Easy Weeknight Meal: Potato Mash Bowls

Now that it’s December, this baby thing is suddenly starting to feel really, really real. With my due date less than 5 weeks away, I’m experiencing a real struggle between my insane, compulsive desire to get everything ready on one hand, and various aches, pains, and (at times overwhelming) exhaustion on the other.

I haven’t been doing a whole lot of what I would consider to be “real” cooking, but I have been making strides toward my goal of cleaning out our freezer, fridge, and pantry to clear out some stuff that’s been hanging around a bit too long, and make room for some easy, convenient items and pre-prepared meals that H and I can turn to in the first few weeks after Baby H comes home.

One thing that has been really working for me as a dinner option has been what I call Potato Mash Bowls, and it’s really as simple as baking a potato in the microwave, mashing it up, and putting some veggies and protein on top. These bowls are really quick to prepare, easy to adapt to whatever ingredients (or leftovers) you have lying around that need using, and importantly are really, really tasty and satisfying to eat.

The base:
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Here, I mashed up the potato with some Earth Balance and Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning.

Then, I added steamed broccoli (from the freezer!) and black beans:
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I also did one topped with veggie chili (also from the freezer! I feel so accomplished!) and a heap of nutritional yeast:
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I love these bowls!!

I will have more freezer meals to share with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any ideas you have for stuff I can make and freeze to have on hand when baby comes home. I am thinking about chili and soups, but would love suggestions for more casserole-type entrees if anyone has any. Thanks in advance ūüôā

It’s Still Pumpkin Season! Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Recipe

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend!  Knowing that next year there will be a new little human in the mix had me really cherishing the time we spent with family and friends this time around.

I can’t be the only one who feels¬†that pumpkin season shouldn’t end with Thanksgiving, but should continue through the entire fall and holiday season. ¬†My taste for pumpkin is still going strong, in any event!

Remember those wisdom-giving pumpkin pancakes?  The leftovers got me through several breakfasts last week.  I had them rolled up with a bit of White Chocolate Wonderful and they were divine.
 photo PumpkinPancakes009_zps1008c821.jpg

Once those were gone, I put the leftover pumpkin puree to good use in delicious smoothie form. ¬†There are a thousand and one pumpkin pie smoothie recipes on the Internet, and now I’m throwing mine into the mix as well!
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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Serves 1
Vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free

3/4 – 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond-coconut)…add less milk for a thicker consistency, more for thinner
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 frozen banana
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Small pinch of ground cloves

Blend and enjoy!

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Are you still getting your pumpkin fix? Let me know how!

I Love Tofurky

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!  I certainly did, although I definitely ate too much.  Somehow before tucking in I forgot about the limited space available in my abdomen (what with the 5-6 lb. human residing in there), and paid the price with a pretty uncomfortable evening thereafter, but it was so worth it.

One of the things I of course overstuffed myself with was my favorite staple–the Tofurky roast!–that I bring along to Thanksgiving every year.
image (4)

I know the word “Tofurky” has become kind of infamous and is maybe a bit of a joke to non-vegans. ¬†It is kind of a silly name, I guess, and it’s kind of misleading because Tofurky isn’t actually a tofu turkey (it’s actually made of a blend of tofu, gluten, and canola oil). ¬†But I really, really¬†love it. Especially with all the caramelized roasted veggies around it–ahh, so good!

It’s obviously not exactly a health food, but it is absolutely delicious and I look forward to enjoying it on this special occasion each year. ¬†For me, Thanksgiving isn’t the same without it anymore. ¬†And, because of the availability of options like this, a meatless Thanksgiving is not only possible, but is truly enjoyable. ¬†That’s definitely something to be thankful for!
image (5)
And now I’m off to make myself a Thanksgiving sandwich with leftover Tofurky for lunch ūüôā

P.S. – After¬†reading over the post and realizing that it sounds a bit like an ad or review (haha!), I¬†just thought I’d clarify that I’m not being paid to advertise Tofurky or anything. ¬†I just really like it and wrote the post while I was getting psyched up¬†for my lunch.

Simply Perfect Weeknight Dinner: Vegan Tacos!


In many ways, tacos embody the concept of Simply Perfect.  They are cheap, extremely easy to prepare and assemble, a great vehicle for leftovers, and endlessly customizable.

In short, a taco dinner makes a perfect weeknight dinner!

