One thing that I am passionate about is vegan cooking. I see cooking as a extension of my animal advocacy and also an extension of my feelings towards health and wellness. I truly believe that I can win people over with meals. I feel that if people can taste just how wonderful plant-based food is, that they may consider a new way of eating. In turn, I believe that this way of eating is really liberating. No more guilt from eating animals. No more wondering if the animals were treated nicely. It may sound idealistic, but it’s liberating when you can eat food without a guilty conscience. When I transitioned my diet, I also had no idea just how rewarding it would be. I feel lighter and more energized than I’ve ever felt before, and I’m speaking as an ex-meat eater, ex-vegetarian, and now vegan. I am here to share all of this freedom with you.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t much of a cook when I left my parents home, but I sure thought I was. I’ve grown from a semi-homemade cook to a made-from-scratch cook. So, what I want to do is share some simple tricks and tips to make delicious savory plant-based dishes of your own.
So, let’s begin…
First, stop thinking about vegan food as its own food group. We aren’t creating vegan food, we’re creating food… period. As with any food, you need to properly prepare and season it. So, if someone says that vegan food is bland, the problem is probably the preparation. For example, when someone prepares meat, they are seasoning it with salt, pepper, and other spices. Now apply this thinking to plants. Season, Season, Season.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. For example, I use soy sauce (tamari and Bragg’s liquid aminos are other equivalents and they are gluten-free) in most of my savory dishes. I never limit soy sauce to just Chinese Food. It gives a robust and complex flavor to dishes such as stews, soups, marinades, gravies, and vegetable dishes. There are times that I don’t use soy, and it’s often because I don’t want it to change the color of a dish. For example, when I make Chinese pickled cucumbers for sushi, I omit the soy and opt for salt so that the dish looks aesthetically pleasing. The look of food is important, too. Remember, you eat with your eyes first.
Find some signature spices. There are certain spices that are universal, and can be added to many dishes. For example, I have my own trinity of spices. A lot of the dishes that I make have these 3 things added to them: oregano, garlic powder, and soy sauce. Now, I don’t just stop there, I will usually add other spices depending on the dish, but those are spices that I know go well together. Let me give you a couple of examples. When I make vegetables for fajitas, I will use my trinity, but I will also add minced garlic cloves, cumin, and chili powder. However, if I make an Italian tempeh sausage crumble for pizza, the additional spices will be completely different. The new spices will include: minced garlic, basil, and fennel. So, when I post more recipes on here, keep an eye out for my trio!
Get help. When I started cooking plant-based, I went to the library and checked out numerous vegan cookbooks. I had no experience and needed to start somewhere, and the library is a great place for that. Vegan cookbook authors are experienced cooks and they are there to help you. As I started checking out books, I started buying my favorite books. I went from owning zero vegan cookbooks to owning about twenty. At this point, I don’t buy them as frequently, but I still check out new cookbooks from the library for new ideas. If your library does not have vegan cookbooks, you can pick books to purchase based on user ratings on Amazon. Reading reviews is an awesome place to start, but if I personally had to own only 3 cookbooks it would be: Veganomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance, and The Joy of Vegan Baking. There are a lot of great cookbooks out there, but I think these 3 will get you pretty far. However, I would say that an honorable mention would go to Chole’s Kitchen. I have had the most success with her recipe for seitan, and all of the food that I have made from her book has been delicious. Her cookbook is pretty much veganized everyday food. So, another tip when picking out a cookbook, think about the food you want to make. Is it everyday food with a vegan twist, is it completely new food, or do you want to learn how to bake?
Be patient. If you are learning to cook, it may take time to develop your skill set. Also, it takes a little time to transition your taste for a plant-based diet. The more you cook, the more you will understand which flavors and textures are pleasing to you. I remember when I purchased a cookbook on vegan cheese, and I was so disappointed with a recipe that I tried. I did not have the experience to know that bean cheese dips (made from chickpeas) where not creamy like a nut cheese dip. I think the experience would be different now after having more experience. This brings me to my last tip.
Go in with no expectations. If you are making a dish that has a meat-like equivalent, don’t expect them to be exactly the same. Take my tempeh bacon recipe as an example, it doesn’t actually taste like nor does it have the texture of meat bacon. However, it does have the nice smokey flavor reminiscent of bacon, and it makes amazing BLTs!
So, what do you want to veganize? Leave me a comment below!
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