Occasional vegetarianism – flexitarianism – is a great way to do something green for the planet. Vegetarian meals are delicious, healthy for you, and many of them are very easy to make. Best of all, they’re really, really cheap. Before you call the pizza guy or hit the drive-through for a burger, consider doing something good for the earth, and your health, by putting together a vegetarian dish. These recipes are filling, foolproof and they are really tasty, too.
3-Minute Healthy Nachos
(Image via tacoslamexicana)
Buy organic or blue corn chips and skip all the greasy hamburger meat and refried beans to make these healthy, yummy nachos in just tres minutos. Layer your chips with canned slice olives, canned kidney beans, canned sliced jalapenos and grate a little organic cheddar over everything. (Buy organic when you can afford it. It’s better for the planet.) Use any veggies you like, really. Pop in the microwave for around a minute, and garnish with salsa.
Easy Southwest Bean Salad
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You know those frozen veggie blends in the freezer case at the grocery store? Buy the Southwest variety (it might go by some other cheesy “fiesta” type name). This usually is a mix of bell peppers, corn, black beans and broccoli. Thaw overnight and drain, then keep in a container in the fridge so you can use at any time. When you’re craving a flavorful meal, mix your thawed, drained batch of Southwest veggies with a handful of diced jalapenos (you can buy these pre-diced for about $2) or a few tablespoons of whatever salsa you have on hand, and a few tablespoons of organic cottage cheese. The total cost of the meal is under $4, and it’s low-fat, vegetarian, and very filling. Add a can of kidney beans and you’ll be as stuffed as a chile relleno. You can use any sort of veggie blend you like, too.
High Protein Mac ‘n Cheese
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Slice up one package of superfirm, high-protein tofu (the organic runs about $3 – how’s that for cheap protein?). Spread thick french-fry-sized cut tofu slices evenly over a foil-covered baking dish. Drizzle with a few teaspoons of olive oil, and sprinkle coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper generously. Spread 1 cup of grated cheddar or mozzarella, or just 1/2 cup if you’re using parmesan, over the slices. Garnish with a little rosemary if you like. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese begins to crisp and brown. The chewiness of extra firm tofu makes this dish taste very similar to Mac ‘n Cheese, but it’s far lower in empty carbs and much higher in protein.
Savory Apples ‘n Onions
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This was once a pioneer favorite. Take 2 large apples (they are in season right now and are very cheap), wash and chop into cubes. Do likewise for a large sweet onion (also inexpensive). Double the amounts if you are having a guest. Saute in a pan over medium heat – adding occasional small dashes of salt, cumin, balsamic vinegar and the tiniest pat of butter (vegans can use olive oil). When the onions are clear, you’re done. Yes, it sounds weird, but it’s delicious. You’ll want to have something to go with this that has some protein, like a garden burger or a brown rice packet, both of which you can microwave. Apples ‘n onions only takes about 10 minutes, a few dollars and it’s delicious as a topping for rice or even by itself for a light snack.
Lazy Man’s Rich ‘n Creamy Tomato Soup
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Forget the Campbell’s. Make your own decadent soup in 5 minutes with some leftovers. Here’s how: use one 6 oz. can of tomato paste, 12 oz. water (you can run the water into the tomato paste can first to get the leftover paste), 1 dollop of sour cream or a 1/4 cup of half ‘n half or milk – whatever you have on hand – and a generous splash of just-past-drinking red wine (a few days old). Add to a standard size soup pot and cook over medium heat. Chop up a handful or two of any over ripe tomatoes, like those little grape tomatoes you always forget to eat. Add in a generous pinch of salt, black pepper, and either thyme or sage. If you have some chopped garlic add a teaspoon or so, but it’s not necessary. Cook until hot, mashing the tomatoes a little with your cooking spoon, and serve. For extra rich flavor, sprinkle with a few chile flakes.
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Get your fiber intake with whole wheat pita “tacos”. You can fill these with anything and it requires no cooking. A little grated cheese or crumbled feta, some sliced olives and tomatoes, crisp lettuce, pepperoncinis, mushrooms, avocados, leftover grilled onions and peppers, fresh sliced bell peppers…you get the idea. Pita tacos are a great way to use random veggies in your fridge like cucumbers or onions, and they only take a minute to make and enjoy. Cheap, tasty, fast!
PB & Fruit Sandwich
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Skip the sugary, processed jelly and make a whole-grain PB and fruit sandwich. Sliced bananas work well, but so do thinly sliced green apples, peaches, nectarines, or kiwis. Get creative. Be sure you choose whole-grain for a healthy sandwich. You should also go for natural peanut butter so you aren’t eating heavily processed trans fat or sugar.
(Image via Allison Newhouse)
Avocados are pricey enough that it’s a shame to let them go to waste. That’s why buying a big sack of avocados on sale isn’t a great idea unless you know what to do. Use up a large supply and feel satisfied until lunch by mashing a whole cubed avocado gently and using it for your omelet filling. Drizzle omelet with balsamic vinegar and you won’t need cheese or any other fillings. (The secret to a good omelet: whisk for one minute before pouring eggs into pan; use plenty of olive oil; make sure pan is thoroughly heated but not super hot.)
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This is one of those meals that looks really fancy but actually requires no brainpower. You need three things: fresh basil leaves, fresh tomatoes, and fresh (soft) mozzarella cheese. Slice the tomatoes and cheese and stack (tomatoes first, cheese on top) with one or two basil leaves. Arrange like patties on a plate (3 or 4 per person) and sprinkle with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Delicious. Fast. Cheap.
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Who doesn’t love a quesadilla? If you don’t know how to make this, you’re a rare bird. Simply grease a hot pan lightly with any oil, toss on a tortilla, cover the tortilla with grated cheese of your choice, add in any small chopped leftover veggies if you like, cover with another tortilla, and grill until the tortilla begins to brown and the cheese gets melty (about 1 minute, depending on heat). Flip. Remove from heat. Serve with salsa or guacamole. Enjoy!
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Slices of avocado, lettuce, tomato and toasted whole-grain bread are all you need. This sandwich is simple, and it’s delicious with dijon or honey mustard. Add a little cheese if you want more protein.
Eggs and Peas
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This is one of those very basic, humble dishes that still tastes wonderful. Simply fry up peas in a little olive oil and salt. When they’re starting to pucker and brown, scrape them to the side of the pan and fry 2 eggs over medium. The yolk blends with the peas nicely, and it’s a lot faster than making hashbrowns. Scrambled is great if you don’t like fried eggs. (Frozen peas work great, and they’re cheap!) Very filling, easy dish.
Cool Cucumber Wrap
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This is so easy, it’s embarrassing. Slice a cucumber thinly. No need to peel (just wash it really well). Spread a tablespoon or two of cream cheese (vegan or organic dairy are both fine) on a whole-wheat or spinach tortilla. Place a row of 5-8 cucumber slices down the center. Add sliced black olives and lots of crunchy iceberg if you have it, but this is great just with cucumbers. Give it a few squirts of hot sauce. Roll. Eat. Repeat.
Lazy Bean Salad
(Image via janetishungry)
Choose 3 cans of any beans you like – white, kidney, black-eyed peas, pinto, etc. Drain and mix together in a large bowl. Add thawed frozen green beans. Toss with your favorite dressing. Serve and enjoy this low-fat, high-protein, cheap meal. Grate a little parmesan over the top for a nice touch.