Mixed Bean Summer Salad

You can totes tweak the ingredients to make this salad fit for any season.  Gotta love filling dishes you can throw together with almost anything you have on hand. Serendipity brought the spicy pickled green beans to the table. It adds a fun crunch and kick to the dish.

Ingredients:

1 can garbanzo beans (drained)

1 can Cannellini beans (drained)

2 cans quartered artichoke hearts (if you can only find whole cut them yourself)

12-15 spicy pickled green beans

1/2 red onion, diced small

1/2 cucumber, diced (English cucumber = don’t have to peel)

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (chopped a roma if you don’t have cherry toms)

Lemon olive oil (or regular with a squeeze of lemon over your salad)

Champagne vinegar

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

*fresh chopped herbs (flat parsley, tarragon, basil. Cut this when you’re ready to use it.)

 

Hardware:

Large mixing spoon

Chopping knife

Large mixing bowl

Cutting board

 

Method:

Mix all ingredients in your large bowl to thoroughly combine.

Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the top, sprinkle with S&P to taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

If you like the option of the fresh herbs, add those in right before serving so they don’t wilt too much and still taste great.

Reno/Tahoe/Sparks/Truckee

There’s nothing more frustrating or limiting that feeling like you are NO options when it comes to dining out. Well pull your head out of your butt and take a look around at all the awesome dining options available to you!

I’m in glorious Reno, Nevada and our food culture has grown by leaps and bounds since I was a kid. I’m happy to say we have a lot of great restaurants that offer tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Send me your favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurant! I’d love to see this list to grow with restaurant suggestions from around the country and the world.

Bangkok Cuisine: 55 Mt Rose Street

I’m a sucker for their stir-fried eggplant with tofu and brown rice. I swear this place as the most amazing brown rice in the known universe.

If you’re lacto-ovo, try their Thai iced tea. Yum!

The servers are also great. If you order the pud-thai with no tofu and no egg, they will also ask you if fish sauce is OK. How great is that?!

India Kabab & Curry: 1091 S Virginia Street

I love that a bunch of their creamy curries are made with coconut milk. It’s so easy to order there.

They also have little soy based “meatballs” available, which add another fun thing you can order when dining with omnis.

Their naan is bomb.

Laughing Planet: 650 Tahoe Street

This is an awesome restaurant from Portland, OR that made the trek down to Reno. I loved Laughing Planet when I lived in Portland, for their double chocolate chip cookies. I wasn’t vegan at that time and I was impressed by how delicious the cookies were. Needless to say, I was super happy when they came to town and I had my cookies back!

All their dishes can be made vegan, so I say just go for it. They always have specials and fresh juices to choose from each week.

This is a place that’s easy to bring kids to. The big plastic dinosaurs on all the tables are a wonderful distraction for little hands while you’re waiting for your food.

BJ’s Brewhouse: 13999 S Virginia Street

OK, ok, ok, I know this is a big chain, but hear me out. They have a bunch of awesome vegetarian offerings and things that are easy to tweak and make vegetarian.

I tried out their cauliflower pita tacos and honey-sriracha roasted Brussels sprouts recently, and holy cow were they good.

I appreciate any major chain that offers more than a garden salad with vinaigrette to its customers. I think it makes vegetarian food more mainstream and acceptable to the masses.

Z Pizza: 3600 Warren Way

This is the only place in town with good vegan pizza.

Order the Berkeley Vegan with extra sausage. It’s very pizza-y and totally scratches that itch.

They use Daiya for the cheese and Field Roast for the sausage.

We usually call ahead to make sure they have all the fixings first, just in case they are out of the sausage or something. My hubbie is very particular about his pizza and fully won’t order it, or at least not enjoy it, if they are out of the sausage. Pizza is serious business my friends.

Fire Sign Cafe: 1785 W Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA 96145

This was a surprise find up at Tahoe. They actually offer a tasty veggie burger and they have a tofu scramble on their specials board for breakfast.

The drive ain’t to shabby either and it’s fun up there any time of year.

Special bonus for making the trip: picking up a lottery ticket in Truckee on the way home.

Great Full Gardens: 555 S Virginia Street and 748 Sout Meadows Pkwy

The original location in Midtown seemed to be an overnight success. I swear it’s always packed and attracts a specific crowd. The owners are super nice and very focused on positive intentions and sending out good vibes. Their to-go containers all have nice messages written on the tops and their water bottles all come in the various shakra colors.

