Want to have more time to enjoy your evening? This is what we are doing and it is working!
We work hard. We have hobbies. We have chores. We chase passions. We try to always improve ourselves. In short, like you, we are busy. Even though we have no TV, no video games, not even a lot of furniture (1 couch, 1 bed, 1 desk, 2 end tables, 1 dining table), we still struggle to find time just for us, just to relax each day.
I think 2 and a half hours of completely open leisure time is a good amount to have, but after work, making and eating dinner, taking out the trash, feeding the cat, getting ready for bed, prepping for tomorrow, etc… we typically have 45-minutes to an hour to do whatever we want.
If you know me, then you know I love efficiency and I am always seeking ways to do things smarter, faster, or with less effort (I like to automate tasks and create habits). Nicole and I realized dinner is a huge time-suck for us, so we are trying something new and so far, it is showing great results.
We eat cereal for dinner.
It is not, admittedly, the best dinner but cereal–even junk food cereal–is still full of vitamins, easy to prepare, and tastes delicious. We typically avoid highly processed “food” but for a quick meal, cereal is tough to beat. We still want to be sure we are eating fresh foods and veggies, though (which we would normally have prepared for dinner), so we changed our breakfast routine, too.
Instead of cereal for breakfast, we make smoothies, but with a twist. We prepare our smoothies for the week on Sunday and freeze the ingredients in single-serve baggies (1-quart size). In each bag, we have broken or chopped 3 fruits, 3 vegetables, 3 nuts, 3 grains, and a scoop of brown rice protein powder–more than enough actual nutrition to make up for cereal dinners. In the morning, I drop a frozen bag of smoothie ingredients into the Vitamix, pour in about 3 cups of unsweetened milk of my choice (usually Flax or Almond-Coconut) and blend it up. I drink it before I head to work and it tides me over most of the morning.
The best part is, we have added around an hour to each evening, allowing us to walk, talk, watch Netflix, read, meditate, or whatever we want! Can’t beat that.
If you want to try this crazy experiment, here is what a couple of our smoothies might look like:
Always start with 1 banana and 1 carrot. It is hard to screw up the taste after that, and you get lots of great vitamins between those two alone, like Potassium, Fiber, and Vitamins A and C.
Smoothie 1 (everything chopped and placed in a 1-quart bag, to be frozen):
6 strawberries (whole, with greens)
1 handful of parsley
1 handful of spinach
A palm’s worth of sunflower seeds
A palm’s worth of raw pecans
1 teaspoon of chunky peanut butter
A palm’s worth of raw oats
A palm’s worth of chia seeds
Scoop of brown rice protein powder (or vegan protein powder of choice)
3 cups of unsweetened Flax milk (this does not go in the baggie–pour this in the blender in the morning)
Handful of basil
Handful of blueberries
Handful of kale
5 Mango slices (half a mango)
A palm’s worth of raw cashews
A palm’s worth of raw walnuts
A palm’s worth of flax seeds
A palm’s worth of hemp seeds
Scoop of brown rice protein powder
3 cups unsweetened Almond Coconut milk (don’t put this in the bag, obviously–pour this in the blender, in the morning)
Mix and match any of the ingredients. Trade spinach for a cucumber, or blueberries for beets, or parsley for cilantro. Experimenting with the flavors is half the fun. Each morning, I just grab a bag, the milk, toss it in the blender and I’m good to go. That night, a quick bowl of cereal (or sometimes, a bagel with vegan cream cheese–any quick breakfast really) will hit the spot and free up time.
Have fun with that life-hack. If you have more, comment on FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, or wherever you read this blog. Don’t forget you can subscribe to have each post delivered right to your inbox so you can archive and save it for reading later. Whatever works for you. I’m flexible.
Today’s Lesson:Priorities are different for each of us. If cooking is not your thing, but health is, create ways to have both!
I think I am one of the laziest vegans in the world. I am always busy with work or other projects (like this blog and a new, upcoming one!) and I need meals that are easier than ordering from Chipotle or eating canned food–like, literally, right out of the can.
I imagine you might have the same struggles or you are just beginning (or are curious about) your vegan journey and need easy meals to start. Here are a few super-easy vegan recipes I use for every day meals, and I mean SUPER-easy. These work for me and maybe they will help you, too. They all take less than half an hour to make from start to finish, including chopping time. You might notice I do not really measure anything, so take the measurements as suggestions. I just use however much I need, depending how hungry I am.
1. ORZO WITH GREENS.
Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta available at almost any grocery store (sometimes hidden in the “international” food aisle). An environmental advocacy expert who owned an all-vegan grocery store shared this with me and it has been a staple ever since.
1 cup Orzo
2 handfuls of pecans, walnuts, or Almonds (sliced or chopped almonds)–raw nuts are best, but salted is fine, if you prefer.
