Once upon a time in the recent past, I cooked at least 6 dinners a week. On the weekends, I even cooked extra food to freeze for lunches at the office. And then something happened: We got an apartment in Brooklyn. Oh Brooklyn, home of M.O.B., Wild Ginger, Vegetarian Ginger, Britain Indian, Darna Falafel, Siggy’s, Zaytoons and, of course, my beloved Hanco’s, home of the best vegan pork banh mi sandwich imaginable. Brooklyn is a food paradise, and having so many awesome vegan options available — whether by walking a few blocks or ordering delivery — is kind of irresistible.
There are, however, some downsides to all of that delicious convenience:
1. PRICE. Yes, that’s obvious. I know. Buying dinner out for two people night after night is stupidly expensive, and while I know that’s kind of the New York way of life that everyone makes jokes about (“My oven? Oh, you mean where I store my off-season clothes!”), it’s shocking how much it all adds up to week after week. I need to keep that in mind the next time I shake my head at an $8 bottle of olive oil — I mean, the oyster mushrooms I had as an appetizer last night cost $9. C’mon.
2. WEIGHT. As in, I have a lot of it to spare. That whole thing about vegans being skinny? That’s a damn lie. Healthful eating and fitness are about a whole lot more than whether or not you eat animal products. If you eat giant portions of processed takeout food every night, guess what? You’re going to feel (and see!) the effects on your body. It isn’t even so much about size specifically as it just feeling slow and tired and knowing that the weight gain is the result of eating too much of the wrong stuff all the time.
3. STRESS. I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember this when it’s 8:00 at night and I’m starving, but cooking and preparing food makes me feel really good. I’m a big fan of task completion even when it’s on a really small scale, probably because I work in an industry where nothing ever really feels done. Having a sense of definable accomplishment is a huge motivator, and getting a healthy, yummy meal together is a huge stress reliever. The same goes for doing the dishes…but now I’m going off on a tangent. (OK, so this whole post is a tangent.)
To help curb my addiction to takeout, I’m assembling a small arsenal of simple recipes that I can fall back on night after night. Aside from being vegan, the only rules are that I have to be able to prepare the meal in less than 30 minutes, it has to be reasonably healthy, there can’t be any ingredients that would require me to buy huge amounts of something perishable when I only need a tiny bit and, most importantly, Evan and I both have to LOVE the way the meal TASTES. It’s going to take a little trial and error, but I’ll post the successful recipes here along the way. (Please feel free to share your own favorite fast, cheap, vegan recipes in the comments, too!)
Awesome….never knew how to brown tofu!
Oooh, I’m on the hunt for super easy vegan meals, too, and this seems awesome. My favorite is this: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/orange-panglazed-tempeh-recipe.html
I tried making that recipe a while back and I must have screwed it up because it was awful! I think I’m just not good at cooking tempeh…or maybe I’m buying the wrong kind?
Totally second this, one of my favorites, as well as:
http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/caramelized-tofu-recipe.html (love this SO MUCH)
(Clearly 101 Cookbooks is a site I frequent!)
i LOVE grilled tofu and i’m a full-on meat-eater. this recipe sound delicious and hits that spicy button i like 😉
i recently made asparagus soup, a recipe i found on a beautiful mess:
it calls for chicken broth and yogurt, but you could substitute a hearty vegetable broth and soy yogurt and it would be equally as awesome.
on another note, i’ve recently started working in boston (but i “live” in jersey city, on the weekends) where the only good grocery store in my neighborhood is whole foods, where i discovered that “soy yogurt” exists… OMG, i had some lemon soy yogurt and i’m totally hooked! i think i could totally handle a vegan diet if it all tastes that good 😉
I try not to eat a lot of processed soy products (or processed foods in general), but yes, stuff like soy yogurt is great to have in moderation…especially when it’s to complement a recipe.
