“Earth” Oatmeal

Oatmeal is such a classic dish. It’s literally one of the oldest grains in the history of food, and not only that but it’s one versatile beast of food and you all know how I feel about food versatility. You can have it sweet or savory. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or even dinner. I mean, you can literally do whatever you want with oatmeal. But instead of fitting it into just one of the many options, why not mash it up some? This quick and easy oatmeal recipe creates a fun sweet and salty (or savory) bite. It’s funny because so many of my recipes are born out of last-minute epiphanies. I originally planned on making this only a sweet bowl. But toward the end I felt like it need something– I saw it was starting to look like a bunch of dirt (that’s where the “earth” name came from) and then I realized the salt crystals would work perfectly with the dirt effect and make it sweet and salty, another classic combo. This is one of the more delicious and comfty bowls I’ve had in awhile and I was eating a lot of oatmeal for a hot minute recently. Who knew something so simple could be so nourishing for the soul?

earth oatmeal

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup steel-cut dry oats (cheaper if you purchase them in bulk!)
  • 1/8 cup blueberries (about one handful)
  • 3-4 pitted dates, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 medium-sized ripe banana
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. nutmeg
  • 1 heaping tbsp. brown sugar*
  • 1 tsp. whole pink Himalayan sea salt crystals
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice; I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk for this recipe)
  • 1 cup water

What to Do:

  1. Heat a small to medium  pot over high heat with 1 cup of water. Bring the water to a boil.
  2. Add the oats and boil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Reduce heat to a low to medium heat and stir oats.
  3. Cover pot with a lid and let oats simmer for 5-10 minutes or until all (or at least most) water has been absorbed by the oats.
  4. Let the oats sit for about 2 minutes, then, remove oats from heat and transfer to a serving bowl.
  5. Pour almond milk over oats (but do not stir milk into oats yet!).
  6. Slice the into several, even-sized slices and place them on top of the oatmeal on one side.
  7. Now, start adding the toppings; place the blueberries on top of the banana slices.
  8. Place the date pieces on top of the other fruit.
  9. Carefully sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg along the line of fruit (as pictured) one at a time.
  10. Carefully sprinkle the heaping amount of brown sugar on top of the other spices.
  11. Sprinkle the chia seeds over the other spices and sugar.
  12. Finally, sprinkle the pink sea salt crystals over everything else. Serve and enjoy!

* Most brown sugar (and all sugar for that matter) is not vegan, unless marked otherwise. The brown sugar I used in this recipe wasn’t vegan– I already had a bulk amount of brown sugar since before going vegan and because I don’t use brown sugar that often, that is what I’ve been using because I planned on going through all products I currently have and then purchasing vegan products after those are finished (this is for financial as well as waste reasons). If you would like to make sure that you are using vegan sugar, you can use this easy recipe for brown sugar.

Date posted on Instagram: 12/6/18

Autumn Tofu Scramble

Tofu scramble is my jam. I’ve had it every which way I can think of at this point, with every type of mix-in possible. That was until I was eating brekkie one day recently and as I was enjoying my yummy Fieldroast apple maple links I had an epiphany. I actually haven’t had tofu scram every way I can think of, and I haven’t had all the mix-ins either. Could tofu scram be enjoyed seasonally? What about sweet? My mind was spinning with such crazy ideas, but a couple of days later I made it over to the kitchen to test my theory out. The result? A delicious new take on tofu scram that my taste buds were pleasantly surprised by. It’s 50% savory, 50% sweet, and 100% bomb vegan protein.

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What You’ll Need:

  • 1/3 block of organic firm tofu, drained
  • 1/2 cup brussel sprouts, chopped (finely or roughly depending on the texture you want!)
  • 2 small to medium carrot sticks, diced
  • 1/4 green apple, diced
  • 2-3 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons pink Himalayan pink sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon black salt (kala namak)*

What to Do:

