As life gets busier (between quarantine ending and closing on a house), my BIGGEST cooking goal these days is to come up with super simple recipes that are both healthy and easy to make in bulk. And my latest favorite creation that fits the bill is this super simple tofu & pea curry!
It has all the creamy, comforting goodness of the authentic Indian version (called Matar or Mutter Paneer), but without any of the cheese, cream or oil. The only source of fat in this recipe, in fact, are cashews! (And if you want to get fat free with it, you could omit the cashew cream. But then… it wouldn’t be creamy anymore. 😉 )
And bonus, this version is high in protein!
This recipe is super simple, because the ONLY chopping required is cubing the tofu–everything else is just chucked into the blender.
I also cook this in bulk by doubling the recipe below (cooking times are the same)–it takes me about 30 mins of prep time for 8 meals’ worth of food!
1 – 16oz block super firm tofu, cubed
1.5 cups frozen peas
1 white or yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
1 green chili pepper (can also use ~1 tbsp canned)
3/8 cup water
1 tsp cumin seeds (or sub powder)
Half a 15oz can tomato sauce (or pureed fresh tomato)
1 + 1/4 tsp coriander
Heaping 1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1 tsp cayenne powder, or to taste*
2/3 cup raw cashews, soaked
1/2 cup water
*This will depend on the chili you use. When I use my spicier homegrown chilis, I omit the cayenne. If you use canned mild chilis, you’ll probably want to keep the cayenne in.
Add the onion, ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and 3/8c water to your blender, and blend until smooth. Let sit for a minute or two before opening it, as the chili will be airborne for a moment!
Meanwhile, saute the cumin seeds with a splash of water until they start to turn brown, 1-2 minutes. Add the pureed onion mixture, and boil for 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomato sauce, coriander, turmeric, and salt, and boil for another ~5 minutes.
Add the cubed tofu and peas and stir them in gently, just as much as needed to combine everything, so as not to break the tofu.
Set the Instant Pot to cook on high pressure for 2 mins, and let it release naturally for 10-15 minutes. (For stovetop version: simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the peas are tender but not mushy. Stir it occasionally.)
While the curry is cooking, blend the cashew cream ingredients, and set aside. Once the curry is done cooking, gently stir in the cashew cream.
Did you know that about 20% of women in the US are iron deficient? (Thanks largely to Aunt Flo)
I know I’ve been slacking on making sure I’m getting enough, so I’ve been researching the iron content of a ton of different ingredients, and coming up with recipes that are super high in iron.
I figured my high-iron recipes wouldn’t necessarily be the next great taste sensation given my main focus is on their nutrient content, but on day 2 of my new iron-finding kick, these bars proved me oh so wrong. They are incredibly delicious–for breakfast, snacks, or even dessert.
Just 100 calories of them provides 13% of your recommended daily intake of iron, and a breakfast-sized amount (let’s say 500 calories), satisfies a whopping 65% of your daily iron needs. (See below for more nutrition notes)
To put it in more exciting terms… calorie for calorie, these bars have 4x as much iron as chicken, and twice as much iron as STEAK!
In good news, my husband tried them and loves them so much that he keeps asking for them, and has even dubbed them “the perfect breakfast.” In bad news, a batch doesn’t last me nearly as long as I thought it would, because I had originally expected to be the only one eating them… 😛
Makes 16 bars; each 100-calorie bar has 13% of the female RDA for iron (26% of the male RDA).
2 cups puffed amaranth (requires about 2/3-1 cup dry amaranth)
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp maple syrup*
1/8 tsp salt (optional)
*You can sub out the maple syrup for agave, or more molasses
Preheat a pot over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Make sure the bottom of the pot is the same size or smaller than your burner.
Pop the amaranth: add one tablespoon of dry amaranth to the pot; it should start popping almost immediately (it looks like mini popcorn). Shake or stir the pot consistently while the amaranth pops. Once most of the grains have popped, or once the remaining unpopped ones starts to get a darker brown, pour out the amaranth into a separate bowl. Then repeat the process with the rest of the dried amaranth until you have 1 cup. It sounds difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy and honestly pretty fun. I found this video to be useful! (but no need to sieve it)
Once cooled, add the popped amaranth to a 9″ square (or round) pan, and add all the other ingredients. Stir until well combined. (If it seems dry/crumbly, add more molasses–the consistency will depend on what % of your amaranth ended up being puffed.)
