Spanakorizo with white beans (4 servings)

If you're trying to cook plant-based meals more often, Robin Robertson's One-Dish Vegan is an excellent resource. Filled with easy, creative, and filling recipes, it provides a variety of animal-free ideas that won't bust your budget or use up an entire evening in the kitchen. The recipe below comes from the book, and I already can't wait to make it again. The starchy rice and creamy beans work together to make a surprisingly silky, substantial dish, and the flavors of lemon, dill, and oregano brighten things up. Enjoy this Greek-inspired recipe tonight!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups dry long-grain brown rice
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (use a gluten-free broth to make this Celiac-friendly)
  • 4 cups chopped fresh spinach (thick stems removed)
  • 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill

Steps: 

  1. Add the oil, rice, onion powder, oregano, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and broth to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high until the mixture boils; reduce to low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes.
  2. After 25 minutes, stir in the spinach and beans; continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Fold in the mint, lemon zest, and dill; allow to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve hot.

Pineapple-black bean potluck salad (6 servings)

For someone who tries to use local, in-season ingredients, I sure eat a hell of a lot of pineapple. Sigh.

Pineapple and black beans are not new friends on this blog. They've snuggled together in a tortilla before, smothered in a spicy, silky sauce and topped with cheese. So when I saw this Budget Bytes recipe, which features several classic flavor combinations (Pineapple and black beans! Cilantro and pineapple! Black beans and lime!), I knew I had to try it. Its contrasting sweet and acidic flavors, plus the chewy/crunchy texture combo, make it an interesting dish, and its no-need-to-heat-me attitude make it perfect for a summertime picnic. It's also yet another meal to add to my growing list of dishes to prep on Sunday and eat for lunches throughout the week!

By the way, I want to give a quick shout-out to Whisk Carolina and Stacey Sprenz for ALL they were able to teach me about food photography in one short, interactive class. I think my pictures have already improved a lot, and I'm excited to continue trying out their techniques. Thank you again!

Pineapple-black bean potluck salad - 6 servings
(NEW!! Click here for a printable PDF!)

You will need:

Vinaigrette

  • Juice of 1 lime (3-4 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (or agave, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • chipotle powder to taste

Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups dry bulgur wheat
  • 1/4  cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup toasted cashews
  • 15-oz can pineapple tidbits
  • 15-oz can black beans
  • one tomato (optional)

Steps:

  1. Add all the vinaigrette ingredients to a bowl or jar; whisk or shake to combine. Set aside.
  2. Cook the bulgur according to package directions. (Or read instructions here.) Allow it to cool.
  3. While it's cooling, roughly chop the cilantro leaves. Toast the cashews and chop roughly once they're cool enough. Drain the pineapple and black beans and chop the tomato, if using.
  4. Once the bulgur has cooled off, transfer it to a large serving bowl, along with the cilantro, cashews, pineapple, black beans, and optional tomato. Give the vinaigrette a final mix and pour over the salad; toss gently to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

I stuck to the original recipe here, minus a few changes. First, I substituted maple syrup for the honey since the honey was the only ingredient preventing this recipe from being vegan. I also doubled the garlic powder, and I would double the cumin next time too. I added the chipotle powder for a little heat and the tomato just because I wanted to use what I had left in the fridge. I'd like to try this with another grain -- maybe farro or chewy wheat berries. I think couscous (not really a grain -- I know) would get too soggy, and quinoa's flavor might dominate the dish, but farro could be just right. I also think some sliced green onions would make a nice addition, along with chopped bell pepper (if your insides are more accommodating than mine.) Bring on the summer picnics!

The only thing that could have made this salad better was if I'd also had a spicy pineapple margarita from Calavera, my new favorite Carrboro hangout. ¡Dios mío! If you haven't tried this place yet, do yourself a favor and go. Go right now. Stop reading. Go.

Vegan skillet supper with greens, beans, and sausage (4-5 servings)

Skillet suppers are glorious. If composed well, they boast all the nutritional necessities of a filling meal, plus they require very little cleanup. This is one of those meals, and it has two added bonuses: It's vegan and it doesn't take long to make. The sausage, with its crisp and browned exterior and slight kick, pairs well with the creamy beans, brothy tomatoes, and chewy, just-barely-cooked greens. So what are you waiting for?

You will need:

  • 1 Tbsp olive or canola oil

  • 2 vegan Italian sausages, sliced into thin rounds (I used -- and would recommend -- Field Roast brand)

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 15-oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

  • 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup water or broth

  • One bunch collards or kale, washed, de-stemmed, and cut or torn into ribbons

Steps:

  1. Heat the oil in a large rimmed skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage. Cook and stir until the sausage is browned fairly evenly.

  2. Add the garlic to the pan; cook and stir another minute.

  3. Lower the heat to medium. Add in the beans, the undrained tomatoes, and the water or broth; stir gently to combine. Pile the greens on top and cover. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the kale/collards are bright green and wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Hardy greens should be in season in most places in the U.S. right now!

Maple-lime sweet potato and black bean tacos (4 servings)

In my estimation, there are three levels of vegan cooking. Level I means simply leaving out the animal products without replacing them -- skipping the layer of cheese on top of a casserole, for example. There are times when this is perfectly workable and when the eater wouldn't even know anything was missing. However, there are other occasions where the final product is missing the richness or depth that the original ingredients contributed. Next, Level II vegan cooking involves making easy substitutes -- changing out oil for butter, soy sauce for Worcestershire, or non-dairy sour cream for the regular stuff. Again, this works well most of the time, and it's certainly easy. Level III is a little more complicated and requires replacing animal ingredients with creative substitutes that match the flavor, complexity, and texture of the originals.

