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Meatless Monday

December 27, 2012 | by Gitta Bixenspanner

Enjoy these meatless yet flavorful dishes.

There is a whole movement out there that are choosing to cut out meat once a week. They are calling it Meatless Monday or alternatively Veggie Monday which might sound better to many.

23 countries have joined the movement.

It is well documented that vegetables have far less fat than animals fare. Vegetarian fare can be very tasty and varied and it will contribute to healthier people the world over. I have been a vegetarian for many years with occasional binges around the holidays and found that I am not missing anything in taste, texture or nutrients. Incidentally meatless Mondays led to decreasing meat altogether from our diet.

Here is a complete menu for those that are brave enough to introduce a meatless Monday to their families. Getting acquainted with legumes such as lentils all sorts of beans and assorted grains is a great way to replace the protein afforded by meat, fowl and fish.

Nourishing Lentil Soup

Nourishing Lentil SoupLentils are one of the staples in our kitchen. They make wonderful soups, stews, salads or loaves when cooked with any kind of grain and other vegetables. The spices also enhance their nutritional value. It is very often used in the Mediterranean diet which is hailed as one of the healthiest around. It is one of our family favorites.

Lentils are a great source of fiber, and this soup is low in calories and high in taste. Served with a warm slice of whole bread and a salad it is a considered a full nourishing meal.

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 2 cups water

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute, stirring often, about 8 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the paprika, curry powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper.

Add the lentils, broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender.

Preparation 15 minutes
Cooking time 40 minutes
Serves 8

Mushroom & Lentil Burgers

Mushroom & Lentil BurgersBurgers are ever so popular, trade the meat burgers for lentil burgers and add a lot of nutrients to your diet, without the added fat.

  • 10 oz mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and broken
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed, drained and soaked for 4 hours.
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ -2 c fresh whole wheat bread crumbs

Rinse 2 cups lentils and soak for 4 or more hours.

PULSE mushrooms in food processor until finely chopped. Reserve food processor bowl.

HEAT oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, garlic, thyme, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Separately pulse pecans and then lentils in food processor until coarsely chopped. Add to vegetables. Stir in eggs, 1 ½ cups of the bread crumbs, and ½ tsp each salt and pepper.

Form even burgers to preferred size. If making loaves or cupcakes, sprinkle with remaining ½ cup bread crumbs if desired. Bake in a preheated oven @400 until set and golden brown

Serve on buns with lettuce, tomatoes, and pesto.

Preparation 20 minutes
Serves 6

Brown Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas & Spinach

Brown Rice Pilaf with Chickpeas & SpinachThis recipe represents a balanced meal all in one dish. Whole grains, protein-packed chickpeas and vitamin rich spinach offer endless health benefits, while onions sautéed in oil with cumin and paprika provide all the flavor. Brown Rice is a great substitute for heavier pastas as it absorbs flavors of the ingredients it’s combined with. Brown rice and chick peas are a full protein that keeps the calories low and the nutrients dense. To have chickpeas readily available, I cook a big batch and freeze in portion size containers. They can then be defrosted and used when a recipe calls for them.

  • 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained and soaked overnight
  • 1 small onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • ½ cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1¼ cup chopped white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 (10-oz.) bag frozen spinach drained
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Take 1 cup chickpeas, check them over, rinse well and soak overnight. In the morning rinse chickpeas once more and cook covered in water with 1 tsp salt, 1 bay leaf a small onion, until tender. Approximately 1 ½ hours.

Combine brown rice and wild rice and cook in 3 cups water for about 45 minutes or until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then set aside.

While the chickpeas and rice cook, heat 1 Tbs olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped white onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until translucent.

Stir in the minced garlic, ground cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt and tomato paste. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the tomato paste darkens in color.

Add the chickpeas and water. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the cooked spinach and black pepper. Let simmer until spinach is warm.

Transfer the cooked rice pilaf to a bowl, using a fork to fluff it.

Fold the chickpea mixture into the rice pilaf and serve warm.

Preparation 15 minutes
Serves 6

Savory Polenta with Mushroom Sauce

Savory Polenta with Mushroom SauceWhat is Polenta?

Just as Americans love pizza and hot dogs Europeans love polenta, it used to be referred to as the food of peasants because it was easily available, inexpensive and very nutritious. Today it is savored all over the world and with the endless variations it can be a dish fit for royalty.

Actually Italians call it polenta while Romanians call it mamaliga. It is tasty, economical and delicious. My Hungarian aunt savors it for breakfast with melted cheese over it; others enjoy it as a side dish with dinner when smothered with a variety of toppings such as meat sauce, cheeses or with mushroom sauce. It has also been prepared for dessert with maple syrup/sugar, cinnamon and cream.

Polenta is course cornmeal cooked in water and salt like oat bran. It thickens quite fast as it cooks; but needs to be stirred for at least 30 minutes until it become creamy. It can then be placed into a loaf pan and refrigerated for later use and when needed it is cut into slices, squares or rounds rewarmed by baking or frying and covered with a tasty sauce.

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 ¾ cups water
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp salt divided
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and ¼ cup of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Cook until the sauce is slightly reduced and the flavors are blended, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil over medium heat. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and reduce to a gentle simmer. Gradually add the cornmeal to the water, stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture is thick and leaves the side of the pan, about 7 minutes. Lower the fire to barely a simmer and leave cornmeal to cook for another 25 minutes until no longer grainy and creamy in consistency. Place ready polenta into a loaf pan and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate for a few minutes. Cut into desired size. At this point the pieces can be placed in the oven to crisp up. Then gently reheat the mushroom sauce over low heat. Serve square pieces of polenta topped with the sauce.

Preparation and cooking time 45 minutes
Serves 4-6

Baked Tofu with Sesame Broccoli

Baked Tofu with Sesame Broccoli

  • 1 pound frozen pre-checked broccoli florets (about 4 cups)
  • 2 Tbs reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp rice-wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces extra firm tofu
  • 1piece ginger
  • 1Tbs honey
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds

Drain tofu and cut into slices put onto a plate lined with paper towel. Place another paper towel on top and place another plate over it to drain all liquid.

Cut into cubes. In a large frying pan heat up 1 tablespoon oil, add tofu cubes with soy sauce, honey and a piece of ginger, stir and cook until tofu pieces looked slightly browned approximately 10 minutes Toast sesame seeds in the oven for 5-6 minutes. Set aside.

Combine the soy sauce, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the defrosted broccoli and garlic and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir the sauce mixture and add to the skillet, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Sprinkle with the tofu and toasted sesame seeds.

Preparation 30 minutes
Serves 4-6

Decadent Chocolate Tofu Cheesecake

Decadent Chocolate Tofu CheesecakeEvery meal needs a great dessert. This tofu cake is so similar to cheesecake (hence it’s name) that I have my guest fooled time and again. Are you sure it is not cheese cake? It tastes just like it! It is light, delicious and very simple to prepare. Great dessert whenever the occasion calls for it.

  • 2 container (8 ounces) toffuti cream cheese
  • 1 graham pie crust
  • 1 cup granulated sugar or maple syrup
  • 2 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ container (10 ounces) toffuti sour cream
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • Assorted fruits for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a food processor, combine the tofutti cream cheese and sour cream with sugar. Process until smooth and well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, and vanilla; process until blended. Add the cocoa; process until just blended.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the prepared pie crust. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just firm near the center. Allow to stay in the oven for another two hours to cool. Refrigerate cheesecake overnight. Serve with fresh fruit, if desired.

Preparation 10 minutes
Serves 10-12

Hoping you enjoy these meatless yet flavorful dishes.

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