Plant-Based Eating…with some Flexibility

Have you been considering adopting a Plant-Based Diet? Good news…you are not alone! What is a plant-based diet? Not surprisingly, it focuses on plants, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Some people add small amounts of dairy and eggs while others adopt plant-based meals for a portion of their day or week and then occasionally include animal protein. You may have seen the acronym WFPB, for Whole Foods (not the store!) Plant Based which is a plant-based regime that excludes processed foods, sugar, and oils.

Recent research shows that the majority or plant-based consumers are millennials and Gen Xers. Even though 16% of these large population segments extensively use plant-based alternatives, 90% of them also consume meat and dairy products! This is indicative of the increasingly popular “Flexitarian Lifestyle” in which adherents eat plant-based most of the time but also include the occasional steak or pork chop. The Flexitarian Diet ranked second on the U.S. News and World Report list of best diets. We will certainly see more foods and meal plans supporting this concept in 2021 and beyond.

But wait a minute…isn’t something missing here? Oh yes! The word “vegan”.  Vegan indicates that animals are excluded from diet, products, and lifestyle choices. From a dietary perspective, in addition to eliminating animal protein, true vegans do not consume eggs, dairy (including cheese) and honey. As plant-based diets seem to be on track to become more prevalent, there is an industry-wide shift in terminology from “vegan” to “plant-based”. From the supermarkets to menus of popular chain restaurants as well as local faves, the “plant-based” label is quickly replacing “vegan”.

The motivation for most people adopting a plant-based lifestyle is a desire to improve their health. When your cholesterol and/or blood sugar starts to creep up, more and more medical professionals are recommending a plant-based diet. Research shows that this lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Even better, switching to a plant-based diet not only benefits your health — it can help protect the environment, as well. People who follow plant-based diets tend to have smaller environmental footprints. Adopting sustainable eating habits can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and land used for factory farming, which are all factors in global warming and environmental degradation.  

Spring is an ideal time of year to embrace a plant-based lifestyle. Whether you follow a plant-based, vegan, or flexitarian lifestyle, you have an almost unlimited array of fresh fruits and veggies to choose from. With options continuing to increase, the variety and availability of products including butter, cheese, as well as egg, meat and seafood substitutes are growing exponentially.

To help you plan your plant-based meal plans, we are presenting three recipes for a typical day…breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These heart-healthy meals are delicious and easy to prepare.

First up, breakfast! Yes, you can make French Toast without eggs?

Blueberry Banana Eggless French Toast

Serves 4-6

*Plant-based, WFPB, vegan

Ingredients

6-8 slices of day-old dairy- and egg-free bread, preferably whole grain

1 cup liquid egg substitute like Just Egg OR make a “flax egg” with 2T of ground flaxseed and ¼ c hot water

1 t of cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

1 t vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

1 cup soy milk (may substitute almond or coconut milk)

Topping:

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 medium bananas, sliced

Juice of 1/ lemon

2 T maple syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

Pour liquid egg substitute into a shallow 2-quart baking dish OR to make the “flax egg” whisk together the flaxseed and hot water and let sit for 5 minutes. Add spices, salt, and vanilla extract, and soy milk, whisking lightly to combine.

Soak the bread slices in the batter and then pan fry in a nonstick pan on low heat. Flip when brown on one side and keep a close eye on hem so they don’t burn. Option: If you do not have a nonstick pan or you simply prefer a bit crispier texture, melt 1 T vegan butter in a skillet and brown slices same as above. This version of the recipe is not WFPB.

While the toast is cooking, mix the fruit, lemon juice and maple syrup and heat either on the stovetop or in the microwave for a few minutes until the blueberries and bananas soften. Drizzle French toast slices with the fruit topping.

Lunch is an ideal time for something light. Quinoa is often referred to as a superfood and an ancient grain. It is packed with protein, fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron and all nine essential amino acids. It is also gluten free!

