10 Vegan Pantry Essentials for Easy Dinner Prep
Cooking at home (one of your New Year’s resolutions perhaps?) is much easier if you are working with a well-stocked pantry. With some fresh or frozen produce added in, it’s easy to pull together dinners on hectic weeknights. Keeping these 10 vegan pantry essentials on hand lets you throw together a variety of meals without running to the grocery or calling for delivery.
Beans and Other Legumes
Dried beans are super budget friendly, nutrient dense, and go well with just about any cuisine. Whip up some Slowcooker Baked Beans, a hearty pot of chili, some homemade hummus — beans and legumes are amazingly versatile. I also like to keep some organic, BPA free pouches or cans of prepared beans on hand for nights when I forgot to pre-soak beans. Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, navy beans, adzuki, black eyed peas, kidney, pinto, great northern, and split peas are some of the varieties I keep on hand. You can often find bags of dried beans on sale for less than $1 a piece!
Pecans, walnuts, almonds, and peanuts (technically a legume) will always have a place in my pantry. Keeping raw nuts on hand lets you whip up nut milks or butters, spruce up baked goods like Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies, add some flavor and healthy fats to dinner recipes, or just enjoy as a healthy snack. Raw nuts are relatively expensive but a little goes a long way. Buying in bulk helps keep the cost down.
Whole grains like barley, buckwheat, farro, millet, quinoa, oats, and rices form the base for a healthy meal. For breakfast, I love oats or quinoa with nuts and fruit. Beans, some kind of green, a grain like farro or barley, and some spicing make a tasty and inexpensive lunch or dinner.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil (Kirkland makes one that I like) is the most used oil in my pantry and would be my desert island oil of choice. It’s versatile enough to use in everything from salads to stir fries to baked goods. I also stock avocado, coconut, safflower, sunflower, and toasted sesame oils.
Nutritional yeast, or “nooch” is how vegans survive without cheese. Nooch is a strain of yeast, typically Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then heated to deactivate it. Sounds delicious right? It actually is, lending a cheesy flavor and a surprising amount of protein and other nutrients to sauces, casseroles, and other dishes. Try it in our Kale Rice Casserole. Continue Reading…
Old-Fashioned Slow Cooker Baked Beans
Baked beans are one of those comfort foods that are surprisingly healthy, especially with a few tweaks (less sugar, no salt pork). Using your slow cooker let’s you have dinner ready when you are done work, uses less energy than the traditional stove top and oven method, and doesn’t heat up the house on a summer day. Oh, and it smells amazing while it cooks. The beans need to soak awhile so take that into account when starting the recipe. I like to start the beans while making another dinner the day before and have the baked beans for dinner the next day.
2 c dried navy beans (or whatever you have on hand), sorted and rinsed
5-6 c water (start with 5 cups and add more if needed)
2 T packed brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1 t sea salt
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 T organic ketchup
Sauerkraut for serving (optional) Continue Reading…
How to Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions This Year
The ball’s dropped, the confetti has been cleaned up, you’ve done your best to banish the glitter that seems to multiply every time you think it’s gone, and you’ve recovered from any celebratory overindulgence. You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions because 2016 is YOUR YEAR and you’re ready to do this. So… now what?
Many well meaning American’s make New Year’s resolutions each year… and abandon them by February. Only 8% (!) of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually succeed. How do you become one of the few, the proud, the resolution keepers? It starts with making a good resolution. Hint: I’m going to get in shape! I’m going to get out of debt! – Not good. Good as concepts, bad as resolutions.
A good resolution is:
An actionable resolution is one you can take concrete steps to obtain that clearly line up with achieving your resolution. If you want to increase your cardiovascular fitness or lose weight, maybe you can commit to walking after dinner three times a week or hitting a yoga class twice a week. With a good resolution, it is very clear if you are achieving it — if you get your bum to the gym three times a week, you’re doing it. With “I will get in shape” – what does that mean? Will you lose weight? Build muscle? Be able to do 10 perfect push-ups by June 1st? Just get off the couch x number of times a week? Pick one and write it down.
