In the short time I have been vegan, I have found many new recipes for amazing foods that I never thought I’d be able to cook, let alone enjoy eating! I have also found that there are a few items that you must have in your kitchen at all times. These may be for nutritional purposes, they make an excellent base for most meals or simply because you love them.
- Beans: I usually have a few tins of baked beans, four bean mix and chickpeas in the cupboard. I will often add the chickpeas straight from the can to salads and add a tin of the four beans to savoury nutmeat (see below), salsa or bolognaise. A quick, cheap and easy meal has been baked beans on toast with baby spinach, nutritional yeast and chia seeds. This allows me to be lazy while attempting to get all protein and iron* I need in one meal.
- Nutmeat Casserole: I am a huge fan of Vegie Delights Casserole mince. I usually make a savoury nut-mince, just like my Great-Grandmother used to make. Well, almost… Cook some onions, zucchini, mushrooms, peas, corn, beans or any other vegetable, add some veggie stock or vegan gravy to the nutmeat and serve on toast or mashed potato. I have recently started adding Nutritional Yeast to the mix and it has been amazing! I have also use the original nutmeat version to make a stroganoff, but I find it tedious to get out of the can and I am nothing if not a lazy cook! It was worth the hassle in the end though…
- Zucchini: I am not 100% sure what the nutritional information is for this most versatile vegetable, but it is green, so it has to be good right? I put it in everything from spaghetti bolognaise to salsa! I just love the taste and texture and it is easy to cook! Baked zucchini is my absolute favourite though… (Apparently Americans call this a courgette, just to confuse the situation even further!)
- Spinach: this little baby is amazing and I have added it to everything at least once! A great source of iron, I usually go for the baby spinach variety, but any will suffice. It is a tasty addition to morning fruit smoothies, lunch salad or wrap, and pasta or savoury mince. Again, I put it in everything and see what happens. It is also quite nice in fried rice! Just don’t cook it too long, because I read somewhere that over cooking changes the chemical make up and effects its iron levels (I can’t remember where I read/heard this, but correct me if I’m wrong…)
- Tofu: I have been on a nice little love affair with this amazing food! I have used silken tofu to make sour cream for my nachos and salsa. I have scrambled it and eaten it on toast for breakfast. I have even simply fried it and added it to my salad! It is a great source of protein, calcium, iron* and a host of other vitamins and minerals that keep our bodies healthy.
- Coconut milk or cream: This is my go to substitute for cream in traditional recipes, so we can still enjoy potato bake, pasta, lasagne and soup!! Also, you don’t get that nasty film of fat that other creams give when cooled. This also helps with the transition, as it allows us to eat what we always have so the change isn’t as drastic.
- Mushrooms: As my most favourite food in the whole world, I usually don’t cook a meal if it doesn’t have mushrooms in it. Even then I usually just add them and see what happens! Mushrooms are a good source of protein* and many other vitamins and add a beautiful flavour to any dish. But, I may be biased…
- Oats: A wholegrain that is a great source of iron and fibre*. Most Australians will eat these as a hot porridge for breakfast, but I have recently discovered the overnight oats craze, which is much nicer on a hot Australian morning. For overnight oats, add 1:1 ratio of oats and plant-based milk into an airtight jar and place in the fridge overnight (i.e. I cup oats to 1 cup of milk). I also add a tablespoon of peanut butter, a teaspoon of maple syrup, a couple of shakes of cinnamon, 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of cacao powder and a generous pinch of desiccated coconut. In the morning I will add dried blueberries or sultanas (which are also a good source of iron). Just be careful that your plant-based milk doesn’t have high calcium levels, as this can impair the absorption of iron in the body (this information came straight from my Doctor, who I suspect of being plant-based…).
- Nutritional yeast: This is a recent addition to my list of must-haves, I often add it to hot dishes just to see what will happen! It is one of the main ingredients in my tofu scramble that gives it a cheesy flavour without all the pesky cruelty to animals! This is a good source of protein and B vitamins, including natural B12 (according to the label)!
- Herbs and Spices: Herbs are a great source of antioxidants*, especially parsley. Tumeric* has also been shown to help fight cancer cells and is easy to add to any dish by simply cooking it with the pasta or rice. It will change the colour of the food, but not the taste! Just start playing around with tastes and see what you like.
Mostly, this is a list of the things I like to keep on hand at any given moment. I’m not one for meal planning, as I tend to just eat what I feel like at the time. Often if I’ve pre-cooked something I won’t want it later, not sure why, but this list has helped me to stay on the vegan path and made the transition easier.
Have I missed anything? Feel free to add your must haves in the comments below!!
*Dr Michael Gerger’, How Not to Die. A very basic reference, I know. Definitely not Harvard worthy, but google the book’s title for more information! Also, Dr Greger has a website for further information.