Press mixture into pan, refrigerate, cut into bars, and enjoy!
Extra nutrition notes:
With the ingredients I use, the entire recipe contains 36mg of iron; a premenopausal woman’s daily RDA of iron is 18mg! For men and postmenopausal women, the RDA is 8mg.
For my tahini, I use Artisana Tahini. I’ve noticed that the iron content of tahini can vary somewhat, and Artisana is one of the highest iron contents I’ve found.
In my neverending quest to find recipes that are quick & easy to make, super healthy, AND also budget-friendly, I’ve found that lentil-based recipes often check all those boxes. Especially for bulk cooking, which really cuts down on the time needed per meal.
These lentils may be one of my easiest recipes yet… especially considering how flavorful they are. I know it sounds unusual to use Thai curry paste with lentils, but they taste really good together. These lentils work well on their own as a stew, or paired with rice to make them last even longer.
(I will admit, I have made even faster meals on occasion: when I needed a 5-minute lunch to bring to work on especially busy weeks, I used to just toss lentils and rice in my rice cooker, and add frozen spinach and seasoning salt. But that’s not delicious enough to write a whole post about 😉 )
2 cups dry brown or red lentils, washed
5 cups water
15oz can coconut milk
10oz bag frozen spinach
10oz sliced mushrooms; I used frozen
4 tbsp red curry paste (make sure it’s vegan–I use this kind)
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt to taste
Add the lentils and water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.
Optional: sauté mushrooms in a separate pan with a splash of soy sauce (or water + salt) until they start to get tender. (If you don’t feel like sautéing them, you can just add the mushrooms raw in the next step)
Stir in the coconut milk, frozen spinach, mushrooms, curry paste, and tomato paste to the pot with the lentils. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed and it’s a curry-like texture, for about 20 minutes.
I’m working on building a repertoire of recipes that my more junk-food-vegan leaning husband loves and that fit in with my unprocessed preferences. They tend to take a little more effort, but are as delicious as junk food while also being healthy.
This recipe is our favorite hybrid so far. (In case you can’t tell, I generally only share my favorite recipes with y’all!)
It’s a southern-inspired feast that has 3 parts, and they go SO well together. It takes me about two hours to make, which isn’t bad given it results in 5 nights’ worth of dinner for two–and given it tastes as good as our favorite restaurant food and is packed full of veggies & beans. It also happens to be low fat, with the only overt fat being some cashews in the sauce.
Want to make it fat-free, and skip the macaroni? Try the baked beans + kale over a baked potato. That was actually the original version of this recipe for us!
(This recipe is for a bulk amount because feeding my 6’6″ bodybuilding husband with low-calorie-density food requires a LOT of food.)
1 medium-large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp soy sauce
Pinch of allspice
4 cans navy beans, rinsed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add onion to a pot over medium-high heat, and saute for a few minutes until they start to get translucent. Add garlic and saute for a few more minutes.
Turn off the heat, and add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and stir until well combined. Pour mixture into a 13×9″ pan, cover with tinfoil, and bake for 45 minutes.
2 cups roughly chopped gold potatoes
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (I use soy)
1 cup water
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1.5 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Dash of cayenne (optional)
Boil the potatoes, carrots, and onion until tender.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add more salt and lemon to taste.
Pasta & Kale
24oz dry macaroni, cooked according to package directions
32oz frozen kale (or use raw kale that is about 32oz when cooked)
5 large cloves garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, to taste
Add the kale and garlic to a pot over medium heat. Saute, stirring regularly, until the kale is tender. Add lemon juice and salt to taste.
Make the final bowl: put the macaroni in a bowl, top with cheese sauce, then baked beans, then kale, and enjoy! (And, possibly, become as addicted to it as we are)
Confession time: I’ve never been a fan of veggie burgers. Especially grain or bean-based burgers.
