We all have those nights when dinner has to be prepared quickly because family members need to eat and a leave for evening activities. Tonight was one of those nights. I pulled out my “go to” quick recipe for when I don’t have time to shop and want to use up veggies in the fridge before they go bad.
Makes 8 servings. Recipe by Lindsay Nixon. Gluten free without pasta.
1 small onion diced (or half large onion)
4 garlic cloves minced (2 tsp)
pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
3 cups sliced or chopped vegetables (such as carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, etc.)
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or reg vinegar)
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes (fire roasted – optional)
1 15-oz can of white beans or garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
Cooked rice or small shaped pasta like Ditalini (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Line a large pot with a thin layer of water and sauté onion, garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper (if using ) for about 1 – 3 minutes.
Add Italian seasoning and continue to cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add all remaining ingredients, including choice vegetables (except beans), salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil then cover, decrease heat to low, and let simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 – 20 minutes.
Add beans and cooked rice or pasta (if using) and continue to cook until thoroughly warm.
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Tips: Fire-roasted or tomatoes with onion and garlic can be used for more flavor. Feel free to use leftover cooked pasta or rice for the optional beans (or use all three). You may need to add a cup or more of the vegetable stock if the soup is too thick. You can use any vegetables you have on hand. For extra nutrition – I like to throw spinach at the very end.
Winter is a great time to cook soups – and last week’s record-breaking cold snap (23 below with wind chill in Cincy) made us even more hungry for a good, hot soup. I cooked up this yummy Vegan Lentil Soup to bring to a good friend who had recently given birth to twins. She had actually made it for us when my father passed away last winter and we loved it.
I exchanged the kale (which can sometimes taste bitter) for spinach to give this new mom some extra needed nutrients like carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, iron and calcium. It is super easy to make and the ingredients are flavorful, filling and very inexpensive. My husband and I gave this 5 stars!
Vegan Lentil Soup
Author: Cookie & Kate
Prep Time: 10 mins. Cook Time: 45 mins (55 min. total). Serves 4.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (can be substituted with veg broth)
1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups water
1 tsp. salt, more to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh kale, collard greens, or spinach (stems or ribs removed)
Juice of 1/2 to 1 medium lemon (to taste) – about 2 Tbsp.
Warm the olive oil (or veg. broth) in a large Dutch or pot over medium heat. One-fourth cup olive oil may seem like a lot, but it adds a heartiness to this nutritious soup. If you are cooking oil free, you can substitute the oil with 1/4 cup of vegetable broth.
Once the oil (or broth) is shimmering, add the chopped onion and carrot and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly (about 30 seconds). Pour in the diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavor.
Pour in the lentils, broth and water. Add 1 tsp. salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season generously with freshly group black pepper. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and puree the soup until smooth. Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and add the chopped greens. Cook for 5 more minutes or until the greens have soften to your liking.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in lemon juice (about 3 tbsp). Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavors are too your liking. Serve immediately. I like to serve this soup with warm vegan cornbread muffins. Leftovers keep well for about 4 days in the refrigerator (or can be frozen for several months).
Let me know how you like the soup – or if you tried any variations that worked well.
Moroccan Lentil Soup
Here is another easy to make soup from Forks Over Knives that is very close to the previous recipe – but uses no oil, no greens and includes more exotic Moroccan spices. We gave rated this 4 and half stars.
Moroccan Lentil Soup
By Somer McCowan of “The Abundance Diet” Makes 6 servings. Total Prep/Cooking Time: 45 min.
6 cups vegetable broth (I try to find a low-sodium broth with 500 mg or less)
2 cups chopped onions, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 medium carrots, chided into 1/4 inch rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (or 1 tsp. minced)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 heaped tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. ground turmeric
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 large (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups slip dry red or brown lentils (I used the Lentil Trio from Aldi)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped cilantro (opt).
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
1 tsp. seat salt or to taste
1/3 tsp. ground black pepper or to taste
Heat 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and sauce, adding additional broth as necessary to keep the vegetables from burning. Cook until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the flavors to bloom. Add the remaining vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, and lentils and bring to ta boil.
Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked.
Add the parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
Notes: For texture variation, pulse the soup a few times with an immersion blender. For extra brightness, squeeze an additional slice of lemon over each bowl.
When we decided to cut meat and dairy out of our diet I had to search through my existing cookbooks to find recipes. This one, Penne with Veggies ‘n’ Black Beans came from Taste of Homes’ Healthy Cooking Annual Recipes (2015). Since we had just become “empty nesters” I turned to the ‘Table for Two’ section and found a photo of a meal that looked appetizing and super simple to make.
Since it was June – all of the ingredients were in season and it did not require any special ingredients that were hard to find (except maybe the Nutritional Yeast – which is used as a substitute for the parmesan cheese).
