Critics of Costco slam it for being representative of everything wrong with American super-consumerism. Ridiculously oversized for the average family, bulk items abound on every aisle of giant warehouse superstores. It’s only September, barely the autumnal equinox has passed, and already, winter holiday decorations, toys and pre-packaged 10+ item gift baskets are set up right in front of the store, beckoning us. This constant reminder that we should keep buying for today, tomorrow, next month & next season is part of how they get me to keep coming back for things that I don’t really need! Now that I’m a consumer of all things “veggie,” Costco has taken on a whole new spin—and it’s a positive one, at that!
I lived on Long Island when Costco opened there and I remember going for the first time and experiencing amazement at the sheer size of the “warehouse.” Seeing the giant mayonnaise jars lined up and the supersized cans of tuna fish stacked, I was entertained in the same way as when you feel dwarfed by a huge chair in an amusement park or a giant toothbrush or crayon in that now-defunct store from the 80′s, “Think Big.” (if you remember “Think Big”, please give a shout out!) But shopping in Costco now as a vegan is anything BUT oversized consumerism—it’s nutritional and culinary inspiration!
For my entire, omnivorous life up until a few years ago, vegetables played a small cameo role on the lunch and dinner plate, where meat or chicken was always the star. I was so concerned with which form of animal protein I would make and fuss over recipes preparing it, that the veggies were an aside, an afterthought, a character actor without any influence on the plot. Back then, a trip to Costco to buy in bulk certainly did not make sense in the vegetable and fruit section—that would be laughable. What would I do with a bag of 6 bell peppers, a big box of nectarines, a giant bag of broccoli? Probably end up throwing most of it out, unused and spoiled. I used to suggest to my mom that we should go together and split everything down the middle, but that idea, although a good one, never materialized into action.
When I go to Costco now, seeing the big produce section looming all the way against the back wall is like seeing heaven on earth! Walking into the chilled produce room amongst the big blueberry containers and the bursting bags of baby Brussel sprouts ( a little alliteration) gives me the chills of excitement! Spotting big bags and boxes of whole, colorful fruits and vegetables (sometimes organic and sometimes not) gets my creative wheels turning with ideas floating around about what can I whip up. Since my main dish is now centered around vegetables and/or a whole grain, buying them in bulk really works for me now. Unused fresh items can always be frozen but I try to use as much as possible before that becomes necessary. It’s like a race to incorporate everything I bought in one way or another before it has to get tossed out or in the freezer.
If you fear buying big bags of veggies and fruits in bulk, let these photos & recipes inspire you…
1 Mini-Stuffed Hallow-vegan Pepper Jack-O-Lanterns
inspired by Wing It Vegan
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 4-6 bell peppers (orange, red & yellow)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
For the Peppers
- 1) Preheat oven at 350 degrees
- 2) Cut off tops of peppers and use a spoon to remove seeds. Save the tops for later.
- 3) Use a pencil to draw the faces on the peppers and use a small serrated knife to carve out the faces.
- 4) Brush a little olive oil all over the inside of the squashes and lightly sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
For the Stuffing
- 1) Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for about five minutes or until soft. Stir in the mushrooms and saute two more minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for just about 30 seconds.
- 2) Add the parsley salt, black pepper, quinoa, and vegetable broth. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 18 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft and fluffy. If the quinoa is still crunchy you can add more broth and simmer it for a few more minutes.
- 3) Spoon the quinoa stuffing into the peppers and cover them with the reserved tops.
- 4) Place into a casserole dish and cover. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes
Buy Tons of Tomatoes…and make…
2 Basil Scalloped Tomatoes and Croutons
from to OhSheGlows
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 slices Ezekiel bread or french bread, chopped into 1/2-inch croutons
- 2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, diced (I used grape)
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt (I used 1 tsp kosher sea salt)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup vegan Parmesan cheese
- 1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- 2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- 3) Add the bread cubes and mix well with oil so that they are evenly coated. Cook bread, stirring frequently, until crisp on all sides for about 5 mins.
- 4) While the bread is toasting, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- 5) When the bread cubes are crisp, add the tomato mixture to the skillet, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the basil.
- 6) Pour into a 1.5 qrt shallow baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese.
- 7) Bake for 35 minutes until the top is golden.
- 8) Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving as the tomatoes are VERY hot! Serves 2-4.
Buy Plenty of Peaches…and make…
3 Vegan Peach Cobbler
from The Southern Vegan
- 4 cups peaches (sliced and peeled)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegan butter
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups soy or almond milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a saucepan, combine peaches, 1/2 cup sugar, and water. Mix well and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from pan.
- In a saucepan, melt vegan butter, 1 cup sugar, flour, and soy/almond milk.
- Pour mixture into 3-quart baking dish. Spoon fruit on top. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. (Batter will rise to top during baking).
- Serve warm with your favorite soy ice cream!
