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The Tuesday Night Vego Challenge

I’ve been mulling over a 2012 Challenge. I’ve enjoyed the challenges. The first one –  2010’s Muesli Bar Challenge – was a version of me yelling at the TV originally.  I got so irate about the LCM ads, so indignant about the blatant hypocrisy of an advertising campaign that tried to claim that a cheap concoction of starch and sugar was actually coveted by kids, let alone healthy, that I set out to  bake a low sugar, low fat, lunch box treat every week that my school age reviewers actually preferred. And to make it based on fresh in season ingredients, at a fraction of the price of supermarket “muesli bars”. And to make it fast and easy enough that it was a real preferable option for busy working parents.  The reviewers were recruited from local kids aged 5 to 15, and they were told they could write whatever they thought. You can find the complete series – a year’s worth of recipes, filed under the Recipes tab, and I won every Challenge.

Then the 2011 the Breakfast Cereal Challenge – a year’s worth of weekly  healthy and low GI recipes, based on fresh in season ingredients,  fast and easy enough to make for breakfast, as a way to delete the big mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “breakfast cereal” from the shopping list.

I think food is important, for the quality of my own and my family’s lives, but also for life in general. For most of its millions of years of history, every single thing, every atom, every molecule on this planet was food for something, some plant or animal or fungus or bacteria. Food was the way the finite resources of this planet got constantly reassembled, like a kaleidoscope, into an infinite variety of ever more complex and beautiful patterns. So I’m keen to do another fake food challenge.

I’ve had a few ideas for 2012. There’s a heap of “groceries” I’d like to take on – things like tea bags and mayonnaise. I’d like to push myself to be a bit more diligent and inventive about taking packed lunches.  I’m really enjoying sourdough. But in the end, I think I’ve decided the 2012 Challenge will be “Tuesday night Vego”.

We eat vegetarian meals quite a lot, but still, if I’m tired and uninspired, my first impulse is to pick up some meat or fish on the way home from work and just do a salad or steamed veg with it.  The meat is most usually kangaroo – if I’m going to eat red meat, I like it to be free range, organic, and have a low environmental and carbon footprint. And I take more and more care these days to choose fish that is sustainable.   But still, I have a garden full of vegetables and even if I didn’t, shopping at a farmer’s market is so much cheaper and more fun than that depressing  barrage of manipulation in a supermarket.

The temptation comes from the idea that vegetarian meals take more preparation, and that’s the idea that I want to take on. So the Challenge is a year’s worth of weekly recipes for vegetarian mid-week meals.  The rules:

  • The have to be based on ingredients that are all locally in season together. I think it is fine for spices to travel half way round the world, and grains, legumes and seeds to travel interstate.  But  asparagus air freighted from California will just be a very expensive, very jet lagged, mummified version of the real thing.
  • They have to be healthy, as in, low fat, low sugar, whole grain. Cream based carbonara sauces are fine for a special occasion, but if you eat them as a regular mid-week dinner, you better be very active!
  • They have to use, or at least be able to substitute, equipment that you can probably find in an op shop.
  • They have to take less than half an hour to make, mostly from scratch.
I’m hoping others will join in this year, so the Tuesday Vego Challenge posts will become a storehouse of links to favourite, real food recipes.
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{ 81 comments… add one }
  • Jaime Schmidt January 3, 2012, 11:16 am

    Yay, i’m very excited about this challenge. We’re doing no meat monday’s where I cook vege meals on Monday nights. So i can play along and try some of your recipes.

    Last night I made moussaka with lentil mince. It took forever to make. I also made ricotta from some end of date milk. Quite a drama for dinner, though made enough to freeze 4 portions as well. Next mondays plan is to make cannelloni with the pasta machine and serve with home made ricotta veges from garden. Again this will be a lot of effort. But both dishes are a nice start to our challenge. Looking forward to some easy mondays :).

