Sweet Potato and Bean Quesadillas

Here is another super-quick Mexican inspired recipe to make when you don’t have much time – or ingredients on hand. It uses 3 basic ingredients and is very inexpensive and easy to make (your teenager could easily make it!). Make a dang quesadilla, Napoleon!

Sweet Potato & Bean Quesadilla

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 4 whole-wheat tortillas (8 inch)
  • 3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese (or cheddar if you aren’t vegan)
  • 3/4 cup of salsa
  • 1 Avocado (for slicing or guacamole)

Directions:

  1. Scrub sweet potatoes: pierce several times with a fork. Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave, uncovered, on high for 7 – 9 minutes (or use your “baked potato” auto cook button)
  2. When cool enough to handle, cut each potato lengthwise in half. Scoop out pulp and spread onto one half of each tortilla. Top with beans and cheese (if using). Fold other half of tortilla over filling. I like to sprinkle a little bit of seasoning over the beans – like garlic salt or greek seasoning.
  3. Heat a griddle or a skillet over medium heat. Cook 2 – 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese is melted.
  4. Serve with your choice of toppings: sliced avocado/guacamole, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream.

Nutritional info: 306 cal. 8 g fat (3g sat. fat – if using cheese), 15 mg cool., 531 sodium, 46g carb, 6g fiber 11 g pro.

Veggie Cashew Stir-fry

This is another favorite entree for my husband and I and it is pretty easy to make, especially when he does the veggie prep. It is budget-friendly – in fact, you can find pretty much all of the ingredients at Aldi (accept maybe the water chestnuts). I found this recipe in a Taste of Home magazines (it was submitted by Abbey Hoffman). If you have non-vegan friends over for dinner – you could always add some stir-fried chicken to their plates. You can also be very flexible with the vegetables you choose or even use frozen to save prep time. This recipe takes about 20 minutes total to prepare (15 minutes cook time) and makes about 4 servings.

Veggie-Cashew Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

Stir-fry Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice

Other ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (1/2 tsp)
  • 2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 lb. baby (or regular) carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1/4 cup honey-roasted (or salted) cashews

Directions:

  1. Start cooking the rice according to the box directions.
  2. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, water, brown sugar and lemon juice until smooth; set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium- high heat. Stir-fry the garlic for 1 minute, then add all the other vegetables and cook until tender-crisp (about 6 – 8 minutes).
  4. Stir soy sauce mixture and add to pan. Bring to a boil. Add cooked rice and water chestnuts, heat through. Top with cashews.

Nutritional Information: 1.5 cups: 385 calories, 16 g fats (3 g sat. fat), 0 cholesterols., 671 Sodium, 56g carb. (15 sugars, 6 g fiber). 9g protein.

Acorn Squash & Pear Soup

One of my favorite meals to make when the temperature starts to plummet is soup. I ran across this very delicious soup recipe from Taste of Home magazine (Dec/Jan 2013). I made it to share with friends or for potlucks and have received several compliments! This unique soup has an amazing flavor – pairing the sweetness of the pears with the savory flavors of the squash and other spices. I found a few shortcuts – but it still takes about an hour and a half to make – so start early! The recipe serves 10 (or cut in half for 5 servings).

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium acorn squash (cut in half)
  • 4 medium firm pears, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 inch cubes)
  • 3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt (or less if broth has higher sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 carton (48 oz or 6 cups) vegetable broth

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pears, celery, onion, olive oil and seasonings. Transfer to a greased shallow roasting pan. Brush olive oil on the inside of the acorn squash and place on a separate cooking pan/cookie sheet. Roast at 375 degrees for 1 1/4 hours or until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Cool slightly. Scoop out one of the squash halves and add to a food processor along with 1/4 of the roasted veggies mixture. Process in 4 batches along with 1.5 cups of the vegetable broth. Transfer to a Dutch oven and heat through, stirring occasionally.

Shortcut: cut the acorn squash in 1/2 & bake it for 30 minutes @ 350 degrees, then sauté all the rest of the vegetables with seasoning on the stove until soft. Scoop out the squash and add along with the seasoned vegetables to a blender (in batches), then add broth and puree together. Transfer to a large pot and heat through.

