Once a Week Cooking

Once a Week Cooking for vegan, plant-based, gluten-free foodies

Sometimes it’s nice to go a whole week without cooking. Sure, some people do that all the time, they just eat take out or fast food. I’m talking about a whole week eating homemade, plant-based food without having to cook it everyday. It’s possible if you do Once a Week Cooking.

I’ve shared this before, in fact it’s regularly one of my top pins.

Once a Week Cooking

If you want to try Once a Week Cooking I recommend that you plan meals that will reheat well, serve you for more than one meal and give yourself several hours to get the cooking done.

I’ve selected several recipes that meet this criteria, they are on this week’s meal plan.

You can adapt this to suit your time and dietary constraints.

What to Cook

Plan to start with the items that will take the longest too cook or that you need for other meals. If you are cooking beans you will probably want to start with those. If you are using canned or already have beans cooked you can move on. I already had beans and rice cooked when I started, we usually have beans and rice cooked at all times.

I also use multiple cooking options, for instance I cook beans in my Instant Pot, the casserole in my Crock Pot, most other things on my stove and the lasagna in my oven. The sweet potatoes can be made in the Instant Pot, Crock Pot or the oven.

Steps to Getting it All Done

1. Cook beans and rice. Either ahead or start here.

2. Get the Crock Pot going with the casserole.

3. Start cooking the lentils, quinoa and Mexican Rice on the stove.

4. Start preparing ingredients for the Lasagna. (The lasagna takes a long time so you can save time by eliminating this).

5. Wash and bake sweet potatoes.

6. Chop veggies and make the soup. (Beans and rice must be cooked in order to make the soup.)

7. Prepare additional veggies for salad.

Overwhelmed?

You can simplify this with a few modifications. This was more than enough food for us this week.

1. Cook fewer foods.

Instead cooking black beans and lentils just cook one and use it in place of both. Instead of cooking plain brown rice, Mexican Rice and quinoa choose one, but make sure you cook enough for all of your meals.

2. Have Foods Prepped.

You may be wondering, isn’t’ the purpose of once a week cooking to only cook once? Yes, however some foods like beans and grains take a while to cook. If you do this ahead of time you can knock an hour or more off of your cooking time.

3. Skip Difficult Recipes.

The lasagna recipe I made isn’t really difficult but it is a multi-step recipe that takes a lot of time. Replace it with a pasta dish instead and you’ll save a lot of time.

Do you batch cook or do once a week cooking? I’m considering creating a short batch cooking eCourse if there is enough interest.

5 Time Savers in the Kitchen (not a list of gadgets!)

Most of us are on a never-ending quest to save time. We make choices that aren’t good for us out of convenience. It seems so much easier to go through a drive thru than to cook our own meals.

Today I want to share some of my favorite time savers in the kitchen.

5 Kitchen Time Savers

1. Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

Did you know you can cook potatoes in the Crock Pot. It’s so easy. You don’t need foil or oil or anything else. Just scrub the potatoes, prick a few holes in them and put them in the Crock Pot. Cook them on low all day and you have hot baked potatoes when you get home. This is the perfect way to cook those HUGE potatoes that take forever to cook in the oven.

You may say, “these cook all day, that doesn’t save time.” It only takes a few minutes to scrub them, boom, you are done until it’s time to eat.

2. Use your Crock Pot

I know I already mentioned Crock Pot Potatoes, maybe it’s because I could eat potatoes everyday. Most of the soup and casseroles I make can easily be made in the Crock Pot. I don’t cook pasta in the Crock Pot but everything else is fair game. I’ll spend 5-10 minutes dumping everything in then forget about it until dinner. You may need to add more water if you are adapting recipes.

3. Buy Frozen Veggies

I love fresh veggies but when time is short I reach for a bag of frozen veggies, especially frozen Stir Fry Veggies. I can have my Veggie Pad Thai on the table in about 15 minutes. (The noodles cook super quick).

4. Use Veggie Broth (or bullion)

Most of the time when I cook and use the “taste and see” method. I taste the food, see what spices I have that could improve it, then taste again. This process goes on until I feel it’s “just right’ or my kids distract me (or sometimes I just give up).

I’ve found using a veggie broth helps give my dishes a richer flavor from the get go. Of course my Dry Veggie Broth Mix is my favorite. If you aren’t a “make it yourself” kind of person Massel makes some great products that I really love. They have bullion cubes, granulated bullion and liquid stock. The are vegan (yes even the beef-style and chicken-style), gluten-free, and all natural.

Veggie Broth can be used to make quick sauces or to add extra flavor to grains, pasta or soups. I spend a lot less time tweaking dinner when I use a broth mix.