The only *musts* are a filling and some shells. ¬†After that,¬†you can get creative with the rest of the fillings! ¬†Vegan cheese shreds (if that’s your thing), fresh tomato, salsa, lettuce, guacamole or diced avocado…you name it.

Because I almost always set up a “taco bar” when we have parties, I am a frequent purchaser of those taco kits you can buy in the supermarket. ¬†This means that H and I usually have leftover taco shells (both hard and soft) and seasoning packets in our kitchen.

If you are not a taco kit hoarder like me, though, you can buy individual boxes of taco shells at the store (I used these beautiful non-GMO Garden of Eatin’ shells in the tacos pictured below), or you can just use soft corn tortillas (I like the ones from Trader Joe’s).

I have two favorite go-to fillings, both of which are extremely easy and delicious.

The first one uses Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef crumbles (in either the original “Beefy” or the “Feisty” flavor…both work great in this). ¬†To make this filling, I lightly saute some finely chopped red onion and red bell pepper. ¬†Once they are softened, I add the frozen crumbles and cook everything together until warmed through. ¬†Lastly, I stir in about 1/3 of a packet of taco seasoning.
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If you do not have pre-made taco seasoning, you can easily make your own by combining some salt, chili powder, cumin, and oregano (and anything else that tastes yummy to you!).  Have fun with it!

The second filling uses ultra-cheap and readily available black beans. I simply rinse a can of beans, then add it to a pan with a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce and some taco seasoning, and cook it until warm.
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I LOVE these taco beans and the leftovers never last long.

Once your filling is ready, you can stuff tacos and eat them neatly as shown above, or you can break up the shells and serve yourself a big ol’ taco mess like I did here:
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It isn’t pretty but man did it taste good.

Either way, they’re super-fun to eat!

Simple Soup-Making & Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup with Kale (in a Bread Bowl!)

I lurrve me some soup. I could eat soup every day of the year, no matter the season. And I’ll tell you, making a tasty soup at home is incredibly simple.

There are approximately 69084023948 amazing vegan soup recipes available on the web, and even more in cookbooks. I’ll admit though that sometimes I’m too lazy to follow a recipe for soup or to shop for ingredients. This is where it comes in handy to know a few basics for throwing together a delectable liquid dinner from whatever you happen to have lying around.

Almost all vegetables (except for maybe like, iceberg lettuce) can go into a soup. So if you find yourself with a surplus of carrots, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, potatoes, squash–really anything!–a soup is an easy, tasty, and cost-effective way to use it up.

Every soup follows the same basic formula: saute some¬†onion and garlic (in either water or olive oil, depending on your preference), then add broth and beans/veggies/grains/potatoes and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until everything is tender. At this point you can puree, or just eat it as is. If using grains or leafy green veggies in a pureed soup, you’ll want to puree first and add these ingredients last.

It’s really that simple!

Here it is broken down for you mathematical types:
Pureed or “creamy” soup = ([sauteed onion + garlic] + broth + beans and/or potatoes) + blender ¬†<–adding other veggies is optional but encouraged!
Brothy soup: = (sauteed onion + garlic) + broth + vegetables and/or grains

Broth can be actual storebought or homemade broth, or it can be water + bouillon, or it can be just plain water (though if you’re going with plain water, be prepared to add some serious seasonings to avoid blandness). ¬†You can also sub in part of the broth in a recipe for another liquid like soy milk or canned coconut milk for extra richness.

Here is an example of the formula in action: Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup with Kale that I threw together last night from stuff I had in the house.
soup 1
This recipe is probably quite similar to the White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup from Vegan With a Vengeance as well as the Roasted Garlic White Bean & Kale Soup from the Domestic Vegan blog (which sadly no longer exists). I’ve made both recipes dozens of times and it’s extremely likely that they sub-consciously informed my soup-making, so I just want to make sure I give credit where credit is due.

2 bulbs roasted garlic (see note)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cups broth
3 cups (1 large can) white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chopped kale
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional add-ins: nutritional yeast, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, other spices and seasonings (see note)

Follow the formula! The only difference here is that you don’t have to saute your garlic because it’s already roasted. So:

1) Saute the onion until softened.
2) Add broth and beans. Bring to a boil then back down to simmer for about 10 minutes.
3) Puree the soup (or lightly blend to keep some texture, if you like it a bit chunkier).
4) Add kale and stir until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. It’s ready to serve!

