Maybe like me, you’re constantly forget to defrost meat for dinner (maybe I need an InstantPot), maybe you’re trying to be more eco-conscious in your family’s food choices by eating less animal protein, or maybe you’ve been vegetarian for years and you’re wondering why it took the rest of us so long to get on board but you’re enjoying finding new recipes with this meatless Monday trend. Whatever your reasons, you’ll find some fresh vegetarian meal ideas for the whole family.
Figuring out what to make for dinner can be a challenge. Not only do you have to consider picky eaters but also what ingredients you have on hand, and how much time you have to prep and cook the meal. If your household is anything like mine, we typically buy meat when it’s on sale, so it ends up in the freezer. Remembering to take it out in time to defrost is something I am very good at forgetting. This is why we often have meatless nights. I make it a point to do a meatless Monday and sometimes I decide to go meatless every other night just to make my life easier, squeeze in extra veggies, and to save time. Another bonus of choosing to do more veggie mains is that it can significantly cut your grocery bill.
Here you have my family’s top 3 favourite meatless mains that are kid-friendly, easy, and inexpensive. I hope it gives you some ideas for your next meatless Monday or any other meatless dinner!
Black Bean and Quinoa Bake
This recipe brings a fun Mexican twist to your meatless Monday. Personally, I love Mexican food since it is so flavourful and versatile. If you are looking for a recipe that is full of protein and insoluble fiber then this recipe might be for you. Also, if anyone in your house suffers from gluten intolerances, this would be a perfect addition to your recipe repertoire. I like to make this ahead of time and then when I get home, I can just throw it in the oven to heat. This way I get to spend extra quality time with the kids after a long day of work and school. What is also amazing about this recipe is that it is freezer friendly so if ever you are in a cooking mood on the weekend, you can freeze it and pull it out whenever you have a late night or in a cooking rut. Keep in mind that if you do freeze it, it will need significantly longer in the oven. The original recipe can be found at twopeasandtheirpod.com.
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion (I leave out since my kids refuse onion)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 jalapeno (if you like it spicy)
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 cup of corn
- Juice from 1 lime
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- Salt and pepper
- 1 can of black beans
- 2 cups of enchilada sauce
- 2 cups shredded cheese
- Preheat to 350 (if you are serving it right way)
- Cook quinoa until soft and all water has absorbed (like you would with rice)
- With the remaining ingredients, sauté until tender. Once quinoa is cooked add it in.
- Add your sauce, mix and transfer to a baking dish, don’t forget to add your cheese. I like to mix some in and top the dish with the remaining cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 mins. Uncover to allow the top layer of cheese to get slightly crispy.
- Don’t forget your favourite Mexican toppings: guacamole, sour cream or salsa!
I won’t lie, I love this recipe but over time I have modified it to make my life easier. What do I mean by this? Well the list of ingredients, in my opinion, is quite long and consists of items I might not necessarily have on hand. To make life simple, I use the quinoa, beans, corn (I used can vs. frozen) and for the sauce I use any Mexican seasoning packet that I have in the cupboard. The remaining ingredients I will include if I have, if not I leave them out and the meal is still a hit. All to say, don’t be afraid to play around, the end result can end up being even better!
Green Mac n’ Cheese
This is your classic homemade mac n’ cheese with a twist, or as my son likes to call it “Hulk Pasta”. Like a lot of kids, my son is very picky when it comes to vegetables. He likes what he likes and he isn’t interested in stepping outside of his comfort zone. This recipe allows me to sneak some extra veggies into his diet and the best part, he absolutely loves it! So, what makes this mac n’ cheese green? I like to make a regular cheese sauce and add in spinach and avocados. This recipe is not for those with gluten intolerances unless you choose to use specific pastas like quinoa pasta or something similar but the added veggies give you an extra dose of healthy fats, vitamins, and iron just to name a few benefits.
Ingredients for the sauce:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1-2 cups of shredded cheese (depending on how cheesy you want your sauce to be)
- ½ an avocado
- 1 cup of spinach
- Melt the butter and added in the flour. Mix until it forms a roux or has a paste like consistency.
- Add in your milk and whisk until smooth
- One the milk has warmed through, slowly add in your cheese.
- Once the sauce is ready, I transfer to either my trusty bullet or blender and add in the spinach and avocado.
- Mix until completely smooth
I like to boil my pasta at the same time as I make my sauce. That way once my sauce is ready, my pasta is usually ready as well. By doing this, you save time in the kitchen. I then pour my sauce over the pasta, mix and transfer to a baking dish. I will then add a little extra grated cheese to the top, sometimes I also sprinkle some bread crumbs for a little bit of a crunch. Like the previous recipe, you can either freeze, set aside for later or use it right away. Whichever way you choose, when you are ready to use your dish, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 20-30 minutes. I then like to turn on the broiler to get a slight crisp to the cheesy top. Like always, if you are baking from frozen, don’t forget to add some extra time when baking.
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Coconut Curry
The name sounds daunting, but trust me, this recipe is packed full of flavour and the kids love it! It is also very versatile in the sense that you can play around with flavours and you can add in vegetables such as spinach or kale if you choose to. I typically don’t because then I run the risk of my little ones refusing to eat it. One downfall is that from my experience, this isn’t a freezer friendly meal and so you need to cook it right before serving. I save this one for nights that I know I will have extra hands with the kids. What is great about this meal is not only the flavours but the health benefits thanks to the sweet potato, chickpeas and coconut milk. The original recipe can be found on thevegan8.com.
- 4 tsp oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds (I use powder)
- 1 medium sized onion (I grate it since my kids won’t eat onion)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4 tsp fresh ginger (store it in the freezer for a much longer life)
- 1 tsp turmeric (I don’t use)
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 medium sweet potato cubed
- 1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (I often use paste and add water)
- 1 can of light coconut milk
- 1 package of spinach
- In a saucepan, heat oil and toss cumin seeds for a minute or until lightly toasted and stir in the onion
- Add garlic and the remaining spices and sauté for a couple of minutes or until onion is tender
- add the chickpeas and sweet potato and then add in your tomatoes with the juice and the coconut milk.
- Cover and simmer for about 30 mins or until your potatoes are cooked through.
- Add in your spinach if you are using and allow to wilt.
- Serve on top of your grain of choice. I usually used rice of some sort.
And there you have it, our favourite meatless Monday recipes! From one mom to another, here’s a helpful tip: plan your weekly meals out in advance. This way you are able to really keep track of your spending and ensure that you have all the necessary ingredients on hand. By doing this, not only are you making your life easier but you also reduce stress and the multiple visits to the grocery store. It’s not always feasible and doesn’t always work out but It’s worth a try.
Anyways, I hope you try your luck with one of these recipes and that you and your family enjoy them as much as we do. Don’t forget to have fun and play around with the ingredients if you would like, you might end up with an even better meatless Monday meal!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.