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It’s Not Easy Being Green: Off-Campus Vegetarianism

Being a vegetarian at Penn State is hard.

The average Penn Stater’s day-to-day struggle probably includes getting to an 8 a.m. class that’s all the way in Forum; trying to explain to friends that attend other schools why Penn State is just better; and acting sober long enough to get into Beaver Stadium on a football Saturday.

For a vegetarian at Penn State, an additional struggle is figuring out what you can eat day-to-day without breaking the bank, especially if you don’t have a meal plan. I wish I could have quinoa and sauteed kale for every meal, but I also need money to, you know, live. To help out, I’ve compiled my top-five vegetarian recipes for off-campus students:

5. Vegetarian Chili

Don’t be intimidated by the hefty ingredient list; it includes many canned goods and spices that are easy to find. The best part about this hearty dish is that it’s wonderful to make in large quantities and store in individual plastic containers so you have meals for days. Recipe from a long-time vegetarian friend of mine, who swears by this meal!


• 2 red bell peppers
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• 2 cups organic vegetable broth
• 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
• 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes, undrained and chopped
• 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions


1. Preheat broiler.

2. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and
membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place pepper halves in a zip-top plastic bag;
seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and chop peppers.

3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add
onion; cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cumin and next 4 ingredients
(through garlic); cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers, broth,
squash, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add beans; simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally.

4. Sprinkle with green onions.

4. Classic Smoothie

Need breakfast on the go or a snack between classes? Look no further. Include organic peanut butter to the mix or sprinkle granola on top to add healthy lipids to your diet. The best part is that you can substitute any fruit juice, frozen fruit, or liquor you’d like to make this recipe your own. Recipe from Smoothies, Chronicle Books.


• 1 cup of orange juice
• 1 cup hulled and quartered frozen strawberries
• 2 bananas, frozen and sliced


1. Pour orange juice into a blender. Add the strawberries and bananas. Blend until smooth.

3. Mexican Bean Salad

This is the perfect recipe for impressing a significant other on a date, or proving to your parents once and for all that you are capable of cooking real food. Although it’s an impressive appetizer or side dish, this salad is basically throw everything in a bowl and go. Simple! Recipe from


• 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
• 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn kernels
• 1 red onion, chopped
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons white sugar
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1 clove crushed garlic
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
• 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
• 1 dash hot pepper sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon chili powder


1. In a large bowl, combine beans, bell peppers, frozen corn, and red onion.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice, sugar, salt, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and black pepper.

3. Season to taste with hot sauce and chili powder.

4. Pour olive oil dressing over vegetables; mix well. Chill thoroughly, and serve cold.

2. Spiced Sweet Potato Fries with Creamy Avocado Dip

This is a healthier alternative to McDonald’s French fries; sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamins like beta-carotene and vitamin A, and avocados have nutrients to improve skin and hair health. You can make these fries as spicy or mild as you’d like to, although the spice is perfectly paired with the creamy dip. They’re also the perfect addition to a PSU tailgate menu. Recipe from Women’s Health Magazine.


• 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), cut into wedges
• 1/4 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
• 1 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning, divided
• 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
• 1/4 cup (2.5 oz) silken tofu
• 2 Tbsp lime juice
• 1/8 tsp salt


1. Preheat oven to 450°F. On a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil over potatoes and mix with hands to coat evenly.

2. In a small bowl, combine paprika with 1 tsp Cajun seasoning, then sprinkle over potatoes, mixing again to coat. Bake for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft and beginning to char.

3. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, combine avocado, tofu, lime juice, 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning, and salt. Process until smooth. Serve as a dip alongside potatoes

And now, for my favorite vegetarian recipe of all time…

1. Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Kraft boxed mac and cheese may be a staple of the poor college student, but making the dish yourself can be inexpensive, and is always ten times better. If you’re really looking to clog your arteries, save leftovers and make Paula Deen’s Fried Mac and Cheese! Recipe from The Food Network.


• 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons flour
• 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
• 3 cups milk
• 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 1 large egg
• 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• Fresh black pepper
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1 cup panko bread crumbs


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

3. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

4. Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

5. Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Let us know in the comment section how these recipes worked out for all you PSU veg-heads out there! Also, if you’re eating out, check out our list of the best vegetarian restaurants in State College here.

About the Author


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