Optimal Health: 6 Meal Ideas That Contain A Grain, A Green & A Bean

I love saying ‘a grain, a green and a bean,’ when I’m asked what an optimally healthy meal is. Party because it rhymes and it’s rhythmic, and partly because it’s mostly true. You can use other starches (sweet potato/white potato/squashes) instead of (or as well as) the grain to nutritionally round-out a meal, and of course you can add plenty of other veg that aren’t green. But it’s just an easy, fun way to remember how to get a full complement of nutrients in a meal.

Of course you don’t have to eat the full trifecta for every single meal either. It’s just something to aim for on a reasonably consistent basis.

With this in mind, here are 6 great ways to utterly rock the holy trinity that is the gorgeous grain, the glorious green and the beauteous bean! 🙂 :

1. Black Eyed Pea Curry With Collards & Potatoes

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This recipe is from isachandra.com – Post Punk Kitchen that was. I remember watching Isa’s videos that she shot with her friend in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn, like, a million years ago. I’ve made several of her recipes and she knows her shit. Make.This.Now. Ooh, and serve it over brown rice!

2. Pasta Fagioli with Cranberry Beans and Kale

pasta-beans

I’ve used fatfreevegan.com several times, always with delicious, yummy success. Don’t forget to use wholewheat pasta! Also, Susan (the recipe creator) says you can use pinto or borlotti beans if you can’t find cranberry beans (phew – I’d never heard of these!)

3. Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew

quinoa-isa

From isachandra.com again. What dish could be more perfect for winter?

4. Cajun-Style Vegan Red Beans and Rice

cajun-beans

I make a version of this, but to be honest, this recipe from emilieeats.com has a couple more flavours than mine. And Emilie is a Louisiana dude so knows what’s what when it comes to Cajun beans, so I’m using her recipe here. You can wilt a little spinach into it for your greens, or just have any steamed greens on the side.

5. Adzuki Bean Noodles with Bok Choy, Edamame, and Miso Sesame Sauce

noodles

This recipe from thefullhelping.com uses adzuki bean noodles; but just simply switch these for brown rice, black rice, or soba (buckwheat) noodles, to get your grain.

6. Shimbra Asa (Spicy Chickpea Stew) & Atakilt Wat (Gardener’s Vegetables in Aromatic Spices)

ethiopian

Much like the blogger over at profoundhatredofmeat.com , Ethiopian food is easily my favourite. This year I discovered Shimbra Asa (pronounced ‘shimbrassa’), a dish I hadn’t yet tried in all my years of visiting Ethiopian restaurants, and it blew my teeny-tiny mind. It’s like a berbere stew with chickpea balls in it, and it is heaven. It’s soul food. When you eat shimbra asa, you know damn well you’ve been fed.

I haven’t yet tried to make it (I’m scared I’ll f**k it up) but this recipe looks legit. Your ‘grain’ is the highly nutritious teff used to make the injera bread, your ‘bean’ is the chickpea flour, and your green is the cabbage in the atakilt wat.

 

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Grilled Portobello Burgers With Smoky Chipotle Sauce

 

Warning (in a good way): This recipe really is killer. It will impress non-vegans, and it’s great for a casual dinner party because it’s so damn simple – you’ll be able to chat easily to the annoying guest who stands in the kitchen talking to you while you’re cooking, instead of thinking ‘would you please go and chat with everyone else already!’ and feeling mean about doing so.

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Ever fancy a big, juicy, burger with all the trimmings; something creamy and cheesy on the burger; a smokiness reminiscent of bonfires and barbecue, and where the burger juice seeps a little into the toasted bun and every moment of mastication is sheer heaven?

I did too, yesterday.

Now bean burgers are great, I love ’em.

And seitan patties – fantastic!

But when portobello mushrooms are just THE PERFECT shape and size already, and have a meaty texture when grilled (it’s almost like portobellos were invented PURPOSELY to be vegan burgers!!), I wanted to go this route instead.

Sometimes bean burgers can be dry (unless deep fried), and I definitely wanted a ‘juicy’ quality, without any frying action having taken place.

I love trying to ‘upgrade’ junk food. Junk is ok once in a while, but I figure we can have it MORE OFTEN (and still remain healthy) if we make a few switches, and just upgrade a few of the ingredients. What’s ace though, is that we lose none of the taste! Not a single bit!

Now this recipe DOES contain oil, but if you’re concerned about it you can always minimise the quantity, or just using water instead of oil may work too.

I don’t have chronic disease so I do include a little oil in my diet.

This recipe was inspired by the portobello burger recipe on veganvigilanteblog.com, but I’ve simplified it, and changed a couple of measurements and ingredients (adobo sauce is only sold online in the UK!) I wanted it to be accessible to all.

