A friend of mine emailed me the other day asking for some vegetarian recipes. She and her family will be going meatless for the first 21 days in January. Being a long-time vegetarian and avid (to put it mildly) cook, I (naturally) said I would oblige. So, for the first 21 days of January, I will be throwing in some veggie recipes for lots of fun things as well as some meal planning ideas. I'm thinking of putting a "What's for dinner" column on the sidebar to show our daily dinners.
Vegetarian cooking doesn't have to be difficult or intimidating. Many things we eat can be easily made vegetarian - soups, pizza, pasta, stir-fry,...
Today, I thought I'd give you a brief description of what is in my pantry/fridge/freezer, with a strong emphasis on what I consider must-haves. There is a ton of variation on what you can stock a vegetarian pantry with. Some people have the time and desire to make many things from scratch. Some people choose to purchase things ready made. Either approach can work. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Meal preparation should be enjoyable. And the more you enjoy preparing your meals, the better they will taste! So, do what you feel you can and would like to do as far as the basics.
I always try to keep in mind: the more whole the food is, the better it is for you. Choosing the least processed foods will keep your pantry stocked with healthy options.
Please note that these lists are not complete lists of what I stock. Just highlighting the basics here.
dried beans (I most often use garbanzo, lentils, green split peas, navy, and black beans)
*note: canned beans can replace dried beans for convenience, but they are more costly)
cans of refried beans (because I don't have the desire to make my own)
tomato sauce (I can my own, but any that you like will be wonderful)
tomato puree (ditto above)
tomato paste (I don't can my own of this...)
flours for breads, muffins, and other yummy treats
quinoa (pronounced keen-wa. a grain that can be used in place of rice. more on quinoa later)
herbs and spices
olive and canola oils
My Freezer (contains lots of fresh-frozen garden veggies):
whole wheat tortilla shells (oh how we love to use these!)
sliced fruits and berries
homemade veggie burgers
local organic eggs
local organic cheeses
fresh veggies especially including beets, carrots, lettuce, cabbage
seitan (a wheat gluten protein)
soy and rice milks
earth balance (a vegan butter substitute containing no hydrogenated oils)
I tend to shy away from the soy meat products that are flooding the market today. They are tasty and fun, and we do partake in them on occasion. But on the whole, I don't think they are very healthy. Often, they contain way more salt than one wants to consume. They are highly processed, and typically contain soy protein isolate - which is when they extract the protein from the soybean. I am a whole foods advocate in general, and can't help but think that there is something mainly unhealthy about extracting only one part of a whole food. The jury is still out on whether or not this type of protein is beneficial or harmful. You can find both arguments out there. I, for myself and for my family, prefer to eat them only every so often.
I'm sure there is a lot I have forgotten to list.