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Plant-Based Faceplant.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve made an attempt as a family to eat more plants/eat less meat.  This is decision is rooted in a dozen different health reasons, but the end result is a move towards cutting back on the meat we’re consuming and integrating more than just a “meatless Monday” philosophy.

All well and good, right?

Except I still can’t cook.  And this is making anything “new!” a bit of a challenge.

Last summer, I worked towards a decent grasp on using our grill, making chicken and grilled vegetables and hamburgers that didn’t highlight my inability to create edible meals.  That learning curve was steep, though, and now the idea of trying to get creative in the kitchen with a renewed focus on plant-based meals is daunting as eff.

Because, as mentioned, I still can’t cook.  I’m having a plant-based face plant.

I tried to make these – sweet potato quinoa patties – and assembling the ingredients was easy enough.  I could get everything into a bowl and if I were to eat it like a salad, it would have worked out beautifully.  But the goal was to cook these on the stove top, creating a hot meal where the patties are crisped to a golden brown and cause people to put their fingertips delicately to their collarbones in delight – “My goodness – did you MAKE these?  They are DELIGHTFUL!” and then everyone gets drunk.  (This fantasy takes place post-August, when wine can re-enter the picture for me.)

Instead, I ended up with patties that didn’t ever crisp into golden perfection.  My attempt was more a lump of burned-on-one-side-barely-held-together-on-the-other-side patties, where they needed to be coaxed aggressively out of the pan and had to be eaten immediately or else they’d taste like not-awesome hash browns.

I’ve tried to make them twice now.  The first time, Chris and I had a “ho, ho, ho this is an experiment! and we’ll figure this out” response.  The second time, I was a hormonal mess and just about threw the pan across the kitchen with a pathetic sob of, “I can’t COOK I only make burnt vegetarian DOG FOOD.”  The third time, I’m afraid I will pitch a fit and then a tent in the backyard and force myself to sleep there until I can happily eat grass.

(Have I mentioned hormones?  I have them.  There are many of them.  Would you like some?  AHHHHHH!!!)

So what I’m hoping for is this:  Do you have a favorite non-meat recipe that is easy to make and that you enjoy eating?  I’m looking for recommendations to help expand my palette and my culinary skills without causing emotional chaos.  My kitchen prowess is limited, but I’m willing to try anything at least three times, and I’m really eager to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating.

51 Comments Post a comment
  1. @skswan #

    I will send you a copy of Thug Kitchen Cookbook (I mean, it’s subtitled “Eat like you give a f*uck” FFS). Everything we’ve tried is easy and delicious.

    06/22/16; 5:01 pm
  2. Carmen #

    Quinoa? I love this to take to work for lunch.

    06/22/16; 5:30 pm
  3. michelle #

    Chickpea Ratatouille! throw everything into a casserole dish, bake! stir once or twice, easy peasy.

    06/22/16; 5:55 pm
  4. The easiest is grilling up some zucchini and peppers and tomatos and whatever else and throwing on some butter and garlic; serve with whatever starch and sauce I guess 🙂 the best vegetarian thing I have come across involves some time in the kitchen but is so so worth it:
    I am a big eggplant fan! I also like to concoct ratatoille- type stuff using different kinds of veggies + marinara.

    06/22/16; 5:59 pm
  5. k2 #

    I love quinoa & find that when I make it with low sodium chicken or veggie broth, it turns out better in both texture and taste.
    Trader Joe’s has tasty flavored tofu that goes great in a veggie stir fry or in a cold salad.
    The Moosewood Cookbook is a great veggie cookbook – Mollie Katzen recipes are amazing and she’s a master at describing food prep and steps for all of her recipes .

    Also, here’s a link to some recipes that have worked for me and that I’ve posted on my blog.
    FYI: Re: The black Bean & Chorizo soup, you can make it veggie style and the Squash Soup is freezer friendly 🙂
    As far as the Grilled Asparagus Summer Salad – it’s freaking tasty!

