There were way too many adjectives to actually fit into the title of this black bean recipe, and only a few made the final cut. Honorable mentions for the rest of the list:
- Big batch
- Oil free
- Luscious (my husband’s words lol)
- Freezer friendly
- Protein packed
- Whole food plant based
Go make them right now and report back on any others you think should be added to the list!
For years, I’ve been loyal to this other vegan black bean recipe, which is still delicious in its own right, and will definitely stay in my repertoire for its layers of flavor and more complex spices. However, it’s more work, with extra chopping, measuring, ingredients, added oil, and standing over a hot stove attempting to fend off my toddlers. Not something I have a lot of patience for in my life right now. It also requires cooked beans, so you’re either loading up on canned beans or taking the huge extra step and dishes of cooking your own beans from scratch first. With a broken-since-November dishwasher, I honestly might cry if I see another dirty dish.
Welcome to the inaugural plant-based batch cooking weekly meal plan by Natural Comfort Kitchen. No matter how many people you’re feeding and how you or they like to eat, this totally free meal plan is going to help you:
- Eat fully vegan/plant-based at dinner
- Spend less time in the kitchen and zero time making a shopping list
- Avoid that dinnertime stress (and the resulting takeout or cold cereal)
- Generate fewer dirty dishes (my personal favorite)
- Keep grocery spending in check
- Avoid food waste
My family and I have noticed every single one of these benefits since I started batch cooking and meal planning accordingly. And this plan is for YOU, too, if you see any of your dinnertime goals on that list above.
Here’s what’s for dinner this week. It’s a week full of black beans, butternut squash, and comfort food, and it’s all 100% plant-based:
- Quinoa and black bean stuffed peppers
- Black bean and butternut squash chili
- Mac and cheese with butternut squash sauce
Times are changing here at Natural Comfort Kitchen. I’ve returned to the site after giving birth to two amazing children and an extended maternity leave, and I understand up close and personal what it’s like to parent kids when they need you the most, and to try get healthy, homemade dinners on the table at the same time. Our family has grown by two, but along the way we also lost my dad to cancer less than a year after his diagnosis. His heroic fight inspired me to finally tackle my last decade of “vegan curiosity” head on, and to make the shift to a plant based diet that I believe is the most longevity and health promoting. My husband finally took the leap of coming along for the ride, and our kids, well, they don’t have a choice at one and four. Since September 2020, the animal food in our diets has decreased dramatically, and I might even be declaring myself vegan before long.
So basically, Natural Comfort Kitchen has become a plant based, batch cooking website, here to serve your needs for plant based meal planning and prepping, no matter what kind of eater you are, and without judgment (it did, after all, take me ten years to fully commit to dropping animal products from my diet).
But before we really hit the ground running on this new journey together, it’s crucial to cover the basics of batch cooking. Meal prepping can be effective, but for me, batch cooking is what really revolutionized my meal planning and prep, FINALLY getting me to stick to a system, stick to a new way of eating, and still love cooking week after week after week.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Batch Cooking?
You might have seen all sorts of batch cooking info floating around on social media and the internet, and for good reason: it gets you more home cooked dinners with less time and fewer dirty dishes. It’s kind of like meal prep, but instead of making five of the same lunch servings, you’re making double (or more) of the same dinner recipe. It’s really that simple.
Essential is the only way to describe them, and I’m tired of going to my own Instagram or the recipe on this blog that originally featured the only pickled red onions I’ve ever loved. The key points: they’re NOT loaded with sugar and the only cooking involves hot tap water. You’re going to want to keep them on hand at pretty much all times, which won’t be a problem, considering how easy and quick the recipe is.
What makes this condiment SO great? It really comes down to this: they’re a weeknight cooking all star. You know that I’ve shifted my focus on this site to plant-based batch cooking, which is all about making weeknight dinners easy without sacrificing taste or variety. Dinners could be anything from a freezer-friendly vegan mac and cheese, to a highly flexible plant-powered bowl, to a simple soup, to–my personal favorite–build-your-own burritos.
But when you’re pulling something out of the freezer, you might be missing that FRESH element. The crunch. The acid. And THAT is where pickled red onions come in. So grab a jar and an onion and let’s get to it!
When we started eating plant based last fall, my cravings for crock pot white chicken chili all but vanished. Luckily my pantry is brimming with dried beans, so I popped onto Google to quickly grab a recipe for a vegan white chili. The meaty, dairy-laden version I previously enjoyed was easy to throw together in the slow cooker, and that was a big criteria for my recipe search.
But Google came up short (just like I did when photographing this chili in the pot used to reheat it and NOT in the crockpot). Apparently it is REALLY hard to come by a white chili recipe that has ALL of the following characteristics:
- Uses dried beans (not canned)
- Made in the slow cooker
In our food blog world, it’s rare that a recipe search basically fails, and I was really bummed. White chicken chili is a great family staple, typically milder than a red chili, so was it really that hard to veganize it? In a crock pot? With dried beans? Doesn’t everyone have dried beans in the pantry during a pandemic??? I was undeterred, but what I thought would be a quick search, grocery order, and assembly had expanded into a recipe development project.
