Vegetarian Food Prep: Make it Easy

One of the comments I often hear is that vegetarian cooking takes so long and is so inconvenient.  I agree. All that chopping, slicing, and dicing is time consuming, but YOU ARE WORTH IT, so take all the time you need to be healthy. Better health for you and your family starts in the kitchen.

I would like to share some things I’ve learned that make preparing healthy foods a little quicker and easier:

–First of all, PLEASE, don’t cook for only one meal.  It is just as easy to make 10 cups of brown rice as it is to prepare 2 cups, so make a big pot and save the leftovers for future meals.  If you won’t use it all this week you can easily freeze leftovers to use next week or even next month.

–The same goes for dried beans; make more than you need and freeze the leftovers. I like to freeze two cup portions in plastic freezer bags for use later.

–Cleaning and peeling vegetables is best done when you have a big chunk of time, but I like to peel a 5 lb. bag of organic carrots as soon as I bring it home so that fresh carrots are always available for juicing and recipes.

–Romaine lettuce also gets washed as soon as it hits the kitchen; separate the leaves and let them soak in the sink with cold water and a little vinegar while you put the rest of your groceries away.  After draining, roll the leaves in a clean dishtowel, put it in a plastic bag, and store in the frig until you’re ready to make a salad or sandwich.  You’ll be surprised how fresh and crisp it stays this way!

–Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk.  Raw tomatoes (whole, cored), raw peppers and onions (chopped), and raw peas and berries (whole, washed) can be frozen with little preparation, and can make individual meal preparation go faster if you have them on hand.

–Finally, considering how mind-numbing a task chopping, slicing, and dicing is, consider multi-tasking.  You can put the phone on speaker and still have both hands free.  Or, USE that wasted time in front of the TV — chop the vegetables you will need for tomorrow’s supper tonight while watching your favorite show.  You’ll be so glad you did this when you get home tomorrow after work, and all that meal prep is already done!

I hope these ideas to make eating for better health faster and easier are helpful to you.  If you have any other time- saving ideas, please share them!

Raw Carrot Apple Cookies

This is another great way to use carrot pulp leftover from juicing.  If you don’t have a dehydrator you can bake them in a  low temperature oven.  I did this for years before I had a dehydrator, but you must keep an eye on them.  If they do actually bake, they will still be yummy, full of fiber and nutrition,  just not raw.  Still a healthy cookie you can feel good about snacking on or giving to the kids.

Raw Carrot Apple Cookies

carrot/apple pulp (leftover from juicing)

soaked ground buckwheat groats OR soaked rolled oats

ground flaxseed

sprinkle of stevia powder (very potent, a little goes a long way!) or a little honey

dash sea salt

ground almond meal

raw sesame seeds

raw sunflower seeds

chopped almonds

chopped dried fruit, your choice ( I used papaya and cherries)

about ¼ c. water with 1 ½ Tbsp, lemon juice

Soak grains in water (not too much) about 20 mins.. Add remaining ingredients; use your own judgment to make a moist dough.  Mix thoroughly using a wooden spoon. Shape and press dough into cookie shapes on teflex or parchment paper sheets.  Dehydrate until they resemble a moist cookie (4 – 6 hours) – not too long or they will be very tough.  If necessary flip and dehydrate on the other side until done.

You can vary this recipe by substituting whatever ingredients you have on hand for the nuts and seeds (poppy seeds, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seed, coconut, etc.) and chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, currants, dates, etc.). Be creative – these cookies never come out the same twice!

Vegan Seafood Salad

This recipe makes a great summer, picnic, or a take to work lunch.  The flavor is better if made ahead, so make it the night before and packing your lunch the next day will be simple. (The secret ingredient is the nori — for real seafood taste that makes all the difference in the world!)  Remember, organic ingredients are always best.

Ingredients:

1 parsnip, finely shredded

1 carrot, finely shredded

1/2 c. red bell pepper, finely chopped

3 – 4 stalks celery, diced (I like a lot of crunch — it adds interest to this salad)

1/2 c. onion, finely chopped

1 sheet sushi nori, crumbled or folded several times and snipped into tiny bits with kitchen shears (This is the quickest and easiest way)

1 tsp. nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp. pink sea salt (or to taste)

1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1/4 – 1/3 c. Vegenaise (vegan mayo)

Method:

Toss to mix all ingredients.  Adjust spices to your preference.  Let chill for at least 1 hr. to allow flavors to blend.