Recipe for: Penne with Veggies ’n’ Black Beans
Estimated time to prepare: 25 minutes. Makes: 2 servings (double for 4)
Quick tip: use a bag of your favorite pre-cut frozen veggies if you are in a hurry.
3/4 cup of uncooked penne pasta (substitute with a bean pasta if gluten free)
1/3 cup of sliced zucchini (about one medium)
1/3 cup of sliced carrot (about 2)
4 medium mushrooms sliced
1/2 small green pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow or red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 onion thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced (I used minced garlic from a jar)
1/4 teaspoon of each: dried basil, oregano & thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained (15 oz can is ok)
1/4 cup chopped seeded tomato (canned and drained is ok)
2 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan (substitute with Nutritional Yeast)
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté all the vegetables, garlic and seasonings in 1+ teaspoon of oil until tender-crisp. Stir in the beans.
Drain pasta; add to vegetable mixture. Add tomato and remaining olive oil; toss gently. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (or Nutritional Yeast) and parsley.
How many of you remember that hilarious line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? And then her immediate reply – “That’s OK – I’ll make lamb.” My husband and I have had that same question posed to us – maybe not as dramatically. In fact, I have asked many other vegetarian and vegan friends. Why would you want to cut meat out of your diet – and dairy too? That is just too extreme!
My reply may surprise most people. We just don’t want to die . . . prematurely that is. In June of 2017 my Physical Therapist husband said he wanted to share a video with me – that was sent as a link by his Physical Therapy Association. It was the introductory video by Dr. Greger on “How Not to Die” – showing studies of how diet can affect and even prevent certain diseases.
A Wake Up Call
This was a wake-up call for both of us, because both sets of our parents had passed or where in the processes of dying from one of 4 major killers: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and Alzheimers disease. I had just had my DNA tested and it showed that I was at higher risk for two of these diseases! We were in our mid to late 50’s and ready to take action to slow down or maybe even prevent some of these diseases.
Where do we start?
The next question most people ask us is “Isn’t it hard to find and cook food that has no meat or dairy in it?” At first I would have said, yes! It took us a few months to get used to the new plant-based diet. In fact the first night we were “all in” we went out to celebrate our 25th anniversary with a dinner out. The waiter was nice enough to describe the special for the day: Prime Rib!! After such wonderful, mouth watering description we had to confess that we were vegan (which was not easy). Neither was finding vegan entrees as we traveled for a weekend get-away to a quaint little town in southern Indiana.
That same night we decided to check out Whole Foods and pick up a list of foods I had never heard of – taken from a newly purchased vegan cookbook for beginners (“But I Could Never Go Vegan!”). They nearly jumped up and down when we told them we were going vegan – and were more than happy to show us where to find the tofu, plant-based milk, miso, tahini and coconut oil (half of the stuff I rarely if ever used). I tried my best to prepare several of the entrees from the cookbook – but it was very difficult. Some of the stuff I had never heard of – and some of it was downright unappetizing.
I was determined not to give up, however. That Christmas I was given several vegan cookbooks and settled into using one more than any other, “The One Dish Vegan” by Robin Robertson. The ingredients were easy to find, they were not expensive and most dishes took only 30 – 40 minutes to cook. Every time we tried a new recipe we would rate it with 1 – 5 stars and then take a photo of it to reference later (her book did not have photos in it). This process made cooking so much easier and satisfying. In fact, my husband volunteered to do the cutting up of the veggies and I did the actual cooking – which made dinner prep so much more fun. We actually started to enjoy cooking together – which is a big deal for someone who used to hate cooking with a passion (me!).
Changes for the Better
Within weeks were feeling more energy than we had felt in years, were more regular then we had ever been and had several other unexpected side affects including less gas and constipation, less tarter on our teeth, improved eye-site (my prescription changed), far fewer hot-flashes for me, and we spent less on our food budget! The most encouraging news, however, was that my bad cholesterol (LDL) numbers went down 28 points (from 106 to 78), and my total cholesterol dropped by 38 points (198 to 160)! I also lost about 5 pounds – but I am still working on increasing my physical activity (exercising 3 – 5 times a week). My husband actually lost 7 – 10 pounds too (is at the same weight he was in high school)!
That is why I decided to write this blog. I want to encourage others out there who are committed to improving their health and preventing disease through a healthier lifestyle including eating a plant-based diet. If your partner or family is not on board yet – I encourage you to start with just one vegan meal a week and don’t make a big deal about the meatless thing. Your family may be surprised by how delicious and satisfying these meals are.
I called this blog the “Practical Vegan” because I am very practical and I want meals that don’t take hours to cook, cost a lot, or include hard-to-find ingredients. I also may include a non-vegan ingredient occasionally like feta or greek yogurt – but those can be easily be substituted. I will only post recipes that I have actually made and will include photos. If you have questions or want me to try out a new recipe – please let me know. I would love to hear from you!
Let food be thy Medicine and medicine by thy food. – Hippocrates, 460 B.C.