Note on roasting garlic: Simply stick 2 bulbs of garlic in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and forget about them while you do other stuff. Let them cool a bit (about 10 minutes is usually enough time) and then squeeze or peel to remove the roasted cloves.

Note on seasonings: Isa uses sage and a bay leaf in her white bean soup, and Domestic Vegan used rosemary, crushed fennel seeds, and a bay leaf in hers. All of these flavors are amazing and I encourage you to use them if you have them (1 tsp each if using dried; 1 tbsp if fresh…add them with the¬†broth and beans in step 2 so the flavors have time to infuse the soup). Just make sure you remove the bay leaf before blending!
soup 2

Oh, and about those bread bowls

I buy the smallest-sized boules I can find (Trader Joe’s usually has them but I found these at my local Stop & Shop yesterday) and use Chloe Coscarelli’s method to prepare them–cut off the top and scoop out the inside, then brush the inside with olive oil (to keep soup from leaking out), and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Use the extra bread for dipping (like you needed me to tell you that!).

More simple soup recipes:
Easiest Lentil Soup
Sunshine Soup (a brothy soup that I also pureed because I’m a rebel like that)

I’m also submitting this soup¬†to this week’s Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck!

Tropical Ginger Green Smoothie (with a Secret Ingredient!)

I have been on one of the most intense green smoothie kicks of my life over the past couple of weeks. ¬†Today I’ve got a new one for you that¬†makes use of an ingredient for which I’ve struggled to find a use in the past…
Broccoli stalks!

Now, you may be thinking one (or more) of the following things:

  • Gross! ¬†Broccoli in a smoothie?!¬†
  • What do you mean you’ve struggled to find a use for those? ¬†Just eat them, dummy!
  • This is not new. ¬†I do this all the time. ¬†<—the thoughts of my very enlightened, smoothie guru readers!

But seriously, I eat broccoli ALL. THE. TIME.  And this does usually include parts of the stalk.  However, I just have a *thing* about the proportion of stalk to floret that I want to have in a dish (it can only be like, 30:70, max, but preferably closer to 20:80).  This means that 99% of the time, I have some broccoli stalks left over.

They can be composted, of course.  But really that is such a waste of money (since you pay for broccoli by weight), not to mention outstanding nutritional value (including folate, potassium, and Vitamin C)!

So I finally decided to take a flyer on using it in a smoothie, and lo and behold, it blends right in, adding bulk and tons of nutrients while imparting no detectable broccoli flavor.  Win!
 photo BroccoliSmoothie003_zps46f1dabb.jpgTropical Ginger Green Smoothie with Broccoli Stalk
Yield: 1 very large smoothie
Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free

1 cup water
1 large frozen banana
1/3 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango or pineapple chunks
1 broccoli stalk, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut in half (use about half this amount if you don’t adore ginger…I *adore* ginger)
2 big handfuls baby spinach (about 2 cups)
(optional) agave nectar to sweeten, if necessary

Add to blender in order shown, blend from low to high, and serve!BroccoliSmoothie002_zpsa5997cc7Try it, you’ll like it!

Have you ever tried broccoli stalks in a smoothie before?  What other leftover veggies have you smoothie-fied?

Refried Bean Tortilla Pies, and Some Blog News

Another frigid winter weekend down, only 987453 5 (technically) to go!

This weekend was actually nice and relaxing.  On Saturday, H and I got up and out for a Ragnar training run, and then he surprised me with a trip to an indoor mini-golf course (located inside a greenhouse!).

Refried Bean Tortilla Pies 001After mini-golf, we headed to a golf outlet store where I got my very first set of clubs! ¬†Taking practice swings with them was a welcome reminder that summer isn’t as far off as it sometimes feels…

H had to do some work yesterday, which meant lots of kitty cuddle time for me:
Refried Bean Tortilla Pies 005

And, of course, kitchen time! ¬†First up was some recipe testing for Richa:Refried Bean Tortilla Pies 004I obviously can’t reveal what it is, but I can tell you it was delicious!

Then, as is typical, I was in the mood for something spicy, so I made this:Refried Bean Tortilla Pies 007

Refried Bean Tortilla Pie
Yield: Approximately 2 cups bean mixture, or 4 servings (1/2 cup beans over 2 tortillas per serving)
Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, can be oil-free

This is a cheap, simple way to jazz up ordinarily boring/bland refried beans! ¬†I called it a “pie” because it reminded me of a little pizza ūüôā

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil OR water/broth (enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about 2/3 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-oz. can vegetarian refried beans
1-2 tbsp. chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (omit for less heat)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (omit for less heat)
1 tsp. lime juice
8 corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Empty beans into a medium saucepan and heat gently while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a medium skillet, heat oil or water.  Add onions and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes, until softened and translucent.  Add chipotle, chili power, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and cayenne and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the saucepan with the beans and stir to fully incorporate.  Add lime juice and stir again.

