Please help me, vegetarian quick meal ideas?

Joined Nov 27, 2016
So my life is crazy busy but I need to learn how to cook. My husband has high expectations from me and I'm just trying to juggle being a new mom, keeping house clean , helping my in laws, babysitting part time, and the whole downstairs of the house is under renovations because of a leak which is super stressful.

I am just feeling like crap lately because I suck at cooking, and when I take my time trying to make something special it tastes nasty. :( Please oh please help me come up with good meal ideas or recipes or even point me in the right direction. I need vegetarian, and also no egg, onion, or garlic. Something I could either make ahead of time, use crockpot, and minimal cutting since I may need to be nursing my baby when I'm cooking. Thank you and I appreciate any feedback.
Joined Dec 1, 2015
Saw your thread and wanted to give my two cents.

I work but also cook pretty seriously.  We are not vegetarian and have no allergies so I can pretty much cook anything.  That said, some things I have found helpful:

Relax.  When our kids were little, it was hard to be in the kitchen, so you just do what you can when you can and you're family will still be the better for it.  I often had to wait until the kids were in bed then I could have a glass of wine and do some work on the next couple of days meals.

Timing.  I'm pretty comfortable in the kitchen but as Ruth Reichl said, if I'm trying to figure out dinner at 4:30, I've already lost.  There's no shame in occasionally ordering Chinese or throwing a pizza in the oven, as long last these things aren't long term habits due to all the salt, fat, and processed stuff.   Everyday, I go to the fridge and look and think of what I could maybe make, adding a couple of other things from the store.  Also, weekend are a great time.  If you come up with maybe 2-3 meal ideas, the other nights can be leftovers.

Technique:  try to get just one or 2 books that don't just give you a recipe but try to teach you techniques.  This allows you to really take some pressure off trying to make something.  I like Jacques Pepin "Essentials" and Julia Child Mastering the Art 1 and 2.  The classics are the classics for a reason.

Don't worry about the food police.  If you want to make a recipe, especially savory stuff for meals, and don't have exactly every ingredient, most of the time it still works out fine.  Baking is a little more finicky but if I'm missing a tablespoon of for example, tomato paste, I make it anyway.

Your oven is already a crockpot on a setting of about 200-250.

If anyone in the house is complaining too much about the food, they can have the stove.  Nobody ever takes me up on it.

Avoid most cooking shows, especially if they are just showing you a recipe.

I find that with cooking, most people just need to "break their brain" about it, meaning break the ideas they have about the difficulty, the amount of work, their abilities.  We are just trying to provide for our families. 

Now some recipes:

Fried rice: easy to make vegetarian unless you are ok with oyster sauce and once you see the structure of the recipe, it's great for getting stuff out of the fridge - veggies, whatever.  Most fried rice recipes have some egg but leave it out.

Roasting cauliflower: florets, olive oil, salt, pepper.  Toss on a baking sheet.  450 oven til brown and tender

Indian curries: before you say I'm crazy, there are a ton of vegetarian Indian dishes that are not that hard and are fantastic.  You might see some with lots of spices but substitute store bought vegetable oil til you get comfortable with the cuisine

Green beans: skillet, just enough water to cover the bottom, salt, pepper, chuck of butter, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Take the lid off and try one.  When almost done, boil away the water and serve.  If not done, add a bit more water and a few more minutes.  This is quick even with a baby

Asparagus: same way as beans,   Google how to prep them

Beans/legumes: there internet is exploding with bean recipes and if you're vegetarian, you have to get protein form somewhere

Pizza dough:  most dough recipes are simple, you can often keep them overnight or hours in the fridge so it's convenient, you can roll it out and have it topped (again, maybe with stuff from the fridge) in moments.  You also learn you make tomato sauce by just cooking garlic in some hot oil for 30 seconds, add a can of crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, maybe a bit of sugar and cook it down til thick.  Great for pizza or pasta.

Zucchini: cut off the ends, cut them about 1 inch thick rounds, leave the skin, really hot oil, brown on both sides, salt pepper.  My kids love these.

It takes some practice but as the movie Ratatouille said "anyone can cook".

P.S.  Speaking myself as a man, don't let your husband and family off the hook.  A household is a team, a partnership.  He can watch the kid, clean the dishes when it's done, other stuff.  If you are the only one doing anything, I've never been able to see how that can work.

Good luck
Joined Jan 8, 2010
I can't add much to what @rpooley already said!

For me, it would be difficult to cook without garlic and onions.

