As many restaurants are temporarily closing their doors due to COVID-19, people are having to cook more at home. For some, this is an exciting challenge. For others, cooking plant-based meals at home is a seemingly impossible feat. The good news is eating plant-based meals at home doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you keep it simple and reduce time in the kitchen.
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Keep your breakfasts, lunches and dinner simple and consistent. This does not mean you have to eat the same thing for each meal; just stick to a formula:
Smoothies for breakfast, salads or leftovers for lunch, and grain bowls for dinner.
Swap ingredients and experiment with flavors while sticking to your simple formula.
Smoothies are easy and require little prep. Rotate these 5 smoothie recipes for your plant-based breakfast or experiment with ingredients in your refrigerator.
- Green power smoothie (4 ingredients!)
- Chocolate peanut butter shake
- Antioxidant blueberry smoothie
- Calcium-rich vegan shake
- The ultimate vegan protein shake (35 grams of plant protein!)
Blend your smoothie for 15 seconds longer than you think you need toAdd a handful of raw spinach for a nutrient burst
For a little extra plant protein, add a few tablespoons of hemp seeds.
Peel, chop and freeze your bananas in freezer baggies when they are about to go bad
Freeze excess smoothie in ice cube trays. Once they freeze, crack free and keep in freezer baggies to add to future smoothies (waste not!)
1 Tablespoon of cashew butter can add substance to your smoothie without a powerful flavor change
Add rolled raw oats for a little extra bulk
No-fail vegan smoothie formula
Base: 1 frozen banana
Add fruit: frozen or fresh fruits of your choice
Add Fat: Chia seeds, flaxseed, nut butter, avocado
Add Veggies: Beets, celery, carrots, raw spinach
Add Liquid: Juice, non-dairy milk, water
Salad gets a bad rap. Salads don't have to boring or a "light" lunch. Often times, we're just making them wrong. Here’s the right way to make a filling delicious plant-based salad that will hold you over until dinner.
Pick your salad base:
3+ large handfuls of leafy greens
...arugula, spinach, romaine, baby kale, etc.
...mix in fresh minced herbs
Add your bulk:
1+ cups of beans or cooked grains (or both)...rice, quinoa, garbanzo beans, black beans, white beans, kidney beans, tofu, lentils, edamame, etc.
Don't forget fun salad toppings:
1+ cups of mixed chopped or shredded raw (or leftover roasted) veggies
… bell pepper, red onion, tomato, avocado, beets, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, green onions, celery, broccoli, olives, mushrooms, radish, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, snap peas, etc.
Topping on toppings:
A sprinkling of additional toppings for accent flavors
… dried fruit, fresh fruit, roasted or raw nuts, roasted or raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds, hemp seed, chia seed, flaxseed, sauerkraut or kimchi.
Whip up an oil-free dressing:
Quick and easy dressing alternatives: Tahini, balsamic, lemon juice, amino acids, garlic powder
Try the 4 oil-free dressing recipes below. And pro tip: Make a HUGE batch so you don't have to keep making it!
Lemon Tahini Dressing
Blend together in blender, food processor or with hand blender:
4 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
4 Tablespoons water
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 Tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoons MamaSezz Sweet and Spicy Mustard
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (vegan option)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Dash of sea salt and black pepper to taste
Whisk with a fork:
2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of maple syrup
A sprinkle of garlic powder
Creamy Garlic Dressing
Blend together until smooth:
1 teaspoon tahini
1 clove of garlic
1 lemon (juice)
½ teaspoon of maple syrup or agave
½ cup water
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Green Goddess Dressing
Blend together until smooth:
1/4 cup of water
3 TBSP of tahini
2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic
1 small pinch of sea salt
1/2 a lemon, juiced
1/2 cup of fresh parsley
1/2 cup of arugula
BONUS salad-making tip:
Try and stick to: F.A.S.S. (the whole food way)
Fat- avocado, nuts, seeds
Acid- vinegar, citrus
Sweet- fruit, dried fruit, maple syrup
Salt- salt, liquid aminos, tamari or soy sauce, celery
Are your dressing or creations tasting a little bland? Make sure you have 1 of each FASS in your dish! If it’s a savory dish, even adding a blended date, or a drop of maple syrup to the sauce or dressing can help you complete the flavor.
Keep it simple with a grain bowl. Choose 1+ ingredients from each category:
Grain bowl base
Brown rice, quinoa, brown rice or lentil pasta, zoodles, polenta, baked or mashed potato, baked sweet potato, cauliflower rice or mash
Add veggies and beans (choose at least 2):
Roasted or steamed- peppers, mushrooms, onion, cherry tomatoes asparagus, peas, carrots, beets, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, kale, white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, corn, artichokes, Brussel sprouts, etc…
Finish with sauce or topping:
Marinara Sauce, Cashew Cream Sauce, sliced or mashed avocado, Dressing (see recipes above), tahini, garlic powder and lemon juice, hummus, fresh herbs, your favorite plant-based sauce, etc…
Eating healthy is one of those things that is great in theory but tough in practice.
