There has never been a better time to try out a plant based diet than during this COVID-19 pandemic. The two biggest reasons to eat meatless meals while “sheltering in place” are: A) Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to boost your immune system and B) fruits and veggies are cheaper and more plentiful in stores than meat and dairy (which can be harder to keep fresh). Some of you who are home with your families may have more time to prepare meals and can ask your children or partner to help prep/chop up veggies for recipes. Turn meal prep time into your own “home economics class” and prepare your kids for life on their own (which comes sooner than you expect).
This recipe from Taste of Home.com is one of our family’s favorites, esp. on cooler nights. It uses easy to find ingredients and tastes like a hearty stew – but without the beef. It is easy to make and serves 4 to 5 (or 10 servings if doubled).
2 Tsp olive oil, divided
2.5 medium onions, halved and sliced
1 garlic cloves, minced
4 Large portobello mushrooms cut into 1 inch chunks OR 1 pint package of baby portobello mushrooms cut in half (or quartered if they are big) .
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 2/3 cup dry red wine or cooking wine
1 cup vegetable or mushroom broth (divided)
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (optional – for more flavor)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp minced free thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
1 (15.5 oz) can navy or northern beans, drained
1/2 pkg (14.4 oz) frozen pearl onions (optional)
1 1/2 Tbsp all purpose flour
In a Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onions; cook and stir 8 – 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Remove from pan to a separate bowl.
In same pan, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, cook and stir until lightly browned. Note: If you are doubling the recipe – sauté the mushrooms in two batches and return both batches to the pan when finished.
Add tomato paste; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in wine, 1/2 cup of the broth, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme and carrot mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes.
Add the drained beans and pearl onions (if using) and cook for 30 minutes longer.
In a small bowl, whisk flour and the remaining 1/2 cup of broth until smooth; stir into pan. Bring to a boil and cook and stir 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add more broth if the mixture is too thick.
Serve with crusty bread.
Per Serving (without tomatoes): 234 calories, 6 grams of fat (1g sat. fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 613 mg sodium. 33g of carb., 7g fiber, and 9g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 1 fat.
This quick and easy dish taken from “SmartintheKitchen.com” can be served alone or over rice or noodles. I added baked tofu (using the Easiest Crispy Tofu Recipe) but you could serve it with your favorite protein substitute (like seitan, etc.). Use fresh vegetables if you have then (like peppers, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, etc) – but frozen stir fry mix is just as good and faster. This recipe takes about 20 minutes – but add another 25 – 30 minutes if making the crispy tofu too. Serves 4 – 6
1 Tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil
1 package frozen stir fry mix, without sauce
1 package frozen broccoli, without sauce
5 green onions, cut on diagonally into then slices
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated (I use ginger paste from a tube – available at Aldi)
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
1/3 cup tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), soy sauce or coconut aminos (or more to taste)
Sesame seeds, cilantro leaves or green onion (optional garnish)
Crispy Tofu Ingredients:
1 14 oz block of Extra Firm Tofu (if using)
2 Tbsp of Nutritional Yeast
1 Tbsp Reduced-sodium Soy Sauce or Tamari
If using crispy tofu – follow directions below (takes 45+ minutes – but can be baking while you make the vegetable stir fry).
In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, add 2 Tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil.
Add green onions, ginger and garlic and sauce until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add both bags of frozen vegetables and cook until tender. Don’t worry about defrosting them, just add them frozen and let the pan do the work.
Once vegetables have softened and thawed, add the tamari or soy sauce and taste for seasoning.
Add crispy tofu if it is ready (see recipe below).
Garnish with sesame seeds, fresh green onion slices or cilantro if you’d like.
Instructions for “the Easiest Crispy Tofu Recipe” (taken from “FrommyBowl.com“)
I don’t often make tofu to be perfectly honest (it tends to be mushy). The good news is – I finally found a very easy and fool-proof way to make crispy tofu that actually tastes good!
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
Cut tofu into 16 cubes (about 1″)
Add tofu to a large bowl and add 1 Tbsp of Soy Sauce or Tamari toss with spatula.
Add Nutritional Yeast and gently mix until coated (add more Nutritional Yeast or extra seasoning to taste.
Transfer coated tofu cubes to a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, leaving space between the cubes. Bake on the top rack to the oven for 20 minutes, then carefully flip the cubes. Bake for another 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your tofu. Leftovers will last in the fridge for up to one week.
