People are always asking me for tips on how to make quick and healthy meals for their families. They just don't have the time. By the time they get off work, pick up the kids, eek through traffic and finally get home, the last thing they want to do is spend an hour getting dinner on the table. I get it. So, here are 5 must haves in your fridge to make meal time much more manageable.
On Sunday night once my kids have gone to sleep, I start to make a loose map of meals for the week and make sure that I have some things cooked and on hand in the fridge to make meal time easier. By washing, prepping and cooking things on Sunday, I find that my week nights are much more manageable.
1. Baked Sweet Potatoes/Russet Potatoes: We love potatoes at our house, especially sweet potatoes. I usually bake up 6-8 big potatoes (roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes depending on how big) at the beginning of the week. I store them in my glass tupperware and they are ready to go. Sometimes we make baked potato night with all the fixins' or sometimes I'll dice up the sweet potato and make a quick hash. You can also slice them up, toss in a little olive oil and herbs and through under the broiler for some quick fries. Potatoes are also great taco fillings. Saute with some taco seasoning and stuff inside a crispy taco shell. Potatoes are actually quite nutrient-dense, help keep your sugar levels steady and leave you feeling full.
2. Rinsed Greens: I always, always, always have my salad spinner in my fridge full of greens; red leaf, kale, spinach-whatever. It may not sound like much, but having greens ready to go is one of my best practices. It doesn't seem like much, but rinsing and sorting through a bunch of spinach can be really time consuming, especially if it just came from the ground. With ready-to-go greens, you can make a quick salad, saute up some greens and garlic or make a smoothie. We all need to make sure we're getting our greens and making them accessible is one of the best ways to make it easy to do so.
3. Cooked Brown Rice/Quinoa: This is a must! I try to cook up a bunch of brown rice at the beginning of the week and just keep it in the rice cooker bowl in the fridge. Brown rice can take 40 minutes to cook and even quinoa can take 20 so having this already done is a huge life saver. You can do a quick fried rice with veggies and tofu or saute it up with your "pre-cleaned" greens and sweet potatoes! You can even sprinkle it on top of your salad for a heartier meal.
4. Cooked Lentils: We love lentils in our house and substitute them for pretty much everything but they can take awhile to cook. Having them cooked and ready to go will cut out a lot of prep time. You can use them in a bolognese sauce, taco filling or sloppy joes. You could also saute them with your cooked rice. Lentils are so filling and are rich in protein, folate and iron. They may be the healthiest food out there!
5. Ready-Made Sauce: Ok, here is where we can tie all of these things together; with a sauce. I always have a vegan cheese sauce and tahini dressing ready to go to top off salads or rice bowls. But use whatever is your favorite; terriyaki sauce, hot sauce, hoisin-whatever you and your family likes best. And if you don't want to make it yourself, take a little help from the store and keep your favorite topping in your fridge. A good sauce always ties the meal together so pick out your favorite and keep it on hand.
I hope this little list helped. What are some of your favorite things to have on hand?
It's that time again, back to school. For most of us we are excited to get our little ones back into the routine of school and they're usually excited to see all of their friends. But with that often comes the responsibility of daily lunches. For some of us preparing lunches are easy. We thrive on getting creative with different food combinations, designing perfectly balanced meals for our little ones. But for others, we actually have anxiety about what to pack; either over packing with everything but the kitchen sink, or not packing enough. So wherever you are on the spectrum, here are a few ideas that are sure to please both parent and child; they're quick, cheap and packed with nutrients.
Hummus is a food of the gods in our house. Packed with protein, it will keep your little one's energy up and sugar levels steady. Swap out any of the veggies below for what your child prefers.
1 sprouted tortilla
2 Tbsp hummus (any flavor your child likes)
1/4 avocado, sliced
2 long strips of cucumber
2 slices of bell pepper
Spread hummus on tortilla, layer in veggies and roll up. Secure with a toothpick or two.
Pasta & Peas
Using whole wheat or quinoa pasta in this adds protein and heartiness to this lunch. The peas are sweet and the quick cheese sauce is a sure win over any kid! The B vitamins and amino acids in the nutritional yeast are a bonus, too! If your child enjoys beans or lentils, this is a great way to sneak in some extra protein as well.
