This column is my attempt at normalizing the vegan diet/lifestyle for meat-eaters. That means eating a diet of plant-based foods: vegetables and fruits, and no animal products, which mainly means no meat, dairy or eggs.
I probably blurt too frequently, as the newly converted are prone, “I’m vegan now!” since I made the commitment to vegan eating only a few months ago.
My whole approach is to eat ethically without harming animals. I’m only four months in, and now I’m learning how to cook all over again. So, I’m starting with simple dishes and then working up from there. I’ve found I’m not a fan of making familiar dishes by substituting the missing meat or cheese with a vegetable or soy product. They never taste the same and often involve too much prep work for me. Also, as a former meat-eater, I’d often thought vegetable side dishes were boring; just steamed with salt and butter mostly.
Now, as a vegan, the challenge is on me to get creative. To those other vegans out there and to those who still have a meat-centered diet, here are a few recipes to try. I’ve found plenty of vegan recipes that use familiar veggies in unfamiliar combinations. My taste buds have absolutely been reawakened to vegetables.
Start the day with a banana/blueberry oatmeal smoothie by combining a banana, a handful of blueberries (fresh or frozen), a half cup of dry oatmeal, and almond milk in the blender. Blend until smooth. Add ice if you like it cold.
Another breakfast day-starter I like is to toast a slice of whole grain bread and then top it with half an avocado, lemon juice and a little salt.
An easy lunch menu can include a simple bean burrito (flour or corn tortilla, canned refried beans and any salsa topping of your choice), paired with a leafy green salad using as many vegetables as you can find in your refrigerator.
Another amazing recipe is smashed potatoes topped with a dollop of avocado garlic aioli.
Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Garlic Aioli
For the potatoes:
2 to 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (or try red or new potatoes)
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
Garlic powder or granules, for sprinkling on top
1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
For the Avocado Garlic Aioli:
1 large avocado, halved and pitted
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves or a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1/4 cup soy-free Veganaise (or vegan mayo of choice)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Add potatoes into a large pot and cover with water (do not peel the potatoes). Turn the heat to high. When the water starts to boil, reduce heat slightly, and simmer the potatoes uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, until fork tender. (Another option is to put the potatoes in a bowl of water and microwave them for up to 10 minutes – turning them half way through, until fork-tender.)
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
When the potatoes are fork tender, drain in a colander and cool for 5 minutes or so.
Place the potatoes on a large, lightly greased baking sheet. With the base of a mug or metal measuring cup, “smash” (press down on) each potato until each one is mostly flattened. Some potatoes might break apart a little, but this is totally fine!
Drizzle each potato with about 1 teaspoon of oil and sprinkle on a generous amount of salt and pepper. Finally, sprinkle on some garlic powder.
Roast the potatoes in the oven for 25 to 33 minutes until crispy, golden, and browned on the bottom. Keep an eye on them as cook time will vary depending on the size of your potatoes. I love to roast these until the skins become a deep golden brown and crispy – they are so delicious to eat!
Meanwhile, prepare the Avocado Garlic Aioli: Add garlic into food processor and process until minced. Now add the rest of the aioli ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and sprinkle each with chopped fresh parsley, more sea salt, and pepper. Serve immediately with avocado aioli.
If you have any leftover potatoes, they can be reheated in an oven on a greased baking sheet at 400°F for 6 to 12 minutes, until warmed throughout. The Avocado Garlic Aioli doesn’t heat well (it tends to brown), so I don’t recommend heating it, but serving fresh whenever possible.
Smashed potatoes, frest out of the oven, topped with avocado garlic aioli.