    Don’t give up!
    Kelly K

    06/22/16; 6:00 pm
  6. Spaghetti squash!!!! Cutting it in half was always the hardest part for me, but if you google there are some great YouTube videos showing how to do it without hacking off any fingers. (So far, at least.) Roast it up and then the possible toppings endless!! Butter and cheese. Tomato sauce. Olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs. So good!!!

    And you know, the bright side of a plant-based diet is that eating a severely undercooked vegetable is far less likely to kill you than eating a severely undercoooked chicken breast . . . .

    06/22/16; 6:08 pm
  7. And GAZPACHO!!!!!

    06/22/16; 7:15 pm
  8. I am an absolutely awful cook, but I have this avocado and arugula pesto recipe practically memorized! It is so easy to make and you can always replace the arugula with baby spinach if you don’t like the bitter arugula.

    06/22/16; 7:55 pm
  9. Rox #

    Check out she has a ton of amazing and easy plant based recipes!!

    06/22/16; 8:15 pm
  10. c stickler #

    Prego miracle lasagna

    06/22/16; 8:24 pm
  11. -V- #

    Can’t go wrong with dhal. Lentils & spices (curry powder, ginger, garlic, onions). I add 2 packages of frozen spinach and you have something good, quick and healthy 😀 You can also add coconut milk for a richer stew. Lentils can also be served cold with spinach, bacon (a little for taste), veggies (asparagus, peppers, cherry tomatoes) and balsamic vinegar. You can also have tofu stir fry. Any asian sauce with cooked tofu and veggies. I always freeze my tofu, thaw it and squeeze the water out for a meatier texture. I could go on and on for days… I eat vegetarian at least twice a week and fish once a week 😀

    Patties are the hardest by the way, don’t be hard on yourself!

    06/22/16; 8:32 pm
  12. We like stuffing green peppers with pretty much anything, but an be simple with cheese and spices. I’ve also been doing that with mushrooms, and portabello mushroom caps. Another recent find is garlic broccoli, with this recipe —

    Of course, it’s interesting — we’ve actually been adding more meat, but less carbs and limiting gluten.

    So many different meal choices, glad we have the choice to choose what we want to eat.

    06/22/16; 8:48 pm
  13. Kerri, I applaud you for making a change…it starts with a decision, which clearly you have made, and then to purpose in your heart to make it so…changing your way of eating, i.e., less meat, more greens, grains, fruits, nuts, etc.m simply does not happen over night…like that precious baby growing inside of you, the change is organic, it is natural, it should not be forced, because it will back fire..we have FINALLY reached a point, and luckily for the Boys, I love to cook, where we are eating so well, and so healthy…so much so, that Edward’s last A1C was 6.3…he thought the endo was, be patient, add and subtract as you go, and in time, if you are bone serious, it will become a way of life

    06/22/16; 9:40 pm
  14. Deb #

    Ive been following a vegetarian diet for almost 4 months and my A1C has never been better—the cookbook ‘skinnytaste’ found on Amazon has been very helpful. Also, I eased my husband into things by subscribing to the Purple Carrot (veg meal plan) for a few weeks. That probably helped the most as far as introducing new ingredients and ways to use them. The service is out of Boston and delivers very good quality produce, etc. to your area. Good luck!

    06/22/16; 9:45 pm
    • This food move was initially discussed by me a few months ago, but my husband is completely on board now (especially after reading a few books and watching some thought-provoking films). Thank you for the rec!!!

      06/22/16; 10:23 pm
  15. My husband is the cook around here, and he’s going very vegetarian recently! I love this buffalo cauliflower recipe

    It’s time consuming to cut up the cauliflower, but it isn’t difficult. I pick it for my nights to cook a lot.

    Do you live near a Trader Joe’s? Their frozen veggie burgers are great, if a little higher in carbs than a meat burger 🙂

    We’ve been experimenting with jackfruit recently too. Only the husband has cooked it so far, so I can’t speak to how easy it is to cook, but it is tasty (when covered in sauce) and low carb.

    A favorite, slightly lower carb pizza alternative: naan, smushed avocado for sauce, cheese, and hot sauce as a topping (a Mexican hot sauce with a lot of flavor works best!)

