It always surprises me when people ask if eating a vegan diet is expensive. One of my primary motivators for eating a veg-centric diet is cost. As Americans, we are so removed from where our food comes from, and the true costs that are incurred to raise animals responsibly and to process them “humanely.” Buying meat that comes from factory farms is not something I’m willing to participate in, and though I hope if you do choose to eat animals you opt for those bearing the American Humane Certified seal, I would much rather you consider limiting or eliminating animal proteins from your diet.
To stay on budget I do a lot of shopping in the bulk section. Many grocery stores and co-ops have extensive bulk bin selections, and I go nuts…literally! I especially love the nuts, grains and dried fruits in the summer time. These provide a basis for great main-course salads. I’ve included these recipes as guide, but I encourage you to get creative. Mix whatever fresh veggies you see at your local farm stand, and throw on a creative vinaigrette.
TGIF Wheat Berry Salad
(serves 2-4 as a main dish)
1 cup wheat berries
¼ c. dried cherries
¼ c. chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/3 c. chopped yellow bell pepper
¼ c. chopped radish
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Bring 2 cups of water, and a pinch of salt to boil. Add 1 cup of wheat berries. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down to simmer. While this is cooking dump all other ingredients in a bowl. Pour dressing over this and let sit until wheat berries are done. Wheat berries take about 30 minutes, and should be firm and a bit chewy to the tooth. Let the grain cool then mix in with other ingredients.
1 Tbsp. Dijon style mustard (make certain it is vegan as some has eggs)
¼ c. white wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
Chopped herbs (I used dill as it’s what I had)
½ c. olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Mix mustard, vinegar, salt and herbs together well. Get a wire whisk, or a hand mixer and start drizzling in the oil. Another great method is to put all ingredients in a jar and just shake like crazy.
Tabbouleh with Mint and Pistachios
(from Vegetarian Times, 2008 - serves 6)
1/4 c. fine bulgur
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. agave nectar
1 1/3 c. finely chopped pistachios
1 c. finely chopped curly parsley
1 small cucumber, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/3 c. finely chopped fresh mint
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Place bulgur in large bowl and add 1/3 cup boiling water. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and agave, and let stand 5 minutes more, or until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff bulgur with fork, and stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
(this is a really high-protein grain, thus a grain you really want to get comfortable with)
1 c. quinoa
1 1/2 c. cold water
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. snow peas, shell peas, celery, or green beans
1 - 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 green or red pepper, sliced thin
1 medium ripe tomato
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or basil
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, toasted sunflower seeds or toasted cashews
Options: Chopped scallions, dried unsweetened cranberries, raisins or apricots, Greek olives, minced jalapeno pepper, fresh mint
Soak the quinoa 15 minutes in cold water. Rinse well, pour off most of the water and drain through a fine mesh strainer. Place in medium pot with the water, salt and oil. Bring to a full boil. Cover the pot, let boil another minute, turn the heat down to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit five minutes with lid on. Fluff gently with a fork and set aside to cool. Steam the carrots and green vegetables for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp, drain, rinse in cold water and drain again. Chop the tomatoes, herb and cucumber. Blend dressing ingredients with a whisk or shake in a jar. Gently combine veggies, walnuts, quinoa and dressing in a large bowl. Cover and chill.
Dress with 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, ¼ cup of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some ground pepper. I also add a little garlic and fresh herbs, if available.