Go Vegan for Earth Day

Earth day is coming soon (April 22nd) and what better way to appreciate the Earth than to go Earth-Day-2016-Quiz-3-465x465vegan for the day?!?  By changing your diet, you have the power to reduce global warming, deforestation, poverty and hunger, and the use of natural resources.  Check out this post for more info on how veganism makes such a big impact on the Earth.

Check out these meal and snack options and pick a few to try.  It won’t be as hard as you think.  Enjoy the day knowing that YOU are making a difference!!

Breakfast:  savory oatmealovernight oatmeal, or banana nut butter wrap

Savory oatmeal can be made in the microwave if you don’t want to dirty a pot- just nuke it for 1 minute.  Overnight oatmeal is eaten in the same container it is made and takes about 2 minutes to make.  The banana nut butter wrap is even faster, depending on your ability to peel a banana and spread peanut butter.

Lunch: three bean salad, black bean mango salsa, or black eyed pea salad

Each of these needs to be made the night before to allow the flavor to develop, which is perfect to ensure you have a healthy lunch to take to work without being rushed in the morning.  Add a piece of fruit and serve over lettuce or rice.  If you’re knocking it out of the park, make oven baked tortilla chips.

Snacks:  apple and nut butter, veggies and hummus, or roasted chickpeas

Dinner:  rice bowls or lentil chard sweet potato curry

Rice bowls are easy, however the curry is a one pot dish, a great intro to curry (not spicy at all), and makes plenty for leftovers.

Dessert:  strawberries and store bought or homemade coconut whipped cream

Load up on organic strawberries while they’re in season and enjoy this deliciously simple treat!!  Strawberries are listed as #1 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list this year, so buy organic strawberries whenever you can.

 

Photo credit:  http://wallecard.com/earth-day-2016-quiz.html

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday, especially if you can ignore the commercialism and the whole black Friday aspect of it (which I can).  I love nothing more than being in the kitchen surrounded by family.  I do wish Thanksgiving was celebrated on Friday to have more time to prepare and travel, but I’m happy to work with what I’ve got!

I’ve never made a whole Thanksgiving dinner on my own and never intend to – it defeats the whole purpose of spending time with family and friends!!  Here’s a list of some of the yumminess we enjoyed this year.

Apple Pie topped with Granola

6 medium or 8 small baking apples (I used a mixture of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)

1/3 c brown sugar

1/3 c white sugar

1 t Ceylon cinnamonIMG_4777

1/2 t ginger

pinch of salt

1 pie crust

Granola Topping

1 1/3 c oats

1/4 c brown sugar

3 T coconut oil

Core, peel, and slice the apples.  I prefer thin slices, but note that thicker slices may require a few more minutes in the oven.

In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, seasonings, and 1/4 c water.  Cook covered over medium-low heat until the apples are softened, about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, remove lid, and allow excess liquid to evaporate.

While the apples are cooking, preheat the oven to 425’ and prepare the pie crust. (I had defrosted a Wholly Wholesome vegan crust from Whole Foods.  If interested in making your own, check out Vegan Pie in the Sky by Moskowitz and Romero.)  Transfer the pie crust to a baking sheet so it’s easier to get into and out of the oven.

Add the oats and brown sugar to a medium bowl.  Melt the coconut oil and add to the oat mixture.  Stir to evenly coat the oats in oil.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apple pie filling to the crust.  (Use any leftover apple pie filling for Apple Pie Oatmeal.)  Cover the apple filling with the oat mixture, gently pressing it down in order to mound it as much as possible.

Bake at 425’ for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350′ for another 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.  Warning: this is messier than a traditional double-crust apple pie but it’s worth it!!

Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Ganache Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash

12 servings

3 c wild rice mix, rinsed and cooked according to directions with water, broth, or a combination [usually 3:1 liquid to rice and 30-45 minutes on low after an initial boil)

1 large butternut squash cubed (see helpful tips here) or 2 bags of frozen butternut squash (about 4 c), lightly sprayed with oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted at 400’ for about 20 minutes

1 large onion, diced and sauteed in water until soft with garlic

3 cloves of garlic, minced, and sautéed in water with the diced onion

1.5 c dried cranberries soaked in warm water

1.5 c pecans, roughly chopped and toasted for 5-8 min at 350’

Italian parsley, chopped

Dressing

3 T red wine vinegar

1/4 c fresh lemon juice

1/4 c fresh orange juice (I used Simply OJ)

1 T fresh ginger

1/4 t Ceylon cinnamon

optional: lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste

Add the onions, garlic, and cranberries to the cooked rice.  Gently fold in the roasted butternut squash.  Add the pecans, parsley, and dressing just before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  The dressing adds a bright flavour but the dish is fine without it.  If you prefer a more savory dish, omit the dressing and add rosemary or poultry seasoning.  A ginger dressing would also be delicious here, although it works very simply without a dressing.

Green Bean Casserole

Apple Pie Oatmeal

I also made a pumpkin bread pudding that turned out really well but didn’t measure all of the ingredients (and as usual, no picture).  So I’ll do better the next time I make it.

Here are pics of my most favorite tablecloth ever.  One year when Thanksgiving was particularly tough (after it is for everyone after the loss of a loved one), our extended family enjoyed using Sharpies to note the things they were thankful for on a large piece of canvas.  It was an easy project everyone could participate in and it’s always healing to focus on what we are thankful for.

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Saving time…

Saving_TimeI only had two hours to prep meals last week (not counting meal planning and the grocery shopping- just the kitchen time). However, because I had planned the meals and had purchased all ingredients by the time I started the meal prep, it was pretty straightforward and could be knocked out in one swoop.

The biggest time-saver was that I had batches of white beans and black-eyed peas already cooked in the freezer. I’m in the process of using up all my frozen beans, and then I’ll go through the cycle of making a few big batches again.

Here are the week’s menus and further below I’ll describe the advanced prep:

Quinoa Ginger Salad without onions and with avocado

Beef-like seitan with a new beef-like gravy, rice, and green beans with almonds

Black-eyed pea salad with roasted asparagus and potatoes

Breakfast for dinner

BLTs

Leftovers

 

On my prep day, I started by washing any fresh produce that wasn’t already clean and that I needed for the meal prep (fruits and lunch box veggies were washed later to save time), which, in this case, was really just kale and sweet potatoes. Then I stripped and steamed 2 bunches of kale (as it took 3 batches). While the kale was steaming, I made the dough for beef-like seitan and microwaved the sweet potatoes. As each batch of kale finished, I transferred it to a large bowl and using kitchen scissors cut it into smaller pieces. Once the kale was steamed, I steamed the seitan. I also made a batch of quinoa (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa). Once the sweet potatoes were cool enough to handle, I peeled them and cut them into bite-sized cubes. The sweet potatoes also went into the bowl of kale, along with the frozen white beans. The cooked quinoa was dumped on top of the white beans, which along with the sweet potatoes, helped them defrost. Canned beans (drained and rinsed) would have been perfectly fine too. I added ginger dressing (the non-spicy version) diluted with a bit of water to the bowl, stirred it and put it in the fridge. ginger 1

On the evening I served the Quinoa Ginger salad for dinner, I took it out of the fridge, added diced avocado, stirred it well, and served it with more ginger dressing on the side. Even though this recipe had a number of key ingredients, they are all easy to make and it easily stands alone as a meal. The avocado is my favorite as it really helps bring all the flavors together (and I just love avocado. . . and ginger sauce). I usually make a big batch of this recipe so we can enjoy it for lunch during the week too.

Once the beef-like seitan had steamed and cooled, I sliced and refrigerated it. On the evening I served it, I reheated it for a few minutes, covered, in the oven while the brown rice and fresh green beans were cooking. I started the beef-like gravy first as it was a new recipe and I wasn’t sure how well it would work; this would have been good to make on the prep day, but I didn’t have time. I cooked the green beans in a saute pan covered with a few tablespoons of water so they would steam. Once they reached the desired tenderness, I removed the lid and allowed any extra water to cook off. For the last few minutes of cooking, I added sliced almonds. I served the beef-like seitan on top of the rice with the green beans on the side and gravy for anyone who wanted it. The gravy was a big hit and made the seitan much more interesting than a slab of wheat meat. I made two lunch-sized portions and then froze the leftover seitan to use in a stew or stirfry.

