One of the best ways I as a mom can combat my family’s winter blues is through the kitchen. More specifically though, it is through my oven. You know the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?” Well, I’d like to think that it is also a way to survive harsh Chicago weather. My boys simply love my heartwarming vegetarian meals.
As Midwesterners, my husband and I grew up as “meat and potato” kind of eaters. But since our boys tend to like veggies a lot more than they like meat (yes, I know, they are weird), I make an equal amount of vegetarian and meat based dishes. The ones that my boys tend to devour the most are the veggie ones, so I am sharing them to inspire you to think of creative ways to make heartwarming meals that are heavy on the veggies and easy on the meat. I think all of these recipes could benefit from a few pieces of bacon, but that’s just me.
Oh, and the secret weapon you will notice about these recipes? Cheese. My recommendation to you is that you always add a little bit of cheese to whatever dish you are making (except for fish—eww) to amp up the creamy, cozy, and calcium factor.
I must admit that I am not the greatest when it comes to breakfast. I am not a morning person, so my wonderful hubby prepares breakfast for my boys each and every morning while I enjoy a cup of coffee in bed (yes, I know he is wonderful and I have no idea how I got so lucky). But once the weekend rolls around and everyone sleeps in a bit, even the dog, I love to make breakfast skillets. They are pretty simple to make and can be customized based on preferences, so it is a crowd pleaser and a great meal to bulk up before playing outside in the snow or puddles.
-1 cup potatoes (any kind works, but I prefer red potatoes)
-1/2 cup onion
-1/2 cup peppers
-1/2 cup of any green veggies you like (asparagus, broccoli, spinach, etc.)
-5 eggs, scrambled
-1/2 cup shredded cheese (we love cheddar)
To start your skillet, coat a frying pan in cooking spray/olive oil. Brown the diced potatoes, stirring frequently so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the potatoes are brown, add your diced veggies. Sauté for 4 minutes or so, remembering to stir and season. In a separate small frying pan, scramble the 5 eggs with a small splash (about a tablespoon) of milk. Once everything is cooked, place the scrambled egg on top of your egg/veggie mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top and wait for it to melt all over the dish before you dig in.
One of my favorite things to have for lunch is soup. Maybe it’s because I love the process of cutting up all of the veggies, hearing the sizzle in the pan, or smelling the soup simmer throughout the house…no matter what, I love it. And although I tend to make a ton of different soups throughout the fall and winter, my minestrone soup is clearly the family favorite.
-2 cloves garlic
-3 large carrots
-3 large ribs of celery
-1 small potato
-1 medium sized onion
-1 small zucchini
-1 small can of diced tomatoes (without seasoning if you can find it)
-32 oz box of vegetable broth (you can substitute chicken broth as well)
-1 small can of cannellini beans (drained)
-1/2 cup cooked small pasta (small shells or orzo works great)
-1/3 cup cheese (parmesan is our favorite go-to with this soup)
First off, let me start by saying that I never follow a recipe when I make this soup. I basically just use whatever vegetables I have laying around the house. Not really laying, but you get my point. So use whatever you have and treat this more like a “garbage soup.”
Now to the soup. Get a big pot and coat it in olive oil. Brown your diced potatoes, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes. Next add your minced garlic. Be careful so the garlic doesn’t burn (turn down the heat if the garlic is headed to “the dark side.”). Add diced carrots. After 2-3 minutes, add diced onions and celery. Continuously stir and add some seasoning so that you are developing the flavors in the soup. When the veggies look soft, add diced zucchini. After about 4-5 minutes, add the diced tomatoes. Once everything has softened, add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Add the precooked pasta and drained beans. Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes, add any salt and pepper you desire, and enjoy! We also like to top each individual serving with some fresh cheese.
We tend to eat heavy dinners on dark and dreary days, but to justify the enormous amount of cheese we ingest, we add a side salad to our meal. Along with some crusty whole grain bread, because carbs are the most heart warming food group, if you ask me.
-1 large package of frozen broccoli crowns (you can do the chopped broccoli as well, but I like the crowns best)
-1/4 cup mayo
-1/4 cup milk
-1 can cream of mushroom soup
-1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
-1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or crumbled up crackers, since we always have a surplus of Ritz in the house)
-1 tbsp butter
Boil the frozen broccoli per package instructions. After draining the broccoli to get all of the water out, place the vegetable into a buttered and shallow pan. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayo, milk, egg, cream of mushroom soup, and half of your cheese. Place the mixture on top of the broccoli. Then cover everything in a mix of breadcrumbs and the remainder of the cheese. Place a few pieces of butter along the top to ensure a buttery crust. Bake for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Serve warm, with a salad and bread.
-2 cups orzo (or other very small pasta)
-1 large zucchini, shredded
-1 cup diced peppers (anything but green)
-1 small can diced tomatoes (without herbs)
-1/4 cup white wine (I never met a Pinot Grigio I didn’t like)
-1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta until a little before al dente (about 5 minutes). Place drained pasta in a buttered baking dish. Next, add the shredded zucchini, diced peppers, canned tomatoes, wine, and half of the cheese. Season to taste. Mix up the concoction. Then top with the rest of the cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes, making sure the cheese gets brown and bubbly, but not burnt. Let it cool off a bit…it gets mighty hot and I burn my mouth every time I make it!
Baked pasta is my lazy go-to when I am tired and don’t feel like making anything special. The only way I “spice things up” is by adding some diced carrots, celery, and onions to the jarred tomato sauce. I also like to make this dish in ramekins because it looks cute and everyone loves having their own little bowl of cheesy goodness.
-2/3 cups penne pasta (you can also use rotini)
-1 cup jarred tomato sauce (we are Prego lovers in our house)
-1/2 cup diced onion
-1/2 cup diced carrot
-1/2 cup diced celery
-1 cup mozzarella
Cook pasta according to package directions, a little bit shy of al dente (about 5-7 minutes). Drain pasta thoroughly. While your pasta is cooking, sauté the onion, garlic, and celery with a little bit of olive oil in a small frying pan. Season to taste. When the veggies are softened, add the cup of jarred tomato sauce. Once your new and improved sauce is heated through, coat the cooked and drained pasta with it. Scoop the mixture into small buttered baking pans and top with mozzarella. Put the baking dishes under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, making sure the cheese bubbles and browns, but doesn’t burn!
Typically when we eat a heartwarming meal like those mentioned above we skip dessert, but sometimes dessert is a must. Even though I am a chocoholic, sometimes I need something a little bit different. My new go-to dessert, no matter the season, is caramelizing fruit and serving it over ice cream. So incredibly easy and so incredibly good.
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup buter
-1 tbsp cinnamon
-1 tbsp nutmeg
Coat a frying pan in 1 tbsp of butter. Add the diced apples (you can leave the skin on if you want—I like to since it is just plain easier on me) and stir to soften. Slowly start adding scoops of brown sugar and the spices, being sure to add more butter if the consistency is too dry. Once the fruit softens and there is a caramelized syrup in the pan (about 12-15 minutes when over low heat), your dessert is ready. Serve warm over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Amazing, isn’t it? Just try not to think about all of the butter we used.
Hope that your heart (and stomach) are happy with these vegetarian options! Do you have a favorite go-to vegetarian dish? If so, leave your recipe in the comments….I’d love to try it!
Like this post? Check out my other recipes!