What I Ate Wednesday!

Hello everyone!  I have been travelling for work, and not cooking much at all because I’m staying in a hotel room.  No Vegan Test Kitchen recipes have been made, and no new recipes have been created.  But, I’ve still been eating!  Can’t survive without that 🙂

Today I’m posting pictures of what I’ve been eating over the last few days.  It IS possible to be plant-based and vegan, even while travelling and with limited ability to cook!

Breakfast at the hotel has been very vegan friendly.  Usually I eat oatmeal with brown sugar and walnuts, with fruit on the side.  Pineapple and blueberries are my favorite, but the hotel rotates with apples, honeydew, and cantaloupe as well.
What I Ate Wednesday
I found a microwavable container of organic brown rice at the local grocery store, and topped it with a pop-top can of vegetarian baked beans for a super fast lunch on a particularly busy workday.
What I Ate Wednesday
I’ve been attempting to pack lunch to take to work, since that is cheaper and healthier than eating out.  The food pictured below is cherry tomatoes, snap peas, an apricot, blueberries, and a big container of brown rice, corn, asparagus, hot sauce and salsa.  I ate all of this by lunchtime, and was still hungry when I got back to my hotel!
What I Ate Wednesday
Today I brought pretty much the same lunch as pictured above, but I also brought some raisin bran and unsweetened almond milk for some extra calories.
What I Ate Wednesday
For a dinner one night this week I made a giant pile of couscous with sauteed onion and asparagus.  I had some oil-free refried pinto beans (that were SUPER delicious) on the side.
What I Ate Wednesday
I haven’t made all my food though – the picture below is of the unlimited salad bar at Jason’s Deli.  I also ordered a plain baked potato that turned out to be gigantic!
What I Ate Wednesday
And, I went to a little Japanese restaurant that had lots of vegan options.  I ordered a soba noodle bowl with tofu and veggies.  On the side they had a lovely vegan miso soup, and I ordered some edamame.  It was fantastically yummy.  I will definitely go back there before I leave!
What I Ate Wednesday
I’ve eaten more than this, of course, but usually I don’t stop to take pictures of my food!

Vegan Test Kitchen: Lentil-A-Roni from “Isa Does It”

It’s no secret that Isa Does It is my favorite vegan cookbook, and that Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my favorite vegan chef.  I have made many, many dishes from Isa Does It, and today I’m sharing a Vegan Test Kitchen post on her Lentil-A-Roni!  This recipe is the BOMB.

Reasons why I love Isa’s Lentil-A-Roni:

  1. It’s so easy.  It uses only 8 ingredients, plus salt/pepper.
  2. It’s inexpensive. The main ingredients cost about $3 to $4 total.
  3. It makes a TON.  This could easily feed a family of four with leftovers.
  4. It’s easily modified to leave out the oil – just saute the onion in veggie broth or water instead!
  5. It’s creamy, velvety, and very filling.
  6. It’s kid friendly!  This dish is not spicy at all, so it’s perfect for your little ones.  It’s also perfect for my husband, who is not a fan of too much spice.
  7. One serving is approximately 330 calories.  I need more calories than that for dinner, so I eat two servings.  It’s nice not to have that be tons of calories.
  8. It’s beautiful.  The pale rose sauce is flecked with thyme and looks so inviting.

Lentil A Roni Isa Does itThe recipe calls for fusilli pasta, but I didn’t have any so I used penne instead.  Still fantastic.  I had all of the ingredients to make this already in my pantry and the dish came together in less than 20 minutes.  The Lentil-A-Roni is very saucy, which I enjoyed.  I simmered the sauce a few minutes longer than called for in the recipe to thicken it up to my liking.  It does make a giant pot of food.  I ate two servings, my friend ate two servings, and my husband ate one serving.  After that, there was still enough for two containers of leftovers!  Hello post-lunch pasta coma at work! 🙂
Lentil A Roni Isa Does it
Lentil A Roni Isa Does it

This Lentil-A-Roni recipe can be found HERE.

If you don’t have Isa Does It, you should buy it.  This is not a sales pitch.  If I was forced to give up all my beloved vegan cookbooks and only keep one, I would hang onto this one.  I’ve never made a recipe from it that disappointed me.  I’ve successfully fed Isa’s food to non-vegans on many occasions, including holidays.  It’s been very well received every time.  When I started cooking vegan food, I made quite a few terrible recipes that went straight in the trash.  Isa has never let me down.Lentil A Roni Isa Does it

Vegan Test Kitchen is a way to share my collection of vegan cookbooks with you, my wonderful readers!  This way, you can “try before you buy” on many recipes from the best vegan chefs out there.