Green Bean and Mango Salad

It’s the middle of summer and the past few weeks have been HOT and muggy – definitely too hot to cook! So I found this great salad that we made last summer that earned a rare a 5 star rating. It uses fresh ingredients that are easy to find at my local Aldi store (for you cost conscious people like me out there). This recipe is Thai inspired and found on the Forks Over Knives website and was created by Jessica Nadel. It is super easy (takes 15 minutes) and serves 4 – 6 people. It is gluten free (depending on what you serve it over) and full of color and fresh crunchy flavor! Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

Green Bean and Mango Salad

Ingredients:

For Salad:

  • 3 cups of fresh green beans or Asian long beans (I like to cut them into 1 – 2″ pieces before cooking)
  • 2 slightly underripe mangos
  • 1 cup cherry, grape or calamari tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro – trimmed (opt. – my husband hates cilantro so I left it off)
  • 3 creen onions, sliced
  • 1/4 peanuts, crushed
  • Optional: Cooked rice (we used Simply Nature Seven Grains which warms up in 90 seconds in the microwave)

For Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp gluten-free tamari
  • 1/2 tsp unrefined cane sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
  • 1 fresh Thai Chili, minced (optional
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp Pad Thai Sauce

Instructions:

  1. Bring a 3 qt pan of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for up to 2 minutes, until bright green and tender-crisp. Drain, then plunge them into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Drain again. (Optional: trim the ends and slice the beans in half lengthwise). Place them in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. See and peel the mango and slice into long, thin strips. Add Mano to the green beans, along with the tomatoes, cilantro, onion and peanuts.
  3. Wish together the lim juice, Tamara, cane sugar, and chili in a small bowl. Pour over the salad, toss and serve. The salad can be made and dressed ahead of time and left to chill and marinate in the fridge for up to 3 hours.

Quick Tip: This salad can be served alone or on a bed of rice, quinoa or other grains. We used the Simply Nature Organic Seven Grains from Aldi which adds 8 grams of protein to this meal.

Green Bean and Mango Salad

Easy Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

I’ve struggled with finding a good vegan sandwich that is quick to make and easy to pack for outings. I remembered my niece sending me a recipe for chickpea salad – but I couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I did a search online and found this very easy and very delicious recipe. I was able to whip it up in 15 minutes – and take it with me for lunch with my choir group.

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

This recipe was published on July 26, 2018 by Michelle Blackwood (updated on May 6, 2019) on her blog, “Healthier Steps“. “Chickpeas,  also known as garbanzo beans are high in protein and a great replacement for meat. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 15 ounces chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 stalk celery (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons red onion (finely chopped) – optional
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayo (I used Just Mayo extra to spread on the bread)
  • 4 slices bread (I used gluten-free bread)
  • lettuce leaves

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas), and place them into a bowl. Next mash chickpeas with a fork or a potato masher.
  2. Then add chopped red onions (if using), red bell pepper. celery, dill, vegan mayo, salt to taste and mix to combine.
  3. Spread between slices of bread with lettuce.

This delicious, colorful and crunchy salad recipe would make a perfect sandwich for potlucks, school, work, or a family trip.

Jamaican-style Coconut Rice Bowl

We spent part of our honeymoon in Jamaica and really like the fresh Caribbean flavors of coconut milk, sweet potatoes and broccoli. We modified the original recipe – taken from One Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson – and added Caribbean Jerk Marinade to give it more ‘pop’. This recipe took 30 minutes (or less) and serves 4 people.

Jamaican-style Coconut Rice Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil or 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 russet or sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (we prefer sweet potato)
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (we prefer red)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (or 1 1/2 tsp. minced)
  • 1 or 2 small hot chiles, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 medium-size zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 (13 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked dark red kidney beans or 1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups hot cooked rice, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Caribbean Jerk Marinade (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil or water in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, potato (or sweet potato), bell pepper, garlic, and chili, and sauce for 5 minutes to soften. Add the thyme, broccoli, zucchini, and coconut milk, stirring to combine, then stir in the beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in Caribbean Jerk Marinade (if using) and heat through.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve over the cooked rice in shallow bowls with a squeeze of lime, if desired.