Spread mixture onto corn tortillas (I find about 1/4 cup per tortilla to be a good amount) and bake for 5-7 minutes or until bean mixture has a light crust.

Serve warm with whatever toppings you like! ¬†I enjoyed mine with black beans (beans on beans, I know…sue me), avocado, and cilantro. ¬†I bet some melted Daiya pepperjack shreds would also taste swell. ¬†Just have fun with it!

For crispier pies, you can bake the tortillas for 2-3 minutes on their own before spreading on the bean mixture.

It’s also fun to layer the tortillas for a taller pie!Refried Bean Tortilla Pies 006

Blog News
You may have noticed a few changes around the blog (well, most likely you haven’t but now you will!)…

1) After 5 years and 8 months of blogging I have¬†FINALLY purchased the domain acookinthemaking.com. ¬†I know it’s not like a huge process and it doesn’t actually mean or change anything, but to me it feels really special and exciting!

2) I have removed the Blog Cast of Characters page. ¬†It made me sad to do it, but it just wasn’t really relevant to the blog anymore. ¬†When I started A. Cook in the Making, I was 23 years old and living at home in NJ briefly before moving to Boston to start law school. ¬†My life has changed drastically since then, and most of what I write about on here really only involves my husband, myself, and occasionally the cats. ¬†Obviously my parents and siblings are still incredibly important to me and I will post about them when I see them!

2b) I’ve updated the About page accordingly to show H, Stewie, and Marty.

3) I have made serious improvements to the Categories, editing them all the way back out to my first posts in 2008, and expanding them to include seasonal-themed posts.  Check them out on the right-hand toolbar.

4) After many months of drafting, I have finally published a¬†Recipes page! ¬†Not that I’m suddenly some prolific recipe guru, but I’ve posted enough of them now that I thought it might be helpful to have them all listed and linked in one place.

Next up will be going back and sprucing up the [abysmal] tagging that I did back in the day. ¬†That one’s definitely a work in progress.

Hearty Chipotle Chili and Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie

Hello friends! ¬†I’ve only been away 3 days but it feels like longer. ¬†The snow day in the middle of the week totally threw off my schedule work-wise and blog-wise. ¬†I’m back though and eager to share with you a recipe plus one of my favorite ways of re-purposing leftovers!

In the summer of 2008, prior to starting law school, I spent some time living with a local family in Boquete, Panama.  One night my host mom wanted to cook something together and I suggested chili (something they had never heard of!).

Vegetarian chili is a total vegan staple, is it not? ¬†It’s cheap to make, it is a total canvas for whatever you have in your kitchen, and I love that it makes such a large amount because there is so much you can do with the end result. ¬†So, we made chili, and everyone really liked it. ¬†The day before I was to return to the U.S. (via Bocas del Toro…Bocas es loca!), my host mom asked me to write down my recipe.

I was kind of at a loss because in my mind, chili doesn’t need a recipe. ¬†You just wing it with whatever you have, which makes every batch of chili slightly unique. ¬†Obviously I did my best to give her a “recipe” that replicated what we’d had for dinner that one night, but I secretly hoped she would understand that it was more of a “method” and she didn’t have to follow it step-by-step.

Fast forward 5 1/2 years (has it really been that long?!) and I actually have developed a “recipe” for chili that I adhere to somewhat closely nowadays because it is so damn delicious that I don’t want to change it. ¬†Since I was home all day on Wednesday I decided to use the time to make a big old pot of it.