For the black-eyed pea salad, I started by making the dressing (vinegar, jelly, sugar, salt & pepper) in the bowl that I would store the salad in. Then I added the black-eyed peas to the bowl and diced frozen stoplight pepper strips. I didn’t have any red onion, so I just diced yellow onion and added that to the bowl as well. I gave it a good shake and stored it in the fridge. On the evening I served it, I added diced avocado. A commitment that I had for the evening was cancelled at the last minute, so I decided to roast some asparagus that were starting to wilt and while I had the oven on, figured I’d roast some potatoes as well.

There was no advanced prep for breakfast for dinner night, so I made sure I had time that evening to make this dinner. I made baked hashbrowns (which involved dumping frozen shredded potatoes on a baking sheet, spritzing with oil and salt and baking), scrambled tofu (sauteeing a block of firm tofu with black salt and a bit of turmeric), biscuits, and spinach (from a frozen package). I wanted to add lots of interesting stuff to the tofu scramble (mushrooms, spinach, peppers) but it’s not one of my favorites anyway, so I just ate it mixed with the spinach.

The other two nights we had BLTAs (bacon/lettuce/tomato/avocado) using prepared tempeh bacon (and using up the rest of the avocado) and homemade MiracleNaise from fatfreevegan.com and then leftovers. It turned out to be a great week of meals (based on energy levels, avoidance of junk food, no last minute eating out) – thanks to the advanced planning!

 

Beef-like Gravy

1/4 c refined coconut oil

2 T flour

1 t no-beef broth concentrate (like Better than Boullion) in 1 c warm water

1.5 t vegan worcestershire sauce

1 t onion powder

pepper to taste

Melt the coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, then add the flour.  Stir with a whisk until the flour starts to smell nutty.  Slowly add the no-beef broth, whisking until smooth.  Add the vegan worcetershire and onion powder.  Turn the heat to medium low and continue to whisk in liquid (~1 c water) until the desired consistency is reached.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Gravy will continue to thicken once removed from heat.  Yield is ~2.5 c.

For added protein, add 1 c white beans and the gravy to the blender and puree until smooth, adding more broth or water as needed to reach desired consistency.  Taste and add more Braggs’s/tamari or poultry seasoning if needed.  Yield is ~3.5 c.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

bit.ly/SimplyEatPlants_SaveTime

Breakfasts

Hopefully you’re already convinced of the importance of breakfast.  If it’s the implementation of the healthy breakfast that’s Pancakesgot you hung up, read on.  Consider making a Big Batch of Pancake Mix or French Toast and Fruit Compote on the weekend, and then reheat during the week.  These pancakes reheat fabulously in the toaster.  Or while cleaning up after dinner one night, make Yogurt Parfaits or Overnight Oatmeal for the next morning.  On a rushed morning, throw together a Banana Nut Butter Wrap in less than 2 minutes and eat in transit.  If you’d rather drink your breakfast, there’s always the Fruit Smoothie with more variations than I could ever describe.

 

Big Batch of Pancake Mix

8 c whole grain flour

½ c sugar

2.5 T baking powder

4 t baking soda

4 t salt

Mix these ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

For the whole grain flour, I’ve been using 5 to 6 c whole wheat flour and 2 to 3 c oat flour.  Experiment with your favorite flours, using as much whole grains as possible.

To make pancakes, mix 1 c pancake mix with 1 c liquid and 1 flax egg.  Carbonated water makes fluffier pancakes, but non dairy milk and water work as well.  For the flax egg, mix 1 T ground flax seeds with 3 T water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to gel.  Using ¼ c batter for each pancake, one cup of pancake mix makes about 9 pancakes.  It’s hardly worth the effort to just make one batch, so make at least 2 or 3 batches and freeze the leftovers with wax paper in between each layer.

On school days, my kids can either eat pancakes fresh out of the toaster like a cookie, or if we have compote, I’ll cut the pancakes up for them and serve topped with compote to help speed up consumption.

