I have this friend, Emma. She’s a stunning human and even though I haven’t seen her in years, every time we talk it’s like we never left off. She’s a minister and was supposed to co-officiate my wedding, but couldn’t because she was on a pilgrimage. She’s a captivating woman inside and out, if she weren’t a minister she could be a model.
I was catching up with her recently and she mentioned she was considering going vegan for Lent. I’m writing this for her and for anyone interested in becoming vegan — whether it’s just for awhile, or for good. These are just some tools to get you going. Once you get get the hang of it, it’ll be second nature.
note: though I may mention specific brands, stores, and products in this post, nothing here is sponsored. All links are non-affiliate.
- Analyze your regular meal patterns. How often do you consume animal based products? You’ll want to know so that on your first day of veganism you’ll be good and prepared. For example, let’s say your regular breakfast is scrambled eggs, a savory protein. Start thinking of substitues: hummus on toast, scrambled chickpeas or tofu, avocado toast, breakfast burritos, savory oatmeal, chickpea fritters. Do you usually have yogurt? Go for a nice, thick smoothie. It doesn’t even have to be a fancy smoothie….banana+blueberries+peanut butter+almond milk. DONE.
- Stop buying your regular animal products about a week before you go vegan. That will save you the anguish of having to throw food away once you start. If you have any stuff left in the house, you can always give it away to friends or a food bank
- Know your resources. There are a plethora of apps and sites that will help you decipher what’s vegan and what’s not. Barnivore helps you note what booze is vegan and what isn’t. PETA has a list of apps that can also help.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you make a mistake, accidentally eat something non-vegan, it’s okay. Not the end of the world. A few years ago, old school vegan dessert blogger Katie Higgins infamously posted brownie recipe using Guinness beer. Guinness isn’t vegan, and everyone jumped down her throat. But guess what? She’s still a best selling cookbook author two times over, is probably a millionaire, and keeps on doin’ her thing. Life goes on.
stuff you’ll need: the bare basics
- Flaxmeal — thickens smoothies, helps smoothies last longer energy wise, a critical baking substitute. You’ll find yourself using flax in many recipes. 1 flax egg = 1 tbsp flax meal plus 3 tbsp water. Let it sit for about 3-5 minutes to thicken.
- Canned beans + dry beans — protein-filled, cheap, and filling. Dry beans are cheaper, but obviously require more prep work. Canned beans are more convenient but are slightly more expensive. When you use chickpeas or white beans, be sure to keep the liquid that you drained from them. This is called aquafaba. It can be whipped up like egg whites, used to stabilize cakes, making pancakes fluffy. I’m currently testing out a French toast recipe using aquafaba. It’s Jason’s new preferred Sunday morning breakfast.
- Nutritional yeast — a vegan favorite. It’s got a great umami flavor and gives a great boost to so many vegan dishes. Need proof? Vegan mac n’ cheese, creamy penne, vegan parmesan, cashew cheese sauce, fat free vegan bacon, vegan doritos
- Coconut oil — this is your new everything cooking oil. It roasts/caramelizes vegetables to perfection every.single.time. Thanksgiving 2015, my mother and I walked a big bowl of coconut-oil roasted veggies into Jason’s meat-and-potatoes hunt-season-loving camo-print family dinner. I assumed the veggies would go untouched, but I was so wrong. Everyone raved. It wasn’t my cooking, it wasn’t my mother’s special seasoning. It was the coconut oil. Basic recipe: veggies of choice+ seasoned salt+ thyme+ coconut oil. Roast at 425 for 20-25 min, turning once or twice. Try to stop yourself from eating the whole batch.
- Unsweet/unflavored almond milk– a must for baking, smoothies, or just drinking.
