Quick Black Bean Tostadas

Quick meals are a staple of a busy life.  Even before Trey arrived I liked to have a few meals planned for the week that took less than 30 minutes to get on the table.  Once he arrived it felt like all meals needed to be quick!  Over the years I have built up my repertoire of quick vegan meals.  Which is a good thing because now that we have added sports practices and homework to our plate, weeknight meals have to be fast and easy.  I came across a recipe for tostadas in our newspaper awhile ago and decided that a veganized version would make a filling, flavorful and fast meal.  The tostadas start with a crispy tortilla spread with black beans and topped with a salad tossed with a refreshing lime dressing.

TostadaThe newspaper recipe showed me how to create the crispy tortilla base in the oven with just a little oil.  In my case I use canola oil spray.  Once you spray the tortillas with canola oil on the top they go in the oven for 12-15 minutes and come out nice and crispy.  Make sure they are very crispy when they come out of the oven.  They don’t get any crispier as they cool, so if they are a bit flexible when they come out of the oven they will not be completely crispy when it is time to serve.

TortillasWhile the tortillas bake I work on making the black bean base.  The base is a mix of canned black beans, salsa and a bit of water.  For this recipe I used the Hatch Valley Salsa from Trader Joe’s.  We are loving this salsa these days.  It is very spicy and I love that it is shelf stable.  I buy a few jars at a time and store them in the pantry.

TJ SalsaI take 1/2 cup of the salsa and add it to a small pan with a can of drained black beans and 1/4 cup of water. The beans cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Beans before cookingAfter cooking for 10 minutes the beans are very soft and the salsa has cooked down a bit.  At this point you can smash the beans down to whatever texture you like with a spatula or wooden spoon.  In my case I like them to have some texture, but be spreadable.  You will be spreading them on top of the crisp tortillas so you don’t want the individual beans rolling around.

Cooked BeansWhile the beans and tortilla are cooking you can get the salad ready.  I place thinly sliced romaine hearts, sliced onions and minced cilantro in a large bowl.  The dressing is just lime juice, olive oil, agave nectar, salt and pepper.

Salad ToppingOnce the salad is tossed it is time to assemble the tostada.  Spread the black beans on the crisp tortillas.  Top each tortilla with salad and sliced avocados.  Of course skip the avocado for anyone who is an avocado hater, like my son Trey.  We also top ours with Tabasco, vegan sour cream and pickled jalapenos.

Tostada DInner

What are your favorite family-friendly, quick weeknight meals?

Quick Black Bean Tostadas
A quick, weeknight meal full of flavor that your whole family will love. The crispy tortilla, warm black beans and fresh salad are a delicious combination.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
  • 10 Corn Tortillas
  • ½ Tablespoon of Canola Oil or spray oil
  • 1 Can of Black Beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ Cup Salsa (use your favorite)
  • ¼ Cup Water
  • 4 Cups sliced Romaine Hearts (or your favorite crisp lettuce)
  • ¼ Cup Sliced Onions
  • ¼ Cup Cilantro, minced
  • Dressing
  • 2 Tablespoons of Lime Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Agave Nectar
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Pepper
  • Optional Toppings
  • Sliced Avocado
  • Vegan Sour Cream
  • Pickled Jalapenos
  • Hot Sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Spread tortillas on 2 large baking sheets. Brush the top of each tortilla with olive oil (or spray the top with canola oil). Bake for 12-15 minutes until crisp.
  3. Add black beans, salsa, and water to a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and lower heat to medium low. Cook for 10 minutes.
  4. While the beans and tortillas are cooking, assemble the salad. Start by making the dressing. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake it until they are well combined.
  5. Place the lettuce, onions, and cilantro in a large bowl. Add half to ¾ of the dressing and toss. Add more dressing according to how much dressing you like on your salad.
  6. After the beans have cooked for 10 minutes they should be very soft. Remove the pan from the heat and use a wooden spoon or spatula to smash the beans. Smash the beans until they reach a spreadable consistency, but still have some texture.
  7. To assemble the tostadas spread smashed black beans on a crispy tortilla. Top with salad. Add any additional toppings you are using on top of the salad. Serve.
Double the recipe for a larger family.

