Do you want to include more plant-based meals in your menus? Do you think it is just too hard? Or no one will want to eat the plant-based dishes? I am here to tell you that it is easier than you might think and that you can create meals that are not only tasty, but that will be enjoyable to even the most vegetable averse member of your family.
If you want to see where you are right now, you can take the 4LeafSurvey as an indicator. Once you finish the survey you can select the option to receive a report with some tips.
Start with one meal a day. Diet culture has taught us that we have to do all or nothing, but we don’t. It might feel overwhelming to think about adding more plant based foods to your meals. Summer is the perfect time to start experimenting because we have access to so many fresh foods with wonderful flavors. Look at what is available and see what you can try.
Here are three easy steps to add plant-based options to your daily routine:
- Slice up some greens. Adding a green salad is the easiest addition. You can also steam or saute’ vegetables to add as a side dish. Cut up some raw vegetables to snack on during the day or with a meal.
- Add a side of fresh fruit. A side of fruit can be added to a meal or used as dessert. Look for fresh fruits in season. Fruit like watermelon and bananas can also be easily blended and frozen for a treat.
- Incorporate some beans. Black beans, kidney beans, or chick peas are probably the easiest beans to begin incorporating into your diet. They can be added to salads or soups, for example. If you buy canned varieties, choose the low sodium variety and rinse them before adding them to any dishes.
- Try whole grains. Whole wheat pasta, quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oats are all examples of whole grains that can be added.
There are a few ways you can begin. Get creative and experiment with something new. I’ll be adding more ideas here for adding plant based options to your meals so keep reading!
Some of my fondest memories of childhood are going to the farmers market with my mom. There were rows of produce in baskets, bright colors, and lots of fresh foods. I learned how to pick out melons, how to tell if vegetables were ready to eat, think about how much one stand was charging vs another. I also have fond memories of eating food from family and friend’s gardens. Floyd’s new potatoes and peas, cooked in a white sauce, remains a favorite but I could make an entire list of the foods and flavors I remember. What do you remember?
My Saturday morning routine includes a trip to the Tuscaloosa River Market and often to the Northport Farmer’s Market. The Tuscaloosa River Market runs almost every week of the year, unless there is some special event blocking Jack Warner or it is near a holiday. There is a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and other goods at the River Market. There are small family farms as well as some of the larger organic farms at the market most weekends. Northport is a smaller market but also features more than just vegetables.
I also receive a CSA box every week from Snow’s Bend Farms. Every week is different and it is a creative activity to decide what to make from what is included. I am posting photos of the produce and the results on my Instagram account beginning this week.
My challenge for you is to find a local market and explore the offerings. Try something new. Explore. It’s a grand adventure.
All the homes I have known have been entered through the kitchen. There were alternative entrances, front doors, side doors, other ways to enter the home, but the most common door was the kitchen door, usually with a screen door to let the summer breeze in. The kitchen entrance is the nature of architectural design, but it also the way we welcome others in, where we nourish people with food, conversation, and comfort. The kitchen is the gathering place.
In my family women gathered in the kitchen, though men would often join in as well. Tables were various sizes in our kitchens. Some held large groups while others were smaller for more intimate conversations and sharing. One aunt had a counter where we could pull up a stool so we could watch her cook while she talked and shared memories and recipes. One had a table that was pushed up against the stove. If I sat in the corner, I was engulfed in rich aromas, deep conversation, and laughter for hours. In the home where I grew up my mother gathered her friends and sisters around the gray formica and chrome table. They talked and shared recipes while “Listen to the Mrs.” played on the portable radio in the background. I sat, a silent observer of the life of women.
Kitchens were filled with stories, more than words, the stories were also actions. My mother and aunts were experts at “throwing on a lunch,” the last minute meal when unexpected guests appeared at the kitchen door. Unruffled, these were women who were always prepared with a meal pulled together from the freezer or hot dogs with tails quickly purchased from Mr. Wisneski’s grocery store. It was magic. This was the way they showed love – Aunt Esther’s brownies, Mrs. Holly’s sugar cookies, Mrs. Evan’s rolls, and casseroles. Food was the central symbol of caring. Plans were made, dreams were shared, hurts were comforted, always around the tables of my youth.
These are precious memories from long ago. My kitchen is also a gathering place. I cook and share the space with friends. But our conversations and care go beyond food. We share practices that enrich health and well-being in other ways. Yoga, meditation, writing, art journaling, to name a few. In my gentle warrior’s kitchen we’ll incorporate many ways to care for ourselves. I’m looking forward to hearing your story too.