Going Vegetarian? How to Eat Enough Protein Without Sacrificing Taste

This cookbook offers creative ways to prepare protein-packed vegetarian meals.

Rebecca Miller Ffrench remembers when her young daughter announced her intention to become a vegetarian. “The first thing my mother said was ‘How is she going to get enough protein?’ So it got me questioning,” says Ffrench. “But I soon realized that it is really easy. I feel that in 10 years nobody is going to be asking that question because everyone will know that it is completely viable to get enough protein from plant-based foods.”

whole protein vegetarian cookbook cover

Ffrench’s new cookbook, Whole Protein Vegetarian (Countryman Press, $27.95), will expedite this understanding. The 200-plus pages feature 90-plus hearty recipes for every meal of the day; most are rich in grains, vegetables, and/or legumes. Ffrench includes a protein count next to each recipe, thereby debunking the myth that consuming animal protein is the only way to feel full and get proper nutrition.

While her daughter (now a teenager) did not ultimately become a vegetarian, Ffrench reports that her whole family has drastically reduced its meat intake. “When I was growing up, the entire meal was planned around that big piece of meat. Now, even if we are having meat, which we do maybe twice a week, the vegetables take up three-quarters of the plate.”

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And protein? It’s plentiful. “There are so many sources of protein out there,” insists Ffrench, who splits her time between Manhattan and Phoenicia. “I’m not in favor of adding protein powders. Eat a whole food — it’s better for you. The key is variety; you should eat the many different colors of the rainbow. Try to include everything, from mushrooms to kale to buckwheat. But you really don’t need a degree in nutrition to eat healthily. You can get what you need.”

The author admits that eating this way can be overwhelming — at first. “While it does take planning and thought, try to keep it simple,” she advises. “Get a few basics under your wing at first. So maybe you eat the same stuffed portobello mushroom for a few weeks, but then one day you think, ‘I don’t have to put freekeh in there, I can use quinoa.’ You can start experimenting.”

This spring is a perfect time to try new preparations of seasonal veggies like asparagus. She recommends making her Savory Spring Crostata. “This tart is just so yummy,” says Ffrench. “A neighbor introduced me to crostatas about 10 years ago, but I always made dessert crostatas with fruit. I really love an apple crostata; it’s rustic and so much easier than a pie. This one features ricotta — and you can get such good, fresh, local ricotta these days — and seasonal peas, asparagus, and fresh mint.”

Recipe: Savory Spring Crostata with Asparagus

Ffrench points out that she uses white whole-wheat flour in this recipe, which she says she’s “just in love with these days. You get all the protein of whole wheat, but it is not as heavy. It’s amazing. King Arthur makes a good one, and they sell it at many places, including at Hannaford.”

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Another spring vegetable that she treasures is rhubarb. “But many people don’t really know what to do with it,” says Ffrench, who loves to create a strawberry-rhubarb compote. (Try it in a cocktail, too.) In the book she pairs this with a brown rice chia seed porridge, which she describes as akin to a warm rice pudding. “The combination is irresistible,” says Ffrench. “It’s a great way to start the day.”

Recipe: Brown Rice Chia Seed Porridge

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