This post is sponsored by Gardein, everybody’s favorite plant-based meat brand. Like me, they’re on a mission to help people eat less meat! I had so much fun creating these delicious kid friendly vegan recipes using a few of my favorite Gardein products. Don’t miss the recipes, video, and tips for transitioning your family to a vegan lifestyle below…
I can always tell when it’s time for parents to send their children back to school because I start getting requests for 2 very specific things, 1.) back-to-school kid friendly vegan recipes, and 2.) tips to transition kids to a vegan lifestyle. In this post we’re going to cut two carrots with one knife, and help you with both. And of course, these vegan recipes and tips aren’t just great for kids, but the whole family, and single folks too.
One of the best and easiest ways to adopt a vegan lifestyle is to veganize your favorite meals. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: spices, sauces, and preparation style are what makes meat taste good. You wouldn’t enjoy raw meat, nor would you enjoy it if it was simply boiled and unseasoned. Gross! If you have something to replace the meat (and dairy, depending on the recipe), you can veganize anything!
Take the back-to-school kid friendly vegan recipes below. I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to figure out how to make a vegan meaty classic lasagna. I simply replaced the ground beef with the Gardein beefless ground. The process of cooking it with the sauce, then layering it between tender noodles, is the same. Same goes for the cheesy vegan “chicken” quesadilla made with Gardein chick’n strips, and the super yummy sushi roll made with Gardein fishless filet. You can do the same with any of your classic recipes, just pick up the Gardein equivalent to the meat you’re accustomed to using, and start cooking. If cheese is required, pick up a vegan cheese when you’re at the store. There are so many great ones available now. Follow Your Heart is my favorite melty gooey cheese for quesadillas, nachos, and pizza.
Here are some other tips to help making the switch to a vegan lifestyle easier and sustainable for the whole family:
- Get kids involved in cooking. I was a very stubborn picky child but whenever my parents invited me into the kitchen to help cook (even if it was just helping rinse the veggies), I was more likely to eat the meal. Have kids help you wash, chop (or tear), stir, or blend. They could even help by finding the right spices in the drawer/cabinet, or the right ingredients in the pantry. Engage them in the process so they’ll feel more attached to the finished product, your meal.
- Watch educational documentaries together. This is especially helpful if you have older children or want to transition with your adult loved ones. Films like What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Cowspiracy, or even Earthlings (more graphic) will help put context around your desire to go vegan. Having a purpose for adopting a vegan lifestyle is the best key to sticking with it through the potentially tricky transition phase.
- If you’re family isn’t accustomed to eating large amounts of fiber, add fiber-rich foods like whole grains, beans, greens, and cruciferous veggies into the diet slowly. Think of your veganized classic dishes as transition meals, and be sure supplement them with a couple of servings of fiber-rich foods a day. Overtime the body will be better able to comfortably digest large (and very healthy) amounts of fiber.
- Snack on fruit throughout the day. Fruit is full of vitamins and phytonutrients, and because it’s so sweet, most kids and adults love it. Start your day with fresh fruit or a smoothie, and make sure to have plenty around for snacking throughout the day.
- Since kids can be so picky, it’s even more important to transition them with kid friendly vegan recipes, rather than force them to eat food they’re not used to immediately. Add in new foods slowly, and try incorporating them into the foods your child (or other loved one) already adores.
Meaty Vegan Lasagna | Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes
For this meaty vegan lasagna I make my own tofu cheese. It’s super easy to make and is more nutritious than store-bought vegan cheese. However, if you are in a time crunch, or really want your family to have a stretchy gooey cheese experience, try the vegan cheese I used in the quesadilla recipe above.
- ½ block of firm organic tofu
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 12 lasagna noodles cooked or “oven-ready”
- 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce or 3 cups homemade
- ½-1 package Gardein beefless ground depending on how meaty you like it
- 3 cups fresh spinach
- 2 teaspoons Italian herb blend
- To make the tofu cheese, add the tofu, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, and salt to a food processor. Blend until creamy. Season to taste with more salt if necessary.
- In a skillet warm 2 cups of the tomato sauce. Once simmering add the Gardein beefless ground, and stir. Cook at a simmer for about 3 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Spread about ½ cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a 9x13” casserole dish, then evenly lay out 3 or 4 noodles.
- Spread the tofu cheese evenly over the bottom layer, then top with the beefless ground, then layer on the fresh spinach.
- Place another layer of noodles over that, and repeat.
- Cover the top layer with the noodles, then spread on the remaining sauce and tofu cheese, and any remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the top.
- Cover the lasagna with a sheet of aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake another 5 minutes.
- Let it cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Crispy Vegan Sushi | Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes
- 4 pieces of Gardein fishless filets
- 4 sheets of sushi nori + a sushi mat
- 2 cups well cooked brown rice cooled completely
- 1 carrot julienned
- ½ red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 avocado thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons vegan mayo
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup pickled ginger
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425°. Place the fishless filets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 12 minutes, or until crispy.
- Allow the fishless filet to cool until safe to handle, then cut each piece into 3 even strips.
- To assemble the sushi: Place a sheet of nori onto the sushi mat.
- Spread ½ cup of rice evenly onto the bottom ⅓ of the nori (the part closest to you).
- Top the rice with carrot, bell pepper, avocado, and 3 strips of fishless filet.
- Roll the sushi by turning bottom corners up and tucking the contents into the nori. Roll until only 1 centimeter is left. Moisten the last centimeter of nori with a bit of water or liquid from the pickled ginger, then roll to close tightly.
- Place roll onto a cutting board and cut into about 6 equal pieces.
- Repeat with remaining ingredients.
- Mix together the vegan mayo and sriracha, then top each piece of the sushi roll with a dollop of it.
- Sprinkle on some panko bread crumbs to finish it off, and serve with pickled ginger and soy sauce.
Cheezy Vegan “Chicken” Quesadilla | Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil optional
- ½ package of Gardein meatless chick’n strips
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 8 corn tortillas or 4 wheat tortillas
- 1 can pinto beans mashed
- ¼ teaspoon salt optional
- ½ red bell pepper thinly sliced
- ½ jalapeño pepper thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 cup vegan mozzarella cheese or other type of vegan cheese (I use Follow Your Heart)
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- 1 cup salsa
- Warm oil in a large skillet or frying pan, then add the frozen Gardein meatless chick’n strips and chili powder, Stir well, and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until cooked through and golden on both sides.
- Meanwhile, spread your mashed beans evenly onto half of the tortillas, and sprinkle the salt on the beans if you’d like (especially if you’re using salt-free beans as I always do).
- Top the beans with the red pepper and jalapeno pepper.
- Once the Gardein meatless chick’n strips are cooked, transfer them to a cutting board and cut into smaller strips. Alternatively you can use your hands to break them apart. You’ll want them to cool down first if you plan on doing it this way.
- Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel, then place it back on the stove over medium heat.
- Place the chick’n strips over the beans and veggies, then sprinkle the vegan cheese evenly over the chick’n.
- Top with the untopped tortillas, then use a spatula to transfer them to the skillet (add more oil to the pan if you’d like).
- Place a lid directly on top of the quesadilla to press it down, and cook for 3 minutes before flipping and cooking another 3 minutes.
- Cut and serve with fresh cilantro and salsa.