  1. Heat a medium to large skillet over low-medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  2. Once hot, add the chopped brussel sprouts and carrots to the skillet and saute them approximately 2 minutes.
  3. Add the green apples to the skillet and continue the saute for another minute, stirring the veggies and fruit until well mixed.
  4. Reduce heat to a low simmer and add agave syrup to veggie and fruit mix.
  5. Stir syrup into mix continuously for approximately 10 seconds then let sit and simmer.
  6. Crumbled drained tofu over the top of the veggie and fruit mix to create the scram.
  7. Sprinkle turmeric over the top of the crumbled tofu, then, mix everything together until turmeric is well blended into the tofu and it is completely yellow.
  8. Return the heat to low/medium and add pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper. Stir until well mixed into scram.
  9. Continue to saute scram until veggies and apple are slightly tender, approximately another 2-3 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and transfer to serving dish. Enjoy alone or with some of your favorite breakfast sides.

 

 * Also, feel free to add about a teaspoon of black salt, also known as “kala namak”. This salt can give your egg substitutes a more “egg-like” taste! I recently got some and have tried adding it to some of my vegan eggs, although I still love tofu scram without it. This salt can be found in Asian or Indian markets but I found a decent size bulk amount on Amazon for a great price. Do a little research to price check!

Date posted on Instagram: 11/23/18

*Product Review*: Daiya Boxed Mac ‘n’ Cheeze

Macaroni and cheese is definitely up there when it comes to foods I love to eat. I wouldn’t necessarily call it one of my favorite foods in general, but it is absolutely in an even more specific category: one of my favorite holiday foods. When Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, I am not a happy camper if I don’t have some mac on my plate. And to take it a step further, culturally speaking, I’m used to a very specific type of mac and cheese. B A K E D. African-American households are no strangers to mac and cheese, and to offer us anything other than a tray of baked mac might get you some funny looks (or even a few unkind words), especially at a holiday meal. All the nostalgic memories come flying back to my head of my mom taking the elbow macaroni noodles and tossing them in a huge bowl with tons of cheese and seasoning and them placing it in a few deep dish pans, then, popping them in the oven (with more cheese slathered on top!) for almost an hour — one of the most hunger-inducing hours ever, with the result being a crunchy, soft, smooth, cheesy masterpiece being revealed as part of the rest of the dinner feast.

When you have memories of homemade mac and cheese being as insanely good as I do, it’s kind of hard imagining a ready-made style, boxed mac and cheese that you don’t even bake could be as good as anything I’ve just described. Well, that’s not entirely true. Because there’s one brand of boxed mac and cheese that has stood the test of time. It’s from that really popular brand that we all know– it starts with a “K” and I have many memories of seeing their commercials on TV as a kid. They promoted the heck out of that boxed mac. And it worked because I know it was a popular product for kids across America– maybe even a staple in their childhood diets. It’s also a staple in the poor college student’s diet, the can’t be bothered to cook bachelor’s diet, and maybe even sometimes the single woman in the city’s (or country?) diet. But believe it or not, I’ve only had that mac and cheese maybe twice in my whole life. Pre-vegan of course. And I am not unhappy about it, because even before I had the more refined foodie palate I currently have, I always knew that homemade baked mac was where it’s at.

Then I became vegan. And I started learning about the world of supermarket vegan food. Not the fresh, whole foods I love talking about on this blog and on my Instagram, but the fast-growing variety of ready-made, easily prepped, frozen, and packaged convenience vegan foods. Most long-term vegans are in awe of the products they see today, because several years ago, most of these easy-to-make products didn’t exist yet! But being vegan today has never been so easy. Even though it may not be the healthiest way to live, if you can’t cook or don’t want to cook, there’s still no excuse for you to harm animals or the planet for your meal when you can stock your cabinets and freezer with tons of microwavable and ready-made vegan options (you also don’t have to do much cooking on a vegan diet that’s based in mostly whole foods but that’s another blog post for another time!). And you also don’t have to give up childhood favorites like ready-made mac and cheese!

That’s where Daiya’s Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac comes in. This boxed, quick mac IMG_8285and cheeze is prepared like any other quick macaroni with cheeze sauce product: you boil the noodles, drain them, then add the cheeze sauce. And within minutes you have a hearty, cheezy pasta dish to have alone or to accompany the rest of your meal. So why am I doing a review on this product when several vegan options like it exist already? Well, there are a few reasons. Vegan cheese has come a looong way. I became vegan at the tail end of it’s growth, but I had already heard many of the rumors. Vegan cheese has sometimes gotten a bad rep. There’s been issues with it not melting easily. Issues with texture. And most importantly, there have been issues with taste and flavor. Some just aren’t feelin’ the flavor of vegan cheeses.

