Vegan Dinner Hacks
Not long ago, we presented a delicious shortcut recipe, Instant Lentil and Kidney Bean Curry, inspired by the classic combo from Indian cuisine. One of the many full-flavored Indian simmer sauces available these days makes the meal a breeze to prepare — no need for the zillions of individual spices that gives the dish an authentic character. From mild coconut-based blends to hot jalfrezi sauces, the choice is yours. If vegan is important to you, check labels, as many of the varieties of these sauces contain dairy.
Completing this high-protein dish as a meal is a great idea, and that’s just what we’re going to do here. Brown rice and a refreshing cucumber salad are just the right companions. This meal is a bit light on vegetables; okay, quite light on vegetables, so we recommend fresh fruit or simple fresh fruit dessert (Pineapple-Orange Ambrosia, for instance) to make up for that. more→
Not long ago, we presented super-easy and extremely tasty Pesto or Hummus Flatbreads in a make-as-many-as-you-need version. We enjoy these so much, especially during the warmer months, that we were inspired to present a full meal paired with a tasty black bean salad.
For the flatbreads, choose something that’s 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Flatbreads are pre-baked, so all they need is a quick warm-up on a dry skillet to get the bottom nice and golden and crispy. Pre-baked mini pizza crusts work very well too, as do sturdy Indian breads (make sure there’s no dairy in them).
Most breads come in packages of at least 4, but you can make as few or as many as you need. If you’re eating solo or serving two, just make those, and you can make them again the next day, as they’re best fresh and take almost no time to prepare. more→
Salad bars are often an appealing option for healthy food fans at restaurants, so why not serve one in your own kitchen? Here’s how to put together a delicious and easy salad bar at home. It’s a fantastic way to put together a last-minute company meal or for building a dinner around fresh raw veggies when you’re too rushed or tired to do a lot of cutting.
For a larger meal, consider a soup (or chili) and salad dinner. Classic Veggie Chili is a crowd-pleasing choice for cooler months; a cold soup like Gazpacho for summer (and if you want to take the hack a bit further, try our Brilliant 4-Ingredient Gazpacho).
Central to this dinner hack is using good bottled Thai peanut satay sauce which ideally will contain all the exotic ingredients that would be a pain to find and use individually — tamarind sauce, lemongrass, red chili, and more. Some peanut satay sauce brands include A Taste of Thai, and Thai Kitchen; look for them in your supermarket’s Asian foods section.
To complete this easy meal, add readymade vegetable dumplings (or alternatively, spring rolls) and pre-grated carrots dressed in sesame-ginger dressing. more→
One of the annoying things we’ve noticed about bowl recipes in cookbooks and around the web is how complicated they’ve become. Something that started out as a super-simple way to enjoy variety in a meal has gone kind of crazy — sometimes 3 to 4 sauces have to be made with a plethora of spices, along with a myriad of ingredients that have to be prepped just so.
It’s almost a minimalist bowl recipe these days that has “only” 15 ingredients, and we counted up a bunch that have in the neighbor hood of 30 ingredients! And the concept behind this is supposed to be simple, one-bowl meals? We don’t think so. And we’re here to prove that it doesn’t have to be that way. more→
When this delectable BBQ tempeh salad is the centerpiece of a meal, the notion of salad as rabbit food is turned on its head. As a light meal, it can stand on its own. Or, if you want to add a little something yummy on the side, organic sweet potato fries (readymade, if you’re as much into meal hacking as we are. If you’re a bit more ambitious, of course you can make your own fresh sweet potato fries. Or baked sweet potatoes just as they are — it’s all good.
