Many moons ago I was a vegetarian, and recently with all the buzz around plant-powered diets I've been reminiscing about how I felt when I ate mostly plants. For starters, I don't ever remember feeling hungry, nor do I remember ever feeling stuffed. It seems a pleasant fullness was usually how I finished meals, and I believe a lot of that had to do with the shape of my plate — vegetables and legumes led the way, filling me up with fiber and complex carbs.
Even though meat is a part of my diet today, making plants a big part of the plate is the number-one step I take when I want to reset my eating habits. That practice is a reminder that these deeply nutritious foods can leave you just as satisfied as any animal protein-packed meal.
So this week we looked at what a crop of vegan cookbooks had to offer by way of hearty plant-based food and asked our food photographer pal, Maria Siriano, a vegan herself, to share her thoughts on the recipes. Finally, we asked Maria to share one of her own hearty vegan dishes. It's a spicy peanut butter tempeh number that can't be missed.
Plants to Keep You Satisfied
Many of these recipes take advantage of legumes and beans to bring in the hearty factor. From a nutrition standpoint, that means these recipes are pumped full of complex carbs and lots of fiber. Those are two things widely accepted to promote a feeling of fullness, but I don't want to overlook the role their texture plays in satisfaction. Feeling full is largely affected by what it feels like to eat food. Beans are toothsome — they're something to bite into, something to chew — and they provide body and texture to the overall dish. The kidney bean and coconut curry from Vegan: The Cookbook is such a great example of this principle. The beans cook down into a spiced coconut milk broth (it's laced with cardamom and curry!) developing a texture that's at once chunky and velvety.
Similarly, Maria's tempeh bowl brings texture and fiber to the table. Brown rice makes the base, then there's a nice dose of steamed veggies, and finally, sautéed tempeh and peanut sauce to top it off. If you're not familiar with tempeh, it's truly the unsung hero of the vegan and vegetarian diet. While numerous meat analogs usually get the spotlight, especially as innovative technologies push plant-based "meats" to new frontiers, I'm reminded why the classic elements of plant-based diets can't be forgotten. Made from lightly fermented beans, most often soybeans, tempeh delivers on taste, texture, and of course nutrition (three ounces of tempeh will get you about 16 grams of protein).
Don't Hesitate to Play on Nostalgia
We can't ignore the role nostalgia plays when it comes to satisfaction. No matter what your diet and no matter when it began, there are dishes that conjure up feelings of comfort. Homestyle Vegan, a cookbook full of veganized comfort food classics, offers up a chickpea noodle soup. Its golden broth and chickpeas in place of chicken get swirled together with the familiar cast of vegetables for a hearty and homey soup.
Try Something New
Anna Jones' book A Modern Way to Cook does a beautiful job of walking the line between comfort and innovation, bringing new ingredients to traditional techniques (and sometimes vice versa). Her avocado fritters embody this. They take the familiar flavors of avocados, garlic, and cilantro and add quinoa to shape the mixture into fritters you pan-fry. They're served with a sumptuous cashew hollandaise tinted gold with turmeric.
No matter what drives your desire to bring more plant-derived meals into your diet, know that when done thoughtfully, these foods can also bring you a great deal of satisfaction. Reach for a cookbook to learn a new technique, embrace new ingredients, and don't stray to0 far from what you already know. This is a surefire way to help you get reacquainted with all the ways plant-powered foods can leave you feeling full, happy, and nourished.