  • brenda January 3, 2012, 1:44 pm

    Your breakfasts were pretty inspiring, so this ought to be good too. I don’t ever strive to eat vegetarian. It just kind of happens accidentally for a day or two at a time here and there. And, of course, I don’t intentionally abide by any of the rules. I just eat meat when I crave it. Looking forward to 2012 with your blog goodies spicing things up.

    l,
    brenda from arkansas

  • Faeryfay January 3, 2012, 5:03 pm

    I love this idea. We already have several vegetarian meals in a week, but this is quite specific and I’m going to do it! Great idea! I also like the link to the fish curry! Thanks!:-)

  • Hazel January 3, 2012, 6:20 pm

    OOo! I’m in this one. We eat very little meat these days.

  • L January 3, 2012, 9:24 pm

    I think I might join you in this Linda. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Linda January 3, 2012, 9:29 pm

    I will be looking forward to your posts this year. Hopefully I will pick up heaps of new ideas. We don’t eat a lot of meat but I don’t have many vegetarian recipes (so I’m not actually sure what we’re eating!) but I would love to find some easy wholefood recipes. Thanks for this challenge!

  • Kate January 3, 2012, 9:51 pm

    I like the look of this challenge. We are vegetarians but I’m always on the look out for quick , nutritious meals that utilise what we grow in the garden.

  • Kirsty@BowerbirdBlue January 3, 2012, 10:07 pm

    yum, look forward to reading these, many of those breakfasts would qualify. We eat vegetarian most nights so will be good to add to the repertoire.

  • Tricia January 3, 2012, 10:54 pm

    I’ve loved both the muelsli bar and breakfast challenge…so am looking forward to following this one too. We’re the same…eating mostly vegetarian, but reaching for roo and steamed vegies when we have to get dinner cooked in a hurry. I’m looking forward to adding some variety. Great idea Linda.

  • Mary Ann Cauthen January 4, 2012, 12:09 am

    I greatly enjoy your blog & recipes. What exactly is a “desertspoon” for measure. I am in Georgia, USA. Thanks. Mary Ann

  • Frogdancer January 4, 2012, 7:49 am

    I’m in! (Ironic really, seeing as I’m the woman who just bought 4 fat hams from Aldi to cut up for meals throughout the year. I love my freezer and marked-down Christmas hams!)
    I just bought a thermomix and it came with a vegetarian cookbook, so what with the book and this blog; I’m set!

  • Linda January 4, 2012, 8:47 am

    Hi Mary Anne. A dessertspoon is the ordinary spoon in Australia for eating cereal or dessert with – equal to two teaspoons or 10 ml in measurements. One like this. I do wonder a bit about what to use as measures. In real life, I cook by feel – I rarely measure anything. I regularly make something that turns out so well I think, I should Witches Kitchen that, but I haven’t measured or timed anything, so I have to turn around and do it all again. I chose a dessertspoon to use for measuring because I think it’s probably the one people have to hand, without pulling out any special tools – I am concerned that all the exact measuring and timing scares people off cooking from scratch. But, having said all that, it’s really interesting to get a US perspective. I might have to rethink it all.

  • Joy January 4, 2012, 9:31 am

    I have been vegetarian since the live cattle issue was brought to our notice around April last year and I’ve enjoyed your breakfast ideas. My husband, however, is a dedicated meat eater so I’ve been cooking a vegie alternative on the nights he gets meat – about 3 times a week. I am looking forward to reading your ideas this year and, of course, the seasonal vegie growing information which I find very interesting, living nearby in N. NSW. Thank you. Joy

  • celia January 4, 2012, 8:23 pm

    Linda, this sounds like a great challenge! I’d like to eat more vegetarian meals too. If you get a chance to watch River Cottage Veg Everyday, it’s very enlightening. Not sure what your broadband access is like, but I found the series on YouTube recently here:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/ErmmTV?feature=watch#p/c/E08CD3F71202BF3C

  • Chris January 4, 2012, 8:31 pm

    I’m looking forward to your tuesday night vego night challenge, Linda. ^^we pick up our CSA food connect box of gorgeous locally and seasonally grown veggies on a Tuesday – so perfect timing. And to add to the grocery wars – the highly over packaged pods for the new wave of coffee machines are on my hit list ( at least ^^we can compost tea bags)

  • Linda January 5, 2012, 9:16 am

    Sadly my broadband at home isn’t up to YouTube, so I shall have to find some time at work to watch. Thanks for the link!

