Plant-based Meal Planning for Beginners: 10 Easy Steps

When I first stared to transition my diet to being more plant based, I admit, I felt a little lost. It seemed daunting! I was so used to choosing a meat and a couple side dishes to go with it. But without meat, where do I even begin? Overtime I have found staple recipes that are easy to whip up and that my family loves. But cooking a whole foods, plant-based diet is sometimes more time consuming than the standard american diet because I’m often making more from scratch than I would have in the past.

I am about 6 years into my plant-based journey and recently started efficiently meal planning. I had never really found a successful way to meal plan before, and the way I have figured out how to do it now is much more efficient. Keep in mind, this is just one way to do it and this is what works best for me! There may be something totally different that works for you, and that’s OK! I love to meal plan Saturday, shop and prep Sunday, and begin Sunday night.

Here are the basics of how I meal plan for the week:

Step 1.  Clean out anything old and expired from your fridge

NO ONE likes a dirty fridge. Go through and toss anything expired, older than you remember, and get rid of junk! After that, give it a quick wipe down. I promise you that you’ll feel so good afterwards! Oh, and yes, I did say TOSS the junk! Even if said junk is good, toss it. Your health is more important! Here’s a list of common food additives to avoid if you need some inspiration:  Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid

Step 2. Take inventory and organize your fridge 

I have found that I am so much more willing to prep food for the week and store it in the fridge if my fridge is clean and ready to go. In the past, I found that a disorganized fridge was really frustrating to maneuver throughout the week. However, a clean and organized fridge is so much more inviting and once you have shopped and prepped your food, it’s fun to put it in your fresh fridge! Think that’s loony tunes? Try it. Then come chat!

Step 3: Consult your calendar and figure out which days you’ll need to make dinner, which would be better for a leftovers night, and which you’ll eat out 

This was my area of downfall. I am a spontaneous (and ADD) mother who – is that a squirrel? – you get the point. Planning ahead and foresight are NOT my strong suits! I have to make an effort to make my life run even somewhat smoothly and for me a tangible way to do this is getting my calendar involved with the meal plan. This one is probably a “Duh” moment for most people, but there was a time I planned Lasagna for a night I had an outing to go to and instead I was left scrambling for something faster, so, I thought I’d better mention it. Now, I consult my calendar! For example: this coming week I have a bible study on Tuesday night, so Monday night I planned to make Lasagna! Lasagna is the perfect day before meal to make because the leftovers the next day are JUST as delicious. So the night of bible study I’ll just have to warm up some dinner and we’re good to go!

Step 4. Recipe choosing tips: Choose recipes revolving around what you already have, recipes that make sense, recipes that you can easily make extra of, and recipes that have shared ingredients  

This is something else that didn’t come naturally to me. I originally just started finding recipes that sounded good without taking much else into consideration. Now, I take inventory and see what main ingredients I have and go recipe hunting based off of that! This is a money saver to use what you already have. I also tend to try and make recipes that make good leftovers. We like to eat leftovers for lunches, and sometimes dinner the next night. It’s an easy way to make sure you’re eating well with doing less cooking.

Step 5. Adopt the “make it once, use it twice!” motto and have fun!

Another time saving trick I love to do is my “make it once, use it twice” motto. One example of how I do this is on my prepping day, I’ll make a salad dressing I can use throughout the week. Another way is my cashew cream sauce. I love cashew cream and I make so many things with it! I start by making cashew sour cream and I store it in the fridge. I use it as a topping for multiple meals, I add it to lentil noodles with almond milk & nutritional yeast for my toddler, I’ve added it to marinara to make creamy vodka sauce, and I’ve even made it into a cool ranch dip by adding herbs and garlic. Soak the nuts once, make the cream once, and use it twice (or more times)!

Step 6. Create a master grocery list of items you’re missing from each recipe

Go through the recipes one by one and write out which items you don’t have, take that to the store and you’ll have what you need for the week! I tend to write the groceries into categories of the store, so when I go to the store, I can be efficient and get all the produce, then dry good, etc and my list is more visually organized.

Step 7. Go grocery shopping

Go, go go! Don’t forget to have fun. You might be buying some brand new ingredients! Congratulations on taking this step to taking better control of your overall wellness.

Step 8. Come home and organize your fridge so during the week, things are easy to find. 

Unload and organize your fridge. Make it presentable, it doesn’t need to be rocket science, but having a good looking and highly functional fridge will be super helpful to your motivation & success throughout the week.

Step 9. Prep as much ahead of time as you can

I love to prep ahead of time. Look at your recipes and see if there are any veggies or fruit you could wash and store ahead of time. What would make your life easier in the long run? One thing I always try to prep are my greens. I have found that I am WAY more likely to eat more greens if they’re already washed and ready for me to eat. I love to wash my romaine lettuce and kale, dry in a salad spinner, and store in a freezer bag. I also do this with my cilantro! Did you know that cilantro is one of those herbs that goes bad in the blink of an eye? You can prolong it’s life by simply rinsing it thoroughly, wrapping in a paper towel, and sticking that inside a freezer bag in your fridge. Mine lasts up to two weeks this way beautifully.

