By Jenny Stauffer

For quite some time, Meatless Mondays have been all the rage. Not so much for my family, though. Each Sunday, I take time to plan 4-5 meals that will take us through the week. Never once did I consider reserving one of those days as a meatless day. Until recently…..

Growing up, I did hit the stage as a teenager and young adult about being picky about my meat, since I made the connection of where my food came from. It was definitely a phase, though I am still picky-”er” about my meat than any other food group, and we do enjoy a vegetarian meal often.

Lo and behold, my second-grade daughter recently made the “connection”, as well, and has had a harder time accepting every meal as readily as she once did. So, we recently adopted an intentional day to be “meat-free”. Okay, not for a day, but at least for dinner! And though it might not always fall on a Monday, when I write my weekly meal plan, I do aim for one meatless meal a week.

The results have been impressive! I enjoy saving a few dollars each week and my entire family is content. Meatless Mondays don’t have to require a lot of planning or forethought. Even a grilled cheese and tomato soup or a baked potato and salad count in my house! But, since I enjoy recipe planning and trying out new things, I thought it would be fun to pass along some of my old standbys and some new finds that we all have enjoyed. Even my picky eater has found that she loves lentils and some vegetables that she previously passed on. And my oldest has had fun helping me plan out the meals.

As my cooking develops and as my kids’ taste-buds develop, this is the lesson I learned from Meatless Mondays: Don’t be afraid to try something new. Make it fun for them, and involve your kids in cooking, always. That is the best way for them to want to try something new. I can attest to it, because now my children look forward to what the latest “Meatless Monday” item will be!

Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms

Source: Charlotte News and Observer

This was a super-simple, (almost) one-pot meal. My youngest and pickiest eater had not had sun-dried tomatoes in a long time, and now she loves them! If you do not have white wine on hand, just substitute chicken broth (if you have cooking sherry, a little of that would work, too).
**I doubled this, since we woudl then use a whole box of pasta and container of mushrooms.

8 oz. bow-tie pasta
1 T. olive oil
8 oz. sliced mushrooms (optional)
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 6 oz. pkg. baby spinach
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
3/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. toasted chopped walnuts.

Prepare pasta according to directions; drain. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes or until most of the moisture has evaporated. Reduce heat to medium; add tomatoes and garlic. Cook and stir constantly 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in wine; cook 30 seconds to loosen particles from skillet. Stir in hot cooked pasta and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Stir in salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts and serve.

Smoky Lentil Soup


This is the third lentil soup I have tried this fall and winter, and one of the best and easiest. Both of my children LOVED this (surprise!) and my husband had thirds! If you have not tried lentils this would be a good recipe to start with. It is one of the first times in quite a long time that we all enjoyed the same meal!

(Omit for Meatless Monday) 3 thick-cut bacon slices
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Sour cream for garnish

Preheat a griddle or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Chop the bacon coarsely. In a large pot on high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomato paste and paprika. Cover and cook until the vegetables just start to soften, about 10 minutes, opening the lid occasionally to stir. Add the tomatoes, lentils and broth. Cover and cook on med high heat until the lentils are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with crumbled bacon (if using) and sour cream, if desired.

Real Simple’s Ravioli Lasagna


I have posted this recipe on the blog previously, but in case you missed it, here it is again. This is a super-simple recipe that you cannot mess up. We all love it, and even if you wanted meat in it, you could play around with the type of ravioli or add some browned beef or sausage. But it is definitely flavorful and easy as is!

1 26 oz jar of pasta sauce
2 30-ounce bags frozen large cheese ravioli, unthawed
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water 1 8-ounce bag shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 350°.
Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and spoon in a third of the sauce.
Arrange 12 ravioli on top and scatter the spinach over them. Top with half of each cheese. Cover with another layer of ravioli and the remaining sauce and cheese.
Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 to 10 minutes more or until bubbly.

Cooking Light’s Broccoli and Cheese Soup

This has been a favorite soup of ours since we first got married. The only change I have made lately is that I do not puree the soup. I might chop up the broccoli a little finer before I throw it in the pot, but it gives it more texture for the kids. If you want it pureed, either use extreme caution before using a blender (which I never had luck with!) or use an immersion blender.

Cooking spray
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) package broccoli florets
2 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces light processed cheese, cubed (such as Velveeta Light)

Heat a large nonstick saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add broth and broccoli. Bring broccoli mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes.

Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broccoli mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Stir in pepper. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Place one-third of the soup in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed soup mixture to pan.