So when trying this product, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve tried Daiya‘s cream cheeze and I must admit, I wasn’t a fan. This was toward the beginning of my vegan journey and it wasn’t the best introduction into vegan cream cheese options. So I wondered if this cheeze sauce would follow suit with the cream cheeze debacle.

It absolutely did not.

Not only is this mac and cheeze amazing when it comes to flavor, but the texture is mind-blowing! The noods are basic elbow noodles. Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning that the noodles this mac comes with are gluten-free which is a plus for the gluten-free folks out there! But the cheeze brings in all the punch and glitz; it’s thick and creamy and there was actually an overabundance of the delicious saucy-goodness. The noodles were well-coated when I was only about 3/4 of the way through the sauce pack!

And let’s get more into the flavor. This cheeze sauce is SO similar to dairy-tasting cheese! If you are trying to ease into a vegan lifestyle (or get a non-vegan to try a vegan dish), this is perfect because your taste buds won’t know the difference! I can’t put enough emphasis on how much it tasted like the dairy-cheese I used to eat — it reminded me of hearing about folks on vegan Instagram complain that some meat substitutes tasted too

Daiya boxed mac components
Noodles + cheeze sauce = happy belly.

much like animal meat and it freaked them out. That was my experience here. This tasted so much like dairy cheese that it was a bit weird! But knowing that it wasn’t actually made from dairy was all the comfort I needed to continue to enjoy my mac. And again, the sauce is thick a.f! No need to worry about the sauce being too runny or not cheezy enough. There is also the perfect amount of saltiness to it. I jazzed mine up by adding some pepper to the finished product– if you check out the pic of my mac below, I also added some bacon to it because even as a vegan, I still believe that bacon makes everything better 🙂 But I didn’t add any salt because it didn’t need it! If you do add salt, do so sparingly– every palate is different so maybe you’ll think it needs some but enjoying it “as is” is perfect. And honestly, I’m considering trying my hand at baking this mac– with a few additions like some milk, shredded cheeze, and breadcrumbs, this can easily become a baked mac and cheeze masterpiece suitable for a spot on any holiday feast table. When I do bake it, I’ll be sure to update you all on how it went, and more importantly, how it tasted! 😀

So that’s it! If you’re looking to add a boxed food to your kitchen arsenal for quick meals or those times where you don’t feel like cooking (or don’t have the time to cook a more elaborate meal). Or if you actually just prefer to eat mac and cheeze that isn’t baked, or boxed mac because it brings back some childhood nostalgia, you need to get this product! I know there are a few other vegan boxed mac and cheeze’s out there– although I haven’t tried them yet, that won’t take away from how good this Daiya one is. Maybe I’ll do a taste test on a few of them down the line. But comparing to the taste, texture, ease of preparation, and overall deliciousness of this Daiya mac is not gonna be easy. Thanks for keeping us vegans going strong Daiya!

Daiya boxed mac closeup
Daiya boxed mac. Cheesy goodness with bacon crumbles on top. Yes, please.

My Journey to Becoming a Vegan Chef (and Recipe Developer!)

I’ve always had a big imagination. Over the course of my youth, this led to me having many passions and hobbies in life. When I was a kid, I used to love watching television shows about science (hello Zoom and The Magic School bus) and would try to recreate science experiments at home. I was also an only child, so the world was my imagination’s oyster– I would concoct vivid scenarios in my head due to a lack of mental stimulation that most kids might have found in the presence of siblings. I would read entire Goosebumps, Fear Street and Babysitters Club books in one day, then act out scenes from the books with imaginary people. Because of this immersion, I also grew to love writing, drawing and just being creative in general. But one hobby I never took to in my youth— or in my adult life for that matter, was cooking. However, thinking back on it, I’m not sure why that was the case— as a child, I loved watching cooking programs; I’d fall asleep to shows like Iron Chef (the original Japanese version) and Essence of Emeril. I always found watching cooking to be therapeutic in a way. But I never learned to cook myself. I loved my mom’s cooking but she never really taught me how to cook the meals she made and I never felt as interested in learning to cook as I did in watching others cook. But all of that changed about a year ago. It was a culmination of things that led to both a necessity and a desire to learn how to cook for myself.

