The Vegan Diet is ﬁnding its way into the news. Each day, it seems, yet another celebrity embraces it and several documentaries (Forks Over Knives, Planeat) are circulating and getting attention. But after reading Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times article, “The Challenge of Going Vegan”, I found myself wishing that the media would stop writing about how diﬃcult it is to follow a vegan diet and help those who might be interested in ﬁnding ways to make this lifestyle more accessible. I, somewhat recently, have begun my own vegan journey and am loving what I am discovering. What I can tell you is that veganism isn’t about ﬁnding the money to pay for expensive foods or experimenting with hit-or-miss substitutes for meat or wishing for a personal chef. It’s about cooking and knowing how to serve good food to yourself, your family, and your friends. To become a vegan you need to know how to simmer grains, put a knife to a carrot, nick and peel an avocado, pull the little green tops oﬀ strawberries, and make killer sauces and dressings. You also need to ﬁgure out how to please your changing palate, and discover how to improvise and construct your own meals from whatever you have on hand.
Far too many of us don’t cook, so of course we ﬁnd it hard to become vegan or make any dietary change. But every single one of us gets 24 hours in every day. So don’t fall into the trap of saying you don’t have the time.
As a way to help others share my discoveries I thought it would be fun to blog about my own vegan adventures. I hope you’ll ﬁnd an idea or two that helps you become a more conﬁdent cook, and have fun in the process.
Here’s my ﬁrst tip: Master the art of doing several things at once in the kitchen
I’ve watched my two boys, in their 20’s, ﬁll their minutes to the max whenever they’re home. They can follow several sports events on TV, play a video game, text, talk on the phone, watch their email, look up answers to GRE questions, carry on conversations, create fantasy sports teams, download music, consult Mapquest, eat popcorn and drink beer – all at the same time.
They’ve inspired me to crank up the music and ﬁnd ways to keep busy every minute I’m in the kitchen so I can create meals that are delicious and nutritious. Here’s a look at what I’m doing when I’m in full attention mode:
I use all four burners at once and cook brown rice, farro, quinoa, and barley at the same time. I put some in containers to refrigerate and eat fresh, dressed up for lunch or dinner within three days, and freeze the rest to have for meals later. Or I cook a week’s worth of steel cut oats, make vegetable stock, heat water for pasta, and boil water for iced tea.
I use the oven, too. I’ll roast two trays of cut up vegetables, make sweet potato fries, toast some nuts or bake a pizza.
While diﬀerent foods cook, I pull out the food processor and shred some carrots, and make hummus, pesto, sauces and dressings. Or I’ll wash and chop greens, or dice peppers, celery, and onions.
Rather than feeling frantic, I enjoy the challenge of seeing just how much food I can make in an hour or two. And I love to come home from work most nights knowing that dinner is a matter of assembly rather than starting from scratch.
This Week’s Recipe — One Minute Grains and Beans
You will need a cooked grain (black, brown, or red rice, quinoa, barley, farro, bulgur, freekeh, etc.) for this recipe and that cooking isn’t included in the recipe title. But, if you have cooked grains in the freezer you can simply reheat them for about 1 minute in the microwave and then make the rest of the salad. Add all sorts of things if you wish: chopped olives, cucumbers, carrots, celery, nuts, other fresh herbs. Cut everything into small pieces.
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
1 tablespoon sherry or ﬁg vinegar (or any vinegar you like)
2 cups cooked whole grains (any kind will do)
1 can black, red, or white beans, or chickpeas or black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 red pepper, diced
1 good handful of diced parsley
A few slices of pickled red onion (optional)
Combine the tamari and vinegar in a large bowl and whisk to blend.
Add the remaining ingredients and toss.
- Eat as is
- Add a spoonful to a mixed green salad
- Serve a scoop on top of cooked greens
- Use as a ﬁlling for a wrap or a taco
- Put a spoonful on a plate and top with roasted vegetables
- Add a dollop or two to a soup or stew
- Use as a stuﬃng for cooked squash or pepper boats