2 big handfuls of greens (Arugula, Kale, or Spinach); 2 handfuls is about 2 ounces or half a normal sized blister pack from the grocery store
1 cup sliced or chopped tomatoes (I like to halve about a big handful of cherry tomatoes)
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
Salt, Pepper, Nutritional Yeast, to taste.
–Boil one cup of orzo for 10 minutes (add a few drops of olive oil to the water to keep the pasta from sticking to itself). The water will foam if it is too high, so keep an eye on it and reduce heat if necessary but keep a rapid boil going.
–While the orzo is heating up, I take the pecans or walnuts and crush them in my palm over a medium-heat skillet (if sliced or chopped almonds, no need for further crushing–just toss them in the pan). Add a little olive oil and heat them for about 5 minutes.
–When there is 5 minutes left for the orzo, put the greens in with the nuts and stir. Put in a third of the greens at a time, mix with the nuts until the greens wilt, then add another third of greens.
–When the Orzo is done, turn the heat off both pans. Drain the orzo. Pour the orzo over the greens. Place the tomatoes on top and mix it all together.
–Add salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast until it is perfectly delicious!
The great thing about this recipe is it is completely versatile. If Orzo and Arugula are crazy sounding ingredients to you, just trade them for any pasta and Spinach, and follow the same recipe. Or instead of Arugula, try baby kale one night. You can add mushrooms, or tofu, or onions and garlic, or broccoli. Change up the spices. Add soy sauce and you have a stir-fry. It is always quick, easy, and delicious!
2. SPAGHETTI ARRABBIATA.
“Arrabbiata” is a spicy red sauce. You can use Marinara instead if you don’t like the kick. You can make excellent sauce from scratch with a can of tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped basil, crushed garlic, sliced onion, and red chiles, but screw that. We are going for quick and easy here. Just buy your favorite sauce and pay a little more for the one that has a bunch of veggies and no dairy ingredients (watch for “whey”, which is milk, and cheeses like Romano or Parmesan being mixed in). Try to find one without sugar, too, because grandma never made it that way.
Jar of your favorite vegan spaghetti sauce (if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, they have excellent options).
Frozen, canned, or fresh mushrooms (however much you want)
Black or green olives (however much you want)
4 cloves fresh crushed garlic or garlic powder to taste
Chopped small onion or onion powder to taste
Cook the spaghetti according to instructions on the box. Put the veggies in the sauce and heat it. Pour the sauce over the spaghetti. Spice to taste.
For easy garlic bread, drizzle olive oil over a few slices of bread. Sprinkle Paprika powder, garlic powder, basil, and oregano on top. Place in the oven on aluminum foil with the spices facing up and cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Change the recipe to make it seem new again by adding different sliced veggies to the sauce such as zucchini, broccoli, green peppers, or carrots.
3. STIR FRY
Maybe the easiest and most versatile of all dishes!
Ginger powder (or fresh, shaved ginger root) to taste
Soy sauce to taste
Assorted vegetables. Choose any 5, but I like: Bok Choy (bagged and chopped), Broccoli (frozen or fresh), Red Pepper (sliced long), mushrooms (any kind you like), fresh basil leaves (whole, plucked off the stem)
1 heaping Tablespoon of Peanut Butter (creamy or crunchy, your preference)
Optional: Corn Starch (if eating with chopsticks, to thicken the sauce)
If you have a wok, great. If not, just use the biggest saucepan you have.
–Heat the brown rice according to bag or box instructions. Keep it warm.
–On medium high-heat, add the veggies and soy sauce. If you are using fresh veggies, start with the heaviest, densest first (broccoli), then when they are about 3/4 done, add the next heaviest (mushrooms), and so on.
–When you are close to the end (the veggies are soft but firm and the colors are bright), add the peanut butter. It is the perfect peanut sauce! Crunchy is great if you like to have peanuts in the sauce. If you plan to eat with chopsticks, add a little corn starch to thicken the sauce and help the veggies stick to the rice.
–Add ginger to taste.
–Either stir the rice in with the veggies or serve them separately and spoon the veggies over the rice.
To change it up, trade the soy sauce for half a can of canned coconut milk (in the “international food” aisle of almost any grocery store, be sure to shake the can really good) and trade the peanut butter for curry powder. Now, it’s a tasty Thai dish!
One of my favorites because it requires the least amount of supervision!
Pick any 5 vegetables. If you want a hearty red soup, make sure stewed or chopped tomatoes (canned) are in there. For example, I might use a can of stewed tomatoes (not drained), potatoes (chopped), mushrooms (fresh or canned), spinach (frozen or fresh), and celery (sliced).
Pick one or two legumes. Any bean you like (black, navy, pinto, garbanzo, etc.). I usually just toss a whole can of chick peas in, not even drained. Can’t get easier than that.
Veggie stock (liquid, cubed, or powdered). Or, make your own stock by steaming some veggies, such as broccoli, carrots, and asparagus (as a side dish for another meal) and use the water as stock, supplemented with spices of your choice.
