by Faith Escher
My primary goal in creating this weekly blog is to empower you to create affordable and healthy meal options and to dispel the myths that eating healthy is expensive and that it is labor intensive. I will do this by providing you with the tools you need to flourish on a dime and in no extra time.
This blog, which is composed of 5 entree recipes that I have collected from various cooking resources such as magazines, websites and my favorite cookbooks, will provide you with a shopping list, price estimate, and the instructions to assemble amazing dinners 5 nights a week. Each weekly blog will build on the previous week, so that you can build or grow your spice and seasoning cabinet as you invest in your kitchen on a weekly basis.
The purpose of a lifestyle change is that it either adds something beneficial or necessary to one’s life, or that it omits something unnecessary or harmful from that person’s life. For me, the concept of a vegan diet was just that, the addition of vegetables that would benefit me, and the omission of animal products, which I was content to live without!
The first three months of eating vegan were pure bliss for me! I felt incredible freedom, confidence, creativity and health. However, after a short time, I lost luster at the discovery that I had willingly traded my freedom for legalism, my confidence for apathy, and my creativity for mundanity. I found that I was saying “no” more often than “yes” and that I was missing time with my loved ones because I was skipping events where food was present; that I was offending people by bringing a small brown bag vegan option for myself instead of participating in a shared meal; and that I was not feeling healthier, because I was always in a hurry and depriving myself of the things I needed most.
When I learned to rephrase my “no” statements by turning them into creative “yes” statements (choosing things that I could do), I started to bring a plant based dish to shared meals, and I began to take the time I needed to be aware and knowledgeable about my food choices. In this way, I quickly regained a happier constitution.
As you begin this journey for the first time, or as you continue this journey with a fresh perspective, I want to encourage you to use this blog as a resource, and not as a list of rules to follow. I am excited to step back into a world of vegan recipes with a transparent budget and authentic lifestyle; thank you for joining me!
Total Budget: $100 or less
All recipes serve 4
NOTE: Garlic (2) = how many recipes the ingredient garlic is used in. For example, “Garlic (2)” means we will be using garlic in two of our recipes for this week.
The Shopping List For All 5 Dinners
- 1 Large or 2 small garlic bulbs – $1 at $0.50 cents each (2)
- Small stub of ginger root – $0.50 cents at $3.99/lb (1)
- Dijon mustard – $2.49 (2)
- 1 Bag of Farro or substitute for grain of choice – $2.99 a bag (1) *brown rice is a good gluten free option as a substitute.
- 1 Lime – $0.39 cents each (1)
- 4 Portobello mushrooms – $3.99 – $6.00 (1) *buy for the number of people you are feeding
- 2 Sweet potatoes – $2 at $1 each (1)
- 1 Bag of brussel sprouts – $2.49 a bag (1)
- 2 small bags of cubed butternut squash or 1 whole large butternut squash – $4.98 (2)
- Green onion – $1 per bunch (2)
- 2 White onions – $2 ($0.99 cents each) (1)
- 3 Golden delicious apples – $2.50 at $0.50 cents to $1 each (1)
- Balsamic vinegar – $2.59 – $4.99 per bottle (2)
- Fresh mint leaves – $4 per large value pack or 2 small boxes at $2.29 each (4)
- 4 large shallots – $2.99 – $3.49 (1)
- 1 large bag of golden potatoes – $3.49 – $5 *2 and a half lbs (2)
- 2-3 Lemons – $1.50 – $2 at $0.39 cents each (3) *Save zest for soup (1)
- 1 Carton of vegetable broth – $2.99 each (1)
- 1 Bottle of Sriracha – $3.49 (1)
- 1 small bag of pumpkin seeds (½ cup needed) – $1 – $2.99 (1)
- 1 2lb bag of carrots – $1.99 a bag (2)
- 1 Cup of bean sprouts – $0.99 – $1.69 a bag (1)
- 1 Bin or bag of spinach leaves – $5.00 (2)
- Salt and Pepper shakers – $3.49 (2)
- Ground Coriander spice -$3.99 (1)Ground Cumin spice – $4.99 (1)
$65 – $80.00 *Prices may fluctuate depending on tax, store, sale and season. I paid $68.84 this week.