When I first went vegetarian 15 years ago, vegetarian burgers weren’t anything like they are today. Having to eat them at every school function or barbecue got a bit tiring, and I never found a very satisfying recipe for veggie burgers. Then the Beyond and Impossible burgers came on the scene, and since then I’ve pretty much just eaten those whenever I have a burger craving.
But, I love to eat whole food plant based (aka unprocessed food) most of the time. So I decided to try coming up with my own recipe that would be good and unique enough that it could have its own role at the table, besides just trying to replace a burger.
I went with a Caribbean vibe, and was inspired by empanadas since black bean & plantain are a match made in heaven when used in empanadas… so why not burgers? I also made an avocado lime spread for it, and the combo is so good that I actually enjoy just having the patty + spread at times, without a bun or anything.
Makes 4-6 patties
1 can black beans
1 cup red onion, diced
1 ripe plantain, sliced
6 tbsp corn grits (or cornmeal)
6 heaping tbsp whole cilantro leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
Sauté plantain and red onion together over medium-low heat until plantain turns golden brown and onion begins to turn translucent.
In a food processor, add all the ingredients and process until the mixture still has some small pieces remaining, but holds together well. If it is too dry to stick together easily (if you’re using more absorbent cornmeal, for instance), add a tbsp of water at a time until it sticks together.
Form mixture into 4-6 patties about 1” thick. Sauté over medium-low heat for 5-8 minutes per side, until they are lightly browned. Alternatively, you can put them in the oven at 375 degrees: bake 10 mins, then flip, then bake another 10 minutes, or until both sides are crispy.
Top with avocado lime spread and your favorite burger toppings, and enjoy!
Avocado lime spread:
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp dried chipotle powder
1/8 tsp salt
Mash together all the ingredients until it has a guacamole-like texture.
Something about planting seeds for my vegetable garden (which I’m starting this week!) puts me in a salad mood. Just imagining all the organic greens and veggies I’ll be harvesting in a few months makes me start craving fresh veggies right away!
My favorite salad ever is still my addictive Mexican-style salad, but this BBQ ranch one is a very close second. It’s easy, super healthy, totally versatile with any extra veggies you might want to include, and goes well with every type of green I’ve tried so far! (Especially mixed greens or romaine.)
Serves 2-3 as a full meal
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
6-8 cups mixed greens (or romaine, or spinach)
6 celery stalks, chopped
1/2c finely diced red onion
1 can corn, drained
1/2c barbecue sauce
1/2c halved cherry tomatoes (optional)
1/8 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
3 tbsp unsweetened non dairy milk (cashew milk preferable)
1/2 tsp lime juice
Salt & pepper to taste
Toss chickpeas with salt and paprika. Optional: air fry chickpeas for 10-15 mins at 350 degrees until crunchy, or bake in a single layer in the oven for 20-30 mins at 350 until crunchy, shaking occasionally.
Make the avocado ranch: mash the avocado together with all the other ingredients until smooth and creamy. Add more liquid as desired if you’d like a thinner texture.
Rinse and drain greens, and add them to your salad bowl. Top with celery, red onion, corn, chickpeas, and any other veggies you’re using.
Then top with the barbecue sauce and avocado ranch, toss, and enjoy!
First, although there’s no definitive answer to this because of how many factors are involved, I’m answering this based on a few nutrients that are particularly important for vegans (and vegetarians).
Vegan diets, for example, tend to naturally have quite a lot of B vitamins, vitamin C, copper, fiber, etc., so although articles aimed at omnivores might focus on “healthiest” in terms of those types of nutrients, I’ll be looking at nutrients that 1) are most likely to make a difference on a vegan diet, and 2) vary significantly between different nut butters:
Zinc: One of the few nutrients that vegan diets typically provide substantially less of. It’s important for immune functioning, skin health & acne prevention, and digestion, to name just a few things.
Iron: The other main nutrient that vegan diets often get less of. It’s especially important for women to get enough, to avoid anemia.
Magnesium: 50% of the US population is actually magnesium deficient1. Having low magnesium can cause anxiety, poor sleep, muscle twitches, and more.