- Other random plant-based proteins — In the past few years, I’ve developed a terrible allergy to wheat and soy, so I mainly stick to beans and legumes. But tempeh and tofu are great meat substitutes if you can stomach them. Tempeh has a great texture. A lot of companies make meat imitations out of soy products — soy bacon, soy chorizo, soy pepperoni. Oh! and quinoa. Um…I feel like I’m alone in this, but quinoa also has an awful affect on me. But it’s full of protein and has a plethora of other healthy properties
- The obvious — Fruits and veggies, duh! Kale, beets, avocado, fresh and frozen fruit…..the more colorful, the better.
- A blender or food processor – I feel like this is pretty obvious, so I won’t insult your intelligence. Just a quick list — smoothies, making nut cheese, nut butters, hummus and other dips, pasta sauces, soups……
- flour sack cloth towels – find them in Target, Kroger, Big Lots, EvilMart, next to the kitchen towels. I use them every day. They’re great for cleaning up veggie messes. They’re also great for juicing without a juicer. Just throw your stuff in a blender and then pour the blender out into the sack cloth. Gather up the ends of the cloth and squeeze out all the liquid. You can keep the pulp if you want, for use in baked goods or smoothies. It’s also good for removing the excess liquid from wetish veggies. Frozen spinach? Throw in in a cloth and squueze out the water. Want to make cauliflower rice? Blend up the cauliflower and then place it in the cloth. Squeeze. This will save you a lot of time when cooking the rice. If you eat tofu, you probably spend a lot of time waiting for it to press. But you can just open the package, wrap the block in the cloth, and squeeze. How many times have I said squeeze?
- a good knife and good vegetable peeler — time is money. A decent knife and veggie peeler will save you endless moments. I got my favorite, totally hardy veggie peeler at target for about five bucks.
- mandoline or spiralizer Last year I finally broke down and bought a spiralizer. I’d been wanting one for years, so I bought it as a reward for passing my boards. I splurged a little on mine, but you actually don’t have to spend a lot of money for a decent one. The three-blade paderno spiralizer costs 22 dollars on amazon, and the basic bare bones one costs 11 dollars. I use my spiralizer about 3-4 times a week, so I’m very happy with my investment. It’s great for slicing up tougher veggies like beets, and for making veggie noodles.You can slice up tons of veggies at the start of the week to have salads to prep lunch salads. Sweet potato noodles have become a new favorite around here, and one large sweet potato yields oodles of noodles. They’re cheaper, healthier, and lower in calories than regular grain-based noodles. Here’s one of my bigger bowls filled with 2 potatoes worth of noodles.
Whew! I feel like you have everything you need to get you started. Consider this a beginner’s course — you’ll learn so much from yourself as you go on. Plant based living much simpler, and far more rewarding that it’s made out to be.
Wait… one more thing before I get to the spinach nugget recipe. You will get asked “but where do you get your protein?” over and over. It’s temping to snap, “from things that don’t have a butthole and a beating heart.” But this only contributes to the negative, militant spray-paint fur coat image that vegans have. Instead, smile and say “I’m always so surprised at the plethora of plant based proteins out there!” And then change the subject. If they keep on it, then you can bring up the butthole argument. Also remember that Rich Roll, mega endurance athlete is a vegan. You can show them pictures of Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Ferris. Ultra runner Scott Jurek…..the list goes on.
These nuggets are great as a side or a main meal. I’ve chatted enough, so enjoy this video. Recipe below media.
- 3 packs (10 oz each) frozen spinach
- 2.5 cups cooked Jasmine rice
- 1/2 tbsp seasoned salt
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- hearty dash of salt, pepper, and lemon zest
- 2-3 tbsp melted coconut oil
- Defrost the spinach and squeeze out all the excess liquid.
- Combine the spinach, Jasmine rice, seasoned salt, and crushed red pepper.
- Divide the spinach-rice mix into 30 balls and then form them into nuggets.
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Combine the cornmeal, salt, pepper, and lemon zest.
- Coat the nuggets in the cornmeal mix.
- Pour the melted coconut oil on a cookie sheet and place all the nuggets on the sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side.
- Eat warm and toasty with ketchup or whatever. Enjoy!
they’re not the prettiest nuggets in the world…but are nuggets ever really sexy?