Meal Plan Monday

menu notepad with tomatoes Every Monday I break out my legal pad and create our meal plan and grocery list. Today, I want to share the basics that make this process quick and easy for me. I really enjoy this part of my week, but I also know it can be easy to get stuck in a rut and not know how to move forward.

When I first began cooking, I would often search my fridge and pantry hoping to find something worth making a meal out of. But, well, I’m sure most of you all know that is much easier said than done…..

After a few meals from scratch were lovingly thrown in the trash by my hubby, I realized something had to change. The only way I was going to be successful at cooking was if I learned how to meal plan. But where on earth was I supposed to start?!?!

I had a few cookbooks but it was difficult to find recipes with our plant-based preferences. The internet was an amazing resource! Almost too amazing……I could easily spend over two hours looking for recipes and come away empty-handed. Nobody’s got time for that!

I’m proud to say that meal planning has gotten a million times easier! It just takes practice.

Whenever I find a recipe that we both enjoy, I make a note on my phone. I now have over thirty recipes on that list! Every week when I create my meal plan, I just pull recipes from my list. Its so easy!

Here’s a peek at what my meal plan looks like week to week: (I generally cook five meals a week and double most dishes so that we have leftovers for lunches and weekends.)

  •  Soup with bread – I have been rotating these three soups for months!
  • Pasta (gluten-free or veggie) – Our latest favorites are roasted veggie and vegan mac ‘n cheese.
  • Beans with quinoa or rice – My go-to recipes are cilantro lime rice with black beans and this quinoa salad.
  • Mexican or Italian – Our favorites are enchiladas and lasagna!
  • Something new – I normally try to test one new recipe every week to keep things fresh and expand our options. This is a great opportunity to explore seasonal produce!

I hope this is helpful for your routine! What are some of your own meal planning tricks?

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples

This is a must make! Like immediately!

My sister brought this sweet potato apple goodness to our family Thanksgiving dinner and it was definitely love at first bite. I got the recipe and have made this dish three times in the last ten days. Yeah, its that good!

This dish blows me away by its simplicity and short ingredient list. No extra salt or sugar necessary. The sweet potatoes and apples practically melt in your mouth and are a treat for your taste buds!

My sweet-potato-hating husband keeps asking me to make this again. I even pureed this for my eight-month-old and he could not get enough of it.

Oh, and don’t be scared of the cinnamon/basil combination. I was super skeptical but the flavors blend perfectly!

I give full credit for this recipe to Beth at budgetbytes.com! (If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, what are you waiting for?!)

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples         Serves 2-4

Total Time – 35 minutes (prep – 5 min; cook – 30 min)

  • 3 small sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 4 apples, cored (galas taste perfect, but I’m sure others would work well)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp basil
  1. Preheat oven to 400º F.
  2. Chop sweet potatoes and apples in bite size pieces, about 1″ cubes.
  3. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and spread evenly on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy warm!

Cranberry Apple Pecan Baked Oatmeal

Yum, yum, and yum!!!

If you haven’t tried baked oatmeal before, you are seriously missing out!

I don’t know why I haven’t experimented more with baked oatmeal in the past, but watch out family!! I see a knew obsession on the horizon!

Baked oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast options because you can make it at the beginning of the week and have a delicious breakfast available all week long. All you have to do is reheat and enjoy!

(Additionally, I am NOT a morning person! So anything that makes those early hours a little more stress-free is a huge win!)

This oatmeal is mildly sweet with bursts of tart cranberries. Throw in some apples, pecans, and cinnamon and you have yourself a filling breakfast perfect for the holidays.

(Inspired by this recipe at budgetbytes.com!)

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Cranberry Apple Pecan Baked Oatmeal        Serves 8

Total Time – 1hr 5min (prep – 20min; cook – 45min)

  • 1/4 C flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 C water
  • 3 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 C coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 C almond milk
  • 6 oz fresh cranberries, roughly halved
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 4 C oatmeal
  • 1/2 C chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. Combine flaxseed meal and water; set aside.
  3. Using a large bowl, combine applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla, and salt. Mix thoroughly and stir in milk.
  4. Gently stir in cranberries, apples, and oatmeal. Transfer to a greased casserole dish and top with pecans. Bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Enjoy warm! Leftovers can be eaten warm or cold, topped with milk.

