Fast and Easy Vegan Recipe: Beans-and-Greens Rice Bowl

Looking for something plant-based that’s quick, healthy, and easy to make? Hoping to fill your tummy, a lunch box, or your family’s plates? Need a dorm-friendly meal option or a simple dish your tween can heat up solo? Hunting for a 15-minute meal? This packable dish is good warm or cool. Give it a try.

Change out the beans and veggies to switch things up. Maybe black beans with peppers and corn, or cannelini beans with spinach and artichoke. Try switching up brown rice for farro or quinoa. Make this suit you.

BEANS-AND-GREENS RICE BOWL

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BEANS-AND-GREENS RICE BOWL

Ingredients:

2 cans pinto beans

3 cups frozen broccoli florets

2 cups frozen peas

2 bags of frozen microwave-in-pouch brown rice

2 Tbl Soy-free Earth Balance Spread

1 Tbl dried Italian seasoning

2 Tbl garlic powder

* 2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Microwave the rice according to package instructions.

Drain and rinse the beans.

Pour frozen veggies into a big microwaveable bowl and top with Earth Balance before microwaving for 8 minutes, or until warmed through.

Add the rice and beans to the cooked veggies then stir in the seasonings.

Refrigerate for later, portion it out for meal prep, scoop into containers for lunch box filling, or serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

Why I Dropped Meat

It’s been 6 months since I’ve eaten meat. I am but a fledgling on my journey towards what some may call veganism and others may call a plant-based diet. But, why am I taking this plant-eating path?

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As a young teen I’d wanted to become a vegetarian, feeling guilty for eating animals. As a “cradle Catholic”, I decided to give up meat for Lent one year. Knowing nothing about nutrition, it’s no surprise I wound up feeling perpetually rundown, weak, and hungry during those 40 days. (As a hormonal young teen, I’m sure that lethargy made me extra-pleasant company!) I left that herbivore stint thinking I couldn’t live without meat… that my body didn’t thrive on a meat-free diet.

Fast-forward to 3 years ago. I had my gallbladder removed in an entirely unremarkable, common surgery. Once the wounds were healed, I felt markedly better than I had for the four months preceding my operation. However, as many post-op gallbladder patients note, my digestion was off. I’d bloat, have frequent and urgent trips to the bathroom, and suffer stomach pain. It was frustrating. Some foods — like raw vegetables, legumes, greens, seeds, and nuts — I was able to help my body digest by way of regular exposure. Other foods — fatty meats like sausage, greasy hamburgers, and hot dogs — were mightily rejected. Fortunately, I was already dairy-free due to an allergy, so I didn’t struggle with that frequently aggravating food group too.

As time went on, my inability to digest meats increased. Fatty fish, processed meats, red meats, beef broth… all of it would wreak havoc on my system. Eventually, even with the help of probiotics, I was only able to eat grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast. With my diet so limited, the texture of the chicken meat eventually became unappealing. Then came a trip to our local farm park.

It’s a beautiful place, this farm, where 4-H members care for the animals. Chickens, pigs, ducks, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits, turkeys, even a couple of peacocks reside on the well-tended farm. The cows though… it’s the cows that got me.

One sunny late-summer afternoon, we took a family trip to the farm. My littlest was nursing in the baby carrier as my older two children scampered about looking at the animals. We came to the cow pasture where I saw an engorged mama cow. We had seen her bull calf a few fields over. Mama Cow’s udder was full and distended. She clearly needed to feed her calf.

As a breastfeeding, breast milk donating mother, I empathized with her. I felt her discomfort. I looked about searching for a farmhand to ask after the calf.

Just then, a farmhand entered the field, halter in hand, ready to take Mama Cow to be milked. “We’re in the process of weaning,” she explained, gently buckling the harness around mama cow’s furry head, “she’s being milked in a few minutes if you’d like to come watch. Kids love it.” She lead Mama Cow through the grass and onto the gravel path, Mama Cow’s swollen, milk-filled udder slightly impeding her gait.