Bad Resolutions: I will get in shape. I save for retirement. I will take time for myself. I will travel more.
Good Resolutions: I will take 30 minute walks three days a week. I will put 5% of my paycheck into my 401k and will increase by 1% every 3 months until I hit 10%. I will wake up at 6:30 each day and spend 30 minutes reading for pleasure (or another activity I enjoy). I will visit the Grand Canyon in September 2016. Continue Reading…
5 New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Want to Keep (+ Giveaway!)
Ah, New Year’s Resolutions! The solemn vows of total abstinence from sweets and daily runs up and down the local mountain that seem so right (this is YOUR YEAR!) while you’re kicking back the bubbly on December 31st are suddenly living nightmares when reality kicks in (usually sometime in the first week of January). Turns out life without chocolate is barely worth living and running just isn’t enjoyable in that foot of New England snow that will be here until April. It’s no secret that the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions fail within a matter of weeks or months. However, the birth of a new year is still a great time to make a change for the better in your life. It’s a good mental starting point after the craziness and overindulgence of the holiday season. A good resolution is obtainable and actionable. I.e. I will cook dinner at home 3 times a week NOT I’ll never eat takeout again (too extreme) or I’ll be healthier (too vague).
Here are five ideas to get you started:
1. Cook at Home
Eating out (or getting carry out) too often is bad for your wallet and your waistline. Knowing what goes into your food and ergo into your body is one of the basic tenants of healthy living. Stock up on fruit, oatmeal, and nuts for a quick breakfast at home. Pack leftovers for lunch instead of spending $10 on a sad looking salad from the corner deli. Keep snacks in your bag (like nuts, apples, oranges, or seaweed snacks) so you don’t get tempted by the vending machine or coffee shop at 3 pm. And finally, make dinner at home. Takeout is almost always uneconomical, unhealthy, and undelicious. We love doing a meal delivery service a few times a week. It reduces the amount of grocery shopping I have to do and forces us to try new recipes, many of which get modified and worked into our regular dinner rotation.
Meal delivery services are great for several reasons:
- They arrive at your door, letting you skip the grocery store.
- Ingredients are preportioned and depending on your local grocery prices (shiitakes are outrageously expensive at our local supermarkets) and whether you would use a larger container of an expensive ingredient (truffle oil comes to mind), can be cost effective. If you would otherwise be ordering takeout, they are definitely cost-effective.
- Recipes are generally healthy (it depends on the company and what you choose) and can be modified to suit your preferences – less spicy, change up the oil, whatever
- They’re fun! It’s like having your own sous chef. If you have a little one in the house, getting 20 minutes of time to yourself to make some Instagram worthy food is like a vacation in the kitchen. Even if I don’t love a recipe, I almost always learn something new.
I thought a meal delivery service would be expensive but with all the great deals and referral programs, it hasn’t increased our grocery budget. If you’re not sure, try a discounted week at HomeChef ($30 off your first week when you sign up via our link) or HelloFresh (use our code 947T7A for $40 off your first box) let your tastebuds decide. (If you use my codes, I get credit to spend on my own boxes with HomeChef or HelloFresh. Thank you in advance!)
Good home cooking resolutions: I will cook at home x times a week. I will try one new recipe every two weeks. I will pack my lunch 4 times a week.
2. Learn to Say NO
Saying no let’s you say yes to what really matters. It’s a lifelong process to find the right balance. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. It’s worth it. We get conditioned to say yes to the point where it becomes a reflex and not a true answer. Saying no to making 12 dozen Elsa cupcakes for the PTA bake sale let’s you say yes to more time with your munchkins (write a check if you feel guilty). Saying no to that weekly bar night that you’re not really feeling in your life anymore let’s you make space for something new (learning to cook? yoga? time with your SO?) that fits who you are now. You can also say no to activities (ahem hours wasted on youtube/pinterest/buzzfeed/pick-your-poison) that don’t improve your life. Ask yourself:
- Does this bring me joy?
- Will I wish I had done this in a week? A year? Five? When I’m eighty-five?
