Happy 2021! This year is starting out looking a lot more like 2020 than we’d like, but brighter days are on the horizon. Between the pandemic and a momentous election followed by a momentous runoff, I haven’t posted here lately, but doing what we can to turn the tide on climate change is more important than ever.
I shared last year how a plant-based diet is one of our most powerful tools for reducing our carbon footprint. Going vegan will help the most, but almost-vegan, vegetarian, or just cutting down significantly on your meat and dairy intake will make a difference. It would take eleven years of avoiding food packaging to equal the climate benefit of giving up meat for just one year.
My family has discovered even more delicious vegan foods and recipes in the past year, and during this dark pandemic winter I think we could all use some comfort food. Making a new year’s resolution to leave meat and dairy behind (or at least cut way down on them) doesn’t have to feel restrictive–I promise there are enough great vegan options that we feel we are spoiled by the amount of good food we eat. The climate, our kids and grandkids, animals, and public health (animal agriculture is the biggest contributor to pandemics) will thank you!
I shared several delicious vegan recipes in last year’s post, and I wanted to share some more here for people who’d like some inspiration. We are still in the habit of scaling up a recipe to make a bunch of food on a Sunday or Monday and then reheating it for several nights, because who has time to cook from scratch every night of the week? This recipe for pav bhaji is warming, flavorful, and pure comfort food. We don’t have an instant pot or a stovetop pressure cooker like the recipe calls for but it cooks just fine in a regular stock pot on the stove. In the summer, one of our favorites was this tomato risotto with grilled greens; we actually found using boxed tomatoes instead of pureeing fresh tomatoes was easier and just as tasty, and the fresh grilled green veggies have an amazing flavor. That recipe has some great tips for cooking risotto the right way and can be applied to other recipes–we have our eye on some more wintry risottos (with ingredients like leeks, carrots, and mushrooms) for the coming weeks. This salad is unique and so tasty, especially in summer–it’s hard not to eat the homemade dressing and the spiced/candied nut mixture alone before you even put the salad together! This recipe was pretty much the best veggie burger I’d ever had–great with homemade fries or sweet potato fries.
Some other warming, hearty favorites of ours that are easy to scale up and make a week’s worth of dinners: this tortilla soup (topping with this convincing/tangy homemade vegan sour cream–if you don’t have the vegan yogurt on hand, you can leave it out and just thin with water to desired consistency–instead of queso fresco), or this white bean chili (using soy milk). Or if you’re feeling a little fancier, white beans au vin or this amazing spinach chermoula pie (we subbed violife vegan feta for regular feta, fresh spinach for frozen since it tastes so much better, and skipped the let it sit/let it chill steps and just used a regular pie pan and refrigerated rolled pie crust for ease/reducing prep time; it’s also fine to just chop the chermoula ingredients finely and skip the food processor step if you don’t have one).
When we make Mexican food, I like to cook canned black beans with sauteed onion and pepper, a few shakes of cumin, chili powder, cayenne, paprika, and oregano, and a little garlic, vinegar, and lemon or lime juice (or whichever of those ingredients we have on hand). We love to make quick quesadillas with some of the black beans, violife shredded cheddar, and salsa. Another favorite of ours is making these addictive crispy smashed potatoes (https://cookieandkate.com/crispy-smashed-potatoes-recipe/) then layering green enchilada sauce, quartered corn tortillas, the black bean recipe from above, and the crispy smashed potatoes 2-3 times in a casserole dish then topping with violife shredded cheddar and baking at 350 for 30-60 min for a few nights of delicious meals.
For Italian comfort food, you can’t beat spaghetti with marinara sauce and gardein frozen meatballs, with salad and homemade garlic bread (toasted baguette with earth balance buttery spread, garlic powder, and oregano or basil). Grilled pizza with Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella and your choice of toppings (Whole Foods even has good vegan pepperoni) is to die for. Speaking of Miyoko’s mozzarella…in last year’s blog when I said I’d resigned myself to vegan cheese being more of a mix-in rather than the star of the show, we hadn’t yet discovered Miyoko’s I thought I’d said goodbye to enjoying high quality cheese and crackers with a glass of wine, but then we discovered Miyoko’s vegan cheese wheels. Sharp English farmhouse is the best, but their other flavors are great too. Miyoko’s also makes great cream cheese. Some of their varieties are available at Publix and Sprouts, and Whole Foods usually has almost all of them.
If you’re a brunch aficionado, there are plenty of vegan options to satisfy all your cravings. We only recently discovered Just Egg, a plant-based liquid that cooks and tastes just like scrambled eggs or omelets. Beyond brand breakfast sausage is great, especially the spicy kind. We love these waffles and add a few shakes of cinnamon. Hashbrowns with all your favorite mix-ins or vegan breakfast tacos are great too. The trick to great avocado toast is sprinkling some lemon juice on top (or mixing it in with the avocado), and that can also be a quick breakfast before work.
A few more favorites: tofurkey and vegan provolone sandwiches for lunch with vegan mayo, these brussels sprouts (they go great with butternut squash soup in the fall), and this vegan curry delivery if you’re in the Atlanta area (lasts for two nights for two adults). The possibilities are endless. I thought a vegan diet would feel restrictive, but I really don’t miss meat and dairy, and working with vegan ingredients can inspire you to be creative and cook outside the box. Have fun! Nothing tastes better than food that’s good for the planet!