That image haunts me. The painfully engorged Mama Cow, her baby boy separated from her and forcibly weaned to a bottle so that her milk could feed humans, instead of the calf for which it was intended. Later, that bull calf would likely have one of two fates: breed or burger. Mama Cow would continue to be impregnated, continue to be forcibly separated and weaned from her offspring, continue to be milked to feed humans instead of calves, continue to be used until she could give no more. Then her fate would be the slaughterhouse.

I tossed and turned that night. The mere thought of meat made me shudder. The idea of biting into a burger or steak made my stomach turn. It was dead flesh… a carcass! Was I so important that my hunger came above Mama Cow’s life or the life of her babies? Could I not eat other things to fill my belly, nourish my body in another way, and not contribute to their deaths? And with that question, my path began.

At first, I just gave up meat but still ate fish, honey, and eggs regularly. Then I gave up fish unless out of the house and faced with few other food options. Next I stopped eating eggs, not only because I realized that by eating eggs I was contributing to the eventual slaughter and consumption of the hens, as well as the deaths of roosters, but because the vegan replacements satiated my egg cravings. Then I reduced my use of honey. Eventually, I plan to stop eating fish when out and about.

I don’t judge or chastise those who eat meat. This is my path, and mine alone. I ate meat for years. I loved meat! My children and husband still eat meat (though I cook vegetarian fare 99% of the time, unless they request a specific meaty dish.) Simply put, I don’t personally want to consume carcasses. Others may do as they please.

And how do I feel six months in? I. Feel. Great! I never have that heavy “thud” in my gut after even the heaviest of vegan meals. My digestion is regular. My belly doesn’t get distended. I have more energy. I feel lighter. I no longer feel guilty. It’s perfect for me.

I am happy. I am healthy. My conscience is at ease. Our grocery bill is $50-$100 below our previous amount since dropping meat. Heck, this week we spent a measly $150 to feed our family of five for the whole week, and that includes my vegan wine. I cannot complain.

This is my abrupt yet gentle trek towards an entirely plant-based diet. “Take it slow or you’ll regret it,” advised one vegan. So I am.

5 Fast, Healthy, and Easy Vegan Meals

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complex. You can eat healthy, tasty, cruelty-free food even if you’re short on culinary skill and time.

Here are five fast and easy meatless meals that’ll have even omnivores cleaning their plates.

1) Spicy Lettuce Cups: 

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Spicy Lettuce Cups

Drizzle a bit of your preferred cooking oil in a pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add 4 chopped baby portobello mushrooms to the hot pan. Once the mushrooms start to sizzle, add 1/4 cup of prepared lentils, 1 chopped avocado, and the juice of 1 lemon. Sprinkle in garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Finish with a liberal dose of crushed red pepper flakes. Once heated through, serve the warm mixture on leaves of freshly washed Boston lettuce.

2) Broccoli-Bean Soup

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Broccoli-Bean Soup

Drizzle you preffered cooking oil in a pan. Thaw 3 cups of frozen broccoli in a pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, add 1.5 cups of vegetable stock, 2 Tbl garlic powder, 1 Tbl onion powder, 1 tsp dried basil, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tsp smoked paprika, a dash of liquid aminos (or soy sauce), and salt and pepper to taste. Add in 1 can of drained and rinsed butter beans. Turn off heat and carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender until it reaches your desired smoothness. Optional: sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.

3) Barbecue Beans:

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Barbecue Beans

Add 1 cup of frozen peas and carrots to a pan over medium-high heat. Cook until thawed. Stir in 1 can of drained and rinsed beans (pinto beans and kidney beans are our favorites), 1/3 cup of vegan barbecue sauce (such as Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce), 1 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp chili powder. Heat for 2 minutes then serve. It is great on its own, mixed into short-cut pasta, or as shown here served as a sandwich topped with vegan mayo.

4) Raw Nut-free Kale Pesto 

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Raw Nut-free Kale Pesto

Add 1 cup baby kale, 4 Tbl extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbl raw unsalted hulled sunflower seeds, 1 Tbl nutritional yeast, 1/2 Tbl garlic powder to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir into cooked Banza (chickpea flour) pasta and top with 3 handfuls of sliced cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with hemp hearts for an added nutrition punch.