–Slice all the veggies, if needed. Put them into a big pan. (If you used frozen veggies, ignore the instructions on the bag. Just put them in the pan, ice and all.)
–Throw in a couple veggie bullion cubes or your own veggie stock with spices (or both).
–Toss in the beans.
–Fill the pan with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer. Cook on low heat for at least an hour but the longer the better.
To change it up, try different spices with different vegetables. Add a half can of coconut milk, curry powder, and paprika powder for an Indian-inspired soup. Add basil, oregano, and thyme to make it Italian. Use red chili paste, lime, and a little soy sauce and now it’s an Asian-inspired soup. Make it yours.
Best tip ever, from No Meat Athlete! Take leftover soup and pour it over rice the next day. Add canned chickpeas (if not already in the soup) and it’s a completely new dish! Use your soup as the base for the rice dish.
Instead of red sauce with your pasta, try tossing pasta with olive oil, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and a couple fresh veggies (like chopped red pepper and mushrooms). Light and delicious!
For a super-powered breakfast, pour some raw oats in a bowl (not the 1-minute oatmeal, use raw oats). Chop a banana. Add some dried cranberries and pecans. Stir in a big tablespoon of peanut butter. Pour some Coconut milk over it (not canned, the refrigerated kind) and enjoy. It will fuel you all the way to lunch!
I am a super-easy type of vegan. I like to keep it simple. I love food but I love spending time on other stuff, too. Hopefully, this helped you super-busy vegans or vegan beginners with some quick lunch or dinner ideas to get you started or keep you going!
I make awesome Rice Krispies Treats. I liked their marshmallow-y goodness and crunchy cereal taste as a kid but as an adult I have an even deeper affinity for them. Being vegan, I have to improvise ingredients, obviously, and perhaps surprisingly, my treats are even better than the traditional kind (at least if you ask me or anyone who tries them without knowing they are vegan).
Marshmallows are gross if you think about it. They are made of the ground up animal parts no person would otherwise eat, or even could eat if they wanted to. Vegan marshmallows are pretty interesting, by comparison. They are usually lightly flavored with vanilla which adds a really nice undertone to the flavor of the treats. I will usually add a little vanilla extract (like less than a quarter teaspoonful) but otherwise just follow the standard recipe, with one other notable exception, and this is the exception that changes everything.
Instead of butter (because it is not vegan), I use high quality olive oil. Think about the difference that makes to any recipe calling for butter. Dairy butter is made from the curdled secretions of whatever comes out of a cow’s boobs. It is made almost entirely of the same gross blobby fat so many of us try to rid from our own bodies. Blecch!
Try it. I promise my (slightly) healthier version won’t kill you and you might even like the vegan version better than the Kellogg’s version.
Today’s Lesson:Being vegan as long as I have (more than a decade) means you really have to know, and LOVE, food, including how to make it taste great! The anti-vegan fear and marketing is everywhere but if you have a vegan friend–have them give you a double-blind taste test and my guess is you will not believe the results…
I enjoy thinking of new ways to embrace minimalism and live a simpler yet more robust life. Something Nicole and I have been trying lately and having some success with is 5-Ingredient meals.
I like to cook but I do not have much patience for the prep work and clean-up. Because I like eating more than I like cooking, I tend to favor eating out and skipping all the leg work of making a meal. I think eating out is a great way to add more diversity to your diet (unless you eat the same meal at the same place every time) but the food is highly processed, usually over-salted for flavor, and often cheap high-carbs and starches to fill you up at less cost and more profit to the restaurant.
In other words, it is good to prepare your own meals more often than not. Since I practice being minimalist and look for ways to simplify, Nicole and I have added a simple rule to our cooking. Our meals can have no more than 5 ingredients (spices not included, but also no more than 5 spices). To clarify, each dish has no more than 5 ingredients and each meal has no more than 5 components (including drinks).
Since a lot of our cooking centers on Mediterranean and Asian food, we have made one notable exception: we count garlic and onion as one ingredient! If they are both chopped fresh, sometimes we will count them separately. We play it pretty loose with those two.
Here is an example of what a simple meal looks like for us…
1. Smashed tofu (I love squeezing the water out of it with my bare hands and then crumbling it into the pan)
4. Onion and Garlic
5. Fresh tomatoes (right at the end)
Seasonings: Turmeric (to make the tofu yellow), Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Nutritional Yeast
Seasoning / Dressing: Olive oil, Mint, Salt, Pepper, Lemon juice
Normally, a salad and tofu scramble would have about 10 more items added between them, more spices, and definitely longer cooking time and preparation. The funny thing is, since we have started this little experiment, I have found limiting ingredients has actually expanded flavors. Now I notice the individual constituents of each meal and can savor each bite, identifying each flavor within it.
Today’s lesson:Eating can be super simple and simply delicious! Set limits on ingredients, focus on flavor, and enjoy more time eating and less time chopping, washing, soaking, and waiting…