For leftovers double the beans, crisp tortillas and dressing. This makes a quick and easy lunch. All you will need to do is make the salad, warm the beans, and assemble.


Homemade Tamari Almonds

As I mentioned in my “Why Vegan?” post I was diagnosed with an autonomic disorder in October of last year.  I have post orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).  One of the lifestyle modifications I have to make for this form of dysautonomia is to increase the amount of salt in my diet.  Eating more salt helps increase my blood volume, which is typically low.  I love salty snacks like chips, pretzels and pickles, but obviously they are not very nutrient dense.  I came across Tamari Almonds in Whole Foods and thought they would be a nice salty snack for when I am out and about.  Unfortunately they cost a fortune!  I did some research and developed my own Tamari Almond recipe that I love, and that is much more affordable.

Tamari Roasted AlmondsThis recipe starts with a 12 oz package of raw almonds.  I typically buy my almonds at Whole Foods or the Farmer’s Market.  You begin by toasting the raw almonds for 10 minutes at 300 degrees F.

Raw AlmondsThen take the warm almonds from the oven and add them to a heat proof bowl.  Stir in 1/4 cup of Tamari and stir until the almonds and Tamari are well combined.  The almonds soak in the Tamari for 20 minutes.  I usually stir the almonds 2-3 times while they are soaking.  After 20 minutes the almonds will have soaked up most of the Tamari.

Almonds mixed with TamariThe final step is to pour the soaked almonds back onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Put them back into the 300 degree F oven for 20 minutes.  At this point the almonds will have a dark brown coloring. They will seem a little soft, but they crisp up as they cool down.  If you find that the almonds are not crisp enough after they cool down just pop them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Tamari Almonds 2I love these almonds and so does everyone in my family.  I brought them to several holiday gatherings and received many requests for the recipe.  I try to always have them on hand for snacking or to top salads.

Please give them a try and let me know what you think.

5.0 from 3 reviews
Tamari Roasted Almonds
These homemade tamari almonds are a salty, savory snack. They are a perfect on the go snack or item to bring to your next gathering.
Recipe type: Snacks
  • 16 oz Raw Almonds
  • ¼ cup Tamari
  1. Preheat oven for 300 degrees F
  2. Place raw almonds on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Cook the almonds for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
  4. Remove almonds from the oven and pour into a large bowl. Pour tamari over the warm almonds. Stir completely and soak in tamari for 20 min. Stir 1-2 times over the 20 minutes.
  5. Place soaked almonds back on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake soaked almonds for 20 minutes.
  6. When the almonds come out of the oven they will still be a bit soft. Almonds will firm up as they cool.


Vegan Bolognese – Born to be Vegan

I often joke that I was born to be vegan.  Like most children I always loved animals , but I also never really liked meat.  Don’t get me wrong, I ate meat all the time but it was never my favorite part of any meal.  I liked my steak well done and my chicken dry as a bone.  I hated cooking meat unless it was broken down into totally unrecognizable forms.  Similarly I can’t stomach vegan meat replacements that are at all “meaty”.  I think Gardein, Beyond Meat etc are awesome products for helping people move to a vegan diet, but for me there isn’t a big appeal.

Vegan BologneseThe only meat product I actually liked before I became vegan was ground beef.  Once I became vegan I never really missed ground beef, but I also don’t think lentils = ground beef.  A recipe that I tried to veganize unsuccessfully was Bolognese sauce.  I have tried making it with mushrooms, lentils and crumbled tempeh.  They all tasted fine but they didn’t really fit the bill.  So it was with some curiosity that I tried Beyond Meat’s Beefy Crumble in a vegan bolognese.

Chopped VeggiesI started with a Bolognese recipe from the very non-vegan blog Pioneer Woman.  As I have mentioned before I really like her blog and show on Food Network.  It is the most vegan un-friendly show, but something about the story of her family life draws me in.  I like the recipes she makes, minus the meat, dairy and eggs.  I have veganized quite a few of her recipes successfully and this bolognese turned out fantastic.

