As 2019 came to a close, I spent time dreaming up all the destinations I wanted to check off the travel list in 2020. A honeymoon in Bora Bora. A weekend in Palm Springs. A trip to Costa Rica. Road trips to Seattle to watch the Mariners. However, in mid-March, as the Covid-19 headlines starting dominating the news, and the words shutdown, quarantine, ventilators, and restrictions echoed through our televisions, it became clear all our travel plans for the foreseeable future would remain just that, dreams.
It is comforting to know that we are all doing our part to stay safe, and while we can’t travel right now, we can bring some of our favourite destinations into our kitchens, a place we have been spending much more time in lately.
Who else feels like their day pretty much consists of cooking and doing dishes all day long in-between work tasks? I haven’t cooked this much and this consistently, well, ever, and it’s been nice to expand my culinary skills and try new dishes.
Here are 10 plant-based travel-inspired recipes I have been loving during the quarantine.
We may not be able to visit the shores of Mexico these days (which is too bad, because I think we could all use a STRONG margarita) but we can cook a few favourites at home. This black bean and sweet potato enchilada recipe has been a go-to weeknight meal for us for years. It is SO good and filling.
I highly recommend taking the extra time to make the homemade enchilada sauce that compliments the recipe, but you can always buy storebought to make this recipe even easier. You can sub the cheese for vegan cheese as we have done many times. These feel nice and healthy-ish compared to what you’d order at your typical take-out place, utilizing veggies and beans for a protein-packed meal with tons of nutrients.
We have been on a real tot-cho kick in quarantine (nachos made with tater tots instead of tortilla chips … I know). I love this Hot for Food vegan nacho cheese recipe, as well as this one from The Edgy Veg that is made with carrots and potatoes, so you feel like you’re at least getting some semblance of nutrition with the vegetables in there. Okay, bit of a stretch but there are no judgments in quarantine!
We bake the tots in the oven, then pour over the cheese and top with our favourites, including black beans, jalapeños, diced tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, black olives with guacamole, salsa and leftover cheese on the side. Don’t forget the hot sauce!
Switching gears, we have been making a TON of curries, dals, and hearty feel-good comfort foods. Here are a few favourites we rotate between that are packed with a TON of healthy immune-boosting foods like ginger, garlic, turmeric, spinach, lentils, and loads of fresh veggies. We usually serve these over brown rice.
This is my go-to weeknight curry as it utilizes many pantry items you will most likely have on-hand with a few fresh veggies. We make this weekly. I posted this on my Instagram stories and was flooded with photos and messages of people making and loving it! Great as leftovers too for an easy work from home lunch.
If I had to eat one thing for the rest of my life it would probably be toasted everything bagels with cream cheese, but green curry would be a close second. The key here is buying authentic green curry paste from your local market or making it from scratch. Don’t skip the lime leaves or lemongrass if you can because it really brings out the Thai flavours. I usually skip the potatoes and add zucchini instead, but this curry is also great to use up any veggies you have leftover in your fridge like red peppers, kale or spinach (just add it at the very end so they don’t wilt TOO much).
Another cozy curry from Oh She Glows. As a vegetarian, I try to incorporate lentils into my diet as much as possible (meat-eaters, you should do the same). They are SO underrated. They are easy to disguise in curries and are insanely nutritious. One cup of lentils (varies by type) has 18g protein, 0.8 grams of fat, 90% of the recommended daily folate, and 37% of your daily iron.
I love a good butter chicken but haven’t had it since becoming vegetarian. Enter, this insanely delicious recipe from Half Baked Harvest (one of my favourite food blogs). I’ve been making the recipe as is but recently purchased this Spice Sanctuary butter chicken spice from Urban Fare that I have been adding to it for extra flavor. The cauliflower gets nice and soft and absorbs all the delicious flavours. Pair with naan bread to dip.
Speaking of cauliflower. I recently purchased the Fraiche Food, Full Hearts Recipe book, and am loving the recipes. There is a recipe in it for coconut cauliflower tacos that transported me to the islands of Hawaii (just needed one of those deadly MonkeyPod mai tais). It isn’t available online, but this crispy baked cauliflower taco recipe is pretty much identical. If you want added crispiness, you can deep fry or pan fry the cauli in lots of avocado oil.
Serve it with this fresh pineapple salsa from Cookie and Kate, sriracha mayo, avocado, cilantro, and pickled veggies (I love red onions and jalapeños or you can do fresh as well).
Pescatarian? These Crispy Baked Fish Tacos are another option!
I have been craving anything peanut these days, so I opted for a peanut butter-based pad thai instead of going the more traditional route (any nut butter works). This recipe is far from the authentic pad Thai you’ll find on the beaches of Thailand with a cold 25 cent Chang beer, but if you like nutty flavours, it’s a goodie! I’ll admit, I used real brown rice noodles instead of all the ribboned veggies. I still included a few ribboned carrots, but your girl needs her carbs. I have yet to find a good, authentic Pad Thai recipe, so if you have one, can you comment below or send me DM on insta?
Now, if you’ve been able to get your hands on yeast and flour during quarantine, bravo to you! I had to beg a local bakery to sell me some of theirs. But it was well worth it because I’ve been baking homemade bread and recently made this insane focaccia bread. My girlfriend sent me the recipe in a group text, and after we all made it I replied “Well, I’m glad we all learned how to make crack during quarantine!” – It is SO good. Eat it right away, fresh out of the oven with good olive oil and vinegar, and then follow it up with your favorite Italian dish.
Thought I’d end on a sweet note. I have been daydreaming about the day we will be able to check into hotels again. The anticipation as you head to your room to drop your bags off and head out to explore. A happy hour cocktail in the lounge people watching. Hopping into a perfectly made bed every night. If you’ve ever stayed at a Hilton hotel, you KNOW about their famous cookies. They are next level.
The Doubletree Hilton was courteous enough to finally release the recipe to brighten our spirits during this dark time, and it worked. Here is the recipe. The surprising secret ingredient? Lemon juice! I didn’t have a mixer and mixed by hand and these still turned out delicious.
I hope these recipes transport you out of your kitchen to one of these destinations. Let’s all do our part to stay healthy and keep others safe, and I’ll see you on the otherside of the world soon xx