    PS – Thanks for making a place for everyone to post vegetarian recipes that work for their diabetes! It can be hard to find stuff that’s meatless and even considers carb count or glycemic index. I’ll be stalking these comments pretty hard!

    06/22/16; 10:59 pm
  16. Amy jeske #

    I’ve had great success with many recipes from Oh She Glows.

    06/22/16; 11:10 pm
  17. Today, while volunteering for many Littles at our twilight Girl Scout camp I ate a red pepper as if it were an apple. Juicy, dripping down my chin delicious, with the crunch of something insanely carby. Quizzical looks on said Littles’ faces, to which I asked…”why not?”

    So, why not? Don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes simple tastes divine. Go for simple since everything else right now feels so hard.

    Wash an eggplant. Slice into burger size thick rounds. Toss into pan or panni press until fork tender or looks edible.Grill marks are a bonus. Top with anything that goes on a burger. You’ll feel like a veggie burger rock star. Better yet…buy the Veggie Burgers and be wonder-woman another year.

    Hang in there, baby lady.

    06/23/16; 3:04 am
  18. Lucy #

    Hi Kerri, I mostly eat vegetarian, and love Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall’s recipes. They are all in UK units and terms, but he has a lovely book called Veg Everyday, which is full of delicious and (I think) easy recipes. This one’s not in the book but is lovely. I eat lots of roast veg with either pulses or cheese added in, lots of vegetarian curries (once you have a small set of Indian spices, they are generally easy), risotto with lots of steamed veggies on the side, salads in the summer, omelettes and frittatas, veg stir fry with tofu or tofu balls. Patties are the most difficult thing to do, I call myself a good cook, but I mostly won’t go near them! Some protein based veggie substitutes are worth buying – we have Quorn in the UK, not sure if you have it in the US, but its low carb and the sausages or chicken style escalopes are good, quick and convenient. Good luck.

    06/23/16; 5:56 am
  19. Karen #

    So–on the sweet potato burgers((this is interesting because I have a sweet potato with chickpeas burger recipe that I’m excited about trying)) -it sounds like maybe you didn’t wait long enough for the pan to heat up before you put them in–so they absorbed more oil and that made the mushy side. And then the heat was too high after it was finally heated –and that made the burned side. (I have a lot of experience with this! ) Sooo–if you want to give it the “third time’s a charm” try, try lowering your heat to at most medium–and probably even a little lower would work. Wait at least 5 minutes for the oil to heat, toss in a crumb of sweet potato to see if it sizzles, and if it does you should be good to go–if not wait a little longer. It is frustrating to try something new and waste food!

    06/23/16; 7:19 am
  20. Robin #

    I suggest HelloChef. It is an awesome home delivery service that you can customize to your needs (low-carb/vegetarian is an option) and it is absolutely wonderful. They send you the recipes as well as the food to cook. My husband and I have been doing it for almost a month now and I love it. You choose how many servings and they break it down for you the words they use when they tell you how to prepare it. Best thing I’ve done since being diagnosed with Diabetes. It takes the guess work out of dinner and makes it fun. Im getting to be a much better cook now 🙂 good luck!

    06/23/16; 7:22 am
    • Robin #

      HomeChef!!!! Totally confused it there. HelloFresh is another company but I use HomeChef

      06/23/16; 7:22 am
  21. Vera #

    Karen is probably right. I’m quite good at cooking by now (I think), but I always struggle with frying patties, no matter what they consist of. I guess my fault is that I always use to little oil. I’m not willing to use more (due dietary/weight reasons), but it really helps to get the heat transfer homogeniously to the patty, therefore avoiding those black spots in some places and non-browning at all in other places.

    Thankfully, there are so many other ways of preparing food than frying!
    Good luck with your next experiment!

    06/23/16; 7:30 am
  22. Watching a child learn to walk — stumble, fall, get up, do it all over again — is a lesson in resilience and perseverance.

    If your goal is true, keep trying. Stop looking at how many times you’ve failed. Just keep the goal in mind. You’ll get the hang of cooking soon enough.

