I frequently get asked for vegan recipes but even more so I get asked how I vegan. Even if you have zero interest in going vegan I feel this post will be helpful in satiating the curious or those wanting to dip their feet or perhaps you just want to improve your diet. As with anything new there is a learning curve, so let me accelerate the process and bestow upon you the wisdom of a five year old vegan.
There is a myth that vegans are boring elitist individuals who eat grass. Let me break that myth apart, I don’t care what you eat. This is simply to help those interested. I genuinely enjoy helping people reach their goal weight and improve their health. Veganism does not work for everyone just like eating meat does not work for everyone. I am a vegan because I love eating plants and switching over to this diet has improved my health and physique ten fold. For me, nothing tastes as good as being vegan feels. I swear it has taken ten years off my life.
So let’s get into it….
It all starts with meal planning on Sunday. If I don’t plan what I am going to eat for the week my diet turns into a hot mess. No, I don’t break and start gobbling down Burger King and Taco Bell but I will eat out almost every night at places like Mod Market, Garbanzo’s, Whole Food’s prepared meal/salad/soup bars and Native Foods. While these fast-ish food restaurants have plenty of vegan options I prefer to cook my own food and save money. Fresh in season produce and knowing every ingredient I dump into my machine is important to me.
But whose got time for all that? I sure don’t. Regardless, somehow with an insane schedule I have managed for years. Here’s the truth. Late into the deep dark depressing hours of Sunday evening when the world is lazying on their couch watching t.v. or reading a book, somewhere in Colorado a girl is tucked away in her kitchen ferociously preparing food. Long story short, I make sacrifices so my mind and body can optimally function.
I always keep a small notebook with me. Mostly I use it for meal prep but it’s also convenient for writing down ideas, passing thoughts, or things I would otherwise space on.
On Sunday morning I sit down at my computer and with my three most used cookbooks and the intra-webs I decide what I want to eat. There is no rhyme or reason to it. I type into google things like, “easy vegan lunches, easy vegan breakfast etc. etc.” and roll with whatever appeals to me.
My absolute favorite food blogger is:
She is on point. There is every vegan recipe known to man on her website.
The three cookbooks I use are:
The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon ~ This was the first vegan cookbook I bought and it is my favorite. Lindsay eases you in and most of the recipes are good (steer clear of tofu “eggs”).
Big Vegan by Robin Asbell ~ I love this book for its pastas, sides, and salads. Although the recipes are delicious and healthy, it can be big and overwhelming to a new vegan.
Native Foods Cookbook ~ I bought this book recently from the Native Foods all vegan restaurant. I mostly use it for “cheat meals” because the recipes are not particularly healthy in my opinion (a common misconception, being vegan does not directly correlate to being healthy). But it is great when I have cravings. As well all of the recipes need to be scaled down. They designed this book to feed a restaurant not a person or two. “Next cook 12 pounds of pasta”….what?
I then take my notebook and open it, on the left side I write down the recipe title and where I pull it from (web, cookbook [include page number], or my own brain). I split the right page in half and on one side write “produce” and on the other “not”. I check my refrigerator and cupboards as I read through the necessities of each recipe and record what I have to buy in its appropriate column. I bookmark recipes for the week in a food folder on my computer so I can pull them up later while I am cooking. If I don’t like how they turn out I go back and delete them.
The next step is to go to a grocery store. If you are anything like me, upon arrival you will realize you forgot the list you just poured so much effort into making. So, don’t do that. I mostly shop at the over sized Whole Foods down the road from my apartment but Sprouts and Vitamin Cottage are great as well. Non “health food” stores work fine, but beware, they don’t carry as many of the novelty vegan items. I once bought vegan ice cream from a King Soopers, it looked like it completely melted, they refroze it, and then sold it.
In my humble opinion the most important staple in any diet is the dark leafy green. However it is you get them, get them. I call them the family, the members: Kale (red, green, dino), Chard (rainbow or regular), Watercress, Collard Greens, Parsley and Cilantro (natural anti-inflammatories), Bok Choy, Carrot Tops, Dandelion Greens etc. etc. I blend a green shake every afternoon, usually after a workout. It doesn’t look pretty or taste good but it gets the job done. I swear, my daily shake is what keeps me alive. I am going to write a separate post on the anatomy of a REAL shake, not the B.S. you see in beauty magazines.
One of the reasons I like Whole Foods is they label all their produce and tell me where it came from. I choose to buy as local as possible (in the summer I frequent the farmers market but in the winter that is not possible). For example, if none of the tomatoes are from Colorado then I buy from California or Texas over Mexico. There are three reasons I pay attention to where my food comes from. 1) The less distance traveled, the less energy used, the happier the planet. 2) The less distance traveled, the fresher my produce, meaning more nutrients. and 3) Support the local economy.
The second reason I like Whole Foods is because BULK. I prefer to buy in bulk because packaging is wasteful and more expensive. I buy all of my grains, nuts, spices, and other odds and ends (candy, chia seeds, nutritional yeast etc. etc.) in bulk. I went to Bed Bath and Beyond three years ago and purchased some fancy containers and empty spice holders. I then used a label maker to print out the stuff I use the most like quinoa, basmati rice, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, garlic salt, paprika, cumin etc. etc. I slapped the labels on and boom, more organization. Aside from cooking that was the one time I did something domestic.
If the store I am shopping at does not have an ingredient or the certain fruit or vegetable I need I normally throw a full blown adult tantrum. Just kidding! I said this in my pancake post, improvise. For example, this week I needed green beans but they were covered in brown spots. I know, I know, even poop stained beans need love but I opted to buy some beautiful looking husks of white corn instead. Will the recipe be exactly the same, no, but you will go crazy trying to adhere strictly to cookbooks and online recipes. Has my attitude towards recipes back fired? Yes, when baking. Follow instructions when baking.
Your cart should develop into something resembling this. Now go home and do some cooking!