Sometimes, you just need a dinner that is simple, easy to prepare, using few ingredients. Too often, though, people make the mistake that simple and easy also means boring. Which is crazy. The only boring meal I will ever make is pasta with tomato sauce. But even then, I usually try to throw in something more creative. What is the point in making food that isn't going to satisfy you? That is one thing I will never understand. I certainly believe that food should be used to fuel you, not bog you down, but you do not need to compromise flavor to do so.
Normally, I say that it's best to eat the rainbow because (in most cases) different colored foods contain different vitamins. Eating a variety of colors is the easiest step towards making sure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs. It's one of my favorite pieces of simple-to-follow advice for friends who have asked me about eating healthier. Just ask Bren how often I say "eat the rainbow." (The answer is a lot, I say it all the time) We even have reusable grocery bags that say "Eat Red" or "Eat Purple." I also bought drinking glasses with different colored vegetables on each one and their coordinating vitamin, like orange is vitamin a. This particular dish, though, is all one color. Green. But it's just so nourishing, you'll forgive me for being a hypocrite.
For this dish, I wanted to use some earthy vegetables and some light ones for variety. I also wanted to keep them pretty fresh, so I chose to steam them. I have a steamer, but it is also a rice cooker.. and I was already using it to cook the rice for this recipe. Because of this handy two-in-one device, I don't have a steamer basket. Dilemma.. Good thing I live with a MacGyver. If you're like me and for some strange reason, you don't have a normal way to steam vegetables, Brennan has a solution for us. He took our large stock pot, filled it maybe halfway with water (it's very tall) and put it on high heat to boil. Once it was boiling, he took our colander, filled it with the vegetables and placed it in the stock pot and put the lid on top. Our stock pot/colander combo was a perfect fit. The colander rested on the outside edge of the pot and the lid covered the vegetables. They were steamed beautifully.
I added beans to this dish to give it more protein than just the brown rice. I didn't want to take away from the flavors of the vegetables, so I used white navy beans, but chickpeas would also work. For some added flavor, I made an onion and garlic tahini sauce, thinned out with a bit of olive oil, to drizzle on top. Simple, few ingredients, but not at all boring.
Steamed Green Veggies with Rice and Tahini
There was once a time when I thought I could never live without cheese. When I was a vegetarian, I didn't consume a whole lot of dairy. When I did, it was usually cheese. Nearly everyone will ask you, if you tell them you are a vegan or even considering it, "how do you live without cheese?" Well, you can tell them that when you have the right ingredients, you don't really have to. There are so many ways to get your creamy, cheesy fix as a vegan. This recipe is just one of the many ways to do so.
In addition to the comfort of creaminess, I really enjoy spicy food. I am definitely the type to put hot sauce on everything, but I feel spice is most needed in a creamy dish. It just adds a bite of flavor to a somewhat monotonous texture, and when you're using chopped jalapenos, it adds a literal bite. I also used a poblano pepper to balance the heat of raw jalapeno. If you aren't the biggest fan of heat, you can use only poblanos in this recipe and it will still be delicious. Other options are adding corn and/or black beans. I feel that corn adds a nice freshness to dishes like this. It also helps complete the overall "tex mex" vibe I have going on, but it works without corn as well if you don't like excess veggies in your mac and cheese. Ignore the scallions in the picture. They weren't necessary, I just had them in my fridge.
If you are a vegan, you've probably heard about using soaked cashews to make things creamy. They are magic, but I'm not a millionaire. Nuts are expensive. So, I use nutritional yeast. It has the cheesy flavor that cashews lack, similar to Parmesan. It makes a nice sauce that's not too thick. This is what I mean when I tell you that you don't have to live without cheese as a vegan. The next time someone asks you how you live with out cheese, just make them some of this and they'll understand.
Mac and Pep
Whole wheat flour is usually the only flour I have in the kitchen. I even use it in most of my cookies, especially oatmeal cookies. If I were a millionaire, I would use spelt or sprouted grain flour in everything.. but I'm not. And I use flour often, so whole wheat it is. Unbleached and unbromated, of course.
