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National Nutrition Month Freebies!

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year's theme from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is "Celebrate a World of Flavors". I decided to celebrate with my readers by sharing three of my plant based cookbook meal recipes! You may find that I chose to write my cookbook differently than any other that you've read before, but I figured that since I was the writer, I could make my own rules! Think of my recipes as starting points, or general guidelines, only. My approach to cooking is very similar to how Bob Ross inspired others to paint; that is to say that I merely aim to encourage creativity and allow lots of room for personal preferences. I will never tell you EXACTLY how a recipe should be made because I want you to experiment and taste along the way, adjusting the seasonings or ingredients to match what you and your family like best. I hope you enjoy and that these recipes inspire you to cook more plant based, nutritious, low-budget meals with your family at home.

Thin Crust Pizza with Green Salad Recipe

Why is pizza usually considered a bad food? Because it is more often than not packed with high sodium (salt) and high fat content. Following my tips, you can eat pizza in a realistically healthy way.

Instead of making your own pizza dough, we are going to cheat a little to focus on having fun with the whole family in the kitchen. The focus will be on letting each member show their individual preferences and creativity with the ingredients available.

Each family member should receive their own 3 oz thin crust personal-size, store bought pizza crust. I use Kroger Crispy Thin Pizza Crusts that come in a pack of 3.

Each person should then choose a serving size (or less!) of a sauce to put on their crust. Some options are:

· Lower sodium marinara

· Low sugar/low sodium BBQ sauce

· Light alfredo

· Pesto

From there, you should have a variety of options to use as toppings, including:

· Onion (red or sweet)

· Mushrooms (canned or fresh)

· Spinach

· Bell peppers (or canned roasted red peppers)

· Tomatoes (canned or fresh, though I prefer roma or grape/cherry for this)

· Sun-dried tomatoes (drain the oil, rinse, and pat dry)

· Basil (dried or fresh)

· Italian seasoning

· Crushed red pepper (if you’re feeling spicy!)

· Broccoli

· Zucchini

· Artichoke (canned)

*Avoid highly salty ingredients, like pepperoni, sausage, ham, olives, and banana peppers. If you don’t purchase these items, but instead, have a host of the above-mentioned items for your family to choose, they won’t even miss them!*

Top with a serving size of a part-skim shredded mozzarella.

Bake at 350 degrees around 8 minutes, or until that cheese starts becoming beautiful golden brown.

Bringing it all together: It’s time to plate up! Serve each personal pizza with a salad made with leftover cuts of the pizza toppings tossed with a traditional garden salad mix. Drizzle with a light vinaigrette or Greek yogurt ranch.

Cost per person for family of 6: $4.70

Vietnamese Pho

Pronounced “fuh”, not “foe”, this Vietnamese noodle soup is very flavorful and might be the perfect answer to the end of a hectic day. You might not have all of these spices in your pantry right now, but if you foot the cost once, you’ll not have to purchase them again for a VERY long time.

This recipe takes more time to prep than to actually cook. You must roughly chop 1 whole onion (yellow would be preferable), quarter 8 oz of white mushrooms, shave 2 whole carrots (or buy a bag of shredded carrots), roughly chop ½ a whole cabbage for the soup base.

Soup base: In a large pot on medium-high heat, warm the spices (1/4 tsp of each: ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, and coriander seeds) in 1 tbsp of olive oil for around 1 minute by stirring them around to not allow them to get burnt. Add ¼ cup of cold water to the pan at this point to deglaze. Add 1 roughly chopped onion, 8 oz of quartered mushrooms, 2 whole shaved carrots, ½ rough chopped whole cabbage, stirring and cooking for another 3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of ginger paste and 1 tbsp of minced garlic to the pot, stirring and cooking for another 1 minute. Add an entire 64 oz of low-sodium vegetable broth and add more water until all ingredients are covered. Bring this up to a boil, give it a stir, then reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook while you prepare your noodles and garnishes.

Rice noodles: Bring a medium pan of water to boil, then add your rice noodles for as long as the package indicates. Drain.

Garnishes: Chop 1 bunch of green onion, slice 3 limes into quarters, and remove the cilantro leaves from the stems. Drain the can of bean sprouts, and locate your sriracha and hoisin sauces.

Bringing it all together: It’s time to plate up! But first, taste your soup base to see if you would like to adjust any of the seasonings. Put a serving of noodles in the bottom of your personal bowl, then ladle in your soup with all of the yummy veggies in, and top with whatever garnishes you desire. Remember that hoisin is sweet, sriracha is hot, and the lime is acidic, so you can balance your soup with tons of flavor!

Cost per person for family of 6 the first time you make it: $7.47

Cost per person for family of 6 the next times you make it: $3.17

Chickpea Greek Salad and Homemade Hummus with Whole Grain Naan

I will always encourage you to make as many elements of your meal completely from scratch, but sometimes it is not worth the time, energy, money, or even added nutrition to do so. This meal’s recipe is a great example of that! Hummus is always worth making, but tzatziki and naan aren’t necessarily. This meal's recipe calls for store-bought tzatziki Greek yogurt dip and mini whole grain naan rounds.

Let’s start by making the hummus first so that it has some time to sit in the fridge before we need it. It’s always nice to make hummus an hour or more in advance so that the flavors can all become friends together, but it is also perfectly fine to eat immediately if you’re in a hurry.

Hummus: In a food processor, blend 1 can of drained chickpeas (garbanzo beans), ¼ cup tahini (make sure you stirred it all up before measuring), 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp water, ¼ cup lemon juice (if you have a fresh lemon, add some zest as well for an extra kick!), ½ tbsp of garlic powder, and 1-2 tbsp of dill (fresh is so much better!). If the mixture is still too thick, add a tbsp of water at a time to thin it until it’s reached your preference. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

Salad: This part is mainly just cutting everything up. I could tell you how to cut up all of the veggies, but your family may prefer other kinds of cuts depending on the vegetable (for instance, your child might not eat a cucumber unless it’s peeled). I really don’t care how you choose to cut your veggies; I’m just glad that you’re eating them! So cut up and place in a large salad bowl:

· 2 cucumbers

· 10 oz grape/cherry tomatoes

· 1 green bell pepper

· ½ jumbo red onion

· 3 oz whole Kalamata olives

Dressing: Mix all of the above items together. Then, add 2 cans of drained chickpeas and 4 oz of feta cheese (either break it apart if it’s in a block, or use crumbled feta) to your large salad bowl. At this point, do not mix these in until you have added your dressing. Then, “fold in” your dressing so that the cheese remains in nice chunks. A number of Greek dressings could be used, but I suggest using a purchased tzatziki Greek yogurt dip.

Bringing it all together: It's time to plate up! Serve up ¼ cup of hummus, 2 whole grain naan rounds (purchased), and 1.5 cups of salad for a well-rounded and light dinner.

Cost per person for a family of 6: $5.29

If you enjoyed this format of cookbook and are interested in more plant based meal recipes curated by a registered dietitian, be on the look out for my upcoming book, "Realistically Healthy". I will announce its debut when I have it complete! In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Instagram @ketoquinoakale for more nearly daily meal inspiration.

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