on top. Flip tofu bundle over so a double layer of towel is on the bottom. Set aside while preparing marinade.

For marinade, combine crushed ginger snaps, rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir until mixture is well blended. Spread half of marinade in the bottom of a 9-inch square non-reactive dish. Remove tofu slices from towel and place in a single layer over marinade. Spread remaining marinade over the top of tofu slices; cover dish with plastic wrap and allow tofu to marinate 30 to 60 minutes before proceeding.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds on a 9-inch, flat dish or cutting board. Remove tofu from marinade, shaking or scraping excess marinade back into dish; reserve marinade. Place tofu pieces on sesame seeds on cutting board. Sprinkle a second tablespoon of sesame seeds over top of tofu. With the back of a spoon lightly press seeds into tofu.

Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Place tofu slices in hot skillet; cook about 3 minutes, or until nicely browned on first side; turn slices and brown on second side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

For sauce, place remaining sesame seeds in the skillet, stirring constantly until seeds begin to brown. Stir in water and reserved marinade until well blended. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.

To serve, spoon sauce into the center of 3 plates. Place 2 slices of tofu over sauce.

Shopping list :

  • Sesame seeds
  • Rice vinegar
  • Ginger snaps
  • Lite soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Tofu
  • Vegetable oil

Rice, Greens and Chick Peas with Toasted Walnuts

This dish is a well-balanced meal containing proteins, grains and vegetables. Not only will you enjoy the flavors, but you will also like the colors and textures.

Nutrition : 513 k cal., 28 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 12.5 mg. cholesterol, 333 mg. sodium, 48 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber, 15 g. protein.

Cook time : 50 minutes. Prep time : 10 minutes.

Servings : 4. Serving size : 2 cups.

  • 1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 9-ounce package frozen mustard greens
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 2 ounces feta cheese

Place walnuts in a large, dry skillet over medium-low heat; stir frequently for 3 minutes or until a toasted aroma develops. Remove from heat; transfer nuts to a room-temperature dish to cool.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add rice and onion to skillet; stir continuously for 2 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook, while stirring, for an additional minute. Add mustard greens, water and spices to skillet; bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to low; cover and allow to cook 30 minutes. Turn off heat; sprinkle chickpeas over rice mixture (do not stir) and replace lid on skillet. Allow to stand 10 minutes.

To serve, transfer rice mixture to a shallow serving dish. Sprinkle nuts and feta over rice.

Shopping list :

  • Walnuts
  • Allspice
  • Onion
  • Pepper Flakes
  • Garlic
  • Chickpeas
  • Mustard greens
  • Feta cheese
  • Brown rice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Dietitian and chef, Sallie Niehoff, R.D., L.D., is a food service manager and cooking class instructor for Floyd Memorial Hospital in New Albany , Indiana . Her specialty, recipe development and modification, relies heavily on her nutrition, food science and culinary arts education. Sallie can be reached via e-mail at: or by phone: 812-949-5797.