January is a big month for making resolutions. Most require us to quit something we find pleasurable. The increasingly popular Veganuary campaign admonishes you to stop eating animal products. Similarly, Dry January demands that you stop drinking alcohol.

This approach has never worked for me. As soon as someone tells me, “don’t eat that!” I crave it even more. Now that we’re a few weeks into 2024, I bet more than a few Veganuary and Dry January participants are chiding themselves for not sticking with their admirable resolutions.

Don’t Restrict, Expand Your Meal Choices

When it comes to eating (I’ll leave alcohol issues to the professionals), I’m here to say: Don’t Restrict Your Food Repertoire — Expand It! Replacing that chicken or burger with plant-based foods like vegetables, grains, pasta, and beans will open up a new world of sumptuous possibilities.

The secret is in the sauceand texture.

Resolve in 2024 to experiment with new flavors. Resolve to discover a new spice you won’t be able to live without. Resolve to explore the Asian and Mexican food sections of your supermarket — because this is where the most magnificent ingredients for sauces hang out. Resolve to make at least one of these simple, saucy suppers:

Creamy Tahini Pasta

Decadently Creamy Pasta: Tahini, lite coconut milk, and nutritional yeast, common workhorses of plant-based dishes, give this 10-ingredient dish a deeply creamy, umami taste. Smoked paprika layers in a rich, woodsy flavor. You can substitute any plant-based milk for the coconut milk, but smoked paprika has a taste of its own, so don’t try to get away with using regular paprika in this dish. (You can typically find tahini in the supermarket with the nut butters; smoked paprika in the spice section).

Vegetable Green Curry: This recipe calls for snap peas and mushrooms, but use what you have on hand. (I tend to stick with broccoli and carrots). Chickpeas provide the protein, but go wild and use a block of tofu instead. The most important ingredient is curry paste, a must for any pantry. You can find green (typically the mildest) or red in the Asian food section of the supermarket. Mixed with full-fat or lite coconut milk, ready-made curry paste adds an earthy, herbaceous flavor to any dish. Sure, you could buy a mortar and pestle, search for lemongrass and a ton of spices, and make your own, but as long as Mekahala (my favorite) and Thai Kitchen (most widely available) continue to make it, there’s no need. (For more info, here’s a great Thai curry paste review.)

vegetable green curry with rice and chickpeas
vegan cabbage stew

Cabbage Roll Soup: If you like stuffed cabbage, but don’t want the fuss of stuffing, this soup is for you. It’s a two-part soup, but the oh-so-important “texture” step — crisping small, seasoned tofu crumbles in the oven — is so versatile, you can use it elsewhere. Add it to spaghetti sauce to make bolognese, or any chili, and fool your family and friends into thinking ground beef is involved. Liquid smoke (typically found near Worcestershire and BBQ sauces in the supermarket) is an ingredient I’d never heard of before I started cooking plant-based meals. It’s the secret to creating a smoky, “meaty” flavor in just about any dish. This is the perfect one-pot meal for a cold winter night.

Spinach, Sweet Potato, and Lentil Dhal: It’s tough to make a meal packed with more nutrition than this one. Or, as I say to my husband, “eat more, because there’s nothing bad for you in this, only good and better.” If you don’t have a red chili pepper on hand (not many do), just add a pinch of cayenne for the heat. Don’t like heat? Leave it out.

vegetable rice bowl with creamy peanut sauce

Root Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Sauce: Once you make this peanut sauce you’ll search for more ways to use it. I love this recipe as is, with sweet potatoes and broccoli, but use any veggie you have on hand. Chickpeas add a punch of protein, but I often use tofu instead. It’s all in the sauce, baby! Sesame oil, peanut butter, maple syrup, sriracha, and soy sauce (or tamari, which is gluten-free) are all delicious on their own, but when mixed in the same bowl, interact in a way I would never have imagined. Each forkful is a powerhouse of flavor — sweet, sour, and tangy all at once. In other words, a whole lot of yum.

Make 2024 Your Tastiest Year with the Greener Plate Challenge

I invite you to join me and like-minded eaters for February’s Greener Plate Challenge. You’ll learn what you need to know about your environmental foodprint, along with delicious recipes to nourish yourself and the planet – all in just one email a day, for 14 days. For free. This low-effort, high-reward challenge is your gateway to sustainable eating for a more flavorful future. Let’s make 2024 the year we all eat smarter, live better, and tread more lightly on our planet!