4 Items to Always Have in the Kitchen

Putting together a meal can be a struggle when you’re caught in the fast pace of our busy lives. To be sure I’m never without the the basics for a healthy meal no matter the time of day, here are four essentials I always have on hand:

oatmeal to the rescue

oatmeal to the rescue

1. Oatmeal: Instant or old-fashioned oats are perfect for breakfast, or even lunch and dinner when you’re really in a pinch. Oats are ideal for busy mornings because all you need to cook them in is water. You can dress up your oatmeal with whatever you have on hand; berries, dried fruits, nuts, or seeds. Full of protein and fiber, oatmeal is your best bet when you’ve got just a minute to get out the door.
2. Frozen vegetables: Some days you come home and all you see in your vegetable compartment is a wilting bunch of green onions. Keep a bag of frozen spinach, broccoli or mixed vegetables in your freezer so that you always have a vegetable on hand.
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3. Beans: Beans combined with a frozen vegetable from above come together to create a healthy, filling meal when dinner is the last thing on your mind. I like to have both canned and dry on hand, but canned beans are especially nice to have when all you can think about is satisfying your growling tummy after 10 hours in the office.
4. Grains: My favorite grain is quinoa because it’s filling and tastes yummy all on its own. White or brown rice is an excellent substitute if you prefer. Grains are a blank slate to serve up with some spices, a can of soup, or a side of sweet potatoes.
A final bonus is that you can stock up on each of these items when they’re on sale.
There you have my four essentials for plant-based living. Which items are you sure to have in your kitchen each day?

Meatless Monday: 4 Additions to a Heartier Salad

Salads sometimes get a bad rap for being nothing more than a sad serving of wilted iceberg lettuce topped with shreds of carrot–but they sure don’t have to be! Try one of these tips this Meatless Monday and you’ll surely change your mind about the potential of salads.

Here are four additions to build a heartier salad:

1. Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds add a nice crunch to your favorite salad. The protein in nuts and seeds will help you stay full from your salad longer.

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Arranging my almonds in a neat way

2. Beans: My go to meal is always some sort of bean served on a bed of greens. For a Mexican style salad, try pinto or black beans with romaine lettuce and salsa. For Mediterranean flavors, try garbanzo beans with mixed greens and a touch of olive oil.

3. Tofu: Tofu is a perfect addition to virtually any dish that needs an extra boost. From blending it into smoothies to crumbling it into tacos–tofu always serves a plant-based eater very well. And that’s no different for salads. Simply chop up some extra-firm tofu and top over your favorite blend of leaves. You can even saute the pieces slightly to add a bit more flavor. Wait till the tofu is cool to add to your salad.

4. Cheese: If you eat dairy, a sprinkle of your favorite shredded cheese adds a nice flavor to your salad. Some say that the fat in dairy can help you digest leaves a bit better. Just a tiny sprinkle of cheese will go a long way.

What’s your favorite addition to salad? Do you eat them often?

Noshin’ on Nachos

Sometimes I’m hungry for a snack a bit heartier than an orange. I scavenged around the cabinets looking for something to satisfy my hunger. A bag of tortilla chips lead me to drool as I remembered my favorite after-school snack. Here’s my ‘recipe’ for an easy and filling dish to keep you full in between meals. I’ve found that the best vegan cheese for melting is the Daiya brand and would recommend it for making these quick nachos.

2 Minute Nachos

Ingredients

Tortilla chips

Your favorite blend of shredded cheese–Daiya for Vegans or dairy-based for Vegetarians

½ tomato, diced

¼ bell pepper, diced

Hot sauce or salsa

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Directions

Place tortilla chips onto a microwavable plate

Sprinkle with cheese

Place plate in microwave and warm for 10-20 seconds. Cooking time varies depending on microwave. Vegan cheese may require longer time to melt–warm on 10 second intervals until it melts.

Drizzle on hot sauce

Top with diced bell pepper and tomato

This Week’s Lunches

Does anyone else go through phases of weeks (or months!) where you find yourself eating the same thing over and over again? This happens to me all the time!

I try out a new recipe/experiment that I love and then become obsessed with it.

This week the main portion of daily work lunches consisted of my latest creation: kale avocado salad.

As you can tell from my last two posts…I love these two, but never tried them together. This all changed when I thought surely my two favorite green foods would taste even better together.

To make a salad, all you do is wash you kale and put it in a bowl. Then, mash half an avocado into the kale bed and sprinkle some corn on top. I’m not much of a dressing person. I usually either drizzle my veggies in olive oil, or with this salad, a few squirts of hot sauce.