Also, the original recipe adds a layer of vegan cheese. I’ve excluded this; partly because we have no decent vegan melty cheese in the UK, but also because it really isn’t needed. The cashew chipotle sauce is plenty cheesy. If you want that extra cheese factor, go ahead and add a layer of vegan cheese on the burger.

 

What you’ll need:

All the shizz you will need.
All the shizz you will need.

For the burger:

  • 4 x wholewheat buns
  • 4 x portobello mushrooms (remove stalks)
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 1x large sliced tomato
  • 1 x red onion (thinly sliced)

For the marinade:

  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 x cloves garlic minced (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil

For the chipotle sauce:

  • 3/4 cup plain cashews soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes
  • 1 x large clove garlic (or 1 tsp of garlic powder)

 

What you do:

Note: Put the cashews on to soak in boiling water for an hour first!!

For the marinade:

De-stalk your mushrooms, and I also recommend peeling them – I feel they absorb liquid better when peeled, as the skinned flesh has a more spongy texture.

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Left: smooth finish; right: spongy finish!

In  a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and spices.

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Roll each mushroom in the marinade, making sure both sides are well coated. Use a spoon, basting brush, whatever it takes! Let sit for 15 minutes.

Too big for the pan now - but wait and see what happens...
Too big for the pan now – but wait and see what happens…

For the chipotle sauce:

Add drained cashews, water, lime juice, sea salt, garlic, chipotle flakes to food processor (I used my Magic Bullet).

Looks gross now - but wait!!!
Looks gross now – but wait!!!

Pulse until smooth consistency, then set aside.

Ta-daaa!
Ta-daaa!

Grilling and dressing the burgers:

Grill mushrooms for approximately 10 minutes on each side. They will reduce in size, that’s normal.

Impressive shrinking trick or what?
Impressive shrinking trick or what?

Remove from grill, and then the fun begins!

Lightly toast the cut side of your buns under the grill (under the broiler if you’re a US friend), and gather together your toppings.

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Place a mushroom on one side of each bun, and add a generous dollop of the chipotle sauce. Remember, you’re not using cheese (unless you are!), so really, a GENEROUS dollop!

That's a small dollop. You should make yours bigger!
That’s a small dollop. You should make yours bigger!

Dress with lettuce, tomato and red onion slices and serve!

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Now THAT’S a sexy little burger!

Serving suggestions:

Feeling virtuous? Serve with corn on the cob and steamed greens.

Feeling a little cheekier? Serve with my yummy sweet potato fries!

 

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Makes: 4 burgers. Up to you if this is one each for 4 people or 2 each for 2!

Prep time: 5ish minutes (though cashews need to soak for an hour)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Spiciness level: Pretty spicy, say, 7/10 where 10 is ‘oof!’

Suitable for kids?: If the kids are good eaters and like spicy foods, then yes absolutely. If they are picky eaters, not so much.

 

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Vegan Okra Bamia Stew Recipe

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Go to any Middle Eastern restaurant, and aside from having a decent choice of delicious vegan hot or cold starters (lots of these vegan by default); the main course that more often than not pops up is ‘Vegetarian Bamia.’ Now this should always be vegan, I’ve never known it to contain dairy, but do check if in doubt.

The NON-veggie version is lamb with okra, but who needs to eat an animal when it’s the spices and the okra texture that are the main attraction here anyway?

‘Bamia’ is the Arabic word for okra, but it’s also the word for the traditional spicy tomato-based stew that contains it.

It’s delicious, super easy to replicate; healthy; and as the spice flavour is quite subtle I’d say it’s pretty kid-friendly too.

This is a bamia recipe from an ancient cookbook called ‘Cooking Class Middle Eastern‘ and looks like it was part of a set from an Australian ‘women’s’ magazine. Lord knows how I came to have it. The recipes are pretty sound though and even though it’s not a vegan cookbook, many of the recipes are.

The recipe in the book is actually called ‘Okra With Baby Onions And Tomato.’ Maybe they didn’t think people could handle the word ‘bamia’?

Feel free to adjust amounts as you see fit or according to how many people you are serving.

I’ve put the amount as per the recipe for the spices and garlic but you could add extra cloves of garlic and 1/2 to a whole teaspoon more of each spice if you want more taste – I ALWAYS add more!

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the fixin’s for the bamia flavour!

You’ll need:

  • 700g okra
  • 2 medium-large onions, sliced (the recipe in the book actually calls for 12 baby onions, but what the hell? Who has time to skin and chop 12 onions separately??)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Regular size can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups (or 500mls) vegetable stock
  • Olive oil

 

What you do:

  • Give the okra a good old wash. It’s hard to get organic okra, so just rinse it well and drain in case of pesticide residue.
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luvverly clean okra
  • Cut the tops from the okra, taking care not to puncture the pods.
  • Try and cut them along the natural line. It should look like this:
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niiiiiiice, no holes
  • Not like this:
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yuck! holey okra!

