After the sustained gluttony we indulged in 2020, as we busily fed our anxieties with as much sugar and all the heavy comfort foods we could find, cleaning up the diet a little in early 2021 just seemed sensible.
But never, ever would I suggest doing without satisfying flavors and textures. As a dedicated omnivore, I’ll never successfully become a true vegan, but I’ve discovered plenty of ways to follow a mostly plant-based diet — as my husband’s cardiologist strongly advised — without feeling denied.
Because we love a good ribeye and combo plates of Tex-Mex too much to cut those out entirely, we’ve made such choices our weekly cheat day splurge (we’re looking at you, Sunday). During the week, however, we’re trying to behave ourselves by eating bowls of goodness like these. Within a few days, we found ourselves delighted by how good we slept and how much more energy we enjoy. Best of all, these one-dish meals make for quick weeknight suppers, and ingredients in many of these are easily switched around.
Carrot Parsnip Soup
A favorite winter soup, this works with any combination of root vegetables. I’ll frequently use sweet potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips interchangeably in this recipe, and it’s every bit as good (and healthy) if made with butternut squash in the mix. Carrots and parsnips are the quickest to peel and roast, of course. The Indian spices are subtle, and the brightening chermoula brings out exotic influences without being overwhelming. The topping of tangy yogurt (if you’re eating vegan, just use a yogurt made with coconut or almond milk) is the perfect accent to an earthy, satisfying winter warmer.
5 large carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
3 large parsnips, peeled, roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
Sea salt, to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder or garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup plain almond milk
Chermoula (recipe below), for serving
Plain yogurt, for serving
Toss chopped carrots, parsnips, onion and garlic with oil and spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, or until tender, at 350 F. Cool. In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, combine roasted veggies with broth, curry powder or garam masala, ginger and cardamom. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. (I like mine just barely nubby; you can use a food processor, working in batches, if you like.) Cover and heat the puree over medium for 45 minutes, allowing ingredients to mingle and flavors to meld. Stir in almond milk and heat for another 5 minutes. Serve in bowls and top with a spoonful of tangy chermoula and a dollop of yogurt, if desired.
Chermoula: Combine 2 teaspoons roasted pepitas with 1 teaspoon each toasted cumin and coriander seeds in a grinder and process into a powder (or crush well using a mortar and pestle). Transfer to a food processor and add 1 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup Italian parsley, 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, 2 garlic cloves, ½ cup olive or avocado oil, zest and juice from 1/2 lemon and ¼ teaspoon each crushed red chile flakes and sea salt. Pulse to a coarse paste. Serve immediately or store in fridge, covered, for 3 to 4 days. Good on grilled chicken and fish, too.
Makes 4 servings.
Beans, Greens and Grains
Fort Worth chef Jen Williams, who owns a private chef-catering operation called JayCee Hospitality, inspired this idea for a hearty, nutritious bowl. Her clients — from dedicated carnivores to steadfast vegans — count on her for creative food. This dish can be made with bacon or ham bone for those needing meat, but the meatless version doesn’t leave you wanting, thanks to the filling combination of beans and barley. I use kidney beans here, but it works perfectly with garbanzos, pintos, black or white beans or black-eyed peas. My favorite green in this dish is rainbow chard, but you can use dinosaur kale or collard or mustard greens just as easily. And because I love a hint of acidity and a little crunch as a finish, I chopped up some of the spicy bread-and-butter pickles my husband puts up every summer with our garden’s cucumbers as a garnish. This addition at serving time adds a tart pop to this hearty, nutritious bowl.
1 cup dry kidney beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon avocado oil
3 tablespoons minced shallot
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 large bunch chard leaves, roughly chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
1 cup barley
2 bay leaves
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup chopped bread and butter pickles, for garnish
Quick-soak the kidney beans by combining in a pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Over high heat, cook at a rapid boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and allow to sit for 1 hour. Drain beans and set aside. In a heavy-bottom pot, heat oil over medium heat and saute shallots and carrots for 3 to 4 minutes to soften. Add chard leaves, tomatoes, barley and pre-soaked beans, stirring well. Add bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper and half the vegetable broth. Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. Add more broth as necessary and continue to simmer another 30 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust seasonings and serve garnish with chopped pickles, if desired.
Makes 6 servings.
Farro with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Vegetables
Sometimes we crave Italian flavors but need to avoid the heaviness of a big plate of pasta. In this bowl, roasted tomatoes star, with supporting help from onion, garlic, zucchini and mushroom. To give the sauce a little more protein and substance, I puree a cup or so of garbanzo beans and cook that into the sauce. Served over the nutritious, chewy, slightly nutty grain called farro, it’s a gratifying bowl. And with the nubby texture and intriguing flavors in the pesto (make that vegan by skipping the Parmesan cheese) that crowns the dish, you’ll find yourself wanting seconds.
