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.

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 sautĂ©ed 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

Lentil Sloppy Joes

Lentil Sloppy Joes

As a vegan, it is sometime a challenge to know what dishes to bring to social gatherings. Recently our church had a special potluck lunch with the theme “Holy Smokes” – featuring BBQ meat dishes. I took up the challenge and decided to try a recipe I found in the Feb/March 2019 edition of Taste of Home Magazine. This would be a great meal for families with younger kids. It was simple to make, tastes great and it serves 14 (perfect for potlucks and family gatherings)!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (3 tsp.)
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 5 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can (8 0z) tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 4 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 14 whole wheat hamburger buns, split and toasted.

Instructions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, peppers and carrot; cook and stir until crisp-tender, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  2. Add broth and lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until the lentils are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve on buns.

Note: I found that this mixture was too sloppy so you may want to reduce the vegetable broth some. It did thickened some in the fridge overnight.

Nutrition info: 1 sandwich: 215 cal., 5 g fat (1 sat. fat), 0 cholesterol, 438mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate (8g sugar, 7 g fiber), 8g protein.

How do you get your protein?

The first question most people ask when they discover that we eat a plant based diet is “why”? I covered our reasons on my home page: “You don’t Eat No Meat?!” The second question they ask is – “How do you get your protein without eating meat or dairy?” I remember asking my vegan friends the very same question.

The simple answer is – plants supply all the protein I need for a balanced diet. We get protein from the same place other herbivores do – plants! Those eating a vegan diet can get plenty of protein from grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, leafy greens and small amounts of healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado. Here is a video posted by Dr. Michael Greger (NutritionFacts.org) that talks about plant-based proteins being better for long-term health than meat & dairy (Published on Oct 26, 2011).

According to Medical News Today.com, these are the top 15 sources of plant-based protein:

Tofu in curry sauce
  1. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame
    1. Firm tofu (soybean curds) contains about 10 g of protein per ½ cup.
    2. Edamame beans (immature soybeans) contain 8.5 g of protein per ½ cup.
    3. Tempeh contains about 15 g of protein per ½ cup.
  2. Lentils  
    1. Red or green lentils contain plenty of protein, fiber, and key. nutrients, including iron and potassium. Cooked lentils contain 8.84 g of protein per ½ cup.
  3. Chickpeas
    1. Cooked chickpeas are high in protein, containing around 7.25 g per ½ cup.
  4. Peanut Butter
    1. Peanuts are protein-rich, full of healthful fats, and may improve heart health. They contain around 20.5 g of protein per ½ cup.
    2. Peanut butter is also rich in protein, with 8 g per tablespoon, making peanut butter sandwiches a healthful complete protein snack.
  5. Almonds
    1. Almonds offer 16.5 g of protein per ½ cup. They also provide a good amount of vitamin E, which is great for the skin and eyes.
  6. Spirulina:
    1. Spirulina is blue or green algae that contain around 8 g of protein per 2 tablespoons. It is also rich in nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins (although not vitamin B-12) and manganese.
  7. Quinoa
    1. Quinoa is a grain with a high-protein content, and is a complete protein. Cooked quinoa contains 8 g of protein per cup.
  8. Mycoprotein
    1. Mycoprotein is a fungus-based protein. Mycoprotein products contain around 13 g of protein per ½ cup serving.
  9. Chia seeds
    1. Chia and hemp seeds are complete sources of protein that can be used to make smoothies, yogurts, and puddings.
    2. Seeds are low-calorie foods that are rich in fiber and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are a complete source of protein that contain 2 g of protein per tablespoon.
  10. Hemp seeds
    1. Similarly to chia seeds, hemp seeds are a complete protein. Hemp seeds offer 5 g of protein per tablespoon. 
  11. Beans with rice
    1. Separately, rice and beans are incomplete protein sources. Eaten together, this classic meal can provide 7 g of protein per cup.
  12. Potatoes
    1. A large baked potato offers 8 g of protein per serving. Potatoes are also high in other nutrients, such as potassium and vitamin C.
  13. Protein-rich vegetables
    1. Many dark-colored, leafy greens and vegetables contain protein.
    2. A single, medium stalk of broccoli contains about 4 g of protein
    3. Kale offers 2 g of protein per cup.
    4. 5 medium mushrooms offer 3 g of protein
  14. Seitan
    1. Seitan is a complete protein made from mixing wheat gluten with various spices. The high-wheat content means that it should be avoided by people with celiac or gluten intolerance. For others, it can be a protein-rich healthful meat substitute.
    2. When cooked in soy sauce, which is rich in the amino acid lysine, seitan becomes a complete protein source offering 21 g per 1/3 cup.
  15. Ezekiel bread
    1. Ezekiel bread is a nutrient-dense alternative to traditional bread. It is made from barley, wheat, lentils, millet, and spelt.
    2. Ezekiel bread offers 4 g of protein per slice. Get even more protein by toasting Ezekiel bread and spreading it with peanut or almond butter.