If you cut them too far down you’ll end up with mushy okra, as the liquid will seep into the pod and mush it right the heck up!

You’ll accidentally cut too much off a few tops, but as long as the majority are ok, that’s fine.

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  • Heat a small splash of olive oil in a pan, and saute the onions for about 15 minutes or until they are browned. Remove from pan – just keep them in a bowl until you are ready for them.
  • Heat another splash of oil in the same pan, add okra, garlic, and spices; and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until okra is fragrant and lightly browned.

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  • Return onions to pan and add the can of chopped tomatoes and the stock. Simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until okra is very soft and tomato mixture is thickened.

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Total prep and cooking time: 1 hour approx

Servings: If made as per the recipe and as a main dish – 4

Serving suggestions: Can be served over rice, quinoa, baked potatoes, wholemeal toast etc.

 

 

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Go Back To Your Winter Roots: Celeriac And Rutabaga Fries

Winter ain’t good for much in my book.

If I never see another winter it’ll be too soon.

I mean…um…not that I want to die before next winter; but whhhhhhhhhyyyy can’t it go SPRING! SUMMER! AUTUMN! REPEAT!!!

But…I guess I love skating on the Christmas rinks. And the new Starbucks mulled apple chai with REAL cinnamon sticks is kinda delicious.

And I loooove hot, warming soups and bean stews and curries.

And………

………Wait for it…….

WINTER ROOT VEG!

It’s perhaps worth suffering just a little winter for these?

Now we’re all down with the parsnips, carrots and turnips; but there are two others you may not be so familiar with that would love to be players in your winter meal rotation.

Why?

Just ‘cos they’re darn well delectable that’s why!

Uh, it’s fair to say these two characters ain’t pretty; but their charm is in their rich, earthy taste.

If you haven’t tried them already, get some in and see what you think.

It isn’t always the prettiest veg that taste the nicest!

And they’re cheap as chips, hurrah!

The first is celeriac. This is its prettiest side:

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And this is its slightly grizzlier side!

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Not to put you off, but it looks a little brain-like to me!

But seriously; please don’t be put off by the nobbles or the hairy bits 🙂

The second glorious but lesser known winter root veg is rutabaga; or swede as its known here in the UK.

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This is a little more photogenic – I love the green with the purple.

Oh, also? These two fellas are fibre-filled nutrient bombs.

Celeriac is a great source of Vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, manganese and vitamin C; while the rutabagas will provide you with vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

One of the best and simplest things you can do with these two veg is make fries. YAY, friiiiiiiiies!!

Celeriac / Rutabaga Fries

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200C.
  • The hardest part of this recipe is peeling your root veg and chopping it into fries; but you’re no wuss; you can do it.
  • You’ll want to make the fries quite thin, say, 1cm wide maximum, otherwise they’ll take too long to bake.
  • Lay your cut celeriac or rutabaga fries in a parchment-paper lined baking tray thus; and spray them with either sunflower or olive oil.
Celeriac cut into fries. Yumski!
Celeriac cut into fries. Yumski!
  • Salt generously and sprinkle either fresh or dried rosemary evenly-ish all over.
  • Bake for approximately 35 minutes (or until they brown slightly), turning them once half way through.

These are the fries of the celeriac:

IMG_20151203_215248629

 

And these are the fries of the rutabaga:

Gimme dem fries now!
Gimme dem fries now!
  • Serve with vegan garlic aioli, vegan mayo, ketchup etc.

 

Mash

Have a change from potato or sweet potato mash – try mashed celeriac or rutabaga!

You can even do half potato, half rutabaga; or half potato, half celeriac. The other day I mashed a mix of the root veg I had left in my fridge – which happened to be sweet potato, a wedge of celeriac and a couple of turnips. I was doubtful that it could work but it was absolutely delicious!

Make the mash exactly as you would regular potato mash. i.e. boil the veg till soft; drain; mash your veg while adding a splash of soy or almond milk and a knob of dairy-free margarine. Season well with salt and black pepper.

Stews & Soups

Celeriac and rutabaga are great in stews and soups. Try sometimes adding either (or both!) to any recipe instead of potato.

Don’t get in rut with your roots! Shake it up! Don’t worry about the ugly! Isn’t there a saying.. ‘ugly on the table, damn tasty in the mouth?’ No? Well there OUGHT to be.

 

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Recipe: A Shepherd’s Pie NO-ONE Can Argue With

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Even though it’s eerily warm here right now (what happened? Novembers used to be cold! Oh yes…global warming); we know the cold nights are soon to be a’ brewin.’

