I’m all about appliances that have multiple uses. My kitchen isn’t big, and storage is at a premium, so everything I have needs to be practical and versatile. As I moved towards plant-based, I found myself changing the kitchen tools I depend on to make meals. So here are some of my must-haves as my essential vegan kitchen tools:
- Strainers – I use my strainers daily to drain and rinse canned beans and rice.
- Tofu Press – a tofu press makes getting the water out of tofu blocks easy. No more wrapping it in paper towels and putting a Dutch oven on it, hoping it doesn’t fall over or smush it. The press is compact and fits nicely in the fridge.
- Salad Spinner – I love my salad spinner. I use it for salad and other greens, but I use it to clean leeks.
- Rice Container Bin – I never thought I’d like a container so much, but this rice container with a pour spout and measuring cup is excellent. I plan to purchase a couple for lentils and other grains.
- Calphalon Elite Nonstick Essential Saute Pan – This is my everyday pan. I cook with this pan every day. It is well worth the cost as it is functional and nonstick.
- Rice Cooker – For the longest time, I resisted even thinking about rice cookers thinking they were a waste of money and space. We ate a lot of rice. When researching rice cookers, I wanted a cooker that could do more than make rice. The Zojirushi allows me to make different types of rice, grains, and oatmeal. My son likes rice, so the rice warmer function is excellent that I can make a big batch, and he can serve himself whenever he wants. It is worth the investment as we use it at least five times weekly.
- Slow Cooker – A slow-cooker is a must frankly for every household. And slow-cookers aren’t just for making meat-based dishes as it is excellent for plant-based meals like Aloo Gobi. Some very cool slow cookers are out there, but I went with a simple one like Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker.
- Food Processor – I researched and settled on the Braun FP3020 12 Cup Food Processor because it was so versatile. I make hummus, hazelnut spread, sauces, oat/nut flours, and doughs.
- Grater – A lot of plant-based meals call for grated vegetables. I got a very sturdy one.
- Baking Sheets – Roasted veggies are great and versatile for vegan meals. A good set of baking sheets is essential.
These are some of my essential vegan kitchen tools. What are your must-haves in your vegan kitchen? I love my kitchen gadgets so I’m always looking for new tools to make cooking easier and better.
Recently I’ve noticed poke bowls on menus. And I became intrigued. Traditionally, a poke bowl is raw marinated fish that been cubed and layered with rice and pickles. Its origin is from Hawaiian where fishermen would season the cut-offs from their daily catch eating it on their boats. Poke is considered their national dish. On a days it is such a diet staple that it is freshly made in most convenience stores.
I’ll be honest, but the idea of raw fish is not appealing to me and my guys. And that these days being mostly plant-based, I’m not eating a lot of fish. But you can still have a plant-based poke bowl. It is a lovely way to pack in amazing flavors and textures. And a poke bowl is all about different textures in every bite. It isn’t a boring meal.
To make a plant-based poke bowl is easy and quick. Swap out the fish for tofu or tempeh, You can use white or brown rice though I like the nuttiness of brown. Pickled items are important so adding picked red onions and sauerkraut. I always have picked red onions on hand, but I’ll share a 5-min pickled recipe that you can do while making this dish. Instead of using white cabbage, I prefer to use red cabbage beet carrot sauerkraut as it add a nice flavor and a burst of color. To bring a different sense of texture, add a sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, micro greens, and cilantro. Adding a can of kidney beans gives it more nutrition. The sauce for this dish is sweet chili sauce and tamari. The tofu or tempeh and beans are cooked in the sauce with garlic and ginger.
This recipe is based on The Happy Pear’s “Easy poke for weight loss in 5 min” recipe. I encourage you to check out the recipes.
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup Sauerkraut
- Block of Tempeh or Tofu - If using tofu then drain well
- 12 tbsp sweet chili sauce
- 4 tbsp tamari
- 1/2 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- Small red onion
- 50 ml rice vinegar
- Handful cherry tomatoes
- 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- - Prepare brown rice. You can use pre-cooked or make it in rice cooker like I do.
- Picked Red Onion
- - Slice red onion thinly placing in glass jar then add the rice vinegar and water if need to make sure the onions are covered.
- Tempeh or Tofu
- - Slice up tempeh or tofu
- - Head pan on medium high.
