Bean-a-illa

What of the greatest challenges I experienced of switching from a vegetarian to a vegan diet with kids – was replacing the fast and easy quesadilla for lunch. I didn’t think this crowd pleaser could be replaced – but I’m happy to report that I was wrong. I made them just this weekend, proving even after years of frequently appearing on the table, they are still gobbled up without complaint.

The popular bean-a-dilla lunch takes only a few minutes to make , packs a protein punch and is easy to jazz up with salsa a side salad. Personally, I prefer to sauteed some onion and peppers to add to the inside of mine, but the kids are purists. We also have been known to make this recipe using hummus instead of re-fried beans. It’s a little meh if plain or traditional hummus but roasted red pepper and spinach hummus are pretty great, and are a crispy warm addition to a simple salad.

Ingredients

Optional Toppings: Handful of vegan cheese shreds, guacamole or avocado slices, salsa

Optional Fillings: Fresh spinach, sauteed onions and garlic, roasted chilis

Directions

  • Spread the refried beans on half the tortilla, fold in half and gently pat it down evenly.
  • Heat canola oil over medium heat, and set the bean-a-dilla in carefully
  • Gently turn the bean-a-dilla a few times until it is cooked evenly

Vegan Butter Favorites

A thousand years ago when I started a vegan diet, there weren’t many butter options out there, and the flavor was over the top fake. Today, like the rest of the vegan market, there are more sophisticated and well-developed vegan options on the scene. There are two vegan butters I generally reach for – cultured options like Miyoko’s and something a little more spread-able, like Earth Balance.

I prefer to buy organic Earth Balance, which has become nearly impossible to find in recent months. My grocery shopping is divided up between a local farm, Whole Foods, and Target (price comparison for budget shoppers like me). When Target didn’t have any organic Earth Balance when I was loading up for holiday groceries, I opted to try the Good & Gather organic plant-based buttery spread.

I expected it to have an over the top flavor depended on too much salt, so imagine my surprise when I found it had a quiet sweet and salty balance more akin to the delicate flavor profile of actual butter. I have used it for all types of cooking and baking and it’s performed well, but I still generally prefer it for toast and cooking, and reserving the pricier Miyoko’s for baking. I made ridiculous peanut butter cookies and brownie’s recently using the Miyoko’s and couldn’t have been happier with how well it creamed with the sugar giving each treat a perfect crumb. It also performs well when making butter cream frosting, where the more spreadable vegan butters to do not. The buttery spreads look great when first going onto the cake, but easily melt, soaking into the cake.

Grits and Mushrooms for Breakfast

I never tire of savory breakfast, and I am making more of an effort to find more variety of flavors and textures in my diet. Here is your regular reminder that a simple, healthy breakfast is not out of reach even in the hustle of a morning dash out the door. This morning it took me about five minutes to make grits, heat up leftover shiitake and onions leftover from pizza makings earlier this weekend. To make it feel fancy, I added a wee bit of vegan butter, generous cracked pepper and sprinkle of chipotle chili.

Vegan Hamburger Helper

When times are stressful I crave the cozy comfort that can only be brought by foods from childhood. In the earliest years of a vegan diet, these moments left me feeling deprived. Today I just lean into that “mostly vegan” practice and have a serving of homemade macaroni at the family gathering. Eventually I learned to make satisfying vegan versions of most things, especially veggies and dumplings, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, stuffing/dressing and so much more. While happily scrolling through Instagram months ago I saw Timothy Pakron,aka Mississippi Vegan’s photo of his take on vegan Hamburger Helper. I can’t tell you the last time I thought about Hamburger Helper, but I was overcome with memories of the funny white glove (was it supposed to be an oven mit or something?) that was on the box of Hamburger Helper and other 1980s delicacies like Rice-a-Roni, both with enough salt to cause great concern for all of our cardiovascular health, I’m sure.

Anyway, I read the vegan Hamburger Helper recipe and I even though I personally don’t super love cooking with meat substitutes, the nostalgic cravings spurred on by a stressful week got the better of me.

Timothy Pakron’s version has a little spicier than my kids approve of, so I toned things down just a little. I also moved to a stove top only version because my dutch oven is on the smaller side. It makes 6-8 servings and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.

With that, I introduce you to Mostly Vegan Mamas Vegan Hamburger Helper!

