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Cookbook recommendations for new vegans

Whoops, fell off the VeganMofo wagon there for a while. Was a little bit preoccupied with closing down a business. Now on to other things one of which is catching up here.

For new vegans, one of the challenges is figuring out what to eat. Really, this happens any time you drastically change your diet. These days, there are tons of awesome vegan cookbooks out there. But a lot of them either rely on ingredients that can be hard for new vegans to find or they’re more complicated than the skills of some novice cooks can handle. So here are a couple of cookbooks I like to recommend to new vegans with simple recipes made of mostly easy to find ingredients.

Vegan On the Cheap

vegan on the cheap by robin robertson

I actually got Vegan On The Cheap by Robin Robertson after the bakery opened. Two things I had little of were time and money. After long hours of baking, I didn’t want to spend much time cooking at home. And I certainly didn’t want to go to four different stores to get all the ingredients I needed. Normally I would rather cook with fresh ingredients from the farmer’s market, but frozen and canned ingredients are much easier to keep on hand without going bad when your schedule is volatile.

Most of the recipes in Vegan On The Cheap are composed of ingredients easily found in a regular grocery store. One of the recipes I make over and over is the Barbecued Black Bean and Tofu Burritos. I make double and triple batches of the black beans, make tofu separately, and then eat it in tacos, burritos, over rice, as nachos, etc. We never get tired of these beans. Other favorites: Cincinnati Suburb Chili, Korean Cabbage Salad with Tofu, Penne-wise Peanutty Pasta, Dan Dan-style Linguine, Coconut Curry Rice, Tofu Fried Rice, Tropic of Tempeh, and Rice Island Casserole. Right now as I’m writing this, I’ve got the Slow-Cooker Seitan Pot Roast going in the kitchen. It’ll be the first time I’ve tried that one.

Vegan On The Cheap’s first chapter covers basics. You’ll save money by making your own vegan parmesan, sour cream, mayo, vegetable stock, and beans from bulk dried beans. If you find a book like Veganomicon overwhelming, Vegan On The Cheap will cover the basics.

Vegan Italiano

Vegan Italiano by Donna Klein

 

Who doesn’t like Italian food, right? Vegan Italiano by Donna Klein is a whole book full of vegan Italian recipes! Bonus: no meat substitutes required. So if you don’t like fake meats, tempeh or tofu, this is the cookbook for you.

One nice feature in this book is that in some of the recipe sections, lighter fare is separated from hearty fare. For example, in the soups, you have light soups and then meal-in-a-bowl soups. I tend to go for the meal-in-a-bowl soups. Some of my favorites are Lentils and Pastina Soup and Chickpea and Pasta Soup. For an extra nutritional boost, I’ll add half a bag of frozen spinach to each.

The Potato and Green Bean Salad is a big hit at potlucks. Make it with purple potatoes and it’s extra pretty. Naturally there are plenty of interesting pasta recipes. And if you want to jazz up your vegetable sides, you’ve got plenty of options here. For a lazy, impressive dessert, try the Chocolate Strudel. Accidentally vegan Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry makes it extra easy.

What is your favorite cookbook to recommend to a new vegan?

Eating Vegan in St. Thomas

Almost every year, Kevin’s company has a reward trip to some tropical destination and usually at an all-inclusive resort. In 2013, that location was St. Thomas. Kevin and I had been to St. Thomas before as a cruise stop. While Matt and Danielle got to eat Rootsie’s food, we went scuba diving. We were a little sad about it because Rootsie’s was THE vegan food to get in St. Thomas and apparently it was fantastic. And now he’s not cooking anymore. Sadface. But, his sons do have a food truck. Sadly, we saw the food truck once from an excursion van but never got to actually get food from it. More sadface.

Back to the all-inclusive situation. We’ve been in a few of these resort situations now and they generally aren’t super vegan friendly. The breakfast buffet is usually fine. But after that it often devolves into piles of fried. This time was no exception. And the resort was not close enough to anything to walk, so it was a fairly expensive cab ride to get away from the resort. But we did it anyway to eat some non-fried food.

