Most nights I look forward to cooking dinner. I listen to music on my iPod, perhaps enjoy a small glass of wine, and relax as I chop, sauté and braise. Other nights, when I come home starving, teach a late yoga class, or go for a long run after work, I want my meals to be no-fuss, no-muss, on the table in 20 minutes or less. (I must confess that I have a pretty sweet arrangement with my boyfriend: I cook, he cleans. I'm really good at making messes in the kitchen!) These are my top 10 go-to vegan meals. You can make them as simple or as fancy as you'd like. Use heat-and-eat rice, canned beans, and pre-chopped or frozen vegetables to save time, or gussy up these recipes (techniques, really) on nights when you're feeling creative. Add some fruit and a cup of calcium-fortified non-dairy milk (we vegans need strong bones!), and dinner is served.
- Build your own burrito: Choose whole-grain wraps (I like Ezekiel sprouted grain ones), add beans, a sauce, and a handful of at least two veggies.
- pinto beans, chipotle salsa, mixed greens, chopped red pepper
- black beans, hoisin sauce, cabbage kimchi, shredded carrots
- chickpeas, curry sauce, spinach, steamed broccoli
- Beans, greens and grains: Saute up some aromatics if you have them, then add your chopped greens. (Try frozen precut greens--no need to add extra water!) Saute until almost tender, season with salt and pepper, then stir in your precooked beans and grains just to heat. Stir and top with hot sauce, nutritional yeast, or even a fancy mustard.
- black-eyed peas, collards, and barley. Top with smoked paprika and hot sauce.
- black beans, kale, and quinoa. Top with salsa and chopped avocado.
- white beans, broccoli, and farro. Add sun dried tomatoes and capers.
- A giant salad: Make it a meal by starting with a base of dark, leafy greens. Don't skimp--at least 3-4 cups. Add a handful (1/2 cup serving) of two or three vegetables, a serving of protein, and something tasty to sauce it up, plus a fun topping. Add a simple whole-grain or serve it on the side.
- mixed greens with farro, sliced red onion, fennel and shredded carrots, topped with Italian-style tofu, balsamic vinaigrette and chopped olives.
- Romaine with black beans, bell peppers, grape tomatoes, salsa, and chopped avocado, with baked tortilla chips (Bonus: sprinkle on nutritional yeast and hot sauce)
- arugula with sliced almonds, grapes, broccoli, with tarragon vinaigrette and a slice of whole-grain baguette
- Tofu scramble: Whatever you used to put into omelets you can put into tofu scramble. Find the recipe here (the basic version), then add leftover sautéed vegetables. Serve with toast or roasted potatoes. Vegan cheese (Daiya) on top would be excellent.
- Spinach, onions and mushrooms
- Black beans, peppers, and vegan Cheddar
- Tomatoes, kale and roasted peppers, plus basil
- Basic pasta: Most dried pasta is vegan, and it's easy to find quality tomato sauces without cheese or meat. Add cooked lentils, crumbled tempeh or seitan Italian sausage to your red sauce and pasta, then top with nutritional yeast. And don't forget your veggies!
- lentils, plus steamed spinach, with capers and olives--use a spicy tomato sauce
- Italian "sausage" with mushrooms and peppers--great for a veg-heavy sauce
- tempeh with zucchini and carrots, fine for a basic marinara
- Burgers and fries: Veggie burgers have come a long way. Find a brand you like, and keep a box on hand for busy nights. Skip the bun and serve over greens, alongside frozen potatoes, which have also come a long way in terms of quality.
- Black bean burger with spinach, with sweet potato fries and chipotle salsa (ooh, and avocado!)
- Basic burger over Romaine with tomatoes, onions, and pickle, plus tater tots (you can find natural, vegan ones!) and ketchup and mustard.
- Indian-spiced burger over steamed kale, with roast potatoes and curry sauce or chutney
- Loaded baked potato: I like to consider my starchy sides to be a blank canvas, a way to showcase my creations. Whether you choose white or sweet, pop your spuds in the microwave, then top with a protein, some veg and a sauce. Super easy and filling.
- Sweet potato with pinto beans, peppers, and spinach, plus pineapple salsa (and nutritional yeast!)
- White potato with white beans, arugula, and tomatoes, plus pesto
- Sweet potato with split peas, broccoli and peppers, plus red curry sauce
- Cheesy rice and veggies: You don't have to use rice here; you can use any grain. Add two tablespoons of nutritional yeast per serving, a splash of soy sauce, plenty of pepper, a dab of vegan margarine, and enough unsweetened soy or almond milk to create a sauce. Adjust ingredients as needed. Heat, and serve with your favorite veggies. This is my equivalent of boxed mac-and-cheese. It's not fancy, they cheese "sauce" is not perfect, but it's good and tasty. Put a dab of something tasty on top.
- Farro with Italian vegetables, with pesto.
- Rice with broccoli and cauliflower, with sriracha.
- Quinoa with tomatoes and mushrooms, with smoked paprika.
- Stir-fry: Otherwise known as "throw whatever's fresh in the fridge into a pan and call it dinner." Easy, tasty, fast. Protein + veg + grains on the side. Season to please.
- Tofu, various veggies in assorted colors and soy-ginger sauce, all over rice.
- Tempeh with carrots, peppers, and broccoli, plus curry sauce and barley.
- Chickpeas with peppers, onions and cabbage, plus millet, with barbecue sauce
What was your biggest challenge this week? How did you conquer it?
- Tasting plate: You know those nights you're too tired to cook? This is what you need. If you stand in front of the fridge or in the pantry eating whatever strikes your fancy, you'll end up eating way more than you planned--with little nutrition.
Fill a plate with a handful of each of these: vegetables (preferable 2-3), nuts, fruit, whole-grain crackers, bread or a rice cake. Serve with a little bowl of dip. You're snacking, it takes two minutes to prep if your veggies are already cut, and you won't dive face-first into the kettle chips.
- Celery, carrots, cucumbers, with white bean hummus, sprouted-grain crackers, grapes and almonds.
- Peppers, cherry tomatoes and jicama with guacamole, a segmented orange, baked tortilla chips, and pecans.
- Fennel, broccoli, and endive with mushroom pate and wheat crackers, blueberries, and pistachios
What is your goal for next week?
Keep checking in with your progress here and on the weekly thread in the vegetarian team! (Click here for this week's thread.)
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Like this blog? Then you'll love "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet."