‘Back to Basics’ Dinners

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When I switched to eating a whole foods, plant based diet, I struggled with making dinners. Eating so much more veggies and grains for dinner confused me. I felt like I had to fit those veggies into the mold of meat centered dishes. I found many incredibly good recipes to cook vegan versions of common american meat based dishes: veggie burgers, lentil meatballs, tofu and eggplant lasagna. No misunderstanding, these recipes are great. But it was killing me to make these elaborate meals every night of the week. I needed a simpler answer.

Gradually I started moving towards veggie centered dishes that has less preparation and ingredients. So many of us grew up eating dinners that were a simple plate of meat, veggies and a starch. Mom or dad cooked each thing separately and then we just ate each thing for what it was. Nothing fancy. Why can’t I do this same thing, but make it vegan?

Eventually I was making meals like this: oven baked squash, brown rice and black beans. Or this combination: steamed broccoli and carrots with lentils and diced baked potato bites. Or another favorite is stir fry veggies with brown rice. Each week I make a big veggie stew. At the grocers I just pick a bunch of veggies that work well in soups (leeks, onion, squash, carrot, zucchini, peas), throw in a bunch of herbs de province, a few cups of beans and a couple table spoons of corn starch.  The result, paired with some home made (fat free, vegan) sourdough bread is a family favorite.

Keeping meals simple has kept me sane and been easier on my grocery budget.  I can make a huge pot of veggie bean soup and a big loaf of sourdough bread that will feed our family of 4 for two dinners for under $20. That’s $10/dinner or $2.50 per person.

An added bonus to eating more simply is that my kids (age 2 and 4) have been eating more food at mealtime. They weren’t so keen to try many of the elaborate vegan recipes I made before that were trying to mimic some meal that traditionally has animal products. When we eat simple meals, my kids see that they have broccoli, potatoes and beans on their plate. They eat way more knowing what each food is and that is isn’t combined to be called “Acorn Squash Burger”. Squash is squash and that is all. Recently we steamed up a few heads of broccoli for dinner. Between my two kids, they polished off a whole head of broccoli themselves – no salt, no cheese, nothing added to it to “make them like it”. Incredible!

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