Six suggestions and three recipes to get you started
For me, food has never been about nourishment alone; it is also about pleasure, comfort, tradition, conscience, and love. What we choose to eat and feed our families reflects our concern for our health and well-being; it shows our concern for the planet and its inhabitants; it expresses our desire for connection with those present in our lives and with the past. And, yes, it also reflects the limitations of time and money in our lives as Solo Moms.
But in spite of attempting to accommodate all of these contending factors along with our children’s appetites and aversions, cooking and eating together remain chief among the joys and consolations in our lives. Whether choosing a vegan diet for ethical or health reasons, or some combination of the two, cooking and eating with our kids can remain, or become, an enjoyable collaborative undertaking. Here’s how.
- If you’re new to a vegan diet, begin by making a few easy substitutions for pantry staples. Replace butter with Earth Balance vegan buttery spread (it’s also good to have olive and coconut oils on hand); replace eggs with powdered egg replacer for baking (found in the baking section of most grocery stores) or with tofu for scrambles; replace dairy milk with soy, almond, or any other nondairy milk (likewise for ice cream); and replace Parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast.
- Take your children shopping with you. Allow them to choose their favorite fruits and vegetables from the farmers’ market or produce section, or those they might be unfamiliar with but curious about. Base your meals around these kid-chosen foods. Peruse the index of your favorite cookbooks or search Google for recipes containing your chosen ingredients, and simply omit any meat and dairy or use substitutes. The more involved your children are in the process, the more likely they are to eat (and enjoy) the outcome.
- Subscribe to community-supported agriculture. These subscription services are available in most areas and are an efficient and cost-effective solution to upping your produce intake. Search online, sign up, and pay a fee for fresh, local, seasonal produce delivered once a week to a pickup site near your home. Shares are generally available in various sizes to fit your family’s budget and needs, whether you’re feeding two or 10.
- Once you’ve decided what to make, have your children help wash, prepare, and chop. This doesn’t have to be a chore; rather, it’s an opportunity to engage in the kind of meaningful work that gives us each a sense of purpose. My nine-year-old genuinely enjoys stripping the tough ribs from kale leaves and spinning them dry in the salad spinner.
- Pretend you’re doing a science experiment, because you are. Whether measuring and mixing for baked goods or salad dressing, you’re making a potion, and the results are alchemic: simple ingredients are transformed into genuine deliciousness.
- Treat yourselves. Going vegan doesn’t have to mean going without. A sense of deprivation is unpleasant and ultimately unsustainable. By keeping vegan baked goods on hand, you never have to feel deprived or tempted to stray from the vegan lifestyle. Choose one day each weekend to bake a seasonal favorite to enjoy throughout the week.
Still at a loss? Try some of our family’s current favorites.
1-2 slices of whole-grain bread, per person (We love Ezekiel 4:9 bread, found in the freezer section.)
½ a ripe avocado, per person
Lemon or lime juice
Crushed red pepper flakes
Toast the bread to taste. Slice each avocado in half and remove the pit. Slice through the flesh of the avocado lengthwise without slicing through the peel. Scoop the flesh onto the toast with a spoon, using ¼–½ an avocado on each slice. Use the back of a fork to gently smash and spread the avocado over the bread. Drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon or lime juice, and sprinkle with plenty of sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Enjoy!
Several slices whole-grain bread, cubed (It’s OK if it’s stale!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
1 large head romaine lettuce; or one medium bunch of kale, deribbed, washed, and spun dry
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the croutons, toss the cubed bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper in a large salad bowl. Spread onto a baking sheet, and toast in the oven until crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the dressing, combine 4 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, capers, salt, and pepper in the same bowl (no need to wash in between). Whisk to emulsify.
If using romaine, slice into 1-inch strips and add to bowl. If using kale, chiffonade the leaves into thin strips and add to bowl. Toss thoroughly to coat the greens with dressing.
Remove croutons from the oven and allow to cool, and then add them to the greens along with the nutritional yeast. Toss to combine. Serves 4.
Oat Bar Cookies
1½ cups whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, or whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
¾ cup fruit preserves (I’ve tried apricot, strawberry, and raspberry—anything a little tart works nicely, as the topping is quite sweet.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; stir in oats and brown sugar. Cut in buttery spread until crumbly. Pat 2/3 of the crumbs in an 11 x 7 x 1½-inch baking dish. Spread with preserves; top with remaining crumbs. Bake for about 35 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. Makes 2½ dozen.
Do you have healthy lifestyle advice or recipes to share? Or are you curious how other Solo Moms take care of themselves and their kids? Hop on over to Sister Chat!
Brit Washburn is a writer, editor, and vegan cook, who teaches and practices yoga in Charleston, South Carolina, where she lives with her three sons and a daughter on the way. Her blog can be found at www.theoryandpracticeofbeing.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.