Monday, April 5, 2010

Tips for Quick and Healthy Vegan Meals

Since I have been eating a healthy vegan diet for a while I thought I would share some of the tricks I have learned. Here are some of things I rely on to make fast meals, like my lunch salad:

1) Cook a one pound bag of beans twice a week. Those refrigerated beans can be used in salad, soup or grain dishes to increase the protein content of any meal. They also add fiber and folate. If you work outside of the home or are short on time beans are great in the Crockpot. Here is a recipe for Egyptian beans in the crockpot.

2) Keep long life leafy greens in the refrigerator. I always have multiple bags of organic baby spinach on hand for salad, stir fry, or grain dishes. In addition to lasting a week or more in the refrigerator spinach also has more nutrition than most lettuce. I find that greens last long if you add a paper towel or two to the container to absorb any excess moisture.

3) Nut cheeses make a great addition to salad, on “toasts”, on raw bread with sun dried marinara to make raw pizza. These add a nice healthy fat to your meal that ensures you body can absorb the fat soluble vitamins. But they can be a little too tasty and are easy to overeat.

4) Raw bread is a great condiment delivery system that also provides omega 3 fatty acids and is fairly calorie dense if you are having trouble keeping weight on. I also now make a tray of the panelle and polenta hybrid each week since it is lower in calorie so we have an option based what we need that day.

5) Pesto is something that I make every few days. We use it in salad dressing or as dressing by itself, with nut cheese on raw bread. It is also good added to soup or on top of cooked grains. I make many different versions from sun-dried tomato, roasted red pepper, kalamata olive, arugula, dandelion green, basil as well as many others. Pesto is very easy to make without oil by substituting a little veg stock, water, lemon juice or wine vinegar into the recipe.  Some of the recipes I linked to contain oil but they can all be modified.  Eventually I will get all those recipes remade and posted without the oill.

6) Salsa also makes a wonderful fat free salad dressing. I use this quite often as you probably remember. The organic Kirkland brand and Costco is quite nice.
7) Tofu tahini sauce seems to be something I make every week. I use it as a dip for falafel, on top of soup, as a dressing for cooked veggies beans like I did last night.  I tend to use this in place of sour cream.

8) Seitan cutlets and sausage are something I like to keep in the freezer. When I make these I always make more than we need so they are waiting in the freezer when I need a quick meal.

9) Frozen berries are wonderful to have on hand. I use these to make smoothies, top our oatmeal or to make a quick “soft serve ice cream” in the Vitamix. 

10) Make a big batch of soup that you can eat for a few days or freeze it for later. Both Dan and I love soup and I make it often. It packs well for lunch and makes a filling meal with a big salad.  Miso soup is our favorite.

This sounds like much more work than it actually is since I only cook things like this once or twice a week and then use them for days after. The salad I made today is a perfect example of how this works. I used baby spinach as a base and topped it with a combination of marinated artichokes, marinated mushrooms, garbanzos, cucumber and red pepper pesto. I had this with a few “panelle and polenta triangles” that I topped with nut cheese and sliced tomato. I sent the same thing for Dan’s lunch. To ensure it travels well I pack the spinach separately with the veggies and pesto also in its own container. The raw bread and nut cheese are also packed separately. It makes a fast 5 minute lunch to toss together before he leaves for work.

I hope this gives you all some ideas for how to make quick healthy vegan meals. These are things I rely on every day and I find that I can always whip something together in less than 20 minutes when I am not in the mood for an elaborate meal.

I need to run for now. I have tons of things to get done today. Dinner tonight is still up in the air. But I will let you know what it becomes.


  1. Great post Alicia. Love the quick meal tips. It does make a huge difference when you have things on hand and ready to go. Kind of like me and my plethora of veggie/bean patties stuffed in the freezer LOL!

  2. Heather,

    Exactly like your veggie/bean patties in the freezer! Things like that are so handy to have. I know we couldn't eat this healthy all the time if I didn't rely on these tips. There are many days when I don't have the time or inclination to stay in the kitchen for an hour to make dinner.

    as always thanks for your kind words,

  3. Thank you for the helpful post. I'm a 20 year old university student in England and very keen to eat as healthily as possible. These tips make are great suggestions to make it that much easier.
    I love cooking with beans and have been using canned beans/legumes- is there an advantage to using dried?
    (I've been through your whole database of recipes and bookmarked so many :)

  4. Emma,

    Thanks, and what a great question.

    Yes there are a few benefits to using dry beans:
    1) you can make them without salt
    2) no bpa since they aren't in cans
    3) there are more varieties of heirloom beans sold dry than canned
    4) they are much cheaper

    I only use canned beans. Initally it was so I could make them without salt and bpa. But I love the heirloom varieties that I never see in cans.

    If you have any other questions please feel free to ask. I wish I started eating healthy at your age.


  5. Loving these tips, very inspirational! I missed that tofu tahini sauce before, I'm glad to see it now! Also, I'd be curious to see your recipe/technique for falafel. :)

  6. Sarah,

    Thanks so much! I thought this post might be helpful.

    Glad I could point out the tofu tahini sauce. I really like that recipe a lot.

    I do still need to post my falafel recipe. Thanks for the reminder.


  7. Lovely post as always Alicia.
    I like the handy tips, I used to make food ahead, now I am lucky to make food at
    Do you use a pressure cooker for your beans or just a pot? I am scared of pressure cookers and they are expensive.....

  8. Brandi,

    Thanks! I know what you mean. When I get busy if I don't have things tucked in the frig or freezer we get in trouble fast too.

