The start of a new year and a new decade always brings lofty new personal goals and many of the media's food journalists and chefs are predicting that 2020 will be the year of the plant-based diet! With developments of vegan meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat, plant-based comfort food is now a delicicious and very accessible reality!
One of the things that I love most about what these developments have done socially for veganism is that they've removed some of the political stereotypes that usually followed with being vegan or living on a plant-based diet. In the past vegans were usually labelled as extreme animal rights activists or liberal left-wingers. Now it's completely possible to be of any political belief, be vegan and not be judged. People are eating plant-based diets for many different reasons including, lowering cholesterol, athletic performance, food allergies and disease prevention.
My 3 biggest tips for transitioning into a plant-based diet:
1) Do it GRADUALLY! Start with just one day a week or one meal a day. Take out one product and replace it with a vegan substitute. Ground beef, cheese and/or milk have lots of delicious subsititutes. If you cut out everything right away, you'll become overwhelmed and will most likely give up.
2) Don't follow the rules! Many people make up their own "levels" of a plant-based diet. Some people choose to keep eggs and/or fish in their diets. Some people choose to add gluten-free elements into their diets. Don't think that you can't eat any animal products EVER, once you make the transition. Do what feels right to you!
3) Keep in mind that vegan "junk food" exists! If you're transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle for health reasons, watch out for high-fat, processed foods. There are some really delicious vegan pizzas out there and all of these ground beef substitute products can be highly processed and have TONS of ingredients. Use them sparingly.
4) ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES are mostly vegan. Use at your discretion!
These are a few of the food brands I've discovered so far that are GREAT plant-based substitutes to some of the animal products I loved:
Available at Safeway & Albertsons
Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda Slices
Available at Safeway, Albertsons and Sprouts
Available at Safeway, Albertsons, Target and Fry's
Available at Safeway, Albertsons, Frys and Wal-Mart (not all locations have all products)
Available at Wall-Mart and Amazon
Kite Hill Almond Milk Ricotta Cheese
Available at Sprouts and Whole Foods
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
Prep Time: 15 minutes / Cook Time: 0 minutes / Servings: 6-8
1 container Trader Joe's cooked lentils (17.6 oz.)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
7 oz. Trader Joe's Olive Tapenade
1 large vine-ripened tomato, diced
1 medium English cucumber, diced
3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped mint
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 small lemon
In a very large bowl combine all ingredients and stir.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Prep Time: 20 minutes / Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes / Servings: 12
2 packages Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds (12 oz. each)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 jars Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara (26 oz. each)
1/2 cup red wine (I use a fruity Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 medium sweet, yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3-4 sprigs each of fresh thyme, oregano and rosemary (tie them together in a bundle with some cooking twine)
1 large, fresh bay leaf
salt and pepper
16-20 large cooked lasagna noodles
2 packages Kite Hill almond Ricotta (8 oz. each)
2 packages Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds
1 package Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda slices (7 oz.), shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan on high heat (this will hold and cook the meat sauce). Add the Sweet Earth Awesome grounds, bell pepper, onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir and break up the grounds to combine with the vegetables. The grounds will stay mostly "pink" in color with some browning, so don't worry about "browning the meat" completely. Cook for about 7 minutes on high heat until the veggies are soft and onions are translucent.
Stir in the Marinara sauce, red wine and brown sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Add the tied bundle of fresh herbs, reduce to a simmer and allow the mixture to cook for another 15-20 minutes until thick and reduced, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. When the sauce is finished, remove the bay leaf and the herb bundle before building the lasagna.
In a large bowl, shred the Smoked Gouda slices by keeping all the slices held together and using a cheese grater on the largest side. Combine and toss with the Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds.
Use a ladle to spoon some of the sauce onto the bottom of a large 16x11 glass baking dish. Line the dish with a layer of cooked lasagna noodles, then with another layer of sauce. Spoon and spread about 1/3 of the ricotta over the sauce and top with about 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Top with another layer of noodles and repeat this process until the dish is filled to the top, ending with a layer of sauce and topping with the remaining shredded cheese.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes until melted and bubbly. Remove the foil and allow the lasagna to cool for about 10 minutes. Top with fresh chives, slice and serve.
Soy Chorizo Breakfast Tacos
Prep Time: 15 minutes / Cook Time: 15 minutes / Servings: 8-10 tacos
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 can Pinto beans (15 oz.)
1 tsp. McCormick taco seasoning
16 oz. firm tofu
11 oz. Reynaldo's soy chorizo
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup fresh pico de gallo or fresh cut salsa
7 oz. Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda Slices
8-10 taco size corn tortillas
salt and pepper
In a large skillet on medium heat, combine the cooked brown rice, pinto beans and taco seasoning. Cook for about 7 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated and combined. Set aside until ready to use.
In a separate large skillet, heat the tofu on medium heat and smash it with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher until it has the texture and appearance of scrambled eggs. Stir in the onion powder, garlic powder and turmeric. The turmeric will give the mixture a yellow, egg-like appearance. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook on medium heat for an additional 1-2 minutes. Open and squeeze the soy chorizo into the pan, removing it from its casing. Stir and cook on medium heat for an additional 3-4 minutes until all ingredients are combined and heated through. Set aside until ready to use.
Warm the tortillas in the microwave to soften for about 1 minute.
In a large bowl, shred the Smoked Gouda slices by keeping all the slices held together and using a cheese grater on the largest side.
To build the tacos, spoon some of the rice/beans mixture into the corn tortillas, then the soy chorizo mixture. Top with the shredded smoked gouda and the fresh cut salsa. Serve immediately.