5) Black Bean Bowl

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Black Bean Bowl

Place 1 bag of microwaveable brown rice into the microwave and cook per the package instructions. While the rice cooks, add 1/4 chopped sweet onion to a greased pan over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute then add 1 chopped red bell pepper to the pan. After the vegetables have cooked for 1 minute, add 1/4 cup of frozen sweet corn to the pan to heat through. Stir in 1 Tbl garlic powder, 1/2 Tbl cumin, 1/2 Tbl chili powder, 1/2 Tbl onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste (throw in a touch of cayenne if you like some heat.). Place the rice in a bowl, spoon the bean mixture over the rice, top with 1/4 sliced avocado, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over top, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Burger Recipe

Looking for a cheap, easy, freezer-friendly plant-based meal? Hoping to satisfy herbivore and omnivore palates, alike? Hunting for a guilt-free entree a teen could easily thaw and heat solo? Need a make-ahead family meal idea that is free from the top 8 allergens? I’ve got you!

LENTIL-BEAN BURGER 

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Lentil-Bean Burger

Ingredients:

1c lentils
1 can kidney beans
3 flax eggs (3 Tbl flaxmeal stirred together with 6 Tbl water)
2 Tbl yellow mustard
2 Tbl garlic powder
2 Tbl cumin
1 Tbl onion powder
1 Tbl basil
1/2 Tbl smoked paprika
1/2 Tbl Tbl chili powder
1 bell pepper  (chopped)
1/2 vidalia onion  (chopped)
1 pkg rolled oatmeal
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Stir together the flax meal and water to prepare your flax eggs, and let set while you chop your vegetables.

Once the flax mixture is a sticky, viscous goo, mix all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Mash the mixture with a handheld potato masher until the texture is sticky enough to form patties.

Form the mixture into patties (it should make 10 standard size burger patties.)

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

While the oven heats, cook the patties in an oiled pan over medium-high heat until golden.

Carefully flip each patty and cook until both sides are golden.

Transfer the patties to a silcome lined aluminum baking sheet and bake for 45 min, or until sufficiently cohesive in texture (baking time may vary with dark or nonstick pans.)

Remove and freeze, refrigerate, or serve.

To reheat, defrost in the microwave then cook in oiled pan over medium heat.

Dill Garbanzo Salad

Looking for a potluck dish that’s free from the top 8 allergens? On the search for a versatile vegan picnic dish that can go from side salad to sandwich stuffer? Meal prepping for the week and need a healthy, cheap menu item that can transition from packed lunch to snack to dinner? Hunting for a no-cook fiber-rich, protein-filled dish? Dill Garbanzo Salad!

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Canned garbanzo beans, celery, vidalia onion, soy-free veganaisse, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper are all you need to make this dish. Simply grab a big bowl and add in 2 cans of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, 2 handfuls of cleaned and chopped fresh dill, 3 stalks of cleaned and chopped celery, 1 chopped small vidalia onion, 3/4 cup of Soy-free Veganaisse, the juice of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Use a potato masher to combine the ingredients. Smash until roughly 2/3 of the garbanzo beans are crushed and the remaining beans are whole. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

After refrigerating, stir and taste to check seasoning before serving. Add more salt and pepper if needed, or sprinkle in some garlic powder if desired. If you want to add some extra zing, stir in a bit of juice from a jar of pickles and a couple of diced pickles immediately before serving.

DILL GARBANZO SALAD 

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Ingredients:

2 cans garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)

3 stalks celery  (cleaned and chopped)

1 small vidalia onion  (chopped)

2 handfuls fresh dill (cleaned and chopped)

3/4 cup Soy-Free Veganaisse

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

* Optional: garlic powder to taste, dill pickle juice, and 2 diced pickles

Instructions:

Add all of the ingredients, minus the optional items, into a large bowl.

