5 of My Favorite Easy Vegetarian Dinners

I’m a big believer in meal planning. It saves time, money, and—above all—my sanity when I’m trying to feed my family well in the midst of parenting four children in three different schools, running my own business, and being in grad school!

Having a few go-to meals that I can either prep ahead of time or whip up in a heartbeat are life savers during our family’s busiest seasons. Here are five of my favorite vegetarian options:

TACO BOWLS (VEGAN).

When I tell my kids we’re having taco bowls for dinner, they all erupt into a cheer. My family loooooooves taco bowls, and I love serving them! Here’s what’s involved:

  • Cooked rice (white or brown). I cook large batches of rice in my Instant Pot and freeze it in family sized portions—usually 6-8 cups cooked. It microwaves well and is ready in about ten minutes or so.
  • Tomatoes, chopped.
  • Lettuce, chopped.
  • Cilantro, chopped.
  • Avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Black beans or pinto beans. I cook large batches of beans in my Instant Pot and freeze them in family sized portions—usually 4-6 cups. I follow this recipe, which is delicious.
  • Shredded cheese (if you are vegan, Daiya makes a great cheddar flavored vegan “cheese.” I buy a lot of this when it’s on sale and keep it in the freezer.)
  • Taco sauce.
  • Meatless crumbles cooked with taco seasoning (optional).

Everyone gets a bowl with a scoop of rice. The rest of the ingredients are in bowls on the table. The kids love assembling their own taco bowls!

CHICKPEA STEW (VEGAN)

I can whip up this simple stew from the blog “Healthier Steps” in about ten or fifteen minutes. (I usually double the recipe for our family of six.) I also make large batches and freeze it, pull it out in the morning and it’s ready to heat up for dinner.

I serve it with quinoa, rice, or another grain (like farrow or barley), which I can cook pretty quickly in my Instant Pot or cook and freeze to thaw out in the morning with the stew.

My five-year-old daughter calls this her “Favorite Stew.”

VEGAN BURGERS WITH CORN ON THE COB

My favorite summer fare! We have some variation of this at least once a week when it’s corn season. I can make this meal in around thirty-five minutes or so. It’s a family favorite as well.

  • Meatless patties. We love these options from Simple Truth. I buy them on sale and keep them in the freezer. For a soy-free option, we sometimes use Carla Lee’s Nut Burgers. (Honestly, my kids are not as crazy about those, but if you need a soy-free option, that’s one to try. I’m sure there are others!)
  • Hamburger buns.
  • Corn on the cob with the husks on (one per person, or more if y’all love corn as much as we do!)
  • Watermelon, whole. You can save yourself even more time and effort by buying watermelon already sliced, but a) I’m too cheap for that, and b) it never tastes as fresh/good if it’s been pre-cut, IMO.

Turn oven to 350. Trim ends of corn husks and place them all directly on an oven rack. Set timer for 13 minutes.

Place meatless patties on baking sheet. When timer goes off, set it again for twenty minutes and place the patties in the oven with the corn.

Meanwhile, put the buns and condiments (ketchup, butter*, etc.) on the table. Slice your watermelon and put it on a platter or in a bowl on the table as well.

When the timer goes off, turn off the oven. Remove the corn and, wearing oven gloves to keep your hands from burning, remove the husks. Pull out the patties and place them either on a plate on the table, or you can plate the buns and patties individually.

BAKED PASTA (CAN BE VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN)

This is a great alternative to lasagne. It’s the same basic premise, but with a lot less work!

  • Cooked pasta (rigatoni works well, but any cooked pasta will do.)
  • Two regular jars or one large jar of marinara sauce of your choice.
  • Vegan meatballs. (I always have at least two bags of Gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs in my freezer.)
  • Ricotta cheese (if you’re not vegan)
  • Shredded cheese (asiago, parmesan, or mozzarella work best. If you are vegan, Daiya makes a decent mozzarella substitute.)
  • Optional veggies: mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, etc.

