A few weeks ago one of my teammates at work returned from the holiday break, declaring it the month of Veguary. In other words, she decided she’d kick off the year by following a vegan for January. Being the foodie and advocate for vegetables that I am, I figured I’d support her in the best way I knew how, which is by cooking up some tasty vegan lunches for her to enjoy. Recipes for the blog, taste testing fun for me, meals for Jess and future meals for you guys too. It’s a win-win-win-win!
There are so many things I love about meatless meals, and regardless of whatever type of eating style we each have, I’m a big advocate for enjoying largely plant-based meals. Not only do they pack some wicked nutrition, but most are very budget friendly. In the case of the Vegan Lentil Walnut Taco Bowls I made for Jess, here’s what’s going on:
Lentils and Black Beans
These are the 2 main protein-rich foods in the recipe, and both are great sources of fibre to keep digestion running smoothly. The fibre-protein combo will also help to keep you feeling satisfied, with a steady blood sugar level and stable energy. As much as I’m sure we’d all love a good afternoon nap, the reality is that most of our work lives probably don’t allow for it – at least mine doesn’t!
Side note: One of the concerns that often comes up with vegan diets is that they lack all of the essential amino acids (the most basic building blocks of protein) that are available in animal sources. The fix: Mix up your plant-based protein sources and combine a few in each meal – voila, you’ll get more of those bases covered!
Walnuts and Avocado
Helloooooo to two of my favourite sources of healthy fats! Like protein, fat is a slower-digesting macronutrient so these guys will help to keep you full for hours. Walnuts are awesome sources of omega-3s, which we need for reducing inflammation, supporting heart health and brain function, and hydrating our skin cells. Avocados aren’t omega-3 powerhouses, but they do offer monounsaturated fats and a whole bunch of B vitamins which are super important for energy production, regulating mood and helping our bodies deal with stress.
Bell Peppers and Mango
Vitamin C in both of these serves as an antioxidant that fights against free radicals that damage our cells. In what-will-I-actually-notice terms, that means an improved immune system (fewer colds!) and more youthful, brighter skin. (Vitamin C helps to stimulate natural collagen production.)
Knowing that my teammate isn’t super keen on vegetables, I figured this meal would be a good test. As it turned out, she enjoyed it – literally every last bite – every day for 3 days (the number of portions I made.) I’m going to take that as a sign that it was pretty darn good, so I think you’ll like it too!
Packed with plant-based protein, fiber and a ton of veggies, these Vegan Lentil Walnut Taco Bowls make an easy weeknight meal (with delicious leftovers!)
For the lentil walnut ‘meat’:
- 1 tbsp olive or avocado oil
- 2 cups cooked brown lentils
- 1 cup raw walnut pieces (chop them up small – they should be similar in size to the lentils)
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp each ground paprika and cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground oregano
- 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder (or regular chilli powder if you prefer)
For the black beans:
- 2 tsp olive or avocado oil
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, well rinsed and drained
- 1/2 tsp each ground paprika and cumin
For the rest:
- 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice or cauliflower rice
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup diced ripe mango
- 1 avocado, thinly sliced
- torn cilantro + lime wedges, to garnish
For the lentil walnut meat:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet for 1 minute. Add the remainder of the ingredients for the lentil walnut meat and stir well to incorporate.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Cook until hot, then remove from the heat but don’t wash the pan.
For the black beans:
- Again, heat the oil for 1 minute. Add the beans and spices, stirring well and cooking until hot.
For the rest:
- Season the rice by stirring in the juice of 1 lime and some torn cilantro, if you like. Divide the rice between bowls, followed by the lentil walnut meat and black beans.
- Evenly distributed the bell pepper, mango pieces, avocado slices and garnishes. Squeeze limes over top before serving.
- Optional: If you’d like to serve this with a dressing, the one I made was a mixture of 1/4 cup tahini, juice of 1 lime, 1/4 cup water and 1 minced garlic clove. It’ll thicken up in the fridge, but simply shaking it up with a little more water will thin it back out. Season to taste and drizzle it over top before serving.
So tell me…. Are you enjoying plenty of meatless meals this month? What are some of your favourites so far?