    06/23/16; 7:41 am
  23. Keri #

    We loved blue apron, and I’m sure they have some vegetarian meals.
    Another favorite of ours is either zucchini and tomatoes or green beans and tomatoes. Basically, throw and onion in a pan, cook for a couple min with a dab of olive oil then a large can of diced tomatoes. Cook down for about 10 min and add green beans or zucchini with some garlic or garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cook till the texture you like. Serve over rice and it’s dinner!

    06/23/16; 8:05 am
  24. Lynne goodchild #

    I am totally in the same boat. Trying to eat less meat and processed foods and more veggie based meals and I mostly cook dry rubbery meals that you’d find in a child’s play kitchen and even they wouldn’t pretend to eat it. I am excitedly reading the comments hoping for some magic to appear and find some meals that I can cook and make edible and also that my kids will happily eat it. Or atleast pretend to happily eat and not give me their usual food critic breakdown of where it all went wrong. Also eager to see how it will effect sugars. My daughter has been riding the roller coaster between 100s and mid 300s all week and we can’t figure out why. I’m blaming puberty. I blame most things on puberty these days, I have 3 11 year olds and we are in hormonal hell, but I digress.

    06/23/16; 8:39 am
  25. Nancy #

    This recipe from Pinch of Yum is to die for! You can buy the spiralized sweet potato “noodles” at whole foods if you don’t have a spiralizer (though this recipe was the one that pushed me over the edge to buy one!). Don’t bother roasting the corn – you can just cut it fresh from a raw cob or even use frozen corn, thawed. It’s an easy recipe and SO DELICIOUS, especially the dressing. I up the spinach, use unsalted sunflower seeds vs pepitas and barely saute everything. Enjoy!

    06/23/16; 10:44 am
  26. Tim Steienrt #

    When my Mom was a newlywed, she couldn’t cook worth a darn. I’m too young to remember, but an historically frightening meal was “Spam Soup.” She’s become a better cook, if a little bland. I like a little kick in my food, so I don’t think she’ll ever experience my cooking.

    I would suggest that you could make SOME really good dishes by just removing the meat. I make McCormick’s Chili (Hot, natch) all the time. Making it with turkey (or no meat at all) would work very well. All it requires that you do is mix canned vegetables and season packets together and simmer.

    And figuring out the carb count would be easy-peasy!

    06/23/16; 2:57 pm
  27. So like I said on FB, I am also the bad cook of the household, but over the past year or two have finally gotten to the point where my boo says, “Mmm, this is good.” And with less meat too. Here’s what helped me!

    1. Avoiding the previous framework of “protein + carb + vegetable” plate. Because then you end up with burned patties because you’re trying to make a hot vegetarian protein thing happen (yup, been there done that). I try to combine multiple components into one part of the dish. Which it sounds like you were doing with sweet potatoes + quinoa, so good.

    2. Go towards big batch meals that take forever and suck for two hours but then can be eaten for multiple meals. Enchiladas are great for this. So is a quasi-Mexican salad: saute some corn kernels on the stovetop (either fresh or frozen corn), mixed wtih cans of black beans and diced tomatoes. Put it all together in a bowl. Add chopped onions (raw or cooked, whatever you like), and whatever other veggies you may like (green squash, sweet potatoes, etc.) Dress with lime juice, spices to taste, and either chopped avocado or guac.

    3. I rely on couscous, sauteed greens, and boxed salad as things that take 5 minutes to dish up and are low stress. Couscous doesn’t have protein but it’s even easier than quinoa. 1:1 ratio of liquid to couscous, bring to boil (with salt or butter if needed), dump in couscous, turn off heat, wait however long you need, DONE.

    4. I don’t do this so often but I feel like salads and sandwiches are easy if you want to do something simple.

    Good luck!

    06/23/16; 3:44 pm
    • One recipe I forgot! Brussel sprouts (or some other sturdy vegetable) with eggs. Extremely easy and delicious. To make it a dinner, I cooked 4 eggs in the center of the pan and spooned dabs of herbed goat cheese on it at the end.

      Add a carb or salad on the side as you wish and that’s it!