- - Add tempeh or tofu until it browns
- - Add garlic and ginger then the sweet chili/tamari sauce mixture coating
- - Remove onto plate then add the kidney beans coating them until they are warm
- Ensemble the bowl with all the goodies.
Tea for health has come recently to me. I have always drank tea for sheer pleasure. I drink it cold, warm, and hot. You could say I bleed tea. There is a ritual of drinking tea then drinking it. Tea is to be sipped and I can never be negative while I have a cup of tea in my hand. In my cupboard is a tea tin where I have different types of tea. It is quite a selection of green and herbal teas. My electric kettle is always ready to click on for a cuppa.
A gift of handcrafted herbal teas.
People have drank tea for centuries. It is known as a cure all for the maladies of life. That includes for health. When a dear friend sent me such a thoughtful gift of a selection of handcrafted herbal teas from Longeviteas, I was intrigued. The teas were developed by Dr. Jessica Cail, a research psychopharmacologist specializing in mind-body medicine. The blends were created on scientific evidence with each formulation containing phytochemicals which are chemicals naturally found in plants that were selected because the peer-reviewed research showed a demonstrable link between them and particular effects. So this isn’t some new agey chick throwing a bunch of herbs together and calling it a miracle tea that we tend to see in the wellness space today.
Tea for Health
My sample pack contained four herbal blends: Original, Vitality, Tranquility, and Immunity. The formulas chosen because the research shows a strong link between them and a particular effect such as longevity, mental functioning, relaxation, or defense against colds/flu. Dr. Jesse’s blends contains herbs or spices which are anti-inflammatory and/or mildly diuretic. Three of the four have caffeine. As someone with an auto-immune disease and all that comes with it, I was all in for the teas when I read about the anti-inflammatory effects of tea. After years of prolonged high dosages of prescription anti-inflammatory medicines, I can’t take them due to affects on my kidneys so I am always looking for a natural way to manage my inflammation. That said on December 10, 2020, I decided to change how and what I ate moving to plant-based eating. It has changed my health of the better. Adding Logeviteas I believed has really helped… especially my digestive health. My recent lab results are proof the lifestyle change is making a difference.
A feast for the senses
The teas are a feast for the senses. It is loose leaf so you can see the natural beauty of the plants. As you scoop the tea out, the texture is rich. The smell of the blends is intoxicating. The taste of each blend is complex with its own character. My favorite is the Immunity tea which is a spicy rosewater chai with cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and black tea. I drink it daily in the morning then in the afternoon I switch over to the Tranquility blend that is caffeine-free made with valerian, eleuthero, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile and lavender.
So put the kettle on and blend some tea for health.
Disclaimer: Folks, I’m not a doctor nor pretend to know the science behind it. All I know is it tastes good and I feel better. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist regarding taking herbal anything for drug interactions.
Plant-Based Eating – Not Just for Hippies
I’ve been down this road before regarding cutting down on meat in our family’s diet. It is a struggle to come up with varied, filling, and tasty vegetarian meals to serve to my guys that they will eat willingly. It is especially given all that is going on in my life. I’m leading two lives being a history hero by day and a cyber warrior by night. It is all good. I’m using both sides of my brain and regaining awareness of the world around me again I have not had in ages.
Helping the Environment
Being an environmental stewart has been part of my life for decades, but moving to an island has brought it front and center. We recycle, use reusable containers, reusable bags, conserve water, and compost. It isn’t easy in a culture built on ease and convenience. It is tough to remember to bring my own reusable straw. And many places will not fill your reusable bottle if it isn’t their branded cup. As a PR person, I get it from a branding perspective, but as someone who wants to do the right thing, it is frustrating with ending up with a collection of plastic drink cups. Maybe that’s a sign I need to give up my unsweetened iced tea habit from fast-food places. Add in the fact that many grocery stores have everything wrapped plastic, it is hard to get away from plastics. In fact, it seems that everything we use on a daily basis is made with plastics.
Going Towards Plant-Based
Acknowledging the above, we still have a lot more to do. One way we are working towards a more Earth-friendly life is getting serious about plant-based eating. Plant-based eating is being either a vegetarian or a vegan. Now those two words are loaded for people. That is sad since most of the planet, plant-based eating is the norm, not the exception. Meat is a special treat. The terms have become socially and politically-charged in Europe and the US. But over history, there have been movements to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg. I’m a supporter of eating more of a plant-based diet. For me, it isn’t political or a social statement, my body just feels better the more fresh fruit, veg, beans, and legumes I eat. What you eat is your choice and I will never shame anyone into eating plant-based, but I’d suggest you try one recipe a week. Start a tradition of Meatless Monday. We are up about 4-5 days a week now.