Quick Cauliflower Tofu Curry

When my friends need a quick meal on a weeknight, they turn to sandwiches, pasta, or pizza.  When I need a quick meal, I make curry.  I know what you’re thinking – quick curry!?  That doesn’t even make sense!  Trust me, it does.  This curry takes 20 minutes to cook, and about 5 minutes of prep time.  The ingredient list isn’t too long, and it only uses one pot.  It also feeds four, at about 300 calories per serving.  You can serve it with rice or another grain easily to up the caloric content.  It’s filling because of the amounts of protein and fat.  Most of all, it doesn’t taste like it only took 20 minutes!
Quick Creamy Cauliflower Tofu Curry
I used Nasoya’s Chipotle Marinated Baked Tofu in this recipe.  This stuff is seriously amazing, and I’m so glad my local Publix grocery started carrying it.  It has a much meatier texture than regular tofu, because it’s already pre-baked, and it’s SO flavorful.  I love this stuff.  It’s roughly twice as expensive as the plain tofu I buy, because it’s $3.99 for 8 ounces of this instead of $3.99 for 16 ounces of plain extra firm tofu.  You might think that’s too expensive, but it is so worth it to me.  I don’t have to press it, season it, or bake it!  It’s already cooked!  The amount of time it saves me is ridiculous.  I really can’t say enough goods things about this tofu.  You should seriously try it.  I promise I’m not getting any compensation for raving about this product – I just love it that much!
Quick Creamy Cauliflower Tofu CurryQuick Creamy Cauliflower Tofu Curry
I took the leftovers of this recipe to work for lunch one day, and all my coworkers commented on how good it made the break room smell.  Nobody believed it only took 20 minutes to make!

Quick Cauliflower Tofu Curry

Yield: Serves 4

Calories per serving: 300 per serving


  • 1 cup chopped baby carrots
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk (from the can)
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound frozen cauliflower florets
  • 8 ounces Chipotle Marinated Baked Tofu, chopped into bite sized pieces


  1. Line a large skillet with water, and saute the carrots, onion, and garlic for ten minutes on high heat.
  2. Add coconut milk, crushed tomatoes, and spices. Stir until completely incorporated.
  3. Add cauliflower and tofu, and stir to combine. Lower heat to medium high and cook for an additional ten minutes (or until the cauliflower is fork tender), stirring at least once every minute. The curry will be slightly soupy. If you prefer a drier curry, continue simmering until it reaches your desired consistency.
  4. Serve by itself, or over sticky rice. Enjoy!

Quick Creamy Cauliflower Tofu Curry

Vegan Test Kitchen: Buffalo Hummus from “No Meat Athlete”

Hummus is a food group for vegans.  It’s tasty and versatile, and often it’s the only “vegan option” at parties.  It can be used as a dip for veggies, a salad dressing, a potato topping, or a spread on a sandwich or wrap.  I like to top my rice and veggie bowls with a generous scoop for extra flavor.  The only issue with hummus is that it is rather expensive if you buy it already prepared.  For the cost of one container of Sabra Hummus (generally around $4 dollars), I could make three batches at home.  The homemade batches also yield more hummus than the store bought containers.  Homemade hummus can be made without the added oils and preservatives found in prepackaged brands, which makes it a bit healthier.  All you need is a food processor.

I like flavored hummus much more than plain.  When I saw the Buffalo Hummus recipe in the No Meat Athlete book I knew immediately that I had to make it.  Spicy hummus!?  Get in my belly!
Buffalo Hummus No Meat Athlete

The Buffalo Hummus recipe is available HERE.

