Desperately seeking easy veggie-based meals the whole family will love?
Maybe your shopping plans go a little something like this:
Every Saturday morning, my husband and I stare blankly at a slip of paper that will become our weekly grocery list.
“We need to get more vegetables on this list.”
I stare, I think, I pretend to read the new vegetarian cookbooks I picked up a year ago.
We joke: “How about bangers and mash? Potatoes are a vegetable, right? And onion sauce, there’s another! We’ll throw some frozen peas on the girls’ plates. Veggies. Done.”
If you grew up like I did, easy meals we know by heart revolve around steaks and chickens and sausages, with vegetables relegated to an after thought. I often wonder if we’re getting enough. Here’s an interesting look at what a daily serving of fruits and vegetables might look like.
We aren’t vegetarians, but we understand the importance of having a huge slice of our calories come from plants to ward off health problems like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. And I know for certain veggies as sides for one meal a day, maybe two, doesn’t cut it. I need some yummy dishes filled with veggies that I can remember when the blank list freezes most of my brain cells.
So, I asked some recipe creators to share their favorite veggie-based family dinners and here’s what we got.
My husband and I enjoyed every one of these recipes, and our kids ate most of them. We adjusted the recipes only for quantities or if we couldn’t find a particular item (such as curry leaves). The rest we filled our week with the items we needed for these dinners and had a lot of fun bringing a new dinner to the table every week, and I felt better knowing the girls were exposed to a big stream of vegetables served in ways we’d never tried. We actually saved money, an unintended consequence, and now I’m sure we have some good veggie dishes that can become trusty staples in our menu rotation.
I hope you have fun exploring these dishes.
I’d love to try more of your veggie based meals! Post your favorite recipes in the comments below. And if you’ve tried some of those I’ve shared here today, please let me know what you think!
7 Family Friendly Vegetarian Recipes
Trofie by Fiona Rhodes
Trofie al Pesto by Fiona Rhodes
This is probably one of the most famous dishes from Liguria, Italy and one that I have eaten more times than I can count. Genoa is one of the quickest coastal cities to reach from Zurich (where Fiona lives) so the road to ‘Trofie al pesto’ is really not far (5 hours)! The smell of fresh pesto immediately takes me back to blue skies, a shimmering sea and lazy long-weekend escapes.
The word ‘pesto’ in Italian is derived from ‘pestare’, to crush or grind so you can imagine that the traditional recipe calls to make it in a pestle and mortar. However, if like me, you want to make a meal quickly then it doesn’t do it too much damage to prepare it in a food processor. Homemade pesto is infinitely better than from a jar and can be made in less than 10 minutes.
Trofie is a small twisted pasta. The word derives from strofinare which means to ‘rub or polish’, and refers to the movement your hands make when moulding the pasta. You can get such fantastic fresh pasta in the supermarket these days that I buy this ready-made. If you do want to make your own, it’s not so complicated and doesn’t involve a pasta machine.
- 2 large handfuls basil, preferably young small leaves (about 50g)
- 75g pine nuts
- Large handful of Parmesan cheese, also tastes good with pecorino or Sprinz
- 1 clove garlic (optional)
- Olive oil
- 100g green beans
- 3-4 small waxy potatoes
The quantities above are very rough and you will get the best results by tasting as you go along and adjusting according to your taste.
Start by toasting your pine nuts lightly in a pan until golden. Whilst the nuts are toasting, tear up the Basil and whiz it in your food processor until blended. I like to add a little olive oil here. Once the pine nuts have cooled add them to the basil and blend. Then add the grated cheese to the mixture. Add more olive as you are blending so that it emulsifies with the other ingredients. I prefer the texture to be quite rough so don’t over blend it.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Top and tail the green beans then cut into 3. Peel the potatoes and dice them into small cubes. Add the beans and potatoes to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes or until they are almost cooked then add the trofie for another 7 minutes. Once cooked, drain, mix in the pesto and if needed, add a few tablespoons of pasta water to loosen it a bit.
If you have any pesto leftover, put it in a jar, top it up with olive oil and it will store for a good few days.
