As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, there's nothing quite like a warm and hearty meal to chase away the winter chill. While many traditional winter dishes rely on fatty, calorie-dense, ingredients we are going to show how you can keep the rich taste of classic favorites with all plant-based, nutrient-dense, ingredients.
Plants Are a Powerhouse for Our Health
A diet rich in plants lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes, aids in weight loss, and provides our bodies with essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.(1) Plants are also key to longevity. Amongst the Blue Zones, where the highest percentage of centenarians (people over 100 years old) live, plants make up the majority of the population’s daily food intake. Now this doesn’t mean you have to go fully vegan or vegetarian, but by incorporating more plants into your diet, better health is easier than ever to achieve!
Time to EAT
Whether you're a dedicated vegan or just looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, we've got you covered with a selection of mouthwatering recipes that are perfect for warming up during the winter season.
Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Beans are a plant-based powerhouse, packed with protein and fiber to keep you full and satisfied. Instead of the typical sour cream or cheese, we will be topping our stuffed potatoes with the healthy delicious fat of an avocado! (You can add a dollop of cashew cheese – the recipe is included in the lasagna below)
- 2 Potatoes (or as many as you want to make)
- 1/4 onion, diced
- 15 oz can kidney beans rinsed and drained
- 15 oz can black beans rinsed and drained
- 15 oz can northern white beans rinsed and drained
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes no salt added
- 1.5 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Avocado for topping
- Bake or microwave your potatoes to your desire. If baking, I like to preheat the oven to 450 degrees, poke a few holes in the potato, and cook on a wire rack first for 25 minutes, then brush with butter or high-heat oil like avocado oil and bake for another 20 minutes. This method makes the potato skin extra crispy. There are a lot of nutritional benefits of eating the skin of the potato as that is where most of the fiber is stored, so why not make it delicious too?
- In a medium pot, sauté the onion on medium heat with a little water until soft
- Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cover for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Split the potatoes down the middle, but do not cut all the way through. Using a fork fluff up the inside of the potato, then put your desired amount of chili on top, add some chopped avocado if you’d like, and ENJOY!
Protein-Packed Vegetable Lasagna
Lasagna, with its layers of pasta, cheese, and hearty sauce, is a beloved comfort food. You can create a plant-based lasagna using ingredients like tofu ricotta, an array of vegetables, and a creamy cashew cheese sauce. These additions enhance the nutritional value while preserving the taste you love. The added tofu, hummus, and cashews also provide a boost of protein that is not typical in a vegetable lasagna. Don’t knock this one until you try it! My father, who is not plant-based, prefers this recipe to his full dairy version.
- 12 lasagna noodles (regular or no boil all work)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 chopped zucchini
- 1 chopped yellow squash
- ½ yellow onion
- 24oz jar marinara sauce (another jar if you like it saucy)
- 1 pkg of extra firm tofu (drained and pressed)
- 10z tub of roasted garlic hummus
- 1 cup raw cashews
- ½ lemon
- 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth
- 1 cup nutritional yeast
- 3 tsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Soak cashews in vegetable broth for 20 minutes.
- First, boil your noodles according to the package directions, then drain and set aside. A splash of oil helps to prevent the noodles from sticking. If using no-boil, you can skip this step.
- Meanwhile, press your tofu with a presser or press between two plates. This is an important step to get the proper consistency for the tofu ricotta.
- Mix hummus, pressed tofu, garlic powder, 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast, and salt/pepper to taste.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Saute vegetables until softened (about 5 minutes)
- To finish making the cashew cheese sauce, blend cashews with 2/3 cup of nutritional yeast, thyme, squeeze lemon, black pepper, and salt.
- Add 1 heaping cup of marinara to the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish, spreading it evenly to cover the bottom of the dish. Top with noodles.
- Top evenly with half of the ricotta mixture and half of the vegetable mixture. Top with sauce. Repeat with another of noodles, the rest of the ricotta and vegetable mixture.
- Top with one last layer of noodles and sauce. Top with cashew cheese sauce.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes or until noodles are soft if using no-boil noodles. Let rest for 15 minutes and ENJOY!
Roasted Winter Vegetable Medley
Winter is the perfect time for roasting hearty vegetables like butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and root vegetables. This dish is simple yet packed with flavor and nutrients. Notice that we have included a variety of colors in this dish. Each color provides a different phytonutrient. The red in the onions helps protect against free radicals, the orange in the butternut squash is rich in vitamin A which helps with immunity, and the green in the Brussels sprouts can help fight cancers.(1,2) Delicious and nutritious!
Add it to quinoa or rice for a yummy bowl or make a winter taco with some cashew cheese sauce on top!
