What I ate last week (and why you should care)

“If you cooked for me, I’d definitely be plant-based!”

“Do you spend hours in the kitchen!?”

“What the hell is that? And can I get the recipe?”

These are a few of the questions and comments I’ve heard recently from friends of mine who follow my overly food-saturated instagram stories feed.  These are extremely flattering comments and I take pride in people taking notice of something I’m passionate about. The not-so-sexy truth of the matter is the way I cook doesn’t take me long in the moment, but does take practice, planning, and patience. And a husband who will eat just about anything.

To tackle all of these questions, I thought I’d write about what I ate this past week, how I come up with the ideas, and the process I use to make healthy, interesting, yet simple recipes that fit into the work week. Why should you care about what I eat or how I get the ingredients to turn into the instagram worthy photos? Because the meals I make are chock-full of vegetables (which you need to be eating more of, don’t you?) don’t use crazy ingredients, so you can find them in a regular grocery store, and they are cost effective, so you aren’t going to break the bank. I believe weeknight meals should be delicious, exciting, and help you spend more time with your loved ones. I use the time in the kitchen to get creative, decompress from my day, and put effort into something I know is good for me. So, if you want to do the same, then read on. And that’s why you should care.

Last Week’s Meals: The Thought-Process

When planning out my meals for the week, I typically take into consideration the extra-curricular activities (on top of work) I have. Will I need to meal-plan on nights I don’t have much going on to compensate for the nights I have hike club, dinner with friends or a jam session with the chuggers (a rad musical trio I’m in with my buddies Ryan & Mark. We rock)? If there are nights that will require a quick dinner, I choose tried-and-true meals I have made before, so there’s no guess work in the kitchen. Everyone has a meal or two that they can put together without batting an eye or opening a recipe on their browser. An example of a meal like that for me? Chick pea tacos, all day. Sliced onions & peppers in a skillet. Can of chickpeas tossed with cumin in the toaster oven. Put that in a spinach wrap, with a side of beans and voila!

For the nights I know I have some extra time, I’ll choose a newer dish that I can get creative with or perhaps a dish that has a sauce (which adds time/extra dirty dishes). How do I choose these meals? By scrolling through Pinterest choosing something that looks delicious, then altering the recipes in my head based on ingredients I know I have or can get at the store easily. Simple is the name of the game here, so picking those exotic dishes don’t work and the ones that take 45 steps to complete aren’t for me either.  For example, I knew I had a jam session last Tuesday, a hike scheduled for Wednesday, and an outdoor movie night scheduled on Thursday. Plus, Mike and I are home for lunch everyday, as he’s in-between projects (we just sold our 5th Happy Homes investment property!) and I work from home. So planning meals that will leave left-overs or buying ingredients that will work for multiple meals, is key. Below are the meals I planned last week – and we ate 18 meals in from Monday to Sunday, two meals were at friends houses and we’re going out tonight!)

Meals

  • Korean BBQ cauliflower wings with spring rolls and veggie wontons
  • Grilled Zucchini Pitas with a vegan dill sauce & sliced Cucumbers
  • Veggie Tacos with peppers and onions and a side of spicy navy beans
  • Lentil Meatballs (I used them for Mediterranean pitas & a spicy peanut ramen dish)
  • Tofu Broccoli wraps with garlic sweet & sour sauce
  • Black bean crumble (from Morning Star) tacos with a chipotle mayo & brown rice
  • Homemade pasta with basil pesto & sun-dried tomatoes

The Plan

I like to pick a day to meal-plan, batch-cook for the week (meaning cook a few of  the more time-consuming recipes) and possibly even grocery shop. Often, I can’t do all of this in one day, especially if it’s nice out. As much as I love to cook, I do like to prioritize my outdoor-time, especially on the weekends.  Last Sunday was Easter and we headed to my sisters in the early evening, giving me all morning/afternoon to prep food for the week. I ended up making the lentil meatballs, as they were a bit more involved, and were something I could heat up all week, in a pinch. Below are some of the sauces, tips and ways I prepared the above. If you take anything away from this post, know that simple ingredients make the best meals and you can save so much money by planning your meals before grocery shopping and sticking to the list.

Homemade pasta with basil & sun-dried tomatoes 

I use the simple recipe from The Ultimate Pasta and Noodle Cookbook. Three ingredients, plus the actual pasta maker. This takes some time, but Mike and I love making it together. And it makes a ton, so we had it for our outdoor movie night and everyone loved it! I purchased the basil sauce & sun-dried tomatoes at the Dollar Store. Yup, both of those items were a total of $2.14. Anyone who typically buys sauces in a groccery store should know that is a KILLER deal.

Vegan Dill sauce

Vegan Mayo

1-2 tablespoons of water

Dried DIll

  1. Mix all together until you have a saucey consistency.

Chipotle Mayo

Vegan Mayo

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1-2 tablespoons of water

  1. Mix it all together until you have a saucey consistency.

Korean BBQ Sauce 

1/2 cup of water

3 tablespoons of sugar free ketchup

1 tablespoon of sriracha

1 tablespoon of soy sauce or amino acids

1 teaspoon of chopped garlic

1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil

  1. Heat oil & garlic for a minute (until melted)
  2. Add ketchup, soy sauce, and water and stir till mixed well.
  3. Add cornstarch mixture and stir till thick. Keep on low heat.

What are you eating this week? Happy cooking!

Plant-Based Soup Swap: 2nd Annual

Plant-based cooking seems to leave a lot of people perplexed – what is plant-based cooking? How boring is a soup with just plants in it!? What about THE MEAT!?!?!?!?!

