It’s a bit of a running joke in our house that when Mr 5 asks what we are having for dinner I normally reply ‘sticks and leaves’ – a variation of the ‘pickled eel’s feet’ my mother used to tell me as a child when I asked the same question. Side note: we also have said ‘pickled eel’s feet’ and Mr 5 actually thought these were like gherkins or baby cucumbers. One time we were grocery shopping and he pointed out some baby cucumbers and was like “look mum, pickled eel’s feet!” Funny. But I digress. I thought the title ‘Sticks and Leaves’ would be appropriate for this blog post that recaps our week of purely vegetarian meals and really marked the change to highlights the change to a more plant-based diet for my family.
I have always served one or two meat free dinners a week which I thought was pretty good. But, advice from the Heart Foundation suggests that meat and poultry should be consumed at most 3 times a week and in total you really should be eating at most around 390 grams of meat a week. The Heart Foundation suggests other protein sources such as fish, eggs and legumes. My husband has a family history of high cholesterol and given that this is a cause for 10% of early onset coronary artery disease I am pretty happy to get on board with dietary modifications! But, aside from the health benefits I have found that moving to a more plant-based diet is very budget friendly so, really, what’s not to love?
On to the recipes! Last blog I waxed lyrical about soups, and I think I am going to do it again. Soups are an easy way to stack lots of gorgeous produce into an easy to consume and delicious to eat meal. During our ‘Sticks and Leaves’ week we had Pumpkin Soup for dinner served with a delicious loaf of freshly made Soft Honey Oat Bread. The next day, there was enough soup leftover for lunches, so the twins and I had pumpkin soup and I made a Spinach and Feta Gozleme to serve with the soup (featured image). Yummy. If you have not tried making gozleme you really should, super easy, super quick and always a hit in our house.
Another soup I served was a new recipe I have developed – a Red Lentil and Tomato Soup. I wanted to have a protein punch in the soup and what could be better than pairing lentils and tomatoes to vary a traditional tomato soup?
Red Lentil and Tomato Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion diced
3 carrots diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp smoked paprika
800g tinned whole tomatoes
1 cup of dried red lentils, rinsed thoroughly
2 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice from one lemon
Coriander and Greek yogurt to serve (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large stock or soup pot over medium heat
- Add the onion and carrots and saute for around 5 minutes
- Add the garlic, tomato paste and paprika and stir through onion mix for a minute or so
- Add the tomatoes, lentils, stock, water and season to taste
- Bring to the boil and simmer over medium-low heat stirring occasionally for around 30 minutes
- When cooked through, allow to cool slightly and with an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth and creamy. If you do not have an immersion blender using a food processor or blender blend the soup in batches
- If the soup is too thick add more water, just taste and season accordingly
- Bring the soup back to the boil then allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Stir through the lemon juice
- Serve with Coriander and Greek yogurt and a light sprinkling of smoked paprika
Alright, no more soup-talk. In this blog post anyway! I wanted to ensure that the dishes were well-received and I thought the best way to do this would be to serve familiar dishes in a different way. One of these dishes was a Spinach and Pumpkin Lasagne. This recipe is a variation of a taste.com.au dish Pumpkin, Sage and Ricotta Lasagne, which is also a fantastic vegetarian lasagne, but I wanted to add a few other vegetables to really bump up the nutrient factor. Most of us enjoyed this, except Mr 5. Kind of frustrating given he likes pasta and likes pumpkin and you can barely taste the spinach and cauliflower. Anyway, he tried it and that is the main thing.