I would add stir fried noodles and noodle soups to the list above (don't use the flavouring that comes with the package, it's way too salt)

I would look at buying a variety of flash frozen veges, so you have them handy at all times. I normally have a stock of green peas and sweetcorn, but the others are not too bad either.
Joined Dec 1, 2015
Indian curries: before you say I'm crazy, there are a ton of vegetarian Indian dishes that are not that hard and are fantastic.  You might see some with lots of spices but substitute store bought VEGETABLE OIL til you get comfortable with the cuisine
Store bought CURRY POWDER, store bought CURRY POWDER!  

Sheesh, what a dumb typo.    /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif  
Joined Dec 1, 2015
I would add stir fried noodles and noodle soups to the list above (don't use the flavouring that comes with the package, it's way too salt)

I would look at buying a variety of flash frozen veges, so you have them handy at all times. I normally have a stock of green peas and sweetcorn, but the others are not too bad either.
Yes to stir fry and many types of frozen store veggies without sauces (!!!) are good quality and good for you, easy to use (e.g. frozen peas for fried rice)

Also, watch some Youtube videos on knife skills and practice with the onions.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/drinkbeer.gif
Joined Dec 1, 2015

So, an example from last night.  We had a couple of cheap steaks, broccoli, and some potatoes.  Here's how I tried to use some simple techniques/cooking ideas to knock the meal up a bit.

Remember that this is a lot of words to explain it in detail but if you look closely, nothing was really that hard.

I also realize you asked for vegetarian but I'm just giving more an idea of how to think when cooking.  Vegetables and such can also be marinated but for different reasons and for less time.

Steak - they were not the best cuts for pan frying but if you read about beef marinades (liquid mixtures for flavoring and tenderizing steaks), mostly marinades are important for "salt and acid".  Salt penetrates the meat and holds some water so that meat is a bit less likely to dry out.  Most sources recommend about an hour in a marinade.  You can also just salt the meat and let it sit an hour.  I used soy sauce for the salt, about 4 tablespoons.  While it sits, you can get the broccoli ready, make goo-goo eyes with the baby for a bit, peel potatoes, etc.  :)     You can also peel the potatoes in that time.  Acid also helps some tough cuts of beef but can make it kind of squishy if left on for more than a couple of hours.  I used some wine vinegar I had in the cupboard, about 2-3 tablespoons.  The beef can sit in this in a container, a Ziplock bag, whatever.  Mine sat for an hour.

While the steak sat, I cut the broccoli into florets and put a big pot of water on to boil.  Make the water or the oven wait for you, don't wait for it.

I peeled the potatoes, then cut them into french fry shape.  They went into a big deep cast iron pot, then I covered them with olive oil.  I had bought a big can of olive oil on sale and decided to make some fried foods this week.  The potatoes sat til I was ready.  Potatoes are full of water so the oil will not get into them as they sit.  About half hour before dinner, (steaks still marinating), turned the heat on high.  When it comes to a full boil, let the fries cook for about 15 minutes.  Carefully stir them with something heatproof to get them off the bottom of the pot, then keep cooking 5-10 minutes til brown.  Drain on lots of paper towels on a plate or flat pan and salt them.  Done.

Heat a skillet/pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, maybe just before you stir the potatoes.  Take the steaks out, dry them on a couple of paper towels and then cook for about 5 minutes each side, more or less if you like your steaks redder or more well done.  Take them off and put them on a plate, cover with foil and let them sit for 10 minutes to rest.

Fries were done by now, I took them out with a strainer and drained them on paper towels on the sheet pan.

Add salt to the boiling water, cooked the broccoli for 5-6 minutes, tested one to see if they were done, took them out with tongs.

By this time, steak rested.  Cut it into thin slices (helps with tough cuts of meat) and dinner was done.

There were actually many moments of nothing really needing my immediate attention in all these events.

Bonus tip:  I had actually seen Jacques Pepin talk about how his mother put garlic and parsley on everything, especially throwing a few tablespoons of chopped parsley and minced garlic in a pan after cooking steak then a couple tablespoons of water.  The garlic, water and parsley mix with the juices from the steak for an easy sauce.  I did this but you certainly don't have to, especially if the baby needs a change of diaper (or ask your husband to do it).

We have some leftover steak and broccoli now.  Tonight, I could make some steak sandwiches, warm up the broccoli, maybe serve with some pasta and butter.  For the sandwiches, maybe pick up a tomato and some lettuce, whatever you like.  Voila!  Two meals already done.

Please just give yourself a break.  I give you credit for trying to juggle all these things.  Good job!

P.S.  I don't know if you are also working while juggling all this but if you are at home, much of this can be done during the day.  The broccoli can be ready and sitting the fridge.  Steaks can marinate for a long time.  The potatoes can be cut and sit in water (drain very well before frying) for hours.  You can make all this fit your schedule.  I only did it in an hour because I work all day and don't start any of this til 4:30.  You have more control than you think.   /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif  

P.P.S  You may want to chill on some of this until the leak is fixed.   /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif   /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif  
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