      06/23/16; 3:47 pm
    • I not one of their employees. But maybe it’s an option.

      06/23/16; 4:15 pm
  28. Emily #

    This is the best recipe ever and so easy to make!

    I’ve made many recipes from the (vegan) Oh She Glows cookbook and have loved them all. My meat-loving husband does, too. You should definitely check the cookbook and the website out!

    06/23/16; 7:43 pm
  29. We eat a lot of veggie dinners, and an easy and tasty go to recipe is Black Bean, Yam and Avocado Quesadillas.

    It’s an easy two part process–roast the yams in the oven to start, mix the black beans with some spices of your choosing, and then with the yams once they are softened, cook your tortilla of choice in a frypan on medium low with a sprinkle of cheese (or none for extra healthy), and then add the sliced avocado on top, then flip and cook until golden brown. The right spices makes this seriously delicious and healthy, not too many carbs either and lots of protein in the beans!

    06/23/16; 10:29 pm
  30. Laurel #

    I recently made this from a recipe I discovered in the UK.
    Lentils are a favorite of mine as they are very forgiving. I found Halloumi cheese at Trader Joe’s–as a grilling cheese, it can be used in a variety of ways as a kind of meat substitute.
    I’ve also been using Purple Carrot. For some reason, even though many of the meals are higher in carbs than I would like, the vegan dishes often have less of an impact on my blood sugar.

    06/24/16; 10:08 am
  31. GM #

    My husband and I have gone pretty much all plant-based over the last several years. For us, it was largely for humane reasons (to steer clear of meat and eggs that are factory-farmed) but the health and environmental reasons played into our decision as well. Mexican or tex-mex is a great way to eat plant-based: rice and beans, or just beans, with guacamole (avocados, yay!) and sauteed peppers and onions, with or without tortillas, is one of our go-tos. Sometimes we also mix in plant-based crumbles.

    Also, one of the very best plant-based prepared foods I’ve ever had are Gardein’s “chicken tenders” – you’d never know they’re not chicken. With a side of veggies, they’re great if you need a quick meal, for kiddos and adults alike.

    06/24/16; 11:32 am
  32. Kyla #

    This recipe is fool proof and delicious.

    It only calls for like a minuscule amount of garlic, which I love garlic, so I used 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (chopped into tiny pieces) instead. Also, the flavor needed a little something else, so I add about 1 to 2 tsp of nutmeg. It makes a world of difference. The orzo is easy to cook and only takes about 8 or 10 min to cook thoroughly. The recipe calls for fresh spinach (but who has time for that, really), so I use packaged frozen spinach. Tastes just as awesome! ENJOY!

    Also, here is another pasta recipe that features Baby Bella Mushrooms. Delicious no matter what and easy to make! I usually use 4 or 5 garlic cloves and use sun dried tomatoes that are in Olive Oil already. Makes it easier to cook. It calls for chicken bullion cubes, but I’m sure vegetable flavored would work just as well.


    06/24/16; 12:05 pm
  33. Sorry for the self promotion, and there’s a shrimp post here, but:

    I always have trouble frying things too. I always put things in the pan before it heats up. If you hear the sizzle, you’re good. If not, take it out. Good luck!

    06/24/16; 1:02 pm
  34. andy #

    Gotta be honest here, if it works for you great but I like to eat meat! Decent a1c to boot. Meat isn’t bad.

    06/24/16; 1:06 pm
  35. Anthony Pacholek #

    Tofu stir fry, very easy and delicious! Tons of veggies and flavor 🙂

    06/25/16; 2:08 pm
  36. Ratatouille: cook together in olive oil: thinly sliced or chunky-chopped zucchini, tomatoes, red onions, eggplants (optional), red or green or yellow peppers, garlic, salt and pepper, drizzle of olive oil. Cook it all until it is silky-soft. Eat hot, cold, or at room temperature. Great with chèvre, feta, or grated parmesan.