5. Cook Once, Eat Twice

I’m not talking about a full on batch cooking session. Make twice as much food as you need and save it for another time. Four cups of rice cooks in the same amount of time as two cups of rice, the same with beans, potatoes, etc. When it’s time to put the leftovers away put them in the freezer if you don’t want to eat it right away.

Now put all these tips to good use by putting leftover Crock Pot Baked Potatoes in the Crock Pot with Frozen Veggies, Veggie Broth and any beans, grains, or other leftovers.

Or, you could take baby steps and just try them one at a time.

On a side not I’ve had LOTS of people tell me I need an Instant Pot. I’ve heard amazing things but I don’t have one so I don’t know much about them but it’s on my future wish list.

How do you save time in the kitchen?

 

Plant-Based Basics: Beans

Today I’m starting a new series called Plant-Based Basics! This series is one you won’t want to miss if you are new to a plant-based diet or if you feel like you’ve been struggling to eat well. This series will also be the perfect thing to send to you friends or family who are curious about what you eat.

Plant-Based Basics: Beans What you need to know to get started eating healthy

Today’s focus will be on Beans. For many plant-based eaters, myself included, beans make up a large portion of our diet.

Why Eat Beans

Let’s look at a few reasons that Beans are so good for you.

  • High in Soluble and Insoluble FiberWhy eat beans?
  • High in Protein
  • High in Carbohydrates
  • High in Minerals
  • High in Vitamins
  • Low in Fat
  • No Cholesterol

Eating beans reduces the risk of “chronic disease such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease” according to the USDA.

Beans are easy to include into your menu whether you eat vegan, vegetarian, or just trying to cut your grocery bill.

There are a lot of different types of beans too. I typically use pinto beans, black beans, white beans, and chickpeas most often. My favorite bean to use when I’m in a hurry is the lentil. Lentils are smaller and cook quickly.

Canned vs. Dry Beans

Canned beans are delicious and healthy. Although canned beans often contain large amounts of salt. Reduce the sodium levels by rinsing canned beans before using. Canned beans are fully cooked and can be eaten without any further preparation.

Dry Beans need to be cooked before eating. Follow the steps below for Soaking and Cooking Dry Beans or use this Printer-Friendly Guide: How to Soak and Cook Dry Beans.

You can expect to spend a lot more money on canned beans compared to dry beans. While dry beans are less expensive they take more time to prepare. Most people still consider canned beans to be inexpensive compared to animal products.

How to Soak and Cook Dry Beans

  1. Sort dry beans making sure there are no rocks, sticks or other debris.
  2. Rinse your beans with clean water.
  3. Put rinsed beans in a pot and cover them with water. I generally use a 1 part bean, 2 parts water ratio but you can use more water.
  4. Soak beans overnight.
  5. The next day, rinse the beans again and refill water. The water should cover the beans.
  6. Bring the beans to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Cook the beans from 1-3 hours. Some beans take longer to cook than others. (You can add onions, garlic, a bay leaf, etc. if desired.)
  7. Beans become soft when done. You can scoop up a few beans in a spoon and lightly blow on them, if the bean skin peels away they are done.

A one pound bag of dry beans is about 2 1/2 cups. Once cooked they will make about 5 cups of beans.

One can of beans is about 1 1/2 cups. Most of the time you will want to drain and rinse the beans if using canned.

Lentils do not need to be soaked prior to cooking. They cook quickly in about 20 minutes.

Some people swear by products like the Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker, Stove Top Pressure Cooker’s, or Crock-Pot Slow Cookers for cooking beans.

Plant-Based Beans

How to Eat Beans

Beans are incredibly versatile! They can be eaten whole, puréed, ground into flour, partially mashed or even baked into treats.

We eat whole beans often. I like them in burritos, wraps, casseroles, mixed into soup or chili or just by themselves.

We also eat puréed beans a lot. Hummus is a popular bean recipe that can be made in a ton of different flavors.

Plant-Based Beans

Favorite Recipes that use Beans

Most of our favorite recipes are Mexican food but beans are used throughout the world.  These recipes are our favorites. Feel free to add links to your favorite recipes in the comments.

Even when a recipe specifies a particular kind of bean, often other beans can be substituted.

I use pinto beans and black beans interchangeably in many recipes including Taco Soup, Enchilada Soup, Unfried Beans (although I alter the spices slightly when making Unfried Black Beans), Taco Salad, Mexican Rice and Bean Casserole, or Bean and Grain Bowls.

I use white beans (Great Northern Beans) and garbanzo beans interchangeable too.  A few of our favorite recipes are Green Chili White Bean Dip, Lasagna, Creamy Italian Salad Dressing, Chickpea Noodle Soup, Lemony Quinoa Salad and many more.

