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Should you be worried about coronavirus on the food products you buy?

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In addition to trying new recipes like sourdough bread and whipped coffee while “staying safer at home,” consider using this time to experiment with meat-less recipes. 

Fresh vegetables are plentiful on grocery shelves, while meat and chicken are becoming harder to find. You will be surprised at how delicious a meal can be when vegetables take center stage.

I asked Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence of The Chubby Vegetarian blog for advice on cooking vegetarian fare. The duo has written three cookbooks on vegetarian cooking, including “Low-Carb Vegetarian Cookbook” that was released in March.

Try a plant-based protein

“This is the perfect time to try a plant-based protein,” Burks said.

Burks recommends products from the brand Beyond Meat for those trying plant-based proteins for the first time. “They taste and cook like real meat,” he said.

Lawrence is a fan of Beyond Meat’s sausages. Similar to a bratwurst, it cooks just like sausage does. She and Burks slice it and use it in dishes like red beans and rice and gumbo.

She pointed out that plant-based proteins can also be healthier. “Plant-based proteins tend to be lower in saturated fats than their beef or pork counterparts, while offering the same amount of protein.”

Eat more veggies

While meats and processed foods are scarce at grocery stores, fresh produce is easy to come by.

“We have had no trouble finding vegetables,” Burks said. “If looking for fresh peppers, cauliflower or even green onions, they are available.”

Burks said that while in quarantine they have been making lots of stir-fries and curries with fresh vegetables.

“If you are adding a protein like chicken in a stir-fry, vegetables will help stretch the protein further by making the dish more filling,” Burks said.

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Use familiar flavors

“Add hot wing sauce to anything and it’s delicious,” Burks joked.

Lawrence said they make faux hot wings out of meat-less ingredients such as tofu and cauliflower.

Many of the recipes in their cookbooks apply cooking techniques and flavorings traditionally used on meats to vegetables.

Squash “steaks” flavored with Montreal seasoning, portobello mushroom “breakfast sausage” seasoned with the same spices used in a pork sausage, and jackfruit nachos cooked liked pork carnitas are just a few of the creative ways the couple make vegetables take center stage.

Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at jennifer.chandler@commercialappeal.com and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.

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