Let’s set one thing straight before moving any further… you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy a vegan dish.  There are plenty of perks to including  a well rounded vegan meal in your diet so there is really no reason to ignore a recipe, dish or menu item simply because it’s label “vegan”.  A vegan diet, if done right, is rich in a variety of nutrients and has been shown to help the reduce the risk of several chronic illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.  

The recipes below can be included in a well rounded vegan, vegetarian or omnivore diet and each offer a variety of flavors and nutrition benefits you will not want to miss out on.  

1. Sweet and spicy Lentil Tacos (Makes 8 tacos)

There’s just something about putting your favorite ingredients in a tortilla, topping it with a creamy sauce and digging in.  Add the crunch of cabbage, a few dynamic ingredients and top with fresh herbs and you have an easy to prepare dinner that will never let you down.   Tacos are one of the most versatile foods so have some fun with the ingredients and make it your own. Consider adding a few extra roasted vegetables, fresh herbs or a little extra spice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry lentils or 2 cups cooked
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • ½ c onion, chopped small
  • ½ c bell pepper, chopped small
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar, optional
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 c shredded cabbage
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 8 corn tortillas or lettuce leaves

Directions:

In a medium size skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, and peppers and saute until onions translucent. Add minced garlic and cooked lentils and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  

Mix in tomato paste, water and brown sugar until fully incorporated.  Add chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and paprika and let simmer for 3 minutes or until sauce is desired thickness.  

Before assembling the tacos, heat corn tortillas over medium heat in a dry non-stick skillet for 30 seconds on each side. Layer the lentils, shredded cabbage and sliced avocado and then top with fresh chopped cilantro.

Add a little extra spice with your favorite chili sauce or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

2. Smoky Stuffed Mushroom Bites with curry “cream” sauce

 

Serving size: 2 mushrooms, makes 6 servings

Stuffed mushroom are always a crowd pleaser, but this Thai curry twist will knock it out of the park.  Mushrooms are a great addition to a vegan diet because they add a savory flavor and meaty texture that is often difficult to create in a vegetable based dish.  Not only do mushrooms add flavor they are also a good source of fiber and add a nutrient boost to your diet. Switch up this recipe by exchanging the curry  powder with different spices like Italian seasoning, Greek or your favorite blend.  

Ingredients:

  • 12 Bella mushrooms, washed with damp cloth
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or oil of choice
  • ½ c onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c cauliflower, grated or chopped very small
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 c chickpeas, mashed
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 2 dashes of liquid smoke
  • ** Liquid smoke can be found at most grocery stores, by the soy sauce and steak sauce.
  • ¼ c panko bread crumbs

Directions:

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Wash mushrooms and remove ends.  Chop mushroom ends and set aside.

In a medium size skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Saute onions and chopped mushroom ends until tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic, grated cauliflower and spinach and cook for an additional 5 minutes, reduce heat if garlic starts to brown to avoid burning.  

Transfer vegetables to a large glass bowl and add mashed chickpeas, dijon mustard, curry powder, paprika and liquid smoke.  Mix well.

Arrange mushrooms on the prepared baking sheet and add a generous amount of the vegetable mixture to each mushroom cap.  Sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven, or until the mushrooms start to form liquid under the caps.

3. Curry Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1  13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons curry paste
  • Small piece of ginger, about the size of a dime
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar or sweetener of choice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Drizzle sauce over mushrooms after they come out of the oven.

4. Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Makes 20-24 cookies

Warm, ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies, does it get any better?  Paired with a hot beverage or a chilled glass of almond milk cookies are a treat that always seem to hit the spot.  This vegan cookie is the perfect amount of chewy and crispy that you might not even notice they are are missing a few of the typical staple cookie ingredients.  Although this cookie is a slightly healthier twist on the traditional recipe, a cookie is still a cookie so be sure to stick to the proper serving size of about 1-2 cookies.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup coconut oil, solid (be sure it is not melted)
  • 1 ¼ c light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ c coconut milk, full fat is best for this recipe but feel free to switch it up as desired
  • ¼ c unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 ¼ c all purpose flour, be sure not to pack the flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½  c vegan chocolate chips

Directions:

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large glass bowl whisk together coconut oil, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add in the coconut milk and applesauce and continue to mix until well blended.  Add all purpose flour, baking soda and salt and fold into wet ingredients with a sturdy spatula.  Fold in chocolate chips. The batter will be thick!

Use a large soup spoon to scoop dough onto baking sheet, leaving a few inches between each cookie.  Bake for 9-10 minutes or until edges start to brown slightly.  Remove cookies from oven and let cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack. The cookies might look undercooked after taking them out of the oven, but the residual heat from the baking sheet will finish cooking without burning.

5. Crispy Cauliflower Poppers with Vegan Herb Dipping Sauce

 

Serves 4-6 people

Anything crispy and dippable is probably the easiest way to define the most popular holiday party appetizers.  Crispy cauliflower is growing in popularity and has even been crafted as a lighter options to a buffalo chicken wing. Dredge cauliflower in a flour and dairy free milk mixture, bake 425 degrees and you have created the perfect vehicle for your favorite sauce or seasoning.

Cauliflower adds a light yet meaty texture that lets you indulge without feeling guilty.  Dip these crispy poppers in hummus, hot sauce or drizzle with your favorite vegan dressing for a satisfying and nutrient dense appetizer or side dish!

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into golf ball size florets
  • ½ c unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ½ c water
  • 1 ¼ c whole grain flour
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper or spray generously with cooking spray. Mix non-dairy milk, water, whole grain flour, garlic powder, dried basil, paprika and salt and pepper in a large bowl until smooth with no flour lumps. Dip florets in the mixture, tapping off any excess flour mixture and then place on the baking tray.  Be sure not to overcrowd the florets and leave 1-3 inches between each floret. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn each floret and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until crispy.

6. Vegan Herb Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

 

  • ½ c raw cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour, drained and rinsed well
  • ¼ – ½ c water
  • 3-4 canned roasted red pepper strips
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • ½ tbsp dried basil
  • ½ tbsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp paprika

Directions:

 

Add all ingredient to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

7. Brussel Sprout Skewers with Balsamic Drizzle

 

Serves 4-6 people

If you haven’t figured it out yet, roasted brussel sprouts are to die for.  Their layered leaves crisp up so perfectly and their meaty insides soak up the flavor to make them a perfect poppable snack or hearty and healthy side dish.  Stick a few on a skewer and you have the beginning of a very healthy party appetizer or a creative way to plate your vegetable side with minimal effort.

Brussel sprouts are rich in fiber as well as an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Nutritious and delicious!

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 lb. brussel sprouts
  • 2 Tbsp oil of choice, for roasting
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper or spray generously with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch brussels sprouts for about 4 minutes.  This will make it easier to assemble sprouts on the skewer. After 4 minutes remove brussel sprouts to a colander and rinse with cold water.   Trim any hard stems or loose leaves with a paring knife and pat dry with a clean dish towel or paper towel, let dry. Using either wooden or metal skewers place 4-5 sprouts on each skewer.  Arrange skewers in a row on the baking sheet. Drizzle oil over brussel sprouts and shake tray until each sprout is fully coated with oil.  Sprinkle salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes or until desired crispiness.

Balsamic Reduction

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

 

Pour vinegar into small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until vinegar reduces and develops a syrup consistency.  Watch carefully to ensure it does not burn. Test the consistency by dipping a metal teaspoon into the vinegar.  If the vinegar easily coats the back of the spoon, it is ready. Remove from heat and let cool. Drizzle over brussel sprouts or other roasted vegetables. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.