Recently I’ve heard from many fans (via email, Facebook, and comments on the articles themselves) either 1) complimenting us that some of our recent recipes are accessible, or 2) requesting that we publish more recipes for easy vegan meals. All of us at PD love hearing from our readers, and I hope you feel you know us like friends and family. In turn I wanted to think about our readers and how to serve them (you!) better.
Our writers live all over the globe. I’m reporting from NYC (PD HQ!), and we have writers in Texas, Boston, the UK, even Barcelona, Hong Kong, and Australia. Some of us live in big cities and others live in small towns. But most of the writers are expert and passionate in the areas of healthy living, so no matter where we are, we tend to already have the basic vocabulary of vegan cooking down. We already know cashews need to be soaked overnight (or boiled, in a pinch) and drained in order to turn creamy when blended. We definitely have turmeric in the house.
But when I heard from readers, I realized that not all of our readers are in the same boat. What helped me was thinking about my parents (avid PD fans, natch). They live in vegan-friendly Portland, Oregon, but they don’t shop at Whole Foods, and their preferred supermarket (Fred Meyer, anyone?) isn’t as crazy about hemp seeds, black rice, etc. Also, they might carry these ingredients, but *not as cheaply* as specialty markets in bigger cities. So I hope we’ll get to round out our repertoire with recipes that all readers, including my parents, can make without stressing out over it! Because we believe that cooking should be nourishing, joyful, relaxing, and good for your health and wallet–not a source of stress. 🙂
Without further ado, here are some tips to making easy vegan meals with common ingredients that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
1. Buy similar groceries every week: If you buy some random ingredient that you never use one week (kohlrabi?) and then another random one next week, you have too much competing interests in your fridge–and likely you will end up with a lot of ingredients you don’t know what to do with. It’s okay to buy interesting fruits and veggies, of course, but start loading your grocery cart with what you know and like already: leafy green, root veggie, and legume of choice. My grocery basket almost looks the same from week to week: it’s mostly collard greens, broccoli, carrots and/or sweet potatoes, and beans I feel like eating that week.
2. Aromatics and spices: Having just 3 aromatics–onions, garlic, and ginger–stocked in your fridge at all times will ensure that you’ll whip up delicious dinner on the spot, night after night. Plus, they’re so cheap and good-for-you. Spices seem like a bigger investment, because they’re often $4+ a little bottle–but they last a really long time, and you can mix and match them endlessly. My favorites are: turmeric, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, and garam masala. I probably use these 6 more than all the other spices I have combined. Tip: you could just get one of either garlic or onion powder. This is good for when you don’t want chunky garlic/onion pieces (popcorn?) or when you don’t want garlic/onion to burn (oven-roasted French fries).
3. Steamer and baking sheet: My favorite easy meals happen in a steamer or on a baking sheet. Just prep all veggies and put in the steamer or in the oven on a baking sheet one by one (root veggies first, then softer veggies), and drizzle with dressing. This is so customizable and satisfying, every time.
4. Think separate dishes, or one-pot-dinner: Two approaches to a delicious and easy dinner. One-pot or one-pan dinners are always delicious and comforting, like soups and pastas. Or, try making 3 very simply prepared dishes separately, like simple quinoa or polenta, paired with roasted veggies, and baked tofu. Each of these things make a great base ingredient for another meal later in the week.
5. Feel free to substitute: I confess, I do *not* have real maple syrup in my house because that stuff is expensive! Be flexible about substituting ingredients. Agave works well in place of maple, for instance, or (gasp!) honestly even brown sugar, in a pinch. Don’t let the recipe scare you into thinking that if you don’t have “vegan fish sauce” that you won’t be able to just use your regular soy sauce. It might not come out exactly the same, but very likely you’ll still make something really yummy.
To help you get started, here are 15 of our favorite easy vegan recipes using common ingredients!
Winter Kale Salad
by Jessica Riley-Norton
In addition to the protein, fiber, vitamins A, K, C, and calcium in the kale, almonds add vitamin E and biotin (for strong nails and hair), walnuts add omega 3’s, and pumpkins seeds contribute zinc and magnesium. If you don’t have all 3, go ahead and use what you have!
The dressing is amazing for its immune system boosting properties, using apple cider vinegar, fresh raw garlic, fresh ginger, and turmeric. You may stave away colds with this salad, but some wisdom to take away with this salad: don’t use the spin bike at the front of the room in front of the fan the following day.
4-6 cups kale, chopped
handful raw almonds, sliced or whole
handful raw walnuts
3/4 cup craisins
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp fresh ginger, microplaned
1 tsp ground turmeric
salt and pepper
Place the kale in a large bowl. Top with nuts, seeds, and fruit. Feel free to use any chopped fruit of your liking!
In a mason jar, combine the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt and pepper. cover and secure, then shake, shake, shake!
Pour the dressing in to the salad, and massage the kale with the dressing for a few moments, until the dressing evenly coats the leafs. Allow the kale to become tender, by leaving it out for 15-30 minutes before consuming. It holds up well the next day, and might even be better! Enjoy!!
Vegan Winter Minestrone (Italian veggie and bean soup)
Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes
By Jessica Riley-Norton
2 Japanese sweet potatoes
2 tbsp safflower oil
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the potatoes. You will notice that they quickly turn brown when they oxidize. Cut in to cubes, using a strong knife. In an oven pan, toss the potatoes with oil and a little of the salt. Place in oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Every fifteen minutes or so, flipped the potatoes around in the pan, gently, as they begin to fall apart easily.
When they are browned, take them out of the oven. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper, and gently mix in pan with remaining oil. Enjoy!
**And number 16! Just remembered this gem by Christina**
What’s your favorite easy, pantry meal? Let us know! 🙂
Also see: 8 Foodie Projects to Try This Year
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