My blog is now as much a part of my life as running, and it has made it to the point where people are able to ask me questions without either party feeling embarrassed about it.
Although I am no longer the host of Meatless Monday, I still do make an effort to cook vegetarian meals at least 2 times per week. As I mentioned on Monday, it was the photos that were stressing me out. I have the recipes, but trying to get a good picture of the food….well, if you are not a professional and you have tried, you will know what I am talking about.
I often get two questions about the recipes on my blog.
Firstly, people as if I am a vegetarian. I kind of chuckle when this question comes, especially as I have mentioned in many interviews (and shared many times on social media) that my favorite post race meal is a giant, juicy, grass-fed burger!
The second question is not so much a question, but more of a statement; “How do you come up with the recipes? I don’t know how to cook like that”
I usually give everyone the same answer, and it is the answer I am going to give to you today, just maybe in a bit more depth than I would to someone asking me.
I just make it up as I go along.
I am a big “one pot” fan, usually just throwing things into a pan, and mixing them all together at the end.
Of course that requires some understanding of how long things take to cook. For example a carrot takes a heck of a lot longer to cook than a mushroom. I will go into this in another post, but for today, here is how I decide what goes in those meals.
Start with the vegetable(s)
Yep. You know, the part most people hate?
Yeah, those. Although, I will say, that once you start adding more vegetables into your diet, you will notice that you crave them when they are gone. You start to miss them if you are eating out all the time.
Steve always used to laugh at the idea of that, now he is at that point 😉
Most people tend to start with the meat, and then add the rest of the meal as like a side dish. I prefer to do it the other way around. Letting the vegetables be the guide, and then decide what sounds good with that vegetable.
So yes, when thinking of a meal. There are two ways to go about this, depending on if you are a list kinda person or a buy what looks good at the store kinda person. I will share both ways to do this
If you LOVE a shopping list
Pick a vegetable that you would like to cook with. One that “sounds good” and you have been thinking about cooking with.
Think about what “theme” you would like to use, one that matches with that vegetable
Think about other vegetables that would go with that vegetable and style of flavor.
Need an example?
Say you picked red bell pepper. A red bell pepper is usually found in a Mexican style meal. What comes to mind for me with red bell peppers and Mexican is fajitas. So red onions and mushrooms go with that vegetable.
Okay, so now you have your vegetables.
Next you have to pick your “channel”.
Let’s say you dont want fajitas as such. You would like to cook with barley or quinoa (as you hear those are so good for you), and that will make the meal heartier to actually fill you up.
So, how about a mexican quinoa?
Sound good? What other ingredients would you need?
Fajita seasoning (packet or I like this homemade taco one) and maybe some good old cheese to go on top.
Now you have a meal, and some foods to add to your list for the store.
Do this for 1-2 other meals, and I would recommend on doubling ingredients to make enough for another meals worth of each of those, that way you can either have two nights in a row of Mexican quinoa, or you can cook it up, have another meal in between, and then have it two nights later.
I like to shop by feel
Some people like to just go to the store and see what is on sale, or what jumps out. You can do pretty much the same process, it just requires a little more time in the store as you will have to stop and stand for a moment while you think.
For this, I will give a different example. Lets say that you end up in the herbs section and you see that parsley is on sale. You think, well, I had parsley with tomatoes and feta on my salad at the restaurant last week.
How about a mediterranean style meal….maybe mediterranean couscous?
Sound good? What other ingredients would you need?
Well, feta and tomatoes as I mentioned. Maybe some chickpeas and pine nuts. As for a dressing, maybe some lemon juice, oil, and oregano.
This is also the way you can just make it up as you go along. Once you have the ingredients, just throw whatever seasonings or flavorings you have into the pan.
Most of the recipes I make are just random combinations of flavors, and 9/10 times they work well. I honestly think most people worry about this too much when intending to cook.
Of course, a restaurant meal is going to hit those flavor combinations better, but that is why you pay the big bucks for it right? When you cook from home, it is more important to get the nutrition you need in, and chances are, as you put in the time and effort, you will be proud of yourself, and it will taste great too!
I used grains for my examples as they are the toughest ones for most people to include without falling back to their go to starches of pasta, rice, and potatoes. I love to just use vegetable stock to cook my grains to make sure they have flavor (if the other seasonings I chose were not that strong), but not overpowering.
So in summary, here is how I would make a recipe:
- Pick the vegetable that you would like to cook with
- Think about what kind of “theme” goes with that vegetable (or just sounds good to you)
- Either think of, (or google) other vegetables, seeds, nuts that would go with that original vegetable. Add in some meat or meat replacements.
- Pick a grain that you would like to cook with.
- Cook the vegetables and meat or meat replacement in a saute pan with a little oil. Meanwhile, cook the grain of choice (you may need to start the vegetables a little earlier, depending on which ones you choose.).
- Once both are 3/4 way cooked, stir in the flavorings or seasonings into the grain or the vegetables. It does not really matter too much which.
- Mix everything together in a pan, whichever pan is bigger!
And there you have it 🙂
I may go into this in a different way in the future, and I am by no means an expert, but for those people who are intimidated by cooking, just give it a try. Just have fun with the experimentation process. Try different vegetables, starches, meats, and seasonings to see which ones you like.
The seasoning part can be scary, but most people are not going to notice the difference between 1 tsp oregano and 1 tsp basil. As long as it has some kind of flavor, it will not really make too much of a difference.
If you have a lot of passion for cooking, and the time to really plan out how long each part will take to make it be ready together, then by all means, make a lovely meal with 3 components (meat, vegetable, and starch) all cooked separately, but for those who are not as interested in cooking, or want something to come together fast, this way you can take no more than 30 mins to bring together an easy meal that tastes good!
If you comment on this post (or email me) with some vegetables that you like, and I will come up with some suggestions in my future post.
I am hoping I have not confused you more, but this is how I started out cooking, and it is how most of my meatless monday recipes were created. It works especially well with meatless dishes, and will help you get outside of your comfort zone.[bctt tweet=”Rather than starting with the meat, make the vegetables primary in your next meal”]
How often do you make up recipes as you go?