Using potato masher, crush the ingredients to combine until roughly 2/3 of the beans are smashed and the remaining beans are whole.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

Before serving, stir and taste, seasoning with additional salt and pepper and/or garlic powder if desired.

For an extra flavor punch, stir in a bit of pickle juice from a jar of dill pickles and a couple of diced dill pickles.

Stuff it into a pita pocket, pile it into a sandwich, smear it on toast, roll it into a wrap, spoon it as a side dish, serve it on top of fresh greens, or scoop it into a Buddha bowl. However you use it, enjoy it!

Product Find: B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Cake)

Food allergies and dietary restrictions often mean that social gatherings involving food require extra planning. If you have a child with special dietary needs, birthday parties can be particularly cumbersome because: cake.

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Dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, food coloring… there are all sorts of delicious allergens in most cakes. So what do you do if your child can’t eat the provided cake at a gathering? You B.Y.O.C. (Bring Your Own Cake) for your child to enjoy alongside his or her cake-nibbling cohorts. The problem is this often means you’re left with an entire batch of allergen-friendly cupcakes or 9/10 of a whole cake at home. (The taste buds love it; the waistline does not.) The solution: Duncan Hines’ Perfect Size Cake.

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For those with soy, egg, and dairy allergies, this mini cake is perfect for birthday party B.Y.O.C. At most, you’re left with a few extra slices. No biggy!

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Just be sure to check the label to ensure you grabbed a variety that suits your dietary needs. Make it vegan by opting for the dry cake mix + soda trick (all you do is mix 1/2 a can of soda into the dry mix and bake as specified in the package instructions) and substitute the butter for coconut oil or non-dairy butter and you’re set! The cake even comes with its own tiny baking tin with easy cake extraction. Bonus: the icing tastes better than the standard plastic tub product. Just be sure to have an electric hand mixer available to whip it up.

Let them eat cake!

 

Vegan Black Bean Chili and Legit Vegan Nachos

Looking for a vegan chili recipe? Searching for a way to make legit vegan nachos? We’re talking a “dairy-eating omnivores will ravage the dish” kind of recipe? I’ve got you.

When I made this flesh-free, dairy-ditching nacho dish, my omnivorous husband, 5-year-old, 3.5-year-old, and 1-year-old all cleared their plates and asked to eat it again the next day. No “eat your food!” fights for a meal almost entirely comprised of veggies? If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is!

VEGAN BLACK BEAN CHILI

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Vegan black bean chili

Ingredients:

– 1/4 vidalia onion (diced)

– 3 cloves garlic (minced)

– 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

– 1 can cream style corn

– 3 tomatoes (diced)

– 2 handful baby portobello mushrooms  (diced)

– 1 green bell pepper  (diced)

– 2 Tbl garlic powder

– 2 Tbl smoked paprika (yes, it must be the smoked variety)

– 2 Tbl chili powder

– 1 Tbl basil

– 1 Tbl thyme

– 1 Tbl cumin

– .5 Tbl Spike Original Magic seasoning

– .5 Tbl Braggs Liquid Aminos 

– 2 Tbl vegan barbecue sauce  (ex: Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce)

– 2 Tbl prepared yellow mustard

– salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

– Drizzle olive oil in a large stock pot and place on stove over medium heat.

– Once the oil is warm, add the onion and garlic to the pot and allow to cook while you dice the mushrooms.

– Add the diced mushrooms and let cook while you chop the pepper and tomato.

– Add the the chopped veggies and all of the remaining ingredients to the pot.

– Bring pot to a gentle boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer.

– Simmer covered on low for a minimum of 30 minutes but ideally two hours.

– Serve as is or as nachos.

LEGIT VEGAN NACHOS

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Vegan Nachos

Ingredients:

– Vegan black bean chili (recipe above)

– Tortilla chips

– 4 slices of Creamy Original Chao Slices dairy-free cheese 

Directions:

– Grab a walled baking sheet, line it with tin foil, and spray with cooking spray.

– Set the oven to broil.

– Pour the desired amount of tortilla chips on the pan.

