Starting a vegan diet is intimidating, especially when you don’t even know what to eat for breakfast. Or if you’re a guy living alone cooking for yourself. Even if you’re not a guy and cook for a family that doesn’t share your vegan choices. Or, even if you are a guy and also cook for a family that…okay, you get it.
Vegetables are generally regarded as side dishes. Get to know them. Make friends. The fresh vegetable section at the grocery store is where to start, and where you’ll fill your cart for most of your weekly meals. Along with the regulars like onions, cucumbers, beans, squash and sweet potatoes, consider choosing items like bok choy, egg plant, mushrooms, jicama and asparagus. Look for baby spinach leaves as a great way to include leafy greens to any dish. Pick up a bunch of cilantro and several avocados. The green ones will take a couple of days to ripen, so get one or two slightly soft black ones, too. At the Kroger store, look for something called pico de gallo in the veggie section, which is simply chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeno peppers. It’s great as a topping added to half an avocado on a crisply toasted slice of whole-grain oat nut bread. (Breakfast, remember?)
While there, in the organic/vegetarian/vegan aisles, there are a number of condiments to select from to supplement and garnish dishes or as snacks. Look for hummus to enjoy with green peppers, jicama and carrot sticks. Roasted mixed nuts and dried fruits are also great. Also, consider choosing substitute dairy products for sour cream, butter and cheese, and ginger, both in the raw root form and as a paste in a tube, is useful to zest up many Asian dishes. Pick up some quick-cooking grains like couscous and quinoa, vegetable broth, and don’t forget lemon and lime juice.
Check out the international aisle, where, in the Oriental food section, there are several condiments to stock up on, including red curry paste, peanut sauce and spicy red chile sauce. Be sure to select a packet or two of rice noodles, either flat or string, and be sure to get a few cans of coconut milk, an absolute essential in my pantry. Across the aisle, in the Mexican foods section, load your cart with a few cans of refried beans, jars of salsa and tortillas, both the large flour ones and a stack of corn tortillas. Don’t forget rice. I prefer the short-grained variety, specifically, sprouted short-grain brown rice. It’s chewy without the wood husk taste that accompanies the long-grained variety. Canned kidney and black beans, and stewed tomatoes are always good to have on hand, too.
So now, you’ve stocked your larder, what to do with all these items? I suggest, start exploring online for vegan recipes to try out. In the meantime, here are two below that are ready to eat within half an hour. I will offer more next time. Enjoy!
Peggy’s Special Bean, Salsa and Lime Burrito
Large Flour Tortilla
Pico de Gallo
Soy based Cheese
Soy based Sour Cream
Mrs. Renfro’s Mango Habanero Salsa (or your favorite brand)
½ Avocado, sliced
Spread refried beans on the flour tortilla, spoon on pico de gallo and sprinkle with soy cheese. Roll up the tortilla, and on a microwave-proof plate, heat for one and a half minutes. Remove from microwave, apply a dollop of sour cream substitute, generously spread on the salsa, lay avocado slices across the burrito and top with chopped cilantro. Finish with a very (make that a very, very) generous dousing of lime juice, and serve.
Red Curry with Leafy Greens
Modified from a recipe in Vegetarian Bible – serves 4
Cooked Rice, to serve
2 Onions, thinly sliced
I Cup sliced Mushrooms
2 Heads Bok Choy
1 Cup Vegetable Broth
2 Tbsp Red Curry Paste
1 Can Coconut Milk
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
Large handful of Baby Spinach Leaves
Handful of Cilantro, chopped
Handful of crushed Mixed Roasted Nuts
Start rice and cook as recommended.
In a large pan, lightly sprayed with Pam, stir-fry onions for 1 to 2 minutes before adding mushrooms. Saute for another 2 minutes before adding coarsely chopped bok choy and vegetable broth. Bring gently to boil. Add red curry paste, coconut milk and lime juice; allow to simmer. When the rice is ready, it’s time to add spinach leaves to the curried vegetables. When just wilted, the curry is ready to spoon over a bowl of rice. Top with crushed nuts and cilantro. Serve immediately.