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Theresa

Dining Out, Lifestyle

Finding Plant-Based Street Food in Summer

We spent the afternoon looking for plant-based street food at Open Streets Minneapolis Lake Street.

Looking east on Lake Street during Open Streets Minneapolis festival.

People often think you can’t find plant-based street food options at summer festivals.

Just last year I mentioned to a coworker that I was going to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. She asked why I’d even bother, since I wouldn’t eat anything there anyway. It got me thinking: Too often people just assume that events like these aren’t going to be fun for you if you’re not eating the food. For us that simply isn’t the case. We are there to enjoy the experience, surroundings, and people, not the food. To paraphrase Joel Fuhrman (who himself is paraphrasing multiple historic figures) we would rather eat to live than live to eat.

Thankfully, we are finding that over time there are more and more food options available for plant-based eaters at local and regional festivals. Although the selection can be limited, it’s heartening to see the improvements.

Take for example Minneapolis Open Streets on Lake Street this past Sunday. We went up and down the entire length of the festival at least twice and managed to find multiple vendors offering foods friendly to plant-based eaters. While it may not seem like much, it’s a big improvement over previous years.

Minneapolis Hydration Station

The City of Minneapolis sets up portable drinking fountains with bottle-filling attachments to keep thirsty revelers hydrated.

Plant-Based Street Food Highlights from Sunday

  • Free organic sweet corn courtesy of the Midtown Farmers Market.
  • Free fruit-infused water courtesy of the Minneapolis Health Department.
  • Multiple vendors selling fresh fruits, including mangoes, pineapple and watermelon.
  • Plain grilled corn with nothing added.
  • Fruit-based ice lollies from Frio Frio that are plant-based friendly.
Grabbing a quick mango is a great plant-based street food option in summer.

In Minnesota it’s not real street food until you put it on a stick!

Besides the plant-based food, there was live music, dancing, free bike tune-ups, art and artists working in real time, and just the excitement of being able to use a normally busy thoroughfare as a pedestrian zone. This is the only time I would ever consider riding my bike down Lake Street.

In addition to scoping out food at the festival, we also packed a snack just in case we weren’t able to find anything. Generally speaking this is a really good idea, because you just never know what to expect. We’re looking forward to the next Open Streets event to see what other plant-based offerings we might find.

What do you do to get through summer festival season and maintain your plant-based diet? Let us know in the comments!

Books, Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Shopping

Plant-Based Meal Plans Save You Time and Money

Plant-Based Meal Plan

This is one of our first meal plans after transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

Plant-based meal plans are an effective way to control your schedule and food budget.  Never a big planner myself, I have learned to embrace this practice more recently.  Planning your meals in advance can help give structure to your week and ensure that you go through all of your produce before it goes to waste. When you plan ahead, it’s easy to make meals that might otherwise have seemed too time consuming or complicated.

Our Best Plant-Based Meal Plan Tips

  • Be flexible.  Once you make a menu, you don’t need to rigidly adhere to it every night of the week.  Stuff happens; you just need to have a general idea of what you’ll be making.
  • Start small.  Just plan a few days ahead.  The most I ever plan for in advance is one week.
  • Inventory your fridge and pantry as you write your list.  Use what you have so you don’t need to make any special shopping trips.  Keep in mind what you need to go through before it goes bad.
  • Plan for a leftover night. Or two!  It’s like giving yourself a night off from the kitchen!
  • Make it fun!  Josh and I like to write our meal plans on Sunday nights before we start a new week.  Believe it or not, it is actually a really nice way to wind down at the end of the day and bond.  Since cooking is one of our favorite things to do together, we keep our menus interesting with some old standards and a few new ones to try for the first time.
  • Always shop with a list.  Without one, it’s really east to end up with too much — or too little — of what you need.

Our Plant-Based Meal Plan From This Week

DayMealFoods to go through
SundayRoot Vegetable Buddha Bowlbeets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots
MondaySwiss Chard Pastaswiss chard, lemons
TuesdayCaribbean Quinoa Bowlkale, mango, avocado
WednesdayJosh's Five Minute Saladavocado, tomatoes, green onions, mixed greens
ThursdayCollard-ritoscollard greens, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro
FridayCold Soba Noodle Saladcucumber, red bell pepper, mango, avocado
SaturdayBuddha Bowlzucchini (yellow and green), green onions, carrots, left-over rice
Plant-based meal plans make everyday life so much easier!

This was Sunday’s dinner, a root vegetable Buddha Bowl with sugar snap peas, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers and corn, topped with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.

If you’re in need of meal-planning ideas, a great resource is The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook by Del Sroufe.  A plant-based cookbook with several sample meal plans and shopping lists, it also gives you instructions on making a week’s worth of food at once to enjoy throughout the week!

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Shopping

Bulk Up!

Bulking up on rolled oats, "nootch," cashews, and sesame seeds.

Bulking up on rolled oats, “nootch,” cashews, and sesame seeds.