If you followed us last week you already have the following; however, if this is your first week you will need to make these additional purchases ($10.07) or substitute with ingredients you have in your cupboard.
- Crushed red pepper flakes – $2.99 for spice container (1)
- Olive oil – $3.99 for 12 oz container (4)
- Real maple syrup or agave – $3.99 for small bottle (3)
- Quick Cook Steal Cut Oats – $3.99
- Apples *instead of buying only three apples, buy a large bag and use them for breakfast
- Bag of clementines – $5.00 per bag
- Sweet potatoes – $1 each
- Note: Use your extra veggies and spinach to make a salad throughout the week.
- Coffee – $5 bag
- Hazelnut milk – $2.50 per carton
Increases the necessity budget by $17.49
*Tax not included, prices may fluctuate depending on store, sale and season.
Recipe No. 1
Spicy Asian Spinach Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds | Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Source: The Vegetarian Times | Link to Source: Vegetariantimes.com from magazine Janurary/Februrary 2011 pg. 70
See instructions below ingredient list:
- 4 Cups of baby spinach leaves
- 1 Cup of sprouts
- 1 Cup of grated carrots
- ½ Cup toasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas
- 2 Green onions
- ¼ Cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
- 1Tbs. Lime juice
- 1Tbs. Olive oil (canola oil used in original recipe)
- ½ tsp. sriracha chile sauce
- ¼ tsp. grated fresh ginger
- Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions: “Stack 5 or 6 spinach leaves and roll stack lengthwise into tight cylinder. Cut crosswise in fine slices. Repeat with remaining spinach leaves. Transfer into large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired […] add spinach in bowl along with the sprouts, carrots, pumpkin seeds, green onion, and mint leaves. Add dressing, and toss to coat.”
Note: The original recipe was vegetarian and included eggs. When I first started eating vegan, I religiously stuck to recipes and I felt like I couldn’t use any of my vegetarian recipes anymore because so many of them included things like eggs, cheese, and honey. Now; however, I have gained confidence and have become very comfortable with omitting or substituting ingredients and have found that when I leave out one simple ingredient, the entree becomes vegan and is still absolutely delicious!
Recipe No. 2
Roasted Butternut Squash, Apple and Farro Chowder | Cook Time: 45 minutes-1 hour
Source: Vegetarian Times | Link to Source: Vegetariantimes.com September 2011 pg. 59See
Instructions below ingredient list:
- 1 ½ lb peeled butternut squash, diced (4 cups)
- 4 tablespoons Olive oil (canola oil used in original recipe)
- 3 large jonagold or golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large cubes
- 1 cup cooked shallots (4 large)
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. coriander
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2/3 cup semi-pearled farro (Easily substituted for brown rice or quinoa)
- 2 tbs. fresh mint
- ½ tsp. grated lemon zest
Instructions: “1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss squash with 2 Tbs. oil in bowl, and season with salt if desired. Arrange squash in single layer on prepared baking sheet, and apples in single layer on other. Roast squash 32-36 minutes, or until tender and browned on bottoms. Roast apples 22 to 24 minutes, or until brown. 2. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbs. oil in Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add shallots, and season with salt, if desired. Cover and cook 10 minutes, or until shallots are shrunken, stirring occasionally. Add cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes, and season with salt if desired. Cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add farro and 8 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 25 minutes or until farro is tender. Stir in squash and apples and remove from heat. Stir in 1 Tbs. mint and ¼ tsp. of lemon zest.”
Note: Farro is a new and exciting ingredient that I have only recently discovered, in fact, this was my first time using it! It is an ancient whole grain that can be used in any recipe where you might use rice or quinoa if you are looking for a new flavor. It is nutty in flavor and chewy in texture, so it makes a delicious addition to vegetable soups. It is important to note, that though it is high in protein like quinoa and high in fiber like brown rice, it is unlike rice and quinoa in that farro is NOT gluten free. If your diet is gluten free, you can easily substitute for brown rice in this recipe.
Recipe No. 3
Spinach Salad with Lemon and Mint | Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Source: Cooking: The New York Times | Instructions in link:
- 1 lemon
- ⅓ cup fresh mint leaves, finely sliced, more for garnish
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces baby spinach leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Note: This meal is as simple as it is delicious! Since this meal has the fastest cook time, I suggest saving this meal for a night that you are running from school to a meeting and don’t have a lot of spare time, or maybe saving it for a time that you had a big lunch and want a low maintenance and light healthy dinner.