Buy a Plethora of Pineapple…and make…
4 Pineapple Fried Quinoa
First Step saute:
- 10 mini sized tofu triangles
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp tamari
- fine black pepper
- add in:
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Second Step saute:
- 1 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced
- 4 cups cooked quinoa (I used Trader Joe’s Multicolor Quinoa)
- 1/4 red onion, diced
- sauteed shiitakes + red onion from tofu saute pan
- 1 cup kale, shredded
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp dried jalapeno (for spicy accent)
- to taste: splash of maple syrup and pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup finely diced pineapple
- 1 Tbsp mint, chopped
- safflower oil for sauting
Tahini Pineapple Dressing
- 2 Tbsp Tahini
- 3 Tbsp pineapple juice
- 1 tsp chopped mint
- Cook your quinoa: 1 1/4 cups dry quinoa + 1 cup water + 1 cup veggie broth + pinch salt. Set cooked quinoa aside.
- For your first saute, you will cook the tofu, shiitakes and red onion. Cooking them all in the same pan helps to season the tofu a bit. Start off with a thin layer of safflower oil. Add tofu triangles (dry them as much as possible). Allow to sizzle for a minute or so. Then add in tamari and maple syrup with a generous layer of black pepper. Cook on high 2 minutes on both sides. Then add in the shiitakes and onions. Cook until the veggies are tender. Remove tofu from pan and set aside. You can leave the mushrooms and onions and any excess liquid in the pan.
- For the next saute, add the quinoa, pineapple, more red onion, mint, kale, nutritional yeast and jalapeno to the pan with a splash of safflower oil. Turn heat to high and cook for about 3 minutes – moving quinoa around so it cooks on all sides. A few crisped bits of quinoa is a good thing. Do a quick taste test and add a splash of tamari or maple syrup if needed. Transfer the fried quinoa to a bowl. Set aside.
- Quickly saute the pineapple garnish. Just brown the edges a bit. The pineapple will pick up the flavor left in the pan.
- Mix your dressing. Set aside.
- To plate you can either use a pre-hollowed pineapple or a simple bowl. Add the fried quinoa.Then the pineapple garnish over top. Some fresh chopped mint on top is nice too. You can serve with the dressing and tofu on the side or you can add right over top of this dish
Buy Many Edamame….and make….
5 Ginger Soy Glazed Edamame
from Veggie Belly
- 2 cup frozen edamame with shell
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- a pinch of crushed red chili fakes, optional
- 4 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoon sesame oil (substitute with canola or vegetable oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 2 teaspoon fresh grated garlic
- Cook the edamame according to package directions. Then pat it dry with a towel and set aside.
- Whisk the brown sugar, soy sauce and water in a small bowl and set aside.
- Place the sesame oil, ginger and garlic in a medium non-stick sauce pan on medium heat. Let it sizzle for about 30 seconds.
- Then add the brown sugar, soy sauce, chili fakes and water mix. Let the sauce bubble gently on medium to medium-low heat. Cook till the sauce thickens and reduces to about 4 tablespoons. This will take about 4 minutes. Stir the sauce frequently while cooking. Remember, the sugar in the sauce will burn easily; if you find this is happening, reduce the heat.
- When the sauce has thickened, add the steamed edamame and toss well. The sauce should be thick enough that it coats and sticks to the edamame. If you find the sauce is too watery, cook on medium heat till the sauce thickens and coats the edamame.
Buy Barrels of Pinto Beans….and make….
6 Thick and Hearty Pinto Bean Chili
from Fat Free Vegan
- 3 large dried New Mexico chiles
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (no salt added)
- 3 cups cooked pinto beans
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- cayenne or other red pepper, to taste
For the full instructions to this delicious recipe, go to Fat Free Vegan
Buy Massive Amounts of Medjool Dates….and make….
7 The Raw Brownie
from My New Roots
- 2 cups whole walnuts
- 2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 cup raw cacao
- 1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
- Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
- Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
- In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store in an airtight container.
Buy a Sh*t Load of Dried Shiitake Mushrooms….and make….
8 Vegan Shiitake Mushroom Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato & Avocado Sandwich
- 1/2 Avocado, sliced
- 1-2 cups of dried, sliced shitake mushrooms, we usually use 1 heaping cup
- lettuce, we use romaine
- 1 roma tomato, or 1/2 regular tomato, sliced
- 1/2 – 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4 slices of vegan sandwich bread
- salt & pepper to taste (I use a pinch of salt and about 1/2 tsp of black pepper)
- Vegan mayonnaise (we use Vegannaise) to taste
- Preheat oven to 35o degrees.
- Soak dried shitake mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes (you can also use fresh, just bake approximately twice as long).
- Using your hands, squeeze the water out of the soaked mushrooms.
- In a bowl, drizzle olive oil over the mushrooms, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix thoroughly to coat.
- Spread mushrooms out on a baking sheet and bake for 20-35 minutes,checking occasionally, until crispy.
- If you are using regular tomatoes, remove seeds by slicing tomato in half horizontally and using your finger to push out seed pockets. Slice tomato and avocado (cut in half vertically, twist to separate, and then slice inside the shell, using a spoon or knife to remove slices).
- Toast your bread, spread mayo on, and assemble!
For more about Costco, click on Things I Buy At Costco
For even more thoughts about vegan and Costco, click on Is Costco Going Vegan?