    Chopped or Cobb-ish salad: baby arugula or whatever salad greens you like + drained, rinsed can of chick peas + chopped hard-boiled egg + avocado + cherry tomatoes + grilled vegetables like colorful peppers or red onions or asparagus or anything you like. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar and throw on herbs like basil/tarragon/parsley/oregano if you grown herbs. Add grilled chicken and crumbled bacon for meaty days.

    Zucchini quesadillas: Grated zucchini + shredded jack cheese + drained/rinsed/dried black beans—>mix together in a big bowl, sandwich between tortillas, brush with olive oil and grill until all melty. The melted cheese will keep the tortillas stuck together when you flip. Use a big spatula. Slice into triangles. Serve with salsa/sour cream/avocado.

    Mr. Chow’s Lettuce Cups: squeeze firm tofu in a dish towel to dry it out and crumble it. Heat up a giant skillet, add peanut oil, fry the tofu crumbles until brown all over, add 1/3 cup of a sauce you make (mix in a small bowl and taste it and add things until it tasted great) with tamari, toasted sesame oil, garlic, grated ginger, maple syrup or honey and sizzle it all together. Plop on iceberg lettuce leaves and garnish with sliced scallions and sriracha.

    The new (July/August 2016) Eating Well magazine arrived this week and has a fun template for soba noodles—describes how to make like maybe seventeen kinds of summery, vegetable-y noodles with a zoodle option. That’s what I’m excited about this week.

    06/25/16; 6:29 pm
  37. Nikki #

    We frequently do meals of different roasted veggies. Just look up Ina Garten Roasted whatever veggie you have and follow her cooking times. You can experiment with lots of different spices to change up the flavor or veggies. One of our favorites is roasted carrots with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

    06/27/16; 11:04 am
  38. Jenn #

    the sweet potato black bean enchiladas on are super yummy and easy to make

    she has loads of yummy recipes, many of which are meatless…..highly recommend

    06/28/16; 5:40 pm
  39. Elsiroomom #

    A family favorite (and by that I mean that every single person in our family of five likes it – finding these recipes is harder than you think).
    White Bean Salad
    2 cans cannelini beans – gently drained (you can substitute Great Northern)
    1/4 cup garlic and basil infused olive oil (or regular olive oil if this is an emergency meal)
    2 tbsp champagne vinegar (or other nice, light vinegar- rice vinegar is okay too)
    1/4 cup basil leaves snipped into the bowl with a scissors
    Mix gently so the beans stay mostly whole, and refrigerate for one hour – unless you need to eat right away – then just throw it all in a bowl and serve it!
    Serve topped with shredded manchego (our favorite) or parmeggiano cheese (you can omit this for vegan or non-dairy preferences).

    If you are using regular olive oil – just slice the garlic and put it right into the bowl with the beans. We prefer to pick out the garlic hunks and not eat them -spicy!

    To make garlic and basil infused olive oil put about 2 tbs tightly packed basil leaves and two smashed garlic cloves in one cup olive oil. Refrigerate overnight. Be sure to rough up the basil leaves so they are a bit tattered and release their flavor. I do this by bunching them up in my fist and then throwing them in. You can do other herbs with the basil OR pick any herb you like. This olive oil is okay in the fridge for about a week.

    We usually eat this with bread, and maybe some fresh mozzarella. Depending on the day we may or may not have a veggie tray available (carrots/peppers/cukes) or offer a green salad.

    06/30/16; 11:28 am
  40. Elsiroomom #

    Also check out
    She has some great vegetarian recipes, and although she is a good cook, she is also a “throw it together with little effort” kind of person when appropriate.

    06/30/16; 11:30 am
  41. Kim CS #

    instead of frying the patties, try using a well greased mini muffin tin and bake them. I’ve found success doing that after several patty disasters. A popular dish at my house is “caulitots”. Really squeeze out the water and grease the muffin tin well.

    07/29/16; 11:32 am
    • Ooh, really good advice re: baking them in a muffin tin. I will absolutely try that this week! Thank you!

      07/31/16; 11:10 am
  42. Tori #

    For a nice snack we simply bake vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, onions, kale, anything really) with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. They get a little crispy and satisfy my chip/ junk food needs.

    07/31/16; 5:35 am

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