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ red onion
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Toss all the vegetables with olive oil and spread them out on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with dried rosemary, salt, and pepper.
- Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized.
Creamy Hummus Mushroom Pasta
Anything that starts with the word creamy I am in – how about you? This creamy sauce comes from hummus which may sound a bit out of the ordinary for pasta but believe me it will be worth it!
Mushrooms are rich in Selenium which helps your body prevent cell damage. And if not grown commercially in the dark they can be a source of Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for bone health, as it helps your body absorb calcium.(3)
- Pasta of choice
- Mushrooms (white button, cremini, or portabella)
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Cook pasta – when the pasta is done reserve two cups of pasta water for the sauce
- Clean and chop the mushrooms
- Warm up the olive oil in a large skillet, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium-high heat for 12-15 minutes or until browned
- Add garlic and any other seasonings you desire and cook for another minute
- Add hummus and one cup of the reserved pasta water
- Stir and cook on low heat until the hummus gets creamy
- Add cooked pasta and stir until evenly coated, use the extra cup of pasta water if needed to reach your preferred consistency.
- Serve with fresh cracked pepper if you have it and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top.
Healthy Chocolate Peppermint Fudge
Chocolate must always be included, am I right? I’ve made vegan fudge from dates, nut butter, and cacao powder for many potluck events and it is always a fan favorite, especially when they realize that it is a healthier version for a sweet fix.
Dates are high in fiber which is shown to promote long-term weight loss management and help and with a low glycemic index as they can help to keep blood sugar levels steady.(4) Dates are also a great sweetener replacement, so feel free to use them in more of your favorites.
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/3 cup Cacao powder
- ½ cup Vegan chocolate chips
- ½ cup Nut butter of choice
- Peppermint extract
- Crushed candy cane (optional)
- Soak dates in warm water for 20 min
- Combine dates, cacao powder, nut butter, chocolate chips & peppermint extract in food processor and blend
- Press mixture into a pan, top with crushed candy cane, and freeze for at least 1 hour
- Cut into squares and enjoy
- Store in refrigerator
Healthy Apple Crumble
I know it is apple pie season, but this apple crisp is a nutritional powerhouse, combining tasty apples and fiber-dense oats! An apple a day keeps the doctor away, remember? Eating whole fruits improves your odds of aging well and reduces the risk of disease, however, less than 10% of most Western populations consume adequate amounts of whole fruits and fiber in their daily diets.(4) If you are someone who struggles to meet their recommended daily fruit, vegetable, or fiber intake, starting with a healthy dessert could be the perfect way to hit your nutrient goals. It will at least make it sweeter!
- 3-4 Apples
- 1 cup Old fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup Pecans
- 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Ground ginger
- 1 tsp of Nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons Coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon Maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a greased 8x8 baking dish.
- Peel apples and cut them into thin slices (can also leave skin on for added nutritional value).
- Toss apple slices in 1 tbsp coconut oil and spices (1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp ground ginger).
- Mix oats, pecans, maple syrup, the rest of the coconut oil, and spices to make the crisp topping.
- Pour apples into the bottom of the baking dish. Layer crisp topping evenly on top of the apples.
- Cover apple crisp with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cover and bake for another 10-20 minutes until the apples are fork-tender and the crisp topping is golden brown.
Final Cozy Bite
These plant-based recipes are not only perfect for cozy winter nights but also for anyone looking to explore the delicious world of plant-based cooking. They prove that you don't need animal products to create hearty and satisfying meals that will warm you from the inside out. So, this winter, embrace the goodness of plant-based cuisine and enjoy the flavors of the season while staying warm and cozy.
1. Leonov, A., Arlia-Ciommo, A., Piano, A., Svistkova, V., Lutchman, V., Medkour, Y., & Titorenko, V. I. (2015). Longevity extension by phytochemicals. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 20(4), 6544–6572. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules20046544. Accessed 6 November 2023.
2. Aune, D., Giovannucci, E., Boffetta, P., Fadnes, L. T., Keum, N., Norat, T., Greenwood, D. C., Riboli, E., Vatten, L. J., & Tonstad, S. (2017). Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality—A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology, 46(3), 1029-1056. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyw319. Accessed 6 November 2023.
3. UCLA Health (2022, January 24) 7 Health Benefits of Mushrooms, UCLA Health. Retrieved from https://www.uclahealth.org/news/7-health-benefits-of-mushrooms. Accessed 6 November 2023.
4. Dreher M. L. (2018). Whole Fruits and Fruit Fiber Emerging Health Effects. Nutrients, 10(12), 1833. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10121833. Accessed 6 November 2023.