  • Kirsten January 5, 2012, 11:42 am

    Oh wonderful, I will follow this challenge closely. Any meal you can make fron scratch in half an hour is winner. I really want to focus on eating more local, on season produce this year too, so that works for me. Meantime, I’m going to check out your muesli bar recipes and try some of them on my kids.

  • Linda January 5, 2012, 11:50 am

    Hi Kirsten, your kids are welcome to add to the reviews. Love to hear what they think.

  • Jason Dingley January 5, 2012, 2:45 pm

    Your breakfast challenges were a real winner in my household. I admit we use to send our small boy to school with a supermarket bar. But since I got hooked on your challenge he has never had one again. I made cooking them up my default activity for Sunday evening.

    The veg challenge definitely would be of interest to me. I use to be a vego but am more like an ethical eater now. Because ethical meat is a little harder and more expensive to come by we eat it rarely. Thus Melanie and I are always shopping for new vege recipes. Particularly ones high in protein.

  • Linda January 5, 2012, 2:56 pm

    Wow that’s nice to hear Jason, that they’re actually useful! Your small boy is very welcome to join the reviewers too. Love kids’ genuine opinions!

  • Sarah January 9, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Hello!

    I’ve only just stumbled on your blog but I love it already, and I’m in for the Tuesday night vege challenge! Gives me something to blog about 😉

  • Linda January 9, 2012, 6:58 pm

    Wonderful Sarah. Love to see what you come up with.

  • Sarah January 10, 2012, 10:24 pm

    Do you post links here?
    Here was tonight’s efforts:
    http://sarah.hudweb.net/2012/01/january-challenge-day-7.html

  • Teresa January 11, 2012, 2:27 am

    Skipping this challenge ATM as it’s winter here and winter vegetarian meals from mostly local ingredients are heavy on root veggies and legumes–tasty but not 30-minute meals–but I’ll be checking the recipes for future reference! Or does it still count if you can throw the meal together in a half hour and let it simmer in a slow-cooker until you get home from work?

  • Linda January 11, 2012, 8:40 am

    I think that definitely counts. I’d love to have the reverse season perspective.

  • Nicola February 2, 2012, 12:03 pm

    This is a great idea. We try to eat vegetarian every second night but it will be great to have some new recipe ideas!

  • Jo February 21, 2012, 7:11 pm

    Ooh…fantastic. We are in sub-zero temperatures and eating up the last of our pumpkins (the kids are sick of them) but your garden is giving me a little hope and motivation to get tomato seedlings underway. I don’t know if this counts as sub-30 mins unless you make the pizza dough in advance or cheat, but we made some awesome quick pizza with nasturtiums, capers, zucchini flowers, salty local feta and our own smoked garlic on top. Oh, and heaps of green chillies. http://www.tearsoforpheus.com/smoked-garlic-pizz/
    Off to daydream about summer bounty!

  • Linda February 21, 2012, 7:35 pm

    Like all rules, they are flexible! Smoked garlic – that is something I have to try making.

  • Jane Robinson February 22, 2012, 7:56 am

    Hi Linda

    I just wanted to tell you that I cooked a double batch of your zucchini macaroni cheese crumble last night. It was sooooo good. Unlike other zucchini slice recipes it was not stogy but light and easy on the stomach. It was such a hit the double batch recipe is almost gone. I really appreciate the effort you put into your blog. I get so much inspiration with your gardening ideas and now the recipes. Thank you so much.

    Jane

  • Linda February 22, 2012, 9:49 am

    Hi Jane, glad you liked it! It’s one of our household’s staples at the moment too. Makes great leftovers for lunches, if you can get to the leftovers stage with it,.

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