I am thrilled to bring another great blogger to the Vegan 101 series! The purpose of this series is to serve as a resource for new vegans, or those considering going vegan, as well as those of us who could use a few new tips or a refresher.
As I have posted previously, in my pre-vegan days I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. I had a lot to learn and I turned to vegan cookbooks and blogs. Last summer I started reading Daily Garnish (back then it was known as The Front Burner) and was hooked reading Emily’s descriptions of her cooking adventures on an organic farm — the last step in earning her culinary arts degree. Emily’s writing is so encouraging and persuasive that five minutes after reading her A Girl and Her Rice Cooker: A Love Story. post I ordered my own rice cooker!
I consider Emily a virtual mentor. I asked her to contribute to this series because she demystifies the cooking process for me. She makes me believe that I can cook anything.
Hello JL’s readers! I’m Emily from Daily Garnish, and I am thrilled to be part of this great Vegan 101 series, and help show that the world of vegan cooking is both exciting and easy!
To give you a little background on me, I worked in the non-profit fundraising world for six years before finally trading in my suit pants for chef pants. At the age of 28, I quit my job, moved across the country, and went back to school full time to earn my culinary arts degree. Now I write over at Daily Garnish, in addition to doing recipe development for magazines and other publications.
Whenever I tell people that I am a vegetarian (mostly vegan), I am amazing by how often I am asked, “so what do you EAT?” There is such a strange stigma attached to vegan eating, usually revolving around the assumption that our choices are very limited, and mostly taste like cardboard. I can assure you that is most definitely not the case! Here are a few tips to help navigate the vegan kitchen, and start cooking up delicious food that will fool your meat-loving friends.
1. Buy in Bulk
One of my favorite tips to give ANY cook – vegan included – is to become friends with your local bulk food supplier. Most cities have health food stores or specialty stores (like Whole Foods or Fresh Market) that have a section of bulk bins available. What I love about buying in bulk is that you can buy as little or as much as you like, so if you are trying a new ingredient for the first time (like quinoa, or nutritional yeast), you aren’t stuck buying a huge box before you are ready to commit. Buying in bulk is also a great way to cut down on packaging and waste, and do your part for the planet. I store all my dried bulk goods in ball jars on open shelves in my kitchen!
Some of my favorite items to keep on hand are whole grains like millet, quinoa, brown rice, and steel cut oats. For vegans in particular, stocking up in plant-based protein sources like lentils, dried beans, and nutritional yeast ensures that you always have healthy protein options available!
2. Befriend the Freezer
While I would recommend organizing yours better than I have, I am a big fan of stocking up on frozen fruits and veggies – particularly in the winter months. Being a chef, it might be surprising to hear me profess my love for the frozen food aisle. While I would definitely advise you to pass on the frozen tater tots and Hungry Man dinners, there are some great healthy frozen options that are nice to have available on busy nights when you need something healthy and fast.
While fresh is always best, I typically stock up on things like frozen peas, green beans, edamame, corn, blueberries, strawberries, and mango. It gets me through the winter months while still allowing me to make sure I’m eating plenty of colorful food year round.
3. Spice It Up!
As for that “vegan food tastes like cardboard” issue – I think a big misconception with vegetarian and vegan food is that people don’t know how to best prepare it! If the only vegetables you are ever given is plain, steamed or boiled broccoli, then YES – I would avoid my vegetables too! There are so many great ways to add flavor to your food, and having a stocked spice rack makes that even easier.
A few of my favorite spice combinations are:
- cumin, coriander, cinnamon – Southwestern flavors
- ginger, red pepper flakes, five spice – Asian flavors
- garam masala, turmeric, curry – Indian flavors
Don’t be afraid to thrown in a dash of this and a pinch of that – it’s amazing how much spices can transform a meal!
4. Fill Your Toolbox
While you can absolutely be a good cook and make great food without expensive equipment, you may find over time that a few key investments in your kitchen will absolutely payoff in the long run. My favorite kitchen appliance is my rice cooker, and I know JL has become a rice-cooker convert herself! Don’t be fooled by what sounds like a uni-tasker – this machine cooks so much more than rice. Grains, beans, greens, lentils – you name it – you can cook it. It’s a simple as accurately measuring and pressing start, and before you know it, you’ll have perfectly cooked grains, beans, etc. – kept warm until you are ready to serve up your meal!
The other appliance I think is most helpful for vegans in particular, is the food processor. Perfect for making hummus, veggie burgers, dips, nut butters, and more – this tool is a great way to expand your culinary capabilities beyond the cutting board.
Those are just a few ways to get you started on the road toward making delicious vegan meals. Hopefully you can find ways to incorporate these tips and tricks into your own kitchen! I hope you’ll stop by Daily Garnish for more ideas and recipes. And many, many thanks again to JL for allowing me to be part of her Vegan 101 series!
See what I mean? Don’t you just want to grab your apron and get cooking? Emily, thank you! Thank you for breaking it down and inspiring us to stock up our kitchens and to get creative with our healthy, vegan cooking!
Readers, share some of your kitchen tips and tricks!