Recipe No. 4
Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Glaze | Cook Time: 45 Minutes to 1 Hour
Source: Trisha Yearwood at Food Network | Recipe courtesy: Trisha Yearwood | Show: Trisha’s Southern Kitchen | Episode: A Romantic Dinner
Instructions in link:
- 1/3 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey [*substitute for agave or maple or whatever you have on hand]
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper [*any salt and pepper will do]
- 2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into quarters
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
- ½ lb carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1-inch slices
- ½ lb fingerling potatoes, halved [I used golden potatoes]
- 1 head garlic cloves separated and left unpeeled
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Note: Roasted veggies are my favorite comfort food and I love sitting down to a big bowl of them on a night in. To me, roasted veggies with their various flavors, textures, nutritional benefits are a complete meal, but I understand that some people see them as more of a side dish. If roasted veggies feel incomplete in and of themselves to you, you can put them over rice or farro for a bowl or use some of the leftover spinach to add some greens and turn those veggies into a salad.
Recipe No. 5
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Balsamic & Lemon Potato Salad with Mint
Part 1: Mushrooms with Balsamic | Cook Time: 35-50 Minutes
Source: Food Network | Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli | Show: Alex’s Day Off | Episode: Vegetarian Delights
Instructions in link:
- 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 large portobello mushrooms, wiped of any dirt, washed and quickly dried, if necessary
Part 2: Lemon Potato Salad With Mint | Cook time: 45 Minutes
Source: Cooking New York Times | Recipe Courtesy: Melissa Clark
Instructions in link:
- 2 pounds small waxy white or yellow potatoes, roughly about the same size
- Juice of 1 lemon, more for serving
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts, more for serving
- ¼ cup torn mint leaves, more for serving
- ¼ teaspoon Turkish pepper, more for serving [I used black pepper]
Note: Not all of the recipes in this weekly blog are original; rather, they will be collected to form a weekly mosaic of my favorite recipes from cookbooks, blogs, vegan websites and a few creations from my own kitchen. This week, all recipes are gathered from magazines and websites and were created by brilliant chefs. I do not own the rights to these recipes.
As you begin a new year, here are a few ideas on how to keep your vegan journey joyful without picking up any extra baggage along the way:
1. Remember not to feel confined to eating the meals in the order that I arranged them. Since you know your schedule best, review the recipes and the cook time and make your foodie plans accordingly. This blog is meant to be an asset to your life rather than a burden.
For example, if Wednesday night is a busy night for you, plan ahead and arm yourself with an easy recipe on that night.
2. Remember that eating is always our choice! While eating vegan is a noble one, sometimes we may feel confined by our diet, or guilty when we say no to the food that someone has offered to share with us (especially if it does not fit into our plant based diet). I encourage you to allow freedom to be your prerogative, and graciousness to be your pursuit.
For example, your friends ask if you want to go get ice cream. Instead of saying no, suggest a healthy juicery or tea shop nearby instead.
3. Remember that you can use this blog even if you are not a vegan! There is absolutely no harm in adding vegetables to your diet. If you are not a vegan, you can use these entrees as sides or commit to eating plant based 2-3 days a week!
For example, there are 5 dinner entrees, pick your three favorite and be creative the rest of the week!
Enjoy your cooking, and remember to live in freedom, confidence, joy and health, and to know that your food is your fuel to the life that you’ve dreamed of.
Guarnaschelli, A.. (2010, November 7). Vegetarian Delights [Television episode]. In Food
Network (Producer), Alex’s Day Off. New York, NY: The Food Network.
Lawson, N. (N/A). Spinach Salad With Lemon and Mint. Retrieved from Cooking.nytimes.com
The Vegetarian Times. (2011, January/February). Spicy Asian Spinach Salad with Toasted
Pumpkin Seeds. The Vegetarian Times, 70.
The Vegetarian Times. (2011, September). Roasted Butternut Squash, Apple and Farro
Chowder. The Vegetarian Times, 59. Retrieved
Yearwood, T. (2014, November 8). A Romantic Dinner [Television episode]. In Food Network
(Producer), Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. New York, NY: Food Network.