They have a bunch of vegan food and their meat is all “responsibly” produced.

The Aztec coffee is amazing and puts all pumpkin spice lattes to shame. The pumpkin chocolate chip cookie is a winter favorite of mine. They always warm it up too, so the chips are all gooey and yummy.

The fancy new student union at UNR also has a little location: 1664 N Virginia Joe Crowley Student Union

Tempeh,Cucumber, Avocado Wrap

When I first turned to the Dark Side I didn’t like tempeh. Now that I’ve been stewing in all things vegan for a while, I’m come to appreciate this little friend.

In this wrap, I think the spread makes a world of difference in the tastiness level. You be the judge.

Ingredients for Spread:

1/2 cup vegan mayo (I like Just Mayo from Hampton Creek)

1/4 cup dried chopped chives (feel free to chop fresh if you like)

1 tablespoons dried dill (ditto with the dill)

Small squeeze of lemon

Pinch of salt & pepper

 

Method:

Mix all this goodness together in a bowl and let sit while you work on the rest of your shtuff.

 

Ingredients for Wrap:

Sliced tomato

Sliced avocado

Sliced cucumber (if you use English cucs you don’t have to peel them)

Whole basil leaves, to taste

Sliced onion

Small handful of raw spinach leaves

Hickory flavor tempeh slices (I use 5 slices per wrap)

Huge wraps (I use spinach wraps, get crazy with another flavor if you like). BTW, if you’d prefer to gluten, you can use butter lettuce or romaine leaves instead.

Olive oil

 

Method:

  1. Place a skillet over medium heat and squirt a squiggle of olive oil to lube the pan so your tempeh doesn’t stick.
  2. Once the pan is heated, lay the strips on the pan and let gently sizzle for a couple of minutes until they are golden brown and then flip and repeat on the other side.
  3. Meanwhile, heat your wrap over a high flame (if you have an electric stove, use a flat griddle over medium-high heat) to get it floppy and warm (get your mind out of the gutter).
  4. Schmear your herb mayo over one half of the wrap and then layer with all your tasty toppings (hot tempeh slices, onion, avocado, tomato, cucumber, basil and spinach).
  5. Carefully start rolling and make sure you tuck the sides in as you go to create a nice tight burrito so things don’t squirt out all over the place when you bite in.

Hardware

An immersion, or stick, blender is a must for any cook. At the very least, it’s the easiest way to make a protein shake for breakfast and not have to wrestle with a blender.

Cuisinart Smart Stick CSB-75BC 200 Watt 2 Speed Hand Blender, Brushed Chrome

KitchenAid KHB1231 2-Speed Hand Blender  Empire Red Electric Mixer

My wooden mixing spoon is my most trusty sidekick in the kitchen, aside from my tongs. I think everyone needs a wooden spoon. It will make your life better.

Classic Wooden 12-inch Kitchen Spoon – Set of 3

A good pair of stainless steel tongs come in handy for all sorts of things. If I have to get a prosthesis to replace one of my hands, I would want tongs.

OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs

Having a variety of sizes is a good options as well. They are useful as serving utensils and the large ones can be unwieldy at a dinner table.

Set of 3 – 7, 9, 12 Inch Heavy Duty, Non-stick, Stainless Steel Kitchen Tongs for Barbeque, Cooking, Grilling Turner – A Serving and Feeding Set for Your Kitchen Collection

Tofu Scramble

This is the basic foundation for all scrambles. You can add any other spices, veggies, etc. to make it your desired style. My favorites are Mexican and Greek.

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 large (really big) block of super firm tofu (Wildwood brand is great)
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast (looks like fish flakes)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked salt (this helps add more egg flavor)

Hardware

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring tools

Method

  1. Squeeze out the extra moisture from the tofu. You can also wrap it in a dish towel and squeeze or push on it gently and the moisture will be absorbed by the towel. I recommend Wildwood because there’s not a lot of water in it, so you don’t have to go through so much squeezing and draining.
  2. Break up the big ol’ block of tofu into the mixing bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast and salt over the top and mix thoroughly.
  4. Let the mixture sit as long as you’re able. Overnight is best.
  5. If you’d like your scramble plain, you can go ahead and drizzle some olive oil in a large saute pan, put it over medium heat and basically heat your scramble through. Serve and enjoy.
  6. If you want to add fun stuff, now’s the time.
  7. Saute your other ingredients and then add in the tofu mixture. Once everything is nicely heated through, serve and enjoy.

Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 large can of tomato sauce
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped garlic
  • 1 skinny bottle of capers (or two short fat bottles)
  • 1 skinny jar of pitted Kalamata olives (whole or halved, you choose)
  • 1 cup red wine (Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel)
  • 2-4 tablespoons Italian seasoning or Herbs d’Provence (it’s Italian season plus lavender)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • Chili flakes (optional if you want to spice it up)
  • Olive oil

Hardware

  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Hot pads or cotton kitchen towels (don’t pick up hot things wiht microfiber towels. They will melt)
  • Large stainless steel or enamle cast iron pot
  • Can opener
  • Wooden spoon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss in whole squash once oven is heated.
  2. In a large pot, over medium heat, ad a generous drizzle of olive oil and saute the onions, garlic and Italian Seasoning/Herb d’Provence.
  3. Once that fills your kitchen with heavenly aromas and the onions are translucent (about 2 minutes), add the capers, olives and wine.
  4. Stir that whole combo together and let it simmer for a few minutes to get the alcohol flavor out of the wine and reduce a tad.
  5. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add 2 pinches of salt and 6 cracks of pepper. Toss in your chili flakes now if you desire. Stir to combine.
  6. Let that sauce hang out over medium-low heat to let everything marry happily together.
  7. Adjust the seasoning on the sauce as needed and then turn the burner to low, just to keep it warm.
  8. Poke the squash with a sharp knife. If it goes into the flesh easily, it’s done. If there’s firm resistance, let it go longer.
  9. Once the squash is done, take it out (be careful that sucker is hot!) and put it in your cutting board. Use a hot pad, folder towel, or pair of tongs to keep the squash in placed as you cut it in half, through the equator, not the axis (sideways not up and down).
  10. Open the halves and use a large spoon to scrape out the guts and seeds. Toss that in the trash or your compost bin.
  11. Using a large dinner fork, scrape the flesh out onto your cutting board, or into a separate bowl. This is will be your noodles.
  12. After you get all the “noodles” out, add them to your sauce and mix it all up.
  13. Serve hot!

Pro Tips

  • As with any pasta dish, you can sprinkle some “Parmesan” on top. Go Veggie brand is really good and totally reminds me of the Kraft version you can buy in the pasta aisle.
  • Make your sauce a day in advance to really bring out the flavors. Sauces, soups and chilies are usually even better the second day.

Convenience Foods to Save the Day

Especially when you’re just starting out in your foray into a plant-based diet, it can be tough to cut the cord on meat (umbilical cord? gross) and other animal-based foods you’re used to.

Over the years I’ve tried out nearly every meat and cheese alternative on the market. Some are disgusting and some are quite tasty. Here’s a little guide to help you get started…

Field Roast Brand

  • Celebration Roast
  • Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute (my fav for the holidays)
  • Sausages
  • Breakfast sausages
  • Chao Slices (sliced cheese alternative, I think “creamy original” is the best, but it does come in “tomato cayenne” and “coconut herb” as well)

Reminder – stay away from seitan if you have a wheat allergy. Seitan is made from wheat protein.

All products by Hampton Creek, especially the Just Mayo line (regular,sriracha, chipotle, ranch, variety pack, truffle, garlic)

Ice Cream

  • Mr. Dewey’s
  • So Delicious – Cashew Milk
  • Steve’s – limited vegan variety but the coffee flavor is bomb

Chicken Strips – Gardein

Earth Balance Brand

BTW, Oreos are vegan – BOOM

Light Life Brand

  • Gimme Lean – breakfast sausage

Tofurky Brand

  • Deli Slices
  • Sausages

Arbonne  – protein shake items

Arbonne – sport line

Arbonne – snacks/travel

Lots of other options:

A balanced protein shake is a fast and easy breakfast, snack or meal in general. It’s nice to get everything you need crammed into one cup. Plus, it sets you up to have a nutritionally successful day.