Step 10. Set reminders for yourself if you need to do any day before prep

I am useless without lists and reminders. I have recently began utilizing alarms and reminders in my phone more often lately and I love it! I’ve become so much more efficient. Some ideas on how to use alarms and reminders to help your meal plan be a success would be: Look at your recipes, set alarms on your phone for each day to start cooking. How long will each recipe take you? Set an alarm for when you should start cooking based off of what time you want dinner on the table. Another recommendation, look at the recipes and make sure any day before prep is done and set an alarm for that if you need to! For example, some of my recipes call for soaking cashews ahead of time. I love to soak them overnight in the fridge to make super creamy sour cream! So I love to set an alert for the day before to make sure my cashews get soaked.

You can do this!! 

I know it might seem like a lot, but it’s pretty simple! A little planning ahead can make everything run so much more smoothly during the week. Also, I am sure that most of you aren’t nearly as scatter brained as I can tend to be so you may not need the reminders and alarms like I do, and that’s awesome!! Skip over those steps. This is to make your life easier, so do what works best for your family. If you’re just starting out, you can try this plan or another one and then adjust to your needs as time goes on. Either way, happy meal planning and I am so excited for you embarking on this journey toward better health!

 

Enchiladas Two Ways – Chicken & Vegetarian

In our home, we all love to add our own spin to things! Everyone is different and I love to embrace those differences and offer a variety of fun ways to eat the same dish, whether it be different toppings, sides, or sauces!

This set of enchilada recipes will offer a shredded chicken and vegetarian variety.

**Disclaimer**

I am terrible with measurements! I will mostly give approximations. But have hope! My motto is when you’re using quality and delicious ingredients, its almost impossible to have the dish not turn out deliciously! Happy cooking!

Shredded Chicken n’ Cheese Enchiladas – Makes 6-8 Enchiladas

1 Rotisserie Chicken, Shredded

6-8 Soft Taco Sized Flour Tortillas

1 Bottle of Enchilada Sauce (I used the Trader Joe’s Sauce)

2-3 Cups (ish) Shredded Cheddar-Jack Cheese, plus more for on top

Topping Ideas: We did shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, avocado, Mexican cotija cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, cilantro, and hot sauce

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Earlier in the day, to save time, I shredded the chicken. But you can do this now if you like. I shredded just the breasts but you can use the dark meat as well if you prefer. I saved the legs, wings, and thighs for another meal.

Shredded Chicken

Get a baking dish of your choice, I used 9×13. Put about 2/3 cup of sauce in the bottom of the tray. Take a tortilla, and using a basting brush I brushed sauce onto one side. Now, if you want to speed this up and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, go ahead and just lay the tortilla down in the sauce to make sure one side is coated. Once the one side is coated, I put shredded cheese and chicken inside, then rolled it up. Repeat this process until your pan is full of delicious enchiladas! At the end, add the remainder of the sauce over all the enchiladas and top with cheese. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Enchilada Prep

Here they are ready to go in the oven:

Enchiladas Ready for the Oven

The finished product with all the toppings:

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce

Quinoa & Spinach Enchiladas with Cilantro, Lime, & Avocado Salsa Verde Sauce

1/2 Bag of Frozen Quinoa & Vegetables from Trader Joe’s **You can substitute this out for just regular cooked quinoa, follow instructions on the bag).

1/2 Jar of Cowboy Caviar from Trader Joe’s **It’s just a spicy black bean and corn salsa, you can omit or add regular corn, salsa, and/or black beans!**

6-8 Whole Wheat tortillas

1 Medium Onion, Caramelized

2-3 Cups Spinach

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

For the Salsa Verde Sauce: 

2 Jars of Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde

1.5 Cups Cilantro

Juice of One Lime

1/2 Avocado **Adds a lovely creamy texture to the sauce and thickens it**

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop and sauté onions until they are cooked to your liking and/or caramelized. Next, add the quinoa, garlic powder, and cowboy caviar.

Quinoa & Veggies Cooking

While this is cooking, I made the sauce! To your blender or food processor, add the salsa verde, cilantro, lime, and avocado.

Salsa Verde Sauce

At the very end, add the spinach to the sauté mixture in the pan. I only cook this briefly as it will all finish cooking in the oven.

Spinach added to Quinoa

Get a baking dish of your choice, I used 9×13. Put about 2/3 cup of sauce in the bottom of the tray.

Sauce going into tray

Take a tortilla, and using a basting brush I brushed sauce onto one side. Now, if you want to speed this up and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, go ahead and just lay the tortilla down in the sauce to make sure one side is coated. Once the one side is coated, I put quinoa and vegetable mixture, then rolled it up. Repeat this process until your pan is full of delicious enchiladas! At the end, add the remainder of the sauce over all the enchiladas and top with cheese.

