116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
If yours is like most families, dinnertime can seem like a house divided. You've got one vegan, two meat eaters and the pickiest toddler in three counties. Not only are you tired of cooking a variety of separate meals every night, but you also are not sure if everyone is eating healthy.
Two Mount Vernon women have a solution: their local service for ready-made, plant-powered meals created with families in mind. This month, Mariah Andrews and Devon Olberding will roll out subscription meal plans that weekly provide eight or 12 made from scratch meals.
"The recipes and information that we are sharing really comes from our unique perspective as moms and being empathetic to moms," Andrews said. She mentioned Olberding's example of trying to please her four different kids. "That gives us a unique perspective for … moving forward with the meal service."
They have more than 500 recipes in their database, so variety isn’t an issue. Neither will be flavor.
"All of our recipes are very spice- and flavor-forward. Our whole idea is that you won't really miss the meat, cheese, dairy that would be in some of these recipes, like, quote-unquote, meatballs, or pizza or mac and cheese," Andrews said.
She knows from experience. Although Andrews has been plant-based since she was 18 years old and her daughter eats a plant-based diet, both her husband and son eat dairy and meat.
"I'll never make separate dinners for anyone. I just make whatever dish we're making. If my husband and son want to add meat — and they rarely do — they can because most of the dishes we make are friendly enough to eat. You can bake a chicken … and add that if you want to," Andrews said. "Other than that, (my kids) were raised eating plant-based but having the option to not just be plant-based."
The women have created a meal plan that follows the same principles.
"You don't have to be vegan or vegetarian to have these meals. With most of these entrees, it's easy to add protein or meat," Olberding said.
What: The Plantiful Pantry
Who: Owners Mariah Andrews and Devon Olberding, working moms with six kids between their two families
How it works: Subscribe to the monthly service to receive ready-to-eat meals such as salads, soups, wraps, entrees and snacks. Then, just heat and eat. Choose a six- or four-meal plan. Add-on snacks are extra. Choose a day and pick up your food at the South East Linn Community Center, 108 S. Washington St., Lisbon. Delivery is available for a fee.
Cost: Fees range starting at $120 a week for four entrees of 8 servings and requires a one month commitment
Other options: Jump Start or Crash Course programs to learn about planning, prepping, seasoning and cooking plant-based meals, plus a community to learn from and share with others.
There are many reasons people adopt a plant-based diet, also known as vegan. Andrews grew up in a meat-eating family, and although she did eat meat, she didn't really like it. So at 18, she went meatless when plant-based wasn't even a term.
"I was, I guess, what you'd call a vegetarian. I was probably a natural vegan and didn't even realize it. I've not really been much into dairy or eggs or anything like that," she said.
Many people are reading and learning about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, Andrews said. Some are people who are sick and want to get better. Others are already healthy and want to stay that way. Supporting animal rights leads others to give up meat.
"Another big reason we're seeing now with the younger generation is for the environment and for the earth. It's really inspiring to see that they're really passionate about that part of it," Andrews said.
Olberding began focusing on plant-based meals when her oldest child became vegetarian four years ago and vegan the next year.
"It had always been something I had wanted to try, to learn to cook more that way. I've always been passionate about fitness and nutrition," Olberding said.
She also had some digestive issues and decided to give going vegan a try. A couple of years ago, she signed up for and followed a plant-based program offered by Andrews.
"I felt so good. I didn't miss the meat at all. I was sold. It was very satisfying and easy to make," Olberding said.
She occasionally eats meat now and, every once in a while, will cook herself a piece of fish. "But not very often," Olberding said.
Olberding has worked in the health and fitness industry for more than 20 years as a personal trainer, fitness instructor and now as a certified health coach. Because she works out a lot, she was concerned at first that a plant-based diet would be too low in protein if she gave up chicken and eggs.
"But it's been a couple of years now, and I'm loving it. I have all the energy I need, and I'm still working out a lot," Olberding said.
People also worry that a plant-based diet will be too expensive. But because meat is so expensive right now and they practice and teach cooking from scratch rather than buying pricey processed vegan foods, their way of eating plant-based is actually less expensive, Olberding said.
