Cheese-a-tarian No More: 7 Essential Vegetarian/Vegan Recipes

I believe it was my friend Chris Ruiz who coined the term cheese-a-tarian, in reference to the common pitfall among vegetarian newbies to substitute cheese for virtually all the meat formerly in their diet.  Increasing your dependance on cheese negates some of the health, environmental, and ethical benefits of going vegetarian.

When I gave up eating meat, I aimed for whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables to take the place of meat in my diet.  I’ve been building a repertoire of vegan recipes for years, so I thought it would be a piece of cake to officially give up eggs and dairy for 40 days for the Dagen Zonder Vlees challenge mentioned in my February 22 blog.

Even though I have already taken full advantage of the optional 6 lapse days, this challenge is proving more difficult than I imagined.  Suddenly I can’t have that  fun sized Heath bar in the office candy bowl.  And when in Chuck E Cheese, I could not do as Chuck E Cheese does.

I got slightly panicky before our trip to Lutsen last weekend, realizing how limited my options in restaurants would be.   I bucked up, however, and packed a cooler of food.   I saved money, ate healthier, and had no shortage of fun.

The pluses and minuses of veganism are two sides of the same coin:  You have to cook more for yourself.  You have to plan ahead.  You have to read ingredients and be thoughtful about what you ingest.  All of this is a hassle, and at the same time empowering.   After all, there are few decisions in life more significant than what we choose to eat and why.

This week I’m sharing some of the staple recipes of my almost-vegan diet.

1. Crock Pot Black or Pinto Beans

Crock Pot Black or Pinto Beans

I learned this easy, no-soak method of cooking dry beans years ago from a Mexican cookbook.  The chef said that aside from the traditional clay bean pot, a crock pot is the best way to cook dry beans.  I use this recipe most often for pinto and black beans, but it also works for red or kidney beans.  Once you cook the beans you can use them in burritos, bean dips, stir fries, or just eat them with a cooked whole grain, steamed veggies, and soy or hot sauce.  I talk about a basic seasoning sauce for rice and beans here.


2 cups dry pinto or black beans

3.5 cups water

1 large jalapeno sliced in rings (leave seeds in)

1 large onion, coarsely diced

7 large garlic cloves pressed


Rinse beans and remove any pebbles, etc.  No pre-soaking necessary.  Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook for about 4 hours on high or about 8 hours on low.  Use the beans for any dish you like.  Last time I made black bean soft tacos with barley and red cabbage slaw.

2. Vanessa’s Quinoa Salad

Vanessa’s Quinoa Salad

I’m addicted to this quinoa recipe my friend Vanessa shared with me.  I reduce the currants, honey, and oil a little bit, double the cumin, and often add a clove or two of pressed garlic.  Sometimes I replace the lemon juice with apple cider vinegar, or do half and half.  To speed things up I mince the parsley and carrots in the food processor.  Rinse the quinoa before cooking it, as it has a bitter coating.  I cook the quinoa like pasta rather than like rice; simply boil it for 12 minutes then drain it.  This recipe makes a large batch, you may want to cut it in half.

making quinoa salad

3. Sun-Dried Tomato and Walnut Pate

This hearty and savory no-cook pate is easy to assemble and is great on veggie sandwiches, spread on crackers, or can be used as faux taco meat.  I got the recipe by Jeremy Safron from The Complete Book of Raw Foods, he calls it “Nut Meat.”  It calls for sun-dried tomatoes but I used tomatoes I dried myself in a food dehydrator last fall.  You can also buy dried tomatoes in bulk at the Wedge Co-op.  The recipe calls for “dry walnuts”– I’m not sure what that means.  I use raw organic walnuts, and it turns out great.


2 cups dry walnuts

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked (I soak them for about 2 hours)

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

2 TBS Bragg Liquid Aminos or nama shoyu (I use tamari soy sauce, as I can bring my own bottle to buy it in bulk at the Wedge co op)


In a food processor grind the dry walnuts into powder.  Remove walnuts from processor.  Put the clove of garlic in processor and mince, then add the drained, rehydrated tomatoes, olive oil, and tamari soy sauce (or Bragg) and blend well.  Stir the wet ingredients together with the dry walnuts.  (Another easy, great, healthy, raw, vegetarian recipe is this sunflower seed pate).

rehydrating dry tomatoes

walnuts finely chopped in food processor

soaked dried tomatoes in the food processor

Stir it up

4. Karen’s Sesame Noodles

Karen’s Sesame Noodles a la Allison

Karen’s Sesame Noodles

This is one of my favorite all time recipes; my husband Brian has become expert at making the sauce.  It is from Feeding The Whole Family Cookbook.  I have adapted the recipe to make a larger batch, and a couple other tweaks.  You won’t notice it’s vegan, I promise!



16 oz whole grain noodles.  The cookbook recommends udon or soba noodles but my favorite for this recipe is Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti.  Boil for about 14 minutes, which is shorter than they direct on the package.  Recently I switched to Tinkyada brown rice spirals, only because I can bring my own bag and buy those in bulk at the Wedge co op.

Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti


4 TBS tahini

4 TBS almond butter

1 TBS maple syrup

4 TBS brown rice vinegar ( I sub white vinegar because I can bring my own bottle and buy it in bulk at the Wedge Co op)

4 TBS tamari soy sauce

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1-2 cloves minced fresh garlic (my addition)

1/8 tsp chili powder (my addition)


Cook noodles according to directions.  While noodles cook, stir together sauce ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss in cooked noodles.  Add in veggies to your taste, like chopped scallions, matchstick carrots, cilantro, steamed kale, shredded cabbage, diced apple, chopped celery.

5. John’s Banana Bread

Banana Carrot Chocolate Chip Bread

John’s Banana Bread

When my friend John gave me this basic banana bread recipe, he couldn’t believe I had never made banana bread before.  I’m not much of a baker, and was shocked how easy it is to make banana bread from scratch.  The recipe is simple enough to memorize, and happens to be vegan.  Last time I used half whole wheat flour, replaced two of the bananas with two minced carrots and added a half cup of dark chocolate chips.   Dense and hearty.  Yum!


3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 350.  Grease/oil a loaf pan.   Sift together flour and baking soda.  Add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly.  Put in loaf pan and bake for 50min-1hr.

Vegtable Vikings Potluck

My team for the Dagen Zonder Vlees challenge I mentioned a few blogs back is the Minneapolis Vegtable Vikings, and the final recipes I will share come from our official Vegetable Vikings Potluck Dinner.  Here is the team finishing dessert before dashing off to the Trylon Microcinema for a screening of The Seventh Seal.  It was awesome.

Vegetarians just a wanna have fun

Garbanzo Bean & Lentil Soup, Roasted Winter Vegetables and Hummus on Pumpernickel

6. Garbanzo Bean and Lentil Soup

I picked this recipe up from a Community Ed Vegetarian Cooking Class at Southwest High School, and it has become a major staple for me.  I cook the garbanzos from dry beforehand (and make sure to cook extra for hummus!), but you can save this step by using canned garbanzos.  I added lemon zest to the recipe, and increased the parsley.  If you fancy tomatoes don’t be afraid to double them.  This recipe makes a modest sized pot of soup.  I always make a double batch.


2 medium onions, chopped

2 TBS olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can garbanzo beans

1/4 cup brown rice or barley

1/2 cup lentils

4 cups vegetable broth (I use Rapunzel Salt Free bullion cubes)

1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen fire roasted)

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp powdered ginger

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup fresh parsely, minced (this amount is very flexible.  use more or less.  I mince parsley in the food processor and include all the stems)

1  tsp lemon zest or more

juice of 1/2 lemon (I prefer to double the lemon juice and add honey or sugar to balance the flavors)

salt to taste, about 1tsp

a little sugar or honey to taste if it gets too sour.


Chop onions.  Saute in the oil until soft in a soup pot.  Peel and mince garlic.  Add to onions and saute 1-2 minutes.  Add can of beans, uncooked rice or barley, and uncooked lentils.  Stir in broth and tomatoes.  Stir in turmeric, ginger, coriander, cinnamon.  Chop parsley and add.  Cover pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 45-60 minutes or until rice and lentils are tender.  Add salt and lemon juice, sweeten to taste with honey or sugar.  Serve.

7. Emily’s Roasted Winter Vegetables

Emily’s Roasted Veggies

Emily’s Roasted Winter Vegetables

This dish was just introduced to me at the potluck, and is one of the most delicious vegetable dishes I’ve ever tasted.  Here’s the recipe:

1 lb winter squash such as butternut or acorn peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes.  (Emily prefers butternut because it’s easier to peel)
1/2 lb brussel sprouts (about 12) quartered
3 large carrots, peeled and cut
1 red onion chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
11/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 450

Toss squash, brussels sprouts, carrots and onion with 2 tablespoons of
the oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in large bowl.  Spread vegetables
in single layer on baking sheet and roast until browned and tender,
about 30 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking.

Transfer to bowl. Toss with parsley, vinegar, pepper and remaining oil and salt.

Cherry Pie

To make this meal a feast fit for a Vegtable Viking, Janel brought Cherry Pie from Turtle Bread.  I don’t have the recipe for this, and it’s not vegan, but oh la la!

Thanks for reading the Wednesday Post.


3 responses to “Cheese-a-tarian No More: 7 Essential Vegetarian/Vegan Recipes

  1. “The pluses and minuses of veganism are two sides of the same coin.” Hassle and empowerment.

    I love this. To me the empowerment means saying no to an industry I don’t like, saying yes to the environment, the hungry, and my long-term health, and feeling better minute by minute as well.

    And we could say this about a lot of things, couldn’t we? Growing your own food. Raising your own kids. Making your own fun.

    Your food looks a LOT better than Chuck E Cheese’s!

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