Meatless Monday- Chickpea of the Sea

One of the greatest challenges I faced while transitioning to a plant-based diet was finding healthy, satisfying, and, of course, tasty, alternatives to the foods I had regularly consumed up until that point. Sure, this task may seem like a piece of {vegan} cake now, but the majority of that first year was spent eating heavily processed convenience foods that hid under fancy labels plastered with words like OrganicAll Natural, and No GMOs. I was suspended in a world of sodium-laden cans of soup, frozen entrées, packaged snacks, and far too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Oh, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good ol’ PB&J, I really do, but my meal plans were in desperate need of some variety. Plus, I needed to learn how to prepare some fast and easy menu options that were lower in sodium and less processed in comparison to the food-like substances that had infiltrated my diet.

I was overjoyed when I came across a recipe for a mock tuna salad of sorts – Chickpea of the Sea – on the blog Live.Learn.Love.Eat. Unlike many faux animal products, this one’s bulk is comprised of whole food ingredients, not soy protein isolates and other unpronounceable and equally scary sounds ingredients. Chickpea of the Sea makes an excellent sandwich filler, pita stuffer or spread for crackers or veggies. It’s now a regular in our kitchen.

(By the way, if it’s outstanding recipes comprised of whole-food ingredients you’re after, I very highly recommend the blog Live.Learn.Love.Eat‘s recipe page. The author is absolutely fantastic at creating wholesome family-friendly vegan dishes without the processed ingredients and refined sugars. Seriously, this blog has been my go-to since I stumbled upon it.)

I’ve been craving Chickpea of the Sea sandwiches and tomato soup for the past week. Considering we enjoyed these sandwiches while I was in labor, and Friday, July 18th, Miss P and I celebrated our Nine Months In/Nine Months Out milestone, it isn’t so strange that these delightful sandwiches have been on my mind.

Before heading to the kitchen to whip up a quick batch of Chickpea of the Sea, I decided to look through some pictures from Miss P’s Birth Day. I found two that Tim snapped of our wonderful Doula and me having lunch. Don’t let our carefree gestures fool you; these were taken during active labor. {Please excuse the blurriness, as I’m sure Tim was a bit distracted at the time.} 

Enjoying Chickpea of the Sea sandwiches with my wonderful Doula on Miss P’s Birth Day. (Actually, I should say the day BEFORE her Birth Day since she arrived after midnight!)

Riding out a surge, my sandwich on standby.

And there you have it: Lunch during labor. Be sure you don’t try this at home.

Chickpea of the Sea

Chickpea of the Sea6

Makes enough for 4-5 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (My favorite is Earth Balance MindfulMay0.)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons kelp powder
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 dill pickles, diced
  • Celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

To prepare:

  1. Mash the chickpeas in a large bowl. (I use a fork to do this, but feel free to utilize whatever fancy gadget you have on hand.)
  2. Add the mayonnaise, dijon, and kelp powder, and stir.
  3. Add the diced onion, celery and dill pickles, stir until well-combined.

Chickpea of the Sea3

Chickpea of the Sea4Chickpea of the Sea5

And there you have it; absolute perfection, and so quick and easy to prepare.

Enjoy!

Meatless Monday- Pasta e Fagioli

Italian food has always been one of my favorites. I mean, seriously, who can resist a heaping plate of capellini smothered in robust tomato sauce and drizzled with olive oil? My mouth waters just thinking about it.

When I first adopted a vegan lifestyle, I quickly realized that Italian restaurants were more or less off limits: chicken, mozzarella, beef, mozzarella, veal, mozzarella, pancetta, mozzarella, mozzarella with extra mozzarella… {Gahh.} These places can inevitably become a vegan’s worst nightmare, yet it took me a long time to come to terms with this. Now when I’m craving Italian fare, I’m able to whip up a satisfying (cruelty-free) meal at home.