We are all adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic and for most of us that means staying home and cooking at home. For those of you who are interested in fixing healthy meals for you and your family without meat – you’ve come to the right place! It’s been a while since I’ve posted – but I’ve been trying a bunch of new recipes that I’m anxious to share with others. We’ve been eating vegan for going on 3 years now – and have enjoyed many health benefits including a stronger immune system.
This delicious recipe from The How Not to Die Cookbook with recipes by Robin Robertson, uses 5 fresh vegetables, but you could use canned or frozen if you don’t have fresh. I served it over warm quinoa in bowls – but you could use brown, red or black rice. Just make sure to start cooking your grains before starting on the main entree. You could also substitute any veggies that you don’t have with some of your favorites.
1 red onion (I used a white onion)
1 carrot, chopped (you could use canned)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced (1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger (I use ginger paste in a tube – found at Aldi)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/4 inch pie fresh turmeric, grated (or 1/4 tsp ground turmeric)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups diced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 15.5 oz chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro or parsley (I used 2 tsp dried parsley)
2 tsp blended peeled lemon (I used lemon juice)
1 Tbsp raisins or minced dried apricot (optional – I did not use)
Begin preparing quinoa, rice, or pasta (make enough for 4 servings)
Heat 1/4 cup of water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Cover and cook for 5 minutes – string often.
Stir in the garlic, ginger, tomato paste, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, turmeric and cayenne.
Add the broth, green beans, mushrooms and chickpeas and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes (stir often).
Stir in the cilantro, lemon and raisins (if using) and cook 5 minutes longer. Taste to adjust the seasonings and serve hot.
I will try my best to post more “Healthy at Home” recipes while we are in quarantine.
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).
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
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.
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.
This is my new summer favorite vegan dish! It is simple and quick to make – and it uses some of my favorite ingredients: avocado, quinoa and black beans. It is perfect for hot summer nights when you don’t want to cook over a hot stove. It is great for left-overs too (in fact, I like it cold). Again, all these ingredients can be found at Aldi which makes this a reasonably priced and quick vegan meal that your whole family will enjoy!
This dish can be found on page 44 of “One Dish Vegan” and it serves about 4. It usually takes me about 20 minutes or less. For mine I like to substitute black beans for the pinto beans. Enjoy!
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups cooked pinto or black beans or 1 (15.5 oz) can of pinto or black beans – rinsed and drained
1 cup tomato salsa (our favorite is Newman’s Own Peach Salsa)
2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (opt)
2 scallions, minced (opt)
Juice and zest of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp. lime juice)
Freshly ground black pepper
Torn mixed salad greens for serving (opt)
Place water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tsp salt, and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl to cool. (I like to pop the bowl into the refrigerator until the other ingredients are ready to add).
Add the beans and salsa to the the bowl, and toss to combine. Add the avocados, cilantro, scallions, lime juice and zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
If serving as a salad: arrange the salad greens on plates, top with the quinoa-bean mixture and serve.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
I prepared this delicious and colorful dish for supper last night and served it over quinoa. This easy to prepare dish is from “One-Dish Vegan” by Robin Robertson and is packed full of antioxidants and protein from all veggies! It is soy and gluten-free depending on what you serve it over (couscous, rice, pasta, quinoa, or warm flatbread). It took me about 30 minutes to prepare and it serves approximately 4.
1 Tbsp olive oil or 1/4 cup water
1 medium (or half large) yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
6 t0 8 cups chopped stemmed kale, spinach or chard
Lemon wedges, for serving
2 cups of cooked quinoa, couscous, rice or pasta (enough for 4 servings)
Cut up the onion, sweet potato and spinach (spinach needed last).
Follow directions for cooking about 2 cups of couscous, rice, pasta or quinoa.
In the meantime, heat the oil or water in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes to soften, stirring occasionally, Add the sweet potato, coriander, paprika, thyme, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the tomatoes with their juices, chickpeas, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the kale (or spinach/chard), stirring to wilt. Simmer until all the vegetables are tender – about another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot over couscous, quinoa, pasta or flatbread and top with a squeeze of lemon.
Today’s Bonus Tip:
Eating a plant-based diet is great for your health – but we need to be mindful of toxins from the environment (chemical pesticides and fertilizers) found on our fruits and vegetables.
Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list of the “Dirty Dozen,” or the fruits and vegetables the nonprofit claims have the highest amount of pesticides when grown conventionally versus organically.
