Simplifying plant-based recipes

I’m all for plant-based eating, whether or not you’re officially vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian. What I’m opposed to is the idea that this sort of diet is really complicated, requiring special kitchen gadgets, gourmet cooking skills and expensive ingredients. There are plenty of examples of these sorts of recipes floating around the internet. They sound lovely, if only someone else would prepare them and then clean up the kitchen.

I rarely follow recipes to the letter, preferring to adapt them to make them easier, more practical and less expensive whenever possible. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Sesame Peanut-Sweet Potato Noodles

This recipe is from registered dietitian Anne Danahy, MS RDN, who contributes to Food and Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup Blog. It’s vegan, and you can boost the protein by adding some tofu chunks to the mix. That’s easy to do; what about the rest of the recipe?

First you’re supposed to spiralize 2 peeled sweet potatoes. That means you own a spiralizer, a gadget that slices vegetables into long noodle shapes. Zucchini is another popular vegetable to spiralize. But what if you don’t want another gadget taking up space on your counter. Or another gadget you have to clean?

photo by Marco Verch via flickr

There are several possible solutions. The easiest one is to buy spiralized sweet potato noodles, if you can find them. Or just use regular noodles: lo mein would work, or even regular pasta like linguini. Another option: instead of sweet potato noodles, just peel sweet potatoes and cut into match sticks.

If you use pasta or match stick potatoes, pre-cook them. The match stick potatoes can be cooked briefly, in boiling water. You want them to hold together with a firm texture, like al dente pasta. Maybe 3-4 minutes, depending on how thin you cut them. Cook the pasta to al dente, or whatever you prefer. Drain in a sieve and run cold water over them to stop the cooking.

The other ingredients are:

  • scallions
  • Thai basil: nice if you have it, but regular basil is fine too
  • cilantro
  • peanuts: preferably roasted without salt
  • creamy peanut butter: I’d always use natural-style peanut butter
  • low sodium soy sauce: regular soy sauce is fine
  • rice vinegar
  • sugar
  • chili paste: it’s easy to fine, but if you don’t have it, cayenne pepper to taste, or some other ground hot chili or hot sauce will work
  • sesame oil
  • canola or olive oil: I’d use canola. Olive oil isn’t an Asian flavor
  • minced garlic: fresh is best
  • minced ginger: I’d just use dry, unless you have fresh around
  • broccoli florets: the recipe only calls for 3/4 cup, which seems woefully inadequate in my opinion. I’d use 2-3 cups, for the color and the nutrition

I’m not going to rehash the recipe. Check out the link for the instructions and ingredient amounts. If you add lots of broccoli, then this can be a one-pot meal. In which case, I do recommend adding chunks of firm tofu at the end to boost protein.

Take Away Message

Adapting plant-based recipes to make them less fussy is easy. I do it all the time. A plant-based diet should not be complicated!

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