- If green beans aren’t in season, I find this recipe also works really well with broccoli, romanesco or peas.
- Pecorino or sprinz cheese are also a good alternative to parmesan
- If you can’t find trofie, orecchiette also work well
Spinach Mushroom Rice by Sunrita Bhattacharyya Dutta
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
With both my pregnancies, I was committed to eating healthy, taking supplements and exercising. I wanted the best for the baby and me. But wanting something does not necessarily mean that you will have it. Come the 6th week and even the thought of food made my insides churn! I felt nauseous, weak and simply speaking horrible! The joys of being pregnant became more of a hardship.
The one food I could stomach was rice. After surviving on plain boiled rice with salt and a bit of butter, I had simply reached my wits end and wanted some vegetables.
Rice is a complex carbohydrate which slowly releases energy into your bloodstream, helping to keep your appetite satisfied as well as is easier to digest.
I added ‘good for pregnancy’ food, like spinach and mushroom, since it’s rich in folic acid and iron.
You can experiment easily with this and add any veggies, such as carrots or beans, but I recommend stick to spinach as the core vegetable.
What I came up with was something that the entire family enjoyed and was a one-dish meal. Hope you enjoy it!
- Spinach (Frozen or Fresh) – 1 cup
- Mushroom, sliced – 1 cup
- Boiled Rice – 1 1/2 cup
- Onions, sliced or rings – 1
- Garlic – 3 – 4 pods
- Cumin Powder/seeds – 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Olive oil – 3 tbsp
QUINOA SWEET POTATO PATTIES BY JANET CHING
I have adapted from this recipe from Vegan Love Story, Hiltl & Tibits Cookbook.
Hiltl is the world’s first vegetarian restaurant, established in 1898. It is located in Zurich. Tibits belongs to Hiltl group. It is casual-dining and buffet style and was started in 2000. It now can be found in Basel, Bern, Zurich, Lucern, Winterthur and London.
It’s truly amazing to see how veggie dishes can be prepared easily. They are so tasty and filling that you won’t miss the meat a bit.
While quinoa is seen a lot in salads, I find these patties are another nice way to consume these seeds. They can be served as main meal alone or as a side-dish or finger-food.
- 1/2 cup (90g) quinoa
- 1 medium sized sweet potato (～ 350g)
- 4 small new potatoes
- Handful of flat-leaf parsley
- Handful of fresh coriander
- 3-4 tbsp. corn starch (Maizena)
- A small onion, cut finely into small pieces and sautéed
- Pinches of salt
- Pinches of fresh ground Black pepper
- 1 tbsp Madras curry
- 1/2 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
- Little gem lettuce
- a small tub (150g) plain Greek yogurt
Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse by running in a cold water tap for a minute, wash the quinoa by swishing and rubbing with your hand and then drain. This will help to remove the bitterness.
Cook the quinoa in a saucepan with water and a bit of salt or using vegetable broth. The ratio of quinoa and water should be 1:2. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce to low heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let it stand for 5 mins with the cover on. After 5 mins, remove the cover and stir with a spoon and let the quinoa to cool down.
While the quinoa is cooking, peel and boil sweet potato and potatoes, let cool down and then cut into small cubes.
Finely chop the onion and sauté until translucent, set aside to cool.
Finely chopped the herbs.
Mix all the above and seasonings together.
Shape the mixture into small balls and gently flatten the patties with your hand.
Panfry with a little olive oil for 7-9 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with lettuce leaves and Greek yogurt.
TANGY SWEET MANGO DAAL (LENTILS) SUNRITA BHATTACHARYYA DUTTA
As summer begins, the human body requires more fluid and nutrition for proper digestion. Raw mango or Green mango helps in healing stomach problems like indigestion, diarrhea and keeps the body cool.
In India a popular natural and home made drink for preventing heat stroke, prickly heat and hydration is a raw mango drink called ‘Aam ka Panna’ which is boiled green mango juice. It’s a simple drink made by either roasting the mangoes and then boiling it or simply boiling it in water and squeezing the juice. Mango, a popular summer fruit in India is consumed in great amounts during the season.
