Fool Proof Plant Based Meals
Have you been wanting to eat plant based, but have no kitchen confidence? Does it seem impossible that you could whip up plant based creations in your own home that you and your family and friends would even want to eat? Relax! There is a fool proof plan to get you cooking and prepping away in no time, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg or stress you out in the kitchen.
First, what on earth are we going to cook? I find inspiration everywhere. Mostly, in my instagram feed, since I follow tons of vegan and plant based users, but a quick shortcut is to search for hashtags. Did you know that you can follow hashtags? You can! I follow #VeganRecipes #WFPB #ForksOverKnives #PlantBased #PlantBasedRecipes. You can do a really specific search too, like #InstantPotVeganDinner, #EasyWFPBRecipe, #VeganPartyFood or #PlantBasedKidSnack, whatever you are looking for. Follows and searches are your meal planning friends.
Obviously, Pinterest, Google, YouTube and other places are all good spots for inspiration as well. I even get inspiration from commercials, restaurants, pictures of food, or someone describing something yummy they had. Anywhere!
Make Anything Vegan
Anything! Do it your way. For foolproof plant based meal planning, you don’t have to color inside the lines and learn how to masterchef some weird new food that tastes like cardboard. That’s a myth. Take your favorite food and veganize it. This is where those searches come in handy. I love pasta, and I LOVE mac and cheese. I have vivid childhood memories of waking up from dreams where I had to eat my way out of a house filled with mac & cheese. True story. Now, I boil whole wheat pasta shells, and make a potato carrot nutritional yeast cheese sauce (google it- super common) then stir it up with vegan butter and cream cheese and shredded daiya cheese. All vegan. Add some coconut milk and bake to melt the cheese. Top with fried onions. No, not the healthiest, but a HIT at Thanksgiving! For daily use, I’ll skip all the added stuff other than the cheese sauce and add broccoli. Kids scrape the bowl.
I saw a video once on Instagram where someone did a step by step preparation of a vegan whopper, down to the special sauce. I might have drooled a little. The point is, you do not have to say goodbye to your favorite things. They’ll just be a little different and make you feel a hundred times better!
One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to recreate omnivore meals vegan style, I can Veganize anything! (With the secret superpower known as the internet.)
Be brave. Try a new thing. Do not be afraid of getting dirty in your kitchen. Plan a day to play. When you shop, buy a new weird vegetable that you’ve no idea what to do with and experiment! I have had my share of huge triumphs and hilarious fails in this department.
A favorite party snack I love to bring is carrot and jicama sticks with a side of hummus. Jicama was an experiment that went great, and all I had to do was slice it into matchsticks, like carrot sticks. Absolutely satisfying- and they all get eaten up at a party. Another win was throwing turnips and rutabagas into an instant pot in cubes. They are delicious and now a regular vegetable in my house.
I experienced a huge fail the time I tried familiarizing myself with Name (Nah-may) root. I baked it into tofu shaped cubes, and it came out as the blandest crunchy air light toasted cubes. Not good, but I put them in a mason jar and my dogs freaking loved them as doggie treats. They kept on the shelf forever. There are a few weird horned melons and tropicals that weren’t a huge hit, but I’m glad I tried them. For the most part, I’ve ended up finding something that was useful when I can get it in season. Don’t fear failure, it’s fun!
Here’s a few tips when trying to cook new foods:
In a skillet or pot, get the add-ins started, then add what you’re cooking.
New veggie starter kit: Garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper
New grain starter kit: mirepoix, veggie broth salt and pepper
If it’s a sweet grain (oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc.) try cinnamon and a tiny dash of clove with some creamy milk substitute.
Basic Plant based Meal Building Blocks
Let’s break it down into simple components. Most vegan meals are just different assemblies of these few things.
Whole Grains: Rice, quinoa, oatmeal, millet, farro, buckwheat, whole grain pasta, barley
Veggies: in order of health: Raw, steamed, frozen, baked, pan sauteed, canned
Greens: Yes, also a veggie, but so important it needs its own category. Spinach, kale, chard, salad greens, sprouts, wheat grass, spirulina.
