Guess what? It's world vegan day. In honor of that, I've been working on putting together an e-book or maybe even a cookbook, but for now, I want to share our VERY easy meal plan for my household. You can expand on the ideas and make much more elaborate or homemade versions, but for today I want to share the easiest way possible to make 5 nights of dinners.
Mondays are notoriously hard, we all know it, so I like to do a simple pasta with marinara, roasted veg, and a green salad for Monday night dinner.
I like to use the Instant Pot to make my pasta, either simply making the pasta alone in salted water for 4 minutes on manual with a quick release and drain, or I cook the pasta in the sauce.
SUPER EASY VERSION: Jar sauce plus box/bag of pasta. I never liked marinara as a kid, but my kids love it, so that makes our life easy. While I cook the pasta in the Instant Pot, I throw some frozen broccoli or green beans in my Air Fryer with some garlic salt. While both are cooking, I cut up lettuce and other veggies for a green salad. So easy, an 8 year old can do it.
You could also try this Instant Pot Cheesy Marinara Pasta.
For years, we were purists and did baked tacos every Tuesday. They are crispy and delicious and they were wonderful. Lately, however, the kids have been requesting my homemade corn tortillas. I use my electric griddle, my tortilla press, and maseca and water for the easiest and most delicious tortillas. I've even been pureeing vegetables to make pretty colored tortillas with veggie goodness. Sweet bell peppers pureed with water make orange-yellow tortillas, spinach and cilantro make green tortillas, red cabbage pureed with water make purple tortillas, activated charcoal makes grey-black tortillas, pumpkin puree makes nice orange tortillas. It's all so fun and delicious. It's so easy for us this way, with tortilla press tacos.
We put refried beans and lettuce/salsa/etc on our tacos. I like to pulse some mushrooms and walnuts and garlic and brown in a pan with chili powder for a "taco meat," but the kids aren't as into it.
Other ideas for Taco Tuesday: tostadas, burritos, nachos, enchiladas, etc. Beans, rice, corn, and veggies are all so easy to veganize.
Wok This Way Wednesday
Rice plus stir fried veg is another easy vegan meal that works with whatever you have. You don't even need fancy recipes, get a jar of stir fry sauce (checking for fish sauce or other animal ingredients).
I make rice in my Instant Pot using the rice setting and it couldn't be easier. We either do stir fry or sushi bowls (seasoned rice plus avocado, roasted sweet potatoes, cucumber, etc).
My kids' current favorite stir fry sauce is for me to make mostly broccoli, but I add in whatever other veg I have on had. I cook on high with a little oil and then after veg is cooked I stir in some fresh garlic, maple syrup, and soy sauce. I simmer it down until the sauce is a nice sticky texture. The kids go crazy for this sauce. It's an easy and quick hit over rice. For protein I like soy beans or tofu cooked in the air fryer.
For Throwback Thursday I like to go for "meat" (beans) and potatoes or burgers (veggie burgers of course) and fries. There's tons of recipes out there, so I don't have any preference. Lately we've just been doing fries in the Air Fryer and store-bought veggie burgers or beans cooked quickly and easily in the Instant Pot.
For the super easy option, bake a potato or cook some frozen fries and serve with baked beans or chili and a salad.
Pizza Friday. Super easy solution is to order a pizza. Peta has compiled a handy list of how to order vegan from popular chains. If you have a local pizza place with vegan options, by all means support them.
To make your own pizza, you can do mini pizzas in the Air Fryer on pitas or make your pizza dough from scratch. I like the recipe in Thug Kitchen Party Grub, but mostly I just make it by feel. I have been making the dough earlier in the day and then storing in a gallon ziplock in the refrigerator. I preheat oven to 550 degrees, then roll out, top with whatever I like, and bake about 10 minutes. Super easy.
What about the weekend?
You're on your own! But seriously, whatever you'd like to eat, search for a vegan version of it and you'll find it.
I hope these ideas help you with some ideas about how to eat simple and easy meals 5 days a week. You can switch it up and mix it up and make a plan that fits you. For the winter, you may make one or two nights a week soup night. I like to vary my grains and beans, but you might find you wan the same for several nights and that works too. These are all just jumping off ideas.
Happy World Vegan Day!
My daughter has been asking to learn to cook more and more lately, so I recently let her make dinner all by herself- using gadgets, of course!