1 C cooked pasta of your choice
3 Tbsp thawed sweet peas
1-2 Tbsp garbanzo beans or cooked lentils (optional)
2 Tbsp non-dairy butter (We like Earth Balance soy free variety)
1 heaping Tbsp nutritional yeast
Splash of non dairy milk
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the nutritional yeast and milk and stir to make a sauce. Add the pasta and peas to coat. Can be eaten warm or cold.
These little tofu bites are tasty and delicious. The camoflaged peas give your child a daily dose of veg and also adds more protein and vitamin C. The flaxseed meal adds a nice nutty quality to the panko as well as providing some vital Omega 3s. Pack with a little dipping sauce; my kids like ketchup or teriyaki sauce.
Crispy Tofu Bites
1 16oz package organic sprouted tofu
1/4 C pureed green peas
1/2 C non-dairy milk
3/4 C panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tofu from the package and pat dry with a couple of paper towels, being sure to remove all of the extra liquid. Cut into 16 equal size cubes and set aside. In one bowl add the milk and pureed peas and mix. In another bowl add the breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, spices and mix together. Coat each piece of tofu in the milk/pea mixture and then roll it in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure to coat each side. Place on a greased cookie sheet and cook for 15-18 minutes (turning once) or until golden brown. Excellent served warm or cold.
What are some of your kid's favorite lunches?
My mama was in town a couple of weeks ago.
In addition to hanging with the kiddos and doing a little shopping, my mom is always eager to try new food. We're constantly sharing our latest foodie adventures and vegan recipes, so there were a couple of places I wanted to take her to. I had told her about M.A.K.E by Matthew Kenney in Santa Monica several months back and she was very excited to try it. We headed out for an early lunch one Sunday morning with my dearest friend for a girl's day out. My mom was in love with the menu. We ordered a bunch of food to share, some items I'd tried before and some new. Everything was absolutely delectable. We shared the Cheese Plate and Kimchi dumplings, which were divine. We also ordered the Kelp Noodles, Lasagna and Carrot Gnocchis. I really can't express how good the kelp noodles were-they are my favorite dish! They are creamy and spicy and aldente, if you can believe it. So good! The lasagna is unbelievably satisfying and the carrot gnocchis were light and delicate. We finished the meal with a duo of desserts; the Key Lime Pie and the Chocolate Ganache Cake with Churro Ice Cream. Wow! The desserts are a must try. The pie was light and refreshing and the chocolate cake was rich and decadent. The ice cream was freakishly dairy-like. So delicious! My mom is still talking about the meal! The thing I appreciate the most about this restaurant is that it's so good you don't even realize that the food is raw. It's not "good for a raw food place", it's just good food!
We also visited Susan Feniger's Street in West Hollywood. My husband and I just love that place. Although it's not a vegan restaurant, they have a ton of vegan options, each are clearly marked. And all of the options are delicious. It's not like they just phoned it in with the "veg" options (you know what I'm talking about), the food is really thoughtful and yummy. It's a small plate restaurant, which is perfect for us because we love to share. Ok, here's what we got: Yucca Fries w/Coconut Curry, Jackfruit Bao, Ramen Noodles w/Bok Choy, Tofu & Mushrooms, Potato Samosas & Apricot Cake. We liked everything. If you've never tried yucca fries, I suggest you do. They are starchy and crunchy and a nice alternative to potato. The coconut curry on top was a little thick for my taste but it was a delicious dish. The bao is my favorite. The bun is soft and a little chewy and it's covered in a peanuty-hoisen sauce-whew-so good! The ramen was solid. I always love a good noddle dish. The samosas were just delicious-crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. It comes with a date chutney, cilantro pesto and raita (not vegan). I would eat the date chutney by itself, it was that good. And I loved finishing the meal with such a delectable little cake. It was moist and flavorful. I am always so excited when my dessert is more than sorbet :-)
If you haven't tried M.A.K.E or Street, you definitely should make your way there. You won't be disappointed. Where have you been eating lately??