I use lentils in Lentil Tacos, Quinoa-Lentil Tacos, Lentil & Barley Stew, Quinoa-Lentil Salad and Lentil Shepherd’s Pie. I also randomly include them in almost anything. I feel like Lentils are the ultimate super food.

Are you a Bean Eater? What is your favorite way to prepare and enjoy beans?

This post contains affiliate links.

Basic Fridge/Freezer Staples for a Plant-Based Diet

Yesterday I shared my list of Basic Pantry Staples for a Plant-Based Diet. Today I want to share my list of staples that need to be kept cold in the refrigerator or freezer with a few exceptions for fresh produce. Making changes to a healthier lifestyle can be difficult. Use this guide to make your journey toward a plant-based diet a little easier.

basic refrigerator freezer staples

Basic Staples for the Refrigerator and Freezer

Freezer 

  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • breads
  • broccoli
  • cherries
  • corn
  • herbs
  • mixed veggies
  • stir fry veggies
  • strawberries
  • whole wheat pastry flour

I also like to freeze leftover soups and baked goods like muffins and breads. If I chop too many veggies I’ll store them in the freezer to use in a quick stir fry or soup.

 Refrigerator

  • applesauce
  • Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • chia seeds
  • coconut milk coffee creamer
  • fat-free balsamic vinaigrette
  • flax seeds
  • jelly (with no added sugar)
  • lemon/lime juice
  • milk (we use rice milk)
  • mustard
  • natural nut butters
  • nutritional yeast
  • dates
  • maple syrup
  • salsa
  • sunflower seed butter

Many of these items are more like add on’s or condiments. I often feel like our fridge is full of things that aren’t really food. Some of these items could be stored in the pantry instead of the fridge but I live in the desert so it is typically hotter here so I store them in the fridge.

Fresh Produce 

  • apples
  • bananas
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • onions
  • oranges
  • peppers (jalapenos, bell peppers and sweet peppers)
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • spinach and other lettuces
  • tomatoes
  • other seasonal produce (cucumbers, pears, peaches, melons, etc.)

These are our basic produce picks. We buy these regularly and at any given time you will find them in our fridge. We try to stick to seasonal produce so you’ll rarely find asparagus in our fridge. We don’t store all of our produce in the fridge. Some things like potatoes and onions are stored in the pantry. Broccoli and spinach are always in the refrigerator. Other items like apples and peppers could be stored at room temperature or refrigerated.

I’m about to make this even easier! Here is a printer-friendly compilation of all my Basic Staples for a Plant-Based Diet! <<Click on the link for a PDF!

What are your top picks for Basic Pantry (and fridge staples)?  I’d love to see how they differ.

For more helpful information about getting started on a plant-based diet check out my ebook, The Plant-Based Diet Starter Guide: How to Cook, Shop and Eat Well.

Plant-Based Diet Ebook

Basic Pantry Staples for a Plant-Based Diet

When starting a new journey it’s helpful to have a map. I often liken a Plant-Based Diet to a journey because for most of us it is a completely new adventure. I know I was unprepared for all of the changes. I’ve vowed to make it easier for those who come after me.

I wish I could take each of you to the grocery store and point out the best products. Since I can’t do that I think the next best thing is to share this list of Basic Pantry Staples. I almost always have these on hand. Our list has changed over the years do to allergies and intolerance’s but I believe it will give you a good idea of where to get started.

basic pantry staples

Basic Pantry Staples

Spices

  • black/white pepper
  • chili powder
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • sea salt
  • turmeric

Pantry

  • agave nectar
  • applesauce
  • baking soda & baking powder
  • brown rice
  • canned beans
  • (whole grain) cereal
  • chocolate chips (Enjoy Life Brand is my favorite)
  • cocoa
  • coffee
  • dried beans (pinto, black, chickpea’s, lentils, etc.)
  • dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, etc.)
  • flour (whole wheat and gluten-free)
  • grains
  • (shelf stable) non-dairy milks
  • nutritional yeast
  • nuts/seeds
  • old-fashioned oats
  • pasta
  • pasta sauce
  • quinoa
  • raw sugar
  • red wine vinegar
  • tomato sauce
  • tortillas
  • tortilla chips
  • turbinado sugar
  • vanilla 

This list is based the items we have kept in our pantry over the last few years. Your list may look different depending on your preferences and restrictions. I can make most of my recipes with these ingredients. I did not buy them all at once and I don’t use them all the time but these are my essentials.

Tomorrow I’ll share my list for Basic Staples for the Refrigerator and Freezer.

Does your list of Basic Pantry Staples differ?

To find out more helpful information about getting started on a Plant-Based Diet check out my ebook, The Plant-Based Diet Starter Guide: How to Cook, Shop and Eat Well.

Plant-Based Diet Ebook

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