I made a number of changes to the recipe, #1 being I replaced the ground beef with Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble.  Beyond Meat is a company that is making huge strides toward helping more people follow a vegan or plant based diet.  The majority of people in the developed world like and want to eat meat.  Beyond Meat is making products to satisfy meat eaters while being gentler to the planet and removing all animal suffering in the process.  Bill Gates is an investor and calls Beyond Meat “the future of food”.

Beyond Meat CrumblesWhile I am not Beyond Meat’s ideal customer I am thrilled that they have products available to satisfy meat eaters without harming animals.  My husband, Harrison, was blown away by their chicken strips and this bolognese.

One of the secrets from the original Pioneer Woman recipe that I kept in place was using some jarred marinara sauce.  In addition to the canned crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, the jarred marinara definitely adds good texture and flavor to the recipe.  My favorite marina is the Whole Foods Fat Free Organic Pasta Sauce.  I almost never buy Fat Free food, but in this case the Fat Free version doesn’t have any added sugar, which I appreciate.

Jarred MarinaraThis recipe is a great Sunday night family meal.  I served the bolognese over spaghetti, but it would be delicious over a larger noodle like rigatoni as well.  This vegan bolognese is incredibly hearty and flavorful.  It freezes really well and I am looking forward to trying it in lasagne next.

Sunday Dinner

Vegan Bolognese with Beyond Meat
This rich and hearty vegan bolognese makes a fantastic family meal. It will satisfy vegans and omnivores alike.
Recipe type: Main
  • ¼ cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 package Beyond Meat "Beef Free Crumble"
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 1 Large Carrot, Diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • ½ cup Red Wine (or Vegetable Broth)
  • 1 28 Ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 TB Tomato Paste
  • 1 cup Jarred Marinara Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Agave Nectar
  • ¾ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup Minced Fresh Parsley, plus more for topping
  • 1 pounds Spaghetti, cooked
  1. Start Cashew Cream - Soak cashews in 1 cup of water while you prepare the sauce. See Note.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium heat add 1 tsp olive oil. Add entire package of frozen Beyond Meat Beef Free crumble to the pan. Saute for approximately 5 minutes to thaw the "meat" and to create crispy bits on the bottom of your pan. Remove "meat" from the pan and set aside in a small bowl. Do not clean pan.
  3. Add remaining 2 tsp of olive oil to the pan. Add onions, carrot and bell pepper to pan and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for additional 2 minutes.
  4. Pour red wine (or broth) into the pan and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Let the wine reduce for 3 minutes.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, jarred marinara sauce, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, agave nectar, salt and crushed red pepper to the pan. Stir to combine. Add Beyond Meat crumbles back to the pan. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  7. After 1 hour add in ¼ cup of parsley. Cook for additional 20 minutes.
  8. Finish Cashew Cream - While the sauce finishes cooking go back to your cashews soaking in water. Blend the cashews and water in a high powered blender for 2 minutes until cashews are completely blended. Set aside until sauce has completed cooking.
  9. Remove bay leaves from sauce. Add ¼ cup of Cashew Cream to your sauce. Stir in completely and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper and cashew cream based on your tastes. More cashew cream will make the sauce creamier and richer. Add ¼ cup at a time until you achieve your desired results. Typically I use ½ cup.
  10. Serve bolognese by placing cooked spaghetti on each plate and topping with sauce. Sprinkle with additional parsley. Serve warm. Sauce freezes very well.
If you don't have a high powered blender to make the Cashew Cream you will need to soak cashews in water for 8 hours, or overnight. This will allow you to create a smooth Cashew Cream in a standard blender.

Are you a fan of faux meats?  Any meals you have had trouble veganizing?

Vegan Pizza Roll Ups

Packing a lunch everyday can become a drag, and packing a vegan lunchbox is no exception.  It seems like I am always inspired to pack interesting, creative lunches at the beginning of the school year.  By the time October rolls around I am packing boring sandwiches again.  This year I was determined to get out of that rut, and for the most part my plan has worked.  My main strategy has been to plan 1-2 creative meals that can be repeated during the week.  I especially like meals that can be frozen so I can use it a few times in one week and freeze the rest for another time.  One of Trey’s favorite meals this year has been Pizza Roll Ups, which he also calls pizza cinnamon rolls.