Learning how to prepare food from scratch wasn’t an overnight process, but it was absolutely worth the effort, and, as a result of this knowledge, I’m now able to recreate many of my former favorite meals in much healthier ways. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of preparing your own meals is that you have complete control over what goes into them and, perhaps more importantly, what stays out of them. (It should only take a once-over of the exhaustive list of ingredients plastered on most packaged foods for it to become startlingly clear that these products might, in fact, pose serious health risks.)

Before Miss P’s arrival, I often spent the entire weekend prepping food, in mass quantities, for the week ahead. With an increasingly mobile nine-month-old and several new business ventures underway, devoting that kind of time to our meals is no longer an option. Even so, I refuse to revert to highly processed foods, so, lately, I’ve been experimenting with dishes that are quick and simple to prepare, and let’s not forget, budget-friendly, because, let’s face it, in this single-income household, buying a $22 bag of Camu powder to round-off our green smoothies isn’t always practical.

This Meatless Monday, I’d like to share the recipe for one of our new favorites: Pasta e Fagioli. It couldn’t be any easier to prepare, and there’s a good chance the ingredients are already hanging around your kitchen just waiting to be turned into something delicious. As an added bonus, this beans and pasta dish is serious comfort food. Pair it with a colorful garden salad and a fresh loaf of crusty bread and you have yourself a restaurant-style Italian meal. Might I add that it’s also equally delicious the next day- that is, if you actually have leftovers.

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli 8

Fresh Roma tomatoes, minced garlic, and Italian herbs cook down into a terrifically light sauce that pairs perfectly with hearty pasta (I like to use gluten free) and white beans. Top with a generous pour of white wine vinegar for a zing like no other. This is a fast, simple, and budget friendly – yet wholesome and satisfying dish. Perfect for summer!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
  • a few dashes of fresh black pepper
  • 2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, diced medium
  • 2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 lb small tube pasta (I used Ancient Harvest Gluten Free elbows)
  • 15 oz can white beans (no salt added), drained and washed

Optional:

  • fresh parsley, chopped (to garnish)
  • parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • a sprinkle of nutritional yeast
Pasta e Fagioli 1

Make this mouthwatering beans and pasta dish when Roma tomatoes are in season!

To prepare:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Warm olive oil in a second large pot over medium heat. Add garlic to the olive oil, and sauté until garlic becomes fragrant (about one minute). Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium, cover, and continue to cook until tomatoes are broken down and sauce has reduced and thickened (about 30 minutes). While you’re waiting for the tomatoes to break down, cook pasta according to package directions making sure it remains al dente. Drain pasta and set aside. When sauce is done, add two tbsp of white wine vinegar and stir. Add pasta and beans. (I like to use a wooden spoon and mix gently to keep my pasta intact.) Simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.

Pasta e Fagioli 2

Pasta e Fagioli 4

photo

Miss P likes to help in the kitchen by emptying everything out of the cabinets while I cook.

Pasta e Fagioli 3

Pasta e Fagioli 8

…so delicious that I actually ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

Meatless Monday Ultimate Black Bean and Veggie Soup

I was introduced to the concept of Meatless Monday in 2011, during my first graduate residency at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. If you’re unfamiliar with the term – as I was at the time – Meatless Monday is a global movement that seeks to promote greater health and environmental sustainability by simply choosing to forgo meat on Mondays.

I was initially intrigued by the campaign, but by the time I returned home from residency and plunged into my first semester of graduate work, it was long forgotten. After all, I was already submerged in the vegan lifestyle, which meant all my days were meatless.

I’ve been noticing some references to Meatless Monday over the past few months, primarily via social media, but I don’t see them as often as I’d like to. I thoroughly support the vision behind the movement, but I realize that if you typically consume meat at each meal, the idea of removing it, even just for one day, can seem a bit implausible. After all, what will you eat? I mean, who wants to nosh on carrot sticks and lettuce all day? That sounds terrible. Plus, you’ll be ravenous by the time Tuesday rolls around, right?

Eh, not so much.