Filling for Quinoa & Spinach Enchiladas

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Ready to go into the oven:

Enchiladas Two Ways

The finished product!

Quinoa & Spinach Enchiladas

Ideas and Things to Note:

We served these with black beans, but you could do refried beans, pinto beans, or Spanish rice! 

If you wanted to make the veggie enchiladas vegan and gluten free, you could use a vegan cheese and corn tortillas! Enchiladas are SO versatile and easy to make. 

This made a lot for the two of us but we are lovers of leftovers so I was happy to make two full trays! Hope you enjoy these recipes. If you give them a try, I’d love to hear how it went!

Blessings,

K

Roasted Root Vegetable Breakfast Bowls

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Roasted vegetables are a basic staple in our home. There are many variations I like to prepare depending on what we have on hand in the house. We actually LOVE to eat this type of meal for dinner! Breakfast for dinner is one of my favorite things. Also, another thing to note: often times you will see various ways to eat the same recipe. That is because my husband and I often like things served differently with different toppings! He’s more of a “ranch and white bread” type, which is perfectly OK, and I’m a little more adventurous with my palate.  You will see multiple ways to eat my recipes and I hope you find something you’ll enjoy. 

Sausage & Veggie Breakfast Bowl

Roasted Root Vegetable Breakfast Bowls

– Serves 2 Adults, Bakes at 375 degrees for 30 Minutes

Ingredients:

3-4 Eggs, however many each person wants

1 Medium Sweet Potato, peeled & cubed

1 Medium Sweet Onion, cut into 4-6 pieces

2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled & cubed

3 Carrots, peeled and cut into medium sticks

2 cups Broccoli, chopped into florets

1 Medium Lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Seasonings: Equal parts thyme, rosemary, smoked paprika, curry powder, garlic, celery salt, and pepper – I lightly dusted each one over the baking tray of root vegetables, then mixed.

**Optional Ingredients/Toppings** – Grape tomatoes, shredded cheese, breakfast sausages, green onions, avocado, hot sauce or salsa

If you have never tried smoked paprika, I highly recommend it! It has become one of my favorite spices, especially when roasting vegetables. It adds a subtle smoky flavor that is out of this world! I also have grown to really love curry powder in my dishes, even when I am not making curry. I have found it adds a subtle touch of sweetness and a boost of great flavor. It may seem odd to regularly add curry to things but it really pairs nicely with the other seasonings. I love both of these flavors, especially together.

Preparation & Cooking:

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To start out, I arranged the vegetables on the cutting board and took a pretty picture – I mean, I laid them out and began to peel and chop them! Hehe. Anyway, after peeling and chopping I usually would add all of the veggies into a freezer bag with olive oil to be tossed around and then coated in the spice mixture. However, I am out of freezer bags so tonight I did all my mixing and seasoning on the baking sheets directly. This way is a little more work but less of a waste of freezer bags so that’s a plus!

Root Vegetables

I keep the broccoli separate from the root vegetables until the end. I do this for two reasons: 1. To create depth of flavor in the end dish. I took the broccoli and tossed them in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, celery salt & pepper. The lemon juice adds a lovely freshness and tang to the dish and another layer of flavor. I love cooking with lemons! 2. I hate mushy broccoli! It is very important to me to maintain the crunchy integrity of the broccoli and I quickly roast them at the end. This means, once the root vegetables are almost done, I put the broccoli in for about 8-10 minutes. Now, if you like your broccoli cooked more, I would turn down the oven temperature to 350 and bake them longer. I prefer a higher temp as to roast the outside of the broccoli yet still leave it crisp and intact. I have thought a lot about broccoli, can you tell?

I love Broccoli

For the root vegetables, after they’re coated in the olive oil and spice mixture, they go into the oven at 375 for 30 minutes, turning them every 10 minutes so they roast evenly. After 20 minutes of roasting, I put the broccoli into the oven and let them roast as the root vegetables finish up. While these two things are happening, you know, the magic in the oven, I cooked two sausage links for my husband and over medium eggs for the both of us.

Roasted Lemon Garlic Broccoli

Roasted Root Vegetables

After assembling this glorious mixture of vegetables, they get topped with whatever toppings of your choice! Tonight, for the mister, he enjoyed his bowl with chopped pork breakfast sausage, cheese, and two over medium eggs. For me, I went a little light and just had one egg over medium with chopped grape tomatoes. Usually, I’ll add avocado, green onions, hot sauce, and a zesty southwestern sauce I make (I’ll post the recipe on another page..it is AMAZING!). Get creative! But the base of this recipe is just so, so satisfying!

Here it is, breakfast bowls two ways:

Breakfast Bowls Two Ways

I hope you enjoy it! Let me know.

Best wishes,

K