Hearty Chipotle Chili
Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free option
Yield: 10-12 cups

Chili 004

1 tbsp. olive oil OR water/broth (just enough water to thinly line the bottom of the pot)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cans (or about 6 cups) beans of choice–my favorite combo is 2 cans (3 cups) black, 1 can (1.5 cups) kidney, and 1 can (1.5 cups) chickpeas
1 cup frozen corn
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can of tomato sauce
¬ľ cup water
1 tbsp. finely chopped chipotle in adobo
2 tsp. adobo sauce (omit to make it less spicy)
¬Ĺ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. chili powder (use chipotle chili powder for even more heat and flavor!)
¬Ĺ tsp. cumin
¬ľ tsp. cinnamon
¬Ĺ tsp. red pepper flakes (omit to make it less spicy)
Generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. sliced baby portabella mushrooms (optional)
Salt to taste

In a large stockpot, warm olive oil or water.  Add onion and garlic and saute for 5-7 minutes until tender.  Add pepper and saute 2-3 minutes more.

Add beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce if using, oregano, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes if using, and black pepper. ¬†Stir well to combine, bring mixture just to a boil, then cover and let simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. ¬†[If using mushrooms, add them about 10-15 minutes before the end of cooking time, stir well, then cover pot and continue to heat until they’ve cooked down.]

Taste and add salt and other spices as needed.  Serve with cornbread, on top of rice or baked potato, or with tortilla chips!


As chili recipes are wont to do, the one above makes a ton of leftovers. ¬†You can freeze some, obviously, but one of my favorite ways to use leftover chili is in a dish I call Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie, which has the added bonus of utilizing¬†another common leftover, mashed potatoes.

Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 4-6
Vegan, gluten-free, can be soy- and oil-free (depending on how your mashed potatoes are prepared)

Chili 007

What You Need
3-4 cups leftover Hearty Chipotle Chili
3-4 cups mashed potatoes (the ones in the picture are red bliss)
4-6 ramekins or small glass containers (such as Pyrex) OR a 9 x 13 glass or casserole dish

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Add your leftover chili to whatever baking vessels you are using and top with mashed potatoes.  If using a 9 x 13 baking, you may want to lightly spray or oil the dish before adding the ingredients (I find this is unnecessary when using the littler guys for whatever reason).

Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until potatoes have a golden crust.  Add whatever toppings you like!  Diced avocado, or a tablespoon of chopped green onions or cilantro are great choices.

Chili 005

What are some other ways to use leftover chili and/or mashed potatoes?

Have a great weekend!!!

Plant Based on a Budget Challenge

[I pre-scheduled this post for today because it was important to me that it go up before the holiday. ¬†But I promise an update on last night’s vegan Thanksgiving dinner is coming soon! ¬†In the meantime, enjoy, and definitely scroll down for some new recipes, including Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie!]

This month, the folks over at Plant Based on a Budget have offered the challenge of designing 100% plant-based meal plans within a budget of $25 per person per week.  Today, I am participating in this challenge by providing a 7-day meal plan that will feed three meals a day to two adults within this budget.

For those who don’t know, Plant Based on a Budget is an incredible resource for affordable plant-based eating. ¬†Its contributors are working hard to dispel the myth that a vegan diet is expensive and unrealistic for the majority of Americans, particularly those living on a limited income.

This is actually a topic about which I feel very strongly. ¬† The truth is that a well-designed plant-based diet is not only extremely affordable but also provides outstanding nutrition. ¬†Better education and awareness about this could help to address and alleviate the rampant malnutrition in our country’s low-income population.

Needless to say, I am thrilled to participate in this challenge.  Particularly as most of us prepare for a day or entire weekend of gorging ourselves on an excessive amount of food, it is important to remember that not everyone is as fortunate.

Thanks 2 003[Sidenote: I didn’t feel like trolling Google images looking for non-copyrighted graphics, and this is the best I could come up with on short notice using only three colors of pen!]

As I mentioned, the meal plan outlined below will feed three meals a day to two adults for seven days, and is of course completely plant-based.  The total cost of ingredients used to make these meals is $42.25.  A breakdown of ingredients by price is included below the seven-day plan.  If you would like to see meal plans created by other contributors (including menus for up to 4 people), please visit the Plant Based on a Budget blog.

I managed to design this plan without deviating much from my usual style, that is: 1) buying stuff that’s on sale and/or comparison shopping, because like all red-blooded Americans, I like to save money; 2) making frequent (but hopefully not boring!) use of leftovers; and 3) making things that come together fairly quickly on a weeknight and also pack up easily for workday lunches.