Note: This recipe is very low in sugar so you can get away with adding some extra sugar to taste. 

Hearty Vegan Tortilla Soup

Ladle up some of this hearty soup with a side of fresh baked cornbread and I am in comfort food heaven!

One of my favorite things about this tortilla soup is that I can alter the recipe according to what I have on hand. Its the perfect recipe to use up lots of veggies before they spoil!

Also, my husband and toddler gobble this up! And who am I fooling? Its always a victory for me when my two-year-old eats my cooking without complaint….lol.

I stumbled upon this vegan tortilla soup recipe a year ago and I knew immediately that I had to give it a shot. Over the past year I’ve made this tortilla soup more than a dozen times and made a few alterations over time.

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Hearty Vegan Tortilla Soup        Serves 6

Total Time – 45 min (prep – 10 min; cook – 35 min)

  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 C corn (frozen or canned)
  • 5-6 green onions, sliced
  • 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 C vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbs cumin
  • 2 Tbs flaxseed meal OR chia seeds (chia seeds will add more texture to soup)
  • 1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado, chopped (for topping)
  • 1 lime (for topping)
  1. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant.
  2. Add green pepper, zucchini, corn, and green onions; cook 5-8 minutes until veggies begin to soften.
  3. Stir in crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, cumin, and flaxseed meal. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 25 minutes. Reduce heat and add black beans, salt, and pepper.
  4. Serve with avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Labor-Inducing Pineapple Smoothie

Allow me to quiet all rumors right now: I am NOT pregnant!

However, this spring I did, in fact, have the blessing of giving birth to a precious baby boy. I was ready for him to be born much earlier than he was……so, like all expectant mothers near their due date, I tried every trick in the book to make my little one make his debut.

Unfortunately, I don’t think any of our attempts worked. So I had to wait on God’s timing (which is always the best anyways, right?).

When my hubby (the smoothie guru) heard that a pineapple date smoothie could help induce labor, he rushed to the store and whipped up a delicious smoothie packed with all those labor-inducing foods, that ended up being not as helpful as we had hoped………

Oh, well! After drinking this smoothie AT LEAST once a day for over a week leading up to my due date, I was convinced I would never want to lay eyes on one again!

But sure enough…a few minutes ago I was sitting on the couch enjoying the quiet after putting the kids to bed and I got a serious craving for THAT smoothie.

This is a bit different than the recipe my hubby used, but I love the bold pineapple flavor mixed with accents of cinnamon and coconut. Enjoy!!

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Labor Inducing Pineapple Smoothie          Serves 1

Total Time – 5 min

  • 1 C unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 C pineapple (I like to use the core, as it is too hard to eat otherwise)
  • 1 banana, preferably frozen
  • 5 dates, soaked and pitted
  • 3 Tbs shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 Tbs flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. Soak dates.
  2. Combine all ingredients in blender, adding dates last, and blend 1-2 minutes.

 

Guilt-Free Carrot Cake 

One of my favorite cakes of all time is carrot cake!

Growing up, my mom would make her special recipe every year for my dad’s birthday. I always loved getting my slice and slathering it with rich cream cheese frosting. I often may have ended up with more frosting then cake……but I still adore that sweet cake packed with nuts, raisins, and (of course) carrots.

Well, a few months ago, dad’s birthday rolled around and just like always, I walked into my parent’s kitchen which was filled with the aroma of freshly baked carrot cake. Ahhhhh!

I took a peek at the recipe and I started to think about how I could tweak the recipe. My goal was to preserve the flavor while minimizing the sugar, oil, and eggs.

This week I finally had time to experiment in the kitchen and I am very proud of the end result.

Served without frosting, I would honestly eat this cake for breakfast……well maybe I’ve already done that a few times this week. Haha

I would like to work more with this recipe, trying to get it to rise more and even go for a gluten-free version. But it was tasty enough that I just had to share!

