Meal Plan Monday: In The Beginning

When my husband, little boys and I first started eating a Plant-Based Diet we ate a lot of comfort foods; Chili, Lentil or Quinoa Tacos, Nachos, Baked Potatoes were normal fare for us. I also made baked goods to help ease us off the junk food we were accustomed too. Since our teenage daughter had decided to live with us I thought it would only be considerate to eat more of these types of foods. One of the problems is we started eating plant-based in the winter, it is summer now so some of the foods we are then just don’t seem as appealing now.

My husband and I are happy with simpler meals, we can eat rice, lentils, and leafy greens and be satisfied. That is a tall order and would have been impossible for us in the beginning. It took a while for our taste buds to accept the kinds of food we like now.

A few days ago I made baked potatoes for dinner. I had some chili in the freezer that I thought would make a perfect accompaniment. I was right! Both of our teenagers liked it and my daughter even requested that I make it again this week. Yesterday my daughter flipped through my new Forks Over Knives Cookbook and picked out recipes she was interested in; I’m hoping to try a few this week.

Meal Plan

Breakfast is toast, fruit, muffins, and cereal more often than I would care to admit. We have oatmeal once or twice a week, usually with raisins, cinnamon, and a touch of agave.

Lunch is usually leftovers, nut butter sandwiches, bean and grain bowls, Big Salads, or bean burritos.

Snack ideas include: hummus with veggies, chips and salsa, smoothies, or fruit.

Dinner this week will include 3 Bean Chili, Beans and Rice, Black Bean Burgers with Twice Baked Potatoes, Quinoa or Lentil (or both) Taco Salad.

There are three nights this week with activities so we will be eating early, late, or out on those days. If you are wondering how I have time to cook so much food let me assure you I’m not slaving in the kitchen every day. Yesterday I cooked a big pot of lentils and a big pot of brown rice. I soaked pinto beans last night and cooked them today. Even if I don’t get the black beans cooked I have enough pintos and lentil to get several good meals made. By cooking beans and other foods that take a long time during my “down time” I can get dinner together in about half an hour.

While rice cooks, or beans heat up I can chop, steam, or otherwise prepare veggies.   

What are you eating this week?

A Happy Potato

On the weekends we like to use up odds and ends in the refrigerator instead of cooking a lot of big meals. One particular weekend we had baked potatoes, chili, broccoli, and black eyed peas. I really enjoy baked potatoes topped with broccoli OR with chili.

I had left the room and when I reentered my husband had this monster on his plate.

Now for a closer look, I believe I even see some spinach in this one…

I looked at this potato that had completely over taken his plate and asked, “What is that?”

My husband said (in a very playful voice),

“That is a Happy Potato!”

How To Get It Done

I’m very fortunate and thankful to be a stay-at-home-mom. I love being home with my kids. Occasionally I miss the working world, usually it is when my kids are driving me crazy. My boys do keep me busy during the day, I can’t just stand in the kitchen for hours at a time.

Using this weeks Meal Plan I’m going to give you examples of how I prepare our dinners. I’ll give you a day by day run down of what I’ve done and how it works for us. We primarily use dried beans and grains. If that doesn’t work for you feel free to use canned beans. Dried beans are less expensive so I prefer them. I do keep canned beans in the pantry for those days I don’t plan ahead. Sometimes I do all of the soaking and cooking on the weekend; that approach may work better if you work full time during the week.

Saturday: I put about 3 cups of rinsed quinoa in 6 cups of water to soak over night. You do not have to soak your quinoa but we prefer it this way.  If you don’t know how to cook quinoa check out this link from The Kitchn.

Sunday: I rinsed the quinoa, again you don’t have to do this step but I prefer it this way. I put it in a sauce pan and with new water and cooked it for about 15 minutes. Once it cooled we put some away for my husband to take to work and the rest is stored for meals throughout the week.

On Sunday night I rinsed 2 cups of white beans and 2 cups of red beans and left them both to soak in 4 cups of water each.

Monday: I cooked both set’s of beans in the morning. It will be hard to resist those come lunch time. They could be combined and cooked in a slow cooker as well. This evening I’ll throw the red and white beans into a large pot with all of the other ingredients for Minestrone Soup. While I’m cutting veggies for this soup I may cut extra for tomorrow nights soup as well.