Day One:
Whole wheat English muffin, with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and ¬Ĺ banana, sliced
Baked Marinated Tofu (2 strips) on whole wheat bread (2 slices), apple
Hearty Chipotle Chili with Skillet Cornbread

Baked Marinated Tofu (make this the night before): Drain and press a block of firm or extra-firm tofu, then slice it into strips (8 strips per block).  Make the marinade by combining 6 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 tsp. sesame oil in a shallow dish.  Add tofu strips and marinate in refrigerator for one hour, flipping halfway through.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Bake tofu strips for 20 minutes, then flip and bake another 10 minutes. You can reserve the marinade to throw into a veggie stir-fry some time next week!

Meal Plan 005

Hearty Chipotle Chili: In a large stockpot, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil, then add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 diced onion, and 1 diced green bell pepper.¬† Cook 5-7 minutes until softened.¬† Add 4 cans of beans (any variety‚Ķthis is about 6 cups of beans), 1 cup frozen corn, 1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes, 1 15-oz. can of tomato sauce, ¬ľ cup water, and 1 tbsp. finely chopped chipotle in adobo, plus 2 tsp. adobo sauce.¬† Also add ¬Ĺ tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. chili powder, ¬Ĺ tsp. cumin, ¬ľ tsp. cinnamon, ¬Ĺ tsp. red pepper flakes, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper.*¬† Stir well to combine, bring mixture just to a boil, then cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.¬† Add 8 oz. sliced baby portabella mushrooms (optional, but I found some on sale for a really good price!), stir well, then cover pot and cook another 10-15 minutes, until mushrooms have cooked down.¬† Taste for seasoning, top with a tablespoon or two of chopped green onions, and serve with cornbread.¬† Makes approximately 10 cups.

The cornbread I used is the Skillet Cornbread from Veganomicon (double-corn variety).  Most vegan cornbread recipes will use similar ingredients if you don’t have Veganomicon.

*Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the spice ingredients listed in the recipe.  The beautiful thing about chili is that it is completely adaptable!  You can also omit the chipotle and/or red pepper flakes if heat is not your thing.

Day Two:
Oatmeal prepared with ¬Ĺ cup water and ¬Ĺ cup soy milk, 1 tbsp. peanut butter, and ¬Ĺ sliced banana
Leftover Chipotle Chili with leftover Skillet Cornbread
Easy Lentil Soup with Homemade Whole Wheat Croutons

Easy Lentil Soup: In a large stockpot, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil, then add 6 cloves minced garlic and 1 diced onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add 2 diced carrots and 2 diced stalks of celery, and cook another 3-4 minutes, until softened.  Add 4 cups vegetable broth, 4 cups water, and 2 cups dry brown or green lentils, stir, then cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft and cooked (I find this usually takes 20-25 minutes).  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Dried thyme and cumin also taste great in this soup, if you have them.

Meal Plan 001

Homemade Whole Wheat Croutons: Take two slices of whole wheat sandwich bread (preferably sort of stale…you can leave them out during the day while at work), brush each side lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and dried oregano, and toast in a toaster or 350 degree oven until crispy and browned.  Cut into squares and use to garnish soup or salads.

Day Three:
Blueberry Breakfast Cake (1-2 slices)
Leftover Lentil Soup with leftover Skillet Cornbread
Leftover Chipotle Chili on top of a baked potato

Blueberry Breakfast Cake: This recipe is by Happy Herbivore and can be viewed by clicking here.

Easy Baked Potato with Chili: Scrub the skin of the potato (either Russet or Yukon Gold are fine), dry with paper towel, and then pierce several times with a fork.¬† Microwave for 3 minutes.¬† Test with fork.¬† If the fork pierces the skin easily, the potato is done.¬† If not, continue to microwave at 30-second intervals until done.¬† Serve each baked potato with ¬Ĺ tbsp. Earth Balance, 1 cup of Chipotle Chili, and a tablespoon of chopped green onions.

Day Four:
Whole wheat English muffin with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and ¬Ĺ banana, sliced
Baked Marinated Tofu sandwich (2 strips) on whole wheat bread (2 slices), leftover Lentil Soup
Peanut Passion soba noodles (if you don’t have soba noodles, rice noodles or spaghetti are perfect substitutes!)

peanut passion sauce

Peanut Passion Soba Noodles: I used Dreena Burton’s recipe for Peanut Passion Sauce (pictured above), which can be viewed by clicking here, and followed her instructions for noodles (in the Notes).  Top noodles with a tablespoon or two of chopped green onions, if you like.