Calcium: Although not as pressing of an issue as the media and milk industry would have you believe, low calcium intakes have been linked to osteoporosis.
Vitamin E: Especially important for your brain and nerves! Studies show that people who eat more vitamin E have less damaged white matter in their brain as they age2.
I also included omega 3, fiber, and protein in the table below in case you’re curious!
I’ve bolded the nut/seed butter that wins in each nutrient category, and below I’ll go over which I think are the overall winners.
All of these values assume that each butter is made JUST out of the nut/seed, without any added oils or anything. The amounts below are per 300 calories.
Omega 3 (g)
Vitamin E (mg)
Per 300 calories; values are from the Cronometer.com database
Based on being consistently high across multiple of these nutrients, the winners are…
Tahini and Sunflower Seed Butter
And the runner ups are cashew butter (also high in a lot of things) and walnut butter (for the omega 3).
For a breakdown of how each one stacks up versus the others:
Cashew butter: High in zinc, iron, magnesium, and protein
Hazelnut: High in vitamin E and fiber
Sunflower seed: Very high in vitamin E, high in zinc, iron, magnesium, protein, and fiber
Tahini: Very high in iron and calcium, high in zinc and fiber
Walnut: Very high in omega 3; in fact it’s the only one that has a substantial amount
Almond: High in calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, protein and fiber
Peanut: High in magnesium and protein
If you already know you’re missing a certain nutrient (like iron for example) based on blood tests or diet tracking, then the healthiest nut butter for you is the one that fills in that need the most! And of course, the best nut butter is the one you enjoy the most, since they’re ALL a healthy part of any diet.
Are there any other nut/seed butters you’re curious about?
Over the summer, I moved to the South after living in California all my life. To celebrate in the months before moving, I had fun experimenting with vegan Southern food–and my husband’s and my favorite dish that came out of that was this gravy with biscuits.
This gravy was a labor of love, but we sacrificed and ate about 4 test batches of it over the months as I developed the recipe. 😉 Through experimentation I’ve found that it should work with any type of vegan beef, but our favorite version is with Impossible, or a mix of Beyond and Impossible meat.
I’ve used the same 7-dish Thanksgiving menu for the last two years (because it has gone over SO WELL with vegans and omnivores alike), but this year I decided I wanted to come up with something new and unique to add.
Enter this healthy pumpkin risotto: it’s savory, it’s slightly sweet, it’s simple to make, it’s creamy. It’s a nice healthy contrast to some of the more oil-laden Thanksgiving classics, but still goes over well with more classic palates. And as a bonus, it’s easy to have it cooking in the background while you make the more complicated dishes, since it doesn’t need more than ~15 mins of really active prep time.
And as a bonus bonus, it’s Instant Pot friendly too. (That’ll help free up my limited supply of pots.)
If you want to make it completely whole-food-plant-based friendly, you can also try subbing brown rice in for the arborio. You will want to add more water and cook longer to achieve a risotto-y texture, though. You can also easily sub in other types of squash instead of pumpkin!
Serves 4 as a full meal; serves 8 as a side
3 – 15oz cans pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
4 cloves garlic
2 apples, quartered
2 tsp yellow or white miso paste
3 tbsp maple syrup
1.5 tsp dried sage
Dash red pepper flakes
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped fine
3.5 cups vegetable broth
2 cups arborio rice*
1/2 cup dry white wine
Put all the “Blender” section ingredients into a blender or food processer, and blend until pureed. Set aside until step 5-6.
Add the chopped onions to a pot over medium heat–or your IP’s saute function–adding splashes of broth (from your 3.5c of broth) as needed to saute them until translucent.
Add the rice, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then add the white wine, and saute another 2 minutes.
Add in the remaining broth, and push all the onion and rice grains down the sides of the pot so they are submerged.
If using a pressure cooker: cook on low pressure for 6 mins, and release pressure immediately after. Add the blended pumpkin mixture, and turn on the saute setting. Saute, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy but not runny.
If using a pot on the stove: cover pot and bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15 mins. Add the blended pumpkin mixture, then simmer uncovered, stirring regularly, until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy but not runny.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with more sage or fried sage leaves and cashew cream, if desired.