I’ll have to try that soup! Evan claims to not like asparagus, but maybe in soup form… 😉
i’ve been adding healthy recipes to my repertoire – soOo happy to learn how to do the tofu properly anna – thanks + thanks isa chandra … continuing the thanksfest – amy i just bought tempeh for the first time last night under the assumption i’d somehow figure it out somehow – thanks for your favourite recipe because i’ll be trying it out – it’s pretty well exactly what i had in mind when i saw it
happy days ahead preparing meals and eating well
i just made up a quick dressing after spending $10 on a small raw salad of carrots, cabbage and zucchini at Whole Foods
nut butter + pineapple juice + lemon + cayenne + salt … I went at it with a fork in a bowl because I was so hungry but I suppose it could be done in a little blender
Shaking dressing up in a little mason jar with a tight lid works really nicely, too! Easy than making the blender dirty. 🙂
cont’d thanksfest – jenn, your comment popped up before I pushed send – i just looked at your soup recipe and think I’ll give it a try too – i just bought some plain soy yogourt … i like that the asparagus soup is better cool and that it’s creamy
OMG yes. This has been my last, uh, year or so. I just finished moving and am seriously going to start cooking again.
That’s looks absolutely delicious and inordinately healthy. A yummy warm tofu salad: Toss small chunks of butternut squash in olive oil, salt and cinnamon, then roast. Coat firm tofu chunks with finely chopped rosemary, crushed black pepper and salt, then gently fry so the rosemary doesn’t burn. Toast walnuts. Toss arugula leaves in a lemony dressing. Assemble the salad.
Ooh, that sounds good! I just need someone to cut the butternut squash for me, hahah.
I think you could use a delicata squash in place of the butternut squash. Spit it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and slice it into 1/4 inch slices and roads as above. The skin is thin and it will crisp up but not be tough. It’s much more manageable than the butternut and has a wonderful flavor.
This post couldn’t have come at a better time as I am going through a similar process myself right now (literally started last week), making menu and shopping plans of easy healthy –mostly– vegan meals. So excited to follow these new posts! Sounds delicious!
I make tofu/tempeh slathered in BBQ sauce, polenta, and collard greens a lot when I’m all out of ideas. The tofu/tempeh get coated in sauce and then into a hot oven, the collard greens are sauteed/steamed on the stove with some onions (http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2006/11/quick-and-delicious-collards.html) aaand the polenta gets cooked in the microwave (http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-a-quick-bowl-of-po-143543). Not glamorous but takes 20 minutes, it’s super heart and delicious!
Right up my alley, Amanda, thank you!
Wow, you two eat like birds. 1/4 cup lentils and 4 oz of tofu seems like such a civilized portion.
4 oz of tofu is quite a lot, actually — a full quarter of an entire block. I can’t imagine anyone look at/eating the salad resulting from this recipe and calling it “birdlike” (assuming you mean that it’s small, and not that we eat it directly off of the sidewalk with our faces).
Sorry – I meant it as a compliment! Defintely small and not feeding by pecking! My husband I split a block between the two of us and cook a cup (dry) of lentils for a different dish. I was feeling all gluttonous and impressed by your restraint. (Husband is a runner though so that probably explains it.)
I’m remarkably sloth-like in my daily life, so a 600 calorie dinner goes a long way. 😉
So exicted for your Quick & Easy vegan recipes! I’ll have to try the tofu and lentils soon. I roasted a big ‘ol butternut squash and have been having it for lunch all week — I cut the squash into chunks before I roasted it and then I just spoon the squash onto some fresh spinach, a vegan slider roll and garnish with a big helping of sriracha mixed with vegan mayo. Really good and quick and easy! Also I went to a vegan cooking class hosted by the local food truck Lulu’s and learned how to make a chickpea salad that tastes better than any tuna/chicken/egg salad I ever had in my former life: http://luluslocaleatery.blogspot.com/2013/04/cooking-class-at-local-harvest.html#!/2013/04/cooking-class-at-local-harvest.html Cheers – CT
Ahhhh! This all sounds awesome, CT, thank you!
It looks so yummy! I’ve been a vegetarian for 9 years now and I’ve been stuck in a horrible food rut of relying on take-out or even making the same meal every night of the week (!!!) and I definitely feel unwanted changes going on in my body. I’d love to transition to vegan someday, or even just a cleaner and healthier way of eating. This dish seems oh-so-easy and best of all I’d feel totally comfortable making it in my teeny tiny kitchen.