    I do use my pressure cooker for beans but most people don't have one and a crockpot works great. Plus the crockpot can cook when you aren't home or are sleeping, another benefit if you are crunched for time.

    I think you would love a pressure cooker. Before I got mine I was a little afraid of them, but the new ones are very safe. In a pressure cooker you can make brown rice in 17 minutes and soaked garbanzos in 12 minutes. They make quick work of long cooking food. I also use it to make seitan sausages.


  9. A,
    what have dans co-workers been saying? your lunches sound beautiful. i actually had no idea that raw bread was calorie dense,did i tell you happy Easter yesterday? if i didnt,Happy Easter to you and your family!

  10. Michelle,

    Many of them will taste his food, when he shares that is. I know a few of them read my blog and have made a few of the recipes (the vegan queso for one). He also told me one of the guys was going to try the broccoli and onion raw bread.

    If I remember correctly the raw flax bread with a little nut cheese is 150 calories. Since it isn't much bigger than cracker that is quite a few calories. I usually give Dan the raw flax bread, 4 slices at a time since we don't want him to lose any weight. But I have been eating the polenta panelle triangles.

    I hope you had a great Easter too!

  11. Thanks for the helpful tips, Alicia! I've heard many people say they make large batches of soup and freeze the remaining portions, but somehow I continue to run out of freezer space. :( But it's definitely handy to have frozen leftovers around.

    As for the dried beans, what types of heirloom varieties do you particularly enjoy and recommend? I primarily come across what I consider standard (e.g., red, white, black, mung, soy, garbanzo, etc.), and am not sure what is considered an heirloom type. Beans are so versatile and filling, and I'm always curious about varieties I have yet to try. Thanks!

  12. Tiffany,

    I like the "Eye of Goat" and "Christmas Limas" a lot. But there are also the Lentils de puy, beluga lentils, lupini and anasazi. I really like my beans as you can see. Thanks for the great question. Maybe I should think about writing a bean post.


  13. Awesome post, Alicia! Super helpful details! And YAY that I already do that with beans! ;)


  14. LJ,

    Thanks! :-) I am so glad you found it useful.

    I started the bean thing after reading E2L since he recommends a cup of them a day. I don't know about you but I feel so much better when I am eating a lot of beans.

    I have something on the stove now I think you will like. We are having paella tonight with seitan sausage and lots of veggies.

    When I made the strawberry soft serve last night I told Dan about your Vitamix plan. I hope you get it soon.

    talk to you later,

  15. I'm afraid I've been suffering from a "cook as you go" mentality. These are good goals: I must get organized enough to have beans on hand... it seems like we go through a batch and then it's always a day or two before I make another batch. Also, you've really got me inspired to make a big batch of seitan for the freezer too.

  16. Rose,

    When I fall back to the "cook as you go" I tend to get lazy and not include the right nutrition in our meals.

    When you and I did the E2L six week thing at the beginning of the year I started making beans a couple times each week. It works great. I used the end of my garbanzos today and already have my beans ready to soak tonight to be cooked tomorrow morning.

    Seitan in the freezer is a life saver. We would starve without that on hand. Thankfully everyone loves it so they are happy to see it on the table. Even my omni parents have embraced it for our family weekend dinners.

    talk to you later,

  17. Thanks for the tips. I love having things prepared in advance as much as possible, too. Anything to make it easier for us, right? So, again with the artichoke pics? Don't you know they drive my salivary glands crazy? But, I must ask on nutrition - how do you feel about using marinated chokes as well as the mushrooms you mentioned, as far as salt goes? What's your take on that - moderation? Tell me, fellow salt fiend!

  18. Blessed Mama,

    You know I love my salt, but I am also trying to reduce our sodium intake, darn it. When I make the marinated veggies I try to keep the salt down, using approximately half the amount I used to and it seems fine to my taste buds. If you are using store bought I would just use less of the veggies. You can probably remove some of the salt by soaking the veggies in vinegar for a few hours if you want to try it.


  19. Ahhhh, I didn't realize you made your own. But, of course. :) Yes, I buy mine, so my salt intake would definitely be higher. I should try making them b/c I pickle bunches of things, so it's probably very doable. :)

  20. Blessed mama,

    You should try to make them they are very easy. The next time I make a batch I will post the recpe. Sometimes I cheat and use frozen artichokes to make things go quicker. ;-)

    I would love to see some of your pickled recipes. Please share them when you get a chance.


  21. These ideas are great! :) I'm still a little intimidated and I'll probably be waiting to start this routine until I'm out of school in three weeks. I have a quick question, could you write a blog with tips on freezing? My parents were omnis and never really did a lot of freezing. I need advice on packaging the food and how long different foods can stay in the freezer. It would be most appreciated :)! Thanks for the amazing blog! You're an inspiration for vegan cooks everywhere!
    Delaney :)

  22. Delaney,

    Thank you for the nice compliment! It was so nice to see this morning. ;-)

    My family is all omni, except my hubby and me, so I know what you are going through trying to figure out what to do. If you need any ideas feel free to comment or email me. I am happy to help.

    A post of freezing is a great idea. I will add that to my list of upcoming posts. One thing I freeze often is cooked beans. I will make 1 or 2 pounds at a time and freeze them in 2 cup portions to use later. That helps tremendously.

    You can also freeze long cooking grains like wheat berries and brown rice. But I tend to cook grains once or twice a week and then eat them for a few days so they stay in the frig.

    At the moment in the my frig I have pea soup (from Saturday), cooked red kidney beans, brown rice and millet. With those on hand and some salsa, baby spinach and fresh veggies I can toss a meal together in 5 minutes. That makes it very easy to stay healthy.

    Good luck with your finals,


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