Whether you’re trying to eat less meat or you’re already meatless, there’s no denying that all us have a craving for hearty, cooked food every now and then. The body needs particularly grounding foods for balance in addition to energizing foods. Meat (and dairy) are naturally very grounding, but so are many plant-based foods, which are also much lower in calories and higher in vitamins, fiber, and certain minerals. Grounding foods promote a steady calmness to the body while other foods (like raw foods) bring about a lighter, energized feeling. So, if you’re feeling the need for some deep nourishment, having a lot of meat cravings, and just want a hearty meal, it’s likely your body’s way of telling you that it needs some balance. Instead of turning to the meat, try something else: roasted vegetables. Boring, you say?
Roasted vegetables are actually one of nature’s best, most grounding foods we can eat. They’re deeply nourishing and unlike raw vegetables, once cooked, they can really soothe the taste buds and the spirit. Here are some vegetables you can roast in replacement to meat that can be seasoned any way you like. Whether savory, sweet or simple, all of these can be catered to your cravings and body’s needs:
Zucchini is an excellent roasting vegetable that’s also easy to prepare. It’s best roasted when cubed into 1 inch x 1 inch pieces and is lovely seasoned with black pepper or lemon pepper and a little lemon juice. Zucchini is also great just roasted on its own. Raw, it doesn’t have that much flavor, but roasted, it becomes a caremelized masterpiece! Roast zucchini on a nonstick pan for around 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit in cubes or for 45 minutes roasted as “boats” or halves.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of everyone’s favorite vegetables to roast. These tubers are rich in sweetness, starch, and a ton of vitamins and minerals. They’re easy to cut into fries, cubes, or halves and can also be roasted whole if you like too. Leave the skins on them though; they’re packed with fiber and antioxidants. Choose orange, purple, or even white sweet potatoes to roast depending on which ones are in season and which ones you enjoy the flavor of the most since they all have a unique taste about them. Halves usually roast in 55 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, while cubes and fries tend to roast in roughly 40 minutes at the same temperature.
3. Acorn Squash
One of the easiest-to-find and the simplest to prepare, acorn squash is a fantastic vegetable to choose if you’re having a sweet craving. Be sure you choose a squash that’s mostly green in color on the outside. The orange skins on acorn squash generally mean the squash is past its prime and isn’t as sweet. A little orange on the skins if fine, but the greener shells typically produce the best flavor. Like a butternut squash, acorn squash is easiest to roast whole by simply placing it on a pan in the oven or in a glass baking dish and roasting it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes to 1 hour. You should be able to stick a fork in it easily, but the skins shouldn’t be too dark brown. Once roasted, it’s easy to slice into, scoop out the seeds, and eat just like a baked potato or cut into smaller cubes.
4. Butternut Squash
Another excellent squash to roast is butternut squash. Packed with beta carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, omega-3’s (yes, really!), and tons of sweet flavor, this squash is also lower in carbs and sugar than many other types of root vegetables. It’s also one of the easiest to digest and prepare. Many people love roasting it in halves, or you can simply roast it whole and cut into halves after roasting. Roast small butternut squashes for 45 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and larger ones for 1 hour. These squashes can also be cut into smaller piece after roasted and seasoned sweet or savory. Cinnamon, black pepper, and/or garam masala are excellent spices to try!
Chop some whole carrots into 1 inch x 1 inch cubes, along with some cubes of onions around the same size. Sprinkle with some dried thyme, oregano, and a little salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes at 375 degrees, and you will have some of the most delectable, hearty vegetables you’ve ever had in your life. This is one of the simplest, most delicious side dishes and can even be the base for a nice meal. Carrots are a wealth of grounding properties, along with vitamins A, C, fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
Artichokes may look tough to handle, but they’re pretty simple once you get the hang of them. You can either roast regular artichokes, or just try roasting the canned or jarred hearts for ease of use (a personal favorite here!). When roasted, these vegetables take on a truly awesome flavor that’s nutty, sweet, and so hearty at the same time. A little garlic and black pepper really spice things up and make them more exciting. See these tips for cooking with whole artichokes if you need some tips. If you’re using the hearts, just rinse, put on a baking pan, season however you want, and roast at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Serve as a side dish, over a salad, or on top of some whole grains or sauteed greens.
Another favorite to replace meat on burgers and in entrees is mushrooms! It’s best to roast larger mushrooms when possible since they’ll hold up better in high heat, but the smaller ones can also be roasted too. If using smaller mushrooms, try to use the whole mushrooms instead of sliced versions so they don’t wilt and shrivel up during the roasting process. All mushrooms will require different roasting times depending on their size, but generally speaking, they can all be roasted at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. The larger ones may require a bit longer. Let them cook until they’re caramelized and start to smell fragrant. Black pepper and garlic powder really bring out their flavor and will give you that same seasoning you might be familiar with in meat.
Other great vegetables to roast include: summer squash, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, eggplant, bok choy, corn (technically a grain), asparagus, and peppers or tomatoes (fruits). Some people even enjoy roasting avocados and sweet fruits, so experiment with different options to see what you enjoy the most. All roasted vegetables can be cooled in the fridge and served the next day; as they sit overnight, their flavors get sweeter and taste so much like a treat rather than a vegetable!
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