I’ve been bouncing back-and-forth between a vegan and vegetarian diet for years now, and as zany as the idea may seem to a carnivore, it’s totally possible, dare I even say easy to put together delicious and satisfying meals sans meat.

MM food

Top: Rolled oats w/fresh strawberries, almond milk & sliced almonds; Berry smoothie; Choco-Banana “Ice Cream” (made from blended bananas, coconut milk & raw cacao powder) Bottom: Peanut butter & jam on whole grain bread w/apple wedges; Red lentils, quinoa, green beans & yam

In an effort to raise awareness, and to promote the myriad of health and environmental benefits that are a direct result of cutting down on meat consumption, The Excellent Adventures of Miss P will feature a recipe and/or an applicable lifestyle piece each Monday.

We welcome you to share your favorite meat-free recipe(s) with us at: excellentadventuresofmissp@gmail.com. We may even feature some of these recipes on the blog (with your permission, of course).

This week, I’d like to talk about the nutritional benefits of homemade soups and stews; both are a staple in our home for many reasons. I’ve always loved soup, but it wasn’t until I stopped stocking up on sodium and preservative laden cans of it and started making it myself – with pure unprocessed ingredients –  that it became a health food.

Most soups and stews are easy to make, and recipes tend to be forgiving of substitutions and additions, meaning you probably already have everything you need to prepare a big pot without making a trip to the store. Soups and stews also provide an excellent opportunity to sneak in a plethora of nutrient-dense foods to ensure you’re getting the most out of your meal. (Think loads of filling fiber, plentiful protein and an array of vitamins and minerals just to name a few.) As a side note, I use organic ingredients whenever possible, and I try to avoid adding canned foods as said cans are usually lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA). Although many sources have cited BPA as safe in small amounts, I tend to air on the side of caution when it comes to chemicals my family will be ingesting.

I make soup every week, so there’s always a fresh batch hanging out in our refrigerator ready be ladled into a sauce pan and reheated. I also like to keep an assortment of these soups in the freezer along with staple-ingredients, such as broth and beans, to drastically reduce the likelihood of having to reach for a can.

For our first Meatless Monday post, I’d like to share the recipe for one of my absolute favorite black bean soups. I love black beans; they’re loaded with iron (20% of your daily intake per 1-cup serving), fiber and protein, and they’re extremely versatile. Plus, they taste terrific.

I hope you’ll give this soup a try!

The Ultimate Black Bean and Veggie Soup:

Black Bean Soup

This recipe is a modified version of the Zesty Black Bean Soup from Whole Foods Market’s website; my version omits some of the prepackaged ingredients and adds a couple superstars to the mix. 

This soup is nutrient dense and fast and simple to make. The spice-blend of cinnamon and cumin lends an unexpected and exotic flair. 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil
  • 5 medium-sized carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) fine sea salt
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 celery stalk, finely sliced
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups black beans (I prefer fresh, but you can certainly use 2 15 oz. cans, no-salt-added, drained and rinsed.)
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
  • fresh cilantro, chopped

Optional Ingredients:

  • additional cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • nutritional yeast
  • cheese
  • hot sauce
  • quinoa
  • rice
  • tortillas

To prepare:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, bay leaf and salt and cook until carrots are just tender, about 7 minutes. Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Add cumin, cinnamon, beans, corn, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tomatoes reduce (about 20 minutes). Stir in cilantro. Serve.

Note: This soup keeps well in the refrigerator; it also freezes well!

This soup can be served with additional cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce, sour cream… the possibilities are endless. Add cooked rice or quinoa to transform your bowl of soup into a hearty meal.

chopped veggies

Mmmm! All those colorful fresh-chopped veggies make me want to drool on my keyboard. Also- I prefer making my own broth, but I was a bit short on time this week.

Black Bean Soup

MM soup

Black bean soup w/super grain blend (red & white quinoa, buckwheat & millet) & fresh cilantro. Delish!

Have a Marvelous Meatless Monday!