Day Five:
Oatmeal prepared with ¬Ĺ cup water and ¬Ĺ cup soy milk, 1 tbsp. peanut butter, and ¬Ĺ sliced banana
Leftover Peanut Passion noodles
Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie (this is how we will use up the remaining leftover Chipotle Chili!  You should have 3-4 cups left at this point.)

Meal Plan 007

Southwestern Shepherd‚Äôs Pie: Peel and rinse 4 medium-large Russet potatoes (or 6 small-medium Yukon Gold potatoes) and chop them into large pieces.¬† Place them in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.¬† Once boiling, lower the heat slightly and allow them to gently continue boiling, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, until fork-tender.¬† Drain the potatoes, then add them back to the warm pot and let them rest for 1 minute to release a little moisture.¬† Transfer the potatoes to a bowl, and add 6 tbsp. soy milk, 4 tbsp. Earth Balance, ¬ľ tsp. salt, and ¬ľ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, then mash the potatoes using a potato masher or a fork until smooth.¬† Preheat the oven to 400F.¬† Lightly spray or oil a 9 x 13 glass or casserole dish, then add all of your leftover chili and top with mashed potatoes.¬† Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until potatoes have a golden crust.¬† Remove into bowls, top with a tablespoon of chopped green onions, and enjoy.

You can also bake this in ramekins for individual portions, if you prefer:
Meal Plan 006

Day Six:
Blueberry Breakfast Cake (1-2 slices)
Leftover Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie
Pasta (2 dry cups of any variety, cooked) with meaty lentil sauce

Meaty Lentil Sauce: I made the lentil pasta sauce by following the recipe for Homestyle ‚ÄúMeaty‚ÄĚ Tomato Sauce with Lentils and Walnuts from Plant Based On a Budget, but omitting the walnuts.¬† View the recipe by clicking here.

Day Seven:
Whole wheat English muffin with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and ¬Ĺ banana, sliced
Leftover pasta with Meaty Lentil Sauce
Sautéed tofu, caramelized onion and mushroom brown rice, roasted asparagus

Caramelized onion and mushroom brown rice: Cook 1 cup brown rice according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp. Earth Balance in a large skillet.  Add 1 onion, thinly sliced, plus a generous pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until very soft and very brown.  Set onions aside and deglaze the pan with a little water (or cooking wine, if you have it), then add 1 clove minced garlic and cook until softened and fragrant.  Next, add 4 oz. sliced portabella mushrooms and cook until they soften and shrink down a little.  You may need to add splashes of liquid here and there to prevent sticking.  Once the mushrooms have cooked, add the caramelized onions back in, plus the cooked rice, and stir to combine.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Sautéed tofu: Drain and press tofu and cut block in half, reserving half of it for another time (maybe for that stir fry next week?).  Slice the remaining half into triangles, and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.  In a non-stick skillet, add 1 tsp. of olive oil, then cook the tofu triangles for a few minutes on each side, just until browned.

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Roasted asparagus: Preheat oven to 400F.  Snap off the woody ends of the stalks, wash, and dry them.  Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place in the oven for 15 minutes, flipping or shaking them about 10 minutes in.

Ingredients and Price Breakdown
2 cups oats – $.32
2 cups soy milk – $.82
10 tbsp. natural peanut butter – $.70
5 bananas – $1.22
1 cup frozen blueberries – $1.20
6 English Muffins – $3.49
¬Ĺ cup unsweetened applesauce – $.23
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract – $.34
Total breakfast price: $8.32

Lunch (non-leftover)
1 block extra-firm tofu – $1.70
6 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce – $.60
1 tsp. sesame oil – $.13
1 inch ginger, grated – $.04
2 cloves garlic – $.06
2 apples – $1.14
8 slices whole wheat bread – $2.40
Total lunch price: $6.07

4 cans of beans – $2.00
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes – $1.50
1 can tomato paste – $.45
15 garlic cloves (1 head) – $.45
4 onions – $1.44
1 green pepper – $1.03
2 cups frozen corn – $.54
1 tbsp. chipotle in adobo – $.18
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce – $.40
2 ¬ľ c. + 6 tbsp. soy milk – $1.08
6 tbsp. Earth Balance – $.78
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar – $.03
2 cups cornmeal – $.10
6 potatoes – $1.08
2 carrots – $.26
2 stalks celery – $.34
3 ¬Ĺ cups dried lentils – $1.40
4 cups vegetable stock/broth – $2.00
1 package soba noodles – $3.99
¬Ĺ cup peanut butter – $.56
1 tbsp. sesame oil – $.39
1 inch ginger, grated – $.04
3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce – $.30
1 bunch organic green onions – $.99
2 limes – $.67
¬Ĺ block extra-firm tofu – $.85
12 oz. sliced baby portabella mushrooms (sale) ‚Äď $1.89
1 bunch asparagus (sale) – $2.10
1 cup dry brown rice – $.16
2 cups dry pasta – $.52
2 slices whole wheat bread – $.30
Total dinner price: $27.86

I am not a dietician or nutritionist.  This is just the kind of stuff I like to eat and reflects my personal view of what represents a healthy balance.

