Where’s the Beef? Vegetarian Family Meals

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August 5, 2011

One of the arguments against vegetarian cooking is that it takes too long to make a meal. While slapping down a piece of meat on the grill and throwing a few potatoes in the oven is undoubtedly quick, you can also prepare a few vegetarian meals that are easy and kid friendly. Even if you don’t want to eliminate meat entirely, you can cut down on consumption and easily feed your family healthy meals.

Vegetarian family meals should be green in two senses: good for the environment, and providing healthy, green vegetables.


This is one of my kids’ favorite meals, and we rarely go a week without having it! Serves 4.


  • One can of vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • Salsa
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Chips
  • 10 inch flour tortillas (we use whole wheat)


  1. Cook the rice.
  2. While the rice is cooking, spread each tortilla with ¼ of the bean mixture. When the rice is done, add on top of the beans. Spread some salsa on top. If your kids like spicy food, this is a great way to get them to eat tomatoes.
  3. Grate some cheese on top.
  4. We heat these one at a time, in the microwave, for about a minute each; you can also cook, one at a time, covered, in a nonstick pan on the stove, which crisps the tortilla. Another option is to bake at 350 in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  5. Crumble chips on top – we like Garden of Eden Red hot blues, or Food That Should Taste Good jalepeno chips.
  6. You can also serve with guacamole, but don’t heat it.


  • If your kid likes greens, throw some cooked chopped spinach or kale on, before the cheese.
  • If you must have meat, add ¼ cup of chopped, cooked chicken to each burrito before the cheese.


  • When my kids were under age 10, they could only eat half a burrito, but they loved these cold, so they would take half to school for lunch.
  • If your kids really won’t eat brown rice, you can use white, but brown is much healthier.

Other quick vegetarian meals:

If your kids will only eat pasta with meat sauce, try replacing half the ground beef with chopped mushrooms. The meaty taste and texture complement the beef so well, they are unlikely to notice. You can reduce the meat and up the mushroom component until you eliminate the meat entirely.

Couscous cooks in 5 minutes; just cover with boiling water. I add whatever the kids agree to eat that night; canned chickpeas, diced cucumber and/or red pepper, fresh peas, tomatoes if they are in season. Moisten with olive oil and lemon juice, and season with cumin, salt, black pepper, garlic. Add a few chopped black olives if your kids like them. Chopped parsley is nice if no one has an aversion to green.

You can make a hearty meal if you serve with lamb, or a light meal with salad. Since we don’t eat any meat, I often add cubed tofu, which sometimes passes unnoticed into my kids’ mouths.

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