So, you want to eat better and cook more plant based meals but where to start?
Is it too much to ask that recipes be easy, have readily available ingredients, cost less than a meal out and taste amazing.
No, I’m kidding, it’s not.
That’s a common checklist.
So, once you have put all that into Google, and get a google recipes on your screen, you lose the next two hours of your life to finding something you want. Or maybe you want to make them all. Maybe you are a gambler and you just roll the dice and try something. I’m a researcher and I want ratings. I want a million people of varying backgrounds and skill sets to rate the recipe 5 stars. Is that too much to ask? Just a world-wide consensus about the perfection of an easy, cheap, tasty, amazing dish that also does the dishes and occasionally tells me it appreciates me?? Okay, I might be pushing it.
You don’t need me to tell you how to look things up but I do feed people every day, I am years into this plant based life and I read cookbooks like most people read novels.
The really easy stuff
I do eat different than most people. I’m not going to pretend that the vegan or veggie version of whatever you eat tastes the same. I eat really simple and would almost never cook this stuff if I didn’t have other humans expecting me to feed them.
I make salads and throw whatever I have in them.
I pull the pit from an avocado and put sriracha, onion and sprouts in it and eat it with a spoon over my sink.
I take leaves of romaine lettuce and scoop hummus out of the container and eat them while I work at my desk or watch the news.
I shave beets and an orange together and top it with pecan oil and then eat the whole bowl before my kids discover me.
If I have guacamole, I eat most of it with a spoon straight out of the dish. Ask my friends who always make it for me:)
I think good bread is a basic human right and slapping some mayo and a tomato (or avocado or whatever) on it makes an incredible sandwich. I can look forward all day to that alone. I might even eat three.
My thing is to eat high quality and eat all I want because you can do that with good, plant based foods.
But, if you need something that resembles our group meal traditions, here you go. These are pretty simple, I can make them with stuff from the local town of 14k, and my people all eat them.
Sweet Potato Bowl
2 large or 4 moderate sweet potatoes, diced
2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon canned adobo pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 cup finely chopped kale or other green of your choice
2 cups cooked brown rice
Salt and hot sauce to taste
Start the rice
- Cook the sweet potatoes in a saute pan over medium heat with a little olive oil until they start to soften.
- Add the onion, kale, rosemary, adobo and stir until the onion and greens have started to cook.
- Now mix in the maple syrup and serve over the rice.
We like salt and hot sauce. I use sriracha on this meal.
If you like this idea but want something different, check out the sweet potato chickpea bowl from the Minimalist Baker.
Meatless Tomato Sauce
Basic spaghetti is an easy dish to make meatless and you can buy canned sauce to dress up and a box of noodles or make it all from scratch, however you are used to it, but the key is the sauce. When you remove the meat or meatballs, you need to make sure you aren’t left with a bland, dull sauce. The good news is you can add so many veggies and herbs to it, that it can be a dump for whatever you have on hand. Here is our usual:
Tomato sauce base for 4 (1 glass jar, two cans or 10 pureed medium tomatoes)
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 teaspoon each basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme
4 oz chopped mushrooms
1 small zucchini, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
½ cup shredded carrot
Olive oil to saute
Salt and red pepper to taste
- Put the garlic and herbs in the tomato sauce and simmer
- In separate pan, saute the veggies in olive oil until they start to soften.
- Add them to the tomato base and let it all simmer, covered for 20 min to 4 hours, based on your day. Keep the heat low for those long simmers.
This isn’t just good on noodles. If you add rice to it until it is thick you can use it to stuff peppers or portobello caps.
Other things that are better with more veggies and no meat: chili, nachos, tacos, stir frys, curry pots, black bean soup, stuffed potatoes, lasagna, and many soups.
½ cup cashew cream
1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 ½ cup cooked and pureed pumpkin
½ cup dry white wine or *veggie broth
1 tablespoon chopped sage + more to garnish
2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bag of your favorite wide noodles
- First, soak ½ cup raw cashews in water for a few hours and then puree them (with the water) smooth. We have this handy because we use it a lot. You can use unsweetened cashew milk in a pinch but it’s runny.
- Slowly cook your onions until they start to caramelize.
- When they are good and soft, add the pumpkin, veggie broth, sage and garlic.
- Stir over medium heat until it’s well blended and everything is incorporated.
- Cook the noodles separately and when al dente, add to the pan with the sauce and get them nice and coated.
- Salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a big pinch of freshly chopped sage.
Greens over Grits
Here’s the thing about grits: it’s a regional speciality and it may be hard to find good ones in other areas. For the love of God, do not get instant grits. Also, they shouldn’t be sand-like. I didn’t think I like grits until a couple of years ago. I met a friend in Atlanta and went to Porter. Ever game, I tried the grits she ordered and, holy smokes, they were ethereal. I knew I had to recreate them and I also knew I didn’t have the luxury of using dairy because my kids are allergic. Thus began a journey that currently manifests itself as 3 colors and 2 grinds of grits in my freezer (because, like with flour, the good stuff goes bad on the shelf).
All that to say this: don’t use instant grits.
I like them medium to fine and blue are pretty cool. They are really kind of purple.
For the grits:
2 cups of grits
6 cups of vegetable stock
A generous pour of nice olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast (you can leave it out but it adds to the depth)
Salt to taste
For the greens you will serve on top:
A mess of your favorite greens, chopped small.
1 white or yellow onion, diced
2 more cloves of garlic
Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
I also add some blackening seasoning
About a cup of water
- Put the olive oil in a large saute pan and add your grits and the first 3 cups of liquid. Step away but you’ll be back.
2) Chop your greens and add them, 2 cloves of garlic, onion, water and seasoning, to a stock pot, cover and stew them over medium low heat.
3) Now go stir your grits and add liquid as they absorb it until they are tender and not drinking up any more. You can switch to water when you run out of stock. I don’t like to risk thawing more stock than I need. They will become creamy as you stir.
4) Add the 2 cloves of minced garlic, the nutritional yeast and some salt to the grits. Taste as you go and don’t stop stirring until they come off the heat.
5) When the greens are tender and the grits are creamy, serve them.
We serve with hot sauce. I use habanero, the rest of the family uses Franks.
*A word about veggie stock: you can buy it but it’s easy to make. Save your onion ends, leek tops, unused bits of celery, garlic nubs, parsley stems etc in a gallon bag in your freezer. When the bag is full, put it in a stock pot, cover with water, and simmer until the water is colored and fragrant. Now strain the liquid to get the chunks out, divide it into 2 or 4 cup servings and freeze it. Do this twice a month and you’ll have great stock all the time.
I hope these give you ideas. I’m always ready with more if it would be helpful.
Happy eating, Katy