I’m happy to be hosting my friend Nava Atlas on her Plant Power blog tour today. Nava is a true phenomenon. She is a mother, wife, friend to many, and the author and illustrator of many books on vegan and vegetarian cooking. Nava’s most recent books before Plant Power were Wild About Greens and Vegan Holiday Kitchen, both of which are in heavy rotation in my kitchen. Her backlist includes Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet. Her first book, Vegetariana, published in 1984, is considered a classic in its field. Nava is also the founder of VegKitchen.com, a site dedicated to vegan food and health. There are tons of recipes, articles, reviews, and tips on being a healthy and happy vegan. If this weren’t enough, Nava is a fine artist, and her work has been shown nationally in museums, galleries, and alternative art spaces, and her artist’s books are housed in dozens collections of artists books, including those at MOMA (New York City), National Museum of Women in the Arts (Wash., DC), Yale University, The National Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Duke University, Skidmore College, The Arthur and Mata Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University, and many others. Read more at NavaAtlasArt . Nava has also written two-nonfiction books, The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life and my favorite, and my favorite, Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife, a satiric look at contemporary marriage and motherhood through the lens of a faux 1950s cookbook.
7 Simple Meal-Planning Strategies for the Plant-Based Kitchen
Here are some of my tried-and-true meal-planning tips for making cooked-from-scratch meals a daily reality, even after the most exhausting days. You’ll find much more detail on how to accomplish all of these strategies, plus lots more of these kinds of tips in Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas, from which this was adapted (©2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission). Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
Back when my kids were growing up and I still was in the midst of the classic juggling act, I was a lot more disciplined about meal planning. I found that it really did buy me time and sanity. For our family of four, I planned three meals per week. If I made ample quantities, I could count on leftovers for three more dinners. And leftovers can always be tweaked so that they’re slightly different the next day. For example, today’s salad can be tomorrow’s wrap; tonight’s soup-and-wrap dinner can become tomorrow’s soup-and-vegan-quesadilla dinner.
What do you see as your ideal meal-making style? Decide whether you want to make different meals every night or most nights and rotate them through the season or whether you want to try the three-meals-with-leftovers strategy. If you want to be a seat-of-the-pants cook, more power to you. For that kind of spontaneity, you’ve got to have an especially well-stocked pantry and fridge as well as the imagination to look at a bunch of ingredients and envision what they can become.
- Plan three full meals for each week. From those meals, you can plan two nights of leftovers, which makes life easier—though this is challenging if you have hungry teens or athletes at home. Don’t think of leftovers as boring. They can be repurposed in ways that might not make it into the culinary hall of fame, but with a few tweaks they can be as tasty as the original preparation. For instance, leftover chili can become Cincinnati chili mac.
- Plan meals before going shopping. Planning your meals before you go food shopping will ensure that you don’t waste time, money, and energy running back and forth to the store all week. A mere twenty to thirty minutes of meal planning per week will simplify your life immeasurably, especially if you have a tight schedule, young children, or both.
- Plan meals after going shopping. What? Didn’t I just say to plan meals before going shopping? Sometimes it’s good to think outside the box. When farm market or CSA season is in full swing—or during the summer and fall harvest season in general—and you’re getting basket loads of fresh produce, it may be wiser to retrofit your meal plans to your fresh food finds.
- Prepare a few basics for the week ahead. On whatever day or evening is the most home- centered, prepare a few basics for the days ahead. Sunday afternoons and evenings are ideal as you’re looking to the coming week, but do whatever is good for your schedule. Even the simplest things can ease weeknight meal preparation immeasurably.
- At least once a week, prepare a big one-pot or one-pan meal. This kind of meal can stretch to cover at least two nights. Such meals include hearty soups and stews, bean dishes, abundant pastas, and casseroles. You’ll find many such recipes later on in this book. Double the quantities if you need to, especially if you have a large family. Then you need little more than salad and fresh whole-grain bread to accompany the meal.
- Develop a weekly repertoire. Make slight variations on your standard recipes each week so that meals don’t get boring. For example, Friday dinner has long been a pizza and salad meal, but within this basic framework, there are endless variations!
- Create a seasonal repertoire. An alternative to a weekly repertoire is a seasonal repertoire, consisting of ten or fifteen basic meals that you like best. These ten tasty meals— one for each weeknight for two weeks—are repeated as needed throughout the season. Weekends can bring a heavenly leftovers buffet. That doesn’t sound too daunting, right?
Unbaked Fudgy Brownies
You won’t believe how easy it is to make these unbaked vegan chocolate brownies, rich with nuts and sweetened with dates. They’re flourless, gluten-free, and altogether rich and yummy. Recipe from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas. ©2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.
Makes 12 squares
- 1 cup untoasted slivered or sliced almonds
- 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup chocolate chips, divided
- 1/4 cup untoasted walnuts
Place the almonds in the container of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until ground to a fine powder.
Add the dates, cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and half of the chocolate chips. Process until the mixture holds together as a mass—this will take a few minutes.
Add the remaining chocolate chips and pulse on and off for about 30 seconds. Add the walnuts and pulse on and off for another 20 to 30 seconds, or until finely chopped but still visible in the mixture.
Transfer the mixture to an 8 by 8-inch square pan. Press into the pan, using the back of a spatula to get it nice and even. Score the mixture into 12 squares.
Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Cover any leftovers and store in the refrigerator.
Nutritional Information (per square):
Calories: 177; Total fat: 11g; Protein: 4g; Carbs: 21g; Fiber: 3g; Sodium: 0mg
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