Monday, May 11, 2020

Easy Dinner Ideas - Cooking Vegan

After weeks spent in Quarantine, I think I can speak for a majority of us when I say that we've all been scavenging for ideas of what to make for dinner with what we have in our kitchen. Am I right?

I certainly do not want to go to the grocery store any more than is absolutely necessary so trying to come up with new dinner ideas of what to eat can be a bit challenging to say the least.

Fortunately, we have this wonderful thing called the internet which has come in handy as I try to piece together new recipes with some of the ingredients I have at my house currently. My recent search: Can I make something tasty with butternut squash, flour, and other pantry staples? - I'm still working on that one.

To make things easier for you I've included 3 quick dinner ideas that I personally love that have been getting me through this time. These meal ideas use minimal ingredients, likely all stuff you already have in your kitchen, and take little work and taste amazing! Also, did I mention, they're vegan!

Easy Vegan Meals

  • Vegan Chili 
  • Easy Pasta Night
  • Good-old Rice and Beans

Vegan Chili

This recipe is actually not my own personal recipe, but it is one I highly recommend you try! To see the original recipe by Detoxinista - Click Here!

For this, the chili is cooked in an Instant Pot - which is one of my favorite kitchen appliances - but if you do not have an instant pot or pressure cooker, you can cook it stovetop. This method will still work but it will take longer to cook if done that way. 

The ingredients (as taken from Detoxinista's website) needed are: 
1 red onion - diced
3 carrots - diced
3 celery stalks - diced
1 red bell pepper - diced
3 cloves garlic - minced
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes with juices
1 cup red lentils 
2 cups of water 
1 can (15 oz) black beans
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
fine sea salt to taste
fresh lime for serving

Essentially, the recipe calls for throwing everything into the pressure cooker and letting it cook under pressure for 10 minutes followed by the "slow-release-method" of releasing the pressure in the cooker. Altogether, the cooking time in the Instant Pot (which includes it heating up before pressurizing) is approximately 30-40 minutes. 

When I make this chili I use this recipe as a general guide but I do make a few accommodations based on what I have. Honestly, I hardly ever have celery on hand - it's just not something I buy - so I always leave that out. Kidney beans and black beans are staples in my diet and pantry and I always have some canned and dry bean options to use. - If using dry beans, be sure to soak them overnight before cooking. I also will throw in other veggies, I once used sweet potato in it and it turned out really well! 

Finally, I really just "eye-ball" the measurements of the spices which I think is totally fine. It always seems to come out tasting absolutely delicious! 

This recipe is great on its own and it also works over a bed of brown rice too! Enjoy! 

Easy Pasta Night

Who doesn't love pasta?! I mean seriously, it's probably one of the easiest things to make and is my go-to meal when I just don't feel like putting in much effort to cook but still want something super tasty. 

I'm sure everyone likely has some kind of pasta in their cupboard along with a jar of pasta sauce somewhere. Well dig them out and enjoy dinner tonight in less than 20 minutes. 

I usually get the Barilla brand of whole-grain pasta since there are no milk or eggs used so it's vegan and also the whole grain option is much healthier. I've also been eating a lot of chickpea pasta lately by Explore Cuisine which not only makes it a Gluten-Free dinner but also adds extra protein. And as vegans, we definitely don't get enough of that... right lol? With that, I love the Victoria brand of pasta sauce because they have lots of vegan options that are so delicious such as vegan alfredo and vegan pesto sauce!

Ingredients needed for Simple, Easy Vegan Pasta:
1 small yellow onion - diced
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1 whole Zucchini - cut to your preference 
onion powder
garlic powder
dried oregano
dried basil

crushed red pepper flakes 
nutritional yeast 

As you can see, again, the ingredients list is very minimal and totally flexible to fit your preferences. I really love zucchini in my pasta, but you can throw in other vegetables also - broccoli is fantastic, and cherry tomatoes go great as a final add-in! For the spices, I didn't add measurements because I choose not to measure. I just sprinkle a little of all of them during cooking and call it good. 

To make the pasta dinner - Cook the pasta of choice according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, saute the onion, garlic, and vegetable of choice in a pan with some oil. Once the onion is translucent add the spices and toss together. 

Once veggies are cooked, add the pasta sauce of choice to the pan with the veggies and mix for a few minutes so that the sauce can heat up. Add the cooked and strained pasta to the pan of veggies and sauce and mix it all together. You can choose to add the topping ingredients crushed red pepper flakes for some added spice and nutritional yeast for some cheese flavor - I absolutely love adding both! 

That's it! Simple. Easy. Delicious. And of course - Vegan. 

Good Old Rice and Beans

That's right, rice and beans. While it may not be the most exciting thing to eat it certainly is a staple dish for any vegan because it's cheap and relatively easy to make. 

I always have brown rice on hand. I buy it in bulk for cheap and use it to make meals for months. Yes - months! Rice has a great shelf life, can go with nearly any dish, and not much is needed to feel satisfied - which helps with the prevention of overeating! I make 1/2 cup of brown rice for a single serving for me, and when it's paired with some beans, I feel 100% full and happy. 

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I always have kidney beans, black beans, and also chickpeas in my cupboard and they're almost always in their dry form. I put them in a bowl of water the night before I intend to eat them which helps to soften them up and prepare them for cooking. 

Rice and Beans Dinner Ingredients: *measurements provide 2 servings*
1 cup of beans of choice
1 cup of brown rice 
1 medium yellow onion - diced
3 cloves of garlic (optional) - minced
1 tomato - diced
other seasonings of choice

I recommend using an Instant Pot or stovetop pressure cooker to cook the beans. You can cook them stovetop just in a regular pan but it'll take longer for them to cook. While the beans are in a pressure cooker, wash and rinse the rice a few times then add it to a rice cooker. For brown rice, the water to rice ratio should be 3:1 so for our 1 cup of rice, add 3 cups of water. Yes, you can also cook rice stovetop as well it just takes a bit more vigilance but having a rice cooker makes things so much easier. 

- I understand this may be confusing but let me break it down here to clear things up. Rice = gets cooked in a rice cooker, and beans = get cooked in a pressure cooker. If neither of these two options is available, you can cook stovetop but it requires a bit more work in my opinion. -

Once the rice is done cooking, turn the rice cooker off and let it be. While beans are cooking, saute the onion and garlic in a pan with some oil. Once the onion is translucent add the tomatoes and mix together letting the tomato wilt and soften. Add the spices of your choice - here you can get creative, different spices give different flavors to the beans so mixing it up from time to time will give you different results and keep things interesting. 

After the onion-tomato-spice mixture is all mixed well together, add the beans and stir. Allow a few minutes to let the beans sit with the onion-tomato-spice mixture to help with the transfer of flavors. 

And that's pretty much it! You can serve the rice and beans separate alongside one another or you can add the rice to the bean mixture and mix it all together for one cohesive dish. If you're a cilantro person, throwing some fresh cilantro on top will make it super tasty! 

It may be a simple dish, but it always pulls through when you're needing something filling and easy. 


If all else fails - I strongly recommend checking out Green Chef! I have been a customer of theirs for over a year because they have dinner recipes that are quick, easy, delicious, and vegan. Forget about shopping for groceries or planning a meal, they take care of all of the work. 

Check my recent Green Chef Review to see how you can get savings on your first box!

I hope these easy, healthy, dinner ideas helped sparked something for you and have given you some inspiration to cook something different while we spend some time in quarantine. If you make one of these, please comment below and let me know how it goes! Be sure to share this with your friends to help them out during this time as well. 

Take care, my friends - Namaste

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