I also found a more extensive list that can be printed out at a website called OrdinaryVegan.com.

Do I have to eat all this stuff??

To be honest, I have not tried every food item on the list above. In fact some I have never even heard of (Spirulina). I just wanted to share this list so you can see that you don’t have to eat tofu every day just to get the daily recommended amount of protein. There are many options and most of them are actually cheaper to purchase than meat or cheese. I would say that most of our daily protein comes from beans, nuts, dark green vegetables and quinoa. We add tofu or tempeh to an occasional recipe but usually only once every 2 or 3 weeks.

Do you get the ‘Meat Shakes’??

Roasted boar in Tuscany, Italy

A friend of mine once asked me if I experienced any meat withdrawal symptoms when I stopped eating meat (he called it the “meat shakes”). Although I occasionally crave Chick-Fil-A or some good BBQ pulled pork – I am actually fine not eating meat and dairy. My taste buds have changed to actually want to eat more veggies and fruit. To be honest, I actually feel relieved to not have to deal with slimy chicken breasts and bloody red meat. It used to make me hate cooking – for real! I will say that I still have a weakness for ice-cream or anything chocolate (which is not good for my sugars – see blood tests below). We found a really good coconut based ice-cream called “So Delicious” which is true to it’s name.

I also wanted to share my most recent blood work (below) which was taken just a couple weeks ago. You will see that the protein in my blood has not gone down much at all since I began eating vegan in June of 2017. The good news is that my cholesterol still remains low – compared to 2015 and 2016 (when it was inching up to 200).

The only nutrients that are not found in a vegan diet are B12 and Omega 3 fatty acids. We take a multi-vitamin that provides the B12 and other B vitamins and I also use nutritional yeast a few times a week (has the same nutrients). I’ve recently found a plant based source for Omega 3 called Ahiflower Oil (it can be found on Amazon at a reasonable price). Flaxseed oil is another possible source.

I hope this information helps you understand how easy it is to get protein on a healthy plant-based diet. If anyone asks you about protein, just tell them that broccoli has more protein, per calorie than steak! If you would like to learn more about eating a healthier plant-based diet make sure to sign up for or follow my blog.

Mediterranean Pasta

Some friends took me out to lunch for my birthday earlier this week and I had a fantastic Mediterranean Pasta dish. It had all my favorite ingredients: spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes and pine nuts! I was determined to try to make it for my husband.

Tonight I looked up the menu description online and decided to take my best stab at replicating the recipe. I also had help from another Mediterranean Pasta recipe I found on Wellplated.com. I made some modifications and swapped out a few ingredients. My husband loved it and rated it 5 stars – even without the feta cheese! It only took about 25 minutes to prepare and serves up to 4 people. This is so easy and the savory flavor would go well with a nice sweet wine.

Mediterranean Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz (or half a box) of penne pasta (a little more if serving 4)
  • 4 cloves of garlic – minced (about 2 tsp)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (or 1/4 cup water if avoiding oil)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes – cut in half
  • 1 can or (14 oz) jar quartered artichoke hearts (I use water-packed)
  • 1 can whole pitted black olives (6 oz) – drained and sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • A pinch (about 1/8 tsp) of red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz of sliced of baby bella mushrooms (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups of baby spinach (stems removed)
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes – chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup feta or parmesan cheese (omit if vegan)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley – or fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

Instructions

  1. Bring large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tsp. of salt (opt.). Cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain.
  2. While water boils and pasta cooks, prep vegetables and remaining ingredients: mince garlic, cut cherry tomatoes in half, drain and roughly chop the artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil (or 1/4 cup water if not using oil) over medium high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, the 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes (if using). Sauté, stirring frequently unit the garlic is fragrant and the tomatoes begin to break down and release some juices into the oil, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat. Add the artichokes, olives if using, and spinach. Dried the lemon juice over the pasta. Continue tossing and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the spinach is wilted and the mixture is warmed through. If pasta seems too dry, add a splash of the reserved pasta water to loosen it. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as desired. Remove from heat and sprinkle with feta (or grated Parmesan), pine nuts and parsley or basil.