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.

You don’t eat no meat?

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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.

“How Not to Die” – written by Dr. Michael Greger, MD, FACLM 

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!).

One Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson

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.

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