I talked her through it, but she did everything herself.
Step 1: Fill Instant Pot half way with water, add 1 lb bag of spiral pasta. Set to Manual 4 minutes and let it go.
Step 2: Pour a bag of frozen green beans into Air Fryer and spray with olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning (she chose garlic salt). Set for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
Step 3: Chop/slice various vegetables for salad. She chose lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, and mushrooms.
Step 4: Shake green beans.
Step 5: When Instant Pot is done, cover the vent with a cloth and release. Open lid and scoop out pasta as possible with a slotted spoon and toss with marinara (from jar).
It was such a simple and easy meal, but my girl was so proud of herself and we all enjoyed it so much. I love that gadgets made me feel confident letting her do all the cooking without the fire of the stove. Also, since things were timed automatically, I didn't have to make her watch the clock.
I love kitchen gadgets because they empower me and make cooking fun for me, and I love that I get to pass that on to my kids! The day after my daughter did this meal, I taught my son to make rice in the Instant Pot, which is our favorite way.
As someone who has been vegan for many years now, I tend to travel with lots of food "just in case." But, this summer we went on a cross country road trip (and by "we," I mean me and my 5yo and 7yo one way, then husband and I with kids on the way back). One of the benefits of that trip was that I just didn't have the means to "prepare" ahead as much and we got much better at making due.
So when my husband said he had a work trip earlier this week, the kids and I didn't hesitate to pack our bags and join him. We got to visit my best friend and her husband and her mom while she awaits the birth of her first baby, and we got to stay in a nice hotel with a big pool and hot tub. My kids love staying in hotels because they love pools we cruelly don't have the thousands of dollars to build one in our back yard.
Anyway, we were visiting a city where we used to live, Katy, Texas, and I knew where we could get vegan food and I wasn't concerned about packing anything to eat. When morning rolled around, I figured we'd go to Whole Food for some breakfast tacos (which my daughter and I ended up doing yesterday before we left town), but since the kids were keen to swim early, they didn't want to leave the hotel. So, we hit the "Continental Breakfast." Here's what we found (and I will admit we were staying in a nice hotel, Best Western Premium, so you won't always have all these options).
I always ask, but 99% of the time the oatmeal is made with water, and they often have nuts, fruit, brown sugar, etc. to put on top. This time, I was feeling hungry, so I swirled in one of the packs of peanut butter from over in the toast section and added fresh blueberries.
Again, you want to ask, but the potatoes are usually just cooked in oil, not butter, and are a great hearty option. My 5yo insisted I read the ingredients on a jar of Heinz Organic ketchup before he put it on his potatoes, even though I assured him that we BUY that ketchup. I don't think I've ever seen a hot continental breakfast that didn't include potatoes.
Cereal and Non-Dairy Milk
Ask if they have non-dairy milk! I am totally guilty of not even thinking of doing this, but more and more I remember to, and at least half the time they have almond or soy milk. The hotel we stayed at this week had a little plaque that said, "Ask about Gluten-Free and Non- Dairy Options," otherwise I would have forgotten. Instead, we had almond milk to enjoy on my oatmeal and my daughter's bowl of cereal.
When in doubt, grab a banana or an apple and one of those packets of peanut butter with the toast. Even when there's no hot continental breakfast, most places at least have that. Also, check by the pancakes if there's a waffle or pancake station because a lot of times they put fresh berries there.
If you want to be cautious and bring something, I recommend instant oatmeal (a vegan one, of course, since some have milk) and you can use the hot water carafe for tea to make a bowl of oatmeal. Bananas are of course a vegan best friend and easy to "make" in the morning- peel.
Also, it never hurts to call ahead and ask if there are any egg and dairy-free options. I once stayed at a hotel that said they would figure something out when I called. When I arrived, they had a jug of soy milk, cereal that they had gone online to check was vegan, vegan cookies so I'd have a snack, and extra fresh fruit just for me in case others cleaned out the fruit bar! I couldn't believe it! Another time, it was that 1% of places that do make their oatmeal with milk, and they made a batch separate just for me! So, customer service is not dead. The worst that happens is they say they don't have anything and then you know to pick up something at the store for in the morning.
I hope these help you on your travels and encourage you to get out and go on adventures.
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