As of Tuesday, my husband will have been eating vegan and gluten-free for a whole month. The reasons why are complicated and health-related and none of your business 😝, so let’s get to the real question: WHAT THE HELL DOES HE EAT?
Lots of chickpeas, really. Also, did you know brown rice pasta tastes basically the same as regular pasta? I’m finally figuring out tofu, so that’s been fun.
Even if this diet doesn’t end up doing the trick for Grant’s allergy problems (which I alluded to here), I’m really enjoying learning new techniques and trying new things. Once it’s consistently warm outside, I can’t wait to check out some vegan grilling options. (Not sure what those will be. Eggplant? Tofu planks? Hit me up if you have ideas!)
Once we decided to give vegan a try, I started reading. Before, when I had served G meatless meals, he had a hard time getting full. I think some of that may be psychological and based on expectations of what a meal should be, but I was legitimately concerned about getting enough protein into his diet.
Well, guess what? Vegan diets are, like, super full of protein. Lentils and quinoa and nuts, oh my.
My initial research was fueled by this cookbook ⬇⬇⬇, which I’ve had for a long time, but hadn’t done a whole lot of cooking out of. Isa has stews, pastas, sandwiches, salads, everything.
I read the whole thing like a novel, earmarked a bunch of the recipes, and I’ve been aiming to make one each week. Our very favorite so far has been lentilroni (another blogger made it here). It’s kind of like canned beefaroni (I always preferred the ravioli). But instead of weirdly textured “ground beef,” there are lentils, and pureed cashews make the sauce creamy and delicious. (I also forgot to soak the cashews the first time I made this, and it didn’t matter at all. I ground them to a powder in my food processor, and they incorporated with the vegetable broth perfectly.)
Minimalist Baker is another plant-based inspiration. Her roasted garlic mac and cheese is incredible.
One cannot live on peanut butter sandwiches on super-expensive gluten-free bread alone, so here’s a by-protein breakdown of what we’ve been eating (and really enjoying (mostly)).
PINTO OR BLACK BEANS
I made a big batch of pintos in my slow cooker, stuck most of them in the freezer, and now they’re ready to pull out for burrito bowls or taco salads at any time. Beans and rice is also an easy, simple meal, especially so with avocado and hot sauce.
Whenever I’m at an Asian restaurant, I almost always order tofu as my protein. The crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside texture is so delicious, and I know that texture is accomplished with lots of oil.
A good runner-up tofu prep – and one that’s healthier and easier to make at home – is baked in a hot, hot oven. I press extra-firm tofu for at least 90 minutes to get excess water out, cube it, toss it in cornstarch, soy sauce, and olive oil, and bake it for 25 minutes at 425, tossing the tofu halfway through.
This method is easy, quick, and the resulting crispy tofu soaks up any sauce you drizzle on it. I’m partial to a homemade teriyaki or a citrus vinaigrette.
I’ve taken to making a batch of green lentils over the weekend to have on hand when we need a protein. I’ll stir them into salads or serve them with leftover grains and roasted vegetables.
Hummus is a regular in our house, vegan diet or no, but I’ve learned some new ideas. Hummus pasta is my new Friday night too-tired-to-read-a-recipe meal. Boil pasta in well-salted water. Saute onions, garlic, and big handfuls of fresh spinach. Reserve a mugful of the pasta water and drain. Add half a container of hummus to the saute pan. Heat until creamy, adding splashes of pasta water as needed. Add drained pasta and stir. It will be so creamy, and it really scratches that mac and cheese itch. I add lots of red pepper flakes to serve.
We’ve also been eating chickpea scrambles a lot. Saute onions, garlic, and whatever veggies you’d like, add drained chickpeas. Smash them up a little and let them sizzle for 5 or so minutes, adding paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with salsa and roasted potatoes on the side.
What’s true regardless of which vegan protein you pick: there is little flavor in these plant-based options on their own. They all can take a lot of salt and a lot of hot sauce. They’ll also meld super well with whatever sauce you choose. On my list for this week is tofu cubes in BBQ sauce with corn, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Maybe some fresh pineapple for a “Hawaiian” vibe?
I don’t think we’ll be eating vegan forever. G really likes and misses chicken, and you all know how I feel about a whole roasted bird. But I think we will stick to the routine of more meatless meals. It’s heart-healthy and planet-healthy, and a bag of lentils is a hell of a lot cheaper than a package of chicken.
What are your favorite plant-based meals?