Spinach and Pumpkin Lasagne
1.2 kg pumpkin (I used a mix of butternut and kent pumpkin), peeled and cut into 2cm pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
200g frozen cauliflower florets
2 packed cups baby spinach finely chopped
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated parmesan plus extra to serve
8 fresh lasagne sheets
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
12 sage leaves to serve
Salt and Pepper to season
- Preheat oven to 190c
- Place pumpkin to a baking tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and roast for around 25 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender
- Meanwhile, steam or lightly boil the cauliflower florets until cooked through – around 5-7 minutes
- Place pumpkin in a food processor with the spinach and nutmeg and puree until smooth. Set aside
- Clean processor and add steamed cauliflower, ricotta, egg and parmesan. Season and process until smooth
- Grease a rectangle baking dish and lay two lasagne sheets on the base and spread with half the pumpkin and spinach mix. Add another layer of two lasagne sheets, then spread with half of the cauliflower and ricotta mix. Repeat the process then sprinkle the final cauliflower ricotta layer with parmesan
- Lay a sheet of baking paper over the top of the dish, cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and cook for a further 15 minutes or until golden. Stand for 5 minutes
- While the lasagne is cooling, melt the butter, sage leaves and walnuts in a pan for 1-2 minutes or until the butter begins to foam. Remove from the heat
- Serve the lasagne drizzled with the sage butter and a fresh salad
Another meal that is a firm family favourite in our house is pesto pasta. I normally serve this with chicken but this time I substituted the chicken for roasted cauliflower and added a grated zucchini. This was gobbled up by everyone so will definitely serve this one again!
Pesto Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Zucchini
300g frozen cauliflower florets
One bunch of fresh basil (around 1 cup firmly packed)
40g of pine nuts
1/2 cup parmesan plus extra to serve
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large zucchini grated
400g pasta (penne, bow tie or orecchiette)
- Preheat oven to 200c and then roast the cauliflower until tender and starting to brown (around 20 mins)
- Meanwhile make the pesto. In a food processor add basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, oil, salt and pepper and blitz until smooth
- Grate the zucchini and add into the pesto mix
- When cauliflower is roasted, heat a large pan over medium heat. Transfer the cauliflower to the pan, add the pesto mix and stir through for around 1 minute or two being careful not to let the pesto catch. Add the cream bring to boiling point then simmer over a medium heat for around 10 minutes allowing the mixture to reduce
- Meanwhile cook pasta according to packet instructions
- When the pasta is cooked, transfer into the cauliflower and pesto mix, season and stir through and cook for a further minute
- Either serve in pan or transfer to dish, sprinkle with parmesan and basil leaves (optional)
While the pesto was greeted with much enthusiasm, the Vegetarian Moussaka was not. I have made this before and I really enjoy it but not one of the other 4 family members shared this enjoyment. Oh well. I should have known really and not bothered as 1. they do not really eat mushrooms and 2. they do not really eat eggplant. But if you don’t try, you won’t know. On the positive side at least there were a lot of leftovers for me for lunches! I served this with a spinach, cherry tomato, feta and walnut salad that was drizzled in fresh lemon juice and that was also delicious. As I knew this dinner was going to be a bit of a hard sell and I wanted everyone to at least eat something I also served this meal with pumpkin bread. Needless to say, the kids really only ate bread for dinner. But at least it had pumpkin in it!
One of the main things I look for when making meals is that they need to be quick and or make ahead as I do a lot of bulk cooking which helps me juggle work, looking after the kiddies and my blogging. On the hunt for quick, delicious and nutricious meals I have recently found and re-discovered baked beans. So easy and super quick but best of all baked beans are a protein packed meal that can be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner. The recipe I use is a Vegan Baked Beans recipe that I have modified slightly to make it more kid-friendly and to make the meal suitable for a larger family.
1 tbsp oil
1 onion diced finely
3 garlic cloves minced
1 tbsp of tomato puree
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
800g tinned cannellini beans drained and rinsed
- Heat oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until soft. Add tomato puree, paprika, thyme, sugar, soy sauce and cook for a further two minutes
- Add beans and passata and simmer for at least 5 minutes until the mixture is hot and the sauce has thickened slightly
- Season with pepper and serve
One of my favourite family meals is Healthy Little Foodies’ Vegetarian Chilli for Kids. This has to be one of the most versatile meals and I serve this meal in a number of ways – as intended a chilli, with rice, as a nacho topping, as a taco filling and even cold as a salsa. Pictured is the chilli served with rice with carrot, cheese and avocado wholemeal quesadillas. Yum.
So there it is. A week of delicious, filling and oh so good for you vegetarian dinners. We’re not quite ready to give up the roast lamb completely but we have moved on to a more plant-based diet.
Let me know if you try any of these recipes and until next time…eat your greens!