Peanut Ginger Pasta

I know I’ve said this before – but this Thai-inspired noodle dish truly is one of our favorite recipes! It is super easy to make and tastes so fresh and full of flavor. It only takes about 30 minutes (or less) to make and serves 4 people. You may already have the ingredients in your fridge! I found this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine. They state that the nutritional value per serving is: 365 calories, 13 grams fat (2 sat.), 567 mg sodium, 57 grams carb., 10 grams fiber and 14 grams of protein.

Peanut Ginger Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 tsp grated lime peel (finely grated)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. water
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root (available in paste form in the produce section)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 8 oz. uncooked whole wheat linguine or spaghetti
  • 2 cups small fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the veggies as listed.
  2. Place the first 10 ingredients in a blender or food processor; cover and process until blended.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding broccoli during the last 5 minutes. Drain.
  4. Transfer pasta and broccoli to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Add peanut butter mixture and toss to combine.
  5. Optional: serve with chopped peanuts as a topping.
Peanut Ginger Pasta
Give this colorful and delicious dish a try for Meatless Mondays - 
I think your family will enjoy it!

Dining out for vegans

One of the biggest challenges we had when we first became vegans was dining out. Many restaurants just don’t offer many vegan options. The good news is – plant-based eating is becoming more and more popular.

We recently returned from a week-long trip to Berea, Kentucky and had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful trails, shopping for interesting handmade craft items, and eating some amazing plant-based food. We were fortunate this time – to find several good vegan entrees from local restaurants.

Below is a kale salad I had at the Trustee’s Table at Shaker Village of Pleasant Valley, KY. It was one of the best tasting salads I’ve ever tasted – for real! The ingredients included kale greens, Granny Smith Apples, Dried Cranberries, Sunflower Seeds, Grated Parmesan (not vegan), Lemon Parmesan Dressing. I’m not a huge fan of kale – but this kale was finely chopped and mixed well with all other ingredients. The flavor combination was amazing! I also had their delicious black bean soup and my husband had a bowl of their tomato celery soup along with a simple salad. This restaurant prides itself in being “seed to table” and they“celebrate Shaker Village’s roots by featuring dishes made of seasonal ingredients from our garden and local farmers.” No wonder the food was so fresh-tasing and good!

Kale Salad from the Trustee’s Table

Another great place for vegan fare was Noodle Nirvana. This local hole-in-the-wall place served up a great variety of Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese-inspired bowls where you choose your noodles: ramen, pho (rice noodles), glass noodles, or “zoodles” (zucchini spirals). I chose the later along with sesame grilled tofu and a sweet and tangy pad Thai sauce. My husband chose rice noodles and the peanut sauce. Both dishes were delicious and we were impressed to find out that the restaurant gives 25% of it’s proceeds from the first Tuesday of every month to a non-profit that helps people in their community. Last year they raised over $44,000 for God’s Outreach Madison County Food Bank! Also, the Berea Urban Farm provides fresh, locally grown vegetables for the noodle bowls. Now that is truly a community centered eatery that we like to support.

Noodle Nirvana gives back

Another great place for breakfast or lunch was the Native Bagel Company. I had the most amazing avocado spread on a whole wheat bagel. Their menu includes vegan options and their website tells that their bagels are made fresh every morning and feature ingredients from over 20 local producers. I also liked their dining area which features an entire wall of plants (see below). How cool is that?

Native Bagel Company, Berea, KY

My husband happens to be half Italian so we usually like to find authentic Italian food when dining out. We found just the place – Papa Leno’s on the city square. We usually opt for a “build your own” pizza using our favorite ingredients: mushrooms, peppers, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. These guys know how to make a crust! It was bubbly, yeasty and very delicious (although we cheated and topped it with cheese). What is pizza without cheese, people?

Veggie Pizza at Papa Leno’s
Berea College Farm Store

One more food stop on our visit to Berea was the Berea College Farm Store. Even though the name sounds more like a produce store, they offer lunch daily, Tuesday through Saturday, made with ingredients produced by their student farming enterprises. The day we were there they had homemade soups, wraps, sandwiches and salads. We split a delicious veggie wrap made with hummus, spinach and lots of veggies. We also had some delicious home-made potato curry soup. Their fresh sourdough bread put out for diners to share was so good – we ended up purchasing a loaf to take home!

