Vegetarian for a week

A California college experience isn’t complete without an attempt at vegetarianism. It can be challenging to go from an omnivorous diet to a strictly herbivorous one. An important concern is making sure one is getting the proper nutrients on a vegetarian diet. This week, Four for $40 explores how to plan and cook healthy and filling vegetarian meals on a budget of time and money.

The first meal is a delicious take on orange chicken. In the freezer aisle, Trader Joe’s has a product called Chickenless Mandarin Orange Morsels. Able to be cooked in the oven or on the stove, the sauce is defrosted by placing it in a bowl with hot water. The chickenless morsels take between six to eight minutes to cook in 2 tablespoons of oil on the stove, and chefs will want to turn them frequently to get an even, golden color. 

While the morsels are cooking, place a bag of frozen rice in the microwave for three minutes. This recipe uses brown rice for the filling factor. For a vegetable, one can cook some frozen broccoli on the stove, or another vegetable of preference. Once the morsels are nice and toasted, remove the pan from the heat, add in the sauce and stir to cover all morsels. 

Plate the dish with rice underneath, then the morsels and the broccoli on the side. Top with sliced green onion. A fun addition to this meal is some pieces of vegetable gyoza which are cooked in the oven. This recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare, and can yield one large serving or two smaller ones.

The second meal is a high-carb favorite. Trader Joe’s “Pizza 4 Formaggi” is a simple cheese pizza that is placed in the oven. While the pizza is cooking, bring water to a boil and place in some spaghetti, linguini or another favorite pasta noodle. In a saucepan, warm up Trader Joe’s vegan bolognese sauce. This sauce features meatless crumbles, adding a source of protein. 

Simmer the sauce until warm. When the pasta is cooked to the chef’s desired tenderness, drain and reserve a few tablespoons of pasta water. The starch in the water will help the sauce stick to the pasta. Toss the bolognese sauce with the noodles, place on the plate and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Once the pizza has cooled down, slice into four slices and plate. This dish can be accompanied with a quick vegetable such as frozen broccoli or a fresh salad, yielding four healthy servings with leftovers and taking about 25 minutes to prepare.

Third on the menu is a delicious light lunch. Trader Joe’s Soyrizo is a faux chorizo flavored like the real deal, even coming in a plastic casing similar to the real chorizo. Squeeze about two inches onto a hot pan and cook until warmed. In the meantime, poke some holes in a potato and place in the microwave for four to five minutes. When the potato is done, chefs can cut the potato in half and save one part for a different recipe. Cut the potato into small chunks and toss in the pan with the Soyrizo. 

Stir until the potato is mixed in with the soyrizo. Heat up three tortillas – this recipe used Trader Joe’s corn tortillas – when the tortillas are warmed, place on a plate and fill them with the soyrizo and potato mixture. Top with shredded cheese, Mexican crema and a hot sauce of the chef’s choosing, like Cholula. This recipe can also be made vegan by using dairy-free cheese and crema. Taking 20 minutes to make, this meal makes four tacos, but can easily be adjusted to yield more servings by cooking more potatoes, soyrizo and tortillas.

Finally, the last recipe is a veggie-packed tofu fried rice. Many college cooks are intimidated by tofu. A good thing to keep in mind: tofu easily absorbs the flavors of whatever is used to season it. To prepare the tofu, put on a plate, cover with saran wrap and place heavy objects such as other plates on top to drain the water out of it. Thirty minutes should be enough time, and this can be done in advance of cooking the meal. When the tofu is ready, cube into small pieces, adding more pieces for a heartier meal. If used as a side dish, about half a block of tofu is sufficient. 

Place the tofu in a bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, paprika and cornstarch. The cornstarch gives a nice crust. Cook in a pan or a wok. While the tofu is cooking, boil a cup of water and place frozen peas in the pot. Boil the peas until they reach the desired tenderness. Microwave two bags of the frozen brown rice. Place shredded carrots in the pan with the tofu and drizzle with soy sauce. When the rice has finished cooking, chefs can add it to the pan, tossing together and creating a hole in the middle of the food. 

Crack a few eggs into the pan and scramble, then combine the eggs with the rice. Chefs are advised to be careful not to over-cook the eggs. Drain the peas and toss into the pan with the rice. Drizzle with more soy sauce and add pepper to taste. When everything is mixed together, chefs can remove the pan from the heat and place the rice in a bowl. This dish can be topped with green onions, sesame seeds and sriracha for a little extra flavor. Not including the 30 minutes of prep for the tofu, the active cooking time of this recipe is about 15 minutes. This recipe yields about two entrees or three side-dish-sized servings. 

Though not for everyone, a vegetarian diet is a worthwhile thing to explore. Folks considering making the switch should do their research to determine which ingredients will be beneficial to include in a vegetarian diet.

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