Guilt-Free Carrot Cake

Total Time – 1 hr 25 min (prep – 40 min; cook – 45 min)

  • 1/4 C flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 C water
  • 2 C whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 C coconut oil, melted
  • 1 banana, mashed (approx. 1/2 C)
  • 1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 C fresh squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
  • 1/3 C coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 C shredded carrots (approx. 3 large carrots)
  • 1 C raisins
  • 1 C chopped walnuts
  1. Mix flaxseed meal and water; set aside.
  2. Stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cloves.
  3. In a separate bowl combine coconut oil, banana, applesauce, orange juice, sugar, vanilla, and flaxseed mixture.
  4. Mix wet and dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in  carrots, raisins, and walnuts.
  5. Pour batter into a greased bundt cake pan and bake 45-50 minutes, or until knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool completely before serving. The center may seem a little undercooked when you remove it from the oven, but it will set as it cools.

 

Notes: This recipe is low in sugar and does not taste sweet enough to be cake on its own. However, as soon as I added frosting, the sweetness of the cake wasn’t noticeable at all. Also, the cake did not rise well. 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake

As some of you may already know, I have a chocolate addiction…….

Seriously! Every day around 2:15pm (once my kids are down for nap time) I make a beeline for the kitchen in search of whatever chocolatey goodness I can indulge in.

Chocolate brings me joy – that’s all there is to it!

(Well, maybe it brings me a few calories too, but we’ll just forget about that for now…..lol)

Today I decided to decided to make a yummy chocolate shake. I normally enjoy this a couple times a week. It’s simply one of my favorites!

I love this recipe because it is a great base that you can tweak according to your preferences and what ingredients you have on hand.

This soothing chocolate shake is delicious. But shhh…..don’t tell anyone that you’re sneaking in spinach, avocado, banana, chia seeds and flaxseed meal.

Yum!!!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake        Serves 1

Total Time – 5 minutes

  • 1 1/4 C unsweetened almond milk (or other dairy-free milk)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s is my favorite!)
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs peanut butter
  • 1/2 Tbs flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 Tbs chia seed
  • 3-5 ice cubes (more ice cubes if banana isn’t frozen)
  • 1 C packed spinach or kale (about 1 big handful)
  1. Put all ingredients in a blender and mix for 1-2 minutes until everything is well blended.
  2. Enjoy!!!

I would love to hear how you tweak this recipe to make it your own!

My Pantry

After deciding to transition to a healthier diet, we quickly learned how important it was to keep a well-stocked pantry – stocked with the right foods, that is!

If we got a snack attack or sugar craving, we knew we were goners if we could just head to the pantry and grab a bag of chips or pull out a box of brownie mix or Cheerios. (We still struggle with that last one…..lol)

Here’s a snapshot of what we like to keep on hand:

Grains

  • oatmeal, rolled and steel cut – our favorite breakfast option
  • whole wheat flour
  • brown rice flour
  • flaxseed meal
  • quinoa (I love cooking with quinoa because it is packed with protein and cooks up in 15 minutes)
  • brown rice

Nuts – one of the most expensive elements of a plant-based diet. I have had to build my supply slowly and I try to use sparingly.

  • cashews – amazing to use for vegan cheese
  • walnuts – delicious snacking and great for gluten free pie crusts
  • pecans – snacking and baking
  • almonds
  • peanuts

Canned Goods – I am not in love with canned goods, but buy them for convenience. I buy organic and low-sodium as much as possible.

  • black beans – instant meal!
  • pinto beans
  • garbonzo beans/chickpeas – awesome for homemade hummus
  • vegetarian refried beans
  • diced tomatoes – fire-roasted is our favorite!
  • tomato paste
  • tomato sauce
  • vegetable broth – we like to use broth as a substitute for oil when roasting food in the oven or cooking on the frying pan

Baking

  • pink Himalayan sea salt – packed with 84 minerals, this salt is actually really good for you!! No more guilt for adding salt!
  • dark chocolate chips – 60% or more…….I prefer 85%
  • coconut palm sugar
  • honey
  • 100% maple syrup
  • unsweetened cocoa powder – chocolate that is actually healthy! (I know, its a dream come true!)
  • vanilla
  • lemon juice
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil

Spices – one of the things I enjoy most about cooking plant-based recipes is the amount of spices I use! My food has never had more flavor! We use a large variety of spices, but these are our favorites.