Or at least I hope they are.

Then I get to make this superb (and simple) shepherd’s pie recipe.

It’s quite simply the best shepherd’s pie recipe I’ve found and I’ve served it to plenty of non-vegans who have been so blown away they’ve gushed embarrassingly over it.

It has all the flavour, and all the comfort and stodge you want from a shepherd’s pie, but none of the minced up…um….what animal is mince even from? I just realised I never actually knew this when I used to eat it!! (OK, just googled it, its ground cow).

I found this recipe years ago. It’s originally from a tiny, pocket-size book called Vegan A Go-Go by Sarah Kramer – though I’ve adapted it somewhat and make it a little differently every time.

You’ll maybe want to play around and make it your own too.

 

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You’ll need:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, roughly cubed
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach (or pre-steamed kale or pre-steamed spring greens/collards)
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large beef tomato, chopped (or just 2 big tomatoes if you can’t find a beef tomato)
  • splash of olive oil for sauteeing
  • 1/2 cup canned green lentils, drained, rinsed and mashed (you can also use dried green lentils – throw 1/2 cup dried lentils in a saucepan of boiling water and boil for 20 mins or until soft. Drain. You might need to measure out 1/2 cup again of the drained lentils – as they will have expanded)
  • 1/2 tspn dried basil
  • A pinch of rosemary; a pinch of sage; a pinch of thyme and a pinch of parsley – or whichever of these you have
  • 2 tspns garlic powder or 2 crushed garlic cloves (or less, or more, to taste)
  • 1tbsp Braggs or soy sauce

Topping:

  • 3 medium potatoes, roughly chopped  – or you can do half white potatoes, half sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 tbsp (This is what the recipe says – I use a little less) vegan margarine
  • Salt (to taste)

 

What you do:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)
  • In a medium pot of water, boil the potatoes. If you are mixing white and sweet potatoes – give the chopped white potato a 5 minute head start before throwing in the chopped sweet potato.
  • In a medium saucepan, saute the onions, carrots, celery, tomato, and spinach if you are using it (if you are using kale, add this once you’ve steamed it).
Just to make life difficult, I used dried lentils instead of canned!
Just to make life difficult, I used dried lentils instead of canned!
  • When the carrots are tender, add the mashed lentils, herbs, garlic and soy sauce.

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  • Stir and simmer uncovered until the liquid cooks off.

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  • While the vegetables are cooking, mash the potatoes with the milk, vegan margarine and salt. Then set this aside.
  • Pour the vegetable mixture into a greased casserole dish (use the vegan margarine) and push down with the back of a spoon.

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  • Then layer the mashed potatoes over the top.

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  • Bake for 15-20 mins
  • Grill (broil for US peeps!) for 5 mins at the end so it browns a little on top, like so!

IMG_20151114_222731275
This recipe makes 4 average-sized portions, though to be honest my partner and I often have a couple of servings each and finish off the whole thing!

 

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8 Things You Need To Do BEFORE Going Vegan

produce for the week from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Peyri Herrera, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

I’m assuming here that you’re going vegan cold Tofurky!

But if you’re easing into a plant-based lifestyle at a gentler pace (which I wholeheartedly encourage if you think this is best for you), these tips will also apply, though perhaps at different stages.

 

1. Inform yourself well on plant-based nutrition

Before you run for the hills because you didn’t expect to have to study – RELAX.

It’s not complicated and will not take long, I promise. Here is a good starting point.

The reason this is top priority is because there are lots of people who go vegan without being sufficiently informed on nutrition, and as a result relapse back into meat-eating because they feel like they are missing an important nutrient.

Being well nourished on a vegan diet WILL become second nature to you much quicker than you think.

There is NO nutrient in meat that isn’t available from a healthier source in plants (before you say vitamin B12 – vitamin B12 is a bacteria that animals ingest, it’s not actually FROM animals, and we can supplement this easily).

Therefore, with a little studyin’ (not much, honest!), or a little help from a coach (Hi there!) there is no reason to be undernourished and every reason to enjoy your best health ever!

 

2. Do a big-azz shop.

You’ll need lots of gorge-looking food at home to inspire you, and so you’ve always got enough stuff on hand to whip up something yum – even if it’s dead simple.

I don’t care whether you shop at a farmers market, at Whole Foods, Lidls or Walmart. Doesn’t matter.

Include: Lots of colourful fresh produce (don’t forget potatoes, both sweet and the white variety; avocados and squashes); a good selection of grains (brown rice, quinoa, wholewheat pasta, oats etc); beans (chickpeas, red kidney beans etc); lentils, nuts and seeds, and some decent wholewheat bread. Dips like hummus, guacamole and salsa are great for snacks. Maybe some olives to stick in a pasta dish…

 

3. Get some answers to the questions and comments you’ll inevitably get when people find out you’ve gone vegan.

Don’t worry, you really don’t get bombarded with aggressive questions when people find out you have this new lifestyle, in fact the most common question is ‘what made you go vegan‘ so you’ll already have your answer for that.

