Four quick and easy plant -based recipes in under 30 minutes
– How to get more from your family’s mealtime
Some of my fondest family memories growing up was having loud, long conversations around the dinner table. Admittedly, as a stereotypical Jamaican family, our conversations were more often loud than they were long. Though family dinners left my stomach tight from laughing and my throat sore from shouting, they left my heart happy from a feeling of belonging.
Unfortunately, my childhood was one punctuated with constant movement. We were never in the same place very long. To make matters worst my parents and siblings lived in several locations at once due to differing places of work and study. As such, these much-loved family dinners were few and far apart.
As an adult, though not yet married with kids of my own, my childhood experiences have made me resolve to make it an absolute priority in the future.
Why is eating dinner together such a big deal anyway?
Research supports the remarkable benefits of family mealtimes for kids. Christine Carter, a sociologist for UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center outlines a few of these benefits in the book “Raising happiness- 10 simple steps for more joyful kids and happier parents”.
One of the most marked benefits of eating dinner as a family is increased language development in kids. Carter refers to current research which shows convincing connections between language development and dinner time. In one study conducted by a team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education it was found that more than 1000 new words were learned at the dinner table through conversation with adults. This number is significantly higher than the number of words learned from parents reading to their kids. This is why the power of eating together is diminished when kids are isolated from adults.
Eating together as a family also improves kids’ manners and social skills by engaging in practices that emphasizes the norms and values held by the family. For example, simple acts of gratitude such as saying grace before a meal teaches kids to be thankful. Or, the act of saying thank you to someone for passing the salt emphasizes that it is important to be kind. These social skills are built over time and are better learned by repetitious example, in a situation that feels safe, than explicit instruction. The dinner table is an ideal familiar place to teach and learn important social skills.
Finally, the most obvious thing that we grown ups can model during family mealtimes is healthy eating. Eating a variety of foods is important for health. However, as many adults know all too well, it is sometimes very hard to get kids to try new foods. Kids can learn to like new foods by watching adults and other kids eating them. For example, a kid who is a picky eater and hates broccoli can come to a better relationship with it (… don’t expect miracles) by eating around adults and other kids who enjoy eating broccoli and eat it often. The important caveat however is that it’s all about repetition. This means that your kids need to watch you eat that broccoli a lot, I mean, maybe years before they develop a similar affinity towards it.
How can I make dinner time special?
Dinner time is likely to be chaotic, messy and time consuming. That’s all ok. The important thing about this time spent together is not that it’s perfect; but that it is intentional; that it does happen; that it involves the entire family, and that it happens often. In fact studies show that the “magic” of family dinner only happens when it occurs at least 4 to 5 times per week. So, as Carter puts it, “expect effort and enjoyment, not perfection.” Here are a few ideas or points you can take into consideration to make dinner time more meaningful for the entire family.
Set the mood
Create an intentional environment for dinner by minimizing external distractions. For example, turn off televisions, radios and computers and consider having a no-phone policy at the table.
Do it as a family
Carter encourages us to not only have dinner together, but also to incorporate the entire family in the process. This can include cooking dinner together, setting the table, as well as have everyone clean up. Before you let out an exasperate sigh…yes, I totally get it. Doing it this way may very well take twice the time and effort. It’s often easier to just do it yourself- you know, the “ mom-as-waiter/personal chef routine”. But when parents serve and clean up after our children, the symbolic meaning is that they are “passive actors who are entitled to our service rather than active participants in a larger whole”. Get kids to participate in age appropriate ways. For example, the very young ones can be in charge of wiping down the dinner table with sponges while the older ones can be on dish duty.
Collaborate with other families
Get to know your neighbors better by inviting them over for a potluck dinner every week or every other week. Get everyone to eat together…don’t let the adults and the kids drift apart. As long as everyone eats, talks and laughs together, the “magic” of dinner works.
As long as the principles are there, i.e mealtimes happen often and with kids and at least one adult present, feel free to mix everything else up! Try theme nights, for example, Mexican or Mediterranean. Consider going out to eat at your favorite restaurant once a week, or have a family brunch or breakfast once in awhile. Remember, it’s the with whom you eat that matters as opposed to the what or where.
Get conversations rolling
Trying to stimulate conversation can be hard – especially when kids reach that adolescent stage and every long winded question about their day can be answered with three words “it was ok”. However, don’t let up! Consider discussing age appropriate news or current events. Start telling kids about their family history – for example, an excellent conversation starter is “Do you know how your mother and I met?”, or “do you know where your grandfather was born?”. Encourage children to participate -not only through active conversation but also through active listening.
But there is just no time…
In today’s time-pressed, deadline-dependent, performance based society, it is becoming more and more difficult for parents to allocate time to prepare dinner and spend with their families around the dinner table.
