Vegan Meals for the Whole Family
My husband and I have a large family. We have 5 children ranging in age from 16 to 1. To find meals that they ALL love can be challenging, especially since my older ones can be pickier with food than the younger ones. Since becoming new to veganism, I have made it my mission to explore various recipes and try my hardest to find meals that everyone will enjoy. Now, with a large family, our grocery budget isn’t huge. We try to focus on healthy, cost-effective foods. Having been raised in a meat consuming family, and having been a meat consumer myself, my idea of dinner was a protein with a veggie and starch side. So at first, I tried to just re-imagine our regular American meals by purchasing meat substitutes such as Tofurky, making rice “meatballs”, etc. These proved not to be super budget-friendly and the homemade meat alternatives did not always turn out how the picture in the cookbook showed. Plus, no one liked them. Ugh! I was frustrated and didn’t know where to turn.
Then the idea came to me to explore international recipes. What I found is that most countries eat vegan diets, and there was suddenly an abundance of recipes for me to try. Woohoo! I love to cook so this was exciting for me. On this journey I found many delicious recipes, and to my surprise, ALL of my kids (and my husband) have loved these. I’m going to share three of our family’s favorite recipes that are quick, easy, and cost effective. It doesn’t get any better!
The first recipe is Lentil Curry. This is by far my family’s favorite, and it only takes between 15-30 minutes to whip up, depending on how quickly you chop veggies. This recipe makes about 6 hearty servings. There are lots of internet recipes for this that vary slightly, so I kind of mixed and matched what I like and am sharing my take with some options you can try.
You will need:
• 4 c. water
• 1 ½ c. lentils
• 1 tbsp. oil of your choice
• 1 small shallot or onion, diced (I prefer to use an onion)
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1-2 tbsp. ground ginger
• ¾ tsp. salt
• 1-2 tbsp. curry powder
• 1-2 tsp. ground turmeric
• A dash of cayenne pepper
• 2 cans of coconut milk
1. Start by cooking your desired amount of rice per the package instructions.
2. While the rice is cooking, bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Rinse and drain the lentils. Add the lentils to boiling water and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook lentils uncovered for 5 minutes for firm lentils, or 15 minutes for soft lentils. (I prefer them soft.) When they are done, drain and set aside.
3. While the rice and lentils are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add your oil of choice. Add chopped shallot or onion, and garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently. Add ginger, salt, curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne and cook for 1 minute more. Turn heat to low. (I like large flavor so I add 2 tbsp each of ginger and curry powder, and 2 tsp. of turmeric. I’m not big on spice so I literally use just a dash of cayenne. Use more if you prefer spicier foods.)
4. Add coconut milk. (I prefer 2 cans for a creamier curry; however, you can use just 1 can if you want it thicker.) Cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes to combine the flavors. Add the drained and cooked lentils and mix well.
5. Serve over rice.
Note: when you add the coconut milk you may be worried that there is too much liquid. Not to worry, it thickens with cooking and as it stands. My kids literally get excited when this is served, and even the 1 year old loves it!
Southwest Quinoa Salad
The second meal that is a huge hit is a more American dish, Southwest Quinoa Salad! Again, it’s super tasty, and takes only about 15 minutes to make. This particular recipe comes from kristineskitchenblog.com, but it’s pretty similar wherever you get the recipe from. This also serves about 6 people. I usually double the recipe, because I like leftovers.
For the salad, you’ll need:
• 1 tsp. olive oil
• 1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
• 1 ¾ c. veggie broth or water
• 1 can of corn, drained
• 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 bell pepper of any color, chopped
• Optional: fresh cilantro
For the vinaigrette:
• 1 lime, squeezed
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp chili powder
• ½ tsp. cumin
• Salt to taste
1. Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil, veggie broth, and quinoa in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, olive oil, and seasonings using a whisk until well combined. (I prefer more olive oil in my dressing, so feel free to play around with the amount. I’ll use about ¼ cup. Also, if you don’t have chili powder and cumin, you can substitute 1 ½ tsp. of taco seasoning.)
3. When the quinoa is cooked, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the corn, black beans, and bell pepper. Add the dressing and stir to combine.
This dish can be served warm or cold.
Vegetable Fried Rice
The third and final dish I’ll share with you is, again, so delicious, so quick, and so simple! Fried Rice! The best part about fried rice is you can use whatever veggies you have on hand, and can even add in tofu if you like. Here is my particular variation that I love. Again, feel free to play around with the add ins.
• 1 onion, diced
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced
• 5 tbsp. sesame oil, plus some extra
• 5 tbsp. of soy sauce, plus some extra
• 1 c. diced carrots (frozen)
• 1 c. peas (frozen)
• 4 c. cooked rice
1. Heat 2 tbsp. sesame oil in a large skillet or wok. Add onions and stir-fry until they are a nice brown color, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute until fragrant. Remove onions and garlic from skillet.
2. Add remaining 3 tbsp. sesame oil to skillet. Add in veggies of choice and stir-fry until they are cooked and warmed through, about 10 minutes.
3. Add rice along with the cooked onions/garlic and toss to mix well. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and any additional sesame oil to taste. (I prefer to omit the soy sauce as my kids don’t like it, and will just add a few more tbsp of sesame oil at this point.)
These recipes have been lifesavers, and again, are super versatile, budget-friendly, and I can whip them up on a busy night without sacrificing much time. Everyone loves them, which is a bonus!
As a newer vegan family, it’s definitely fun to explore new foods together and to take a culinary journey to other parts of the world. This has taught the older kids that they don’t need meat to be “healthy” or to even be full (as others have told them). It’s teaching them to be more conscientious about what they are eating, and they are also learning to enjoy a variety of foods and appreciate, in a small way, other cultures than their own.