Happy Summer! My family and I just got back from a 2 week vacation traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard. We got to see a lot of family and friends and visit some of my favorites cities. It was a long trip though and with two little ones in tow, I think we were all happy to get home.
In addition to getting a chance to see our beloved families, I was also excited about trying some new food. I'm what you would call "an eater". I love food! Sometimes when I discuss traveling, people ssay, "What do you eat? It must be so hard to find vegan food on the road!". And although there are some cities that are more vegan friendly than others, I have yet to visit a city or town with something I CAN'T eat. Even in Central Pennsylvania, I was able to find hemp milk, coconut yogurt and Gardein! How about that?! Anyhow, enough banter...on to the food. I apologize for the lack of pictures. I ate most of the food before I even remembered that I should stop and take a picture. I did chronicle some of our journey on twitter, if you're so inclined.
Our first stop was in New York City which is one of my favorite places on the planet (and the bulk of this post). I had my restaurant wish list and couldn't wait to get started. We arrived late in the afternoon and once we got situated at our hotel all four of us were starving. God Bless Virgin Airlines, but you can only have so much hummus and crackers. And my kids were kind of over coconut yogurt and Lara Bars. So I pulled out my Happy Cow app and to my great excitement found a Loving Hut around the corner. Although the restaurant was small and likely more for take-out, they did their best to accommodate us. We scarfed down fried rice, mac n' cheese, veggie burgers and some sauteed veggies with black rice that was so delicious my husband and I had to roshambo it for the last bite.
The next day we visited Eataly, which lucky for us, was right up the street from where we were staying. Now, let me say that as a food lover and as an Italian, it was amazing. I saw products that I haven't seen for years and only ever saw being unpacked from my Nonna's suitcase on a trip home from the old country. Most of the products I don't eat anymore, but I was filled with nostalgia nonetheless. We stocked up on some focaccia and later returned for some vegan gelato.
I had the onion focaccia, which was delicious and the stracciatella gelato that was made from whipped bananas with dark chocolate shavings. Who even needs the dairy? My husband got plum and my kids got limone. We returned there every day for this treat and then walked across the street to the park.
The next day we stopped at Blossom in Chelsea. I had been looking forward to visiting this place for the weeks leading up to our trip. Unfortunately this location isn't super kid friendly, so we ordered to go and ate at the park, which was actually lovely. We had the Cape Code cakes, the Cashew Cream Raviolli and the Spicy Tempeh Sandwich. Everything was outstanding. We all just kept passing the plates around so we could try it all. I would like to go back and enjoy more of their menu.
The last night in town, my husband and I were able to sneak away for a date and we went to L'artusi in the West Village. It's my husband's favorite Italian restaurant in the city and he really wanted to take me there. I was looking forward to indulging in some home made pasta. Luckily we had a very kind waiter that didn't roll his eyes at me when I told him I'm vegan. He asked the chef what they could prepare and came back with some recommendations. And I'll tell you what, this was some of the best pasta I've ever had in my life. My nonna's home made pasta has always been the bench mark, but this pasta was right up there (sorry, nonna!). It was a simple spaghetti dish with chilis, garlic, parsley and crunchy olive oil bread crumbs. That's it! But it was so delicious. The water had been perfectly salted, the pasta was cooked to perfection and all the ingredients were in perfect harmony. I literally licked the bowl! I also had a delicious beet salad and passionfruit sorbet. It was a great night and a perfect way to cap off the New York leg of your trip. I'm already planning my next trip out so I can cross off more places on my list.
The rest of our trip was spent cruising through Central Pennsylvania, then back down to the coast of Virginia and ending our trip with a night in DC. We all ate sufficiently and we were actually all impressed with how many vegan options were readily available to us.
And if you're ever on Chincoteague Island in Virginia, check out the Sea Star Cafe. They have a separate vegetarian/vegan menu. The Santa Cruz sandwich is awesome!
What are some of your favorite restaurants or vegan dishes that you've discovered while traveling?
Until next time, friends...