 

Fruit Compote

In a small pot, add approximately ½ c fruit per serving (diced if necessary), ½ t sugar per serving if the fruit is not sweet enough on its own, and 1T water per serving.  Cover and bring to a slow boil, then stir and reduce heat.  Continue cooking until fruit is desired tenderness, probably 10-15 more minutes.  If compote isn’t thickening, then remove lid to allow for evaporation.  Compote will further thicken upon refrigeration.

This recipe works great with any type berry, mixed berries, peaches, apples, etc.  Always make more than you think you’ll need as the fruit reduces by half when cooked, and it always goes faster than you’d expect!

 

Yogurt Parfaits

½ c non dairy yogurt per serving

½ c grains per serving

½ c fruit per serving

Alternate layers of non dairy yogurt, grains, and fruit.  Refrigerate overnight to soften grains.

Suggested grains include homemade or prepared granola, oats or oat groats, or prepared cereal such as GrapeNuts.  Most fruits work well here but remember to include berries as antioxidant powerhouses!

 

Overnight Oatmeal

½ c dry oats per serving

¾-1 c non dairy milk (or water) per serving

Pour dry oats into a mason jar or other container and add non dairy milk.  The non dairy milk should more than cover the oats- if not, add more.  While in the refrigerator overnight, the oats will soak up the milk and soften.  If the oats are not as soft as you’d like, heat the oatmeal or include more non dairy milk the next time.  Add fruit and enjoy!

Using a small mason jar makes this an easy breakfast on the go, even if you want to heat the oatmeal a bit when you get to work.  One container and no mess!

I also keep single serving size jars of dry oats in my office, which makes it really easy to add hot water and let sit for a few minutes before eating.

 

Banana Nut Butter Wrap

1 tortilla or piece of bread

2 T nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower seed, etc)

1 banana

Spread nut butter on tortilla.  Peel banana and place in center of tortilla.  Wrap up and enjoy!

This is a great post workout breakfast on the go.

 

Fruit Smoothie

Here’s my philosophy on smoothies- you can’t really screw it up.  Even if it doesn’t taste great, it’s probably still healthy and you can just chug it.  As long as you can figure out why that variation didn’t work, you can be sure not to repeat it.  In all the years I’ve been making daily smoothies, I’ve really only screwed it up once.  And my family won’t ever let me forget it.  So don’t try to add chickpeas to a smoothie, and you’ll be fine.

The purpose of the smoothie is to get everything you need in one tasty drink.  So we include the following basics in most smoothies (listed below per serving):

1/8 c oats

1 T chia, ground flax, or hemp seeds

1 frozen banana, sliced

¼ – ½ c frozen fruit

¼ c frozen greens

1 c water, OJ, or milk

Add ingredients in the order shown and process according to your blender’s instructions.  If your blender can’t handle this amount of frozen fruit, then use fresh bananas.  Blend until desired consistency has been reached and enjoy!

A few tips:

  • Freeze fruit in slices.
  • Keeps lots of different fruits in your freezer for variety in your smoothie.  Stock up when fruit is on sale and process it immediately for the freezer.
  • While spinach goes undetected in most smoothies, kale and collards aren’t bad either
  • If you’re using a bag of frozen spinach, then use less than recommended.  Consider buying fresh spinach in bulk and immediately freezing it (it compacts greatly once frozen) or freeze it once you realize it’s not fresh enough to serve to guests.
  • Fruits such as strawberries, pineapple, and cherries are great thickeners
  • Store any leftover smoothie in a mason jar or immediately freeze in ice cube trays.  Once frozen, pop out and store in an airtight container.  Smoothie cubes are a great way to start the next day’s smoothie.  Frozen cubes can also be packed in a mason jar to defrost by lunchtime.
  • Gradually increase the ratio of greens to fruit in your smoothies.  Also experiment with adding other vegetables and notice how great you feel on the ‘truly’ green smoothie days.

For a chocolate smoothie, use non dairy chocolate milk or 1T cocoa powder per serving.  Chocolate hides the taste of greens quiet well, so throw in extra greens!