Our son’s vegetarian adventure

Twenty days ago, Steve decided to become a vegetarian. (I know it’s been 20 days because every morning he makes a point of telling me how many days it has been.) My first response when he told me was one of surprise. There aren’t too many foods that my son doesn’t like, and my son eats A LOT; he likes learning to cook different dishes and simply enjoys eating, so I had a hard time imagining him giving up a bunch of foods that he so obviously enjoys.

Although I told him that I supported his decision and said we needed to sit down and discuss what foods he needed to eat to get enough iron, protein, etc., I also thought to myself that he’d probably change his mind after a few days. (I’m sure my parents thought the same thing when I made the same decision at age 14.) It’s not that I think of Steve as a fickle person at all, but more that I couldn’t imagine he’d willingly and happily give up his favorite foods such as sushi, grilled salmon, and steak slathered in A-1 sauce.

So far though, Steve seems pretty serious about it, and even if he does change his mind down the road, I still think this is a good opportunity to get him thinking more about eating a balanced diet and learning to cook some new recipes, definitely important skills to have when he’s living out on his own someday and doesn’t have mom around to nag him to eat something healthy. Up until this point in his life, Ken and I have obviously made most of the decisions about what our son eats on a day to day basis. But now that Steve is cutting out meat, there will be a lot more occasions where he will have to figure out for himself what he needs to eat and will likely have to cook things for himself. (Tobin has no intention of giving up meat, and in fact, denies that his brother is a vegetarian.) Steve does know how to cook a number of things on his own, but he definitely could learn more.

In order to help him learn to cook more dishes, I am going to make a concerted effort to actually write down the recipes of our favorite meals instead of just winging it as I normally do. It has always been a running joke that I am incapable of actually following a recipe line by line without making a million changes. I’m hoping that by writing down the recipe successes, Steve will confidently be able to make for himself the foods that he enjoys. There will be plenty of time later for him to make his own recipe adaptations once he gets the basics down.

Last week I attempted to write out my minestrone recipe as I was actually preparing it. I carefully measured everything before I put into the pot. Steve claimed that he didn’t believe I really did write out the recipe because if I had, it would have signaled the apocalypse, and we’re obviously still here.

Here is my minestrone recipe. I doubt I’ve ever made it exactly the same way twice, but it turned out quite well last week, so hopefully Steve can successfully follow the recipe next time.

Vegetarian Minestrone


2 cups veggie broth
2 cups V-8 or tomato juice
4 cups water
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon rosemary, crushed
3 teaspoons minced garlic
½ cup frozen pearl onions
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
2 cups frozen mixed veggies (carrots, corn, green beans, peas, and lima beans)
1 cup frozen okra cuts
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed (15.5 oz)
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed (15.5 oz)
½ cup diced zucchini
½ cup diced yellow squash
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup diced potato
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 cup ditalini or other small pasta such as orzo, small shells, or elbow macaroni


1) In a large stockpot, combine all of the ingredients listed except the pasta.
2) Stir the ingredients well and bring soup to a boil. Once a boil is reached, turn the heat down, and cover the pot with a lid. Cook the soup until the diced potato is cooked all the way through, about 20-25 minutes.
3) While the soup is cooking, bring a small pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Once the pasta is done, drain, and add to your finished soup, stirring well.

Notes and suggestions:

1) If you don’t like a particular vegetable or don’t have it on hand, just leave it out. The various amounts of vegetables can be easily adjusted according to your tastes or whatever you happen to have in your refrigerator.
2) The beans listed can be changed as well. Canned red kidney beans, navy beans, or Great Northern beans work well in this soup too. I generally use whatever I happen to have on hand.
3) If you are watching your carbs or can’t have gluten, just leave out the pasta. All those veggies and beans will still make a hearty meal.
4) If you don’t have any pasta on hand, try replacing the pasta with cooked rice or barley.
5) This soup is great served with grated parmesan cheese on top and a side of crusty bread.
6) The soup freezes well, so freeze up some individual sized portions and keep for later lunches.
7) This recipe makes a very large pot of soup. For a smaller pot of soup, skip the 4 cups of water, use a 15 ounce can of tomatoes, add only 1 can of beans, reduce the quantity and variety of veggies included, and season to taste with your favorite herbs.

** I have no idea how many servings this is. It was enough for dinner for four people plus enough to fill a few single portion containers to freeze for future lunches.


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