This particular lentil recipe is a favorite in the Eastern part of India, West Bengal, where I come from. Come summer, mom would always make this dish and perhaps, in my younger days of defying all things traditional, I did not really enjoy eating it. Now, when I look back, I see the reason behind the essence of the dish. After playing out in the sun and the drainage of fluid because of excessive humidity one needed that extra boost of hydration to restore the fluids and tame the stomach.
There are so many recipes and dishes which has a reason for its being consumed at a particular time of year which itself is quite an intriguing theme. So, here is a part of my childhood recipes which, of course, has my own twist to make it more accessible to you.
It’s super easy to prepare with less than a handful of ingredients and hardly any chopping or stirring. Go ahead and stir up a flavour that will tantalize your taste buds!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
- Raw Mango – 2, cut into medium sized chunky pieces
- Red Lentils – 1 1/2 cups
- Curry leaves – 10
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- Whole red chillies : 3 – 4 or chilli flakes
- Tumeric powder – 1 tsp
- Sugar – 3-4 tsp or as per taste
- Salt to taste
- Oil – 4 tsp
Skin the green mangoes and cut it in chunky pieces. In a pan, boil the red lentils along with the raw mangoes. Add turmeric powder, salt and sugar to the lentils and bring to boil and keep aside. This should take about 10 – 15 mins depending on the size of the lentils. Finer red lentils boil much faster than the more rounded and thicker. The boiled daal should be partly mushy and partly grainy.
Next, take a pan and add some oil. Ideally most recipes from West Bengal use mustard oil, which has a very pungent with a sharp taste, but you can use your regular cooking oil, not olive oil, though. Once the oil comes to a medium heat, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, dry red chilies and curry leaves. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Take care not to burn the seeds. If you do not have curry leaves, which you can get from most Indian stores, then you can keep this as optional and skip it all together. (Do not substitute with curry powder) The traditional Bengali version does not have curry leaves, but I like the robust flavour of the leaves along with the sourness of the mango.
Add the spices to the boiled lentils and give it a good stir. Bring the lentils back to heat and simply let it simmer gently for a minute.
Check for the balance of salt, sugar and sourness to your taste. If it tastes too sour, add some more sugar. If its too sweet, add a bit of lemon juice.
Serve the lentils with hot rice. You can also have it on its own in a bowl as a soup. In Bengal, the best accompaniment for this lentil is boiled rice and crispy fried potatoes.
QUINOA SALAD BY NICOLE ADAMS, WALKING ON TRAVELS
This quinoa salad is perfect for a hot day. Packed with protein and flavor, you can eat this as a meal in itself or as a colorful side dish.
- 2 cups of Quinoa (cooked according to package)
- 2 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 can of corn (drained)
- 1 large, or 2 small, red bell peppers (diced)
- Handful of cilantro
- Feta cheese (optional)
- 1/2 of red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 limes (you need just the juice)
- 3-4 garlic cloves pressed
- 1/4 tsp of coriander
- 1 jalapeno (minced, no seeds)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cook quinoa and let cool.
Combine beans and vinegar in a small bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine remaining dressing ingredients.
Once quinoa has cooled, combine all salad ingredients with dressing ingredients, giving it a good toss.
Sprinkle Feta cheese on top if desired.
SPINACH TART BY STACY STREULI
This spinach tart is called “Spinatwähe” in German and is a huge hit with my kids. The traditional day to serve “wähe” or cheese or sweet tarts, is on a Friday. They were served on Fridays because in many Catholic regions, you do not eat meat on a Friday.
In the United States and England, many call this “fish Friday” but in the mountains of Switzerland, having fish wasn’t always so easy! But there was always plenty of cream, cheese, vegetables or fruit. So you will usually see a big assortment of “wähe” available in the bakeries and supermarkets on a Friday.
It’s so easy to make that we usually eat this at least once or twice a month. Sometimes I bake it early in the day and just warm it up or eat at room temperature for dinner.
