Meatless Monday

Not that I am a vegetarian, but I would argue that most Americans eat too much meat—maybe WAY too much meat! Our family has been trying to cut back on the amount of meat that we consume. One great benefit to eating less meat is that it has cut down our grocery budget. Our new tradition is to designate one day of the week to eat a vegetarian dinner. We chose “Meatless Monday.” Really, we used Monday because there isn’t a day of the week that begins with ‘V.’ I thought about using Spanish and calling it “Vegetarian Viernes,” but since I do not remember for sure which day of the week Viernes is, that didn’t work out very well. So, “Meatless Monday” it is.

I have never tried too much vegetarian food, because frankly, all those soy-wonders and grains-I-have-never-heard-of scared me. What is bulgar anyway? I have checked out a few vegetarian cookbooks from the library and never even tried out the recipes. They often seem too abnormal. For instance–I don’t really want to eat eggs for dinner. I’d rather have normal meals that just don’t happen to include meat.

I have two basic categories that I go to over and over again for Meatless Monday: Italian and Mexican foods. Italian food is easy to make vegetarian. I can make a homemade pizza for hardly any money at all. Sometimes I do the dough from scratch in the bread maker. Other times I buy a fresh loaf of French bread for French bread pizza. Top with your favorite veggies: olives, green peppers, onions, etc. For another night, I’ll make homemade spaghetti sauce loaded with vegetables like bell peppers, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, or whatever else I might have in the fridge. Come back to the site later—in the future I will post a recipe for my vegetarian spaghetti sauce.

For Mexican vegetarian meals, I choose anything that can be made with refried beans. Usually it is tostadas or fry bread. Okay, okay, fry bread is technically Native American—oh, well. I usually use homemade refried beans. It’s really not hard to make them, and the results are DEFINITELY worth it! We love these beans at our house. Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Refried Beans
In the morning, sort and wash 2 1/2 c of pinto beans. Place these in a crockpot with 6 c water. Optional: add one chopped onion and a can or two of diced green chiles to the beans and water. Let this cook on low all day (8 hrs?) or until the beans are soft enough to be mashed.

After beans are cooked, heat 1/4 c vegetable oil in large pot. Meanwhile, fill blender about 1/2 full with beans and liquid from crockpot. Pulse until beans are pureed however much you’d like them to be. (You could also mash beans with a potato masher, if you’d like). Pour beans and liquid into pan with hot oil (be careful, it will spatter). Continue with remaining beans and liquid. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 clove of garlic, crushed. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the beans have cooked down a bit and are the desired consistency, about 10 minutes.

Pretty easy, right? My problem is remembering to get the beans started ahead of time. If you like real Mexican food as much as I do, once you have tried these beans you will never go back to canned beans again.

Do you have any good vegetarian meals that my family could try for Meatless Monday? I would love to try out your recipes and post my favorites!