There’s something so nice about the contrast of BBQ flavors (provided by the tempeh cooked in a good-quality barbecue sauce) and a creamy dressing. Vegan ranch isn’t always easy to find, so you can make your own; use vegan mayo and a little lemon juice; or the alternatives suggested, French or a tahini-based dressing, both of which are easy find in natural vegan versions. If you’d like a more formal recipe for the salad, see BBQ Tempeh Salad with Vegan Ranch Dressing. more→
When you see recipes and photos for (vegan) BBQ, are you bummed out that you don’t have a grill? To be honest, I’ve had various grills over the years, but I’m just too lazy to use them. Even an electric grill is too much godforsaken work to clean up afterwards. No worries — BBQ tofu is an easy hack to do right on the stovetop.
So these grills have gotten stashed and forgotten, or simply died from neglect. But still — there’s that delicious barbecue flavor. What to do? Fortunately, a bottle of good barbecue sauce does the trick, applied to a welcoming surface with heat on the stovetop or in the oven.
For the slightly less lazy, consider our Quick Vegan Barbecue Sauce. OK, you’ve gotta get the individual ingredients, but once they’re all on hand, it takes minutes to make and rivals any prepared sauce. more→
Prepared polenta offers great ways to add variety to the dinner repertoire. One of our long-time faves is pan-grilled polenta topped with a simple combination of black beans and spinach. In addition to being the main dish of a light yet satisfying dinner, this can also be a hearty warm appetizer.
There are a number of brands that offer tube polenta. You might find it in the Italian foods section of well-stocked supermarkets; near the flour products or gluten-free section of natural foods stores, and some Italian specialty markets. This kind of polenta is made only of cornmeal; some have a few herbs like basil to add a little flavor, but even unembellished it’s surprisingly tasty. If you like using it, you’ll love 8 Ways to Use Tube Polenta. more→
What’s not to love about peanut noodles? And now, with flavorful Thai peanut satay sauce available almost everywhere, there’s more to love about them than ever. This delicious Asian-style dinner is made in a flash thanks to great shortcuts like the sauce, as well as pre-cut broccoli slaw and veggie spring rolls that come from your natural food store’s (or supermarket aisle’s) frozen foods section.
Even with all these healthy shortcuts, this meal is more economical than what the take-out equivalent would cost. And it’s off the scales as far as yumminess, and the kind of meal we love most — easy enough for weeknights, impressive enough for company. more→
If it’s summer, chances are that company will be coming at some point, and that you’ll have to gather your resources and brain cells to make a last minute-meal. Whether it’s the in-laws or friends you haven’t seen in forever, you’ll want that meal to be a crowd-pleaser, designed to impressed.
The dilemma is that it is summer, after all, and you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. A vegan antipasto platter can be the answer to your warm-weather entertaining quandaries. Served with fresh bread and pesto, it can make an almost instant lunch for four to six. Add a big pot of spaghetti or linguini with good store-bought sauce, and it becomes a fantastic dinner. more→
What could be better than a comforting casserole at the end of a long, busy day? A comforting casserole that takes almost not time to prepare, like our Baked Polenta Casserole with Zucchini and Spinach, that’s what! And while it’s in the oven, all you need to do is kick back, because bagged fresh broccoli slaw and fresh bread complete a full dinner with no extra work.
The casserole is made up of layers of prepared polenta, the kind that comes in a tube, zucchini, and baby spinach. It’s smothered in marinara sauce and topped with melty vegan cheese, resulting in a crowd-pleasing, family-friendly main dish. Lots of casseroles need prep of the various components, but this one requires only minimal hands-on time. Use a really flavorful prepared marinara— roasted tomato, garlic, mushroom, or chunky vegetable. more→
When you have a delicious, nourishing (and quick) dish like Salsa Verde Quinoa Pilaf as the centerpiece of a dinner plate, the rest of the meal comes together quickly. Here, we’ve completed the veg-centric meal with a late spring flavor, though it can be enjoyed almost any time of year.
Asparagus used to be a sign of spring; and though it’s a little less special now that it’s available nearly throughout the year, we won’t complain; it’s a veggie that doesn’t need chopping or prep (other than a little trim off the bottom), and that’s always a good thing. more→