Protein-Packed Plant-Based Recipes to Fight the Quarantine Blues

April 22, 2020by Sierra

In the face of a global pandemic, everyone but non-essential workers are recommended to stay home and avoid social interaction. What are we to do with all our new free time? The thought of returning to a “normal” society when the coronavirus blows over has inspired some to seek meaningful change and use the pandemic as an opportunity to revamp their lifestyles, pursuing health, fitness, personal development, education or redefining relationships. Let us do our part to share our favourite easy and healthy, protein-packed vegetarian recipes that can be whipped up in a few minutes. If you try them out or have any questions about the recipes, please let us know in the comments!

Protein Pancakes

For breakfast, try these undeniably nutritious, yet fully delicious almond chia pancakes. This breakfast has all the essentials for a balanced meal to start your day of self-isolation off right.

Of all the vegetarian substitutes, eggs can be one of the trickiest ingredients, particularly in baking. Chia seeds create the ideal egg replacement in this pancake batter – not only are they packed with essential omega fatty acids, when mixed with water they create a sticky, gelatinous substance which we can use to our advantage and delight when baking. One thing we ought to keep in mind is that chia does not produce the same light and fluffy effect of eggs, so it is helpful to add cornstarch or baking powder to our batter for a traditional pancake texture.

Almond butter is rich in protein and healthy fats, so it is the perfect base of flavour and creaminess to achieve the ideal pancake hitting all our bases. Mix in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. of salt, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 3/4 cup of plant milk (cashew, almond, coconut, soy or oat), 2 tbsp. nut butter, 1 cup of oat flour and 1 tbsp of chia seeds ground into a flour. Add 1 tbsp. maple syrup/agave/honey to taste. Mix batter until fully combined. Chocolate chips or blueberries folded into the batter can take your pancakes to the next level.

Melt some coconut oil on a heated frying pan and pour out 3-4 pancakes of manageable size. Flip when the bubbles pop on the sides of the pancake or the underside is a golden-brown colour (approximately 2-3 minutes per side).

Top with berry chia compotes, fresh jams, maple syrup, coconut whipped cream, or whichever other delicious condiments you can think of!

Power Salad

One of the principal meals every vegetarian cook should have in their wheelhouse is a phenomenal healthy and delicious salad recipe. We might as well lean into the stereotype, as everyone could afford to eat some more vegetables.

The crucial think to consider before putting our salad together is caloric density. Omnivore salads usually involve a green leafy vegetable (i.e. lettuce or spinach) with a couple other raw vegetable components. Perhaps they sprinkle a few nuts, some meat pieces, raisins or croutons on the salad. When preparing plant-based salads, we must be mindful that raw vegetables and fruits traditionally are much lower in caloric density than meat or other animal products. 100 calories of spinach versus 100 calories of bacon will take up significantly different amounts of plate real estate. While this differentiation is helpful for those hoping to lose weight, healthy active individuals adhering to vegetarian diets ought to consider replacing animal proteins with legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and herbs to meet all our daily nutritional requirements. The pundits who criticize a vegetarian diet for its lack of protein or variety do not understand the infinite combinations of healthy, satisfying, robust and decadent plant-based foods that can satiate any palette.

Let us present to you the flawless formula for salads that will keep you energized, focused, satisfied and healthy while you fight the good fight of peace and justice for all creatures of the Earth.

Start with some leafy greens. The darker the better. Think kale, arugula, swiss chard, mustard greens, watercress or spinach. Be generous with your portion size as this is one of the most neglected yet beneficial types of foods we can possibly consume.

Add 1 can’s worth (approximately 1 cup) of a legume. Beans are calorically dense and rich in protein to help you power through your home workout and stay full longer. Some favourites include chickpeas, French brown lentils and kidney beans.

Next, you will want to chop up and add in your favourite fruits and vegetables. Just a few ideas are celery, carrot, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, beet, apple, pear, broccoli, and cabbage; but don’t let us limit your imagination.

For extra fat and protein, you may want to top your salad with chopped walnuts, almonds, pepitas or sunflower seeds.

Now, the piece de resistance. This will take your salad from boring cafeteria side to showstopping main course. Done correctly, your dressing will be tangy, creamy, spicy and delicious. Not to mention incredibly healthy! Take 2 tbsp of tahini (sesame butter), 2 tbsp of hemp seeds, the juice of 1 lemon or lime, 2 tbsp of water and 1 tbsp. of miso paste (the probiotics in fermented foods like miso are incredibly helpful for boosting immunity and gut health). Next you can add in some aromatics like a piece of ginger or half a clove of garlic. Customize the dressing to your preference. Season with some salt, pepper, chili, turmeric, cayenne, or any other herbs you enjoy. Fresh cilantro or basil will add a lovely flavour to the mix if you have them on hand. Blend on high in a high-speed blender or food processor until you’ve reached a smooth consistency. Add water in small quantities to thin out the dressing if it is too thick for your salad.

Once your dressing is up to scratch, drench your salad in the delightful concoction and serve up a bowl of veggie heaven.

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Inspired by South Indian flavours and ingredients, this simple curry recipe can be thrown together in less than 30 minutes and is composed of affordable, healthy ingredients that are typically shelf and fridge staples.

Start up a pot of rice to cook while you work on your curry. For more protein, try cooking brown rice, wild rice, or even quinoa.

Mince 1 onion, 3-4 gloves of garlic, and 1 small piece of ginger (skin peeled off). Sautee in an oiled frying pan on a medium heat until onions are translucent. Next, toss in your spice mixture. This could be as simple as a couple tablespoons of a packaged “curry powder”, or you could grind up a mixture of turmeric, cumin, chili, fenugreek, coriander, paprika, and cinnamon. There are many different variations of a “curry” spice blend, so your creativity and food intuition will come into play here.

After sautéing your spiced onion, garlic, and ginger mixture for 5-10 minutes (until aromatic and sizzling), you will add in 3 tbsp. of tomato paste. Then, pour in 1 can of coconut milk. Simmer and stir the mixture on a low heat for up to 30 minutes. You can use this time to add in your favourite vegetables (cauliflower and carrot work beautifully in this recipe), rinse and drain your chickpeas, and locate some cashews and cilantro to garnish your curry with (these are optional ingredients but certainly pack a flavour and nutrition punch). The chickpeas are pre-cooked, so you will only need to add them to your prepared curry mixture near the end of the cook-time. Raw vegetables like cauliflower and carrots will need about 15-20 minutes to cook through.

That’s it! Who knew it was so easy to be a chef? Serve up a bowl of rice and top it with the curry and optional garnishes, and you will be ready to enjoy your feast.