At last we can celebrate spring and spend more time in the outdoors! Here is a list of simple or collaborative meals for when you return home. These and similar ideas are from Raising Vegetarian Children by J. Stepaniak and V. Melina (McGraw-Hill 2003).
1. Create a spread of make-your-own-tacos. Set out taco shells or tortillas; chopped lettuce, onion, and tomatoes; sliced or mashed avocado; taco sauce; and warmed canned refried beans or pinto or kidney beans or crumbled veggie burgers. In some families it works best to include a meat taco filling as well. Wikipedia says “The fact that a taco can be filled with practically anything that fits on a tortilla allows for its great versatility and variety.”
2. Have everyone make-their-own-vegetable-pizza (or their section of a bigger one). Start with a purchased whole grain pizza crust, or smaller pita breads. As toppings, set out bowls of pizza sauce, grated carrots, and sliced mushrooms, olives, red, yellow or white onions, red, yellow or green bell peppers. If you include veggie pepperoni slices, cover the slices with a little tomato sauce so they don’t dry out. You might top the pizza with raw baby spinach after baking, and let it wilt slightly before serving.
3. Open a can of vegetarian chili or split pea soup. Add a fresh whole grain bun and a carrot cut into strips.
4. Serve veggie burgers on whole grain buns with all the fixings. If you like, serve these with oven-baked sweet potato wedges (instead of French fries).
5. Set out a salad bar. Provide bowls of salad greens, shredded or chopped vegetables, nuts and/or seeds, sprouts, cooked beans or cubes of marinated tofu, leftover cooked vegetables, avocado chunks, and a couple different dressings. Let everyone compose their salad just the way they like it.
6. Make a can of vegetable soup more hearty by adding some canned beans (such as black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans). Serve with whole-grain toast.
7. If kids (or adults) don’t eat vegetable at meals sticks, set out a platter of vegetable sticks (carrots, celery, bell peppers) before a meal or as a snack, without saying a word. Many excellent flavours of hummus are now available from supermarket coolers, as an optional dip.
Makes 8 to 9 ten-inch kabobs
Kabobs are colorful, tasty, and fun to make. They are welcome at a barbecue, and you make them any time by browning them under the broiler. Served them on a bed of rice or in a pita pocket. Choose extra-firm tofu; it has been pressed to remove much of the water and holds its shape well on the 10-inch metal or bamboo skewer. Measurements are approximate.
1/2 pound extra-firm tofu cut in 1/2-inch pieces
16 to 18 small mushrooms (1-1/2 ounces or 1 cup of pieces)
1/2 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cut in 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
1 small zucchini, cut in slices 1/4-inch thick or 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 medium red or white onion, cut in 3/4 inch pieces
8 to 9 cherry tomatoes
Sweet and Tangy Marinade
Makes about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic (optional)
In a jar with a tight fitting lid, prepare marinade by stirring together ingredients. Add tofu, put on lid, and toss so that pieces are covered. Marinate 4 to 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally to coat all pieces. Starting and ending with mushroom, place pieces of tofu alternately with one or other of the vegetables on skewer, with a tomato midway along.
Place kabobs on cookie sheet or roasting pan, baste with marinade, and place 6 inches under broiler for 10 minutes; turning and basting with more marinade once.
On barbecue or grill:
Baste with marinade, turning and basting with more marinade once. Remove when heated through and browned a little.
Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of other nutrition classics including “Becoming Vegetarian”, Becoming Vegan”; the “Food Allergy Survival Guide” and the new “Raw Food Revolution Diet” Her website is: www.nutrispeak.com