Recently my sister-in-law asked if I had any good vegan dishes, as she was supposed to bring one to a Buddhist retreat. I knew I could recommend one or two, and went digging through my Evernote recipe collection. To my surprise, I had a bunch tagged “Top Ten.” I emailed her a quick list of ideas, and as I clicked the send button, I thought, “That would make a great blog post.”
Quick definition: Vegan food is vegetarian with no animal products whatsoever – no milk products, no eggs, not even honey if you’re strict about it.
“Okay Cheryl,” you might be saying, “This is the second vegetarian-themed post this month, and I am not a vegetarian.” Me neither! So why master a few vegan recipes?
- You’ll probably up your intake of heart-healthy pulses (lentils, beans, chickpeas), vegetables, and whole grains. Hellooooo fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and yes, plenty of protein!
- It’s more sustainable.
- It can be more affordable to get your protein from pulses. Just watch out for fad foods, like $9 bottles of cold-pressed juice.
- Most importantly, it can be delicious! I bet there is at least one recipe here that you’ll love too.
If you think a vegan dish will go over like a lead balloon at your dinner table, you can grill up some chicken or fish to go with these, but you’ll need much less than usual, because the meat will be an accompaniment instead of the main attraction, as in the Mediterranean diet.
- Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing from a food blog called Ambitious Kitchen. Super-yummy, between the ginger, lime, red wine vinegar, cilantro and other fresh flavours in the dressing. You can swap out the veggies and grain for whatever you have on hand (say for bulgur or brown rice), but don’t mess with that fabulous dressing.
- Hurry-Up Fill-Me-Up Burritos from Dietitians of Canada. Quick, simple family friendly meal alert! (About 15 minutes.) This is one of Mr. Sweet Spot’s go-tos when I’m not around. I know, it calls for cheddar cheese, but if you can make it vegan by substituting avocado or guacamole. The best part: You can stock all of the ingredients in your freezer and pantry to make it anytime you’re time crunched and overdue for a grocery run.
- Slow Cooker Squash and Chickpea Curry from Canadian Living. Save this one for winter. It’s warm and filling, thanks to a buttery cashew sauce and hearty chickpeas. Nice to have this bubbling away at the end of the day. Not quick, but it makes lots and the house will smell wonderful.
- Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Curry with Spinach from Calgary food writer extraordinaire Julie Van Rosendaal. Last time I brought this to a family dinner people were hounding me afterwards for the recipe. Doable for a weeknight once you get the hang of it, although still takes about 30 minutes.
- Peanut Butter Pasta, adapted from Paulette Mitchell’s 15-Minute Vegetarian Gourmet cookbook (it’s probably more like 25 minutes, unless you’re really efficient). This is what my husband asks for on his birthday. I added tofu to boost the protein a bit, but you can swap in (ideally sustainable) shrimp if you prefer.
- Protein Power Goddess Bowl from the fabulous Oh She Glows blog, adapted from a menu item at iconic Calgary vegetarian restaurant The Coup. Takes a bit longer to prepare (~45 minutes), but if you’re still a vegan food skeptic, this mouth-watering dish will convince you. You had me at tahini lemon garlic dressing. Mmmmmm…
- Thai Noodle Salad, also from the 15-Minute Vegetarian Gourmet. Because rice noodles are a refined grain with a high glycemic index we don’t make this as often, but it’s fun and delicious. I usually cut the rice noodle portion in half and substitute a couple of spiralized zucchinis.
- The Big Vegan Bowl, also from Oh She Glows. Another family friendly weeknight winner, because you can put the ingredients out like a salad bar and let everyone make their own. My kids are more into this than a typical salad because of the roasted sweet potatoes, and it’s quick because you use hummus instead of making dressing.
- Baked Tofu with Peanut Sauce and Bok Choy – from an unknown source. Sorry, I clipped the recipe from a magazine over 15 years ago and have been making it since. If you’re not keen on tofu, this is one dish that might convert you.
- Glory Bowl from the original Whitewater Cooks cookbook. I saved the best for last. This dressing is as addictive as they say. When I posted it on my Instagram account people came out of the woodwork to say this was one of their favourites. Enjoy!
Here’s a challenge: How about trying one for each of the next ten Meatless Mondays? Or make them on Sundays to enjoy the leftovers on Mondays. Or at least just try one. You might be surprised! Either way, let me know what you think! Happy cooking!