The most epic event to occur was me moving out on my own —  I had to start adulting very quickly. This of course included learning how to keep myself properly satiated so I didn’t, you know— die.

But I should probably clarify that I wasn’t a complete novice in the kitchen. I knew how to make the most basic foods for survival, that would allow me to not have to live off ramen in a cup and frozen microwaveable meals. I could make rice and pasta. I knew how to operate a can opener so that opened up a whole world of legumes and veggies to me. I even made veggie lasagna once in awhile— funny enough, even before going vegan I preferred making veggie lasagna to meat lasagna. But in my opinion, I was no cook. If someone asked me to make dinner on the fly, I would have considered that to be a curveball in my daily routine for sure, and more likely than not, we’d be having pasta and meat sauce— my go-to on the fly meal.

But the universe continued to unfold my life in an eventful path of twists and turns— well maybe I shouldn’t blame the universe entirely, because I came to many of the decisions that led me to where I currently am on my own; but I believe that everything happens for a reason, oftentimes with light (or very heavy!) influence from the universe as well.

Just a few months after my big move, I became vegan. So not only did I now have to learn how to cook, but in true “Tiffany style“, I had just made this task even harder for myself by now having to learn how to prepare foods I’d never seen or heard of in my life, while also ensuring that I was eating the right things so that I didn’t fall prey to what I thought was my “lingering” iron-deficiency anemia, or any other health ailments I thought I could now suffer from after having cut out meat and “good dairy” like yogurt and some cheeses.

I read up on and started fumbling around with the top vegan proteins. But how was I going to make tofu not taste like lifeless, chewy pieces of gunk? And I didn’t even know how to pronounce seitan let alone use it as a protein in a meal. What should I start eating more of? Less of? If you read my post about the staple foods I keep in the kitchen as a new vegan, I explain a little about traversing the line of becoming an unhealthy vegan versus a healthy vegan. Being that the former was a large possibility if I started my new vegan life living solely off pasta, rice and Gardein frozen meat substitutes, I quickly had to become well-versed on how to cook not only for flavor but for actual nourishment.

And that learning process is still ongoing. But I’ve also started learning other things about myself. One is that I can actually cook! As I said earlier, I never considered myself a chef. Even when I decided I would make a vegan Instagram account and document the meals I made, I still never thought I’d be up to the caliber of deserving the title of “chef”. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I put such emphasis on my food being plated beautifully. It’s true, I do eat with my eyes and I do believe that beautiful food is a feast in itself; but I also believe that for me, plating food in an aesthetically pleasing way will hide some of the fact that I don’t have top-notch cooking skills or use elaborate cooking techniques.

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You may notice my reluctance to boldly call myself a recipe developer on my Instagram account.

This is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it is somewhat in my nature to partake in what I consider to be a healthy amount of self-loathing in whatever I take on— although not entirely by choice but I feel doing so has kept me humble for the most part.  If you follow my Instagram page, you can pretty much see the chronology of my chef development. A lot of my meals are based in the simple foods I’ve always been familiar with— pasta and rice— I use a lot of canned goods also, like different varieties of beans. But now, I see these foods in a whole new light. I realized that those basic foods are the foundation of many different styles of cuisine and that it was possible for me to make beautiful and nutritious meals using them without considering them to be too basic or not fancy enough. I also began to realize that jazzing up foods from a can was not something to be considered sacrilegious in the world of cooking. On the contrary, all foods, whether from a can or from the earth could be used to make great food. But that still wasn’t enough. Like most things I take on, there was some polarity involved. I have a tendency to start a hobby or project and not fully see it through to completion, or at least not finish it in a timely fashion. Either that, or the exact opposite will happen, and I’ll put my absolute all into it, accepting nothing less than perfection. I pretty much knew early on I would never not be vegan once I made the switch, and therefore all of my blogging endeavors involving vegan food would likely fall into the latter category. That meant that once I started putting dishes together, I immediately felt a lot of pressure to make sure everything looked beautiful even if there were only a minimal amount of components to it. It also had to be obvious that there was at least some element of effort put into each dish, no matter how simple it was. After all, I was taking pictures of this food and posting them on a public platform for the world to judge!

