Sweet and Spicy Tomato and Kidney Bean Salad

One of the best things about not eating meat is that you can make meals without having to actually cook anything. Just cut, combine and stir. Whether you're in a hurry, feeling lazy or just want that fresh crunch, a plant based diet gives you the freedom to cook without literally cooking. 

Especially as the weather gets warmer, it's convenient to just cut and combine. It's also surprisingly tasty to keep those fresh ingredients in their natural state. 

The textures and flavors are vibrant and exciting. 

A little salt, a little acid, some  fat, a spice or two and you're all set with a delicious meal. 

1 can dark red kidney beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 poblano pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 long hot pepper, diced
1 serrano, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls olive oil
2 1/2 tsps salt
1 1/2 tsps crushed pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. 

That's it. You're done. Enjoy your not so hard work.

Reinventing Beans and Rice

When you think of beans and rice do you automatically picture the classic red beans and rice dish? If so, it's time to rethink things.

Beans and rice is so much more than that one dish. It's one of the easiest, cheapest, tastiest ways to make a vegetarian or vegan meal.

There is no particular set of ingredients. There are just a few interchangeable components. Beans, rice and vegetables. That's pretty much it. In about 20 minutes complete meal done.

Use canned beans. They only need to be warmed up. Use pre flavored rice. Use frozen vegetables. No slicing. No Cleaning. Just defrost.

Some great examples might be:

Rice a Roni Spanish, black beans, corn and spinach (Vegan).

Knorr Dirty rice, pinto beans, cauliflower and broccoli (Vegetarian). The knorr dirty rice ingredients either changed or I only just noticed it contains chicken fat. Zatarrain's dirty rice is vegan/vegetarian as of Dec 27, 2011.

Knorr Teriyaki rice, chick peas, broccoli and carrots (Vegetarian).

Rice a Roni Herb and Butter, red beans and mustard greens (Vegetarian).

It doesn't stop there. The same simple technique can be used with mashed potato flakes, couscous, even pasta.

If you want to use plain rice, pasta or couscous it's not much harder. Just add some oil, salt, pepper and one spice you really like. A little vegan margarine goes a long way for texture and flavor. As does a small amount of fresh garlic.

The trick is to cook your veg in the same pot as your rice mix. Add dark leafy greens from the beginning. They improve with longer cooking. Cook rice mix as directed, just throw in some veg too. Carrots, brocooli, cauliflower add when there are about 5 minutes left in cooking the rice. Add rinsed, canned beans when there are about the same 2 minutes left.

With potato flakes just add any frozen vegetable to the water at the onset. Bring to a boil. Then turn off heat and stir in flakes. Add beans after done cooking. Let sit 1 minute covered to heat beans through.

For couscous do the same. add veg from the start. When water comes to a boil turn off heat and stir in couscous and beans. Continue as directed.

Pasta is a little tricker. Thick veg I like to cook with my pasta starting when there are only 3 minutes left. Drain. Add all back to pot. Simmer 3 minutes more in sauce or oil. Thinner veg and any beans add to pasta pot after pasta it has been drained and returned to pan for simmering in sauce.

There are endless combinations.

Experiment and enjoy.