3 easy plant-based recipes full of flavour and good-for-you ingredients

Although I’m not someone who promotes dieting or trying out the latest food trends, there is some science behind plant-based recipes that has me curious.

Plants are a rich source of several nutrients, vitamins and minerals, along with unsaturated fats, fibre and protein. What’s interesting to note: this includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.

While the prospect of overhauling the way you eat feels intimidating, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing pursuit. A plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to go full-on vegetarian or vegan and say goodbye to eating meat or dairy. It’s more about how proportionately you choose your foods: meaning you simply increase your weekly consumption of recipes from plant sources. That’s not so bad, right?

Here, I’ve shared a few of my favourite new-found recipes I’ll be trying out in my kitchen this new year. Easy and simple to make, these comfort dishes are full of all that plant-based goodness that I think my family will love. I hope you try them!

Coconut Cauliflower Curry

cauliflower curry

Packed with filling protein-rich chickpeas, cauliflower and spinach, this stripped-down curry is so full of flavour and richness it’s perfect for our chilly nights spent indoors. Added bonus: this is one of the plant-based recipes you can make in one pot. Serve this with either brown rice or quinoa, depending on what you prefer.

Ingredients:

For the curry:

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/3 shallot, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger (minced)

1 small serrano pepper (seeds removed, finely chopped)

3-4 tablespoons of red or yellow curry paste (and you can find this in almost all grocers these days)

2 cups coconut milk

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons of tamari

1 cup cauliflower, chopped

1 and ¼ cups cooked chickpeas (I use canned, rinsed and drained)

1 whole head of spinach (a package of frozen spinach would work just as well)

 Instructions:

1. Heat a large pot or metal skillet over medium heat. Add coconut oil, shallot, garlic, ginger, and serrano pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add curry paste and stir, then cook for an additional 2 minutes so the curry can cook out and release all of its flavours. Add coconut milk, turmeric, tamari, and stir. Bring to a simmer.

3. Add cauliflower and chickpeas, reduce heat medium-low because you want this to simmer and not boil.

4. Add your fresh spinach, then cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Take a taste: If you feel like the curry needs to have punchier flavour (and curries should have a real depth of taste) add more curry paste, tamari, or turmeric.

6. When serving, chop a bunch of cilantro to sprinkle on top.

Skillet mushroom mac and cheese

Skillet Mushroom Mac and Cheese

See, plant-based recipes don’t have to be boring! If you’re craving a true comfort food, this cheesy mushroom mac and cheese is a real crowd-pleaser. Topped with aged Gruyère cheese and Japanese breadcrumbs, this vegetarian dish feels deeply sinful, but it’s also a great source of Vitamin D and iron, plus we’re swapping out white flour for whole wheat too.

Ingredients: 

8 ounces uncooked whole-wheat pasta, like a Bionaturae (which is an elbow shape ideal for a mac and cheese)

1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 package of cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters

4 ounces’ shitake mushroom caps, cut into halves

5 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup Gruyère cheese, shredded

½ cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

3 cups baby spinach

2 tablespoons whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

paprika

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

2. Cook pasta according to instructions, drain

3. Heat oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium-high. Add mushrooms; cook until lightly browned.

4. Stir in 1 tablespoon of your fresh thyme and kosher salt. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

5. Sprinkle flour into pan and cook it out for 1 minute, then add milk and bring to a slow simmer.

6. Add pasta, your cheese, and stir until the cheeses melt.

7. Stir in spinach, then spread this pasta mixture into an even layer in the pan, add panko and sprinkle with extra cheese so you get that nice crust when it bakes in the oven.

8. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven, or until the top is brown and a bit crusty. Add the rest of the thyme and serve.

Smoked and Spiced Veggie Rice

Bursting with vegetables and fiery flavours, this plant-based recipe reminds me of a jambalaya, but it’s healthier, lower in fat and calories.

Ingredients: 

½ cup natural cashews

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 cup of corn

1 ½ cups of baby carrots, halved

2 red onions, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

2 large red peppers, sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ tablespoons of smoked paprika

2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning

1 teaspoon of chipotle paste

2 tablespoons of tomato puree

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1.5 cups of long-grain rice

400 ml vegetable stock

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 spring onions, finely sliced

bowl of beans

Instructions:

1. Dry-fry (meaning: no oil) cashews in a large saucepan over medium heat until golden brown. Remove from the heat and put to the side to cool, then roughly chop.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same pan over high heat, then add the corn, carrots and fry for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Heat the rest of the oil in the same pan over a medium heat and fry the inions and celery for 10 minutes until soft, then add the peppers and garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

4. Add all of your seasonings: Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, chipotle paste and tomato puree. Fry for a minute until you can smell the spices fragrance, then add in cherry tomatoes.

5. Add kidney beans, canned tomatoes, rice, stock, the vinegar and sugar and stir until everything is combined. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and let it simmer for 40 minutes on medium-low heat until the rice is cooked and all of the liquid is absorbed.

6. Mix the carrots and corn into the stew, then garnish with your chopped cashews and spring onions.

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