– Cover the chips with the chili.

– Break up the Chao Slices into shreds and spread evenly over the top of the chili.

– Place the nachos under the broiler until the Chao is melted and blistered (watch carefully to avoid burning.)

– Carefully remove from oven and serve.

* optional: serve with vegan avocado crema (1 avocado blended with 1 cup Tofutti imitation cream cheese, 1/8 cup dairy-free milk, the juice of 1 lime, salt, and pepper)

My Allergic Reaction to Dairy

So, it happened. I was dosed with dairy… entirely unintentionally. What does that mean for me? A week of discomfort — at times pain — and general mental ineptitude. However, this is not how every dairy-allergic person reacts to dairy exposure.

People respond differently to their allergens and the body’s reactions can escalate or decrease in severity with any exposure without notice. That’s the scary thing with allergic reactions: they’re unpredictable.

How bizarre is it that a person may one time not even react noticeably to his or her allergen, but another time may experience an allergic reaction far worse than any he or she had previously experienced? It’s troubling.

Each person’s allergic response to a shared allergen can be entirely different. One person may get hives, another may be anaplylactic, someone else may suffer digestive woes. There’s no singular allergy experience.

I realized my dairy allergy when I was six months postpartum with my middle child. I had been feeling “off”… achey and bloated with joint pain and digestive troubles. So I researched possible causes. I read an article and identified all of my symptoms — even ongoing issues I thought were unrelated — with dairy allergy. I decided to eliminate dairy from my diet for one week to see if it helped.

Not-so-secretly I hoped it would fail and I could return to my usual eating habits. Unfortunately, I had no such luck. Fortunately, I felt AMAZING!

My bones and joints no longer hurt, my knees looked entirely different than they had for years because they were no longer swollen, my digestion was normal, my lower belly pouch was gone, my brain fog disappeared, my headaches dissipated, my energy elevated, my mild acne vanished. Dairy was clearly the culprit. It was ingredient non grata.

Now, 3 years sans dairy, I am accustomed to how I feel without my allergen coursing through my system. In turn, my inflammatory response to dairy is unpleasant and unwelcome. When I do get dosed by unexpected dairy these are generally my symptoms:

Stomach bloating  (think first trimester pregnant.)

Stomach discomfort (it feels like there is a rock in my stomach)

Intestinal distress (frequent, intense bowel evacuation.)

Body aches (my bones hurt like I have a high fever)

Joint pain (my knees are hit the hardest followed by my wrists, fingers, and spine.)

Headache  (sometimes it manifests as a migraine with vision troubles, and other times as a nagging headache.)

Brain fog (I have trouble typing properly, my language recall is poor, I become forgetful and spacey, and my attention span is abbreviated. Considering my perpetual case of “mom brain”, these symptoms are truly obnoxious.)

Moodiness (I am quicker to anger and get frustrated easily. I feel sad and anxious.)

Fatigue (no amount of sleep or caffeine lessens it.)

Pimples (my skin is usually clear but, as dairy works its way out of my inflamed system, I get a smattering of blemishes.)

These symptoms last one full week, the brain fog being the last to dissipate. It sucks. However, knowing my usual allergy progression helps. Still,  one can never bank on a specific allergic response; allergies are fickle. And so it is best to remain vigilant in avoiding the allergen entirely.

Fortunately for me, living dairy-free isn’t as hard as I thought. It’s actually quite delicious!

 

Smoky Black Bean Burgers

Looking for a fast, easy, cheap, vegetarian (and dairy-free) burger recipe? I’ve got you covered! These meat-less patties garnered kid and omnivore approval, alike. Bonus: they’re freezer-friendly! So prepare and cook a big batch and freeze the rest for future fast, healthy meals.

SMOKY BLACK BEAN BURGERS

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Ingredients

(Makes 12 servings)

2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)

1/2 vidalia onion  (minced)

1 red bell pepper  (minced)

2 eggs (whisked)

1 cup Panko (or dairy-free bread crumbs)

1 Tbl garlic powder

1 Tbl chili powder

1/2 Tbl smoked paprika (using smoked paprika is key)

1/2 Tbl Cumin

Salt & pepper to taste

Dairy-free hamburger buns

Directions

Use your preferred cooking oil to grease a large cooking pan.