I truly loved this hummus recipe.  It’s spicy without being overpowering, and the roasted red pepper matches the smoked paprika and gives it such a depth of flavor.  It’s not incredibly spicy; it’s more of a background heat.  If you want more heat, just add some cayenne pepper or use more hot sauce.  I used two tablespoons of liquid from the canned chickpeas instead of oil, and I don’t think it affected the creaminess of the hummus at all.  An important point is to let your food processor run for a least a few minutes – I let mine run for five minutes.  The longer it runs, the smoother and creamier the hummus will be.  Be patient.  Check facebook or do some dishes while it whirs away.
Buffalo Hummus No Meat Athlete
Buffalo Hummus No Meat Athlete
I have tried the Buffalo Hummus as a dip for carrots and peppers, as a mayo substitute on a veggie sandwich, and as a topping for a bowl filled with yellow rice, green beans and tofu.  It’s perfect cold, but it tastes great warmed up as a topping for hot food also.  This is the first recipe I’ve made from the No Meat Athlete book, but I’m quite sure it will not be the last.  I bought the book for the running knowledge and tips on how to be a better vegan athlete.  The recipes were a bonus!  There’s many high protein and macro-friendly meals in this book, which makes it perfectly suited for athletes.  There’s also a few recipes for energy gels/snacks, and recovery drinks – items that are generally not that healthy when purchased from a store (like Gatorade).  I’m quite happy I purchased the book, as it’s a great resource.  You can also check out NoMeatAthlete.com to view all of the information they give away for free, including a great podcast.
Buffalo Hummus No Meat AthleteVegan Test Kitchen is a way to share my collection of vegan cookbooks with you, my wonderful readers!  This way, you can “try before you buy” on many recipes from the best vegan chefs out there.

Vegan Test Kitchen: Lentil Mushroom Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze from “I Could Never Go Vegan!”

I have to be honest with you.  I seriously considered not writing this post.  So far on the Vegan Test Kitchen feature of this blog I’ve shared recipes with you that I’ve loved, gobbled up, and (for some of them) made multiple times.  I hate being disparaging, especially when I know someone has worked long and hard on a recipe.  BUT, Vegan Test Kitchen wouldn’t be very much of an actual test kitchen if I didn’t have some fails.  This recipe is one of those fails for me.

I tried the Lentil Mushroom Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze from But I Could Never Go Vegan!.  I didn’t love it.  I didn’t even really like it.  That makes me especially sad because I’ve been reading Kristy Turner’s blog Keepin’ it Kind for several years now.  I’ve made many wonderful recipes from her website previously.  I love her voice, and she has done a lot to change people’s perspectives and help animals.  This is why I didn’t want to write this blog post.  I don’t want something I write to put Kristy or her work in a negative light.  But, I have to be honest and share what I really thought about this “Meat”loaf.
Lentil Mushroom Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze from "I Could Never Go Vegan!"
My main problem with this recipe was that I couldn’t get the meatloaf to be the right texture.  It was WAY to liquidy.  I followed the recipe exactly, but it was so mushy it almost wasn’t meatloaf.  The recipe states that the mixture should be stiff enough to form into a loaf that will stand up and bake by itself on a baking sheet.  Even after adding an extra 3/4 cup of oats to my mixture, mine was still a very very soft blob.  I had to put it into a loaf pan.  I baked it for a half an hour longer than the recipe called for because it just wasn’t firming up on the inside.  Eventually I took it out of the loaf pan, cut it into slices and returned the slices to the oven on a baking sheet for an additional 15 minutes.  That crisped them up on the edges, but it was still very mushy in the middle.

Maybe it was operator error?  Maybe my carrots, celery, or mushrooms just had more liquid in them than hers did when she wrote the recipe?  Maybe my cooked lentils were too mushy to make meatloaf with to begin with?  Maybe I pulsed the mixture in the food processor for too long?  I don’t know.  The texture was just all wrong, and couldn’t really eat the middle of the loaf.  This is what the loaf looked like before it went in the oven.
Lentil Mushroom Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze from "I Could Never Go Vegan!"
This is what it looked like when it came out and was cut into slices:
Lentil Mushroom Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze from "I Could Never Go Vegan!"
The edges that crisped up were fairly tasty.  If the whole thing had been crispy like that, I think I would have liked the recipe.  To be fair, my husband and his friend (both non-vegan) said the meatloaf was tasty.  My husband did not like the texture.  His friend didn’t mind the texture issue and ate two slices.  I will say this – the ketchup glaze that was on top was excellent.  I could eat that glaze on everything.  The glaze with the crispy bits was yummy.  But, I didn’t finish my slice and the four leftover slices didn’t get eaten by anyone.  They sat in the fridge until they spoiled.

Overall, the flavor was good.  The texture is what didn’t work for me.  If you’re going to make this recipe, I recommend pulsing the ingredients in the food processor very carefully, and maybe starting with 2/3 of the veggies called for.

