So recently, around six months ago now, I fell in love. Head over heels.
But don’t worry, this isn’t another gushy article on finding true love.
The love of my life has an 11-year-old son. He is a beautiful child—intelligent, sensitive, generous and astoundingly compassionate for a young boy.
I had imagined boys his age would be far more interested in getting dirty outside, dissecting insects or getting into playground brawls. I certainly didn’t imagine one who picked up litter on the beach, loved walking the two family dogs and willingly came along on turtle conservation days or save the shark protests.
My vegan lifestyle fit hand-in-hand with my partner who had also been an avid vegan since his teenage years. Neither of us never grew out of the phase our parents assumed (and hoped) we were going through.
Suddenly, faced with nourishing a growing child, I began to put more thought into the meals that I was making.
This article isn’t about whether or not you should raise your child with a vegan diet; it isn’t full of statistics or aimed to provoke confrontation.
These are simply some recipes we have devised that nourish all of our varied needs, preferences and taste buds. Because my own diet is primarily raw vegan, I have included raw alternatives to each dish also.
Sushi is a favorite in our household, and this creation is my partner’s specialty. You can use traditional sushi rice, brown rice, quinoa or make a raw rice with either cauliflower, daikon, parsnip or pine nuts.
We fillings we love include tempeh or tofu (marinated or flavored ones are great), sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs such as basil or coriander, marinated mushrooms, capsicum, grilled zucchini, avocado, fresh sprouts, sesame seeds and grated beetroot or sauerkraut.
Often, we make extra for school lunches too! Sushi is easy, adaptable and great for kids—-colorful, healthy and fun with fingers or chopsticks.
Wraps are an easy way to get lots of salad and veggies in without the plate looking like a salad! Use wholegrain, spelt or gluten free wraps and fill them up with fresh greens, grated carrot and beetroot, cherry tomatoes, grilled veggies, homemade hummus, pesto, or nut cheese, and some marinated tempeh or tofu.
Wraps are also versatile and great for school lunches. To make a raw version, simply substitute the wrap for collard leaves and fill as above!
Couscous and Roasted Vegetables
This is another staple of ours, especially in the cooler months. You can switch the grain to polenta, quinoa, buckwheat or millet. Use any veggies that are tasty roasted such as pumpkin, sweet potato, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini, parsnip, mushrooms and scatter them with fresh rosemary and spices such as sweet paprika or cumin while they roast. We like to add fresh sprouts and a drizzle of tahini and balsamic vinegar.
The smell alone of this dish cooking is enough to excite even an 11 year old’s taste buds!
Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls
These are great in the summertime and fun for everyone to make together. We use regular rice paper, but you can also try a raw option and use collard leaves. The fillings can also be cooked or raw. Often we will stir-fry veggies, cubed tofu, cabbage, spring onion, carrot, celery and bok choy with ginger, garlic, chili , tamari and sesame oil.
You can roll up this veggie filling with rice noodles and fresh mint for traditional rice paper rolls. For the raw version I often make a pate with almonds, sunflower seeds, ginger, tamari, zucchini, coriander and dulse. I use this to fill large collard leaves and add fresh grated carrot, beetroot, herbs and a drizzle of tahini. Both versions make great picnic staples too!
Soup is a popular dinner come wintertime; seasonal veggies and fresh herbs create lots of beloved favorite soups, as do lentils, beans and barley. A simple pumpkin and sweet corn soup or a rich and hearty tomato and lentil soup is lovely served with fresh gluten-free bread.
In the summertime, raw soups are a lovely addition to the menu with recipes such as raw gazpacho, creamy carrot, avocado and ginger or a fresh and zesty tomato and basil soup.
Quinoa and Tempeh Salad
Quinoa and tempeh salad is one dish I have made for myself hundreds of times and never tire of! There is something about it that just nourishes and soothes me. And for growing kids, it’s a great protein hit.
I like to add cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, pecans, cubed capsicum and olives. In the summer, I add mango and mint. In the winter, I like to add cranberries and squash. It is adaptable, quick and tasty, an easy dish to take to a dinner, and one that you can use leftovers with to make sushi or for stuffing and roasting capsicums!
Sweet Potato and Adzuki Bean Burgers
These are new to my repertoire and for some reason the patties themselves still tend to be a little fragile! Still, they taste amazing and are very versatile. You can serve these in traditional burger style on spelt buns with all the trimmings (I like to add guacamole or pesto and lots of fresh salad). Or, serve the patties on top of a fresh salad or on a plate with mashed sweet potato and grilled asparagus.
The patties themselves are a mix of adzuki beans (you can use organic canned ones), sweet potato, basil, cumin, corn, gluten-free breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast and tamari. Just wiz them up in a food processor and grill them as you please.
If you happen to have a dehydrator at home, you can make raw veggie burgers with walnuts, sunflower seeds, sun dried tomatoes, carrot, zucchini, fresh herbs, spices and some flax meal to hold them together. Serve them on a lettuce leaf piled high with salad, sun dried tomato ketchup and cashew mayo.
Raw Mexican Tacos
These are a take on the traditional taco. For a healthy, tasty, raw option—that’s far better than the traditional vegetarian one—we make the tacos in cos lettuce leaf shells with walnut mince, spicy salsa, creamy guacamole and a cashew sour cream.
The walnut mince is simply walnuts, cumin, coriander, chili and tamari broken down and combined in the food processor, and the cashew sour cream is soaked cashews, a dash of salt, apple cider vinegar, lemon and enough water to give it a smooth and creamy consistency. The salsa and guacamole you can make to your own liking!
Zucchini Noodle Pasta
This is another raw option, or you can use buckwheat, soba, udon or green tea noodles. For the raw version, simply spiralize the zucchini to form long noodles and mix with a sun-dried tomato, olive and basil sauce or creamy cashew sauce.
With the cooked noodles, you can make a Thai-inspired dish with lime, ginger, chili, sesame oil and tamari. Add fresh veggies, bean sprouts, peanuts and coriander for a delicious Pad Thai. Or, cook and then blanch the noodles to make a noodle salad, adding fresh veggies, herbs, corn, green beans, sesame seeds, balsamic vinegar and coconut oil.
These dishes are all very versatile and you can work with whatever you have on hand.
These are a few of our tried and trusted recipes. I hope they have sparked some inspiration for you!
Most importantly, be creative and share the experience of food together. Take the kids to farmers markets or begin to grow a simple garden. When kids learn more about where their food is coming from, they’ll be better equipped to make good decisions regarding food as they get older.
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Assistant Editor: Michelle Margaret