The EWG has compiled the list annually since 2004 based on internal data that’s not peer-reviewed. Using 40,900 samples for 47 different types of produce, the EWG found these twelve had the most pesticide residue:
The 2019 Dirty Dozen Foods List:
Strawberries rank number one for the fourth year in a row, and the rest of the list looks similar to years past with one exception: Kale made the top 12 for the first time in a decade.
If you’re concerned about pesticides, the EWG also publishes a list of the “Clean 15,” a.k.a. the produce from conventional growers that generally had less residue in the group’s tests. This year they are:
Asparagus is in season now and can often be found on sale at most food stores (I found mine at Aldi). When I was a girl I hated asparagus, but I think it was either over-cooked (mushy) or under-cooked (chewy). This super easy recipe, taken from Taste of Home (Feb/March 2013 edition), earned the coveted 5 stars from my husband! As a side dish I added a bag of quinoa and kale, found in the frozen section at Aldi. It only takes 15-20 minutes to prepare plus another 15 – 20 to bake (30 – 40 minutes total) and serves 3-4 people as a main dish or up to 8 as a side dish.
1 1/2 lbs. fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minded (1 tsp)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (omit for vegan)
1 tsp. grated lemon peel (opt)
Put asparagus, tomatoes and pine nuts on a foil-lined 15″ x 10″ x 1″ baking pan. Mix 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper; toss with asparagus.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until asparagus is just tender. Drizzle with remaining oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with cheese (if using) and lemon peel. Toss to combine. Serve with quinoa and kale mix (available frozen from Aldi’s – see below).
I was looking for side dish to bring to our church’s annual birthday party potluck and I found this delicious vegetarian salad. Originally called “Summer Salad by the Lake” this salad was created by Ramya Ramamurthy – and was chosen as one of the winning winning entries for the Taste of Home Summer Sides Contest – included in their 2018 issue. I made it on two separate occasions: on a week night I cut the recipe in half for just my husband and I (didn’t include the pineapple) – and then the full recipe for the potluck. Several people asked me for the recipe afterword.
2 medium sweet bell peppers, sliced (I used red and yellow)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 12 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked pearl (Israeli) couscous
1/2 cup red quinoa (I used regular), rinsed
2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-in pieces
2 cups fresh baby spinach (or arugula)
1 cup cubed fresh pineapple (or Mandarin oranges or mango chunks)
1/2 cup fresh shelled peas or frozen peas (thawed)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (omit for vegan recipe)
1/2 cup sunflower kernels (pepitas) toasted
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp grated lemon zest
12 tsp. salt
12 tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl toss together garlic, sweet peppers, oil, salt and pepper; transfer to a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan. Roast until dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring water, oil and salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous and quinoa. Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Transfer the couscous and quinoa to the large bowl. Stir in the remaining salad ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients until blended. Pour over salad and gently toss to coat.
Substitutions: You can use peaches, Mandarin oranges or mango chunks instead of pineapple, or cherry tomatoes instead of heirloom tomato pieces. In the winder, use root veggies such as roasted carrots, broccoli or squash.
If you like Thai cuisine, I think you will enjoy this recipe with crunchy fresh asparagus and a delicious peanut butter sauce. I’m not a huge fan of tofu – but this is one of the best tofu dishes I have ever tasted! It is taken from One Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson. I really like this cook book for it’s simple and varied recipes that are easy to follow and use easy to find ingredients. This simple to follow recipe took us only about 30 minutes to make. It makes about 4 servings and the leftovers are delicious.
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp wheat-free Tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tsp ketchup
1/2 tsp natural sugar
2 tsp Asian chili paste, or to taste (I use Pad Thai sauce)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
14 oz extra-firm tofu, well drained, blotted dry, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
6 scallions (green onions) chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup water
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Cooked jasmine rice (or instant brown rice), for serving
Prepare jasmine or other rice according to directions on package (make enough for 4 servings). Note: Jasmine rice will take about 40 minutes to cook.
In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vinegar, 1 Tbsp of the tamari, the ketchup, sugar, and chili paste until well blended. Stir in the coconut milk, then taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and sauté until browned (about 7 minutes). Add the scallions, garlic, ginger, and the remaining 2 Tbsp tamari, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Remove the tofu mixture from the skillet and keep warm.
Pour the water into the same skillet over high heat, add the asparagus and stir-fry until just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the reserved tofu mixture, about half of the peanut sauce, and the cherry tomatoes, and toss gently to heat through. Serve at once over hot cooked rice. Drizzle the remaining peanut sauce over the top of each serving and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and basil.
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