Turn oven on to 350. Place cooked pasta across bottom of a baking dish. Place vegan meatballs and any veggies you’re using across on top of the pasta. Place dollops of ricotta over the veggies/meatballs. Pour sauce over the whole dish, making sure to cover meatballs and veggies. Sprinkle shredded cheese over that and bake for about twenty minutes.

GRAIN BOWLS (VEGAN)

  • Cooked grain (rice, quinoa, farrow, barley)
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato, baked in oven or microwave and then cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Black beans (canned or made in Instant Pot)
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Other optional veggies: shredded cabbage (purple is my favorite), sprouts, steamed broccoli, spinach, sliced or shredded carrots, chopped bell peppers, black olives, artichoke hearts—the sky’s the limit!
  • Vegan Ranch Salad Dressing

This is such an easy and beautiful meal to throw together. It’s the same concept as Taco Bowls, but with different ingredients. Place 1/2 cup to 1 cup of a cooked grain into bowls. Place 1-2 T of avocado, 2-4 T of sweet potato, 1/2 cup of black beans, 1/2 cup of tomatoes, and any other veggies over the grain. Drizzle 1-2 T of ranch dressing over the whole thing. So simple, so nutritious, and so delicious!

These are simple, fast meals that I go to frequently during busy seasons of life. What are some of yours?

12 Verses for Families

Our family holds a weekly Family Meeting. It’s one of our favorite things to do as a family and so much good comes of it! I go into great detail in this video if you want to know more about how we do it.

One of the things we do each week is read a passage of scripture from the Bible and discuss it as a family. We ask, “What does this look like for me? What does this look like in our family? What does this teach us about God? What does this teach us about ourselves?”

Here is a list of twelve verses/passages for families to use that focus on building faith, character, inter-personal relations, peacemaking efforts, and more. The Bible is full of rich wisdom, encouraging truth and practical tips for success in relationships, career and personal growth—these are just to get your family started!

  1. Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (ESV)
  2. Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (NIV)
  3. Philippians 4:6 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT)
  4. 1 John 4:7 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (ESV)
  5. Psalm 3:3 – “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (ESV)
  6. Psalm 18:2-3 – “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (NIV)
  7. Micah 6:8 – “The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.” (CEV)
  8. Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (ESV)
  9. Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Int he same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
  10. Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
  11. Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)
  12. Romans 12:9-10 – “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 1Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

My Encouragement for the New Year: GET OUT!

My Encouragement for the New Year: “GET OUT!”

As in, get outside! And get your kids outside! Every day!

When stress mounts and tension rises, it’s tempting to want to hunker down and self soothe with things like television, food, video games, or Facebook escapism 😳 Believe me, I totally get it.

But here’s the thing, none of the above actually helps deal with stress or lift the tension. Instead, it just makes it worse.

But you know what does help with stress and tension? Fresh Air! Exercise! Playing!

Several years ago, I made it a practice to make sure my kids got outside every day for at least a little bit of exertion. If I’m honest, it was in response to a child we had who was labeled “ADHD.” I was convinced he just needed more exercise. 😜 I have since come to terms with the fact that ADHD is a real struggle for some kids and exercise, while vital, is not “the solution.”

However, I have seen time and again how getting outside and heading to a playground or taking a walk can be a turning point for my own mental health and that of my kids.

So this year… 2018… commit with me to GET OUT EVERY DAY! Take your kids on a walk, a hike in the woods, bike rides, collecting rocks to paint, doing yard work together, checking out all the playgrounds in your area. Maybe get an inexpensive camera and let them take pictures of things they see outside. Play the “what shape do you see in the clouds?” game. Keep the crusts they don’t eat and bring them to the park to feed birds. The possibilities are endless!

Will they still bicker? Yes. Will they complain about it? Yup. Might they fight over who gets which this or that [fill in the blank]? Of course! But that’s beside the point.

As foster parents, we are teaching kids a new culture, planting seeds of healthy emotional engagement and healthy living.

Model making “getting outside” a normal part of daily life. You never know… it just might stick with them for the rest of their lives! And I promise… it will be good for YOU too.

Happy New Year, Friends!!! Here’s to a healthy 2018! 🎉👏💪🙏🏻