Springtime Quinoa Salad

Serves 6-8

*Plant-based, Vegan

Ingredients:

1 c quinoa, rinsed

2 c water

¼ t sea salt

1 cucumber, diced

½ red onion, diced

1 can garbanzo beans, well rinsed

1 orange or red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Vinagrette Dressing:

½ c olive oil

¼ c balsamic vinegar

1 t agave

1 t Dijon mustard

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Toppings:

Avocado chunks

Fresh lemon juice

Instructions:

Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer for 30 seconds; this removes any bitterness so do not skip this step! Put quinoa, water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a lower simmer and cook uncovered for approximately 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and let steam for five minutes and then fluff with a fork.

Let the quinoa cool slightly while prepping the veggies and dressing. Chop onions, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, shallot, and garlic. Rinse garbanzo beans and place all veggies into a large bowl (we like to use a bowl with a lid as it makes it easier to store this salad in the fridge). To prepare the dressing, add all ingredients to a glass jar and shake well. Add cooled quinoa to the veggies in the bowl and stir. Then add dressing and toss lightly to evenly distribute. Taste and add more salt or pepper if desired. Top with avocado and a squeeze of lemon juice if desired. You can dive in immediately, but the salad is even more delicious the next day!

At My Cooking Magazine we love a warm meal for dinner. This dish takes advantage of the abundance of mangos that delight us each spring along with easy crispy tofu and a creamy peanut sauce. Delish!

Crispy Tofu with Peanut Sauce and Mango Slaw

Serves 6- 8

*Plant-based, vegan

Ingredients

Tofu and Rice:

1 block organic extra firm tofu, 12-16 oz

1 T sesame oil

1 T soy sauce

1 T cornstarch

3 c cooked brown basmati rice

Peanut Sauce:

1/3 c creamy peanut butter

3 T lime juice

2 T soy sauce

1 T agave or maple syrup

2 t sesame seed oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Mango Slaw:

2 large ripe manos, diced

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

3 green onions, sliced

¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped

2 T lime juice

¼ t sea salt

2 c shredded green or purple cabbage

Time saving tip: Use a premade coleslaw mix and add mango

Substitution: Swap pineapple for mango, honey for agave or maple syrup although honey is not vegan

Instructions

Wrap tofu in paper towels or a dish cloth and press with your hands to remove moisture. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Prep veggies for slaw while tofu rests.

Cut tofu into cubes by slicing into 4 horizontal slabs and then turning and cutting crosswise into thirds. In a medium mixing bowl add cornstarch and tofu. Toss gently to cover all sides of tofu cubes. Drizzle with oil and soy sauce and toss again gently to cover. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread tofu evenly on pan without sides touching. Bake for 25-30 minute and turn halfway to get all sides crispy.

While tofu bakes, prep the peanut sauce and mango slaw. For the sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a small glass dish. Taste and add a bit more agave or maple syrup if you prefer a slightly sweeter sauce. In a large mixing bowl add all slaw ingredients and toss until well combined.

To serve place a scoop of rice in each serving bowl, top with a generous scoop of slaw, about ½ cup crispy tofu, and top with a heaping spoonful of peanut sauce.

Lori Rodgers – Lori’s passion for food and fine dining began at an early age. She started reading Gourmet at 8, and was fortunate to have a father who included her in his travels to cites across the US, often frequenting restaurants she had read about in the magazine. After studying hotel and restaurant management at FSU for two years and thoroughly enjoying the summer program in Switzerland, she graduated with a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish. Lori owned and operated the family business, Bert Rodgers Schools of Real Estate for 25 years, indulging her cooking hobby by whipping up meals for family and friends on the weekends. She has two teenagers who have adopted a vegan lifestyle, adding a new challenge to Lori’s cooking repertoire. Lori recently sold the business and is embarking on a new chapter and new career, returning to her true calling, cooking and exploring the multifaceted world of food!
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