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!