Pantry is Key
Outside of how it makes me feel, it is also budget and time friendly. Meat is expensive especially if you are purchasing, for example, natural or organic beef. Beans, rice, and legumes are priced well and you can purchase them in bulk. The key to plant-based eating for me is having a well-stocked pantry. In my basement, I have shelves of canned goods like various types of tomatoes, beans, and coconut milk as well as containers of veggie broth, rice, lentils, and pasta. I keep onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes down there as well. My freezer has frozen veg such as corn, peas, and mixed veggies and naan bread. Types of fresh peppers, cauliflower, cilantro, minced garlic, crushed ginger, curry pastes, cheeses, and other sauces are always in my fridge. On my counter, I always have apples, lemons/lime, avocados, and tomatoes. I buy the spices in bulk I use a lot of at an Indian store or Asian grocery. If one isn’t near you, it is worth it doing one big stock-up making an adventure about it. Go with a list. Once you have the pantry stocked just purchase the fresh items you need. There are times my grocery bill is $20 in a week since all I need is the fresh stuff.
We aren’t 100 percent plant-based. We love dairy products a little too much. And my guys enjoy chicken and pork. (And so do I) Fish is on the menu at our house, too. We aren’t vegetarian or vegan. That would be very hard for us, but as I said earlier we are at 4-5 times a week eating plant-based with some added dairy depending on the recipe. That said we are moving slowly towards plant-based by cutting down on dairy and have cut out beef from our grocery list.
If you are interested in a plant-based diet then I have some easy recipes to start with in my vegetarian section such as Lentil Ragu over pasta pictured above.
Or this recipe for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Avocado-Lime Creme. Simple ingredients to pick up at your local grocery store. I used Indian store chili powder for the sweet potatoes causing it to be very spicy. So depending on where you got your spices, amounts will change. Grocery store chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon is enough, but for me having the Indian store spices which by the way are typically stronger than the grocery store spices, I will need to cut it in half. I forgot to get yogurt so I used sour cream. Also, I used a bagged kale salad with red cabbage. Recipes like this are flexible. Adapt it to what you have on hand.
Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Creme
- 1-2 medium sweet potato, cubed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- Flour Tortillas
- 1 can black beans, drained, and rinsed
- Kosher and freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado-Lime Creme
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 small avocado
- ½ garlic clove or a small one
- Juice of 1 lime
- Kosher salt & fresh black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper, and spread onto the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the yogurt, avocado, garlic, lime juice, and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Take the Turtle Approach
Take baby steps in moving to plant-based eating. Introduce it slowly into your lifestyle as you build up a pantry and an understanding of what foods you like. The food is colorful and flavorful with lots of different textures. It will be an adjustment in mindset over the meat, starch, and veg approach most of us grew up with as kids. A good documentary to watch is Forks over Knives. Find out what works for you and then go for it.
Meat won’t be missed with this Hearty Vegetarian Ragu
That’s right. Meat will not be missed with this hearty vegetarian ragu. Brown lentils replace the traditional beef or pork in this Italian mainstay. This is a very rich meal and no one will walk away from the table hungry.
I’m always looking for filling vegetarian pasta recipes to serve my family. Italian food is a favorite cuisine. The richer the sauce the more I like it. We adore Meat Sauce Belgian-Style, but that has ground beef.
Vegetarian Ragu Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 ounces mushrooms, chopped finely
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Handful of baby carrots or 1 large carrot, chopped finely
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 bay leaf1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable broth with extra
- 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked through
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 box (16 ounces) spaghetti
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Heat 4 cups of water in a sauce pan and the lentils bringing to a broil cooking until lentils are tender about 20 minutes.
- In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.
- Add mushrooms, garlic, carrot, bell pepper and onion. Cook until vegetables are very brown and soft, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add wine; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Stir in bay leaf, crushed tomatoes, water, lentils, oregano, salt, ground pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.
- Add cooked lentils and cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf and stir in basil.
- Prepare spaghetti while ragu is simmering.
- Meanwhile, prepare spaghetti according to package directions.
- Serve ragu over spaghetti. Garnish with parsley and serve with Parmesan cheese.