Barefoot Buddha is a little coffee shop that serves food. Very vegan friendly. And it’s right along where they dock the cruise ships and close enough to walk. They have non-dairy milks for coffee drinks and a couple of tasty options each day that are vegan. We went here a few times. Here are the Coconut Curry Chickpeas over brown rice:

vegan coconut curry chickpeas

And this was a ridiculously tasty coffee drink, something like an Almond Joy Latte.

vegan almond joy latte

If you’re staying in a place with a kitchen or just want snacks, there’s a health food store a couple of “blocks” from Barefoot Buddha and on the same side of the street. It’s in Happy Cow. They have a small juice bar in the back. Snacks are painfully expensive, but sometimes you just need them.

The other place we checked out was Natural Livity It’s a juice bar and carry out Ital place. I thought they might have closed, but Happy Cow shows them as still open, so you may or may not find this place open if you try to go there. They had the typical sorts of Ital dishes on the hot bar but their specialty is a cashew mac & cheese that is fantastic. But they don’t do it every day, so you just have to get lucky on that. Here’s my shitty picture of the hot bar:

natural livity hot bar st. thomas

Other non food items at the resort, lots of iguanas!

iguana in St. Thomas

iguana in St. Thomas

And some dranks happened, at least for me. I still don’t drink nearly enough for it to be worth it to pay for all-inclusive.

fruity cocktail

So eating vegan in St. Thomas goes much easier if you plan to be near the vegan food and not tucked away in an out-of-the-way resort full of fried.

Vegan cheese grits

Despite growing up in the South, I never ate grits growing up. It was mostly a texture thing. I didn’t like anything mushy like that. Mashed potatoes don’t count.

Once I started making vegan cheese grits I felt stupid for not making them before. They’re so easy, cheap and delicious! So here’s my basic recipe. I use Daiya in these because the flavor is stronger than most of the other vegan cheeses.

Vegan Cheese Grits

Ingredients

5 1/3 cups water or unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 1/3 cups white corn grits
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup Daiya mozzarella or cheddar shreds

white corn grits

Bring the water or non-dairy milk to boil. Slowly stir in grits then add salt and pepper. Cook on medium until it starts to thicken. Stir in Daiya. Continue to cook a minute or two more until it’s the thickness you want. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 6 servings.

cooking vegan cheese grits

These particular vegan cheese grits ended up with sausage gravy on top. Perfect for a Breakfast for Dinner situation.

vegan cheese grits and gravy

Vegan Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower

If you think you hate cauliflower or know someone who thinks they hate cauliflower, this is the way you need to try it. Actually, any vegetable you think you hate, you might like roasted. In this case, the cauliflower is also coated in seasoned nutritional yeast which makes it particularly tasty.

If you’re locked into going grocery shopping once a week or less, cauliflower, like broccoli, is very forgiving and will hang out and chill in your fridge for at least a week if not longer. When you aren’t sure of your plans day-to-day, these vegetables become your best friends.

cauliflower florets

Vegan Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a baking sheet with oil.

Cut cauliflower into fairly uniform florets about 1 1/2-2″ long and put them in a bowl with room to stir them around. Chop up the leftover stalk and feed it to your dog if she likes that kind of thing. (mine really does)

Stir together dry ingredients in a small bowl.

nutritional yeast seasoning

 

Drizzle olive oil over florets and stir to coat. Sprinkle dry ingredients over cauliflower and stir to coat. Pour out onto prepared baking sheet.

seasoned cauliflower

 

Bake 10 minutes, then stir around and bake another 10 minutes. Test to see if largest pieces can be pierced with a fork. If so, they’re done. If not, give ‘em a few more minutes.

vegan cheesy roasted cauliflower

Do you roast vegetables? What’s your favorite?

The Herbivorous Friendship Society vegan supper club

New Year’s Day this year was the very first Herbivorous Friendship Society dinner. What the heck’s that? It’s a secret (well, not anymore) vegan supper club hosted in a home with amazing food by Chef Billy Cole. The motto is “Look fancy, don’t act fancy.” So, we dress up nicely, but will not hesitate to pick up our plates and lick them to get every last drop of goodness. See, Atlanta’s got crazy cool things going on, even for vegans.

So, while I have the bare bones descriptions of each, it doesn’t do justice to how complex and amazing each dish was. At the end, we each got a bag of cookies to take home with this recap of the night’s menu. After that, I’ll just post the dishes as they arrived for your drooling pleasure.

And if you’re counting, yes, there were three desserts and the last one was a “snack.”

vegan supper club menu

my place at the table

beet

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