The good news is you don’t have to spend your entire day in the kitchen thanks to batch cooking. It’s just what it sounds like -- cooking in large batches.
Batch cooking means you cook less often.
With batch cooking, you cook a lot of food once so you can have quick and easy healthy meals throughout the week. You can focus on fewer recipes and spend less time in the kitchen (and more time doing the things you actually want to do).
Batch cooking is how restaurants keep up with busy dining rooms. Food is prepped or cooked in advance and then either heated or assembled to order. Restaurant kitchens have huge containers of diced garlic, sliced mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, cooked noodles, and ready-to-eat soup so when you order the cooks can throw it all together fast.
How to batch cook (2 ways)
1. Batch cook a complete dish and freeze it
Best for long-term meal planning — and a great alternative to takeout and TV dinners.
Next time you whip up your favorite lemon lentil soup, double or even triple the recipe. Save a few servings to eat throughout the week and freeze the rest in single or double portions for consumption later on.
Pro tip: Don’t freeze the entire batch together! You will end up chipping away the portion you want from a frozen mass or defrosting more food than you can eat.
There are a few different methods you can use to freeze your dish in single portions.
- The first is the simplest: Spoon single portions of your dish into freezer baggies. Stack your bags one on top of one another in the freezer to save space. Make sure not to place baggies directly on coated wire shelving because it will settle between the cracks and freeze there! Try setting your baggie on a piece of wax paper or cardboard.
- The second batch cooking freeze method is to use muffin tins. This works best for liquid dishes. Think soups, sauces, and stews. Freeze your dish portioned out in muffin tins then transfer the frozen cups to 1 large freezer bag. This way you can decide at the moment how much soup you want to defrost and you will stay organized by having the portions together in one large bag.
- The third batch cooking freeze method is to use ice cube trays. This works best for freezing oil-free salad dressing, curry paste, dairy-free pesto, minced garlic, minced ginger, or minced fresh herbs. Remember to always date and label your freezer baggies. Once frozen you can remove items from the ice cube trays and store in freezer bags for single use. We especially love this for fresh garlic or herbs. Process in large batches, put in trays, freeze, and then pop them out and store in freezer bags for single-use garlic cubes you can use every time you cook. No more chopping 4 cloves of garlic at a time!
- The fourth batch cooking freeze method is to use wide mouth mason jars. Large wide mouth mason jars are fantastic for freezing soups, sauces and stews. They’re cheap, sustainable (no plastic) and stack in your freezer well. Bonus points for mason jars because you can grab one in the morning, take it to work and your soup should be thawed in time for lunch at your desk (while keeping everything else in your lunch bag chilled). Note the wide mouth jars are easier to fill and empty than the narrow mouth ones.
More tips: Keep a roll of masking tape and a sharpie in your kitchen and label your food before you pop it in the freezer. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what that mystery red sauce is. Defrost your meals in the refrigerator for a few days before eating or cook it on low heat in your oven, microwave, or stovetop pot.
2. Batch cook an ingredient
Best for short term weekly meal planning.
This method also gives you room for creativity. Here's how it works:
- Pick base ingredients. At the beginning of the week choose a versatile base ingredient like brown rice. Instead of making 1 cup, make 5 and incorporate it into dishes throughout the week. Stuff it in peppers, use it to soak up curry or stir-fry sauce, mix it with raisins, cinnamon, and almond milk for breakfast, or use it in a burrito bowl.
- Mix and match throughout the week. While you're making stuffed peppers, chop a few extra peppers up for the curry, stir-fry, and burrito bowl. Might as well chop up some extra onions, while you’re at it. And save some of those black beans from your stuffed pepper for your burrito bowl later on in the week. Get the gist? Buy, cook, and prep an ingredient in bulk and repurpose it with different flavor profiles and recipes.
- Stay organized. Keep a list on your fridge of what pre-prepped ingredients you have to work with so no food goes to waste. If you go a little overboard with batch cooking an ingredient, freeze it for later! This strategy works best for those who enjoy the creative aspect of cooking but want to save a little extra energy, time, and money.
And by all means, freeze your leftovers! Freezing leftovers will reduce your amount of weekly food waste. Each American household wastes up to $2,200 of food each year. Yikes! (Get more tips for reducing your food waste here.)
That’s a-OK. MamaSezz cooks and delivers ready-made and immunity-boosting plant-based meals to your door. All you gotta do? Heat and eat the prepared dishes and be on your merry way. Order a Be Prepared Bundle today, and use code: PREPARED to get 10% off your first order!
- Keep it simple: Mix and match smoothie, salad and grain bowls
- Batch cook: cook less!
- Let MamaSezz do the cooking and get ready-made immunity-boosting plant-based meals delivered to your door.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies