Monday, January 9, 2012

Vegspiration: Vegan Dinners

Since vegans and vegetarians often get asked, "What do you eat?" I thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes so far to inspire meatless meals for everyone. It's more than just salads, that's for sure! ...Not that there's anything wrong with salads, of course ;-)

Yeah- so it's too bad vegans don't have anything to eat, right? ;-)

Recipes pictured above (all are vegan; those with stars are my favorites. See tabs above or info below for more on these and other dishes):

 First row from left: All-stuffed up wrap*, Maple Almond Tofu*, Mini Quiches.
Second row from left: Cauliflower bake*, Very Veggie Black Bean Soup*, Veggie Napoleans*
Third row: Stuffing, Mac & Not-Cheese, Tofu Crunch Wrap.*

Whoever thinks vegan food is boring, bland, restrictive, weird, or flat out doesn't taste good hasn't eaten at my house recently. (Not that I haven't had a few mishaps, but trust me: vegan's not a dirty word).

Delicious polenta stacks
 More info on some of my favorites:

These recipes include veggies and beans, tofu, or tempeh:
  • Polenta stacks - It's amazing how good these taste given the relatively few ingredients. I also think they have a little bit of a wow-factor and could be great at a dinner party. Best to make when you can find fresh Swiss chard (I like rainbow or red best) and/or kale. 
  • Sweet & tangy Brussels sprouts & tempeh -  Roasted Brussels sprouts in a sauce that's slightly sweet with a little bit of a spice kick. It's also quick and easy to make! I promise Brussels sprouts can be delicious! Also, the very tasty sauces for this recipe and the next one make for good bases that could be used to liven up a veggie stir-fry.
  • Maple almond tofu - This is a decadent-tasting recipe that I think will change your mind about tofu if you think it's blah & boring!  
  • Spinach & chickpea saute: Nothing fancy, but easy, healthy, and yummy! A good dish to make as you're easing in to vegetarian/vegan fare. It's like a warm cozy stew.
  • Black Bean Very Veggie Soup: Speaking of stew, this could almost pass for one. Hearty, veggie-fied, deliciousness. Quick & easy too! It's an awesome meal in a bowl, trust me.
  • All stuffed up wrap- Ok, this one is time consuming and involves a lot of ingredients, but OH MY GOD is it a good wrap with delicious ingredients. Plus, you'll be making a great salad & salad dressing that goes into it, so you'll have plently of leftovers, including a goddess-like dressing, kale salad, fancy mushrooms, high-protein hummus, fresh avocado with a new twist, and a mango topping too. If you're using this as a dinner item (would be a good spring/summer dinner) you can serve with the kale salad that goes into it, or with a side of steamed asparagus. 
  • Artichoke & golden chickpea salad- So YUM! And so fast and easy. Perfect on top of some fresh greens. 
  • Succotash- Super easy, quick, fresh and healthy! Best to make when you have some fresh ripe tomatoes.  
  • White bean healthy pasta - I don't have a recipe up for this one yet, but an easy meal to make in one pot: Use a quinoa or kamut pasta, and just before draining the water, add in broccoli and steam for a few minutes. Then drain and add some fresh spinach, butter beans (they are large and white and so good!), and some sliced sun-dried tomatoes. Add pasta sauce of choice and heat for a few minutes. Easy-peasy meal!
These require a few more vegan products, but are well worth it:
  • Cauliflower bake - This dish is so delicious, and tastes warm, creamy, and hearty even though it is healthy. It's pretty easy to make, but takes about 60-90 minutes all in. Includes the best marinara sauce I've ever made and a really yummy dairy-free white sauce too. (Note that this dish includes a little nutritional yeast, which you could *probably* omit if you are really opposed to buying different ingredients you've never tried. BUT, they are very good for you and add flavor and thickness to the recipe. Be sure to ask for help finding them in a natural foods or high-end grocery store such as Whole Foods, since nutritional yeast is not the same as baker's yeast).  
  • Tofu crunch salad- (lunch/lighter fare) This is a delicious and incredibly easy salad to make. Consider it a good stand in for tuna salad or chicken salad, without the heavy unhealthy mayo. 
  • Broccoli, mushroom, and tofu salad - another light & easy dish that is great cold. Serve on top of a big 'ole bed of greens for a full meal.

A few quick tips if you aren't used to vegan cooking:
  • Don't be afraid of new things like tofu and tempeh!
  • You don't always need dairy to make things taste good, I promise!
  • Give some adventurous greens a try, such as kale, Swiss chard (rainbow and red are so good), collard greens. They're a good source of vitamins A, C, K, and calcium and fiber too.
  • Try hearty whole grains like farro, barley, and quinoa rather than rice or plain pasta. Simply mixing in some veggies with these fiber rich healthy grains makes for a great meal. And adding in fresh herbs packs flavor and makes simple fancy. 
  • Fresh is always best! Avoid canned veggies at all costs, and don't turn your fresh veg into a soggie overcooked mess. In addition to losing flavor, you also lose nutrients.

Any of the recipe favorites I've linked to on this page would be a great start to getting veggie inspired! I love them all, but if I had to pick just 3, I'd say the polenta stacks, black bean soup, and cauliflower bake are real wow-ers.

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