Turn the stove to medium-high to warm the pan.

While the pan heats, place all of the ingredients — except for the hamburger buns — into a large bowl and mash with a handheld masher.

Once the mixture is combined enough to form patties, begin to form burger patties.

Place 4-5 burger patties in your pan, being careful not to overcrowd the cooking space.

Let the patties cook undisturbed for 3 minutes per side.

Remove the cooked patties from the pan and place on a paper towel to cool.

Continue cooking the remaining patties until all are nicely seared.

Serve the patties on hamburger buns topped with your favorite burger condiments.

Enjoy!

 

5 Dippable Dairy-free School Lunches

School lunches… like we need another hurdle in our day! You want to provide nutritious, filling food that your child will actually eat, BUT it has to be packable.

What’s a way to encourage most kids to eat veggies? Making them dippable! Here are 5 dairy-free dippable, packable school lunch ideas approved by my kindergartener.

1) Eggplant dippers

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Cucumber slices, bell pepper strips, grape tomatoes, and whole wheat pita are perfect for dunking in this eggplant dip. Pile half of an apple — sliced — into a snack size container for an energy boost later in the day.

Eggplant dip: 1 chopped eggplant and 6 peeled whole cloves of garlic drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, then roasted at 425F until softened. Add the roasted veggies, 1/4 cup of tahini, and 1/4 of olove oil to your food processor and blend. Scrape food processor sides with a spoon. Add a handful of raw grape tomatoes, 2 spoonfuls of olive spread, a hefty handful of fresh basil, and blend. Scrape down the food processor sides and taste. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder if desired. Blend and serve.

2) Asian Sunbutter Sauce Dippers

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Veggie dipping gets international, peanut-free flare with this take on crudite. Add sliced radishes, sugar snap peas, baby corn, dairy-free sesame crackers, and a few sheets of dry roasted seaweed (like this) to a container with a side of Asian Sunbutter sauce for dipping. Toss some washed red grapes in a snack container for later.

Asian Sunbutter sauce: Place 2 Tbl Sunbutter, 2 Tbl mirin, 1 Tbl reduced sodium Teriyaki sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil in a ramekin. Microwave for 20 seconds to soften the Sunbutter. Mix well then transfer to a small container.

3) Black Bean Dippers

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Hearty and healthy, black bean dip is a multi-use dish. Stuff, spread, or scoop… it’s a great back-pocket protein-rich, tummy-filling recipe to have on hand. For this lunch, add a few spoonfuls of the homemade bean puree to a small container. Serve bell pepper strips, celery sticks, and plantain chips for dipping. Add fruit salad to a small container for a sweet snack.

Black Bean Dip: grab a blender cup and pour in 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans, 2 spoonfuls of pico de gallo, the juice of 1 lime, 2 Tbl olive oil, 1 Tbl cumin, 1 Tbl chili powder, 1/2 Tbl garlic powder, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Blend. Scoop, dip, serve, or refrigerate for later use.

4) Marinara Dippers

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Scoop your favorite dairy-free marinara into a small container. Toss a couple of raw broccoli florets, some dairy-free bread sticks, and a few dairy-free meatballs in a container for dipping. (If your containers slosh, tuck the breadsticks into a plastic baggie.) Place some grapes in a snack size container for later noshing.

5) Creamy Teriyaki Dippers 

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To make Teriyaki less spill-prone, let’s thicken the sauce. In a blender, whir together 1 Tbl of reduced sodium Teriyaki sauce with 2 Tbl of Tofutti Better Than Ricotta. Pour the sauce into a small container. Add radishes, sugar snap peas, baby corn, dry roasted seaweed, and a few sesame crackers for dipping. Tangerine segments and grapes make a refreshing snack. (If your sauce tends to spill over in the container in transit, pop the crackers and seaweed in a plastic baggie.)