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, Produce Picks

Much Ado About Plant-Based BBQ

Grilled squash is a perfect addition to any plant-based BBQ.

Grill your squash in foil, flesh-side down, but watch for temperature fluctuations! Squash is not as resilient as potatoes. This one still tasted good.

BBQ season is well underway. There is a common misconception that you can’t participate in a barbecue if you eat a plant-based diet, but it’s simply untrue. It’s easy to turn any party into a plant-based BBQ!

First there are the usual sides you find at any typical barbecue: plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and refreshments. If you’re going to be loading up on fresh fruits and veggies, though, do your host a favor and bring some of your own to share. Just because you maintain healthy stores of fresh fruits and vegetables at home doesn’t mean other people do. In fact, I’ve found that hosts often underestimate by a pretty wide margin how many fresh foods to have on hand for entertaining, especially when it comes to vegetables (think broccoli, carrots, celery, tomatoes [I know: it’s a fruit] and so on).

Now for the main course.

Our top plant-based BBQ picks

  • Portabella mushroom caps (stems removed, no added oil)
  • Corn on the cob (in foil, no butter or oil)
  • Potatoes (russet, in foil)
  • Sweet potatoes (in foil)
  • Squash (in foil and in season! grill flesh-side down)
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Pizza (with oil-free crust)
  • Vegetable kebabs
  • Asparagus

Potent potatoes

My favorite foods for a plant-based BBQ are potatoes and sweet potatoes, simply due to their ease of preparation. Yes, they still take about an hour to cook, but how many barbecues have you been to where the grill was on for less than an hour?

Grilled potatoes are a hearty addition to any plant-based BBQ!

Hot potato fresh off the grill. Careful: they’re hot!

We were invited to two barbecues in as many days. On the second day, I completely forgot our grilling potatoes at home. We had to stop at a gas station to get some more, but at $0.38/lb I was definitely not complaining about the price.

Gas stations are a great place to buy cheap potatoes for your plant-based BBQ!

Affordable produce is showing up everywhere. We picked up our grilling potatoes at Kwik Trip in Plymouth. As you can see, even the avocados are very reasonable.

A winter squash in summer?

Once we arrived there was also a huge spaghetti squash on the counter that we cut in half and put on the grill. Even though it wasn’t in season, it still tasted pretty good and added some nice variety to our plant-based BBQ. As you can see in the picture above, it did not stand up as well to the heat fluctuations as the potatoes did.

Winter squash is trickier, mostly because you should really only eat it at the very end of barbecue season. The char gave it an interesting flavor, though, and in the end none went to waste.

What are your favorite plant-based BBQ hacks?

Also, if you’re from the South, and you’re cringing at our use of the word “barbecue” to refer to the northern practice of “grilling,” please accept our apologies. And let us know what plant-based foods you grill down there!

Budget-friendly, Recipes

Farmers Market Stir-Fry with Sugar Snap Peas

Shredded cabbage gives this dish an extra bit of freshness and crunch.

Shredded cabbage gives this dish an extra bit of freshness and crunch.

This stir-fry was an absolute joy to make. Nearly everything in it came from a farmers market visit earlier in the week.

The real star here is the sugar snap peas. Be sure to strip off the stem and string from the sugar snap peas before you begin! Our sugar snap peas were very large and firm so we steamed them a bit first before adding the softer ingredients. This works best in a high-sided, covered sauté pan, but it would work equally well in a wok.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable broth or water
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 lb. sugar snap peas, stems removed and strings stripped
  • 2 summer squash, medium, cut into coins and then quartered (we used light green and yellow)
  • ½ lb. broccoli, chopped
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • One package tofu, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp powdered turmeric
  • 1 thumb of ginger, minced
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Green onions, chopped, for serving
  • Green cabbage, raw, shredded, for serving
  • Soy sauce, for serving
  • Sriracha sauce, for serving
  • Miso paste, for serving (optional)

The tofu scramble adds an egg-like texture just like a traditional stir-fry.

Method

Drain tofu by gently squeezing between paper towels. After most of the water is drained, crumble it by hand into a medium-sized bowl. Add the turmeric. Mix with your hands until incorporated. The tofu will turn bright yellow.

In a large, high-sided sauté pan, cook the onion over medium-high heat in a small amount of vegetable broth or water for five minutes. If it sticks, add a little more vegetable broth or water and deglaze with a wooden spoon.

Add the sugar snap peas and stir well. Make sure there is still some water or vegetable broth on the bottom of the pan and cover it. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the sugar snap peas. If your sugar snap peas are not too thick or firm, you may omit this step.

Add the summer squash, broccoli, red pepper, and mushrooms. Continue to cook over high heat, stirring occasionally but not too much. They will release a lot of water. Cook most of it off, which should take about 7-10 minutes.

Add garlic and ginger and incorporate well. Continue to cook on high until especially fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add tofu scramble and continue to cook until the tofu is hot, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Serving

To serve, put a layer of rice on a plate. Cover the rice with a layer of shredded cabbage, then add the stir-fry. Top with green onions, and season with sriracha and/or soy sauce.

Alternatively, you can mix miso paste into your rice first. When I use miso, I don’t add soy sauce or sriracha. I prefer miso, while Theresa typically uses soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.

What do you like to do with your farmers market produce? Let us know in the comments!

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.