I am out of town and on a mini vacation this week. We are fully vaccinated and in Las Vegas for a grandchild’s wedding.
My husband is recovering from a total hip replacement, so traveling out of town for an extended stay involves a lot of logistics. Also, I am vegan, which has an impact on things. I can eat in restaurants, but once I am away from my part of the world, the menu is often limited to a garden salad.
I have several militant vegan friends who can be… um… evangelical… so I go out of my way to NOT be difficult. If you are determined to cook for me, don’t get into a dither. Offer me a salad with oil and vinegar, bake me a potato, and give me a little guacamole or salsa to dress it up. Open a can of beans – I will be happy with just about anything you fix. Let’s be real! Anything with avocado is awesome!
I love a veggie plate with hummus. Many restaurants offer one as an appetizer plate, and I will make that my meal. I guarantee, I won’t feel cheated.
It may seem odd to many people who know that I once raised sheep and chickens, but that experience is partly why I am vegan. So, being vegan means that I eat nothing from an animal. No cheese, no meat, no eggs.
So, what do I eat? I live in the Pacific Northwest. The Vancouver B.C./Seattle/Portland area has a large vegetarian community, so most restaurants offer options that can be made vegan. The stores in my area have large sections of plant-based proteins, cheeses, and plant-based butters. Many delicious kinds of cheese are available from Miyoko’s Creamery. They can be found in most grocery stores here in the Pacific Northwest, as can Beyond Meat and Field Roast products. We also can often find Gardein products, a Canadian plant-based company.
These products taste good and are satisfying to the carnivores I am feeding, and are easy to prepare in many diverse ways.
Vegetables are amazingly versatile and quick to prepare. If you have an eye for art and color, you can impress even your five-year-old. Some of the most beautiful presentations you will see at fine restaurants are created from artistically plated fruits and vegetables.
I also have a book by Miyoko Schinner, the Homemade Vegan Pantry, a book that has been the cornerstone of my personal style of cuisine. I’ve adapted many of my old recipes to my vegan lifestyle.
Tempeh is made from soybeans but differs from tofu (which I love for curries). It is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities.
Tempeh has ‘tooth.’ The way you marinate the tofu or tempeh before you cook it is how you make it tasty. Plain tofu or tempeh is bland, waiting for you to liven it up. That blandness is what gives them a bad reputation among new vegetarians who don’t understand how to prepare them.
However, they take on the flavors of marinades well, so they are wonderful products to cook with.
Chickpeas (garbanzos) are an extremely versatile bean, with as many uses in the vegan kitchen as the soybean.
Flavor for gravies, pilafs, and soups comes from vegetable broth. There are two ways to get good rich flavor using vegetable broth. However, my go-to store-bought product for use at home is the reliable kitchen staple, Better Than Bouillion Vegetable Base. Otherwise, I make my own veggie broth base, using the recipe I found here: Homemade Vegetable Soup Base. It’s not complicated and is one of those shortcuts to great flavor that I regularly employ.
But you don’t have to cook fancy things for me. I’m happy with rice and vegetables sautéed in olive oil (or any other organic vegetable oil) rather than in butter, which comes from cows.
The most surprising thing about being vegan is how little it costs to eat well once you have your pantry basics. Going sans meat is the lazy person’s dream diet. It’s amazing how quickly you can get a meal on the table, and whether you are making beans or soup, the crockpot is your best friend. I often make my own bread from several different recipes, a tasty treat that takes less than five minutes to put together using my bread machine.
I would far rather spend my time writing than cooking. However, the meals in our household are important. The table is where we discuss the day and share our thoughts, hopes, and plans. How the food looks when the family sits down is as important as any other part of the meal. Fruit and veggies make decorating each plate easy.
But today, I’m partying in Vegas. Someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning, and I’m enjoying a spa day and a relaxing change from the routine. Our granddaughter’s wedding is a big day for us all, and we’re going to make the most of it.