Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vegan Cooking: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

Ok, listen. This may be obvious but I’m not a vegan food blogger. If you’re looking for a recommendation on which exotic spice to throw in the mix of a fluffy cupcake batter for a scrumptious taste and how to handcraft the vegan sugar flower adorning the frosting – I’m not your girl.

In fact, if I ever made something that precise and amazing I would have it mounted and framed, not eaten. I never really cooked growing up and frankly it was easier to make a PB and J sandwich. 

I did set a Chinese take out box on fire in the microwave once during my middle school years. I’ve never seen anyone sprint so fast to a kitchen appliance as my Dad did when he realized flames had engulfed the fried rice – not one of my finest moments.

Don’t get me wrong I love to meddle with ingredients and recipes now. I appreciate measuring cups, baking utensils and stylish aprons. In fact, me and vegan cookie recipes know each other quite well and I cook almost daily for dinner and lunch the next day. Shocking, I know. 

In my schedule every meal counts. Time is of the essence and routine is necessary. I don’t spend the afternoon figuring out ingredients for ginger cookies because I’m better at  manipulating ads in InDesign, directing colleagues on brand issues and asking our agency to change the strategy on a web banner for the ninth time. I like what I do and I’m good at it. (Plus, they pay me. It’s a win-win really.)

Wearing my apron I got for a Christmas Gift at the office.  (Don't mind the hair & make-up, I think it was a snow day.) I love my apron. It's from the Boojiboo store on Etsy. The designs are vintage inspired and some of her pictures have her cute dog in them. Click here to check it out!

So here’s my advice for vegan cooking if you’re a little hesitant to start, don’t know where to begin or just need a little motivation.

Remember, If I can do it You can do it!

1.  Pick an ingredient – Pick something you really like and find a recipe. For instance, let’s say you walk into the grocery store and collard greens are screaming at you they look so good. Buy them, go home and look up a recipe for collard greens online. Nothing is going to hurt you by finding inspiration in the produce section. Plus, the more you try, the more chances you have of finding something that pleases your tastebuds. 

Maybe carrots are your staple, or almonds, or basil, or ginger…. pick something that you like! 
2. Once a week recipe – I like this one especially around the holidays. Find a new recipe once a week via the web, or your favorite vegan cookbook, or Whole Foods, or your co-workers, or really any place where you like to find recipes. It'll diversy your kitchen without completely killling your wallet, like I talk about in 11 Top Tips to Kick Off the Year Vegan Style.

3. Don’t worry about the details – I feel like every wife who has asked her husband to go to the store for an item and he finds his way home with something random is going to hate me for this one. 

"What do you mean there's a difference between cucumbers and italian squash?" 

But seriously, don't let the details deter you from cooking!

Don’t worry about the measurements of food and oil and flour, etc. until you decide on a recipe. As long as you have enough of whatever it is the recipe calls for you're great! If you have to run to the store that's OK. Besides Google was created to help you find substitutes and translate measurements. No one is going to quiz you on how many teaspoons are in 5.678985 tablespoons. So relax. Cooking is suppose to be fun. 

Martha Stewart measurement mixer. Nice!

4.  Use Vegan food bloggers – Normally I don’t recommend “using” people, but these food bloggers are resourceful and numerous. They make me a little anxious with all their perfect photos of paninis and grilled veggies. The good ones are really good at what they do and I think of them as food inspiration at the click of a keyboard. I have some favorites, but people keep sending me new sites to read!

Join Twitter if you want recipes thrown at you via the tweet machine (and don't forget to follow VeganCorpLife!) 

5. Make it Your Own -  If you don't have to impress a professor/chef or customers who cares if you stray from the recipe? Make it your own. 

If you like dried cranberries better than raisins, use dried cranberries in your cookie recipe. If you like spinach instead of collard greens, buy the spinach. You're going to be eating this creation so make sure you use things you like.  

6. Get a Go-To - Find something that you don't have to worry about, something that you can keep in your back pocket. It's your safety when the office has dragged you down, your stomach wants to eat immediately and you promised yourself that your take-out habit needs to stop! You can pick a recipe or a type of food, but find something you really love and use it. 

My motto is "Anything can be stir-fried" If I go to the grocery store with the intention that I'm going to make a recipe and then the week gets crazy, I know that most of my ingredients can be thrown into a pan with olive oil, or shyou, or veggie broth, etc. Toss in some tofu or seitan, make some quinoa and in 15 minutes you've got a meal. 

Stir it up.
Once you get into a routine of cooking a majority of your meals you'll feel great. Plus, the farmer's market is right around the corner and can provide some great inspiration. Everyday is a day to try something new and remember, cooking should be fun. If you have to throw away the eggplant dish you decided to master or want to cry at the site of your vegan peanut butter fudge, laugh it off, there's always tomorrow. 


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