Vegan Test Kitchen is a way to share my collection of vegan cookbooks with you, my wonderful readers!  This way, you can “try before you buy” on many recipes from the best vegan chefs out there.

5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without

Before my husband and I got married, we went through Target with one of those fancy wedding registry scanners, adding kitchen tools galore to our registry list.  I wasn’t much of a cook at the time (fancy dinner was spaghetti with jarred sauce) and I had no idea what I would actually need for our kitchen.  Many of the items I still have and use – like the measuring cups and spoons, the silicone spatulas, and the super adorable nesting bowl set.  Some of the items slowly made their way to the Salvation Army in the form of donations.  For example, never did I use the egg slicer.  I’ve never sliced an egg into rings in my life, and I don’t intend to start now.  I’m not sure what possessed me to put that on our wedding registry.  A few items didn’t make it at all – like the super trendy glasses we wanted that were terribly constructed and broke when being hand-washed.  After three shattered in this manner, I threw the rest away.  They were too dangerous!

Now that I cook almost daily, I realize how silly I was to add so many trinkets to our list.  There are only a few kitchen tools that I use every day.  Today I’m sharing 5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without!
5 Kitchen Tools I can't live without
1. My 8 inch Wusthof Chef’s Knife.  My husband got me this for Christmas in 2014, and I have used it almost every single day since.  It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny.  I never listened to people who told me to invest in a good chef’s knife until I actually got one.  It is a lifesaver in my kitchen.  I have cut myself so many times with other knives, but not a single time with this one.  It’s the perfect weight so it doesn’t slip off of what I’m chopping and slice open my finger.  It’s extremely sharp, which is much safer than cutting with a dull knife.  If I didn’t have this knife I’m fairly certain I would have been to the ER by now to get stitches.  If you don’t listen to anything else I say in this post, GET A GOOD KNIFE.  It will completely change your cooking experience.

5 kitchen tools I can't live without

2. My Bamboo Cutting Board.  Mine was slightly different than the one I’m linking to on Amazon, but that’s because I got it on sale at Publix on a random day and it’s been so long I’m not sure what brand it was.  Mine has a groove just like this one and is the same size.  My bamboo cutting board is the perfect accompaniment to my chef’s knife.  I am chopping, dicing, slicing, or mincing something on it daily.  Because it’s bamboo, it doesn’t dull my knife.  I wash it in warm water and soap, and it dries almost immediately.  I’ve had the same one for about two years now.  It’s starting to show its age, but I’m confident it has at least another year, possibly two, of use before I need to replace it.  **IMPORTANT**  I only cut veggies and fruits on this board.  I’m vegan, so that’s not an issue.  My husband, however, is not.  This is the one kitchen tool that I am very strict about – no meat can ever be cut on this board.  I have a cheap plastic cutting board that can be used when necessary for that type of food.  I would never feel like the cutting board was actually clean if it was used for meat, even if it had been washed.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without
3.  My Vitamix.  Again, not a cheap tool, but it is one that I use daily.  I saved for several years before finally purchasing one.  I bought one of the certified reconditioned ones so that it was a little bit less expensive.  I love my Vitamix.  I’ve made smoothies, spreads, sauces, and soups in it.  It makes dressings, dips, “cheese,” and batter.  It even makes ice cream from frozen bananas!  This is one of two kitchen tools that never gets put away.  It has a permanent spot on my counter, because I got tired of getting it out every single day to use it.  There are other high-speed blenders on the market, so if you can find a better deal go for it.  As for me though, I’ll never give up my Vitamix.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without
4. My Ikea Cookware Set.  When I got my cookware set from Ikea, the pots and pans I was using were seriously banged up.  I had one lid between 4 pots, and most of them were scratched beyond all recognition.  I paid $80.00 for my cookware set a few years ago and I LOVE it.  The one I’ve linked to above is the closest thing I could find on their website.  It has the same number of pieces that mine does, but the handles on the pot lids are slightly different, and it’s a bit more expensive.  Of course, I bought my set in store and a few years ago.  Prices may have gone up since then.  I use the skillet and the medium pot the most, but every single size pot has been well loved since I got them.  I purchased the middle of the line set – not the really cheap ones, but not the ones that would make me go broke either.  They cook food wonderfully, and they are so easy to clean.  Even when I’ve burnt something onto them (and believe me, I have) a soak in some warm water lifts the food right off.  They conduct heat well and are just marvelous.  I don’t use any other pots.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without