When I cook vegan meals (and I do so three or four dinners per week, usually), I'm normally at a Level II. I'm trying to find more interesting ingredient substitutes though. Today's taco recipe is somewhere between Level II and Level III; it replaces the honey from these honey-lime sweet potato, corn, and black bean tacos with maple syrup (another lovely fall flavor) and makes up for the missing cheese with a dairy-free spicy sauce. I love sweet potatoes and could tell their roasted sweetness would be nicely offset by the acidity of the lime, but I knew leaving out the cheese would remove the rich, creamy accent flavoring. A quick search led me to this smooth and spicy chipotle sauce, which ended up being the perfect complement to the tacos.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (You don't have to bother with peeling them.)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 lime
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 14.5-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 small flour tortillas, warmed

Sauce ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds (whole, sliced, or slivered -- doesn't matter), soaked for several hours
  • 1/4 cup canola or similarly neutral-tasting oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1-2 chipotles in adobo
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
  2. Once you've diced the potatoes, transfer them to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle them with the olive oil and toss gently. Sprinkle the potatoes with cumin, paprika, coriander, the zest of the lime (save the lime for juice later), and red pepper flakes to taste. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Toss gently again, and then spread the potatoes out on the baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  3. Meanwhile, place drained black beans in a small stockpot over medium-low heat. Add in the onion powder (Feel free to use fresh, diced onion if your insides are tougher than mine!), garlic, maple syrup, and oregano, along with the juice from the lime. Stir and cover. Allow the beans to simmer gently while the sweet potatoes roast.
  4. While the sweet potatoes and beans are doin' their thang, make the chipotle sauce. Drain the almonds. (If you forgot to soak the almonds, don't worry. I'm guessing your sauce will just come out a little less smooth.) Using a blender or food processor (or an immersion blender and wide-mouthed, tall jar), blend all the sauce ingredients until smooth. Add more water if the sauce is too thick.
  5. Once the sweet potatoes are tender inside and slightly crispy outside, remove the pan from the oven. Top each tortilla with a spoonful of black beans, a scattering of sweet potato cubes, a drizzle of sauce, and a sprinkling of cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with hot sauce on the side, if preferred.

A quick anecdote about a mistake that turned into a proud moment: When I was blending the sauce, I started out with 3/4 cup water, which made the sauce way too thin. I mean, it was practically broth. I went through a panicked conversation in my head about what I could use as a thickener -- "Yogurt? Nope, won't work for a vegan recipe. Cream? Still nope. Cooked rice? Don't have any. Cornstarch? Seems weird here. Cooked, mashed vegetables? No -- oh, wait! Sweet potatoes!" They had just finished roasting, so I tossed in a couple cubes at a time, blending them into the sauce, until it had reached a thicker consistency. The potatoes gave the sauce a little extra flavor, too! Hooray for thinking on my feet!

CookingClassy's original taco recipe called for corn, but I decided to leave it out to save some calories. I'm sure it would taste great, but I was trying to cut corners, admittedly. Next time, I might cut the sweet potatoes down to one pound, as I had just enough beans for eight tacos but probably a cup of leftover potatoes. Hey, they'll make a nice side dish for something later in the week!

P.S. The leftover sauce is great on top of a vegan taco salad! Start with a bed of mixed greens and shredded carrots, crisp up some Yves veggie ground round in a skillet and add it to the greens; then add a few dollops of salsa and a drizzle of the chipotle sauce. Guacamole, beans, and diced tomato would also be great additions to this salad!

Basil-parmesan pot beans (~4 servings)

potbeans.JPG

I made this recipe from the Kitchn for the first time a few months ago, but I've been waiting to post it until the weather turned cooler. Pot beans (they'll get you high on deliciousness!) are slow-cooked beans that simmer for several hours before they become plump, flavorful, and deeply comforting. This version is distinctly Italian-influenced, but I'm sure the flavors could be switched up to suit any number of tastes. It's a fairly time-consuming recipe, as it requires a few hours of prep, but it's not labor-intensive at all. Most of the time is taken up by just waiting for the beans to soak or cook!

You will need:

  • 2 cups dried beans (it's been so long that I can't even remember what I used, but I think they were flageolet)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
  • 1 cup loosely-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 large tomato

Steps:

  1. Rinse and drain the beans in a colander or strainer. Add them to a medium saucepan and cover with water by an inch or so. Allow to soak for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Once the beans have soaked and plumped up, sliver the garlic and chop the onion finely. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat; cook the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the beans and stir to mix. Place the saucepan of beans on the stove and bring to a full boil, covered, over high heat. After boiling the beans for five minutes, turn the heat down to low and allow the beans to (barely) simmer, partially covered, for 2-3 hours. Add more water if the beans start to dry out.
  4. When the beans are tender, finely chop the basil and mince the tomatoes. Add the basil, tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the beans. Serve with Parmesan on top.

Every time I've cooked with dried beans, I've felt like I'm adding way too much salt to flavor them, but I think it takes a lot to make them flavorful. The Parmesan helps though! I think I also added a little drizzle of olive oil over each portion for extra richness.

If you were generous with the cooking water, you might have to drain the beans before you add in the tomatoes and basil. I'm sure that some types of beans need more water than others do!