Fruits: Do not be afraid of fruit! They are powerhouses of antioxidants and nutrition. Packed with hydration and fiber. Fresh is best, but frozen is wonderful. I try to eat berries every single day. If they aren’t in season in produce, they always are in the frozen section. Packed with antioxidants which are healing, repairing and anti-aging. Yes, anti-aging. Look and feel younger. Fruit!
Beans: So many ways to eat beans. Edamame. Hummus. Refrieds. Bean salad. Cowboy caviar. Tofu, tempeh. In soups. As a salad topping. As a main course OR a side dish. There are so many kinds of beans and they are sometimes snuck into desserts, too! Black Bean Brownies are a thing. Beans and Rice are such a daily staple in our home, and kids LOVE them.
Toppings: Go extra w/nutrition and pizazz. Nutritional Yeast. Chia Seeds. Goji Berries. Chickpeas. Chopped or dried fruits. Nuts. Berries. Peanut Butter. Flax Meal. Hummus. Prepared quinoa, bean salads. All kinds of leftovers. Apple Cider Vinegar. Maple Syrup. Lemon juice. Olives. Artichoke Hearts.
Putting It All Together:
Cooking is just about chopping…
Get out your cutting board & knives. Chop up carrots, celery, and onions in a small dice. Stick in the fridge as your mirepoix to use as a starter for grains, soups, and sauces. It elevates just about everything you make.
Rinse and chop all your veggies and fruits, so they are totally grab and go. Celery sticks, Berries, Pineapple, Watermelon, Carrot sticks, Cucumbers. Anything you’ll want to use as a snack or topping throughout the week.
Here’s a few ways to prep in advance.
Pressure cook or Boil a big pot of grains for the week. I usually do oatmeal and also a grain like brown rice or quinoa. An instant pot is fabulous for a big batch of dried beans. I love making a huge pot of garbanzos (chickpeas) and using to make hummus. I keep plain in mason jars in the fridge for a topping or a chickpea dish.
Bake vegetables and tofu. I’ll put two sheet pans into the oven filled with veggies and tofu for the week. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, corn on the cob, zucchini, onions, whatever.
Fool Proof Basic Meals
If this still seems really daunting to you, start small, with prepped toppings that can go on three things:
Oatmeal– always fruit. Definitely recommend berries. Also add nuts, peanut butter, flax seed, maple syrup (REAL maple syrup, not that cheap high fructose corn syrup!) Bananas, cinnamon. It’s your oatmeal, have a party with it. Prepped toppings make simple eating really fun. When you have spent time on Sunday to make a huge pot of steel cut oats, you just have to microwave and top for a super quick breakfast all week long.
Salad Greens- lots of veggies and a bean (hummus counts). See the toppings list in Building Blocks above for some amazing things you can add to salads. I always have tomatoes on hand too. I’ll slice a fresh one for each salad. You can add leftovers, grains, beans, and all kinds of stuff to your salad, make it hearty. Do not be stingy! Salads go in serving bowls, not a little cereal bowl. Eat big.
Brown Rice– Veggies and greens. Steamed or Sauteed spinach, chard, collards or kale. Don’t forget the beans. Hummus, tempeh, tofu, blackeyed peas, pintos, chickpeas, black beans. All good. Add hot sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos.
Once you’ve nailed these basic meals by prepping grains and toppings, you’re basically making food sundaes all week. Then as your confidence grows, you can get crazy and branch out into nachos, lasagna, actual sundaes, other grains, grits, smoothie bowls!
Build the Habit, Get Comfortable
Above all else, if you aren’t experimenting in the kitchen, you’re going to end up at the restaurant or frozen foods section, a victim of hunger without a plan. We have ALL BEEN THERE. I make my kids hit the fruit bowl before they get their hands on chips and salsa or pretzels and hummus. They can fill up on an apple, orange or banana first. See? Vegans have totally convenient pre-packaged to go foods!
Make it a habit to spend some quality time in your kitchen. Date your kitchen. She has such delights in store if you treat here with enough affection.
You Can Do It!
Get in there, you fearless plant based chef! You’ve got this, and I believe in you.
If you found this useful, please share with your friends! Sharing is caring, and the more people on board, the more help you have coming up with awesome meals! Aloha!