Go vegan for Earth Week

Image source: Original art by Jen Dolan

My alma mater, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, has long celebrated not just Earth Day, but Earth Week on its campus. I too celebrate Earth Week, and honestly attempt to do right by the planet everyday. While we need far more than the actions of individuals to tackle problems such as climate change, some individual actions really do make a difference. One of the most impactful is to adopt a plant-based diet.

I have been following a mostly plant-based diet for the past several years. Before that, the meat and dairy that I consumed came mostly from small local farms that raise and finish animals on pasture.

Despite having consumed these better-for-you animal products, when I adopted a plant-based diet it had a profound effect on my kidney health. I have stage 3 chronic kidney disease. At the beginning of 2017, my kidneys were failing. After a hospitalization, and quitting some problematic medication, I was recovering, but my levels were not optimal. In September of that year, I switched to a vegan diet. One month later, my kidney levels were so good that my nephrologist had said it looked as though I had never had the kidney problems I exhibited earlier that year.

This year, I am sharing some of my go-to recipes for quick, healthy and tasty vegan dinners that you can enjoy this Earth Week.

Cashew Noodles

Prepare a 16 ounce package of whole wheat spaghetti. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup cashew butter, 1/2 cup warm water, 2 Tbsp. Tamari soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, and 1 Tbsp.minced ginger. Toss sauce mixture with warm pasta. Top with crushed cashews, chopped green onions or chives, and chili flakes. Serves 4-6.

Quick Koshary

Koshary is the national dish of Egypt. It consists of chickpeas, pasta and rice, and is served with a spiced tomato condiment as well as garlic olive oil. My take on the dish makes a hearty vegan meal for two in mere minutes.

Heat Seeds of Change Brown Rice and Quinoa pack in microwave for 90 seconds. Open can of organic chickpeas (I typically go with a store brand), drain and rinse. Heat chickpeas for 2 minutes in microwave safe bowl. Divide beans and grains over two serving dishes. Top with Maya Kaimal spicy ketchup.

Daring Fajitas

The best plant-based chicken substitute I have found is Daring (the opposite of chicken). I purchase this through Sunbasket.

To make some quick and tasty fajitas, I sauté 1 cup of chopped sweet peppers and 1 cup of chopped onions in a little olive oil. Open a pack of Daring and cut into thin strips. Once peppers and onions are soft, add Daring to your pan along with 1/2 Tbsp. cumin, and 1 tsp. Ancho chili powder. Continue to cook until some light browning occurs on the Daring. Remove from heat and serve with warm tortillas and salsa. Serves 2-4.

Tofu scramble

When I found out I was somewhat allergic to chicken eggs, I started experimenting with tofu. A somewhat firm tofu works well for this scramble.

Begin by sautéing vegetables of your choice in a little olive oil. I like to use a little of my frozen kale from last year’s CSA, some new potatoes, and canned black beans (drained and rinsed) for my scrambles. Once vegetables are mostly cooked, open and drain you package of tofu. Break into small pieces to resemble scrambled eggs and season with 1/2 tsp. Indian black salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast, and black pepper to taste. Add a sprinkle of turmeric to add some yellow color. Cook with vegetables until your desired level of doneness. Serve with hot sauce of choice, toast and Earth Balance margarine.

Gardener’s pie

Textured vegetable protein, often sold as TVP, is one of my go-to ingredients. When I ate meat, one of my favorite meals was Shepherd’s pie, made with ground lamb, but Cottage pie, made with ground beef, was almost as good.

While I have experimented with all sorts of different vegetables in this dish, the classic is peas and carrots.

Using a cast iron skillet (or other pan that can go into the oven – I prefer cast iron as it provides dietary iron), sauté 2 cups of carrots with 2 cups of peas in a little olive oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of mushroom broth with 1 cup of TVP. Season TVP mixture with 1 tsp. Thyme, 1 tsp. Oregano, and black pepper to taste. Add TVP to pan with vegetables, stirring frequently. In small pan on stove, prepare instant mashed potatoes using unflavored potato flakes, unsweetened original almond milk, and Earth Balance margarine. As your TVP starts to brown, add 1 cup of mushroom stock to your skillet. Top with mashed potatoes, sprinkle on some nutritional yeast and transfer to preheated oven. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serves 4-6.