Cooking plant based will change the way you do things in the kitchen and what you need to have on hand. Here are some of my tips and tricks that I have learned over the years that make following a plant based lifestyle easy!
01 Stock your cabinets.
Before transitioning to a plant based diet you may have found yourself looking in your fridge for what's for dinner. But now most of your base ingredients- whole grains & legumes are in the cabinets! I always recommend having a few cans of beans, rice, and oats on hand for easy tacos, rice bowls, and breakfasts.
02 Keep your condiments simple.
This is something I see in a lot of fridges, just bottles and bottles of random condiments. That were bought for one special occasion and never touched again. I prefer to flavor my foods with many different spices and keep my condiments simple. My favorites to have on hand are:
Soy Sauce (reduced sodium)
Rice Wine Vinegar
I can make just about every meal I enjoy with these simple ingredients. Maple syrup for my oats, a maple balsamic glaze for tofu, soy sauce marinated tempeh for a TLT sandwich, lemon juice and rice wine vinegar for a salad dressing! Get creative!
03 Water Saute!
This one will be the hardest for some to learn as many people are used to using a heavy layer of oil to saute everything! I learned to do this so that I can minimize my overall added oil intake to more special occasions like when I go out to eat.
Let's say you are caramelizing onions. All you need to do is add your onions to a pan with a little splash of water (about a tablespoon) until they start to sizzle. Then add another splash of water, this time a little bit more. Continue to let the water cook off and move the onions around the pan and add more water until they are browned and soft. I like to keep a small pitcher of water near my stove for this purpose.
04 Meal prep
This might go without saying but having meals already made will give you no excuse to forgo your plant based eating! Make a pot of soup or chili or something you know you enjoy and keep in the freezer for those days you will inevitably have where you don't have time. Or prep your veggies so you don't have to cut them all each time you want to cook! Whatever task you can do in your free time that will make it easier for you when you get home from work tired and hungry will be well worth it.
05 Use Seasoning
I have had a lot of different vegan and plant based food over the year, some exceptional and some pretty average. What is the main difference that I see? Flavor! No it is not because there were processed fake foods with tons of oil, just seasoning! Taking the time to make a nice seasoning blend for your lentils or tofu before you cook or even seasoning your veggies will make all the difference in the world. No one says eating plant based means you need to eat all of your plants naked! Not to mention herbs have so many health benefits from being inflammatory to immune strengthening. Why not bump up the nutrition and flavor of your meals at the same time? Experiment till you find your favorite combinations- then always keep those on hand.
06 Use cashews to make things creamy
Cashews are a staple in plant based cooking as they can make this beautiful creamy sauce when just blended with water! Soak them in boiling water to get them soft then blend in dressings, soups, or sauces to get that creamy element you make be missing form dairy!
07 Don't get in a rut
Find yourself using the same greens, the same grains, the same veggies? Go to the store and get something different! Use faro instead of brown rice, barley instead of oats, beets and fennel instead of potatoes and carrots! There are way to many options for us to be using the same ten ingredients all the time. This will keep cooking exciting and interesting!
08 Have a go-to option for non plant-based friends
This is huge for me as my family and I often entertain non plant based eaters. It can often be a source of stress or tension trying to think about what to feed them. I always try to lead by example and cook them something delicious and plant based! Maybe not a bowl of straight kale but something a bit more in disguise. Here are my favorite company proof food suggestions.
Fresh tomato bruschetta
Guac (always a favorite)
Build your own tacos/ burritos (make sure to have many components)
Creamy mushroom pasta (anything creamy makes people feel like there must be dairy present haha)
Enchiladas! This decadent dish will distract them with all of the amazing flavors.
09 Find inspiration
No one just randomly comes up with a recipe without some source of inspiration. Maybe it was that dinner you had one night at a restaurant or that beautiful salad you saw on Pinterest. Get yourself some magazines or cookbooks so you don't lose interest!
At the end of the day, my message is simple, KEEP IT INTERESTING! No one likes boring food! Make use of seasoning, varied vegetables, and new recipes! Have a little fun in the kitchen too :)