I recently decided to finally start eating a vegan diet. Since I love to cook and eat, I wanted to learn how to prepare the best version of vegan meals that I could. I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to prepare meals the vegan way. Some of the times, I’ve found great success; others, not so much. I’ve realized how much I’ve relied on dairy (particularly cheese and cream) for easy shortcuts to great-tasting meals. Without these “quick fix” items, it is certainly a challenge to make meals just as tasty as they were before, minus the meat and dairy.
Despite the challenges, I’ve really enjoyed the trial and error process in [re]learning how to cook. I found some key items it is handy to have in the kitchen when preparing vegan meals:
Earth Balance Margarine – This is a soy-based alternative to regular margarine or butter. I still am not used to the taste and wouldn’t necessarily slather it on a piece of toast, but it’s certainly come in handy when making a roux, creamy sauce and in certain baked goods.
Apple Cider Vinegar/Unsweetened Applesauce – Weirdly enough, both have proven key ingredients when baking!
Coconut Oil – This is the healthiest oil you can cook with and it contains all the good fats that we need to stay healthy!
Hummus – I prefer the Publix brand over any storebought brand, particularly because Publix carries fun flavors like jalapeño & cilantro and chili lime. Yum!
Canned Beans – This has been a staple of mine for lunch. I have been combining beans (Cannellini are my favorite!) with quinoa, brown rice and vegetables (usually kale and/or spinach) for a quick and tasty lunch. I make a pot of this in bulk, and then eat it for lunch and dinner for a 2-3 days.
Soy Protein Powder – I found that I should be consuming around 55 grams of protein a day to maintain good health. Three scoops of protein powder in my morning smoothie (almond milk, 2 cups of spinach, 1 small banana, agave and a dollop of peanut butter) already gets me halfway there.
Nutritional Yeast – It took me forever to find where they sell this. They sell it in the “Superfood” section of any Vitamin Shoppe or health food store. I saw it for sale at Whole Foods but I did not want to pay $15 for a huge canister of it. Nutritional yeast comes in handy when making anything that is supposed to taste cheesy. I used a scoop of it in this Vegan Mac ‘n Cheese:
Strawberry and Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts
I have been jonesin’ to make a good homemade doughnut. I made these strawberry and chocolate glazed doughnuts by Chef Chloe. The nutmeg gives the doughnuts a delicious flavor. My favorite glaze was the chocolate. The glaze is easy! It’s dairy-free chocolate chips mixed with soy milk and some confectionary sugar. Voila!
Gluten-Free Pizza with Pan-fried Tempeh, Mushrooms and Spinach
This was sort of a fail. The pizza crust (from Raphsodic Cooperative Bakery) was not my favorite. I stopped by this vegan bakery in downtown Orlando and picked up a couple of cupcakes (chocolate chai and vanilla…they were delicious!). I also grabbed a bag of pizza dough mix. The only option for pizza was gluten-free but I decided to try it out anyway. I think I am going to simply try to make my own dough (not gluten-free). The toppings of this one actually came out pretty good (I think the Daiya Mozzarella Vegan Cheese is amazing!) but I was not crazy about the crust. This was also my first time cooking with tempeh and I’m not sure I prepared it correctly. Oh well. Live and learn. On the bright side, I learned that one of my favorite pizza joints Mellow Mushroom actually serves vegan pizza! Oh Lordy, I will have to try that out…
For Easter lunch with the family, I prepared a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (I forgot to take a picture, sadly, so you’ll just have to imagine it). The pie came out great and I would definitely make it again. I also made some Deviled Roma Tomatoes, instead of the traditional deviled eggs. The filling is a chick pea mixture. It is my secret goal to get my parents to eventually appreciate curry so I snuck some curry powder into the mixture along with some cumin, veganaise, vegan cream cheese, paprika and sweet relish. The result was quite delicious and everybody (meat-eaters and vegans alike) seemed to enjoy this.
I have to remind myself that my goal is to have a plant-based whole foods diet, and not necessarily “vegan” because it’s still possible to eat a vegan diet and still eat CRAP (hence, the baking binge I’ve been on). Because I’m still new to veganism, I’ve been trying out how to bake brownies, doughnuts and cookies properly but as a result I’ve probably eaten more than my fair share of baked goods recently, though I usually stick to juicing the next day if I eat desserts the day before. On the plus side, I have dropped several pounds since I made the switch.
It’s definitely not as fun to eat out (unless it’s a vegan restaurant… the fiancé and I have gone to Dandelion Communitea Cafe at least 3 times in the past couple of weeks) but it has made me much more motivated to cook at home. Tonight, I made a simple spaghetti with tomato cream sauce, using the leftover tomato guts I had scooped out to make the deviled tomatoes. I think I had too much pasta and not enough sauce, but it still came out pretty tasty.
I look forward to posting more vegan adventures!:)