5. My Rice Cooker.  This rice cooker is the only item on my list that I don’t use daily.  However, I do use it at least once a week.  I am literally always cooking rice.  Before owning this kitchen tool, I didn’t eat much rice, because it would inevitably get burned to the bottom of my pot.  I hated cleaning rice pots.  This rice cooker makes it so easy for me.  It’s the only thing that stays out on my counter next to my beloved Vitamix.  Get a rice cooker.  It will save you so much time.
5 kitchen tools I can't live without
I get seriously jealous when I watch Food Network and they show beautiful kitchens.  The kitchen in our rented condo is small, and it has white laminate countertops.  Yes, I said white.  And laminate.  The countertops are horrendous.  They show every crumb and spot, and they’re annoyingly hard to clean.  The only way to get them stain free seems to be with bleach, and I really hate the smell of bleach.  The cabinets are small, the refrigerator is tiny, and there is simply not enough room for two people to be in there at once without someone getting burned or stabbed by accident.  Because of the state of my kitchen, I spend a lot of time dreaming about what kind of room I’d like to cook in someday.

I want REAL countertops.  And they had better not be white.  I want a stainless steel, double door refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom.  I could fit so many vegetables in there you guys!  I want an island.  A beautiful, modern island that you can pull bar stools up to for breakfast or socializing.  I want a dishwasher that actually cleans dishes (my current one doesn’t at all).  And I’d really, really love a stove with more than four burners and double ovens.  I’ve been playing around with this Build Your BlueStar site all night, thinking about what kind of range I would buy for my dream kitchen.  There’s so many options y’all!!  I could have a skinny oven, a wide oven, or one and a half ovens.  I could have a combination of burners and charbroil/griddle stations.  I could cook ALL THE THINGS with one of those ranges.  And I could make it red.  Or blue.  Or pink!  Well, maybe not pink.  My husband wouldn’t really go for that last one.  😉

Before I started cooking seriously, I surveyed kitchens from a purely aesthetic point of view.  Now I want function and prettiness.  Someday, this will happen.

What kitchen tools are your must-haves?  Do you have a dream kitchen?  Tell me about it!  And if you don’t have a dream kitchen, check out BlueStar Cooking.  You’ll get the kitchen dreamin’ bug instantly.

Quinoa, Peas N’ Greens Bowl

Yellow split peas are a food that doesn’t get enough love.  In just one cup, cooked yellow split peas have 16 grams of protein and 64% of your recommended daily fiber intake.  They also have 20% of your recommended daily potassium.  All of this, and more, with less than one gram of fat.  Peas are a powerhouse, and when paired with quinoa they’re out of this world.  If you eat one cup each of cooked split peas and quinoa for dinner, you will have eaten 24 grams of protein.

In this Quinoa, Peas N’ Greens Bowl, yellow split peas are given a sultry rich flavor from turmeric and garam masala.  This recipe incorporates Indian and Ethiopian notes.  The color contrast between the red quinoa, the yellow peas, and the bright green spinach make for a dish you can eat with your eyes and your taste buds.
Quinoa Peas Greens Bowl
I topped this dish with Kimchi for a spicy note, but feel free to eat it just how it is, or top it with any number of other things!  If you leave the split peas slightly soupy, they can act as a sauce by themselves.  This meal doesn’t require a lot of active cooking time and can be made in large batches to enjoy throughout the week.  I’ve eaten the quinoa and split peas every day this week for lunch, with a varying rotation of greens on the side after I used all the spinach.  If you don’t have red quinoa, regular will work just fine.
Quinoa Peas Greens Bowl
Quinoa Peas Greens Bowl

Quinoa, Peas N' Greens Bowl


    For the Yellow Split Peas
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ounces yellow split peas
  • 3 3/4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • For the Quinoa
  • 2 cups red quinoa
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • For the Greens
  • 1 pound frozen spinach
  • Salt to taste
  • Kimchi for a topping (optional)


    For the Yellow Split Peas
  1. Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup of the water until onions are translucent and most of the water is gone, about 7 minutes.
  2. Stir in the remaining 3 1/2 cups water and the yellow split peas. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Stir in all spices, and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until split peas reach desired tenderness.
  4. For the Quinoa
  5. In a separate pot, bring veggie broth to a boil. Stir in quinoa, and bring back to a boil.
  6. Reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer until tender and little white rings appear around the individual quinoa grains, approximately 15-20 minutes.
  7. For the Greens
  8. Line a skillet with a thin layer of water. Saute one pound frozen spinach until tender, approximately 3-6 minutes. Salt to taste.
  9. Assembly
  10. Fill a bowl with one part each quinoa, yellow split peas, and spinach. Top with Kimchi (optional) or any other dressing of your choosing. Enjoy!

