New to Vegetarian Cooking?

Lots of people these days are trying to reduce, or eliminate, meat from their diets. This may be for health reasons, for environmental reasons, or for other personal reasons. For many folks, used to a certain way of cooking, it can be hard to figure out how to have balanced, satisfying meals without meat. I was a vegetarian for many years, and these days I only eat meat a few times a month, so I’ve got plenty of recipes for great vegetarian meals. I thought I’d share a few of these with you.

First off, there are two cookbooks that I particularly recommend if you are new to vegetarian cooking. There are plenty of good ones out there, and I encourage you to explore, but these are the ones I return to again and again. They are Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook (no meat, but eggs and dairy), and The Veganomicon (totally vegan). I have the first editions of each, and have been told that the revised edition of The Moosewood Cookbook is considerably different, so you may want to look out for a used copy of the original. Mine is stained and many-times-repaired, and much beloved.


My Favorite Vegetarian Recipes

Hearty Stuffed Squash

Many years ago, I tried Mollie Katzen’s various stuffed squash recipes. Over time, this one has developed into my favorite. It makes a great main dish, and is always popular at potlucks. For a vegan version, silken tofu can be used to replace the cottage cheese.

1 large butternut squash

1 cup whole milk cottage cheese

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup chopped white button mushrooms (or substitute your favorite)

1 small green bell pepper or Poblano pepper

1 medium white onion

1 tsp Spike seasoning (or other multi-purpose blend)

Black pepper to taste

Shredded mozzarella or monteray jack cheese, if desired

baked butternut squash

Halve squash, scoop out seeds and set skin-side up in a large baking dish. Add ½ inch of water. Bake at 400F for 1 hour.

In a large skillet, saute chopped onion, mushrooms, and Bell/Poblano pepper in a little oil until soft

When squash is cooked and cooled enough to handle, scoop out enough from the neck to make an even bowl shape. Empty water from the baking dish. Replace squash halves, bowl side up, in dish.

In a large mixing bowl, combine scooped out squash, sauted onion/mushroom/pepper mixture, cottage cheese, nuts, and seasoning.

Fill squash bowls with your mixture, sprinkle a little cheese on top, and bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until everything is warm through and cheese is melted.


Creamy Squash and Cashew Soup

squash soup

This is a rich and creamy soup that’s high-protein too. Cashew butter is especially creamy, almost milk-like, but any nut butter will do. There’s a simple version of this soup, and a slightly fancier version. I’ll include the fancy part at the end.

1 large butternut or acorn squash (I bake them as in the above recipe, then remove the skins. You can also steam them on the stovetop)

½ cup cashew butter

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

2-4 Tbsp Butter or olive oil (if desired)

Black pepper to taste

Cayenne powder to taste

Chopped Scallions

Chopped fresh Parsley


In a large saucepan, combine cooked squash, cashew butter, garlic, and oil. I find a potato masher to be the best tool for the job. Once everything is blended well together, switch to a large spoon and stir in water to get the desired soup consistency. Turn on medium heat, bring just to a boil, reduce heat. Add Black Pepper and Cayenne. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh chopped scallions and parley, and a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream.

The fancy version involves carmelizing onions and/or mushrooms and adding them to the broth. Carmelized onions add an incredible richness to soups, and the onion/mushroom combination adds more protein, and an almost “meaty” taste. It’s a slow process, but well worth the wait! Now, I’ve never done this with anything other than butter, but it should work just fine with Olive Oil if you don’t do dairy.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 large onions, chopped medium fine, and half a stick of fresh unsalted butter on low-medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook them until they just begin to brown and stick, then add about ¼ cup water, or enough to just cover the bottom of the pan. Continue stirring until the water is just cooked off, then add another ¼ cup. Do this 3 times before adding 1 package (about 10 oz) chopped white mushrooms. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring constantly, adding water once it has all cooked off another 3 times. The whole process should take about 35-45 minutes. Once it is done, you will have a rich brown sauce that can be used as a stock by itself, or can be added to pretty much any soup or casserole. If you like, you can run it through a blender to make it perfectly smooth, or use as-is.


Chana Masala

chana masala

This is a recipe I was taught many years ago by a family from Northern India. It is simple, delicious, and very hearty. This version is a bit on the spicy side, not outrageously so, but you can tone down the heat if you like. Or, alternately, you can heat it up as much as you like. Adding green chilies is traditional, and tasty!

1 12oz can Chick Peas

2 medium onions, chopped

1 piece of fresh ginger, about ¾ of an inch long, minced fine

2 Tbsp Tomato paste

1 tsp each Salt, Black Pepper, and Garam Masala (an Indian spice blend you can find in Indian groceries and most health food stores, including Smile!)

¼ tsp Crushed red pepper seeds


Reserve ½ of one onion for garnish

Fry remaining onions, ginger, and spices on medium heat in a bit of olive oil. Stir constantly, don’t let it burn!

When onions are soft, reduce heat, add tomato paste and ¼ of a cup of water. Over low heat, stir until thick, then add drained chick peas and an additional cup of water. Bring to a boil, cover, simmer on low for at least 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.

Serve with hot buttered flat breat and a sprinkle of finely chopped raw onion.


I hope these recipes will help get you started on some hearty vegetarian meals, or add some variety if you’ve already been veggie for awhile. I encourage you to explore, experiment, and make each dish your own. And, of course, enjoy your meals!


In good health,


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4 Responses to “New to Vegetarian Cooking?”

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  1. Rukiyat G says:

    Great recipes, thank you! Planning to try the butternut squash soup first.

    I’ve perfected my Chana recipe using vegetable or chicken broth, coarsely chopped potato, bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper, curry power & masala seasoning, and coconut milk with dried chickpeas (soaked overnight). Delish served over rice or with naan bread.

  2. Ermona says:

    Oh Susan
    Thank you for these recipes- I’m planning on trying them all! Great idea.

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