Kaitlyn, I made the transition from lapsed-vegetarian to a vegan diet about three years ago, and it was actually really easy. I don’t know exactly why I thought giving up dairy would be super hard, but it wasn’t at all. It just felt natural and right. I never even think about it! I really craved cheese for a couple of weeks, but that was it. If you’re already veg, you’re well on your way. Give it a shot! 🙂
THANK YOU!! I hear you loud and clear!
I saw this awesome recipe for zucchini “pasta” lately (haven’t tried it yet):
Also grilled zucchini salad (again..haven’t tried it because I am busy reno-ing my kitchen):
This looks delicious. Thanks! I have to get tofu another run. The times I’ve made it before, it ended up an awful mushy texture and I swore it off, but I’ll try Isa’s way of preparing it.
I know you said you’ve had issues with tempeh, but it’s definitely my go-to protein. I’ve tried various brands, but my favorite is the plain soy tempeh from Lightlife.
And I know dinner is a struggle for you, but this is an amazing lunch, especially for the upcoming hot weather. Prepare it Sunday evening and you’ve got lunch for 4 days.
Can I submit another fast dinner “recipe?” Tempeh Reuben. I know you said earlier you weren’t a huge tempeh fan but it’s super high in protein and works well in this I think. I cut a block of tempeh into thirds, then slice each block down the middle so I have 6 thin-ish rectangles. I fry those in some canola oil with spicy/german mustard smeared on both sides. Once they’re crispy and golden I throw some sauerkraut into the pan to heat it up and assemble my sandwich. Toasted wheat bread, veganaise-ketchup mixed together and smeared on the toast, tempeh, sauerkraut, baby spinach or whatever kind of salad greens I have in the fridge, pickles if I feel like it, more veganaise-ketchup dressing, and the top toast slice. Very messy. Super delicious (if you like all the ingredients – I know sauerkraut can be polarizing but I love the stuff).
Black bean burritos with mango and cilantro is one of my favorites, it reheats well, too. Absolutely don’t skip the mango:
We are a family of meat eaters but we eat a lot of meat-free dishes. This lentil soup is a recipe I jotted down from somewhere years ago and it checks all the boxes: healthy, easy, cheap, quick and yum. Even my small kids devour it. Also, the ingredients are things we always have in stock so this is a great standby.
1 large onion
1 oz butter (you can substitute olive oil)
1 large clove garlic (I always like to add extra)
4-8oz split red lentils (depending on how thick you like your soup – we like it thick so we use the full 8oz)
1.5 pints stock or water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Peel, chop and saute onion in butter/oil for 5 mins. Add garlic and lentils. Stir for 1 min then add stock/water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins (lid on). You can blend it at this stage if you prefer your soups smooth (we don’t bother). Add lemon juice and season.
This recipe is really adaptable. We often eat it just like this but sometimes I like to serve it with scallions and cream to add a bit of colour. Other good options are grilled feta cheese or crispy pancetta. I imagine there are plenty of vegan garnishes that would work as well. For example, I bet it would be good with toasted pine nuts.
Another quick and easy meal that we have when we’re in a hurry is what we call ‘posh beans on toast’. We saute garlic, onion and white beans in olive oil. We use butter beans (preferable) or cannelloni beans but I think these have different names in the US. Add some fresh rosemary and lemon juice and serve on toasted bread which has been drizzled with olive oil (we use good bread, not sliced pan). This is really good with some asparagus on the side.
How I understand losing your cooking mojo, mine has been gone forever now… but one recipe I can always persuade myself to pull together is this spicy lentil and tomato soup – super easy, and I usually have all the ingredients in my cupboard:
sauté some onions, add a can of chopped tomatoes, I use that can to measure the amount of water I also add, add a can of coconut milk, throw in a bunch of lentils (whichever color I have in the cupboard at the time), sprinkle in some cayenne pepper and let it all bubble away until the lentils are cooked – yum! I seem to remember the source I found the recipe from years ago suggested adding fresh pineapple too, but as I am allergic to pineapple I have never tried that!
Looking forward to trying this recipe and some of the others recipes you will post along the way (I don’t know how many times I made your mapled sprouts this winter, everyone I know was fed them at every opportunity I got!)
