For those of us who didn’t live off of food deliveries, we all had to get a little creative with our meals during the COVID-19 quarantine.
Dinner is the one meal where I used to feel that if it didn’t include meat, it would be highly unsatisfying and I’d just be prowling the kitchen for the rest of the night.
The rotating dinner menu of the fifteen items that we (okay fine, Mark) can reliably cook well didn’t seem so boring when they were broken up with eating out a couple times a week. Now that we were cooking seven days a week with reduced availability of certain kinds of meat, it felt like we were having sausages and green beans every other day.
Whether you label it panic buying or not, we all bought more food than we usually would have even though the storage capacity in our homes stayed the same. There’s only so much room in our freezer for meat, especially now that it is also stuffed with bread and bags of frozen veggies. With the economy also so precarious, we could be living off zero income in the blink of an eye. In an effort to stay inside more and stretch out our food budget, I turned to vegetarian recipes.
After many yummy successes and only one bad meal that makes me wince at the memory of it, I’ve decided that I am going to eat more plant-based dinners even after this Coronavirus pandemic has blown over. I should’ve been doing this a long time ago for three important reasons:
- Health: Meat is nutritious, but there are vitamins and fibre that you can only get in veggies. If you’re an omnivore, there is such a thing as eating too much meat. I’ve never heard of eating too many vegetables, though.
- Save Money: No matter where you live in the world, meat will always cost more than vegetables. The local meat source in Malaysia is mostly chicken, but yet there’s locally grown squash, bok choi, cabbage and many more. A dinner portion of beef and pork, enough for two, I budget around RM15-RM20 per dinner. I can get a week’s worth of veggies for RM20. Even if we only ate vegetarian twice a week, we could save almost RM50 on our weekly grocery bill.
- Bountiful Variety: Malaysia has such a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables to choose from, from familiar (carrots) to exotic (kangkung). We have vegetables from China, Australia, and Japan, in addition to the local varieties, and they can all be found at the grocer. This is in stark contrast to my previous home in Turkey, where I was eating eggplant three nights a week out of lack of other options, or back in Canada where I had to specifically go to the Asian supermarket.
Vegetarian food used to suck hard when I was younger because it was nothing but soy trying to masquerade as meat. Vegetarian recipes are much more than just insipid tofu lettuce wraps these days. Many thanks to all the food bloggers I’ve found during this time, who have proven that veggies can be the star of a meal!
I’ll still continue to eat meat for the variety in my diet, but with the new easy veggie meals I’ve collected, I’m going to strive to eat meatless two or three nights each week. I’m not going full vegetarian… just vegetarian-ish.
Here are some of the vegetarian dinner recipes I’ve added to my own repertoire so far that you can consider adding to yours, with recipe links to the more complicated dishes.
- Cheesy Fried Broccoli Balls by Spicy Southern Kitchen. Don’t worry if you don’t have the over-the-top amount of cheese the recipe calls for. We only used a small block of shredded cheddar and it still turned out tasty. We serve these with pasta.
- Thai Pineapple Fried Rice by Cookie + Kate
- Tofu Bibimbap Bowls by The Wanderlust Kitchen. We omit one or two of the vegetables depending on what we already have. It’s a lot of prep and food to use all the ingredients the recipe calls for, especially since we always serve this with kimchi and roasted seaweed
- Risotto with Mushrooms
- Soba Noodle Soup by Diethood
- Creamy Cauliflower Sauce with pasta by Pinch of Yum
- Kimchi Fried Rice by Maangchi. It’s spicy! I like the spice, but reduce the gochujang if you can’t handle it
- Roasted Cauliflower & Lentil Tacos by Cookie + Kate
- Vegetarian Curries – cauliflower & lentil, potato & pumpkin, spinach saag
- Couscous Stuffed Peppers by The Spruce Eats. We usually make the addition of cheese on top during the last few minutes of roasting for more flavour, and I add lots of Sriracha!
- Crispy Sesame Garlic Tofu by Table for Two Blog
- Homemade Falafel by Inspired Taste, in a pita or as part of a mezze platter
- Pasta in Pumpkin Sauce with Walnuts
- Eggplant Parmesan by Crunchy Creamy Sweet
- Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas by Cookie + Kate – my new favourite!