Warm Italian Veggie Bake

DSC01969.JPGToday is primary voting day here in Pennsylvania, and after having stressed over political and social issues and deciding who to cast my ballot for, I needed a comfort meal for dinner. This Warm Italian Veggie Bake was just that meal! Packed with savory, filling veggies, and flavored with robust Italian dressing, this meal is like a comforting hug for your taste buds! What’s even better is that it’s super easy to make and it can be prepared up to a day ahead of time and baked just before mealtime.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup Italian Dressing
  • 1 large Onion, diced
  • 1 medium Zucchini, cubed
  • 1 small Eggplant, cubed
  • 1 medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 8 oz. White Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, drained (I use Hunts Fire-Roasted Tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup (plus extra for sprinkling) Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. Dried Parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. Dried Basil

And here are the easy-peasy instructions…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start with a very large skillet. You’ll want lots of room for all those veggies! Heat the Italian dressing on medium heat, until just warm and toss in the Continue reading

A Vegetarian and a Carnivore

veggies and meat

About 8 or 9 years ago when I decided to become a vegetarian, I never imagined that I would marry a man who considers a large enough piece of barely cooked beef a meal. But, the heart wants what the heart wants and apparently I wanted the man who eats enough meat for us both! And although we are happily married and very much in love, mealtimes can be a bit of a challenge. Typically, I do most of the cooking which does give me confidence that I’m not accidentally ingesting something that I don’t want to, but on the other hand I am always stuck between trying to feed my husband a healthy, meatless meal that he’ll enjoy or trying to cook meat without tasting it (I am a cook-to-taste kind of gal). For years I would make the typical 3 course meal consisting of a meat, a starch and a veggie for each meal. A meat substitute from Boca, Morningstar or Quorn would be my meat and my husband would have some poor animal’s backside roasted or fried. But when we decided to try to conceive our daughter I had to give up soy (I’ll write a post about that later) and so I was down to a starch and a veggie each night which frankly got really boring. Pair that with my desire to eat healthier as a family and my love of cooking was re-born!

Did I mention that I love my husband? Even though he would prefer that I fry his every meal in bacon fat, he will try anything I set before him. Quinoa. Lentils. Sprouts. Okay, not sprouts. He will NOT eat sprouts. But, he’ll eat just about anything and only complains on rare occasions when I haven’t fed him any meat for days on end. That fact is the one and only reason why our vegetarian/carnivore relationship works. Otherwise we would probably grow apart, me with a delicious veggie meal in hand, and he with his high cholesterol.

I will post specific recipes, tips and tricks later but I wanted to start with an informational post on how to keep your carnivore happy without frying up a pan of Haggis.

  1. Forget the meat. Seriously. Forget it. You don’t always need to add meat on top or create the allusion of meat with some savory mushroom recipe. Just focus on trying to make the vegetarian or vegan meal that you are preparing really delicious.
  2. Okay, you can’t always forget the meat. Meaties don’t like that. So, when your hubby insists, make some meat. But if possible, go healthy. I make a delicious Quinoa bowl and I occasionally make baked chicken strips for on top of the hub’s bowl. This allows me to be meat-free since the entire pot is made that way, and him to just toss on the meat that he wants.
  3. Substitutes. If you’re not off soy for any reason, Morningstar makes delicious meat substitutes like ribs, chicken patties, corndogs, veggie dogs, and more. If you are soy-free, try Quorn “chicken.” It’s the best! Bubba Burger has even gotten into the action with a veggie burger! But beware. They are processed foods and not likely to be as healthy as you might think. When you can, make your own! I’ll post our homemade black bean burger recipe when I get a chance!
  4. There are some foods that make your meal feel “meaty” without the meats. Everyone thinks of mushrooms, and they actually do work quite well. My husband often says “this would be GREAT with mushrooms” about everything. When mushrooms won’t do, try lentils or beans. I like lentils in particular for their ability to be flavored to just about anything. Another thing that I have found to make a difference is parmesan cheese. It has a savory flavor that really replaces that savory flavor of meat that the hubs desires. Plus, I kind of like it (although I go vegan when I can).
  5. Take orders. No, I don’t mean for you to let someone order you around. I just mean, listen to what the hubs likes and ask him if he would like you to make it again. My husband will often make requests for repeats of previous vegetarian meals, and when he does I oblige. Allowing him to be involved in the process makes it more likely that he’ll continue to be tolerant even when things don’t turn out.
  6. Lastly, just offer meat at another meal. If I have an entire week of meat-free dinners planned, I make sure that the hubs has some meat in his lunch. He’s less likely to notice that it’s missing from dinner if he had his fix earlier in the day.
I hope this is helpful for those of you out there who are in my situation. I know it can be a challenge, but I try to remember why I love my husband and that the decision I have made to abstain from eating meat products is a personal one that I can only make for myself.