Vegan Pizza Roll Ups

These rolls were inspired by Cinnaholic, a vegan cinnamon roll shop in Berkeley.  We have been big fans of Cinnaholic ever since it opened.  The brilliant concept is to offer a variety of frostings and toppings to customize your own cinnamon roll.  If you are in the Bay Area it is a must stop.  You can also order rolls online.

Cinnaholic started offering pizza rolls occasionally a few years ago.  I tried one and thought it would be a great school lunch for Trey.  I did some research online and found a few non- vegan versions and then made my own.  They have been a big success.  Success to me means half of them don’t come home with the “I didn’t have time to eat those, Mom” excuse.  Trey eats 2 at lunch with a fruit and vegetable on the side.

To make the rolls buy fresh pizza dough at the grocery store or local pizzeria.  I usually buy mine at Whole Foods.  Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl on the counter for about an hour.  Next roll the dough out into a rectangle.  Top the dough with pizza sauce, Daiya cheese and vegan pepperoni (or whatever toppings your family likes).  Trey really loves the pepperoni since it looks like the pepperoni his buddies are eating.

Ready to rollOnce all of the toppings are on the pizza roll up the whole rectangle into a long log.  Then slice the log into 8-10 pieces (depending on how thick you want your pizza rolls).  Place the slices into an oiled baking dish.  Bake them at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.

Vegan Pizza RollsI make these about once per month.  I pack them for Trey twice the week I make them and freeze the remaining rolls. Several times during the month I will pull 2 rolls out of the freezer and pack them for another lunch.

I would love to hear anyone else strategy for packing a vegan lunch beyond the standard sunflower butter and jelly sandwich.  Please share your tips and strategies in the Comments below.

Breakfast for Dinner with Hash Brown Waffles

When I was a kid one of my favorite dinners was when we had “breakfast for dinner”.  In our house that meant we had waffles for dinner.  It only happened when my dad was traveling for work.  He did not find eating waffles drenched in syrup satisfying or healthy enough for dinner.  When my dad traveled and my mom was exhausted from taking care of 3 kids all day we got to have waffles for dinner.  It was a thrill…no salad, no vegetables, just waffles.

Now breakfast for dinner is one of Trey’s favorite meals.  At our house it involves tofu scramble, potatoes and either toast or waffles.  Tofu scramble is one of those dishes that took awhile to grow on Trey.  He used to just tolerate it, but now he loves it and always asks me to pack leftovers for his lunch.  I use the Tofu Scramble recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance (a favorite cookbook).  Here is a link to the recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen website.

Vegan Breakfast for Dinner

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Vegan Chocolate, Coconut & Oatmeal Cookies

One of the first things I did when I decided to become vegan was to try and “veganize” recipes I already loved to make.  Baking has always been my favorite activity in the kitchen. Given my love of baking, the first recipes I worked to veganize were baked goods.  These chocolate, coconut and oatmeal vegan cookies were one of my early successes.

I found a cookie recipe a few years before I became vegan that became by “go to” cookie.  I loved to make this cookie to take along when I was asked to bring something to a party or event.  These cookies have a delicious combination of coconut, oatmeal, nuts and chocolate that people love.  The combination of chocolate and coconut reminds me of my favorite Girl Scout cookies, Samoas.

Fortunately this delicious cookie recipe was fairly easy to veganize.  The original recipe calls for dairy and eggs which I have replaced.  For the butter I now use Earth Balance and I make “chia eggs” to replace the eggs.  I have also used flax eggs and the packaged “Ener-G” egg substitute successfully in this recipe.

Cookie Mix

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Everyday Breakfast Smoothie

For my first post I thought it was appropriate to share something that I make everyday for my son, Trey.

Trey is 7 (almost 8) and is a lifelong vegan.  He is very active and I like to give him something filling before his long day of school.  Since his school doesn’t allow nuts, a major source of healthy vegan fat, I like to include nut butter in his breakfast.

I started making this smoothie for him about 2 years ago and he has it almost every morning.  It is made with 1/2 to 1/3 of a banana, 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I use SunWarrior), 1.5 TB of peanut butter and 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (from Trader Joe’s).

Smoothie Ingredients

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