Dining Out Tips for Vegan:

  • Look up restaurants on travel sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp and search for the word “vegan” under categories or reviews.
  • Use a vegan app like Happy Cow to find vegan friendly restaurants – based on customer feedback.
  • Look up the online menu of a few well-rated restaurants and see what they offer for plant-eaters. Most restaurants will let you look at their menu before being seated.
  • Choose an Asian restaurant – they almost always offer a veggie stir-fry entree. Most of them will switch out tofu for just about any meat on their menu if you ask.
  • If you can’t find any vegan or vegetarian main entrees – look for an appetizer that is veggie-based (i.e. veggies & humus, or spring rolls, soups, fries, etc.).
  • Ask your server if they offer any vegan or vegetarian entrees. I did this when it was late and I had no where to go but to a Burger King drive through. They mentioned that they had a veggie burger even though it was not on the menu – and it was actually pretty good! Many burger places will offer a bean or veggie burger – even if it is not listed on the menu.
  • Order a salad! Most salads can be made large enough for an entree. If you add soup and/or bread – you will have a meal! Wendy’s, McDonalds, and even Chick-Fil-A offer a variety of salads. Just ask for them without the meat.

Lentil and Butternut Soup

I had purchased a butternut squash and was looking for a recipe to use it. This has been a cold winter – a good time for veggie-packed soups. I thought I would try this lentil and butternut soup recipe to add some color to our menu. It ended up making a lot (6+ servings) and is another way to get some protein (lentils) and nutrient-rich leafy greens (I like to use spinach). This recipe was taken from “One Dish Vegan” by Robin Robertson and is budget friendly. I made some minor adjustments – including adding the squash earlier. Preparation should take an hour total (about 15 minutes to peel and cut veggies and 45 minutes to cook). You could try putting all the ingredients into a crock pot and cooking on low for 3-4 hours. If you try it – let me know how it turns out. 🙂

Lentil and Butternut Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium-size onion, minced
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 tsp)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 7 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small (or med.) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 3 cups) – use 5+ cups for 6+ servings.
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped stemmed chard, kale, or other leafy greens (I like to use spinach)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil or water in a large pot (or dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the lentils, squash, tomatoes with their juices, marjoram, and broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 35 minutes (covered). Stir in the greens and thyme and simmer until the lentils and vegetables are tender (about 10 – 15 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve hot.

Linguine Vegetable Toss

Linguine Vegetable Toss

I was recently looking through my recipes and found this one written in my mother’s handwriting. My Mom is 84 is not a vegetarian or vegan, but she has always liked to try new recipes from time to time. This dish is easy (takes 30 – 35 minutes), is packed with vegetables and noodles, and serves 6 – 8 people (great for a family). Both my husband and I really liked it and I’ve been enjoying the left-overs this week (yummy!).

Linguine Vegetable Toss

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz box of linguine or other pasta
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into strips
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups zucchini unsealed, cut into thin strips
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic (2 tsp.) minced
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 4 scallions (green onion) sliced
  • 4 cups plumb tomatoes cut into chunks (I substituted this with 2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes (unsalted)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Linguine and carrots after cooking together
  1. Start by cutting up all the veggies (ask someone to help – it will go quicker)
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, mushrooms, red pepper and garlic. Cook until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add oregano, basil, zucchini, and scallions. Cook until tender. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 8 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, put pasta and carrots in a pot of boiling water. Cook for 8 minutes (or whatever is called for on package). Drain and put back into pot.
  5. Slowly combine sautéed vegetable mixture with pasta and toss until coated. I like to put the pasta in a large serving bowl (pictured above) and then cover it with the veggie mixture and toss it together. My Mom’s recipe says, “Don’t let veggies fall to the bottom of the bowl.”
Veggie mixture simmering

I like to top this dish with some nutritional yeast in place of parmesan cheese.

Linguine Vegetable Toss