Are you or someone you know thinking about transitioning to a plant-based diet and not sure where to start? Starting today, and for the next six days, I’ll be writing about simple and easy ideas based on the day of the week that will aid in coming up with menu ideas.
Today being Thursday, it’s Toss ‘n’ Tumble Thursday.
A quick and nutritious meal could be a stir-fry. Select your favorite veggies (my go-to ones are onions, peppers, broccoli, asparagus, snow peas, cabbage) and slice them in similar shapes/sizes. Stir-fry them in a hot wok or sauté pan with a small amount of oil, adding in spices of your liking (garlic and chilis make a great addition). Depending on the oil you use, you have an opportunity to impart some flavor—i.e., peanut, coconut, avocado, almond, hazelnut, mustard, and yes, olive oil). Whip up a sauce to toss in at the end for added flavor, using ingredients such as tamari, namu shoyi, juiced citrus of any kind, sesame oil, truffle oil, flavored broth or bouillion, thai chili paste, galangal, chat masala, or herbs and spices in varying combination. Have fun with the sauce, be creative, using items that are in your frig and pantry. (While I love sesame oil, it really is a wonderful finishing oil after you complete the cooking process, but does not do well with high heat as its flash point is much lower than the other oils mentioned. Serve as the embellishment atop brown rice, quinoa, or pasta for a hearty, nutritious and quick meal.
A main meal salad is another winner. Don’t just think “lettuce and tomatoes” here. In fact, your salad might not include either of these ingredients. Here again, you can be as creative as you’d like, adding some toasted nuts, some cooked beans / legumes, and toss with a simple vinaigrette. For a creamy dressing, pulse ripe avocado or soaked nuts with some chickenless broth, herbs, and nutritional yeast. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to use up that leftover rice or pasta, tossing in to your salad for added texture and flavor. Want a warm salad….grill some vegetables—such as eggplant, zucchini, butternut squash, and toss in to your salad. I always keep some go-to pantry items for these meals as well—such as, dolmas, capers, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, jardinière vegetables (usually pickled cauliflower, carrots, green beans), dried mushrooms, dried fruits, artichoke hearts, pickled beets, etc.
Have any coarse cornmeal? Think polenta or grits. They’re easy to make and can be transformed to show up in several meals without being redundant. First night can be a creamy polenta/grits topped with a vegan Bolognese sauce. Grease a cookie sheet and evenly spread the leftover polenta/grits in the sheet. Allow it to set. For the second night, cut now formed and set polenta/grits into 3”x3” squares (or use decorative cookie cutters). Brush the squares with a vegan buttery spread or olive oil, and sear in a hot skillet until golden brown and crispy around the edges. Serve atop a vegan chili. Cut your remaining set polenta/grits into small cubes, lightly toss with a scant amount of oil and spread out onto a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, and any other herbs of your choosing. Toast in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes or until crispy on the outside. Vwallah! You have homemade croutons to toss into your salad.
Want a heartier salad? How about a roasted potato salad as your base? You can add whatever veggies you’d like with the dressing of your choice. Of course, there is also the pasta salad, but not your ordinary pasta salad…Add whatever you like…raid your pantry. For pasta salads, I lean towards the stouter pasta shapes that have ridges on them so they quickly take in a bit of the dressing/sauce. I’ll get everything else together while the pasta (or potatoes, for that matter) are cooking, and toss everything while the starch is still warm. It helps to take on an added level of flavor complexity that you’ll really appreciate.
For an even more substantial meal, you can use any one of the plethora of vegan faux meat proteins that are on the market…or, get adventurous and make your own (but that’s another recipe and another blog).
While it truly only takes moments to whip up a dressing, I have to admit that I always keep a couple of bottles of organic dressings in the house. My personal favorite happens to be Annie’s Organic Goddess dressing, but you’ll find your own.
The options are endless for Toss ‘N’ Tumble Thursday. Have fun with it. Play. Be audacious.