Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quick & Easy Vegan Cooking

No one has time to cook, including me.  The good news is, living a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle doesn't require hours in the kitchen.  In fact, veggies often require less prep work and less cook time than meat-based dishes.

Along with being completely impatient in the kitchen, I like to experiment.  My Great-Grandmother was the master -- feeding kids in the Depression was a trial-by-fire way of learning how to cook on your feet with whatever was available.  Following her lead, I've done a little reading and a lot of experimenting with plant-based vegan recipes.  Here's what I've learned so far:

Try Everything

Think you don't like fennel?  Afraid of rutabagas?  As my Dad always said, "Try it.  You may like it!"  Never say no to an opportunity to try a new food item or dish.  You don't know what you're missing and, barring a food allergy, none of it will kill you.

Experiment with Balanced Pairing

Veggies, grains, beans, all of it is meant to be eaten together.  Pairing foods pairs nutrients, enhancing your body's ability to digest and process what you're eating.  The key is not to overload your plate with too many of one grouping - you don't want all beans and no veggies.  Spread the love and throw a little bit of everything in the mix.

Use Olive Oil

Can the sprays, skip the canola, and eat your vegetables whole.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a great source of healthy fats and one of the best ways to sautee or roast your meal. 

Rinse Your Canned Beans

Canned beans make life easy.  They're also higher in sodium than dried beans.  Rinsing your beans before using removes 25-33% of the sodium, so for me, it's out of the can and into the strainer for a bath before they hit the pan.

I'm sure I'll think of more lessons as I go along, but for right now, let me leave you with this recipe from the kitchen sink:

Chunked butternut squash
Chunked rutabagas
Fresh spinach
Roman Beans (I used canned)
Olive Oil

Toss squash and rutabagas in olive oil and allspice.  Put in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

While the veggies roast, coat the bottom of your frying pan with olive oil and throw in the fennel.  (If you're using fresh garlic, throw that in now, too.)  Treat it like an onion - put the lid on, keep the flame around medium, and leave it for 3-5 min or until golden. 

Then, throw in the spinach.  (Using garlic powder?  Now's the time!)  Mix it all up, put the flame on low, lid the pan for 3-5 until the spinach steams down a bit. 

Last, but not least, throw in your beans and give everything a good toss.  Let them heat for another 3-5 with the lid (keep the nutrients in the pan).

Grab a huge bowl, pour in your spinach mix, then pull out the squash and rutabagas.  Throw those in, toss it around, and you've got a healthy, filling, and quite tasty meal.

10 minutes prep (I picked up organic pre-cut squash to save some time)
20 minutes cook
30 minutes until you eat!

Stays good in the fridge for 1-2 days.


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