Vegan Kitchen Learning Curves: What I Did Wrong and What I Do Now
#1: ZERO PREPARATION
Lack of preparation: the killer of so many good intentions.
Anyone who has taken the time to read about the reality of plant based eating, knows that it is easier than most people imagine to get all of the nutrients and deliciousness you want and need without eating meat or dairy.
All you need is a little bit of preparation and planning. The fact is, everyone who is able needs to think about whether they are doing the best for themselves in the way they eat, regardless of how they label their diet. Omnivores, vegetarians and pescos need to think about these things as well. We all do if we want to be as healthy and happy as possible.
You need to find your own groove when it comes planning.
Planning meals, ingredient preparation, all of that organisational stuff that sounds so dry and soccer-mom and maybe impossible to lock down consistently. That’s actually the good stuff right there. That’s the stuff that is gonna oil the wheels of your life. Fresh food is so fundamentally important; we each need to find a way that works for us to get some focus around how we fuel ourselves.
I have to admit that I am still not a happy fan of meal planning; my lizard brain rebels against the structure and in the moment it is often a pain in the arse to begin with, because ” who knows what I will feel like eating?” (Right?!) But actually – in reality, outside of planet lizard brain – you don’t even need to know what you will want to eat for the next week, because as long as you prepare a little you should have plenty of options!
I still don’t go all in and plan each and every meal.
Privilege alert here! Having a pantry that is usually full, a relatively open schedule and no kids that I need to devote my time to, are obviously two things that make this practical and feasible.
Thank god that my living situation sits comfortably with my sloooow paced move towards better, more thorough and time saving habits kitchen-wise; I would be a much more flailing person otherwise. Respect to all the parents and full-time sloggers out there; I am trying to get my mind around how some of y’all have a month of meals planned in advance, that level of thriftiness and organisation blows my mind.
I used to wing it each and every day and night.
This is so hard! Oh my god. Aiming to cook two to three fresh meals a day on the fly was a recipe for overwhelm and frustration. What I do now is prepare a bunch of ingredients that have become recurring themes in my kitchen routine, and have an idea about several of the recipes I am leaning towards, which still saves a lot of time and mental energy.
There is still a long way to go before I am a consistent meal planner, but I am on the road.
One habit I have found super useful is getting my legumes ready.
Legumes, as well as being awesomely tasty, diverse and versatile, are one of my main sources of protein, so it is great to have them sitting in the fridge, ready to give muscle to salads and stews, chillies, curries, pastas and pies (to name a few options) at a moment’s notice.
Recycled glass jars (the big Leggo’s tomato paste jars are my fav ♥ ) are great for this. Any container with a good lid is suitable to use. Line or stack them up in your refrigerator filled with a week’s worth of drained and rinsed legumes. Guesstimate how many you will need at first, and adjust from there. They will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Having a bunch of condiments and sauces on hand is incredibly useful as well.
You don’t want a condiment deficiency! Their bursts of flavour can be the x factor that makes a meal incredible, so stock up if you can. At my place, we have a bunch of store bought staples like chutney, mustards, tomato sauce (of course) and hummus (OF COURSE). Along side these are jars of a few standard issue recipes that we use all the time.
First, a pasta sauce which we use all the time in a bunch of different things that aren’t necessarily pasta related; this recipe right here is my #1 go-to, it’s a rad, crowd-pleasing red sauce that complements almost anything. Second, a couple of vinaigrettes, which makes salads healthier and hassle free; my favourites at the moment are a simple balsamic/olive oil mix, and a lime/garlic/maple syrup/olive oil blend which is fucking divine*. Third, a quick and easy berry sauce in case of pancake emergencies. Every now and then when I am feeling super motivated I make extra gravy, Somer’s vegan mozzarella or blend up a basil pesto to add to the options.
For me it makes consistent whole foods cooking a much less intimidating prospect. Having healthier, fresher and more delicious versions of your favourite ready made bottles of sauaces, dressings and whatnot close to hand, instead of making them alongside the meal they are intended for, saves time and energy. You get the brighter, fresher flavour of homemade without the extended prep time.
It’s a small thing, but it has helped a lot. The catch is that you have to find time to make the damn condiments in the first place, but if you can set aside that time, your body and brain will be much happier with you for the rest of the week.
Tofu. Oh, tofu. Tofu is MADE for food planning.
This one is easy: While you are preparing your meal, drain a block of tofu and set it aside to press for around 30 mins, then flip and give it another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, when you have a spare moment from what you are cooking, choose a marinade, add all ingredients to the dish you are marinading the ‘fu in and mix it well.
This will only take a few minutes ♥ When the tofu is pressed and sliced, add each slice to the dish, cover with Glad Wrap/cling film and refrigerate overnight. Viola! A big part of tomorrow night’s dinner: done.
At KR HQ we often do the overnight-tofu thing a couple of nights a week.
Sometimes, looking back, it seems crazy that it took me so long to start organising myself food-wise; then I remember how far I have come from flailing in the kitchen to being a confident vegan home cook. The slight inconvenience is so overwhelmingly outweighed by the benefits. Overwhelmingly. These days even if I feel sluggish about starting, within a few minutes it’s not that much of a hassle anymore. The desire for fresh food is in my bones now. It feels so good.
Start small and each little change will build on the next until all of a sudden your food game is more on point than ever. Boom.
* It will be in a post at some point, but I am going to give it to you now because WOW so good:
Jazz Hands Lime Dressing
juice of one medium lime
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
fresh black pepper (optional)
Put in all in a lidded jar and shake briefly until well mixed. Keeps well in the refrigerator for around 5 days.
IMAGE: Bjork ♥