A question that I often get through email and social media messaging is “How do I know if I’m getting a complete meal?” When you’re eating an omnivorous diet, you know what a “complete” lunch or dinner looks like: meat, starch, dairy, and a vegetable (I would hope that veggies are included!). However, when switching to a plant based lifestyle, what do you do?
You remove and replace.
There’s no need to cut things out of your diet. Instead you REMOVE the animal products (and hopefully refined sugar, junk foods, and oil) and REPLACE them with a healthy plant-based alternative. I am not about deprivation, EVER! Instead of thinking of your plate as having 4 squares you need to fill, base your lunch and dinner meals on 3: a grain, a green, and a bean.
When you base your meal on these 3 components, you can be assured that you’re getting a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. You’ll feel satiated after your meal and feel confident in knowing that you’re nutritional needs are being met.
A grain, a green, and a bean, can take a variety of shapes. When you hear grain, think things like brown rice, millet, barley, oats, buckwheat, bulgar, and quinoa (though it’s not technically a grain, it’s a seed). Some times I will even substitute a potato for the grain component (such as my Taco Stuffed Baked Potato). For greens, think foods like kale, spinach, romaine, chard, arugula, and broccoli. When you hear bean, think legumes like black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, and edamame (soy beans).
When you begin to break meals down into a grain, a green, and a bean, you’re able to throw together endless combinations without too much thought. Not every meal needs to fit these guidelines (especially breakfast where I tend to recommend grains, fruit, and greens if you can), but it will help you to take a lot of the guess work out of meal planning and prepping. If you need some GGB-that’s grain, green, bean-meal inspiration, check out my Orange Chickpea Bowls, Teriyaki Veggie Bowls, or you could add some beans to my Rainbow Bowls.
Can you tell I like bowls?
Today I am showing you a little sneaky way to get those beans in with the grains and greens. I made a simple oil-free marinara sauce and blended in a whole can of chickpeas until it was smooth, so there’s the bean. I served it over a gluten-free pasta made from corn which, fun fact, is considered a grain. Though it’s not in it’s whole form here, sometimes pasta needs to happen. Then I topped it with some steamed broccolini which is our green. Bonus here is that by using crushed canned tomatoes and canned chickpeas, this little weeknight treat can go from stove to table in under 20 minutes.
And it’s a complete plant based meal, not in a bowl.
Although it probably should have been.
Chickpea Marinara with Pasta and Broccolini
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 lb dry whole grain pasta of your choice
- 1 lb broccolini (or broccoli cut into florets if you prefer)
- Optional garnish: nutritional yeast, crushed red pepper flakes, cracked black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, add the onion to a large dry skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, for 3-5 minutes until translucent, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water if necessary to keep the onion from sticking.
- Add the diced carrot to the pan and sauté for 2 more minutes.
- Add the garlic and seasoning to the pan and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes and chickpeas to the pan, stirring well. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the sauce is simmering, add the broccolini to a lidded pot with 1/4 cup of water. Turn the heat to high and let the broccolini steam for 3-5 minutes until tender and bright green. Remove from the heat and remove the lid.
- While the broccoli is steaming, check the sauce for seasoning. Add the sauce to the blender and process until smooth. Add a bit of the starchy pasta water to reach your desired sauce texture.
- When the pasta is done, drain it.
- To serve, add some of the pasta, the blended sauce, and broccolini to each plate. Garnish with your desired toppings and serve immediately.
- Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the fridge. The broccolini will keep for 3 days and the pasta and sauce will keep for 5. Serves about 4.
Do you have any fun GGB meal combos you love? Share them in the comments below!
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