You know how some movies or TV shows will show you the end of the story at the beginning and then go back in time with a caption that says something like “Five days ago” to show you how we got to that. end? Well that's how this article is going to work. First of all, check out these amazing sweet potatoes stuffed with lentils and mushrooms. It's so hearty, so delicious, so inviting! And OMG, are those olives in there? What is happening?!?!
One month earlier:
I pushed my grocery cart towards the cash register, looking at my depressing assortment of frozen rice, cans of chickpeas, crackers, One-Thon Salad, avocados, gluten-free bread, and a few other items that over time have become a staple of my dinner routine, when I asked myself, "What happened to me?" I had gone from someone daydreaming about their next meal, who used to find cooking a pleasant, relaxing, and satisfying experience, whose grocery basket was filled mostly with vegetables and fruit - to someone. one who dreaded cooking, had no interest in food whatsoever, and relied on take out whenever she needed a solid meal. That's when my Big Girl Voice came up and said, "Honey, I know you're busy and you're dealing with heavy shit right now, but you gotta eat your veg." She's sweet but firm and just a little sassy. And she was right.
Walking into the product department was like I imagine my high school reunion would be if I ever went there. I picked up some veg, looked at them, and I was like, “Oh yeah. I remember you. We are returning waaaay. Do you remember when I roasted you and added you to the risotto? and “Oh my god! Delicata squash! You have always been the nicest! And they were all like “Kristy, it's so good to see you! You haven't aged a bit! And then Cyndi Lauper Everytime started playing and Cauliflower, Portobello, and I all did an interpretive ballet routine while all the other plants and all the shoppers watched in awe.
On my next trip to the cash register, there were several vegetables in my cart that I had decided to incorporate - somehow - into at least one meal I would cook that week. And a day or two later, I put on some comfy clothes, lit an episode of one of my new favorite podcasts, Good Life Project, I opened my fridge, took out my bonus and got to work.
Now, some months later, I prepare one to two meals a week. Sometimes there's a glass of wine to keep me company, and sometimes I swap the podcast for Alicia Keys, but whatever happens, I make my cooking time a fun and nourishing experience. #Selfcare And meals usually leave leftovers for two to three days so I eat my veg every day. And, and, AND, guys… I developed a recipe, just like the good old days! You can't see it but I'm giving my inner Big Girl Voice a high five right now.
Go back to: Sweet potato stuffed with lentils and mushrooms.
It's just as delicious as it looks. There is a harmonious balance of sweetness and salt, meat and acidity. While not the most typical flavor combination, the blend of baked sweet potatoes, meaty mushrooms and lentils, sun-dried tomatoes and green olives is just kismet. The sloppy Joe-style filling comes together easily and quickly, just when your sweet potatoes are soft and succulent on the inside with a crispy outside, he's eager to go. After opening the sweet potato and stuffing it to the gills with this Mouth Party Filling, I love to top it with a little Pepita Parmesan (recipe in my second book, But my family would never eat vegan!). Then I like to be nice and cozy (#Selfcare) before enjoying my new favorite meal, but that's just me. You can eat it however you like. You do you.
Sweet potatoes stuffed with lentils and mushrooms
- 4 to 5 medium sweet potatoes
- coconut oil or olive oil spray
- 2 cups French lentils, cleaned and picked
- 2 cups of water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces of crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of liquid aminos
- 1 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/2 cup sliced green olives
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke
- salt and black pepper to taste
- pepita parmesan or pecan parmesan, optional
- Preheat the oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Stab the sweet potatoes with a fork, several times each. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.
- Meanwhile, combine the lentils, water and bay leaf in a small saucepan and bring the water to a boil. Once boiled, reduce to a boil and simmer until the water is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- While the lentils cook, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring a few times, a further 3 minutes. Add the liquid aminos and cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost cooked through.
- Add the lentils, diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, green olives, tomato paste, parsley and rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice, liquid smoke, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low until the sweet potatoes are ready.
- When the sweet potatoes are ready, cut them lengthwise without cutting them completely in half. Fill them with whatever your little heart desires. Sprinkle top with pepita or pecan parmesan, if using, and enjoy! Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.
What are your favorite recipes to get you out of a rut?
Photograph by Kristy Turner
It’s easy to be cynical about the idea of New Year’s resolutions, but there is a lot of undeniable and powerful energy surrounding the idea of change at this time of year. For many of us, that change starts in the kitchen.
Maybe it means resolving to cook at home more often, to keep a well-stocked freezer and pantry, to waste less, or to make slightly more wholesome choices. Maybe, for you, this is the year in which you’d like to give veganism ( or vegetarianism ) a try.
Whether you’re trying to dip your toes slowly into the world of plant-based eating, or you’re ready to make a total shift, it can be helpful to keep a few things in mind.
Some people go vegan overnight, and they never look back. But for many others, a slow transition is more sustainable ( and pleasurable ) than a 180-degree turn. If the idea of going vegan feels daunting, start with a couple of small steps, like a Meatless Monday challenge at home, or switching one of your daily meals to a meatless and dairy-free option. ( You’d be surprised at how easy it is to trade your turkey sandwich for hummus, tempeh bacon, and avocado ).
I’m quick to say that vegan food is just food. While there are a couple of secret weapon ingredients to have on your radar ( nutritional yeast, I’m lookin’ at you ), for the most part a healthy appetite for céréales, beans, and produce is all you really need to get started. With that said, any dietary shift can be tricky, and veganism is no exception. So, before you get started, take just a little time to go over the basics of plant-based nutrition. Find a useful, all-in-one resource, like Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina’s Becoming Vegan, or Ginny Messina and Jack Norris’ Vegan For Life. At some point, someone will ask you where you get your protein ( or your iron, or your calcium ), and while you could laugh the question off, it’s a lot more powerful to supply a quick, confident answer.
Going vegan expanded my palate dramatically : I learned about all sorts of global cuisines, warmed up to my spice rack, and tried ingredients I’d never considered before. But my culinary repertoire was pretty meager when I made the switch. If you already have some culinary experience, don’t assume that you’ll need to acquire an entirely new bag of tricks to eat vegan or vegetarian.
In fact, one really useful place to start is by looking at some of your favorite dinner recipes and thinking about how you might adapt them to be meatless and/or dairy-free. It may be as simple as removing some cheese ( or replacing it with cashew cheese ). It may mean trading the central protein for beans, soy foods, or even a hearty vegetable, like mushrooms.
Until I went vegan, I had never tried tempeh, soba noodles, kimchi, kabocha squash, nutritional yeast, millet, mulberries, or buckwheat…and the list goes on. Becoming vegan encouraged me to explore new ingredients, and it also introduced me to more global dishes.
A great many dietary traditions around the world are already plant-based, which means that végétaliens and vegetarians have many rich, exciting culinary traditions to draw upon. If you’re new to plant-based cooking, explore meatless dishes and recipes from other parts of the world ( Indian, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern dishes are some of my personal favorites ). Dust off your spice rack and add new flavors to your food. Use your transition to plant-based eating as an excuse to try new céréales, legumes, and vegetables.
A lot of folks assume that adapting a recipe to be vegan means replacing the meat or poultry with a faux meat, a block of tofu, or tempeh. That’s cool, but it can also be fun to think creatively and imaginatively about how to capture the essence of a traditional recipe without animal protein. No, lentil Bolognese isn’t really Bolognese, but it does capture the heartiness of the original; cashew banana yogurt is a far cry from dairy, but it does evoke the same, sweet creaminess.
Many people are surprised by how easy it is to go meatless. Cheese, on the other hand, is a different story. I myself used to utter the same words I hear constantly from readers, friends, and alimentation clients : ' I’d love to go vegan, but I can’t give up cheese. '
While I won’t pretend that giving up dairy is easy—it’s not, especially because it’s so ubiquitous in restaurant dishes—I will say that I had a much easier time living without it when I learned to make my own substitutes. Store-bought soy and almond cheeses weren’t cutting it ( especially nine years ago, when the alternatives were limited ), and soy creamers and yogurts left me feeling equally flat. Making my first batch of cashew cheese—which authentically captured the tanginess and matière of goat cheese—was a revelation. Homemade nut milk let me create creamy porridge and muesli far more authentically than did store-bought, non-dairy milk.
Over time, I’ve experimented with tofu paneer, tofu feta, and cashew yogurt, and the list is growing. Homemade dairy substitutes are creative, fun, and cost-effective, and I think they’re a big step up from what you can find in the store.
While I’m the first to point out that vegan proteins extend far beyond soy foods—encompassing couleurs of different céréales, legumes, nuts, and seeds—you really can’t beat tofu and tempeh for ' meaty ' matière and complete protein in meatless dishes. Both ingredients can be either memorable or mundane, depending on how you prepare them. I definitely recommend pressing tofu if you’re not already in the habit; it’ll create a firmer, more toothsome matière that most people prefer.
When preparing tempeh, be sure to use a boldly flavored marinade or sauce to help balance tempeh’s earthy taste, and if you find it bitter, you can steam it before marinating, too.
For the most part, I try to feature whole foods and homemade ingredients in my cooking. But in spite of the fact that I love to create my own dairy substitutes and I’d usually rather eat a scoop of lentils than a block of faux meat, I don’t eschew vegan products, and I think that keeping an open mind about them can really enrich the authenticity of your food.
This is especially important when you’re transitioning and vegan cooking still feels like a brave new world. Nine times out of ten, I’ll opt to use cashew cheese in a recipe rather than Daiya ( a melty, commercial vegan cheese ) ; coconut oil in place of Earth Balance ( vegan butter ) ; or grilled tofu in place of Beyond Chicken ( grilled strips of soy and pea protein that taste shockingly like chicken ).
But when I’m aiming for totally authentic, precise results, vegan substitute products can go a long way, and it’s comforting to know that they’re an option if I feel like taking a shortcut.
Over time, I learned to create vegan food with greater sensitivity to others’ tastes and traditions. I love a lot of really crunchy fare, from the aforementioned raw kale salad to tofu, sprouts, and grain bowls. And I know a lot of other folks who love these dishes, too. But sometimes being an ambassador of vegan food means knowing how to create dishes that feel familiar and appeal to a wide array of more conservative palates, like vegan lasagna, shepherd’s pie, or sloppy Joes.
And, if you’re trying to dispel the idea that all végétaliens eat is salad and prove that vegan food can be filling and hearty, then it’s all the more important to create dishes that evoke a sense of comfort.
Change feels a lot less daunting when you have company. If your family and friends aren’t exploring veganism along with you, then find community in other ways. Explore a vegan meetup or potluck in your community. Become a regular commenter on vegan food blogs. If you do have a friend who’s interested in plant-based cooking, invite him or her over for some recipe testing.
Studies show that failure to stick with a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is often attributed to feeling ' different ' or isolated. Food is all about community and sharing, so do your best to share this lifestyle with people you care about—even if they’re not making the change along with you.