This red lentil-potato-tomato soup is my number one “take to work” recipe as it literally takes me 15 min in the morning to prepare. Then I just put it in glass jar and I’m ready to go.
Sauté a small chopped onion in a bit of oil, add a diced potato, add about half a glass of water, and about a glass of sieved tomatoes (I use the premade kind that comes in a carton). Then pour in about a handful of red lentils, let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes till lentils are soft. Then season to your taste, I usually just add a pinch of salt and pepper.
i’ve also eaten the leftovers as a bread spread, (I often prepare the soup with a thicker consistency) and it’s just super tasty.
This looks amazing–whenever someone else makes a lentil salad it’s so tasty, and mine seem to always turn out bland, so I’ll give this a try!
I’ve been making a lot of lettuce tacos recently–fry up courgette, mushroom & sweetcorn with garlic and shallots until slightly browned, then add fresh mint and lime juice, and put in a lettuce leaf with guacamole and hot sauce. Really satisfying (though messy).
Another quick dish I’ve been making a LOT recently is avocado pesto (you can see my recipe for it here at my blog: http://kitsunetsukikitchen.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/avocado-pesto/) and I’ve seen someone above talking about zucchini pasta–I’m definitely going to try combining the two!
i hadn’t thought about adding avocado to pesto – this i will definitely try
Take a look at http://thestonesoup.com/blog/
Lots of simple tasty ideas for meals without being too prescriptive about ingredients – no need to panic when you don’t have / can’t find / don’t like an ingredient
Just last week in my weekend newspaper there was instructions about how to make your own tofu, and how good homemade tofu is. (and it really look easy, of course you need some time since you need to do your soy milk first) If you have any interest let me know and I’ll dig my newspaper in my recycling bin and translate it for you! Your salad looks awesome! Have a great weekend!
Oh, thank you Mariane, but that’s OK — I can tell you right now that I will never, ever get around to making my own tofu. 😉
That looks delicious! I went through a phase of making and loving recipes from The Naked Kitchen (http://www.thenakedkitchen.com/) — I’ve gotten lazy recently. I still make their spicy peanut sauce a lot (http://www.thenakedkitchen.com/spicy-peanut-pasta/), exactly because it’s so easy to keep the ingredients for the sauce on hand — I pour a can of coconut milk into an ice cube tray, and about three cubes (from my tray, anyway) equals the 1/4 cup called for in the recipe. I’ll cook up several servings of brown rice pasta (spirals are my favorite) and chop a ton of veggies (my version is always veggie heavy), and then I’ll eat it several days in a row, cooking the vegetables each time, throwing in the pasta and then the sauce. I find that the sauce recipe lasts about five servings for me, and I’ll pretty much eat it that many times in a row without complaint.
I’ve been looking for a lot more quick vegetarian meals (so far I’m not vegan) – I know these are vegetarian but many could be adapted to vegan and most look great:
I work a full time job and am getting my degree part time so a lot of nights I have NO time to cook. My husband and I end up living off of some variation of this simple but amazingly delicious meal. Sometimes we add black beans, sometime we add avocado, sometimes it’s roasted broccoli or cauliflower, but it’s ALWAYS amazing!
My BF and I have been vegan for about 3 1/2 years, most of that time we’ve been really busy working and/or going to school so we developed a dish that we’ve dubbed “tasty bowl.” This is the first time I’m sharing the recipe with a stranger… but since we share a love of Hanco’s vegan pork banh mi, at least we have something in common!!!! (perfect with a honeydew soymilk bubble tea!!)
The idea of “tasty bowl” is a three-part dish: 1 part protein (soy chorizo from TJs, tempeh & maple syrup sauteed up, tofu, field roast sausages, whatever); 1 part greens (mustard, kale, spinach, collards); 1 part starch (brown rice). Sautee it all up and serve it over reheated leftover brown rice (reheats very well!), drizzle some soy sauce/tamari on it, and eat!! SO. GOOD. SO. EASY. We usually go heavy on the greens and turn to this dish when we realize we haven’t eaten anything green in a long time!! It’s good to use up CSA greens that you don’t want to look at after using them in every way imaginable (mizuna… i’m looking at you).
Hope this helps!
This looks nice, I have to buy lentils soon as I run out of them!