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small head of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 package of your favorite ground meat substitute, I use Beyond Meat
  • 1 25 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 16 oz shells pasta
  • 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • optional handful of vegan (or not vegan) cheese, I use Violife Cheddar shreds
  • 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 3-5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 shake of smokey paprika
  • optional: extra spices!! a shake or three of smokey paprika, one shake hot pepper, a few shakes garlic and onion powder

Directions

  • In a 8 quart pot, over medium heat saute onion, garlic with ground beef substitute, being sure to break apart the beef into a crumb size texture. If it doesn’t have a juicy quality about it, add a little extra olive oil.
  • Add all herbs and spices (except the optional extras!) and stir for until it smells amazing (1-3 minutes)
  • Add fire roasted tomatoes, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, cheese or cheese substitute
  • Stir in pasta
  • Add enough water to just cover the pasta
  • Stir well and let simmer. While the pasta cooks stir frequently (but not constantly) to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. As the pasta cooks it will get thick and creamy. You may need to add a little extra water. When the pasta is done, check out the overall texture. If the pasta falls apart from the sauce easily you may need to add a little water. Scoop-able and creamy is the way to go.
  • Taste test! I like strong flavors, and I shake extra everything until there is a nice balance of salt and spice. I generally add extra of garlic and onion powder, a little extra olive oil and soy sauce and just enough chipotle chili to make the kids a tiny bit made at me.

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes

Finally a recipe that assumes your kids will eat more than one pancake!

Pancakes are a weekend treat in our house and involve team work. I make the batter, but my husband does the frying because if you know what thing about me it should be this: I can’t flip a pancake to save my life.

These pancakes balance fluff and substance. They hold up with to a variety of toppings – though I am a bit of a purist and just want some vegan butter and honey on mine. Fried apples, apple butter, chopped berries and pecans sound good too! My family loves cinnamon, so I often add several shakes to the batter to spice it up. If you’re feeling extra festive, you could go all in with some pumpkin spice mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of plant based milk. I used organic unsweetened soy milk.
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons melted vegan butter or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

  • Whisk dry ingredients together to break up clumps in the flour.
  • Add plant based milk and butter (or canola oil).
  • Politely ask someone else to cook them for you over medium heat. Turn them over when the bubbles start to emerge on the top and don’t press them too hard with the back of your spatula – you’ll ruin the fluffy texture!

Pasta with Kale and Fried Chickpeas

My little trip last week was last minute. I didn’t meal plan, I made a scattered trip to the grocery store and left with only random, but I had blue corn chips and spicy fresh guacamole, so I was happy. My love of cooking is not eclipsed by my passion for chips and crackers of all kinds.

The cabin had a tiny, modest kitchen. The lighting was minimal and it fit my mood- I was not inspired. But I was determined to not eat some processed convenience food (again), and I set to work. Fried chickpeas make everything better. They are my favorite protein to add to a food bowl, and sometimes they are the star of the dinner, dressed with a yummy Chinese garlic sauce.

Note: I actually prefer this recipe with a simple white wine, lemon and olive oil sauce, but the kids aren’t fans.

This is an easy dinner that tastes and looks like it is much harder than it actually is. Don’t tell anyone though stay in the kitchen for an extra 20 minutes and enjoy a glass of wine before sitting down.

Ingredients

  • One 15 ounce can of chickpeas
  • Canola oil
  • Pasta of your choice (I used organic wheat linguine, because that’s all I had)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4-6 ounces of kalamata olives, torn/chopped
  • 1-2 pounds of fresh kale, off the stem and roughly chopped (a bag of chopped frozen kale works too!). I prefer LOTS of greens.
  • olive oil or vegan butter
  • garlic powder
  • dried oregano
  • lemon juice/slice
  • ground red pepper of your choice

Directions

  • Drain and dry one 15 ounce can of chickpeas.
  • Fry the chickpeas over medium/medium-high heat in little canola oil until golden – about ten minutes. Set aside on a paper towel. If everyone can agree on a level of spiciness, go ahead and dust the chickpeas with your preferred ground pepper. A smokey hot pepper would be nice!
  • Saute chopped onion in olive oil with a little salt until fragrant translucent.
  • Add the chopped kale to the onions, remove from heat and set aside. I like to kale to keep a nice texture, so I only lightly cook it in this recipe. You can saute it in the onions longer if you prefer.
  • Cook the pasta as directed, drain.
  • To the pasta add a few tablespoons of olive oil or vegan butter of your choice, a little salt, garlic and plenty of oregano. Stir in onions, garlic, olives, and kale. The kale will continue to soften in the hot pasta.
  • Heap onto plates and add fried chickpeas to the top of each. Spritz with fresh lemon juice to brighten the kale, and dust with a little ground hot pepper of your choice, if you want some heat.