Quinoa Peas Greens Bowl

The Importance of Planning Ahead: 6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

“Always plan your meals in advance. Never decide what to have for dinner at dinner time.” – Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

We’ve all been there – rushing home from work late, already feeling as though we’re about to starve to death…and then staring at the pantry and fridge with no idea what to make for dinner.  Nothing is prepped; we have no plan.  The growling in our stomach grows louder until it drowns out all reasonable thought, and we reach for processed convenience foods that can be made in a jiffy.  Worse yet, we order takeout!  The amount of processed ingredients, sodium, and fat in vegan convenience foods and most takeout is astronomical.  We satisfy our hunger in the moment, but don’t do any favors for our health.

The only way to beat the hungry monster is to have a plan for dinner!

It’s hard to eat healthful, life-giving plant foods when you have nothing prepared.  Unless you’re eating a raw salad, most plant dinners require some cooking time.  In this post, I’m sharing my top six tips to make dinnertime painless.

6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

1. Make a master list of recipes from your favorite cookbooks or online (make sure you save the link if it’s an online recipe).

Pick one, two, or more each week from this list to make.  This recipe list will cut out a lot of time you may spend flipping through cookbooks or trying to think up dinner ideas.    When you’ve chosen the recipes for the week, you can quickly flip to the correct page in the correct cookbook and add any ingredients you may need to your grocery list.

6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

2. Have themed dinner recipes for each day of the week!

This is especially fun if you have children.  A few examples of themes you could use are:

Slowcooker Sundays
“Meat”loaf Mondays
Taco Tuesdays
Leftover Wednesdays
Veggie Burger Thursdays
Pizza Fridays
Spaghetti Saturdays

Of course none of these themes are prescriptive.  You can make up your own themes, or switch the days around.  Stick with what works best for your family!  It will put your mind at ease to know that on Thursdays, all you have to do is whip up some veggie burgers for dinner.

6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

3. Make a meal plan before you go grocery shopping.  This is CRUCIAL.  Don’t go to the grocery store without a list.

You’ll end up wandering the aisles, buying food items that don’t go together, just because they look good.  It’s okay to buy a unique fruit, veggie, or grain to work into your week’s meals; but buying a hodge podge of foods with no plan for how to integrate them will only set you up for failure.  It may also increase your food waste at the end of the week, when unused items have spoiled and must be discarded.

6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

4. Prep meals or portions of meals in advance if you can.

If you’re putting a meal in the slow cooker, have everything chopped and ready the night before so you can dump it in before you leave for work the next morning.  If you’re making tacos, make a double batch of the taco filling and freeze half so you can easily thaw it when you’re short on time.  If you have mashed potatoes in two meals in one week, make enough for both meals at one time.

6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

5. Batch cook one pot of rice and beans at the beginning of each week and store in your refrigerator. 

This will ensure you have something that can be heated up in the microwave for a meal in a snap.  Rice and beans also make great lunches throughout the week – it’s a filling meal that won’t weigh you down in the afternoon like animal based lunches can.  If you don’t want to cook beans, keep a few cans in your pantry.  Microwaving a bowl of rice and beans takes less time than going through a drive-through or ordering food that has to be delivered.

6 Ways to Make Dinnertime Painless

6. Keep frozen veggies stocked in your freezer.

Veggies are a great way to add bulk to leftovers and turn something into a brand new meal.  Have a little spaghetti and sauce left?  Add a pound of steamed broccoli and some vegan parmesan.  Have a veggie burger patty but no bun?  Serve it in a lettuce wrap instead with some edamame on the side.  Leftover “meat”loaf?  Sauté frozen collard or turnip greens, microwave a potato, and presto!  Dinner in a snap.

A little planning will give you a HUGE advantage.  Plan because you love your body, and what you put inside it is important.  Plan because you and your family deserve meals that promote health instead of harming it.  Plan because it will save you money!  Plan, so that you are set up for success before you take your first bite that week.  Plan so you never have to be stressed about “What’s for dinner?”

Plan and beat that hungry monster.

Southern Comfort Bowl: Mashed Potatoes, Collards, Golden Gravy

There’s something magical about meals that come in bowls.  Warm, comforting foods get arranged together in perfect harmony.  This Southern Comfort Bowl incorporates mashed potatoes, collard greens, beans, tofu, and an awesome golden gravy.  I’ve tested this recipe on several people, and it was gobbled up in minutes.  I even had to make the recipe again to photograph because all the food disappeared before I could take pictures!  Not that I’m complaining.  I’m always down for some mashed ‘taters and greens.
Southern Comfort Bowl
The recipe may seem long, but it’s easy to put together.  Most of the ingredients are spices.  The beans take the longest to cook, but they just simmer all day in a slow cooker, requiring no work on your part.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to make the Rockin’ Tomato Slowcooker Beans, then just use canned vegetarian baked beans!  These beans, while Rockin’, are not typical baked beans.  They are very tomato-y.  I think they’re a perfect compliment to the mashed potatoes and spicy collards.
Southern Comfort Bowl
Let’s talk gravy.  Okay?  Okay.  I was never a fan of traditional brown, white, or gray gravies.  I would pour as little as possible on my food.  Something about it never settled quite right with me.  Until I had THIS plant-based, no-fat, vegan awesomeness, Golden Gravy.  This gravy recipe has become my go-to sauce for potatoes, rice, and steamed veggies.  It is so simple to make, and has none of the fat or animal parts/secretions found in regular gravy.  I fed this gravy to a bunch of omnivores this week and they loved it.  Even my husband, my equal in gravy-hating, liked it.  Make the gravy.  It’s soul food.
Southern Comfort Bowl
The Cajun Collard Greens are spicy, but not too spicy.  If you like to turn up the heat, just increase the red pepper flakes called for to 1 teaspoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon.  The Honey Gold Mashed Potatoes are literally the simplest mashed potatoes I’ve ever made.  Honey Gold potatoes are tiny and sweet, with a buttery quality.  I could eat these babies plain, but once you’ve had them mashed with a little cashew milk and salt, you’ll never go back.  If you have other kinds of potatoes, they will work as well.  However, I highly recommend trying the Honey Golds first.  They’re divine.  The tofu on top in the photographs is a store-bought Chipotle Marinated Baked Tofu.  It’s oil-free, which is hard to find these days.  I used one piece per bowl.  It has a very “meaty” texture, much firmer than other tofus I’ve tried.  If you can find it, try it!  If not, any baked tofu will do.

Southern Comfort Bowl

Serving Size: Serves 4


    For the Rockin' Tomato Slowcooker Beans
  • 6 ounces tomato paste (one small can)
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • For the Honey Gold Mashed Potatoes
  • 28 ounces Honey Gold Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cashew milk
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Cajun Collard Greens
  • 1 pound fresh shredded collard greens
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • For the Golden Gravy
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • For the Tofu
  • Store-bought chipotle marinated baked tofu (or any baked tofu - you could even bake your own if you like).


    For the Rockin' Tomato Slowcooker Beans
  1. Whisk together the first nine ingredients. Fold in the onion and navy beans. Cook on low in your slow cooker for 6-8 hours.
  2. For the Honey Gold Mashed Potatoes
  3. Cut potatoes into quarters. Bring to a boil in a large pot of salted water. Boil until fork tender, approximately 10-15 minutes.
  4. Drain potatoes, mash with cashew milk and salt to taste.
  5. For the Cajun Collard Greens
  6. Line a large skillet with water. Add collards and onion. Cover and steam 10 minutes.
  7. Add liquid smoke, cajun seasoning and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cover and steam until tender, another 10-15 minutes. Add splashes of water if it looks dry.
  8. For the Golden Gravy
  9. Line a soup pot with a thin layer of water. Saute the onion, garlic, and mustard seeds for five minutes on high heat, until the water is absorbed.
  10. Add veggie broth, soy sauce, and nutritional yeast. Using and immersion blender, puree until smooth.
  11. Reduce heat to medium, and very slowly whisk in the flour. Whisk constantly until all lumps are dissolved. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, whisking every other minute to ensure it doesn't burn, until gravy reaches desired thickness.
  12. For the Tofu
  13. Warm tofu in a skillet (you can use the same one you cooked the collards in, if you like!)
  14. Assembly
  15. Place a generous serving of mashed potatoes in a bowl. Add collard greens, beans, and tofu, and top with gravy. Enjoy!

