For those who might be interested in incorporating more vegan dishes into your meal planning, here are some recipe suggestions to take the guesswork out of getting started.
* A typical breakfast for me is fruit over whole grain cereal or granola. I don't know about you, but I never have time to whip up a big breakfast. You can find a list of vegan cereals here.
*Oatmeal is filling and makes a good breakfast. Buy instant or make it homemade, just be sure to buy ones labeled vegan. Hint: The vegan ones won't have all that added sugar.
*My husband made smoothies every morning. You can pack them with nutrients by adding some dark leafy greens. If your blender can handle blending them smooth, you really can't taste the difference.
*For a savory breakfast treat, try scrambled tofu in place of eggs. Some recipes will call for silken tofu. Don't do it. Drained and pressed extra firm tofu is easier to work with. Crumble it in, don't smash it.
* The easiest packable lunch that requires no cooking is cut veggies and hummus. There are lot of different flavors of hummus out there, but you have to make your own at least once. My favorite incorporated eggplant. See the recipe here.
*Salads are getting a bad reputation lately. Well, if you're ordering a side salad from the drive-thru while everyone else in getting a hamburger, I can feel your pain, but good salads are creative and filling. You can even leave out the lettuce. There are endless varieties. Mix up your favorite fruits and veggies and add a splash of your favorite dressing. Have one with every meal. It will fill you up faster and get in all those recommended servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
*Soups are another way to pack in the nutrients. Make sure you are buying ones without cream, or make one yourself. Spend a weekend afternoon cooking and package the soup in individual portions for your freezer. If you grab one on your way out the door in the morning, it will only need a quick zap in the microwave to be lunch-worthy. If you miss the creaminess, look for a soup recipe that uses avocado or squash blended in to thicken it.
*You would think being vegan means having to say goodbye to sandwiches, right? I did when I first started. The cucumber sandwich is great at a tea party, but I was looking for something...bigger. I found my favorite at a restaurant in Raleigh. The Remedy Diner sells a sandwich called the Tempeh Tantrum. We were able to create something similar at home with toasted whole grain bread, homemade pesto spread, bacon-flavored tempeh, avocado and mixed greens. Delicious. Make your own sandwiches with roasted veggies, raw veggies or bean spreads. You can even buy deli meat replacements if you can't do without.
*Taco salad. It was on the table in less than 15 minutes. This recipe will remain a staple in our house for busy evenings when there's no time to cook. (Note: I omitted the recipe's tofu "sour cream" sauce. If you want sour cream, I'd recommend buying vegan sour cream. It can be found in Whole Foods.)
*Eggplant Stackers. See my post on our veganized version from a Rachael Ray recipe.
*No-Fredo Sauce. Cauliflower made into a cream sauce. Who would have thought? It is delicious and a wonderful base for any vegetables. We added broccoli and mushrooms as the recipe calls for the first time we made it, and switched it up with some asparagus and green beans last week. Put it over whole wheat pasta or spaghetti squash if you're watching calories.
*Stir Fry. Keep soy sauce on hand! At the end of the week, go through the fridge and find all of the veggies that need to be used up before your next shopping trip. Throw them all into a large frying pan or wok with a bit of oil, add your favorite stir fry sauce, or make your own with some soy sauce, mirin, chili pepper and ginger (I prefer them fresh). You can also add tofu to this. I buy the precut cubes just for this dish. It's fast and easy.
*Burgers. You don't have to go without burgers when you give up meat. In fact, vegan burger recipes can be found in abundance. Made from beans, mushrooms, veggies, rice and grains or any combination of the above. So far, this recipe remains our favorite. In a hurry? The frozen ones from MorningStar Farms are pretty good. Even Burger King sells them.
Still need help finding vegan foods? Be sure to check out PETA's "Accidentally Vegan" lists to see what products you're already using that are vegan, or to discover other easy-to-find brands to switch to. And if you're looking for more creative vegan recipe ideas, there are lots of vegan food blogs online. My favorites are Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway?
Also, look for Friday's post on vegan replacements for non-vegan ingredients in your favorite recipes.