As a vegan home chef, founder of an online vegan cooking school, and contributor to My Cooking Magazine, I cook a lot! And occasionally I am short on time and starving! Until recently, finding vegan food on the go has been a challenge. Plant-based fast-food options are popping up everywhere these days. Chalupas at Taco Bell, Orange “Chicken” at Panda Express, and Beyond Meat nuggets at KFC and Burger King. Wow! As the Bob Dylan song goes, For the times they are a-changin’.
The world is waking up to the benefits of plant-based eating, including health, environmental, and animal welfare. Here are additional indicators that there’s no going back!
- On February 4, 2022, all New York City public schools introduced Vegan Fridays, thanks to NYC mayor Eric Adams. The newly elected mayor adopted a plant-based diet in 2016 to combat serious health concerns.
- Gucci just launched its first line of vegan sneakers and Billie Eilish is teaming up with Nike to launch vegan Air Jordans.
- Celebrities and performers including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, Jay-Z, and Drake are making major investments in plant-based food ventures.
- A new report from Bloomberg predicts the plant-based food market will grow from 30 billion to more than 162 billion, an increase of 450 percent, by 2030.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Winter is coming to an end and spring is just around the corner. Here are some recipes that will keep you warm on frosty evenings and also prepare you for balmy days and daffodils!
All recipes are vegan and packed with nutrition. First up is lentil soup topped with crispy portobello mushroom “bacon”. One cup of fiber-rich lentils packs 18 grams of protein! Mushrooms are tasty meat alternatives, especially when marinated and baked to bacon-like goodness. They are high in B vitamins, antioxidants, and potassium which can lead to lower blood pressure. Recent studies show eating as few as 5 button mushrooms per day may slow cognitive decline.
This delicious soup is easy to make and the star ingredient, lentils, are affordable, protein-packed powerhouses. And bonus…they cook in about 25 minutes, no pre-soaking required! Dressing up our humble bowl of soup is another source of nutrition, portobello “bacon”. Fun to make and even more fun to eat, you’re going to love, love, love it!
Portobello “Bacon” topped Lentil Soup
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 medium or ½ large red onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 T ground cumin
- 1 ½ t curry powder
- ½ t dried thyme
- 1 t sea salt
- 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 28-ounce can finely diced tomatoes
- 1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 1 T Better Than Bouillon vegetable base*
- 4 – 6 cups water
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften.
- Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the carrots and celery begin to soften.
- While the veggies cook, grind the cumin, curry, thyme and sea salt with a mortar and pestle to release their full flavors.
- Add the spice mixture and cubed potatoes to the veggies and cook for 1-2 minutes releasing the flavors of the seasonings.
- Heat two cups of water in a glass measuring cup for 2 ½ minutes in the microwave. Stir in 2 teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon base and stir until well mixed.
- Pour bouillon into veggie mixture. Add the lentils, tomatoes, and 2 additional cups of water, stirring to combine.
- Taste and add the additional teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon if desired.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover partially and reduce heat to low.
- Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
- While the soup simmers, make and bake the portobello “bacon”
Portobello “Bacon” Topping Ingredients:
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2 T grapeseed oil*
1 ½ T agave or maple syrup
1 T low sodium soy sauce
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 t smoked paprika
½ t liquid smoke
1 ½ t. miso paste*
Fresh ground black pepper
Portobello “Bacon” Topping Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, then top with a cooling rack.
- Slice mushroom caps into 1/8th – inch thick strips
- Combine all remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
- Use your hands to coat mushrooms strips gently but thoroughly.
- Lay the mushroom pieces on the baking rack (after you place it on top to the baking sheet) in an even layer, making sure they do not touch.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes in the top third of the oven, watching for the mushrooms to turn golden brown. Baking time will be determined by the size of the mushroom strips and the crispiness level you prefer.
- Check every 5 minutes after 15 minutes; they can go from brown to burned surprisingly fast!
- Remove from oven and peel off the cooling rack.
- Top your bowl of lentil soup with several pieces and enjoy!
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator to 3-4 days.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers
When you’re in the mood for a burger, these babies will satisfy the craving. Made with another one of Mother Nature’s superfoods – sweet potatoes – they are hearty, delicious, and oh so yummy! Serve with a side of rosemary fries or a green salad. Or put your salad on your burger! The sky is the limit, have fun while keeping your health halo intact.
- 2 cups mashed sweet potato, about 2 large
- 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
- 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
- 1/2 cup finely diced green onions
- 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper (to taste)
- Topping suggestions: lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion, sliced avocado, sprouts, a slice of vegan cheese.
- Scrub sweet potatoes, peel, and cut into quarters. Bring water to a boil in a large pot, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool.
- Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add half of black beans and cooled sweet potatoes to a large mixing bowl and mash gently. Add remaining black beans, brown rice, green onions, walnuts, spices, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop mixture and form into patties. Place on baking sheet about one inch apart.
- Bake for 20 minutes, flip gently, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes to your preferred crispiness.
- Serve on buns and top with your favorite veggies and condiments.
Lemon Coconut Chia Pudding
Chia seeds are another superfood, right up there with sweet potatoes. They are an excellent source of plant-based omega fatty acids, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Just two tablespoons of chia seed contain 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. For this recipe I chose organic, white chia seeds.
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk – I love toasted coconut almond milk
- Zest of two organic lemons, reserving 1/3 of zest for topping
- 6 T chia seeds
- 2 T agave
- 1/2 cup plus 2 T unsweetened, finely shredded coconut
- Combine all ingredients except 1/3 of the lemon zest and 2 T of shredded coconut.
- Pour into four ½ cup serving dishes.
- Chill at least four hours or overnight.
- Top with coconut and lemon zest before serving.
Notes: Deliciously light dessert as well as a fast, protein-packed breakfast!