Vegetarianism is something I've mentally toyed with for a few years now. My friend M is veg and has been for years and I know she doesn't starve to death. But I live with a meat-eater, and I don't think I can live without bacon, fried chicken or gravy, so I've never made the switch.
My reasons for thinking about vegetarianism are varied: a little bit of ethics/morals, a little bit health, a little bit cost, a little bit "eh, I can usually live without meat". Locally raised, humanely treated animals would seem to solve several of those issues, but the cost is definitely prohibitive, especially if we keep our usual quantity of meaty meals. And I can generally do without meat in most meals, and Belly (our 3yo daughter) usually picks the meat out of whatever she's eating anyway. So that leaves the hubster and all his meatloaf, hamburger and pork chop loving ways.
Luckily he loves me too so he didn't ask for a divorce when I told him I'd devised a completely vegetarian dinner meal plan for the week. And to his credit, he took the "news" well and didn't put up too much resistance. I tried to find recipes that were already similar to what our normal meat meals would be, with just a few tweaks/improvements so that the meatlessness wouldn't be as noticeable. I'm trying to avoid meat replacers as much as possible, simply because they're expensive and they're overly processed and not particularly good for you. In the interest of full disclosure, I did buy fake chicken nuggets for Belly and a locally-made veggie burger for the adults to have on the night we usually get fast food. I figure even a processed fake nugget/burger is probably waaaay better than McD's. And I did get tofu to try in a stir-fry dish. I can't really say I have high hopes for that--even with me--as I tend to be pretty picky about how tofu is prepared. So we shall see.
One major challenge to this experiement is that I live with two people who dislike both beans AND mushrooms. Have you ever looked at a vegetarian cookbook? If so, you'll notice that probably 90% of the main course recipes contain beans of some sort and/or mushrooms. The hubster will put up with a little bit of beaniness--chili, beans and rice, refried beans in a burrito--but that's about it. Belly won't touch them at all. And the hubster is adamantly opposed to anything even remotely resembling a 'shroom--in appearance or flavor--in food. He MIGHT pick them out if I was insistent, but I think he'd complain that the flavor was too "mushroomy". Le sigh. So, I'm not pushing the bean/mushroom issue too hard this week. I figure asking him to give up meat for dinner (he's welcome to eat it at lunch if he wants) is probably enough stretch for this week.
As I mentioned, my main goal this week was to take the meals we usually eat and adapt them slightly to be vegetarian. Spaghetti and meatballs? Spaghetti with extra veggies and garlic bread (which is a treat for us). Bacon and eggs? Veggie omelets, hashbrowns and smoothies. Meaty chili? Oh, well, that leads me to the point of this (ridiculously long) post...
I found this recipe the other day and made it for dinner last night. Oh my GOSH was it delicious, and even better today for lunch. If I calculated the calories correctly, it's about 200-250 a serving, which is fantastic for a meal. I'm sure it's chock full of vitamins/nutrients from the beans and sweet potatoes too. I did tweak the recipe slightly based on what I had at home already and based on suggestions given in the recipe's reviews. My version is below--and I promise you'll love it, vegetarian or not!
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili, adapted from Eating Well's original recipe
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon chili powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 can vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion is slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth (and a little water, if necessary, to make sure veggies are covered), bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the potato is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add beans and tomatoes and lime juice; increase heat to high and return to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes.