When I was in college, I created this meal I called “cheesy egg pancakes.” It was sort of half-omelette, half-pancake with a few slices of cheese melted on top. The reason this became a favorite for me was simple: I could whip it up without a recipe, with ingredients that were easily on hand, and it was quick and filling when I was hungry.
I think most people have at least 2-3 “memory meals.” Quick dishes they can whip up without cracking open a cookbook or thinking carefully and shopping for unusual ingredients. With new recipes, I always find that I need to expend some amount of mental effort to monitor and follow new directions. Did I add enough flour? Wait, how long am I supposed to saute this ingredient? But those memory meals — grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, a bowl of cereal, spaghetti with meat sauce — these ones become staples in our diets because of how little effort it takes to whip them together.
Often, when people hear that I follow a plant-based diet, they comment how hard it sounds to follow this new and strange way of eating. However, I think success is linked to practice, and one key is to develop a few easy meals you can make without much effort. When you’re hungry, you don’t want to spend 30 minutes exploring a half-dozen websites, you want to just open your fridge, pull out a few things, and happily munch away in less than 10 minutes.
With this in mind, I’ll share my new favorite easy-to-make-it-from-memory staple: Chick-in-Salad. The Chick is for chick-peas, and the process it pretty simple and adaptable to your tastes. That’s what I love about this recipe: once you’ve made it a few times, you can easily recreate it from memory, and adapt it to both what you have on hand and your personal tastes. The recipe I have listed below is adapted from Angela Liddon’s blog “Oh She Glows.” Here is a link to the original recipe. Her original recipe is delicious, but what I really love about this — now that I have made it a few times — is how easy it is to make and adapt without a lot of thinking. That’s why my version has so many optional ingredients — they are all for flavor for your personal taste. Start with the basics: chick peas and vegenaise, and it’s unconsciously easy to go from hungry to chick-in-salad sandwich in about 10 minutes. Yum!
Some readers may be wondering if this is really any healthier than chicken salad. It’s a valid question, and the short answer is YES. Chick-in-salad has more fiber, less calories, and no cholesterol.
Let’s look at the two basic ingredients that make up the bulk of the recipe
Vegenaise vs. Mayonaise: 1 tablespoon of Vegenaise has 45 calories, 3.5 grams of mono-unsaturated fats and 0.5 grams of saturated fats, and no cholesterol. Compare this with one tablespoon of mayonaise: 94 calories, 1.6 grams of saturated fat, 2.3 grams monounsaturated fat, 6 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.026 grams of trans fatty acids and 6 grams of cholesterol. Overall, the mayonnaise packs in a lot more calories, and a lot more unhealthy fats. Vegenaise is still primarily a fat, though, and should be eaten sparingly.
Chick Peas vs. Chicken: 1 15-oz can of chick peas (about 1.75 cups) contains 130 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat (no saturated or trans fat), and 21 grams of carbohydrates. It also provides a fair amount of folate, along with magnesium, phosophorous, zinc, iron and calcium. About 1.75 cups of roasted, skinless chicken breast contains 404 calories, 76 grams of protein, 2.5 grams saturated fat, 3 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.9 grams polyunsaturated fat and 208 mg of cholesterol. I was surprised to find that chicken also contains some calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous although the chick peas were a much better source of these minerals.
- 1 15 oz can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
- 3-6 tbsp tbsp vegan mayo you could also use cashew cream (see link below)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup crunchy ingredients sliced celery, diced red peppers, walnuts
- 2 tbsp (optional) mustard whatever you have in the fridge will work: dijon, yellow, spicy brown ...
- 1/4 cup (optional) dill relish I love the flavor this adds
- Several shakes (optional) spices salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, turmeric ... get creative
- 2-3 stalks (optional) green onion cleaned and sliced. Or sub diced red onion or shallots.
- 1 tbsp (optional) lemon juice
- Drain and rinse chick peas. Dump entire can into food processor and process until the mixture is even crumbles.
- Transfer chick peas to a medium mixing bowl, add additional ingredients and stir to mix well. That's it.
If you'd like to try with cashew cream, rather than vegan mayonnaise, here's a link to a good basic cashew cream recipe from Meg van der Kruik at her blog "this Mess is Ours." Cashew cream is great to have on hand and works in a variety of different recipes, but takes some advanced planning to soak the cashews.
I make this when I'm hungry for a quick and filling sandwich, and keep the extra in little glass jars in the fridge. I've never had it stick around longer than a few days because it is so delicious and easy to use on top of spinach, in sandwiches, scooped up with crackers ... but it should keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.