Tuesday: Cook Potato and Broccoli Soup, this could be done in a slow cooker before you left for work. No prep work unless I want to cut veggies for tomorrow nights meal.

Wednesday: I’ll cook a Veggie Noodle Soup. While it is cooking I will rinse black beans and soak them in water over night.

Thursday: I’ll soak beans to use in Friday night’s Chili. I may have enough leftover beans and not need to cook any new beans.

Friday: I’ll cook Chili. Depending on our leftover situation I may start something new soaking. I try to use up all our leftovers over the weekend so I can shop for groceries and plan a new week of meals.

This works for us but may not work for you. Some nights we just grab bean burritos from a drive thou or eat a PB&J.

If you’ve planned your meals for this week try thinking ahead. What can you do now to save time later?

 

What to Eat…Part 3

When I started eating a plant based diet it was important to be satisfied with my food. I could not eat this way and feel hungry all the time. I also don’t like bland food so I decided to make hearty and spicy dishes. I’m not the kind of girl who can eat a salad everyday for lunch. Typically I’ll have maybe one or two salads a week, in the summer when it is too hot to cook here in Arizona I eat more salads.

So if you a beginning to eat a plant based diet and you’re starving all the time you are doing it wrong. Eat more and eat more often. I often eat toast or a smoothie for a snack between meals. If you can chomp on baby carrots mid afternoon and be satisfied God bless you, but for the rest of us eat something else. Tomorrow I’ll share a yummy vegan muffin recipe that makes a great snack.

Today’s Meal Plan

Smoothie

Breakfast: Smoothie

Smoothies are make a great breakfast, they are easy, fast, and portable. Smoothies can be made with whatever you have on hand. No one in my house will refuse a smoothie.

Today’s Smoothie (My smoothies vary every time I make them)

Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp flax seeds
  • 1 cup Spinach
  • 2 peeled bananas
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1 cup plant milk (I use rice milk)
Do
  1. Blend flax seeds in a blender.
  2. Add everything else and blend until smooth adding more liquid if necessary.
Serve

Serve this in a tall glass or insulated cup if your on the go. My smoothie made about 30 ounces so you can adjust the recipe accordingly.

When I have fresh fruit I use it instead of frozen but this time of year frozen is typically priced much better than fresh. I buy big bags of frozen berries at Costco. When strawberries and blueberries are in season I buy a lot and stock my freezer. Mango, pineapple and raspberries also make delicious smoothies. When I have orange juice I’ll add it instead of milk. Smoothies can hide veggies as well. The spinach in this smoothie is undetectable. Try adding kale, parsley, or chard instead.

Lunch: Baked Potato

I love a big baked potato. You may need to retrain your taste buds to enjoy a baked potato without butter, bacon, and sour cream. Before removing dairy from my diet I didn’t realize that I could enjoy a potato without it.  Earth Balance Spread is a great transition food that will help with that dairy addiction, they also have a soy free variety. Earth Balance tastes and looks like butter. You can substitute it for butter in any recipe as well.

Aside from Earth Balance Spread other toppings include steamed veggies like broccoli, vegan chili, salsa, nutritional yeast, and soups. Yesterday my husband had a baked potato for lunch topped with leftover Potato and Broccoli Soup. He said it was great and wanted to have it again next week.

Dinner: Chili

I just mentioned that Chili makes a great topping on a baked potato but it also taste great on it own. There are several vegan and vegetarian chili’s on the market but it is really easy to make it on your own. This never tastes exactly the same because it varies based on what ingredients I have and and how hot the pepper are.

Ingredients
  • 3 cans of beans OR about 6 cups of cooked beans
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes OR about 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can diced green chili’s OR your choice of fresh peppers
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder (add more to suit your taste, we use 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin 
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt
  • pepper
Do
  1. Add beans, diced onion, tomatoes, peppers, and tomato sauce to a large sauce pan and cook until onions, peppers, and tomatoes are cooked.
  2. Add spices to suit your individual taste preferences. 
  3. Heat until extra liquid, if any, has cooked out. 
Serve

This chili is great on a cool day, it is hearty and filled with fiber. Cornbread or crackers make a great accompaniment. Chili also freezes well so make a big batch and save some for a rainy day.This chili is on my stove right now, I used pinto beans, kidney beans, and black beans. Yum!