Vegan Meals for Families and Kids

So just over a year ago now, I fell in love. Head over heels. But don’t worry, this isn’t another gushy article on finding true love.

The love of my life has an eleven year old son. He is a beautiful child, intelligent, sensitive, generous and astoundingly compassionate for a young boy. I guess I had always imagined boys of his age would be far more interested in getting dirty outside, dissecting insects, getting into playground brawls or finding excuses not to do their homework or how to stay up past their bedtime. I certainly didn’t imagine children who picked up litter they saw on the beach, loved walking the two family dogs, made his own candles and willingly came along with us to turtle conservation days or save the shark protests.

My vegan lifestyle fit hand in hand with my partner who had also been an avid vegan since his teenage years, both of us never growing out of the ‘phase’ that our parents assumed (or hoped?) we were going through.

However, suddenly, faced with nourishing a growing child, I began to put more thought into the meals that I was making (previously dinner for me often consisted of carrot sticks with tahini or sun dried tomatoes wrapped in coz lettuce leaves.)

This isn’t an article on whether or not you should raise your child with a vegan diet, it isn’t full of statistics or aimed to provoke confrontation, rather it is simply some ideas that our little family enjoy sharing, recipes we have devised that nourish all of our varied needs, preferences and taste buds!

Because my own diet is primarily raw vegan, I have tried to include raw alternatives to each dish also.

 Sushi 1491615_10152301830867770_715995709863944552_nis a favorite in our household, and this creation is actually my partner’s specialty.  You can use traditional sushi rice, brown rice, quinoa or make a raw rice with either cauliflower, daikon, parsnip or pinenuts.We use fillings that vary with the seasons and what we have on hand, but some we love include tempeh or tofu (marinated or flavored ones are great!), sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs such as basil or coriander, marinated mushrooms, capsicum, chargrilled zucchini, avocado, fresh sprouts, sesame seeds and grated beetroot or sauerkraut.Often we make extra for school lunches too! Sushi is really easy and adaptable and great for kids- it’s colorful, healthy and fun with fingers or chopsticks.

 Wraps are an easy way to get lots of salad and veggies in without the plate looking like a salad! Use wholegrain, spelt or gluten free wraps and fill them up with fresh greens, grated carrot and beetroot, cherry tomatoes, grilled veggies, home made hummus, pesto, or nut cheese, and some marinated tempeh or tofu. Again, wraps are very versatile and great for school lunches too. To make a raw version simply substitute the wrap for collard leaves and fill as above!

Couscous and Roast Vegetables is another staple of ours, especially in the cooler months. You can vary th grain from couscous to polenta, to quinoa, to buckwheat or millet. Use any veggies that are tasty roasted such as pumpkin, 26536_lsweet potato, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini,
parsnip, mushroomsand scatter them with fresh rosemary and spices such as sweet paprika or cumin while they roast. We like to add fresh sprouts and a drizzle of tahini and balsamic vinegar. The smell alone of this dish cooking is enough to excite even an eleven year olds taste buds!

 

 Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls are great in the summertime and can be a fun one for everyone to make together. We use regular rice paper but you can also try a raw option and use collard leaves or silverbeet leaves. The fillings can also be cooked or raw. Often we will stir-fry veggies such as cubed tofu, cabbage, spring onion, carrot, celery and bokchoy with ginger, garlic, chili , tamari and sesame oil.  You can roll up this veggie filling with rice noodles and fresh mint for traditional rice paper rolls. For the raw version I often make a pate with almonds, sunflower seeds, ginger, tamari, zucchini, coriander and dulse. I use this to fill large collard leaves and add fresh grated carrot, beetroot, herbs and a drizzle of tahini. Both of thee versions make great picnic staples too!

 nSoup is a popular dinner come wintertime; seasonal veggies and fresh herbs create lots of beloved favorite soups, as do lentils, beans and barley. A simple pumpkin and sweet corn soup or a rich and hearty tomato and lentil soup is lovely served with fresh gluten free bread. In the summertime raw soups are also a lovely and different addition to the menu with recipes such as raw gazpacho, creamy carrot, avocado and ginger or a fresh and zesty tomato and basil soup.

 

 Quinoa and Tempeh Salad is probably one dish I have made for myself hundreds of times and never tire of! There is something about quinoa and tempeh that just nourishes and soothes me. And for growing kids, it’s a great protein hit. With the quinoa and tempeh I like to add cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, pecans, cubed capsicum and olives. In summer time I like to add mango and mint! In winter time I like to add cranberries and squash. It is very adaptable, quick and tasty, an easy dish to take to a dinner, and one that you can use leftovers with to make sushi or for stuffing and roasting capsicums!

 Sweet Potato and Adzuki Bean Burgers are new to my repertoire and for some reason the patties themselves still tend to be a lisweet poatato3437ttle, shall I say, fragile! But they taste amazing and are very versatile, you can serve these in traditional burger style on spelt buns with all the trimmings (I like to add guacamole or pesto and lots of fresh salad) or you can serve the patties on top of a fresh salad or on a plate with mashed sweet potato and grilled asparagus. The patties themselves are a mix of adzuki beans (you can use organic tinned ones), sweet potato, basil, cumin, corn, gluten free breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast and tamari. Just wiz them up in a food processor and grill them as you please.

If you happen to have a dehydrator at home you can make raw veggie burgers with walnuts, sunflower seeds, sun dried tomatoes, carrot, zucchini, fresh herbs, spices and some flax meal to hold them together. Serve them on a lettuce leaf piled high with salad, sun dried tomato ketchup and cashew mayo. These are great options for kids and adults love them too!

 Raw Mexican Tacos are a take on the traditional taco. While kids do love the traditional version on corn tortillas with beans, cheese and sour cream, for a  healthy, tasty ,raw option (that is far better than the traditional vegetarian one!) we like to made the tacos in cos lettuce leaf shells with walnut mince, spicy salsa, creamy guacamole and a cashew sour cream.  The walnut mince is simply walnuts, cumin, coriander, chilli and tamari broken down and combined in the food processor, and the cashew sour cream is simply soaked cashews, a dash of salt, apple cider vinegar, lemon and enough water to make it a smooth and creamy consistency. The salsa and guacamole you can make to your own liking!IMG_0490

 Zucchini Noodle Pasta is another raw option, but you can also use buckwheat noodles, soba noodles, udon noodles or green tea noodles. For the raw version you simply spiralise the zucchini to form long  noodles which you can mix with a sun dried tomato, olive and basil sauce or creamy ‘cheesy’ cashew sauce. For the cooked noodles you can make a Thai in
spired dish with kaffir lime, ginger, chilli, sesame oil and tamari, add fresh veggies, bean sprouts, peanuts and coriander for a delicious Pad Thai. Or you can cook and then blanch the noodles to make a noodle salad, adding fresh veggies, herbs, corn, green beans, sesame seeds, balsamic vinegar and coconut oil. Again, these dishes are all very versatile and you can work with whatever you have on hand.

That is a few of our tried and trusted recipes, I hope they have sparked some inspiration for you! There are also some wonderful websites for vegan recipes for children, but most importantly, be creatie, share the experience of food together- take kids to farmers markets or begin to grow a simple veggie garden. Once kids begin to learn more about where their food is coming from, the better equipped they are to make good decisions regarding food as they get older.