Jun 27, 2013

The road to Plant Based City or Veganville

raw maki
My journey to veganville took five years. People I talk to about cooking are relieved to hear that my early
forays into vegan territory were failures. Meals of spaghetti with plain tomato sauce were far from satisfying and diners of ramen with frozen mixed vegetables were demoralizing. It's not like I was much of a cook to begin with. The only change I made to my spaghetti was to leave out the ground beef. I guess I missed the flavor the fat added.

The sushi I used to make using canned salmon wasn't exactly Iron Chef worthy. They're a far cry from the raw maki rolls of today...

vegetable maki
or the more conventional rice filled sushi using steamed baby bok choy, cucumber and carrot. The variations are endless. Avocados are always great, as are alfalfa sprouts, bell peppers, asparagus, pickled daikon and baked tofu.

I've even had banana and mango in a dessert sushi, with brown rice and coconut optionals.

That said, here are some tips that I hope will help.

Have a handful of meals that you can learn to do that are simple and quick.

Here are 4 ideas -

2 Step Chili
1 can of bean salad or kidney beans (Eden Foods have organic beans without plastic lining - BPA free ) and 1 jar of salsa.
Eat with cornbread or tortilla chips.
Feel free to make nachos by melting some Daiya cheese on the chips first. 
Feel even freer to top nachos with chopped green onion, jalapenos, vegan sour cream and avocado/guacamole.
In time you can can substitute the canned beans with soaked and cooked dry beans and replace the jar of salsa with:
2 chopped tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh chopped cilantro
1 tbsp of ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 clove of minced garlic
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped celery stalk
(saute above 4 1st in 2tbsp of oil in a pan on medium heat for 5 minutes, add tomatoes and simmer on low for another 10 minutes)

hemp pesto primavera
Pasta Primavera - pasta with roasted vegetables
In a large bowl, toss 1 chopped red bell pepper, 1 chopped zucchini and 1 julienned carrot (no thicker than 1/4 inch) in 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Place in a single layer onto a baking sheet and cook at 350F til carrots softened, about 10 min.
Remove and add to marinara or a vegan Alfredo sauce and a pasta of your choice.

Vegetable Stir Fry
Chop up 1 red pepper, 2 stalks of celery, 3 napa cabbage leaves and/or 2 baby bok choy bunches, 2 green onions, 3 cloves of garlic and 2 portabello mushrooms.
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan or skillet and sauté veggies and 1/2 tsp salt on medium for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add half pound of cubed super firm tofu and saute for 3 minutes as an option. Lower heat and add 4tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp agave or coconut sugar and heat for 2 more minutes.

Serve on cooked rice, mixed greens or fold into a wrap with a smear of Vegenaise or Vegan Heights Tasty Mayo.
sweet & sour chickn

Bringing back a dish from my childhood I made sweet & sour chicken using tomatoes, fresh cut pineapple and a chicken alternative, grilled separately with minced garlic. Beyond Meat has a good one. Useful for chicken salad sandwiches and summer BBQ skewers too.

Baked Butternut Squash
Wash, peel (optional) and cube butternut squash. Place in a large mixing bowl and toss with 2 tbsp oil, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp garlic powder or 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp pepper.
Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook for 20mins, or until translucent/soft
Top squash on romaine lettuce, mixed greens or baby kale.
Use your favorite salad dressing along with avocado, shredded carrot, cucumber, raisins, thinly sliced red onion, halved cherry tomatoes or sprouts. If handy add chick peas, sliced pears, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, edamame or baked tofu.
Or put the squash into a high speed blender with 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of raw cashews for a creamy soup.

It's best to stock up on simple eats that take no cooking.
raw oat hemp hazelnut milk cereal
Tortilla chips with guacamole or hummus.
Wraps or sandwiches stuffed with tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado & Vegenaise.
Granola or cereal. Top with hemp seeds, chopped dates, sliced almonds or goji berries. Bagels with vegan cream cheese, nut butters or jams. Frozen or fresh fruit for blended fruit smoothies.

Basic things to have in your pantry/fridge:
coconut oil
Daiya cheese
almond, rice, soy, hemp, flax or coconut  milk
vegan butter (store bought or homemade made with 1/3 cup coconut oil & 2/3 cup of hemp, avocado or sunflower oil)
salad dressing
almond, rice, soy or coconut yogurt

I do almost all of my day to day with these kitchen tools:
toaster oven - Cuisinart model TOB-40
ceramic coated non-stick pots and pans

The Vegan Stoner blog has some fun recipes. Very newbie cook friendly.

Plant Based Paige has many gluten free nutrient packed spins on classic eats.

My own easy choc mousse recipe is here in case you missed it. Another alternative sweetener to consider is coconut sugar.

Pizzas are real simple to throw together and the topping choices are unlimited.

sausage bell pepper pizza
hemp pesto spinach flatbread pizza

have a pizza party
Buy a ready made frozen pizza crust, naan bread or tortillas (for a super thin crust).
Spread on the marinara sauce, vegan Alfredo or pesto (food process 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp agave, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 tbsp nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp olive oil), cover with Daiya cheese and whatever toppings.
Sliced portobello mushrooms, bell peppers, pineapple, vegan sausage, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, asparagus, sliced olives, fresh basil, jalapenos or baby spinach.
Eat with a side salad, smoothie or garlic bread.

coq au vin over forbidden rice
Always have fresh fruit available. Go with the seasons and buy cantaloupes, honeydew melons, pears, bananas, apples, mangoes, dates, figs, pomegranate, pineapple, peaches, apricots and all manner of berries.

As soon as you have some new found cooking confidence, have some friends over to celebrate.

I know not everyone lives to eat, but sometimes a really comforting meal really brightens up a dark day.

sushi nite