But, whether its internet trolls, paid shills or actual friends and family who are misinformed about a plant-based diet, you’ll need answers to lots of questions and comments that you’ll come across. Whether it’s the PROTEINPROTEINWHEREDOYOUGETYOURPROTEIN??? Or ‘But lions eat gazelles it’s the circle of life don’t you know…’ if you are armed with knowledge you’ll be confident and assured in your responses.

This post and this one will help you get started, but there is plenty of info online. If my voice doesn’t resonate, try this Gary Yourofsky talk, or this one by Colleen Patrick Goudreau.

You don’t have to learn this all at once; you can always read up as you’re going along. If you’re making a lifestyle shift as impactful as going vegan, then you are probably motivated and firm in your intention and a few silly comments won’t bother you or sway you from your path anyway – it’s just satisfying to have that knowledge to draw on those times when you need it.

There’s a lot of dodgy health info around as well so you’ll need to know what’s good and what’s really serving some animal-product based corporate interest.

 

4. Avoid animal products.

Well, duh! I’m trying to do that anyway, hence the whole VEGAN thing?

What I mean is, clear them out of your space. If you still have some eggs/butter/cheese in the kitchen – get rid. When you’ve been vegan a while, you’ll be fine those times you have to be around animal products, but until your taste buds adapt to your new diet, get temptation out of your face.

 

5. Whatever the word ‘treat’ means for you – make absolutely sure to have plenty of it around

The last thing you want to feel is treat-less. You’re gonna feel pretty damn hard-done-by if you see everyone else gorging on yummies and there’s nothing for you. This is the easiest way to give up. No matter what your ‘treat’ is, make sure you have plenty on hand in the first few weeks of going plant-based.

If your particular ‘treat’ food isn’t vegan – veganise it. Google ‘vegan (your yumminess here)’

For example, one of my treats is chocolate (I know, how pedestrian!), so I had to find amazing vegan chocolate. Luckily, it turns out the best chocolate is vegan anyway; I just had to steer clear of the milky, over-sweet stuff.

 

6. Plan for some kitchen time.

Yes, there are vegan ready meals and even vegan meal delivery services now (Cheers Beyonce!), but it’s a great idea to get into the kitchen and find a repertoire of new meals you enjoy, so you’re never at a loss for a great meal.

I’d say you need 6 dishes or so to start off with. After you’ve made each recipe a couple of times you’ll know it by heart and you’ll be able to whip it up in no time. It may take a bit of trial and error finding dishes that work and that you love, but once you’ve found a selection of meals you like, you’ll have a great foundation. After that, when you get a bit of free time, find another dish to add to the rotation.

Here are three of the dishes in MY rotation that are delicious and easy, but you’ll want to find some for yourself to suit your tastes.

Black bean and quinoa soup

Sweet potato chilli

Ethiopian red lentil soup

 

7. Have some ‘can’t be bothered’ meal ideas ready.

Sometimes you’ll need a quick solution.

You may have had to go late night shopping and there’s no time to cook. Or you’ll just have had ‘one of those days’ – you come home and you really CANNOT be arsed cooking a meal from scratch. You couldn’t focus on what you were doing anyhow.

It’s easy for new vegans to relapse on days like these and just dial a pizza.

Think baked/mashed potato and baked beans (mashed is quicker if you’re really short on time); or baked/mashed sweet potato, corn on the cob and a steamed green veg.

If even that would take too long – you’ll find vegan ready meals at your local supermarket. In the UK try Dee’s Wholefoods , and the Bol range – some of which are vegan. In the US, Whole Foods has several ranges of vegan ready meals, and bigger supermarkets stock some in their health sections.

Keep a couple in always, for when you really have no energy left to cook.

 

8. Set your intention. 

Set your intention to become vegan (in whatever time frame you intend to do it), but be kind to yourself and KNOW that there may be mistakes or ‘cheats’ along the way.

Obviously you’re not willing these things to happen, it’s just that even with the best intentions, they often do – you may buy a product that seems vegan, then later realise it wasn’t.

I did this with falafel once. I was starving and bought some falafel to eat cold, then later realised they had egg in them. Now this is ridiculous. Falafel should NEVER contain egg, that’s why I didn’t take much notice of the list of ingredients when I bought them. But it turned out they did.

You may find yourself with a group of friends who are sampling a cheese board, and not be able to resist taking a piece of cheese.