There is a soup with red lentils that also makes a simple but tasty supper: http://www.thekitchn.com/earthy-hearty-andlemony-red-le-129285
Can’t wait till summer, I love vegan summer rolls. http://www.culinaryadventuresinthekitchen.com/2012/05/26/summer-rolls-vegan/
I often add fried tofu sticks marinated with lime juice and soy sauce. Simply fry the tofu, dice and cut all the veggies and herbs, soak the rice noodles and roll them on the table with company. I serve them with simple store bought dipping sauce.
this looks divine! i know what you mean about working in an industry where things don’t feel complete a lot. it’s also a stress relief to actual cook a meal and i zen out while i do it. i love cooking meals for myself and if i have a significant other. but if i do cook meals for a dinner party or other people i stress out but i def love cooking for myself and you’re right it feels so good for accomplishing something little. 😀
Just read this at work and started drooling, so I headed to TJ’s on my lunch hour for the ingredients and will be making it tonight. Cheers!
Our S.F. neighborhood is exploding with food right now (we are not vegans) and it’s really hard to stay disciplined about cooking at home. I cook/bake a lot for my blog, so that makes it even harder sometimes for me to want to put effort into other meals. HOWEVER, I do have a vegan recipe that my husband and I LOVE, and that we’ve passed on to so many people. Don’t ask me how I came up with this, but I’m glad I did. It takes FIVE MINUTES!
I can make a meal out of this with a few chips and salsa on the side, but we often serve it as a side dish.
Heart of Palm Ceviche
1 can heart of palm (sliced 1/8″ thick)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2-1 avocado, cubed
juice of 1/2 lime (more or less to taste)
tiny pinch of salt,
tiny drop of olive oil
Mix all gently in a bowl and serve! Heart of palm has a great texture for this mock-ceviche. The first time I ever had it I thought it was fish!
My two favorite quick, cheap meals are either a great big pile of sautéed greens in olive oil and garlic
(very simple and always yummy) and homemade tortilla chips with salsa and/or smashed avocado (slice corn tortillas in wedges, rub with a little oil, salt/lime/chili and bake at 400 until crisp. Mash up some avo with salt and lime (and whatever else you like) and then chop up whatever raw veggies you have on hand to to make a “salsa” — tomato/cabbage/scallion/jalapeños/kale/bell pepper/cukes/etc.)
Oh my goodness! Please make “Dinner for Lazy People” a thing on your blog. I eat NOTHING but fast food and I’m constantly wishing I could make time to cook, but by the end of the day it just feels way overwhelming. I’m not even vegan, but I would totally eat your vegan recipes if they are fast and delicious! This is great!
I’m not vegan, but I regularly make a batch of these falafel and stash them in the freezer for an almost instant lunch or dinner 🙂 http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2530641/
What a great looking dinner! This looks great: tasty, different, and easy. I’m look to cook but I’m always so tired. This looks 100% manageable, AND it’s healthy! Excited to try!
Everything on this food blog is awesome 🙂
Your recipe sounds yummy and easy, especially if you throw in some Trader Joe’s premade stuff into it. All that talk of restaurants have gotten my stomach rumbling! How I miss New York and big city living. Living in the country in a small town, you have no choice but to make it yourself. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan, country restaurants are not for you!
Recipe looks way yum. I’m going to have to try it this week with baby kale. Tangent: does TJ’s or any other grocery near you carry Olivia’s Organics? They are amazing and right up the lazy+cheap alley..
My favorite quick and easy meal is kind of a riff on yours above, with a similarly loose recipe all tossed together:
Tofu, browned (I use garlic salt in the pan)
1 cucumber, cubed
1 fresh ear of sweet corn, de-eared
1 can of black beans, drained
1 tomato, chopped
big handful of cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Cholula to taste
any other Mexi-style veggies, chopped (whatever I have on hand – fresh or pickled jalapeno, avocado, radishes)
It makes a ton, so we’ve gotten as many as three dinners for the two of us. You can even add the mixture to taco shells. Or on top of a salad. Or toss it over rice. Or on top of tortilla chips like nachos.
Or just get two forks and eat it out of the mixing bowl on the coffee table in front of the television, for a truly lazy experience.
