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Now, I take pride in featuring vegetables as the stars in a vegetarian/vegan meal. Once in a while, however, I do use meat substitutes in traditional meat-based dishes. Perhaps it is out of sadism, as my S.S. is a hardcore meat-eater (or perhaps it is masochism, because, well, so am I). But every so often, I enjoy experimenting with different non-meat meats to see if they are actually tolerable (take this recipe for vegan chili, which is actually very good). This recipe for meatless “bolognese” is, suprisingly, delicious, hearty, and satisfying.

What’s the Man-O-Meter on this one? 7. I’ll take it.

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, fine dice
3 medium carrots, fine dice (or pulsed in food processor)
3 stalks celery, fine dice (or pulsed in food processor)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz ground beef alternative (made from soy, wheat protein, or both)
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 5.5-oz can vegetable juice (or tomato sauce; I happened to have v8 on hand, one of the more random donations that my mother sent me home with the last time I visited)
1/2 tsp chili flakes, or more or less to taste
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 cups water

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, season with salt and epper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic and meatless ground beef and cook for another minute.
3. Add tomatoes, vegetable juice, chili flakes, vinegar, sugar, and water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook to desired consistency, about 30-40 minutes.
4. Adjust seasoning and serve over pasta.

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta.

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I’ve been wanting to make this chilled soup for a while, but wasn’t expecting anything earth-shattering. This recipe, however, is pretty spectacular. Rich, luscious, and creamy, it is a meal in itself. A garnish of the soup’s main ingredients gives texture to the final dish, which looks like it came straight from a restaurant kitchen.

1 3/4 cups diced cucumber (1/2 large hothouse), plus more for garnish
1 cup green grapes, plus more for garnish
1 cup slivered or sliced almonds, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic
1 cups cubed baguette (1/2 a demi-baguette)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
2. Add 2 cups water to the blender and whirl until smooth.
3. Divide evenly among bowls and garnish with diced cucumber, green grapes (halved), almonds, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 2-4

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Served alongside crispy avocado fries, and adapted from this recipe for Broccoli Carpaccio with Grapes and Watercress, from Food & Wine magazine. Bright, tangy, crisp. Got leftovers? Just stir it all together and the broccoli will soften slightly and make for a great lunch the next day.

For the dressing:
3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt (not Greek–you want it to be thin enough to drizzle)
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

1. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients and set aside.
2. For the salad, thinly slice broccoli florets and arrange on 4 plates or a large platter.
3. Cut half of the grapes in half, and then divide among the plates, or scatter on top of the platter.
4. Sprinkle the salad with seeds, and then drizzle with the dressing.

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Bold without being “in your face”, this winter salad takes advantage of raw shaved Brussels sprouts, which gives crunch and a mild cabbage flavor. Crispy potatoes add another layer of texture, and cheddar cheese lends a pleasant tang. The whole thing is drizzled with a bright honey mustard dressing, bringing all the flavors together.

1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 apple
Juice of 1 lemon
6 oz pecans, roughly chopped
5 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, small dice
1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
2. Toss potatoes with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes, or until dark golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Thinly slice the brussels sprouts and add to the bowl.
4. Thinly slice the apple and then cut into matchsticks. Toss with lemon juice and add to the bowl.
5. Add pecans and cheese to the bowl.
6. Whisk together the mustards, honey, and vinegar. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil until emulsified.
7. Drizzle honey mustard vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine.

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2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, medium dice
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
11 oz ketchup
1-2 chipotles in adobo, plus 1-2 Tbsp adobo sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp whiskey, bourbon, rye, etc.

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add diced onion to the oil and sweat, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Add paprika, cumin and chili powder to the pan and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
5. Add the ketchup, chipotle, brown sugar, Worcestershire and soy sauces, vinegar and whiskey.
6. Cook for 1 hour over low heat, stirring frequently.

sweet chipotle bbq sauce