These slip-ups do NOT negate your intention to be vegan. Be kind to yourself and move on. Tomorrow is another day. Hell, the next hour is a new hour!

You WILL get to a place where these incidents barely happen.

 

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Killer Snacks (That Were Already Vegan), Part 4: Toast ‘n’ …

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Toast rules.

You know this already of course.

There is nothing like the smell of fresh, wholewheat bread, toasting away in the, er, toaster.

If you weren’t hungry before, once you get a whiff of the toast your partner is fixin’ you want some yourself amirite?

I remember being in a theatre in Paris when I lived there, oooh, a long-ass time ago, being really stoked to see a play in English (Sam Shepherd’s True West, since you ask). I spoke French fluently, but sometimes it was just nice to see something in my own tongue.

Halfway through the play, as part of the scene, one of the characters starts making toast (for realz, not fake prop toast). Though I was at the very back of the theatre, the gorgeous smell of it entered my nostrils – I’m not sure whether it wafted that far back or if my nostrils actually involuntarily suckered it back there.  I hadn’t eaten before going out and was STAR-VING. The minute that smell hit my nasal passages the play was over for me. I couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore, only fantasise about toooooaaaaast!

When you first go vegan it’s important to have killer, quick, easy snacks to hand, so you don’t feel like it always takes an age to get some good, tasty grub down your throat.

You need to know there are as many amazing, quick bites for you as there are for those who consume animal products.

Though ideally, when first transitioning to a plant-based diet you’ll spend at least a few nights a week in the kitchen cooking from scratch making simple, yet incredible tasting meals (this is the best way to realise that being vegan isn’t difficult or bland), there needs to be something you can grab those times you come in late from a gig/match/play/party and NO WAY are you gonna cook anything at THAT time.

IMG_20150726_123031I found myself desirous of a savoury snack yesterday afternoon (uh, I hadn’t come in late from anything, it was just a regular between-meal snack),  and with bewilderment, realised I had too large a choice of toast toppings, each one equally delectable, each one calling my name as loud as the others.

This is a fabulous (yet confusing) dilemma to have – but one that people think doesn’t apply to vegans. ‘What DO you eat?’  is the first thing many new vegans get asked. Yesterday I really needed to decide what NOT to eat.

I weighed up my options:

  • Tapenade. If you don’t know what this is, it’s crushed olives with garlic and capers. You can get both black and green olive tapenade, and you’ve never had anything more delish on a thick slice of artisanal wholewheat toast. It’s available in Whole Foods and in most big supermarkets – you might need to look in the world food section as it’s often with Greek products, and may also be called ‘olive meze.’
  • Guacamole. One of my favourites. Of course plain old ‘avo toast’ is excellent, but you can either buy ‘guac’ from a deli, or make it yourself with some avo’s, salt, coriander/cilantro, lime juice, chopped onion  – and chilli if a little kick is what’s called for.
  • IMG_20150726_123223Kimchi. I’ve spoken of the spicy, pickle’y’ delight that is kimchi here, and here I show you how to make it. You can also find it in Whole Foods or other supermarkets (though you’d need to check it’s vegan as it can contain anchovies or fish sauce). It’s soooo good on toast, especially when the toast is well done and the juice from the kimchi soaks down into it. You get the burnished taste of the browned toast with the salty, ginger of the kimchi –  *’MWAA’S’ on fingers and gesticulates like an Italian*
  • IMG_20150725_191714709Peanut butter. You might think humble old PB is the runt of the litter here, or pure filler, and I can see why you’d think that. Admittedly, you need quality peanut butter, preferably organic. Crunchy or smooth? Up to you. I prefer crunchy for added texture. Spread it liberally while the toast is still hot, maybe add a few drops of soy sauce and smoosh it into the PB with the spreading knife. Add some chopped spring onions if desired.

 

 

What did I choose? One slice guac and one kimchi. I’d had toast with tapenade that morning.

SHUTUPITWASTHEWEEKEND

 

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6 Easy Ways To Incorporate Plant-Based Habits Into Your Life

With meat and dairy-strong diets being a prime contributor to climate change; pretty much all chronic diseases; and of course to the unhappy, short, brutal lives of animals; it’s no wonder many of us are considering how we might either go plant-based ourselves, or at the very least make a shift in that direction.

For some, it’s not too difficult. I, personally, was not particularly red meat-oriented; I always preferred chicken or fish options; and I never liked milk, so when I went vegan it was not too drastic a change for me.

However, this is a world in which most of us have been encouraged to eat meat and drink milk from a very young age in the belief that it was good for us, so it’s understandable that for lots of us, it’s not so easy making a change.

How can we all, even the most bacon-loving of us, incorporate some changes into our diet, to help us tread lighter, feel better, and maybe even reap a few of the health benefits a plant-based diet offers?

