Hearty Lentil Soup

This hearty lentil soup is quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal or makes a perfect Sunday night meal paired with some homemade cornbread.

Serves 2-4 (2 large bowls, 4 cups)
Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

1/4 cup water

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, chopped

2 potatoes, diced

1 can of diced tomatoes

4 cups of water, plus one cube vegetable bouillon or 4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (or fresh vegetables)

1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1 cup dried brown or green lentils

salt or pepper to taste

Method

Warm the water in a large pot over medium heat and add the onion to steam until softened and turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, potatoes. Cook for one minute, stirring, so the garlic doesn’t brown. Pour in the remaining ingredients. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Golden Country Biscuits and Gravy

I grew up in the South. Biscuits and gravy were one of my grandmother’s specialties (among many) and a wonderful comforting Sunday breakfast. This easy recipe will become one of your family’s favorites too.

Make 6 biscuits

Time: 30 minutes

Biscuit ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine

1 cup soy or almond milk

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients then using a fork or pastry cutter, cut in margarine until crumbly and pieces are no larger than a pea. Add soy or almond milk and stir until mixture is just thoroughly combined and all dry ingredients are mixed in, being careful not to overwork dough.

Transfer dough to a floured surface, and pat out dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or tumbler, cut out 6 biscuits and place on a nonstick baking sheet. You may need to reform dough and press out again to make all the biscuits.

Bake for 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. While the biscuits are in the oven, make the gravy.

Gravy Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon dried powdered sage (optional)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste

2 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon salt if using unsalted vegetable broth

1/2 package meatless sausage crumbles (optional)

Method

In a large skillet, toast flour and nutritional yeast in olive oil on medium heat for 2 minutes or until it starts to brown. Lower heat and slowly add broth, using a fork to crush any lumps that may form. Add pepper, and sage, salt, and crumbles, if using. Return heat to medium until gravy begins to bubble and thicken. Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Place biscuits on plates and spoon gravy over them.

Delicious Deli Reuben

The sauce in this delicious reuben is so easy you won’t believe it. And it’s so delicious you’ll want to put it on all of your sandwiches.

Serves 4
Time: 20 minutes active, 1.5 hours to allow time to marinate (or see pro-tip for a 10-minute version)

Ingredients

1 package tempeh
1/4 cup dill pickle juice
1/8 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/2 red onion, cut into half-moons
8 slices sandwich bread, or 4 wraps, your choice

Sauce
1/4 cup egg-free mayonnaise, like Just Mayo
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons pickle relish
Topping

Sauerkraut, to taste
Dairy-free cheese, optional

Method

Make the marinade: combine the pickle juice and soy sauce or tamari. Slice the tempeh lengthwise and place into a shallow container. Pour marinade over and allow to soak for 30 minutes to an hour. The longer the better.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, and relish in a small bowl and stir until fully combined.

Make the tempeh: After your tempeh has sufficiently marinated, add water to a pan to cover the bottom. Steam fry the onion in the water until translucent. Add the tempeh and the marinade and cook for ten minutes, flipping occasionally and adding small amount to ensure it doesn’t stick.

Assemble the reubens: Spread 1/4 of the spread on 4 slices of bread sandwich or wrap, add cheese, if using, and sauerkraut then the tempeh. Toast in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Pro-tip: If you’re short on time or just don’t like cooking, skip the tempeh and the marinade (pickle juice, tamari, and onions) and pile a sandwich high with your favorite plant-based deli slices, i.e. Tofurky or Field Roast. You can enjoy this delicious classic sandwich in a fraction of the time.

Tropical French Toast

Years ago there was a restaurant in my town that did a great vegan brunch menu. Hands down the best thing on the menu was its Hawaiian French Toast. French toast is delicious, but it’s also really easy to mess up. This morning I decided to try to recreate the French toast I enjoyed so many years ago.

I used this recipe and substituted 1/2 cup of the soy milk with pineapple juice strained from a can of pineapple chunks. After cooking the French toast until browned, I put it on a baking dish and kept warm in an oven on 350 while I made the topping. I put a can of pineapple chunks — including the remainder of the juice — in a pan on medium heat. Once the juice started bubbling, I added 1 tablespoon of flour to thicken up the sauce.

Next, I removed the toast from the oven and topped with the pineapple reduction and toasted coconut. Now I just need a tropical breeze and a vegan pina colada to top the day off.

Mean Greens: The nation’s first all-vegan dining hall

In a move that shook up college dining services in 2011, the University of North Texas in Denton became the first institution in the country to have an all-vegan dining hall. You read that right, a vegan dining hall deep in the heart of Texas.

The decision was driven in part by student demand for healthier food. And it’s been good for business too. UNT’s executive director of dining Bill McNeace has said that since opening Mean Greens, voluntary meal plans have gone up by 30 percent and opening the vegan dining hall was the only big change the school made.

What’s even more unique about Mean Greens is that all the food is made from scratch: no processed meat alternatives here. Executive chef Wanda White had to learn how to cook vegan and has done an exceptional job. On the day I visited, students could choose from chili mac, shepherd’s pie, polenta, gluten-free Mexican pizza, stir fries, pasta, and much more.  Not to mention the desserts: vegan rice crispy treats, lemon meringue pie, and an ever-present vegan soft serve ice cream machine.

The success of Mean Greens is no surprise given that more and more people, especially young people, are embracing veg eating. And it’s not just vegans who are looking for more vegan meals. More and more people are looking to eat plant-based meals even if they’re not vegetarian or vegan, as this article that just appeared in Columbus Alive reports. We’re at an important time when people realize they don’t need to eat meat, eggs, or dairy at every meal and that there are delicious alternatives to those products. I couldn’t be happier that Mean Greens is blazing the trail for university dining. It’s a good thing I don’t live close though!