"We're cooking with rice, beans and a ton of veggies," she said.
Her mother taught her how to cook and bake, but as she grew older, Andrews had to learn to adapt her favorite recipes to be meatless.
"I taught myself to make a lot of the dishes that we're still making or riffing on," she said.
One thing Andrews learned about plant-based eating is to be creative and try a variety of dishes so that she wouldn't get bored with the food. Working in the natural foods industry as a marketer, she learned a lot about spices and flavorings, sourcing and fair trade. In their meal plan, Andrews and Olberding offer many dishes inspired by different ethnic cuisines: Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, and there's even a new Indonesian dish.
Creating a business
The women started The Plantiful Pantry in 2020 to teach others to more easily adopt a plant-based lifestyle. They collaborated on courses that taught planning plant-based menus, prepping vegetables and cooking their original recipes.
"I was working at the wellness center in Mount Vernon and recently became certified as a health coach. We got to talking about our goals and the direction each of us was heading. A light bulb went off. Why don't we collaborate and try to do this together and bring what we have to the table?" Olberding said. "(It) happened organically."
Then they collaborated with a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to provide recipes and prepping tips for each week's fresh produce offerings. Still, customers wanted more. Pressed for time, some locals asked Andrews and Olberding to cook for them. The women were thrilled. It had been Andrews' lifelong dream to teach others to cook and eat a plant-powered diet.
They ran a pilot project, did research and sent out surveys. Then they rented commercial kitchen space at the South Linn Community Center in Lisbon. Since moving in on Wednesday, Feb. 9, they've been busy completing licensing and ordering food and containers.
"One of the things we found when we did this pilot program was how much people really did love the food. We loved making it, too. We already knew we worked well together. There was kind of a different level of magic in making the food together on a day-to-day basis," Andrews said.
Although it's a business, they'll keep in mind something very important to both.
"We're going to have to make it in smaller batches and still put our own good energy into it, (and) be mindful of keeping the quality at the same level," Olberding said.
Lover’s Pasta con Broccoli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Show your favorite Valentines how much you adore them with this decadent (yet still healthy) pasta featuring broccoli, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and a velvety tomato Alfredo sauce. Mushrooms are rich in vitamin D, selenium, fiber, and potassium. Broccoli is low in calories and high in fiber, choline, antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin K. Sun-dried tomatoes provide vitamins C and K, iron and lycopene.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
For the Broccoli + Mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
16 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup white wine
2 heads broccoli, cut into small florets
For the Tomato Alfredo
2 tablespoons vegan butter, (we recommend Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups full-fat oat milk (we recommend Oatly)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 heaping tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil, minced and divided
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Pasta + Garnishes
16 ounces penne or ziti pasta, cooked for 1 minute less than package directions
1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup plant-based Parmesan cheez
For the Broccoli + Mushrooms
In a medium stockpot over medium heat, heat olive oil till shimmering and then add the mushrooms.
Shake the pot to distribute mushrooms evenly and allow to cook for 2 minutes, shaking halfway through.
Add the garlic and stir into the mushroom until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the broccoli and white wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli begins to turn bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the nutmeg.
Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the veggies to a glass bowl.
For the Tomato Alfredo Sauce
In the same stockpot that you cooked the broccoli and mushrooms, melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the flour one tablespoon at a time, whisking vigorously to combine with the butter. The mixture should form a thick paste.
Add the milk, 1 cup at a time, and continue to whisk vigorously. Once all of the milk is well combined with the flour mixture, allow the mixture to simmer and thicken.
Add the nutritional yeast, then stir in the tomato sauce.
Add the crushed red peppers and 1 tablespoon of the sun-dried tomatoes.
For the Pasta + Garnishes
Lower the heat and then add the cooked pasta and then the veggies into the pot with the sauce. Stir gently to combine.
Serve in shallow pasta bowls and garnish with fresh basil, the remaining sun-dried tomatoes and plant-based Parmesan cheez.
Source: The Plantiful Pantry (www.modernmeal.com/recipe/715189)