The only ingredients whose cost is not factored in are things that are commonly found in all kitchens: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, basic spices, and oil.

It does not matter what day of the week you count as day one, day two, etc.

You will have leftovers!!¬† Leftover lentil pasta sauce, lentil soup, blueberry breakfast cake, whole wheat bread, and canned chipotles can all be frozen.¬† You also can (and should!) freeze the leftover ¬Ĺ block of tofu.¬† The only things I‚Äôm not sure I would freeze are the Peanut Passion noodles and the Southwestern Shepherd‚Äôs Pie (can you freeze mashed potatoes?), so you would want to use any leftovers of those within a few days.¬† Not hard to do because they are so delicious!

Other Stuff
Please note that I did not actually go out and purchase all of the listed ingredients before coming up with the meal plan.¬† The overwhelming majority of the ingredients used are staples in my kitchen and I already had them available to me.¬† Please feel free to make substitutions or omissions as needed in order to fit the plan into your personal budget or food items you have on hand. ¬†The best example of this is the soba noodles; if you don’t have those in your kitchen, but you do have spaghetti or rice noodles, you can save yourself the $3.99 by just using what you already have.

Also worth noting is that I did not always pick the cheapest options for all of the listed foods.  For example, dried beans are almost always cheaper than canned, but I happened to find canned beans on sale for $.50 each, which I thought was a good deal that would save me time.  But the point is that you could save even more money (and avoid sodium, BPA, etc.) by making the chili recipe using beans that you have cooked from dried.

Finally, you can probably also find even cheaper options for bread, English muffins, and peanut butter.  I felt okay using what I had on hand once I realized that they would fit into the budget for the meal plan.  It’s your choice and you should feel free to buy whatever products you like that fit into your budget!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Vegan MoFo – Gettin’ Down with Brown


The point of this post is definitely not to be like “Look What I Ate!” ¬†Trust me, I am aware that this is not 2007. ¬†But once in a while I get excited about something I’ve made out of whatever stuff I have lying around.

Plus I’m really excited about the little bowl I made today because it fits in with my MoFo theme this week in that it’s full of yummy and under-appreciated brown foods!

Allow me to introduce you to the Brown Bowl (with accents of green of course!):

Daiya 003

You’ve got your quinoa, your steamed kale, tempeh sausage crumbles, and brown rice all in one!¬†(Sorry the image is a little off-center…Wordpress and I are currently having a disagreement over photo-editing. ¬†And of course the rice looks white…sigh.)

Anyway, the bowl. ¬†It’s a super-yummy and healthy option for lunch or dinner! ¬†I suppose it doesn’t technically need a sauce but I like to have one. ¬†Here, I used straight-up sriracha but a tahini sauce would be amazing as well (specifically I’m thinking a sriracha-tahini sauce. ¬†Yeah, I’m obsessed.)

Daiya 001

(And in this one everything is still off-center and looks yellow/orange.  Grr.)

I used the recipe for Tempeh Sausage Crumbles from Vegan with a Vengeance (click for recipe). ¬†As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the early stages of my tempeh appreciation. ¬†I’m loving this recipe as a cheap and versatile way to incorporate this protein- and iron-rich food into my diet. ¬†Seriously, a single serving of tempeh (1 cup) has 31 grams of protein. ¬†[Source: NutritionData.com] ¬†Compare to a serving of steak (3 oz., and who actually eats that little?) which has 23 grams of protein but is also served with an unattractive side of cholesterol [source].

My first go at the tempeh crumbles recipe made enough to feed me for something like 5 meals.  Last week I packed it up with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes (left over from this recipe) and steamed kale.

Sausage 003

I didn’t eat it in little perfect sections obviously. ¬†Here it is, all mixed up like 311:

Sausage 007

Tempeh sausage crumbles…not just for brunch anymore!