Going Thoughtfully Meatless in California

September 30, 2019

By Kelly Lionello

Split pea soup, a popular item on the #MercyMeatlessMondays menu!
Split pea soup, a popular item on the #MercyMeatlessMondays menu!

When the Sisters of Mercy in the Auburn and Burlingame communities decided to participate in Mercy Meatless Mondays, I was very happy to be involved. However, I also realized the challenge it creates to meet the needs of everyone we serve. Our Food Service Department prepares food for the sisters, their guests, Mercy Retreat Center guests, various special events and catering.

Vegetarian guests are common in the retreat centers, and we already had a few vegetarian sisters before committing to Mercy Meatless Mondays. There is always a definite need to be versatile, creative and current when meeting the needs of so many different diners.

As I reviewed the food orders I’ve been placing lately, I noticed that we have been purchasing 75 percent or more vegetables, fruits and grains and fewer animal proteins. As a result, we’ve been serving less meat and our portions have been smaller. This hasn’t necessarily been intentional; after all, it’s easier to serve a piece of chicken or steak and fill the rest of the plate with vegetarian sides than it is to prepare a full day’s vegetarian menu.

But we now have many delicious vegetarian dishes that appear on the menu every week. Their popularity is an indication to me that the food we serve needs to be fresher, healthier and more consumer friendly! And the consumers I place at the top of my list are, of course, the sisters themselves.

Check out the Mercy Meatless Mondays resource booklet, which provides weekly educational materials and vegetarian recipes over seven weeks.
Check out the Mercy Meatless Mondays resource booklet, which provides weekly educational materials and vegetarian recipes over seven weeks.

Providing sufficient, palatable protein in a plant-based diet is the biggest concern I face when planning vegetarian menus. It is necessary to mix and match foods throughout the day. This will ensure you are consuming foods that contain the essential amino acids our bodies need to thrive.

A few examples of simple combinations for complete plant-based proteins would be: a bowl of split pea soup with a whole wheat roll, the combination of pasta and peas, or a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter. For a satisfying meal, start with black beans and rice, add some sweet potatoes, peanuts and spices, and you will have a delicious protein-packed stew.

Tempuna - Mock Tuna Salad

Soy plant protein contains all the essential amino acids on its own. Tofu and tempeh are both soy products that are in two of my favorite recipes. Tempuna is a mock tuna salad that I actually prefer over tuna salad. The other is sweet and sour spicy tofu served with veggies and brown rice.

I enjoy researching new recipes and am also glad to share recipes, such as for the dishes mentioned above. Fresh ideas are also always welcome!

None of this would be possible without the collaborative strengths of the food service teams in Burlingame and Auburn who provide the talent it takes to make it work so well.

Kelly Lionello is the regional director of food servicers for the Sisters of Mercy in Auburn and Burlingame, California.

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  1. Marianne Comfort

    Thanks, Kelly, for taking the time to research how to participate in Mercy Meatless Mondays and still meet the needs of the sisters and guests visiting Auburn and Burlingame! You show that it can be done in a nourishing and delicious way. And hopefully other food services will realize they can do that, too.

  2. Rose Marie Tresp

    Thank you for this great discussion. I find that in talking with food service people at meetings, sometimes the response to a request for vegetarian or vegan is: “we have salad or we have pasta.” Many times, there doesn’t seem to be an awareness of the need for vegetarian protein.

  3. Tina Panelli

    What a great article….you’ve obviously done a lot of research and reading. This weekend we had a family dinner with our kids and grandkids, and since two of our granddaughters are now vegan, I was challenged to make a vegan dish that they could enjoy. It was not easy, so I applaud you for working so hard to make this work for our campuses on a much larger scale. Thanks Kelly!

  4. Regina Ward, RSM

    Thanks for acknowledging the effort you need to go through even as a food service. Often our sisters are not able to participate in events such as Meatless Mondays because they are at the mercy of the food service.

    I have tried during this Season of Creation to participate intentionally in Meatless Mondays. Even though I often choose vegetarian meals this has been a challenge for me. Grateful to have the opportunity of healthy meal planning.

  5. mary riordan

    This was most helpful especially providing meatless protein meals. Thank you Kelly.

  6. Liz Dossa

    Kelly, This is a wonderfully inspiring blog! You make moving toward meatless meals seem possible. Thanks so much! And a nice shout out to the staffs!