Here are 6 very manageable ways. You can try one of them; several; or all if you’re feeling it:

 

1. Make sandwich filling an animal product-free zone.

Use a vegan spread in place of butter, then top or fill your bread with mashed avocado, a sprinkle of soy sauce and chopped spring onions; or hummous, sliced tomatoes and arugula; or sliced veggie sausage and sauerkraut, or good old peanut butter and jelly.

Vegan club sandwich

Continue reading “6 Easy Ways To Incorporate Plant-Based Habits Into Your Life”

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As A Vegan, What DO You Eat At A Barbecue?

Veggie BBQ Rules! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 lostintheredwoods, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Oh dear.

I have to confess, I’m a total Debbie Downer when it comes to barbecues.

I think they’re stupid.

Yes, I’m completely aware I’m alone in this.

My feelings may have something to do with the fact that, like a lot of Londoners I live in a small flat with, oooh, approximately two square feet of garden. Pretty much every sunny summer weekend, neighbours (whose gardens are no bigger than mine) seem to think it’s a great idea to squeeze lots of friends into their garden and fire up the barbie.

My problem with this is as follows:

I don’t like my laundry on the washing line to end up stinking of smoke from burning pig.

If I’m sitting in my garden, trying to enjoy the delicate scent of the orange blossom tree, I’m not keen on instead choking on smoke from burning cow/pig/lamb.

Even if I’m indoors with the windows open (cuz you WANT them open on a sunny day) I still get smoked out – because wouldn’t you know, the wind always seems to be blowing in the direction of my house on these days. Do these people check which way the wind is blowing before starting? Would they even have the barbecue if they got blowback into their house?

At a previous address (on a street that had similarly small gardens), I once approached neighbours and asked them nicely if they would mind extinguishing their barbecue as my house was getting full of smoke. They suggested I close the windows.

I won’t tell you what I did then, but it may have involved a garden hose 🙂

I also hate the whole ‘women cook in the kitchen but men cook on the barbecue’ BS too. Wtf is THAT about?

And why does a sunny day equate cooking outside?

I get that it’s absolutely lovely eating outside; I try and do this as often as possible, but why not cook in the kitchen and bring the food outside? Or go on a freaking picnic?

F%^&K BARBECUUUUUUUES!

And don’t even get me started on barbecues’ even more evil cousin – the hog roast!

No really, DON’T.

AAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

OK. I feel better now.

Of course, when I think about it rationally, I realise the problem is inconsiderate arseholes, not barbecues.

I’m sure you have a MUCH healthier relationship to barbecues than I do, so what can you eat at these traditionally meat-based fests if you are vegan? Do you have to avoid them altogether?

The good news is that no, you don’t. Barbecues are as much for you as they are for the most rabid meat-eater.

Assuming you or your barbecue host have an APPROPRIATE.SIZED.GARDEN, what goodies can you enjoy grilled outside?

Firstly, you should know  that barbecues are potentially MORE fun for you, as in my barbecue experience, meat-eaters tend to only grill about three types of meat, and maybe have potato salad or coleslaw as a side (yes, the nineties probably WAS the last time I went to a barbecue!) Whereas, pretty much the entire plant world and a gazillion permutations of it are open to you.

Easy, practical, no brainers are as follows:

Barbecue from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Lablascovegmenu, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Corn – Delicious grilled as it is, or slather on a marinade of your choice (chilli lime for example)  before wrapping it in foil and putting it on the grill

Portobello or field mushrooms – Just brush with olive oil and season before grilling.

Veg skewers – (See header pic) Use chunks of red, green, yellow pepper, baby plum tomatoes, whole chestnut mushrooms, squares of red onions, thick slices of yellow and green courgettes (zucchini). Intersperse veg with chunks of firm tofu or seitan if you desire a meaty element.

Dip your veg and tofu chunks in a mixture of olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 tspn basil, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.  Thread the skewer with the veg and grill.

world's best-tasting grilled eggplant from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 woodleywonderworks, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

 

 

Aubergine (eggplant) – Marinade sliced aubergine in a simple Teriyaki sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, olive oil and some crushed garlic and ginger) for an hour or so, then throw on the grill.

 

 

 

Grilled sweet potato spears with maple syrup and mustard glaze #food from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Steven Depolo, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Sweet potatoes – Either chop them into thick wedges, or wrap them in foil and throw them on the barbecue. How ever you’re eating them; my favourite flavours for sweet potatoes are salt, paprika and garlic powder (mix equal measures of the paprika and garlic in a bowl). Spray wedges with oil, salt generously and sprinkle the paprika/garlic mix on top.

For foil wrapped potatoes; when they’re cooked add some vegan margarine, salt generously and fork in some paprika/garlic mix.