Southern Comfort Bowl

Vegan Test Kitchen: Cajun Red Beans and Rice from “Color Me Vegan”

There are a few people who have changed the world for animals in a huge way, and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is one of them.  She’s written seven books, the most popular of which is the The 30-Day Vegan Challenge.  There’s also a website for the 30 Day Vegan Challenge where you can learn more about her amazing work.  This simple challenge has inspired thousands of people to give being vegan a try.  Colleen also has a fantastically popular podcast called Food for Thought where she discusses food, lifestyle, and community all from a vegan perspective.  She calls herself a “joyful vegan,” and it totally shines through in her podcast and books.  She’s so thrilled to be vegan, you can’t help but get excited along with her!  She also has such compassion towards people who have not yet made the step into an animal-free life.  I so appreciate Colleen and everything she has done for animals.

Because of how much I admire Colleen, I have been anxiously waiting to dig into one of her cookbooks!  Today I am sharing my recipe test for Cajun Red Beans and Rice.  This recipe is in her cookbook Color Me Vegan.  For those of you who don’t own this cookbook already, you’re in luck!  I located this recipe online HERE.
Cajun Red Beans and Rice from "Color Me Vegan"
I eat some variation of rice and beans every week.  Sometimes I use lentils or split peas instead of beans, and other times I use quinoa or farro instead of rice.  It just depends on the week (and if anything is on sale at the grocery store!).  Rice and beans are easy to batch cook, and make filling lunches that will tide me over until I get home from work most days.  Most times, a salad simply doesn’t cut it for me at lunchtime.  I need carbs, protein, and warm food to feel fully satisfied and prepared for the rest of the work day.  I’m always looking for new ways to eat rice and beans, so when I noticed this Cajun Red Beans and Rice recipe it immediately jumped to the top of my “To Make” list.
Cajun Red Beans and Rice from "Color Me Vegan"
Cajun Red Beans and Rice from "Color Me Vegan"
I made several modifications to the initial recipe, but I don’t feel any of them changed the integrity of the dish:
-I left out the sauteing oil called for and instead just sauteed my veggies in broth.  This is an easy way to make any recipe low-fat!
-I used white rice instead of brown rice.  White rice is what I happened to have on hand, but I do recommend making it with brown rice as it is a more healthful grain.  If you use white rice, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
-The recipe calls for vegan sausage links.  I generally try to stay away from processed vegan foods like fake meats, as they are full of chemicals and high in fat.  For this recipe, I found some lovely oil-free chipotle marinated baked tofu at my grocery store.  I chopped it into small cubes and used that instead of vegan sausage.  It was delicious this way.
-The recipe calls for the meal to be cooked on the stove in a pot.  I sauteed the veggies in a pot, but then dumped everything into my rice cooker and used the white-rice setting.  It came out perfectly.  If you have a rice cooker, I highly recommend using it here.  You won’t have to watch the pot or worry about the rice sticking or burning.  This gives you down time to do more important things, like snuggle your pets.
Cajun Red Beans and Rice from "Color Me Vegan"
Cajun Red Beans and Rice from "Color Me Vegan"
I enjoyed this dish immensely.  It’s got a kick from the cajun seasoning, but isn’t overly spicy.  If you have kids, I do recommend toning the heat down a bit though.  In the future, I think I will double the amount of beans called for.  I always like to have an equal portion of rice and beans.  There are definitely less beans than rice in this dish, but the tofu provided a great “meaty” bite.  I served this dish topped with my favorite hot sauce and salsa.  It got a two-thumbs up from my omnivore husband, which I consider a definite win!  The recipe serves four, but you can safely double it in a regular sized rice cooker.  Made with white rice, no oil, and tofu instead of vegan sausage, each serving is approximately 300 calories.  Make the recipe.  Buy the book.  Listen to Colleen’s podcast.  You won’t regret anything.

Vegan Test Kitchen is a way to share my collection of vegan cookbooks with you, my wonderful readers!  This way, you can “try before you buy” on many recipes from the best vegan chefs out there.