Serve cold on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes.  Also delicious as a sandwich spread on toasted whole grain bread.

Recipe: Zucchini Casserole

It is summer, and if your garden is anything like mine you have enough zucchini to feed an army. If not, the farmers markets have them in abundance, and they’re very inexpensive right now.

This recipe was originally given to me by my niece and has been used by our family for years. It is the one all the kids ask for when they leave home and start cooking for themselves. I have made a few adjustments to make it even more vegetarian (healthy). In our house it is the main course and always served with cranberry sauce.
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Ingredients:

3 c. cubed zucchini (do not peel)

3 lg. carrots, shredded

1/2 c. chopped onion

1 can cream of mushroom or celery soup

1 c. Sour Supreme imitation sour cream

1/4 – 1/2 c. margarine or organic butter (you decide which you think is the healthier choice)

1/2 bag Pepperidge Farms Herb Flavored Stuffing Mix (The original recipe calls for 1 box of Stove Top Stuffing Mix, but they all contain chicken broth, so I don’t use it)

LIGHTLIFE Chick’n Style Strips, 1/2 package,  chopped (optional)*

Method:

Stir fry the zucchini, carrots, and onion until just tender (do not add water as zucchini is very moist). Set aside.

In a bowl mix together the soup and imitation sour cream.*If you are using the optional Chick’n Strips add those to the bowl now and gently stir. (It’s good with or without them).

In a pot melt the margarine (or butter), remove from heat, and add stuffing mix.  Toss to coat.
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In a glass casserole dish layer:

1/2 stuffing mixture

the zucchini stir-fry mixture

the soup/ imitation sour cream mixture

the remaining 1/2 stuffing mixture

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes

This recipe may be doubled for a crowd — just bake it a little longer.

Recipe: Carrot Raisin Salad

This is a so-o-o simple recipe for times when you are out of greens (or just want a change from a green salad), but still want to have a fresh salad with your meal. There are only two main ingredients plus my favorite honey/lemon dressing which I use on many salads. It’s a sweet/tangy flavor that appeals to adults and kids.

Salad Ingredients:

3 cups grated raw organic carrots (about 3 large carrots)

1/2 cup organic raisins

Dressing Ingredients:

Juice of one lemon

Equal amount of honey

Whisk lemon juice and honey together, and pour mixture over grated carrots and raisins. Refrigerate until served.

Recipe: Carrot Cakes (Mock Crab Cakes)

I try to drink one or two glasses of carrot juice everyday. It always bothers me to throw away the carrot pulp after juicing, so I’ve found some creative ways to use it (besides just compost). This is one recipe I make often, and everyone seems to like it. The ingredients aren’t exact and you can adjust them according to the amount of carrot pulp you are using and your own personal tastes. The one thing I keep constant is the equal ratio of carrot pulp and cooked brown rice.

equal amounts of fresh carrot pulp and cooked brown rice (a good way to use up leftover rice)

finely chopped sweet red and green peppers

finely chopped onion

1 – 2 cloves pressed garlic

1 – 2 Tbsp. Braggs Liquid Amino Acids (or soy sauce), to taste

1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp. Nori (kelp) flakes

1 – 2 Ener-G Egg replacer (according to package directions)

Seasoned bread crumbs (enough to hold it all together when molded into cakes)

Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon. You want the mixture to hold together and not be crumbly. With your hands form handfuls of mixture into oval shaped patties, about 3/4 inch thick. (Wetting your hands during this process helps keep the mixture from sticking to your hands).

Fry patties, several at a time, in a large heavy frying pan containing about 1/8 inch hot oil. I use light olive oil — not the extra virgin kind (save extra virgin olive oil for your salad dressings). I have also baked them on an oil sprayed pan in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, spray cakes, and turn once. I like the way they turn out fried better because they are firmer, but you have to stand there while frying. Baking is easier, and doesn’t require your full attention, but the cakes will be less firm. Either way these are delicious!

Serve these with a sauce made from Vegenaise and horseradish. Make it as hot as you like.