One of the most common misconceptions about eating a plant-based diet is that it is more expensive than eating a “standard” diet.  Our experience with plant-based eating has been quite the opposite. Our monthly grocery bill is lower now than ever, and buying in bulk is a huge help.  We may buy things that are uncommon and some might consider costly, like miso paste or nutritional yeast, but when you spread the price across the number of meals you can prepare with this one ingredient, you are still getting a bargain.

When we first became plant-based, we had to learn to navigate the bulk aisles of our local grocery stores and co-ops.  We had never really spent any time shopping in this section and had no idea what was available to us.  Now, there are days when we come home with nothing but twist-tied baggies and reusable containers!  Here are a few things you should know about buying in bulk:

One side of the abundant bulk aisle at Lakewinds Co-op.

One side of the abundant bulk aisle at Lakewinds Co-op.

  • The bulk aisle is the best for buying spices, grains, legumes, oats, and other dry goods.  We avoid things like trail mixes and candy.  Even pasta and rice can usually be found cheaper prepackaged.
  • You can sometimes find organic ingredients for cheaper than the conventional versions.  We have found this to be true for things like rolled oats and lentils, so be sure to compare prices.
  • Shopping the bulk aisle is great for trying new ingredients for the first time.  You can buy as much or as little as you would like.
  • Don’t forget storage!  We hate to waste things, so we save our spice jars and bring them to the co-op when we are ready for a refill.  We even save things like rubber bands and plastic bread bag closures so we can cinch our bulk bags up!  If you bring your own container, make sure to tare if before filling.  This will save you some time at the checkout.

Locally, there are a lot of choices for your bulk food shopping.  We like Lakewinds and Seward Co-op for the best variety and prices.

Budget-friendly, Pretty Quick Plant-Based Recipe Pick, Recipes

Build A Buddha Bowl

This Buddha Bowl features steamed beets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, summer squash, corn, and fresh basil.

This Buddha Bowl features steamed beets, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, summer squash, corn, and fresh basil.

One of our favorite dishes to make any time of year is a Buddha Bowl.  It’s a quick, easy dish that can be made in an endless variety of combinations.  We have found a formula to build Buddha Bowls that works every time.  All you need to do is pick one or more ingredients from each of the following categories:

GrainsProteinRoot Veggies“Wild Card” VeggiesToppings
quinoakidney beanscarrotsmushroomsgreen onion
brown riceblack beansbeetszucchiniseaweed/nori
barleychickpeassweet potatoescorntoasted sesame seeds
bulgurtofuonionsoy sauce
couscoustempehsugar snap peasBraggs Liquid Aminos
milletgreen peassummer squashbalsamic vinegar
farrogreen beanshot sauce/sriracha sauce
fresh herbs
avocado
rice vinegar

Your choice of vegetables will need to be steamed anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes depending on the density (root vegetables will take the longest).  Prepare your choice of grains according to the package instructions.  We like to make extra rice/quinoa/etc. and have it on hand for just such an occasion.

When all the ingredients are ready, fill a bowl with your grains, veg, and your choice of toppings.  This is a great recipe to play around and experiment with– no two Buddha Bowls are alike!

This is also something that you could eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Yes, even breakfast– it’s very common in many parts of Asia to eat grains and vegetables in the morning.

We were first introduced to the Buddha Bowl through Martha Stewart’s Meatless  cookbook.  You can watch her prepare one in this video along with a few other simple dishes.

Have you tried a Buddha Bowl before?  What’s your favorite combination?  Tell us in the comments!

Pretty Quick Plant-Based Recipe Pick, Recipes

Our Plant-Based Play on a Classic French Salad

Salade Nicoise

Oui, s’il vous plaît!

Summer weather means spending time outdoors, not in the kitchen.  When we’re planning our meals on warmer days, we look for recipes that require little use of the oven and have a quick prep time.  Salads are the perfect solution.

One of our favorite recipes to make this time of year is our plant-based Salade Niçoise.  We have adapted this recipe from the classic French version; ours does not include the fish or egg, but it still has all the flavor!  There is very little cooking required– you just need to steam some vegetables for a few minutes and let them cool (or prep them ahead of time).  For this recipe, you will need:

  • Mix of spring greens
  • Cucumber
  • Steamed green beans (or haricots verts, if you wanna be fancy)
  • Steamed white potatoes (red or yellow varieties with thin skins taste best in this dish)
  • Kalamata olives (black are good, too)
  • One can of cannellini beans
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Additionally, you can add a few special ingredients like radishes, hearts of palm, shredded carrots or artichoke hearts

We don’t follow a hard and fast recipe for this dish- we just make enough to feed the two of us.  To dress this salad, we whip up a super simple oil-free dressing consisting of grainy Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, a few cloves of chopped garlic, and some salt and pepper.  We haven’t bought salad dressing in years and prefer to make our own.  This link will provide you with a few more oil-free examples that are easy to make on the fly!

This really is a tried and true recipe for us, as we will often make it once a week during the summertime.  We used to eat this dish when we still ate meat and when we switched to a plant-based diet, we knew we wanted to keep this one in our repertoire.  The next time you’re feeling like dishing up some French cuisine, try it sans poisson!