Plant-Based at the Cookout

Summertime is well underway. Today is July 4th, and for many in America that means a backyard get-together complete with grilling. When you don’t eat meat, the struggle is so, so real when it comes to cookouts. While everyone else is scarfing hot dogs, hamburgers, and barbecue, we vegetarians aren’t left with many options. Maybe there’s some watermelon, if we’re lucky. I also love some grilled veggies, and maybe the grill-master lets me slip a portabello cap or two in there (if I can find a spot not covered in meat char….)  While I love these things, they’re just not going to fill me up. I’ve learned to bring my own food, with enough to go around. I love for people to try new things, so it’s a great opportunity to share some of my favorite plant-based dishes with others!

Here are a few of my go-to favorite dishes for hot summertime gatherings.

Four Bean Salad

Everybody loves this one. This is probably the one I make the most because people request it! It’s packed with protein and fiber thanks to the variety of beans, and has a delicious, rich-tasting but light dressing. Plus, it’s crazy easy! Just make sure to get this made either the night before or several hours before you’re planning to serve it, to give the flavors time to mingle. You can use any types of beans you have available, by the way, so feel free to experiment!

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Makes 4 servings

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen green beans, thawed and drained
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
1/2 red onion, chopped fine
1 cup fresh, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp fresh finely chopped rosemary

For the dressing:

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar, coconut sugar, or agave (you can skip this, but I like the hint of sweetness with all the vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a large bowl, mix the beans, celery, onion, parsley and rosemary. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans. Toss to coat. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the beans to soak up the flavor of the dressing.

Loaded Veggie Pasta Salad

Typically when I go to cookouts, the pasta salad is some sort of elbow-macaroni-with-mayonnaise type of situation. I’m just not down with that. (I mean, why?? In no other context would you combine these two things). My version is colorful and full of fresh, crunchy veggies and herbs, and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

1 box tri-color rotini (or gluten-free rotini)
1 cup broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 bell peppers (any color), diced
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup sliced black olives
Large handful fresh basil
Large handful fresh parsley
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Lots of black pepper with salt to taste
½ tsp steak seasoning (trust me — it sounds weird coming from someone who doesn’t even eat steak…..but it adds a nice element to this!)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse and drain well, then place in a large bowl. Add about 1/4 cup water to a small saucepan. Once it boils, add broccoli and steam for 1 minute. Remove and transfer to a colander, and rinse well with cold water. Add to pasta along with all other vegetables. Mix well to coat. Using kitchen scissors, snip in basil and parsley. Add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

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And now — for dessert! Ice cream is another big hit when it’s unbearably hot out. If, like me, dairy causes you unmentionable gastrointestinal distress, you get sad when watch all the kids licking their drippy, tasty cones and you can’t partake. Enter: NICE CREAM!!! It’s insanely easy and you can make just about any flavor you want. In its most basic form, you only need two ingredients: frozen fruit and almond milk. The rest is up to you. You can add in nut butter, cacao powder, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut…..the possibilities are endless. Just make sure to stir in the “hard ingredients” (nuts and chocolate chips, namely) by hand after you’re done with the food processing part. Bonus: it’s healthy enough that you can eat it for breakfast, so that’s a big win in my book!

Nice Cream

The basic recipe:

4 frozen bananas, sliced (or 2 cups of other frozen fruit)
1/2 cup almond milk

THIS IS LITERALLY IT. You just put it into the food processor and blend until smooth. Then all you have to do is keep it frozen until about 5 minutes before you want to serve it. I told you it was easy!!

My favorite version, though, involves adding some peanut butter and dairy-free chocolate chips…..because I don’t know of a better combo than that. If you’d like to try this, just add:

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I like the EnjoyLife brand — they are dairy-free and free of all the common allergens!

BOOM. Done. Scoop it out just like you would ice cream.

Prepare to amaze your friends.

 

Stay cool out there, folks. More plant-based goodness to come!

Peace, love, and veggies,

Jean

Original Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac n’Cheese

Pasta is a well-known vice of mine, and macaroni and cheese was a particular comfort food for me growing up. Because dairy just does not agree with me and no dish is worth the stomach pains, I had to find another way to enjoy this childhood favorite. I’ve come across many of these recipes using butternut squash, but I like to play around until I come up with my idea of perfection. The sauce is creamy, cheezy, and satisfying, (with a “z” to distinguish from ACTUAL cheese), and truly is the ultimate comfort food. We had a bout of extremely cold, windy, wintry weather this weekend, and I made this Friday night in a desperate attempt to warm my bones. It worked! I think you’ll find it quite effective too.

Also, this recipe is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. I add some of this into my hubby’s “real” mac n’ cheese — it allows me to use less butter and milk and therefore cuts the fat significantly. He doesn’t seem to notice 😉

This recipe takes a little preparation, so I recommend making the cashew cheeze ahead of time. (I pretty much always have a batch made — it’s so versatile!) Otherwise it takes less then 30 minutes to prepare. So, without further ado:

Butternut Squash Penne & Cheeze

Serves 3-4 (depending on who you’re feeding — I have a 16-year-old son, so this only feeds the two of us!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 box penne pasta
  • 1 cup cashew cheeze (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the butternut squash one of two ways.

1) Quick prep – fill a casserole dish with about 1 inch of water. Slice the butternut squash and place the halves face down in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap (BPA free) and microwave for 10-15 minutes until pierced easily with a knife.

2) If you’re not pressed for time, preheat oven to 400. Cut squash in half and brush with olive oil. Place face down on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until pierced easily with a knife. (I prefer this method simply because roasting brings out some great flavor from the squash!)

Cook pasta while squash is cooking, as per usual pasta-boiling directions.

Cashew Cheeze:

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews (boiled for 10 minutes)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Scoop cooked squash out of the skin and into the food processor. Blend until it looks like this:

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Your cheeze sauce is ready. When pasta is done cooking and has been drained, dump it back into the pot and pour the cheeze sauce over the top. Stir well to combine, season to taste, and serve immediately. Served with steamed broccoli or other favorite green veggie.

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Dig in!!

Peace, love, and veggies,

Jean

 

 

 

Vegan Kale Pesto

This pesto is so versatile. It’s great on pasta, but also in wraps or as a pizza sauce. I’ve even dipped raw veggies in it. It’s super simple to make, too!

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Ingredients: 

2 cups kale, stems removed

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Place all but olive oil in a food processor and process until chopped. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil. Pulse until you have a smooth paste consistency. Enjoy with, well, whatever!