 

Otherwise: I’ve picked out what I consider to be the best of the best plant-based BBQ recipes (both mains AND great BBQ sides) on the internet for you.

Enjoy…

50 mouth-watering ideas are right here.

23 more are here.

21 more right here.

17 slightly simpler, but no less delicious ideas are here.

You can even grill avocados! This was news to me; I just learned that right now. And fruit!! Did you know that? I didn’t. Did you see the caramelised grilled peaches?

Wow. I’m literally just learning what I’ve been missing out on!

You know, looking at all these recipes as I’m compiling this post, I am (very unexpectedly I might add!) starting to feel a nascent desire to have a barbecue! Not in my garden of course, I’m not a douche, but maybe in a park somewhere with lots of space. I’m grinning broadly as I’m writing this, because I thought I’d be a ‘cue hater for life. It’s amazing what food pictures can do. I love learning while I’m writing!

 

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Yummy, HEALTHY Banana Bread Recipe. You’re So Welcome.

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I don’t know about you but at the weekend I haven’t got time to be experimenting with lots of different cake recipes (though I truly wish I did have).

Sometimes I make something different to shake things up; but mostly, if I don’t have too much time, I’ll make some good old banana bread.

This particular recipe is genius. I discovered it two years ago, and I’ve made it pretty much every weekend since.

It’s SUPER easy, and it’s practically healthy. You can keep it gluten-free if you need, and it’s absolutely free of refined flour and sugar (but doesn’t taste like it!).

You can sex it up by adding chocolate chips, or keep it virtuous and plain.

You can spread your favourite non-dairy spread and some jam on it, dip it in your tea or coffee, or just munch it as it comes.

It makes an ideal addition to a packed school/work lunch. Grab a coupla’ slices and go!

It lasts pretty well too, but if you’re in a hot place, or if it’s summer, I’d probably keep it in the fridge after the first day.

The recipe is from the Babycakes NYC cookbook, but I add a little nutmeg, and change up half the flour type to make it a wee bit more economical (but you can totally make the original version if you want it super light, or specifically need it to be gluten-free).

Look how well-worn and, er, cake-mix spattered these pages are!

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Mary-Louise Parker loves banana bread too!

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour (As this can be quite pricey, I use 1 cup of Bob’s and 1 cup of whole spelt flour. If you are gluten-free and/or want ultimate lightness of sponge, use 2 cups of Bob’s Red Mill; but you’ll still get a decent enough texture with 1 cup of Bob’s and 1 cup of whole spelt)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarb)
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I like 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 2/3 cup rice or soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of pureed bananas (I usually use around 4 bananas for this)
  • To take this recipe ALL the way to heaven, add 1 cup dark chocolate chips at the same time as the banana

If you’re wondering what the heck xanthan gum is, it’s a plant-based binder. It replaces egg so well you’ll wonder why you ever used eggs in cakes in the first place.

You can get it from any supermarket, witness:

IMG_20150522_200009235_HDR

What you do:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 7x4x3 inch loaf pan with oil (or two smaller loaf pans). Use greaseproof paper if the loaf pans are a little past their best!

Measure all the dry ingredients out into a medium bowl and whisk them together.

IMG_20150523_124321497

 

Add the coconut oil (this is my brand)

IMG_20150523_125153904
Other brands are available 🙂

You may need to melt it in a pan first, as it’s solid at room temperature or from the fridge – don’t let it get too hot!…

IMG_20150523_124736690_HDR
Yeah, kinda looks like lard!

…then add the agave, milk and vanilla extract. Stir with a wooden spoon or desert spoon until mixture is smooth and lump free.

IMG_20150523_130057347_HDRIMG_20150523_130323972_HDR

Blitz your bananas and add them to the bowl. This is also the time to add the chocolate chips if you’re gonna do this. DO IT!

IMG_20150523_131036543_HDRIMG_20150523_131550481_HDR

Lightly FOLD the blitzed banana into the rest of the mixture with a thin spatula. You’ll need to do this for a good two or three minutes so it gets well incorporated into the batter.

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Dollop(!) the mixture evenly into your oiled or lined loaf pan(s). The mixture should fill the pan(s) halfway – trust me it will rise like nobody’s business.

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Bake your banana bread in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan(s) and bake for another 15 minutes.

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Can you even wait 15 more whole minutes?

You’ll know for sure it’s done as it’ll bounce back lightly when pressed, or an inserted toothpick or skewer will come out clean.

Let it stand in the pan(s) for 20 minutes or so to cool, then carefully run a knife around between the cake and the pan and empty it onto a cutting board.

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Eat warm or cool. It’s good any which way!

Behold my pal Lisa, loving on the banana bread…

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