These tortilla chips were not intended to be chips the first time I made them. They were supposed to be flour tortillas for burritos, but I'm apparently really awful at making soft tortillas. They were all either undercooked or too hard to roll up. So, I sprinkled some salt on them, threw them in the oven, and made chips while Brennan ran to the grocery store to pick up a package of soft tortillas. I was a little disappointed, but the chips turned out pretty good. I decided I had to write down what I did and then make them again with salsa. Well, Bren was at work yesterday and I had the day to myself, so I made some chips and salsa.
Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips and Salsa
It's the middle of April, but it's still cold outside. It is especially cold at 4 am when I'm walking to work. When I'm walking home from work, it feels colder to me than it actually is due to spending my whole day in a room with an oven taller than myself. Because of this, I needed soup. Warm, delicious soup. Also, I've been sniffling and miso is great when you have a cold. Brennan called this "vegan chicken noodle soup."
There are so many ways to do soba and miso soups, the ingredient options are endless. If it were winter, I would have made it super hearty, probably with some beans and mushrooms. This time, though, I decided to keep it light and simple using fresh vegetables and tofu. Few ingredients, ready in less than 30 minutes? That's my kind of dinner.
Soba Soup with Tofu
This recipe is gluten-free depending on the ingredients/brands:
- Most white miso should be gluten free.
- 100% buckwheat noodles are gluten-free.
- Most plain tofu is gluten free. Nasoya (the brand I used) is gluten free and organic.
I have never eaten a real hamburger, or at least, not that I can remember. So, this is my idea of a burger. I would say that these are softer than I would imagine a hamburger would be. Brennan tells me that meat is chewy and that's the biggest textural difference with these. I'll take his word for it.. So, these are not chewy, which I see as a positive. I don't think I'd want a chewy burger anyway. Sounds gross.
Apparently, sweet potatoes are the most nutritious potato. I don't remember where I heard that, but to me, it hardly matters. They're easily the most delicious potato, so I'm going to eat them regardless. As a side of fries, or made into the actual burger, sweet potatoes are great for roasting or grilling. They form a beautiful crust, but stay so soft on the inside, ready to absorb flavor. (Which will obviously be lots of paprika and garlic.)
In my opinion, too many veggie burgers are loaded with grains. Now, don't get me wrong, I love grains. I'm a bread baker, hello, carbs are my livelihood. Putting grains in a veggie burger is fine, but I'm not about to go and make a quinoa sandwich. The other nice thing about bean burgers is they hold together very nicely. It's one, cohesive texture. The sweet potatoes match the texture of the black beans once they are slightly mashed up, which is why I thought they would go great together.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers
It's spring, I know, and this recipe is so winter-y. It's been chilly here, though, so you'll have to forgive me. Plus, Brennan is working late a lot this week and this dish is great for leftovers. Easy for him to cut, pack, and warm up at work.
As this is my first post, I also thought it would be a good idea to start off with things I absolutely love. Rosemary is one of those things. It's my absolute favorite herb. Pair it with mushrooms, and you have a match made in.. the dirt? Yes, we'll go with that. That is what makes this lasagna so simple, but so earthy and full of flavor. Few ingredients, lots of yum.
Cannellini beans are the perfect bean for a recipe like this one. They are very subtle, which is exactly what I want. In this lasagna, they will be pureed and serve as your "ricotta" filling. Yeah, I thought it was pretty clever too.
To top off this lasagna, we will be making a creamy sauce with a cheesy flavor. This brings me to my next ingredient, one that has changed my kitchen for the better. Nutritional yeast would be the magic flakes I am referring to. They have a cheesy flavor, and you may find some that have B12. Vitamins! Excellent! Unfortunately, the kind I used did not have B12, but my soymilk does, so we're okay. No deficiencies today.
Mushroom, Cannellini Bean and Rosemary Lasagna
Feel free to leave a comment or question about this recipe. I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading!
My name is Ellen Jane and I spend my free time doing vegan experiments in my kitchen so you don't have to. Take a look around.