I loved this kale avocado salad and though I may take a break from it next week, it’ll definitely be a staple in my lunch rotations.

How about you? What did you munch on at your desk this week? What have you been obsessed with lately?

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kale avocado mash salad

An Ode to Avocados

Naming my favorite fruit (or is it a vegetable?) is truly a challenge because there are so many that I love. But avocados have a special place in my veg heart. They’re portable, stand out on their own, and pack in a nutritional powerhouse.

When I talk about portable-an avocado is the perfect picnic nosh, now that spring is in the air. Packing a filling meal to go is so easy with these alligator pears, as they’re sometimes called. It’s already packaged in its own skin. All you need to do is place the ripe avocado in your picnic bag, throw in a bag of corn chips and you have a meal! Simply cut your avocado lengthwise in half and you and a friend each have a boat to scoop away with chips. This half avocado and chips combination will fuel your day lounging around the park.

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My picnic lunch–the avocado, hanging out at the park

Of course I couldn’t write about avocados without mentioning guacamole! Guacamole in a bean burrito is probably one of best meals; I could eat it at any time of the day. Avocado can also be used as a fantastic cheese substitute in sandwiches. Simply slice a ripe avocado and use it in place of dairy-based cheese. Mashed avocado is a wonderful DIY dressing when you need a little something to make your salad heartier.

Did I mention the avocado is super healthy? Avocados contain vitamin k, vitamin c, vitamins B5 & B6, and vitamin E. If you need to increase your potassium intake, avocados contain more potassium than bananas. Sure, avocados get a bad rap because they’re high in fat, but you’ll be pleased to know that nearly 80% of that fat is monounsaturated fat, which is necessary for a healthy heart. Even more, that healthy fat in avocados helps your body better absorb nutrients from other vegetables!

So the next time you want to get creative with a sandwich, salad, wrap, or snack, why not try some avocado?

Taco Tuesday!

As a followup to my Meatless Monday recipe for black beans, I thought today would be a great opportunity to share one my most favorite uses of those black beans: tacos!

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I find that sometimes my taco shells aren’t wide enough to hold as many toppings as I’d like. In the picture above–you see how my family’s resolved that issue. We like to crush our taco shells and make a big taco salad, with black beans at the base.

Whether you crush yours up or eat them the normal way, black bean tacos are a super easy and healthy veg*n meal. We usually have tacos at least once a week (if not more!), hence the Taco Tuesday!

Tacos also don’t require much measuring of ingredients, but I eat them like this:

Crush one taco shell on your plate.
Add a half cup of cooked black beans
Spread a spoon or two of your favorite salsa over beans
Dice one half of a tomato and add to plate
Chop half an avocado into slices and add to plate
Finely chop four leaves of your preferred lettuce (I use Romaine) and add to plate
If you eat dairy, top your plate with shredded cheese and sour cream
Mix it all up and enjoy!

The best thing is, you can substitute or add toppings as you like. For a spicier taco, add jalapenos or hot sauce. Some grilled green peppers and onions also add nice flavor.

Do you find tacos to be as yummy as I do?

Lazy Weekend Quinoa

Some weekends you just need to laze around. Perhaps catch up on your Netflix queue or spend a rainy Saturday re-reading your favorite Harry Potter book. On those days, the last thing you want to do is think about what to eat and then spend time cooking and cleaning.

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My favorite quinoa combo with a quick side salad

For that kind of weekend, I love having a batch of quinoa ready to customize with whatever suits my fancy at the moment. Quinoa is one of my favorite grains because it’s high in protein, filling and comes in different varieties—including red and rainbow.

All you need to do is cook your quinoa of preference according to the directions on the package. A quarter cup dry is usually one serving. To cook, add two parts water for every one part quinoa (i.e. a half cup of water for a quarter cup dry quinoa). Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Let cook until water is absorbed, or about 15-20 minutes.

Now comes the fun part. Stir in your favorite veggies, beans, nuts and/or spices. After you’ve cooked your quinoa, what you mix into it is all up to you! My favorite combination includes chopped green onions, green peas, corn, chickpeas, salt and pepper.

I like to keep at least a cup of plain, cooked quinoa in the fridge at all times. It lasts for a week and is perfect for those moments when you’re starving but don’t have the brainpower to think of what to make. Quinoa goes very well with that bag of frozen broccoli you don’t know what to do with, or that can of red beans chillin’ in your pantry. The possibilities are truly endless!

How do you like to eat your quinoa?