  • cinnamon – we literally put in every baked good
  • cumin
  • basil
  • oregano
  • chili powder
  • itallian seasoning

Dried Fruit – perfect for the sweet tooth or adding to baked goods

  • dates – packed with fiber and natural sugar, dates have quickly become our favorite sweetener
  • raisins – my daughters favorite snack
  • craisins
  • unsweetened coconut flakes

Toddler Food – my stash for the diaper bag and those moments when you want to give them something special

  • pre-packaged raisins
  • applesauce pouches – seriously the BEST invention ever!!
  • gluten-free pretzels
  • air-popped popcorn – I like to make a big batch and store it in a gallon size bag.
  • mac ‘n cheese – one of my daughter’s favorite foods so I try to keep a box on hand, I try to buy Annie’s or Ancient Harvest
  • yogurt – another favorite food, I like to buy options from grass-fed cows and I watch the sugar content (10g or less)

What about you? I would love to hear about your favorite staples!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas

What a week this has been! My hubby was traveling this week and he must have taken my desire to cook along with him.

I’ve fiddled around in the kitchen the last couple days, but I haven’t created anything worth writing home about.

When I did muster up the energy to cook, I landed on some of my favorites: creamy butternut squash soup, cilantro lime rice, energy balls, and a new sweet potato breakfast casserole I found from my favorite blogger.

Well, he’s home now (wahoo!!) and that means I can cook again!! Lol. I decided to make one of our first vegan recipes. (We literally ate this every week for the first several months after we went vegan!)

One of my best friends shared this recipe with me. She brought these quesadillas to our house when our daughter was born and we quickly fell in love!

These quesadillas are so hearty and flavorful that I have never missed the meat or cheese. Plus, it feels incredible knowing you can eat a delicious dinner while giving your body the nutrition it needs. Sweet potatoes, spinach, black beans…….ahhhhhh…….definitely a win!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas          Serves 8-10**

Total Time – 1hr, 5min (prep – 20min; cook – 45 min)

  • 2 – 2 1/2 C water
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 2 C salsa (my favorites are garlic lime or black bean and corn)
  • 2 C spinach
  • 1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15oz) can refried beans (i try to get reduced fat, vegetarian when available)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 16 whole wheat tortillas (corn tortillas for gluten-free option)
  • optional: guacamole, hot sauce, salsa, sour cream, cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F. Bring water to a boil and add rice. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes or until rice is cooked.
  2. Meanwhile, cut sweet potatoes and bake in a 9×13 glass baking dish for 45 minutes.
  3. Mash together the sweet potatoes, cooked rice, salsa, and spinach. (I like to use a pastry blender or a potato masher.) Stir in black beans, refried beans, and spices.
  4. Make quesadillas and cook in frying pan over medium heat until golden brown. Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

**Honestly, I have no idea exactly how many servings this recipe makes. Its a LOT of food! The filling stores great in the fridge and freezer. We love to keep it on hand for a quick lunch or dinner. I have also heard you can pre-make the quesadillas and store in the freezer.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Goodmorning world. It’s Saturday.

And we all know what that means……Wancake Day!!!!

A few months into marriage, my husband and I decided it was absolutely necessary to start a family tradition. Every Saturday morning we should have pancakes….no waffles….no pancakes…..Ugh, how were we ever to decide! He loved waffles; I loved pancakes. As good little newlyweds, we chose to compromise and thus, Wancake Day was born!

Come visit us on a Saturday morning and I can pretty much guarantee that you will find yourself sitting before a heaping plate of pancakes…..or waffles. (It all depends on who’s cooking. Lol)

We love experimenting with new recipes ever so often, but today I am going to share our all-time favorite wancake recipe that we found shortly after going vegan.

(Thanks to a wonderful contributor to allrecipes.com for the inspiration for this recipe!!)

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pancakes           Serves 2-3

Total Time – 45 min (prep – 10 min; cook – 35 min)

  • 2 Tbs flaxseed meal
  • 6 Tbs water
  • 2 C oatmeal
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 3/4 unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tbs unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 C chocolate chips (optional)
  1. Whisk together flaxseed meal and water in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Using a food processor or blender, grind oatmeal into a flour. Add flaxseed mixture and all remaining ingredients, except chocolate chips. Blend thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Cook as waffles or pancakes and enjoy! (For pancakes, measure 1/2 C batter for each pancake. Flip when pancakes become bubbly and the edges begin to cook.)