- Is there another way to achieve this goal?
- Am I doing this because I think I “should”?
Saying no and yes to the right things is a journey, so remember to make your resolution obtainable and actionable. Examples: I will say no to smartphones at the dinner table and will turn my phone on silent and leave it in the living room. I will commit to no more than 1 PTA project a semester. I will let someone else organize the family Easter party this year.
3. Maximize Your “Easy” Money
We all know (in theory) that decreasing our expenses and/or increasing our income creates more room in our budgets for savings, paying down debt, etc. The problem with this is that if you’ve already done a few rounds of decreasing expenses – cutting cable, no daily mocha-choca-five-dollar-lattes, etc. – you eventually run out of reasonable things to cut without feeling very deprived. And it’s always great if you can ask for a raise or switch jobs for a higher salary but sometimes that’s not in the cards in the immediate future. In the meantime, make it a point this year to increase your other sources of money. I like to save these and use for vacations, padding an emergency fund, extra student loan payments, etc. Some examples:
- Use credit card rewards to your advantage – one card gives me 3% on gas, another on groceries, and another gives 5% on rotating categories. At no point am I earning less than 1% on any purchase and a year’s worth of purchases can me a couple hundred dollars back for things I was going to buy anyway (gas, food, etc.). This only makes sense if you pay your credits cards in full each month, of course.
- Take advantage of cash back sites when you shop online. I go through Ebates and probably average $25-50 a quarter in cash back. It really adds up and is free to join. Join here. (I may get credit from Ebates if you join – thank you!)
- Once a season, unload items you don’t need on Ebay or Craigslist or hold a yearly yard sale. Donate the rest. It’s a bit of a pain but old ipods, clothes in nice condition, books, special edition DVDs, etc. can add up to a pretty penny over the course of a year.
- Sign up for focus groups. Search “focus groups NEAREST CITY TO YOU” or check Craigslist (use common sense on there) to find groups near you. Many are held online or via phone nowadays and you can earn $25-400+ in only a few hours or at most days.
- Get a side hustle — teach a dance/karate/soccer class a few nights week, walk dogs, watch children, pick up one shift a week at the local diner.
Top Posts of 2015 in Recipes, Travel, Review, Giveaway, and More + What’s Coming in 2016
2015 was a great year for us despite the lack of sleep (new baby, new home will do that). As we get ready for 2016, I thought it would be fun to highlight our top 5 posts of 2015 in different categories:
This was our most popular “sweet” recipe of 2015. Nothing sweetens the day like homemade goodies so we’ll be sure to bring you lots of healthy versions of cookie, muffin, scone, cake, and pie recipes in 2016! Matcha is one of those “super food” ingredients that it’s hard to know what to do with so stay tuned for more recipes in that area!
One of my favorite recipes, Donat’s Creamy Vegan Broccoli Mushroom Soup was the top savory dish for 2015. It’s perfect for cold wet days (like today!) so give it a try. We have many more healthy vegan dishes to share with you in 2016!
Our top travel post of 2015 was our review of the Top Signature Restaurants for Vegan Diners in Walt Disney World. This post combines two of my passions – vegan food and Disney – so you can definitely expect more where this came from. If you’re a vegan (or vegetarian or other special diet diner), also check out my other vegan Disney posts, Top 5 Vegan Snacks in Disney World, Top 5 Standard Table Service Restaurants for Vegans in Walt Disney World, and Top 5 Tips for Vegan Dining in Walt Disney World.