I already knew how to cook dried beans in the crock pot, a skill, in my opinion, that you MUST acquire if you’re to survive long as a plant-based eater (it’s easy: I learned from my favorite cookbook). So I worked in the flavors I love in a white chili and some quick tricks I’ve picked up along the way to really make this a thick CHILI, not just a misleadingly named white bean SOUP.
Baking and Birthing
Before you read on, make sure to catch up on Part One here!
Monday morning I woke around 4:30, realizing excitedly that this was not just my body telling me to get up and pee AGAIN. I was having waves (the Hypnobabies word for contractions) different from all the “practice” ones I experienced throughout pregnancy. I was still totally comfortable, but I knew with near certainty–it was birthing day.
Knowing from Hypnobabies and from Evan’s birth that saving my energy now was crucial, I laid in bed listening to a track or two, trying unsuccessfully to fall back asleep. Around 5:30, I got up and stumbled in to Steve, telling him I was up (duh) but not about the waves (my mind wasn’t functioning apparently). I came to my senses soon after and went back in to let him know today might be the day, but encouraging him to sleep a little more–an easy sell.
Comical in hindsight, my next move, in a quiet, dark apartment, was an internal debate over whether I’d be able to get through baking banana bread. Now, it’s not just any banana bread–Evan MUST have this stuff for breakfast every day of his little life, or in his mind the world is ending. If I’m honest, it’s totally flattering–he isn’t crazy for anything else I make except this bread. We were about to run out, softened butter and ripe bananas were ready, and in true symbolism of motherhood, I felt the need to start MY big day fumbling through a baking project for my child in between waves that would send us his sister. So could I do it?
Of course I could. My waves were getting noticeable enough to mess with my concentration, but I had made this bread dozens of times, and the Hypnobabies tracks coming through my AirPods were keeping me comfortable, even if I did have to pause for some of the waves now. Somehow the sacred bread made it into the oven. Evan was still asleep, but Steve had come out, also restless, and started to time my waves. They were around six minutes apart, varying in duration, but I want to say 30 to 45 seconds was common.
While pregnant with Evan, one thing I most looked forward to was beginning the birthing process at home, in a familiar, cozy environment, with my own food, my own bathroom, my pups nearby to keep watch (or freak out, depending on the pug). That was one of the biggest losses to me when our birth plans changed, and I hoped it would be different this time. The midwife on call reflected my sentiments exactly when we called later that morning, and, with my chart obviously in front of her, the first thing she exclaimed was, “Your water didn’t break!” She must have known how happy I was to still be at home.
I can’t say that it was the serene atmosphere I had pictured: there was a toddler to contend with, we were in a small space (our temporary apartment), and we really didn’t grasp how far along in the process I was–thank you Hypnobabies! If we knew how close we were to meeting our baby–just hours away–we probably would have prioritized getting me a little more peace and transferring all decision making to Steve, along with getting the doula and photographer there. In the end, though, it was the right morning for us.
After Evan woke, I had a minor crying meltdown when HE had a minor crying meltdown. I thought it was because he was overwhelmed seeing me like this, confused about what was happening, but Steve informed me he had simply stubbed his toe–ha! Typical Mom response. We knew enough, though, to get him situated with my parents, so my mom came over, gave me some encouragement, predicted that today was the day as I lay on the couch dealing with increasingly intense waves, and took a somewhat oblivious and totally delighted Evan away for a day with Nana and Papa (it had been months since they spent a whole day together). I choked out a goodbye from the top of the stairs, suppressing the urge to run after and squeeze my firstborn without letting go, and completely lost it when he was gone. I knew that was going to be one of the most difficult moments of our new baby’s birth day, and it didn’t disappoint.
Steve comforted me until I recovered, then proved that he had done this before (albeit a bit differently) by observing my state, letting me move and rest as needed, timing the waves that he could see (all of them, haha), making calls and texts to the midwives, doula, photographer, and family, and preparing our things and the house for our departure. My waves were all over the place. They varied in intensity, duration, and frequency. When I laid in bed late morning, getting deep into my tracks (and my pug snuggles), they spaced out to ten minutes apart, but a little more intense. That spacing had me doubting that today would be this baby’s birthday.
It was one call to our doula that finally convinced us we should make our way to the birth center. I said I was coping pretty well, but when she asked if I was feeling pressure, I immediately recounted THAT feeling from Evan’s birth. Yes, I was DEFINITELY feeling pressure! If she was alarmed, she hid it well, but from my response she knew she should head straight to the birth center (not our apartment), and that we should do the same.
Car Ride Contractions
I knew with total confidence as we left the house that I wanted a tuna sub with cheese and pickles. It had taken some adjusting to get comfortable in the car at first. The previous 24 hours, for no apparent reason, I had been telling myself that a theme of this birth would be “no panic”. It just felt like something I needed to affirm, as there were definitely some moments of alarm during Evan’s birth, and I really wanted this birth to be confident, without unnecessary stress. I can honestly say that was mostly the case, although I did freak out a little as waves set in, Steve had already begun driving, and I couldn’t find a good position. Why wasn’t he helping me? Did we leave too late?