Most people would be surprised to learn that Vegans a major foodies. They love to eat, cook, bake, and try new recipes more than most people. However, there are some Vegans who either hate cooking or are just feel they are no good at it. This is a perfect situation to explore into plant-based diets. Today more than ever, quick and delicious vegan meals are only a click or swipe away. My go-to college meal was a ten minute stir-fry that would keep me full and fit perfectly with my hectic lifestyle. Here’s a few helpful basics.
Get To Know Your Ingredients
Whether using a recipe or not, the most important thing you can do is to get familiar with the main ingredients you will use the most when cooking. This is vital to your success as you learn to cook 100% plant-based vegetarian dishes. If you don’t know how to work with each ingredient individually, how do you learn to include it in a meal?
Click on Betty Crocker’s Fresh Vegetable Cooking Chart to see an article that lists some of the most popular veggies out there, and how to cook them. Find detailed tips and advice that will teach you how to shop for these ingredients, how to prep and cook them, and how to flavor them.
Combining Ingredients Into A Meal
For instance, let’s say you learn how to cook broccoli. You also tried your hand at making some quinoa. And you have discovered how to cook black beans. What are you going to do with this information?
Here are some ideas for how you might use the three ingredients above to whip up a healthy and delectable meal:
- Cook, season, and serve each of the main ingredients individually on the plate. Instant easy meal. And since you have learned how to cook and flavor each one, they can stand on their own to make the meal sing;
- Mixing grains and beans is always a good option because they usually compliment each other in flavor, consistency, and nutrients. So go ahead and mix the beans and quinoa together, and serve the broccoli on the side;
- Wrap your main ingredients into a warmed tortilla and munch away. Pop the wrap under the broiler and make a tasty sauce to drizzle over the top. Make tortilla bowls to spoon the ingredients into.
- Heat a large pan and add vegetable broth to nearly cover the bottom. Slice some onions, garlic, red pepper, bok choy, and any other veggies you like, and add to the pan with the raw chopped broccoli. Heat until the veggies are slightly tender, and add the beans to the mix. Season then spoon over a mound of cooked and flavored quinoa.
The possibilities are limitless. Become familiar with the main ingredients for your meals and learning to combine them will become more natural.
- When you look through the list of seasonings for the various veggies, whole grains, and beans, you might see some ingredients you aren’t familiar with. Don’t get hung up on them. Choose to focus on those ingredients you already know and love.For instance, if you see “Tamari” as a flavor match, which is a soy-based condiment much like soy sauce but richer and less salty, but you only have traditional soy sauce on hand, then go ahead and use what you are familiar. Over time, as you continue to cook, you will naturally become more curious about the uncommon ingredients and can investigate them.
- When cooking 100% vegetarian food, you’ll be chopping, slicing, and dicing veggies. Be sure to chop each down to about the same size cuts so they cook evenly. Also, keep in mind the relation to the rest of the dish. For instance, if I’m making a rice dish, I will chop veggies on the smaller side to so they don’t overpower the grain. If I’m making penne pasta, I might choose to keep my veggie chops or slices on the larger side.
- Fresh herbs are fun to play with, but they can also be confusing to some new cooks. If using dried herbs, remember that they should be added earlier in the cooking process so they can begin to rehydrate and release their flavors. Be sure to rub dried herbs between your thumb and forefinger or between the palms of your hands before adding them to your pot or pan to give the herbs a boost of flavor. Fresh herbs should always be added toward the end of cooking to enjoy their full flavor effect because they are more fragile.
- If your dish seems a little flavorless, add lemon juice or vinegar at the end of cooking to perk up the flavors. This is especially helpful when reheating a soup, stew, or grain-based dish.
- NEVER use distilled white vinegar in your cooking.
- Always let “The Big 4” guide you: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter/pungent. Add some of your favorite flavors, then taste to judge what you think it needs.
- Does your dish taste like it needs a sweetener? Add a little bit of maple syrup, some raisins or chopped dates, Agave nectar, or Sucanat, a natural sugar.
- Does your dish need a bitter/pungent edge? Add some unsweetened cocoa, olives, or spices like freshly ground black pepper or chili peppers.
What Does It All Mean
If you want to become good at something, you have to practice. If you want to learn how to cook up a meal for two or four in less than 15 minutes, you need to learn how to cook individual ingredients to learn how they incorporate to make the best meals. As a further helping hand, below is an infograph of how a vegan plate should look. With a little patience and elbow grease, plant-base eating will be a snap.