Zitriom Dog Bowls 32 Ounce- Stainless Steel Review
Food. Dogs eat a log of it. Big dogs eat a LOT of it. Why not get a bowl that matches the appetite? Lucky for me I was able to get the Zitriom set of two dog bowls and I don’t regret getting them for a second. Here’s why:
- Set of two stainless steel dog bowls
- Non skid rubber bottom to help keep the dog bowls from sliding all over
- They are large and hold up to 32oz of liquid
- Dishwasher safe
- 5 year money back guarantee
- I liked the matching set of two shiny bowls, they look nice
- These guys are BIG so they will hold enough food and water for even the biggest dogs
- I’m a big fan of anything that’s dishwasher safe, ESPECIALLY dog bowls
- I like the stainless steel, much better than plastic bowls that can break so much easier
- I doubt much can happen to these bowls but in case anything does, they are backed by a money back guarantee, which is always nice
Baby Tips: Getting Prepped (Food-Wise) for a Newborn
Food is such an important part of pregnancy. And as your due date approaches you want to be thinking more and more about getting your home stocked with food for when the baby comes. Mind you, the newborn does not need the food as they just need their mother’s breastmilk for the first 6 months, but the parents definitely do. Seeing as both parents will not be sleeping a ton, they will be burning off more calories just by being awake more. Add to that the stress of caring for a newborn and breastfeeding (which burns about 500 calories extra each day!) and you will have very hungry parents who have little time to cook or shop. Now this is where the prepping comes in handy, very handy!
Stock the Freezer as if it were doomsday
Editors Note: This was written right after the baby was born but is being posted 7 months later because babies. You. will. have. no. time. Make the food! 🙂
Okay so I exaggerate, but you still get the point. One awesome thing that we did was get a stand-alone freezer. Even though our refrigerator is relatively large, it was still extremely limiting in terms of how much food we can store. We would shed a rueful tear every time we were in Costco and couldn’t get a bunch of the frozen goodies because we knew we didn’t have enough space in our freezer. Now we are able to take much better advantage of sales on frozen foods since we have room for them. Pro tip: get an upright freezer instead of the chest freezer. Reason being is everyone I’ve talked to who owns one says that you end up “losing” lots of things at the bottom of the freezer because you can’t see or reach them easily. Having a vertical opening freezer allows us to see everything we have effortlessly and also just makes it much simpler to use each time.
Kuuk Silicone Ice Cube Tray (Twin Pack) Blue and Green Review
I have always found ice cube trays to be profoundly frustrating. The ice cubes always seem to either fly out of the tray at the lightest tough (onto the floor of course) or you need a chain saw to get them out. No fun either way. Now I got to try something infinitely easier to use, the Kuuk Silicone Ice Cube Tray. Now I’m not going to say that this has changed my life but I will say that this tray completely took out the frustrating aspect of ice cubes for me. I am SO glad I got these.
- The ice mold makes perfect 1 inch cubes, and I mean perfect
- Great for storing baby food
- Comes in a twin pack, two fun colors
- Mold is made from high-quality food-grade silicone that will never crack or break the way plastic ones constantly do
- 100% BPA free
- Dishwasher safe for easy cleaning
- The two trays stack neatly in your freezer
- Great to put into both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, or smoothies like me 😉
Vegan Kale-Rice Casserole Recipe
Casseroles are amazing because oftentimes you can double a recipe, adding two minutes to prep time, and have another full meal ready for later. We love to freeze one batch and have a delicious dinner ready by just popping a casserole right in the oven. This recipe we like in particular because of its ease, short prep time, incredible nutritional value and awesome flavor. We’ve given many non-vegans this dish to try and they all LOVED it! Try it out, you will not be disappointed.
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 14 ½ cans organic diced tomatoes
Basil, Oregano, Garlic powder, Salt and Pepper to taste
1 packet of tofu, drained
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 10-ounce package of fresh chopped kale
1 cup nutritional yeast
X-Shade Car Windshield Sunshade Jumbo Review
I am SO looking forward to the nice summer weather coming up soon! I am SO NOT looking forward to burning my hands and any exposed extremity after getting into my car that’s been sitting in the sun for a couple of hours. This year, however, I have a sweet little new gadget to help keep all that burning to a minimum- the Jumbo Windshield Sunshade.
- Easy to set up, easy to fold back down sunshade
- Opens up to cover even large windshields (59 inches by 31 inches)
- Made from reflective polyester nylon
- Blocks 99% of UV rays
- Folds down to a mere 9 inches in diameter for when you’re not using it
- Comes with a convenient little carry pouch
- Money back 100% satisfaction guarantee