“More, Peas!” One Mom’s Delicious Take on Plant-Based Dinners

Sarah Matheny by Sarah Matheny | August 24th, 2011 | 1 Comment
topic: Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating

Boy eating vegetablesWhen Sarah Matheny, creator of the popular blog Peas and Thank You, decided to eliminate animal products from her diet, she knew there’d be skeptics. Her grandpa was a butcher and her mom cooked with no fear of butter. But now Sarah is a mom who wants to feed her children right. Her new book, also titled Peas and Thank You, is a collection of recipes and stories from a mainstream family eating a not-so-mainstream diet. It’s filled with healthy and delicious versions of your favorite foods, but with no meat, lots of fresh ingredients and plenty of nutrition for growing Peas. From wholesome breakfasts to mouth-watering desserts, it’s easier than ever to whip up crowd-pleasing meals that will have the whole family asking for “more, peas.” Here are Sarah’s thoughts on dinner, along with a few delicious recipes from the book.

Going into this whole crazy notion of feeding my family nothing but plant-based foods, I knew dinner would be a big deal. I could get away with passing oatmeal off for breakfast, a soup and green salad for lunch and a dairy-free cookie or cupcake for a treat without offending anyone. Dinner is a whole different creature, though. Dinner is the warm, savory smell that greets you when you walk in the door. I want to hear, “Mmm…that smells great,” and when we all sit down together to eat, “Can I have seconds?” If this was going to be a lasting change in our family, salads and frozen veggie burgers weren’t going to cut it. Dinner could be a deal-breaker.

I want our foods to be fresh, organic when possible, meat-free and, for the most part, free of all animal products. But most importantly, our meals have to be delicious. I want my children and husband to come to the dinner table each night with the same feelings of excitement and anticipation that I had as a child, and to leave the dinner table with the same contentment and satisfaction. Ideally, I still want to be the mom interested in dinner conversation and not the food police interested in laying down the law.

The key to coming up with satisfying dinners was to take the dishes that my family already loved — things like spaghetti, enchiladas, burgers and tacos — and tweak the standards to remove the ingredients that I didn’t want, but leave all the familiar flavors and textures. When spaghetti still has a savory sauce and burgers still have a tangy flavor, it’s hard to miss a little ground beef. I found that for every seemingly un-revamp-able challenge, there is generally an equally tasty, if not tastier, substitute. Maybe our dinners aren’t 100 percent traditional, but the tradition of hungrily passing family favorites around a crowded dinner table is still there. And when someone asks for seconds, I can’t help but feel proud. It’s a done deal.

Better Than Ever Black Bean Burgers

Makes 4 burgers

  • 1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup onion, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
  • Toppings: organic ketchup, vegan mayonnaise (i.e. Vegenaise), mustard, lettuce, pickles or tomato

1. Place black beans in a large bowl and mash with a fork until at a chunky consistency.

2. Grind oats into a coarse flour using a blender or food processor and add to bowl with beans. Add remaining ingredients and combine until a thick batter is formed. Place bean mixture into the refrigerator to chill and to allow flavors to meld for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Put a large skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Using your hands, divide bean mixture into four sections and form each section into a patty. Place patties in skillet and cook for 6 to 7 minutes on each side until the patties are crisp and lightly browned. As an alternative, bake burgers for 15 to 20 minutes on each side in a 350 degree oven.

4. Serve burgers atop toasted buns and top with additional trimmings, as desired.

Almost from Scratch Lasagna

Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 12 ounces prepared vegetarian meat crumbles
  • 1 to 3 cups cooked vegetables of your liking, optional (e.g. steamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, shredded carrots, broccoli florets, et cetera)
  • 1 batch of Tofu Ricotta (see below)
  • 8 ounces shredded non-dairy mozzarella (e.g. Daiya mozzarella shreds) or organic mozzarella cheese
  • 12 oven-ready lasagna noodles or 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • 5 cups organic jarred spaghetti sauce

Tofu Ricotta:

  • 1 16-ounce package firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces non-dairy cream cheese (e.g. Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese)

1. Prepare tofu ricotta by combining tofu, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, basil and salt in a food processor or blender. When well combined, add in cream cheese and pulse a few times until mixture is creamy.

2. For lasagna, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare noodles and/or vegetables as needed.

3. Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking pan. Layer 4 noodles across the bottom of the pan. Top with 1/3 of the tofu ricotta, then 1/3 of vegetables, if using, and one-third of “meat” of your choice. Spread one cup of sauce atop of meat and sprinkle with 1/4 of the mozzarella.

4. Repeat layering process two times, topping with an additional four noodles, 1 cup of sauce and remaining mozzarella.

5. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned. Let lasagna sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.


  1. These sound great! I often have a challenge finding healthy recipes that my training clients will try and make a regular part of their diet. I’ll give these a try and pass them along.

    One of my clients recently informed me you can get a pretty good black bean burger at Smashburger, a Colorado-based chain. They also have a good veggie side you can choose instead of fries.

    Dennis Blair, Fort Collins Fitness

Post a Comment

If you want to show your picture with your comment, go get a gravatar!