|Always keep tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, and lemons on hand for vegetarian cooking|
After getting married and moving in with my husband, my kitchen habits are probably what changed most. He never asked me to be vegetarian, or to keep meat out of the kitchen. But was I really going to cook separate meals for us? Nope. Vegetarian cooking takes a little bit more attention, and keeping things separate is too much work.
So I eat what he eats. And I stopped missing meat. OK, so every now and then I have a craving, but really I just miss the simplicity of the meat-centered meal when I’m feeling lazy.
When people hear about my blog, they often ask, “well, what do you cook?” It’s actually a hard question to answer, especially for those used to eating meat at the center of every meal. The answer is “pretty much everything, mostly vegetarian stuff”. Response: “yeah, but what? Italian? Comfort Food?” And even though I categorize my blog, and technically I should be able to answer better, my gut reaction is still, “no, really, pretty much everything”.
|The protein shelf in my fridge. Just add to your favorite recipe and done!|
Our vegetarian kitchen looks a lot different than my single-girl omnivore kitchen did. There are so many substitutes out there for meats, that you really can vegetarianize almost anything. For example, in my fridge, instead of a drawer full of cold cuts and bacon, I have a shelf of seitan, tofu, and fake meats – even veggie turkey slices.
|Two of my favorite smart dogs.|
|Nuts are an easy toss-in for extra protein|
In my thaw drawer, instead of defrosting chicken breasts, you would find it permanently stuffed with nuts and dried fruits.
|Two drawers full of breads in the freezer|
|An entire drawer of easy to cook frozen Gardein proteins|
The freezer is the same – there are two baskets full of breads and rolls, one dedicated to frozen Gardein products and a shelf of pierogi, ravioli and veggie patties.
|Just add veg and/or protein to these simple grains and starches|
I shop differently too. I have a habit of stocking my tiny cabinets with staple items like grains, pastas, beans, tomatoes, vegetable stock, herbs and loads of condiments and spices.
|A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and.... you know that commercial...|
I base my meals on what fresh produce I can find each time I shop, and know that I can make pretty much anything once I get home to my already stocked kitchen. It’s a balancing act that gets better as I expand my pantry.
|Mustard, olive oil, vinegars, hot sauce and soy sauce are key for dressings and sauces|
Hopefully this month I’ll find a few new products, new ideas, and get a little more comfortable with vegan cheese options.
Here are my favorite pantry staples and pre-made items that make cooking vegan (or vegetarian) a lot easier to plan:
- Grains: pearl barley, quinoa, brown rice, Arborio rice.
-Quick-cooking starches: polenta, couscous, Asian noodles or long pasta (spaghetti or linguine) and short pasta (farfalle, shells, rigatoni)
- Legumes: canned beans (black, kidney, anything goes), dried lentils, frozen peas and edamame
- Canned tomatoes and sauce, especially San Marzano
- Boxes of vegetable stock, Nutritional yeast flakes for flavoring gravy,
- Breads: whole-wheat sandwich buns, hotdog buns, breads, tortillas, pitas and naan kept in the fridge or freezer. Breadcrumbs for breading.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Canola oil, toasted sesame oil
- Aged balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar
- White wine (chardonnay or sauvignon) for cooking (drinking wine, not cooking wine, unless you’re in a pinch)
-Dijon Mustard, low-sodium soy sauce and hot sauces
- Variety of raw nuts and dried fruits: cashews, almond slices, walnut halves and cranberries are most useful. More include pine nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, and golden raisins.
-Traditional flavor seitan cubes, extra-firm tofu
-Semi-prepared fresh and frozen foods: Field Roast veggie sausages, Trader Joe’s Masala Burgers, Gardein tenders, beef-less tips and scallopini, Lightlife Smartdogs and Smartwings.
-Fresh staple items: Onions, garlic, ginger, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, celery, lemons, limes (keep bottled lemon juice to use in a pinch in case you run out of lemons)
|Supplement pantry items with whatever looks good at the market - such as an eggplant, pears or squash|
Keep most of these ingredients on hand and you’ll hardly have to worry about making special trips to the store. All you’ll need to do is bring home whatever produce and herbs catch your eye, and the possibilities are endless.