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Well, let me tell you, plants and veggies are so much more than boring! Vibrant, nutritious, scrumptious, spicy, crunchy, flavorful, bright, tasty…I could go on and on.

My girlfriend invited me to a soup swap a few years back, where people brought homemade soup, told a bit about how they made it, then exchanged them with friends. Brilliant! Last year, I put my own veggie twist on it and held my first plant-based soup swap.

Last year’s Plant-Based Soup swap was such a hit, I knew I had to have another one. This year I threw the invite out to new friends, family and I myself whipped up two delicious soups for the occasion.

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This year, we had 4 beautiful ladies, 5 beautiful, home-made, plant-based soups. Below are the recipes. Enjoy!

4 Bean Veggie Chili

1 onion chopped
1 cup celery chopped
1 cup carrots chopped
Saute’ olive oil till onions are are clear

4 cans trio of kidney beans
2 LG cans roasted tomatoes
2 caned green chilies
2 cans drained black beans
1 can chick peas
2 tabs dark chili powder
1 can diced tomatoes
Heat and enjoy!

Chunky Tomato Soup

I used this recipe – but altered it to make it plant-based by using homegrown tomatoes, coconut milk and veggie broth.

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Spicy Thai Noodle Soup

This soup turned out great, just not as thick as I thought. I bet if you added another can of coconut milk with some sriracha,  it would pop! It was still delicious though – only thing I altered was not adding the sprouts.

Quinoa Peanut Soup

Ingredients

2 tsp canola oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced sweet potatoes
1/2 cup of quinoa
4 cups of veggie broth
2 cups of water
1/2 cup of chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup of natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Tabasco
Ground pepper to taste

Preperation

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and cook, stirring until soft. Stir in garlic & cook for 30 seconds. Stir in carrots, potatoes, and quinoa, then add broth and water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa is cooked and the veggies are tender (about 18 minutes). Stir in red pepper and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. Stir in peanut butter until it is combined into the broth. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, hot sauce and pepper.

 

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Weeknight Meatless Meals Made Easy

Weeknight meals can be tough, especially around the holidays. The hustle and bustle of the day, wrapping gifts, shopping, spreading holiday cheer, holiday parties, and festive outings leave little time to make a healthy, quick meal.

Because of all the running around during the holidays, it’s so important to keep healthy and I truly believe that health starts with nutrition and nutrition starts with what we’re eating.

To simplify: eating healthy meals packed with nutrients contributes to your health!

But who the grinch has the time to check off all the holiday to-do’s plus make a home-cooked meal!?!?!

This past week, Mike and I have been dealing with a few health issues (tooth infection after math for me and a follow up MRI visit to an orthopedic Dr. for Mike – outcomes are positive!) I got home from a business trip, and we are getting ready to put our investment property on the market, so have been particularly busy. But eating healthy is a priority, so I wanted to post our nightly dinners to show how easy it can be to whip up plant-packed meals in under an hour.

Falafels

Sunday Night Menu: Falafels, steamed broccoli & a pomegranate power green salad

Falafel Recipe

1 can 15oz chickpeas drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Tahini paste
1 1/2 cups of Kale
Pepper & salt (a pinch of each)
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon coconut oil for sauteing

Combine first 6 ingredients in cuisine art & pulse/blend to a paste (it’s ok to have some lumps). Add the flour. Form 4 patties with mixture. Heat oil in a saute pan. Saute on each side for 5 minutes, making sure they don’t burn.

 

Monday Night Menu: Sweet Potato Bake with a spinach salad

Sweet Potato Bake

Sweet Potato Mexican Bake recipe

2 small sweet potatoes
1 bag of mixed frozen veggies
1 tablespoon veggie broth
1 tablespoon water

Slice potatoes thinly and put on cookie sheet (you can toss with a bit of oil if you want). Cook at 375 for 20 minutes.

Sauce:
1/2 cup of Carrots
1/2 cup of Broccoli stems
1/2 tsp of garlic & onion powder
1/2 tsp salt & paprika
1/2 cup almond milk
4 tablespoons of dijon mustard
1 tsp of Tapatio (optional, but we like it spicy!)

Cook carrots & broccoli in a bit of water, until soft. Add veggies & the rest of the ingredients to cuisine art/blender and blend until smooth.

Put frozen veggies with broth & water in an oven safe dish. Top with sauce & once potatoes are done, overlay them on top of the bake. Turn oven down to 350 and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

Meatless Meals

Tuesday Night Menu: Mushroom & Tomato Stroganoff with Trader Joe’s Eggplant Cutlets & a Kale Salad

Mushroom & Tomato Stroganoff – Recipe found on One Green Planet (I used veggie broth & it turned out more like a tomato based sauce, but it was still amazing!)

I used Quinoa elbow macaroni & cooked some leftover Trader Joe’s Eggplant Cutlets – these are great and I usually get two-three meals out of the bag.

Szechuan Eggplant

Wednesday Night Menu: Szechuan Eggplant with broccoli & Yellow Peppers over Quinoa & a red leaf lettuce salad

Got this amazing Szechuan recipe from The Edible Garden – I altered a few things, not adding as much oil to cook/fry the eggplant. Instead I tried to steam it with a bit of water in the wok. I also added peppers & broccoli once the eggplant was cooked & the sauce was added (I like my veggies crispy). One more addition: sesame seeds. These are just great and add a bit of flavor & crunch.

 

Each and every one of these meals took less than 45 minutes to put together and were packed full of flavor, nutrients, and best of all homemade using whole ingredients. Yes, the cutlets & macaroni are processed – but I try to make the whole foods and veggies the center piece.

What are you cooking this week? Would love to hear about the meals, challenges or questions you have!

Happy Weeknight Cooking!