5 Easy Meals So Good You Won’t Miss the Meat

What’s your excuse?

If you’ve been reading these emails but haven’t at least given it a go with a few meatless meals, I’m guessing it’s for one of two reasons:

1) Cooking seems hard.

2) Vegetarian food doesn’t seem very good.

If one of these is you, no problem. That’s what this email is for.

5 Easy, Shockingly Good Vegetarian Meals

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Orzo with citrus-cooked vegetables

Once you get started, I bet you’ll be hooked.

You’ll try so many new foods and feel so great that it’ll seem effortless. But at first, getting used to cooking and finding good vegetarian recipes—and I don’t mean tofu and steamed vegetables—seems pretty tough.

These five meals will blow that worry out of the water. All of them require relatively little hands-on cooking time, and no fancy techniques. They’re all really healthy and totally sufficient for an endurance training diet.

And what matters most is that they’re all really good. Try just a few of them, and you’ll have a brand new idea of what’s possible in a dish without meat.

Smoky black bean burritos. This was one of the first recipes I tried when I was a new vegetarian, and it was probably the first meal where I said to myself, “I don’t think I could make this any better by putting meat in it.”

You’ll find chipotle in adobo (smoked jalapeno pepper in sauce) in the hispanic section of most grocery stores; it adds a wonderful smoky flavor. The pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are the best part of this meal, and they’re high in iron, so don’t skimp on them. Skip the sour cream, and even the cheese, if you want—the burritos are just fine without any dairy, especially if you substitute a sliced avocado to replace some of the creaminess.

Finally, get whole wheat or even sprouted grain tortillas rather than the plain white variety, and make sure they aren’t made with lard, as many tortillas are.

Orzo with citrus “cooked” veggies, avocado and feta. This is a quick meal that takes only as long as it takes to chop the vegetables and cook the orzo, since the vegetables only “cook” by sitting in the orange juice and salt for a few minutes. This one eats more like a hot meal than a pasta salad, and it’s a great way to work more raw vegetables into your diet.

You can skip the feta if you’re vegan, since again, the avocado provides plenty of smooth creaminess. If you can’t find shallots, you can substitute red onion without a problem.

Orzo is technically a pasta, so it should be with the other pastas in your grocery store. If you can get whole wheat orzo, use it, but this is one time when I make an allowance for white-flour pasta, just because whole wheat orzo is so hard to find.

Hawaiian Beans and Rice. You’ll find, if you stick with this vegetarian thing, that beans and rice become one of your best allies in the kitchen. It’s well-known, and probably a little bit overblown in importance, that the two form a complete protein together. But the real reason I do it so often: It’s easy, filling, and cheap.

It’s amazing to me how much this recipe tastes like ham. The saltiness from the soy sauce, the sweetness of the pineapple, and a touch of smokiness from smoked paprika do a perfect job of replicating that “luau” flavor. The smoked paprika is a must, and it has a very different taste from regular paprika, so don’t be tempted to substitute. You should be able to find it in the spice section of your store.

If you like this one, check out five more easy variations on beans and rice here.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans. Yeah I know, potatoes in pasta seems really weird. Until you try it, and then you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it first. (Italians have been eating this for hundreds of years.)

If you’ve never made fresh pesto, it’s totally worth it. You need a food processor, since doing it mortar-and-pestle-style is too much work. If you don’t have a food processor, you could buy store-bought pesto, but I’m telling you, that’s not nearly as good as yours will be if you use fresh basil, nuts, and olive oil. (You can skip the cheese if you don’t want to use dairy.)

The first time you try this one, it might seem like a bit of an orchestration. But I still consider it a quick meal, because after you’ve done it once, you’ll be able to make the pesto while the beans and potatoes cook, then use their cooking water for the pasta, and get the whole thing finished in less than half an hour.

If you want to boost the protein a little bit, go with Barilla Plus pasta. The drawback is that it’s made with eggs, so it’s not vegan. Alternatively, try spelt pasta sometime for a change of pace.

Millet Black Bean Patties with Corn. This one is just a little more work than the others, since you need to first cook the millet, then form some patties and lightly fry them. But I’ve included it here because I want you to see that there are a lot of great grains out there besides wheat.

Most of these grains and seeds have more protein than wheat, and little or no gluten, which some people find hard to break down. This recipe uses millet, but as you cook more vegetarian meals (and start shopping in health food stores) you’ll come across quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, spelt, and others, all of which make healthy, interesting alternatives to wheat and rice.

Get started!

I really hope you try a few of these. You can read and learn about something all day long, but nothing ever happens until you take action to make it happen. And there’s no better time to start than tonight.

Happy cooking, and as always, let me know if I can help with anything at all.

-Matt

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