This recipe is a twist on the original cheese tart by Betty Bossi, a fictional character and Swiss equivalent of Betty Crocker.
Crust – Ingredients
Pie crust (or use store bought pie dough)
- 200g (1.6 cups) Flour
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 75g (1/3 cup) Butter, cold, chopped in small pieces
- 1 dl Water (4/10) (cold)
Crust – Instructions
Mix the flour and salt together, add the butter, using a pastry blender or your hands to mix the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water until it becomes a slightly sticky dough. Form into a circle and wrap in plastic wrap. Let cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Filling – Ingredients
- 300g Gruyere cheese: sharp or mild, according to your taste (about 3 cups)
- 2 dl Milk (8/10 of a cup)
- 2 dl Cream (8/10 of a cup)
- 2 eggs
- 300g (1.5 – 2 cups) chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained of liquid (press through a fine mesh sieve)
- a pinch of salt and pepper
- a pinch of nutmeg
Filling – Instructions
Preheat oven to 220 Celcius (428 F)
Roll out dough (3 mm thick or about .1 inch) on a floured surface, and place in a greased pie plate. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the base of the pie crust.
Whisk all of the filling ingredients together, and pour into the pie crust.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until center is firm but still gives a tiny jiggle.
If the top begins to brown too quickly, lay a piece of aluminium foil over the top and continue to bake as usual.
Alpine Farmers’ Macaroni (Älplermagronen) by Franziska Wick
The burning question in the European history of pasta is, did Italy invent the spaghetti or did Marco Polo bring them from his travels in China? For Switzerland, there’s the wrong but persistent rumor that it was the Italian foreign workers who introduced pasta to Switzerland in the 1870s when they came to work on the Gotthard Tunnel, a 15 km (9.3 mile) tunnel that goes straight through the Swiss Alps, which marked a huge milestone for the traffic of the entire continent.
The truth is, there were pasta factories in Switzerland decades before that already, but nevertheless it was probably the Italian workers who helped make them popular over here.
In Switzerland, pasta was considered a luxury item back then. Despite this, for the farmers in the Alps it was a very valuable food item because dried pasta can be kept in the pantry for a long time. To make the expensive pasta last longer they added potatoes and also cheese and fried onions and garlic, which people started to call Älplermagronen (Alpine farmers’ macaroni). The dish was only invented in the 1930s though, so not that long ago.
For me it’s a comfort food I have many happy memories of; there’s nothing better than tucking into a dish of Älplermagronen in one of the little restaurants up on a mountain after a strenuous morning on the skis or on the mountainbike.
It’s easy to prepare, no matter where in the world you are, as long as you have access to some decent cheese.
Traditionally it’s eaten accompanied by applesauce. I’ve never been into mixing fruit with salty dishes, but I do like applesauce and I’m happy to have mine as a dessert afterwards and watch the others mixing theirs up with the pasta.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
- 500g potatoes (1 pound) (the kind that stays firm when cooked)
- 200g pasta (about half a pound) (macaroni, Hörnli, or any other smallish tube-like pasta)
- 200g mature cheese, grated (2 cups) (in Switzerland this would be mature mountain cheese or Appenzeller, in fact you can find Appenzeller cheese in many countries around the world. If you can’t, just use any firm, mature cheese)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 3 tbsp cream
- 3 tbsp milk
- Applesauce or salad as a side dish
Pre-heat the oven to 120 C (250 F).
Peel potatoes and cut them into small-ish cubes. Put cold water and the potatoes into a pan and heat it up together. When water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until soft.
Put the pasta, potatoes and the grated cheese into an ovenproof dish in layers with some cheese on top, and put it into the oven at 120 C (250 F) so the cheese melts.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and roast the onions and garlic until golden brown. Put on top of the pasta dish.
In a saucepan, heat up the cream and milk with a little salt and pour it over the pasta.
Keep it in the oven until the cheese has melted – this will take about 10 minutes.
Serve as soon as ready, either with applesauce or with a salad.
Vegetable photo via Shutterstock