How to have more variety and less meat in your weekly menu
Do you ever find yourself in a recipe rut – making the same meals for your family over and over, week after week? At our house, it’s pretty predictable. Some form of chicken, beef, ground turkey, pork and salmon are pretty much in a weekly rotation.
Not only does it get a bit boring, but it’s also largely meat-focussed. That’s why I became really interested in the idea of in-home cooking classes hosted by Calgary’s Culinary Skills and Nutrition.
I chatted with Chef Susan Hoy and told her that I’d like our family to eat less meat, mainly for health reasons, but also for variety and interest. I have a strong family history of cancer and recent studies that link red and processed meat to cancer are reason enough for us to start trying more vegan meals. But, it’s a struggle. My husband says he doesn’t feel satisfied unless he eats meat, and the athletes in my home are always harping on “protein, protein, protein!”
In-home cooking classes make it easy to learn new recipes
So, we had our work cut out for us. I invited 5 friends to come over and take this vegetarian cooking class with me. It was also important that our meal was gluten-free, as my friend Wendy is Celiac and I wanted her to be able to enjoy everything we prepared that night. Chef Susan and I had agreed on the menu ahead of time and I’ve linked all the recipes in this post. A few days before the class, she sent me a shopping list of all the ingredients. There were only three things I couldn’t find at a regular grocery store – raw cashews, nutritional yeast and rapini.
After a glass of wine and some girlfriend chatter, we got to work. Chef Susan set up different work stations around my kitchen island and paired up two people on the complex recipes and let us work solo on the simple ones.
Tips for preparing a satisfying and nutritious vegetarian menu
Tracy and Wendy worked together on preparing the Buddha Bowl – a yummy and very satisfying mix of chick peas, roasted sweet potatoes and rapini…a vegetable most of us had never even heard of. Rapini is a cross between kale and broccoli, extremely high in Vitamin A. It was topped off with a lemon tahini sauce – tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It’s also a 20% complete protein, making it higher than most nuts.
Karen and Brandy prepared a delicious vegetarian zucchini pasta with a dairy-free alfredo sauce. They used raw cashews (soaked overnight), nutritional yeast and other seasonings to make a creamy alfredo sauce. In this recipe, you’re getting protein from the cashews! We also learned about a new kitchen tool – a spiral cutter – which sliced the zucchini into beautiful strings that looked just like pasta.
Dawn was assigned the quinoa crust pizza! We loved this recipe – a wheat-free, high protein (thanks to the quinoa), low-carb meatless pizza. The quinoa is soaked in water overnight and then whipped up with garlic and some spices in the Vitamix until it turned into a pancake-like batter. Dawn spread the “dough” onto a baking sheet, in a bed of olive oil, and cooked it until brown and crispy. We layered it with sauteed veggies and slices of goat cheese.
I made the red lentil and butternut squash curry soup – it was delicious. I’ve made squash soup before but never thought of adding lentils AND sweet potatoes. What a nutritious mix of veggies. So creamy and the Madras Curry Paste (Susan’s favorite) just put it over the top!
Chef Susan prepared our spiced-rum avocado chocolate truffles. Yes, you heard that right. Avocado truffles! These were awesome, so smooth and creamy. Once we brought out the truffles, my husband and kids sheepishly appeared, and just couldn’t believe it was avocado.
Finally, we sat down to enjoy our feast. Chef Susan laughed at us and commented that we are the first students in her cooking classes who actually sat down and enjoyed a meal together. I know I get that from my mother! I love a sit-down meal, enjoying great food, company and conversation. To me, there is nothing better and these are some pretty special ladies!
Cooking classes are an investment of time and money, but cooking healthy meals for my family is a priority. Having Chef Susan talk us through each recipe step-by-step, and explain new techniques and new products, gives me the confidence to try these recipes on my own. I’d never cooked with things like tahini, coconut oil or rapini and now I actually know what to do with them. I also learned how to mix plant-based foods with healthy fats to make vegetarian meals more satisfying. I’ll never turn my family into vegans, that’s for sure, but now I know how to get extra sources of protein in different ways, and I still think lean red meat and chicken have their place in my weekly menu.
It was a wonderful evening celebrating healthy cooking and one year of Party of Five! You can read more about my one year blogging anniversary here.
If you are interested in cooking classes, you can contact Culinary Skills and Nutrition. Chef Susan does custom cooking classes based on your health and dietary needs. This is not a sponsored post; the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.