With American Heart Month kicking off Thursday, now's a good time to eat more healthily. Consider adding a few plant-based meals a week.
If you need help getting started, look no further than local culinary instructor JL Fields, who knows a few things about vegan cooking. She's the author or co-author of five books on the subject and just released a revised, expanded version of her 2015 "Vegan Pressure Cooking."
The book has 20 new recipes among its 120 total, plus information about using any type of pressure cooker or multicooker, including an Instant Pot, the most popular small appliance gift this past holiday season.
The first Instant Pot was released in 2010 but didn't take off until near the end of 2016. It's multifunctional, acting as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, electric pressure cooker, sauté pan and even a yogurt maker - all in one. The combination of steam and pressure cooks food more quickly and safely than other devices, making everything from slow-and-low barbecue dishes and tender stews to perfectly prepared rice pilaf and steamed veggies.
"Say goodbye to long cooking and preparation times," Fields says. "With an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, you can cook filling, nutritious meals in under an hour and with little mess or cleanup. It's the meal solution you've always dreamed of."
Fields' other recently released book, "The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook," is one she co-wrote with Victoria Moran, director of Main Street Vegan Academy in New York City. Moran teaches about the vegan lifestyle, and Fields took her course to become a certified vegan lifestyle coach.
Sixty other certified vegan coaches contributed more than 100 of their favorite plant-sourced recipes to the book. You'll also find tips, tricks, shortcuts and strategies to get the most out of your vegan cooking and eating.
Buffalo Chickpea Dip
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained 1 cup raw cashews 3/4 cup hot sauce 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened vegan milk or water 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 rounded tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes 1/2 teaspoon onion powder 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese, divided Tortilla chips, celery sticks and carrot sticks, for dipping
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the white beans and raw cashews in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break them up a bit. Add the hot sauce, milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder and garlic powder. Process several minutes until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary.
Scrape the bean mixture into a bowl and stir in the parsley and chives to evenly distribute. Stir in the chickpeas and 3/4 cup of the shredded cheddar. Transfer the dip to a 9-inch square baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar over the top. (Note: This dip can be made up to this point a day or two ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to heat and serve.)
Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until warmed through. If the cheese on top isn't fully melted, set the dish under the broiler for a minute or two to melt.
Serve warm with your favorite dippers.
Cook's note: Nut-free option: Replace the cashews with 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked, rinsed and drained.
Source: "The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook"