plant based cooking

We all know we should eat more vegetables, so here is an intro!

Nancy and I know that a plant-based diet is healthy, so we have asked Paige Host to inspire us.   This is the first of a multi-part series by Paige on making plant-based eating delicious.

As the lone vegan in my familial and social circles, I am familiar with the struggle of finding plant-based protein and meat substitutes that others may find enjoyable or for some carnivorous friends, bearable to be around. I am not the type who will try and make you become a vegan, transfer over to the ‘green side,’ and halt your consumption of foods that you thoroughly enjoy. Rather, I like to cook incredibly delectable and delicious meals that make even the most meat-hungry individuals swoon.

Growing up, our house was full of scrumptious and nutritious food (thanks Mom!). One of my best girlfriends has often joked that my house was the most fun, but we had the worst snacks because they were all so healthy! When I was 14 years old, I learned that I had inherited both my mother’s low blood pressure and my family’s high cholesterol.  I decided to stop eating red meat altogether at the age of 15.  Throughout high school I made an exception for my boarding school’s snack bar ‘Philly Cheesesteak,’ and I had beef twice while studying abroad in Argentina—the beef from the Pampas is très magnifique!! I’m obviously still working on my Spanish…  And finally, to add to the woes of 2020, I found out the hard way that I had a serious dietary aversion to gluten and dairy and I went full GF/V in early 2020. It was a steady gradual shift, with many of my self-inflicted roadblocks along the way, but now it seems that it was always in the stars.

I’m an animal lover, a softy when it comes to violence and gore (keep in mind, I minored in Nonviolence Studies in college), I cry when I see a soft little creature opening its eyes and seeing the world, and I have medically encouraged dietary restrictions—so veganism it is!! I love cooking… I truly love it.  I have a hay day when I find a new recipe that screams YUM and OY at the same time—YUM for the flavors and ingredients and OY for the level of difficulty. This is another trait I inherited from my mama. She and I have spent hours in the kitchen together whipping up the most delicious meals. We share recipes, follow cooks whom we both adore and explore new cuisines. Every time I visit my parents, my mom has several recipes lined up that are both vegan and gluten free to cater to my dietary restrictions and Steven’s celiac disease. She makes cooking for a gluten free vegan and a celiac carnivore look like a breeze.

Given the current state of the world, I have found a lot of time to cook. My fiancé, Steven Charles, is my guinea pig; a role he thoroughly enjoys. His taste buds were not very advanced when we met in Spring 2015, but I have conditioned him to become a total and complete foodie. My father is my mother’s guinea pig; he recently proclaimed he is a ‘Laurie-tarian’ because he loves whatever my mom cooks. Steven is a ‘Paige-tarian’ because he loves whatever I cook and if he doesn’t, oh boy, does he let me know… no salt!

Let me dive into some recipes that I have experimented with in the past couple of months.

Green Curry Porridge – a yum-tastic mushy mess that Steven and I replaced the faro with buckwheat and the brown rice with basmati. I recommend using the grains they call for, as it would make it more of a porridge-like consistency. We added some raw spinach and let it wilt in the porridge. Fiber, protein, greens, and spice—sign me up.

plant based cooking green curry porridge                                  (Epicurious)

plant-based cooking soup and naan                                          (Paige)

Winter squash mushroom curry – this is a NYT piece, but I linked the Epicurious rendition of it in case people don’t have the NYT Cooking membership. We ate this for four days straight and it was delightful, flavorful, and we were completely stuffed afterward! Side note: the green chilies help with digestion and the fat in the coconut milk makes my hair stronger and skin more hydrated.

plant based cooking Squash mushroom curry

Vegan Chia Pumpkin and Oat Snacking Loaf – this recipe is from one of my favorite accounts to follow on Instagram: Inspiralized. There are a ton of recipes on her page and on her website, but I had to try this one because it was dairy free and an easy recipe to make gluten free. I don’t have four mini loaf pans, let alone one loaf pan, but I made do with a cake pan. They were yummy, a bit dry, so I advise to use gluten-containing flour to make it a bit moister and less dense; and maybe spreading some honey on the finished product!

Vegan Mushroom and Leeks Rolls & Creamy White Bean Soup with Spicy Paprika Oil – Both of these recipes are from NYT Cooking.  The rolls, or tamales, are so inviting in their aroma and divine in their taste and texture. The white bean soup is so filling with fiber and protein, an immense amount of flavor, crediting the fennel seeds and the herbes de Provence, and has a punch with the spicy paprika oil. They are both home runs and are now permanently in our rotation!

white bean soup

                                                                 Creamy White Bean Soup – Photo courtesy of the NY Times

If you’d like to learn about growing your own micro-greens for flavor and nutritional boosts, here is a previous ASE article;

Growing Greens and Micro Herbs and Greens at Home Outside and In