OK, I made this tonight. I wasn’t sure if I would need to order pizza, but it turned out to be phenomenal! Seriously delicious. I had never made tofu successfully before, nor had I ever made lentils. I made my own vinaigrette and added peanut butter. Everyone was deeply suspicious and then everyone loved it. Thank you! We also added crumbled goat cheese which added a delicious flavor.
I’m not even a vegetarian, but a lot of what we eat can be vegetarian or vegan with very few substitutions. One thing I’m relying on right now is farro. I make a big batch (it doesn’t take too long; you can boil it or make is risotto-style w vegetable stock for more flavor) and them use the leftovers all week. It’s especially good dressed almost like a salad and then combined with whatever you want. You could try avocado, like juice, maybe some crunchy things like shredded carrots, etc. or have it hot–sauté some mushrooms and onions and then add the farro back in to heat up.
I made this last week: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/03/chickpea-saute-with-greek-yogurt-recipe.html without yoghurt it is just as delicious as with. I could not stop eating this, it was that good.
We fry our tempeh and put a bit of salt on it while still hot, and one of the ways we eat it is in a sandwich, with mayonaise and a bit of tomato or something.
And yesterday I made a salade that was vegan and so delicious I remembered this post and decided to post it.
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil extra virgin
– juice of half a lemon
– 1 tablespoon of tahin
– pepper and salt
– one or two hands of salade leaves (we get a mix of leaves at our shop)
– two tomatoes in wedges or slices
– some leftover olives (black)
– parsley coarsely chopped
– one medium onion halved and cut into half rings
– half a bell pepper cut into strips (about 5 to 8 mm)
– a cup of cooked chickpeas
– caroway (?) seeds
– clove of garlic
– mushrooms (whatever you like)
– regular olive oil for baking
prepare the leaves and put in the bottom of a flat dish
heat a frying pan with a bit of oil and fry the mushrooms until soft, when done put on a plate with kitchenpaper to cool and season
put the bell peppers in the pan with the onions (and a bit of oil) and fry (or is saute a better word?) until glazed, soft and browning an bit, put on a bit of kitchenpaper as well
crush the seeds and put them in the pan, grate the garlic into the pan and add the chickpeas, stir the chickpeas and add salt to taste (it becomes delicious).
layer the mushrooms onto the salade, the tomatoes onto that, then the onions and bell pepper and then the olives with parsley and chickpeas. Drizzle the dresssing over.
We had potato gratin with it, but you could eat it with toasted bread or cooked rice.
An delicious way to make a risotto-like vegan rice: 1 medium onion finely chopped, half a bell pepper finely chopped, olive oil regular and EV, 200 grams of brown rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt; selery finely chopped, 2 tomatoes chopped, 150 grams of frozen peas.
heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a cooking pan, saute the onion, add the pepper, add the selery, when you feel everything has had a good wack of heat add the rice, stir and then add salt and the required amount of water (see package) make sure the water is hot, stir. Put the lid on and cook softly until the rice is done it should be “moisty” as it were.
Take the pan off the heat, add the tomato and peas and a bit of EV oil to taste. Let it stand for a few minutes, this will soften the tomato into the rice and defrost the peas. Season. Enjoy.
Well, these are my two cents on the subject, I really cannot say how much I love cooking. Sorry I took up so much space. Have a wonderful day.
This salad looks so good! I will just go ahead and say thank you now because I am positive I will love it. You might have already seen this recipe from Jules, but in case you haven’t:
So easy and totally delicious.
I just went to pin this recipe because I love it so, then remembered you’re not a fan of that, right? Just wanted to double check. Also, I joined WW today. I know it wasn’t your intention to sway anyone, but your post was a helpful little nudge for me.
I’m not a fan of Pinterest as a company because of their blatant disregard for copyright laws—and because of the site’s distructive effect on the creative community. I do not, however, take issue with Pinterest users who are careful and respectful with their pinning (e.g., never pinning images anywhere other than from the original source—meaning the copyright holder, not a blog or site who has republished the image; not using images for personal gain or self-promotion, etc.).
Looks so gooooood! Definitely going to try this one! I love tofu! Thank you so much for sharing!