My father recently received some health news that has resulted in him needing to eat a large portion of his meals meatless and low-protein (along with other restrictions). This is a huge change for him and he is seeing a dietician to figure out the nitty gritty of what he can/can’t/should/shouldn’t eat.
I have never been a full fledged vegetarian but I have dabbled in vegetarian cooking (less so in recent years due to some of my own dietary issues) and so I would like to compile some ideas for him and my mom. They are feeling a bit overwhelmed so I was thinking that a fairly simple comprehensive vegetarian cookbook may be a place to start for them to get ideas and see that it’s not the end of the world. What are your favorites?
I’m a big fan of Chez Panisse Vegetables. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is very comprehensive, although not all that exciting. Yotam Ottolenghi’s books have more unusual and creative stuff.
Thank you! I had been thinking about the Bittman book. I think that’s a really good idea and simple/comprehensive like you said. Ottolenghi I absolutely love for myself but my parents will think it’s too “out there” for them. I’ll see if my library has the Chez Panisse book to vet for them.
Plenty and Plenty More are really great vegetarian cookbooks if middle eastern flavors appeal. Indian cuisine has a long history Of vegetarian traditions and can also be an inspiration. The Deborah Madison books are good example as well, but I often find the results muted and, to be honest, a bit boring.
I cannot make a recommendation, but I’ll note that most vegetarian cookbooks will probably not be low-protein, because one of the issues for many vegetarians is to get enough protein. Obviously you can concentrate on the non-protein dishes, but I doubt there is a cookbook just for those.
What cuisines does he like? If he likes Indian food, you could start there.
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is the one I go to most often when I need vegetarian recipes. It is very comprehensive and I’ve never made a bad recipe.
My only “caveat” for it, if you want to call it that, is that it doesn’t have pictures. I know this sounds “silly” but I bring it up because if vegetarian cooking (or maybe cooking in general) is new - sometimes those inspirational photos are a huge motivator in making and being excited about making a recipe.
I know that when I’m venturing into a new cuisine a cookbook with pictures is much more helpful to me than just text recipes, especially when the recipe titles mean nothing to me.
But it is a great cookbook with a ton of ideas and options. The vegetarian gravy is requested at many Thanksgivings now, even by non-vegetarians.
Edit: A quick flip through on Amazon shows that her “In My Kitchen” cookbook does have photos (I don’t have that one but I’ve heard great things about that one too. So that might be a better first start for her books)
In addition to all of the excellent suggestions, and I agree with thimes that Madison is great but the lack of pictures can be frustrating. And now I have to try the vegetarian gravy.
I bought a copy of America’s Test Kitchen’s The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook and enjoyed cooking a few recipes from it, but then lent it to a friend who probably forgot that I didn’t give it to her outright and thus haven’t cooked from it in a while. Worth checking out to see if it’s not too involved for your parents.
I really appreciate all the suggestions! I started putting some on hold at the library to check them out before buying. Regarding the low-protein aspect, they are finding out the specifics from the doctor and working with a dietician on the finer points of that. As I understand it he is only going to be allowed a certain small amount of protein a day and most of that should be non-animal protein (although I think fish may be ok). A low-protein diet is foreign to all of us so there will be a learning curve here for sure.
I’ll probably try to cook some stuff for them to entice them once I am done cooking for the new mom and dad in our family (see my other ongoing thread ) but for now helping them get used to the idea and helping them feel positively about the changes is my ultimate goal!
Not a book recommendation - but a vegetable strategy for non-vegetarians . . . . and of course doctor’s orders would trump any specific recommendation (etc, etc)
Over the years I have had very strict vegetarians in my close friends circle but I’ve also had people who feel like not eating meat doesn’t make it a meal. So that has always been a tough balance and I hate making separate things for different guests. So for small dinner parties I would always look for dishes that everyone could eat - which meant vegetarian so I didn’t have to say "you can eat this, but not this - don’t eat all of this because that is more for that person . . . ".
Anyway - the point - There are several very hearty dishes that you can make that mosts people wouldn’t recognize are vegetarian. Two that come to mind are pot pie and shepherd’s pie (I guess in the end they aren’t all that different.) Both can be made with very hearty vegetables (great for winter root veggies) and a rich sauce (using vegetable stock only to be more like chicken pot pie - or lots of mushrooms to seem more brown stock based a la Shepherd’s pie). I’ve made them both many many times for non-vegetarians and no one knew they ate a fully vegetarian meal.
My personal experience is that it takes a while for heavy meat eaters to feel satisfied with green salads or to switch to “hardcore” vegetarian dishes full of grains and things they’ve never eaten before. So sometimes easing into “cleaner” vegetarian (or maybe less camouflaged is a better descriptor) food takes a bit.
(I know on a foodie site many of my generalizations will cause offense - non-intended just trying to demonstrate a point).
Thanks for the thoughtful response. I like the idea of using dishes like vegetarian shepherd’s pie as a bridge to other vegetarian dishes. I have a recipe for lentil shepherd’s pie that is almost as satisfying as the meat version so this may be one thing I make for them to try. I also seem to recall Smitten Kitchen has a mushroom bourguignon that I’ve always wanted to try out, which is sort of in the same vein.
Ooh, would you be willing to share your veggie shepherd’s pie recipe? I used to make in the 70’s but have lost the recipe. I know I could mostly recreate it, but if you have a tried-and-true recipe, I’d love it.
I’d hold off on cooking anything or buying cookbooks (though grabbing from the library is great!) until you have the list from the dietician as to what’s in/out and amounts. You and your parents may, especially initially, need to be doing a bit of math while figuring out what works with your father’s unique chemistry and health concerns.
If he is restricted to meatless and low-protein, you’ll have to watch for the protein in legumes, which can be challenging as it’s natural to gravitate to them as a substitute. Also dairy is high-protein.
That being said, there are going to be things he can eat, just need to find forms that he enjoys.
I recommend Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Many of the recipes can be enjoyed as is, or with the addition of animal protein. I simplify the Stirfried Roasted Eggplant to sub for some of the less mainstream ingredients, but it is one of my favorite dishes. Great hot, warm, or room temp. It can be a main, a sauce, a dip, or a filling for sandwiches, omelettes, and crepes.
Look into mujadara (one of many spellings), a popular dish in the Levant. It’s lentils and rice - you could decrease the lentil proportion if need be)- fried onions, and other seasonings. It is SO much more delicious and satisfying than you’d imagine. I am not a vegetarian, so most veggie entrees seem like sides to me. Not mujadara!