Tuesday, March 3, 2020

3 Easy Vegan Meals



Going vegan is not an easy thing to do... at all... especially if you are coming off of a "standard-American-diet" which happens to be filled with meat and dairy products. Think about it, is there any traditional American meal that doesn't have some kind of animal by-product?

Breakfast is usually loaded with eggs, sausage and bacon, lunch is usually some deli sandwich filled with sliced meats and cheeses, and if you're lucky for dinner you might find a few morsels of vegetables on your plate next to your giant piece of meat.

We are told from a young age, we need to drink milk to get calcium for strong bones and we need to eat meat to get protein to grow up big and strong, so it just goes to show even considering veganism is difficult, therefore, I applaud you!

Going vegan does not have to happen overnight! In fact, it is more realistic to maybe pick one day or a few days of the week that you choose to make "vegan-days." By limiting your time, in the beginning, to just a day here and there you are able to begin establishing a routine and learning to identify what it is like to eat vegan.

To get you started, I share 3 meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that you can start preparing today! Pick one option from each category and you'll be prepared to eat vegan for a full day!


Breakfast


Oatmeal

This is probably one of the easiest and healthiest breakfast options you could do. To tell you the truth, I eat oatmeal around 99% of the time. It is great for that long-lasting hunger control to power you through the morning and can be prepared so many different ways so you never get bored with it. 

My favorite way to prepare oatmeal is by putting it in the fridge overnight. I mix oats with almond milk ( Almond milk is everywhere now. Every grocery store you walk into will have it, and even most cafes will have it if you like milk in your coffee in the mornings )... 

Anyway, I mix almond milk with my oats, throw in some maple syrup and cinnamon for some sweetness and flavor and some peanut butter and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next morning you can eat it cold - perfect option for hot, muggy, summer mornings - or warm it for a few seconds in the microwave and you have yourself a perfectly prepared cup of oats. 

Tofu Scramble 

For all of you people who cannot fathom a morning without eggs, I seriously recommend you give this one a try! A tofu scramble is like a vegan take on scrambled eggs, only so much better. I recommend getting the firmest tofu available to you, making sure to press out any excess water. Once you have removed the extra water, use your hands and begin breaking it into crumpled pieces, eventually, it will look like a scrambled egg texture. 

The key to tofu is SEASONING! When I make my tofu scramble I like to give it a Spanish twist to it. So I season my tofu with some paprika, onion and garlic powder, a little cumin and chili powder, and here's the real tip, add a little turmeric to the tofu also - it will give it that yellow look that you would see with scrambled eggs. 

Once you have seasoned your tofu, throw it into the oven and bake it and in the meantime begin chopping up the veggies you are going to throw into the scramble. I add so many vegetables to my scramble: tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, onion, spinach... 

Saute your veggies and then once your tofu is done baking, throw it all together to finish off the scramble. 

Pancakes 

Because who doesn't love pancakes? They are pretty much a staple in the American diet and were my favorite breakfast food growing up. As a vegan, though, we need to be careful with store-bought pancake mixes though because they usually do have milk in them or require an egg to finish the batter. In some stores, depending on size, there is usually a specialty section with vegan products and gluten-free products, etc. Usually, in this section, you can find vegan pancake mixes that just require a little water and oil to be added. 

If prepared mixes aren't available to you, you can tap into your inner baker and find a recipe online. I've made pancakes from scratch several times and they always turn out very well. Set aside a weekend morning, build yourself a fresh stack of vegan pancakes and drizzle some maple syrup on top and... yummmmmm.  

Lunch


Hummus Wraps

I could honestly eat hummus every single day. It is the best thing and goes with so many different dishes and can be eaten in so many different ways. I love making hummus wraps because they are quick, easy and can be taken on the go. 

My favorite combination as of recently is a Mediterranean style. If you can find in your local grocery store, adding some vegan cheese makes this really tasty, but it is not at all required. Spread on some hummus, fresh greens, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and olives, topping it off with a generous share of oregano and you are good to go. 

Hummus wraps are so versatile because hummus itself comes in so many different flavors. You can use different kinds of greens to change things up a bit throwing in some kale one time and using hearty collard greens the next. Experimenting with different veggies and flavor pairings is part of the fun. 

Salads 

At first, I thought about not adding Salads here because it seemed so... Stereotypical, but we all know getting your veggies in can be a bit of work and adding a salad to your menu is a super-easy way to do it.

The thing is, salads do not have to be boring! I think a lot of people believe they are but once you get the hang of building a salad you will soon begin to love them. Of course, start with the greens - this again can be changed up from time to time so it doesn't feel repetitive. If you are into it, pick a grain to add like quinoa or rice. Pick a few veggies with the focus being on getting different colors, the more varying colors the better. Bell peppers are great because they come in so many variations, carrots, cucumber, red onion, white cauliflower, radishes. Last, add a protein like beans on top - personally, I'll always reach for chickpeas to finish it off.

For even more texture adding nuts and seeds is great too!

Sandwiches

Just because a vegan doesn't eat meat or dairy does not mean they cannot eat foods they once loved. Deli sandwiches, as I mentioned at the beginning, are a staple. Many companies are out there now making sliced vegan cheeses and sliced deli meats (usually made out of tofu or other soy variants). 

I've made sandwiches with these and they have been soooo good. I love a little dijon mustard, some vegan cheese, Tofurkey, lettuce, onions, tomato, cucumber, and some salt and pepper. 

One thing to watch out for, though, is some commercially packaged bread is made with milk so just be sure you are always checking the labels of the products to ensure it will work for you. 

Dinner


Rice and Beans/Lentils 

This was what made up a majority of my dinners when I started out as a vegan because I didn't know how to make anything else. Beans and lentils are packed with protein so you will always have an answer to the question "But where do you get your protein from." 

Both rice and beans can be bought in bulk at such a cheap cost and will last for so long. I personally opt for brown rice to remain on the healthier and nutritious side. If you get dry beans just be sure to let them soak overnight in water. This will not only help in them cooking more thoroughly the next night but also aids in the body's ability to digest them. 

Using a pressure cooker is the ideal way to cook beans the quickest, otherwise, you will be left with a pot on the stove simmering for as long as an hour depending on the type and size of bean you are cooking that night. Which leads me to my next point - there are so many types of beans and lentils to choose from I never get bored with the variety. 

Cook the rice as you would and throw the beans/lentils into the pressure cooker. Saute some onion and garlic with some spices adding it to the bean mixture right before serving. This is what gives them the delicious taste. 

Grain Bowls

I love grain bowls! Aside from rice, the next grain that I eat the most is quinoa. It is very easy to cook and goes so well with just about everything. 

I like to make a nice heaping pile of quinoa and then top it with a variety of roasted veggies. Here you can add anything you like. Some steamed collard greens with chili flakes, roasted sweet potato and butternut squash, some black beans, and everything gets topped off with some creamy tahini sauce. 

If you haven't noticed the trend yet, every dish can be whatever you want it to be. Use the vegetables that you know you like, try using some you have never tried, it is all just a way to mix things up so that you don't feel like as a vegan you do not have any options. 

Pasta 

Like commercially packed bread, some store-bought packaged pasta can contain some animal products in it so I would recommend checking labels before you buy. From my experience, I always go for the whole wheat pasta which generally usually only has one ingredient - whole wheat. So it is usually a safe bet to go with for a vegan. 

As of recently, though, I have been using a chickpea-based pasta which is a great gluten-free alternative. It's also another way to work in some plant-based protein to your vegan meal also. (if this post doesn't show my obsession with chickpeas and their endless ways of being used then I don't know what will)

Saute some zucchini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms and throw them over a nice bed of pasta. Add your favorite tomato-based sauce or keep it simple with a little olive oil and garlic. Adding fresh basil on top completes it for an extremely satisfying vegan dinner. 

Bon Appetit

I don't know about you, but my mouth is watering thinking about all of these delicious, easy vegan meals. They do not take much time or preparation work to make and since they are packed with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains, they will keep you feeling full and energized. If you find you do need a quick snack here or there between meals grabbing an apple or a banana or a handful of nuts is always a great choice!

Take care my friends - Namaste

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