In the dead of winter, with greenmarkets either closed or offering very limited selections of produce, it's all too easy to think that healthy, meat-free meals are out of reach. But you can still find a variety of veggies that are either in season or available year-round. With a mind toward that healthy-eating New Year's resolution, we scoured the web for winter vegetarian recipes that even a meat eater will love.
Eat your greens
Hardy greens like kale, chard and collards are easy to find this time of year; plus dark greens are loaded with nutrients. Like many veggies, greens can be acquired taste, but don't let that scare you. As the Center for Science in the Public Interest notes, "If you're new to leafy greens, start with a mild variety like kale or collards. Mustard greens (which can be quite peppery) and beet greens and Swiss chard (with their earthy taste) have their charms, but they're an acquired taste that can come later."
Sauteing is an easy way to prepare greens. All you need is some olive oil or vegetable stock and some salt and pepper to taste. But if you crave a more substantial or adventurous dish, check out health-oriented publisher Rodale's website. Editors suggest five recipes for greens, including escarole and lentil soup and stir-fried Swiss chard.
More substantial recipes can be found at the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune, which recommends a handful of green-laden dishes like a chard, kale, green apple and cheese omelet. Meanwhile, The New York Times' Well blog recommends five vegetarian options, including slow-baked beans with kale and a mushroom-greens gratin.
Cruciferous vegetables are plants that form a head as they grow -- broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and the like. They're hardy, readily available and can either stand on their own or be added hearty casseroles and gratins. The Vegetarian Times offers a trove of meat-free recipes on its website, including a decadent cauliflower version of mac and cheese, a crunchy purple cabbage salad, and a broccoli pesto that's perfect for pasta. You can also find a smattering of recipes that uses these veggies at the Lexington (Ken.) Herald-Leader, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and About.com (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils provide a great a source of fiber and protein without a lot of calories, and nothing's better for beefing up a meatless entree or fortifying a veggie soup. Surprisingly, one good place to find recipes that incorporate beans and lentils -- as well as recipes that contain meat -- is on the website of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Here, you'll find recipes for simple sides like red beans and rice and heartier fare like corn and black bean burritos and a Caribbean stew of beans, tomatoes and peppers.
If you're looking for a meaty meal without the meat, beans are indispensable. Among their many vegetarian recipes, Eating Well magazine suggests a bean burger made from pinto beans and quinoa, as well as a bean bolognese sauce that's the perfect topper for a whole wheat fettuccine or linguine. As editors note, it's not only hearty, "the dish has only a third of the fat and 80 percent less saturated fat" than a meat-based pasta sauce would have.
Want more? The Food Network has oodles of vegetarian dishes, including a number of chili recipes that are loaded with beans.
More inspiration for vegetarian cooking
Got a family full of finicky eaters? WebMD.com offers 15 tips and recipes for veggie haters.
If you're a vegan, some vegetarian recipes may contain ingredients that don't fit your diet. For vegans and adventurous carnivores, The New York Times Magazine suggests 10 recipes that won't fail to satisfy, be it a simple spinach and chickpea saute or substantial sweet potato stew.
Enjoy surfing the web for new recipes? Washingtonian Magazine editors do, too, and they profile six of their favorite bloggers who focus on healthy eating.
Soup is simple to make, warms you up, feeds many and is easy to take to work or school for a quick, hot lunch. Eco-minded website The Daily Green suggests five vegetarian soups that are loaded with flavor.
Fruits, veggies, beans and legumes aren't just tasty and healthy, they're also good to eat if you're watching your weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discusses how to choose foods that will fill you up without packing on the calories.