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups vegetable broth, divided use
1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, pureed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix, or to taste
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked farro
Crushed red chile flakes, optional
White Balsamic Pesto, for serving (recipe below)
Puree drained garbanzo beans in a food processor or blender with ½ cup vegetable broth or water until smooth. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, warm the oil and saute onion and garlic for 4 to 5 minutes or till translucent. Add zucchini and mushroom, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes. Add pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining vegetable broth and pureed garbanzo beans, stirring well at a low boil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add dried herbs and salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile prepare farro according to package directions and then make pesto. At serving time, adjust seasonings in the sauce and ladle it over bowls of farro. Season with a sprinkle of red chile flakes, if you like, and top with a spoonful of pesto.
White Balsamic Pesto: In a food processor bowl or blender, combine 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil with 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 3 garlic cloves, ½ cup walnut pieces, 2 cups packed basil, ½ cup shredded Parmesan, and salt and pepper, to taste. Blend until rather smooth but still nubby. Variations: Substitute Italian parsley and/or arugula for some of the basil.
Makes 4 servings.
Creamy 10-Spice Bean and Veggie Soup
Oh She Glows is the blog from vegan ambassador Angela Liddon that changed my mind about vegan cooking a few years back. I return often to a recipe for 10-spice vegetable soup with cashew cream and tinker with it every time, depending on what’s in my pantry and crisper at the moment. Her recipe calls for garbanzo beans, but I frequently use frozen baby lima beans or dried navy beans instead. This time, I made it with dried large lima beans, which my parents always called butter beans, thanks to the rich consistency and flavor. Chock-full of veggies and made substantial with sweet potato, this one gets its lush quality from homemade cashew cream and its intrigue from a snappy blend of spices. At serving, this soup is perfect with toasted sourdough.
¾ cup raw cashews, soaked (see note)
6 cups vegetable broth, divided use
2 teaspoons avocado or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 to 2 tablespoons 10-Spice Blend (recipe below)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups cooked large lima beans
Chopped Italian parsley or green onion for garnish
Lime wedges, for serving
Note: Soak cashews in 1 ½ cups boiling water for 2 hours before preparing soup recipe.
In a blender combine soaked, drained cashews with 1 to 1 ¼ cups vegetable broth at high speed until smooth. Set aside.
In a large pan or medium soup pot, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion and garlic for 3 to 5 minutes, or just until soft. Add carrots, celery, bell pepper, sweet potato, tomato and juice, along with remaining vegetable broth. Stir well and bring to a gentle boil. Stir in 10-Spice Blend (below), seasoning and cashew cream. Cook at gentle boil another 5 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add broccoli and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Before serving, stir in cooked lima beans and adjust seasonings. Stir another 3 to 4 minutes till beans are heated through. Garnish with chopped Italian parsley or green onion and squeeze a lime wedge over each bowl at serving.
10-Spice Blend: In a medium jar, combine 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon each garlic granules, dried oregano, and dried basil with 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 1 ½ teaspoons each black pepper and sea salt, and 1 teaspoon each ground coriander, white pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cover with tight-fitting lid and shake well to combine. Use also in marinades for fish and chicken to grill and in salad dressing.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Roasted Salmon-Cauliflower Rice Bowl
A pescatarian diet is one I would consider if I didn’t love the occasional lamb chop or pan-fried chicken leg. During this healthier eating binge, however, we’re allowing ourselves fish in lean preparation — and there are few more delicious ways to cook salmon than in parchment paper (salmon en papillote, if we’re being formal). Trust me, preparation is extremely easy, but if you want a good visual, check out You Tube for videos on the procedure. A minimal amount of olive oil is included, and the fish steams within the paper, along with vegetables, in a few minutes. Served atop riced cauliflower cooked with chopped spinach and veggies, with plenty of lemon zest and herbs, this is one of the most satisfying virtuous dishes to be found. When it’s not Dry January, I love this dish with a Loire Valley chablis.
4 salmon filets, 6 to 8 ounces each
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, cut in julienne, divided use
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in julienne, divided use
3 green onions, roughly chopped, divided use
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half, divided use
1 tablespoon dried herbs de Provence, divided use
Juice and zest from 1 lemon, divided use
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 10-ounce package frozen riced cauliflower
2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
To prepare salmon, heat oven to 400 F. Cut 4 large pieces of parchment paper into heart shapes, folding each in half. On one half of each of the heart-shaped sheets, place a salmon filet and brush with a little olive oil. Top each filet with a little of the carrot, yellow bell pepper, green onion, tomatoes, herbs de Provence, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper. Make packets of each heart-shaped parchment paper by folding the other side of the paper (opposite the salmon and veggies) over and crimping the edges as tightly as possible. Place packets on cookie sheets and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine contents of frozen riced cauliflower with chopped spinach and remaining veggies, lemon juice and zest, dried herbs and salt and pepper in a sauce pan. Cover and cook over medium high for about 5 minutes or till done. Divide among wide, shallow bowls.
Remove salmon packets from oven — they should be all puffy — and open the packets carefully. Transfer salmon and vegetables from each, arranging atop the riced cauliflower in bowls.
Makes 4 servings.
June Naylor is a cookbook author and food-and-travel writer living in Fort Worth. For more recipes, visit junenaylor.com.