Cooking Vegan

I basically taught myself to cook. When I was young, I loved spending time with my mom shopping for ingredients and being in the kitchen with her.  Although my mom’s repertoire was very small, I learned to make all of her dishes, the comfort foods of my childhood.  I have also been watching cooking shows since high school. There was a chef who had a blue kitchen…

When I became vegan, I ate out a lot.  It some time to develop my palate and get interested in vegan fare.  When I had my son, we hired vegan chef, Telah Quemere, to come cook for us.  She prepared great meals for us for four months and once I saw what she was doing, I realized that I could cook too.

I started to rethink the dishes my mom made and veganized some of them.  I also watched the cooking shows to get ideas and techniques.  I also bought a few cookbooks by great vegan chefs to get advice.  There is a big vegan blogging community and lots of recipes online.

What it comes down to is personal taste.  Between my husband and myself, we have a long list what we don’t like (e.g., hunks of garlic, mushrooms, fennel, eggplant, asparagus, anything overly spicy…)  Bottom line: you have to make it work for you!

Here are some of my tips for cooking vegan:

1 – Read a recipe in its entirety before you attempt to make it. 

2 – Determine what ingredients you like and don’t like and adjust the recipe accordingly.

3 – Google recipes, read cookbooks.  Have your go-to books and blogs. Don’t be afraid to experiment and throw away, if necessary.  It is part of the learning process.

4 – Tofu is not as gross as you might think if you press out the water and season it well.  Get a TofuXpress which is one of the best kitchen inventions ever.  It presses out all of the water very quickly; no more paper towels and trying to weigh the pot down just right.  

5 – Tempeh tastes great as long as you season it with a little tamari (or soy sauce) as you cook it.

6 – Beans are best when you make them yourself.  Soak overnight and cook.  Easy.

7 – Nuts are a great form of protein and can be added to many dishes.  Unless there is an allergy, be creative!

8 – Quinoa and millet are easy to make, just like rice. 

9 – Have staples on hand so you can whip something up at any time.  Stock your pantry, refrigerator and freezer with things like dried beans, rice pasta, rice, quinoa, millet, frozen vegetables, olive oil, sunflower oil, tamari, maple syrup, baking soda, flour, cocoa powder, vanilla, lemons, salt, pepper, and dried herbs and spice.

10 – Shop early in the week and buy fresh vegetables and greens.  Shop at a farmer’s market or locally so that you buy what is in season.  Buy what looks good and fresh, and then when you get home figure out what to make.  It’s like Chopped, but at home.

11 – Get out of the kitchen in under a half hour or it will become a chore.  Some recipes require more time and effort, but these are more like a Saturday afternoon project.

12 – Many favorite dishes can be veganized.  It is really about flavor and texture. 

13 – Protein: tofu, tempeh, nuts, beans, grains, and greens. 

14 – Onions make everything taste better.

15 – Kitchen implements you must have: a great knife, a food processor, a blender, a big skillet with sides, a non-stick skillet, a small pot for rice, a medium pot for soup, a large pot for pasta, cutting boards, tongs, and baking sheets.

16 – Be organized, be creative, and clean as you go.

17 – Once you develop your palette, you won’t miss or even remember non-vegan food.

18 – Vegan deserts are fantastic and because the vegan lifestyle is so healthy, there is always room.

19 – A “Blue Plate Special” is the perfect vegan meal: protein, grains and greens.

20 – The more you cook, the better cook you become!

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