One way to counteract this is to spend less time preparing meals through quicker recipes. Here are 4 of my favorite plant-based recipes which you can throw together in under 30 minutes.
Author: Angela @ Vegangela.com
Recipe type: Main, Curry
Cuisine: Thai, Asian
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 (400ml) can coconut milk
- ¾ cup vegetable broth (or water)
- 2-3 tbsp vegan red curry paste (see note)
- 2 tbsp raw sugar (or brown sugar) (optional – see note)
- 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce or 1 tsp crushed red chili pepper (optional – see note)
- 1 tsp coconut or vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 cups colorful veggies (onions, carrots, red bell pepper, broccoli, etc)
- Fresh basil and/or cilantro (coriander) (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, mix quinoa, coconut milk, vegetable broth, red curry paste, sugar, and Sriracha sauce / red chili flakes (if using). Bring to boil, then lower heat to lowest setting and cover saucepan. Simmer until the quinoa is ready, about 15 minutes. If the liquid is almost all absorbed but the quinoa is still not ready, stir another ¼ cup of water in.
- While quinoa is cooking, heat oil over medium heat and stir-fry the garlic and veggies.
- Mix veggies with quinoa and serve, garnished with fresh basil/cilantro.
Author: Angela @ Vegangela
Recipe type: Salad, Main
Cuisine: Mexican, Southwestern
- Flour tortillas (make sure they’re vegan)
- vegetable oil (canola, peanut, etc)
- Medium oven-safe bowl
- Kitchen string
- Vegan fillings etc. black beans, avocado and veggies
- Preheat oven to 400C.
- Find a medium-sized bowl on which you can lay the tortilla – ideally, a bit bigger than the tortilla so that it doesn’t go beyond the edge of the bowl.
- Flip the bowl over. Brush the tortilla with oil on both sides, and place it over the bowl.
- Fold-down the tortilla so that it “hugs” the bowl. Tie a piece of string half-way down, to help keep it in place (easiest if you have help, but I’ve done it alone too).
- Place the bowl on a baking sheet, and bake for about 5-7 minutes, or until it is slightly brown and can hold its shape.
- Using oven mitts, remove the bowl from the oven, and carefully remove the tortilla shell from around the bowl. Place upright on baking sheet (with string intact) and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes, until browned inside, but not burnt on the edges.
- Remove from oven, remove string, and let cool before filling with desired fillings.
Recipe type: Main
- 1 block firm tofu, sliced into 6 equal pieces
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ cup shelled pistachios
- Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil. Place tofu on foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a bowl, stir maple syrup with curry powder and Dijon. Coarsely chop pistachios. Spoon half of maple mixture over tofu, then sprinkle with pistachios. Spoon remaining maple mixture over nuts.
- Bake in centre of preheated oven for 15 minutes. Excellent served with steamed bok choy and basmati rice.
Author: Minimalist Baker
Recipe type: Entrée
Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbsp or 12 g)
- 2-3 carrots, finely shredded (1 cup or 110 g | I use the grater attachment on a food processor)
- Pinch sea salt, plus more to taste
- 26 ounces (737 g) favorite marinara sauce (or sub tomato sauce* | I prefer Trader Joe’s brand Tomato Basil)
- Pinch red pepper flake
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp (12 g) coconut sugar for sweetness, plus more to taste (or sub stevia)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
- 3/4 cup (144 g) red lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2 medium zucchini, rinsed and both ends sliced off
- Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, shallot, and garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly softened and fragrant. Turn down heat if browning.
- Add carrots and a pinch of salt and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes more, then add marinara sauce and stir to coat.
- Add red pepper flake, basil, oregano, coconut sugar, water, and lentils. Increase heat slightly and bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low/medium-low and continue cooking until lentils are tender – stirring occasionally – about 17-20 minutes. Add a bit more water if mixture gets too thick.
- Once lentils are cooked, taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt to taste, coconut sugar for sweetness, red pepper flake for heat, or herbs for flavor balance.
- While the sauce is cooking, spiralize your zucchini into noodles. Alternatively you can use a mandolin or vegetable peeler, or simply cook up your favorite pasta.
- Serve the pasta over noodles of choice (I opted for raw zucchini noodles – so good!) and garnish with desired toppings
- Sauce will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days or in the freezer 1 month.
At the OAC kids camp, we have a daily recipe hour where kids will be involved in making fun, quick, vegan recipes like these that they can then share with your entire family around the family table. Registrations for the OAC Kids camp are now open! You can check out our website www.oackidscamp.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Information taken from:
Carter, Christine. 2010. Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. Ballantine Books.
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