So that was the beginning of my role as a vegan chef. But I still didn’t consider myself a chef just yet— at that point, I was simply a new vegan sharing pictures of the food I ate on my evolving journey, while acting as a pseudo-chef. But remember, I also work in a restaurant. Being surrounded by chefs making food and plating things all pretty, and conducting R&D (research and development) on new dishes was really inspiring for me as I delved deeper into what was now becoming a passion for food and being in the kitchen. And so, naturally, my journey evolved into creating new things— I slowly began putting more focus on innovation with the dishes I was making, while purposefully keeping those elements of simplicity and ease to them, never forgetting my roots of not knowing how to cook and being lost at the beginning of my own vegan journey. I wanted my recipes to be accessible to new vegans so that they didn’t become discouraged on their own journeys. It was crazy because the very things I had been embarrassed about— that is, using super simple ingredients and techniques, became the very basis of the message and platform that I was now trying to promote as a vegan. There was so much self-discovery involved in this process because I now realized that the reason I didn’t start out with this premise was because of my own shortcomings such as an irrational quest for perfection and perhaps even a slight desire, and maybe need, to be accepted by others in the vegan community through my seemingly complex dishes. But I didn’t realize that so many people in the vegan Instagram community very much so appreciated the simplicity I was trying to avoid — in fact, this premise of simple, cheap and easy meals already largely exists within the vegan Instagram community because the community is largely made up of average people on a vegan journey who are also not chefs and who are also making food with simple ingredients, everyday.

Thinking about my evolution has been interesting. As I exposed myself to more vegan bloggers on Instagram, I saw amazing folks who actually made it a point to state that their food was “ugly” — as though they were trying to shun the idea that they’re food and Instagram accounts would only be acceptable if they made Pinterest-worthy vegan dishes. Seeing things like this helped me loosen up a bit more. I talk about these topics of becoming more comfortable in my growth as a recipe-developer and chef in the captions on my meal posts as well. I’ve had some rough days in the kitchen where something didn’t go as planned, and I was just like screw it.

Once, I made and plated a sandwich beautifully. It was a breakfast sandwich, stacked high on a bagel with lots of goodies, including tofu scram. I made the mistake of thinking that using a really sharp knife would help me avoid destroying the sandwich that I had already put together when slicing it in half. I was wrong. It toppled and smashed together. I was horrified. More so, I was pissed. I had already waited to eat after a long day so that I could put extra care and detail into preparing and plating this nice meal because I knew I’d be taking a picture. So not only was I hungry, but the wait didn’t even pay off because the sandwich was now ruined. But the anger didn’t last too long, because instead, the experience helped me continue to realize that: 1) it’s important to seize the moment when you can and should, and 2) this was life— nothing is perfect, and sometimes gravity wins and your sandwich falls and topples before you can take a picture.

smushed sandwich for amateur chef blog post
Behind The Scenes: Footage of the toppled breakfast sandwich — I added hot sauce to the plate because I was about to have it for dinner.

I’ve also began to embrace the chaos of the kitchen and understanding the need to try out recipes and conduct R&D. More recently, when I created the recipe for my lavender cupcakes with lavender and blueberry buttercream frosting, I was so excited because I had begun making dishes from scratch. Nothing from a box here baby. Now I was starting to feel like a legitimate chef. And the cupcakes came out amazingly. But the buttercream. I screwed up the buttercream. And the crappy part was that immediately after screwing it up, I knew that I’d screwed it up but it was too late to turn back. This was me becoming comfortable with my mistakes — mistakes that would inevitably happen as I created things from scratch. But being a bit of a perfectionist made it hard to naturally be comfortable with those aspects of being a chef. So I had to pull inspiration from other areas of my life (and youth) and think about all of it as one big science experiment. Trial and error, and eating yummy stuff throughout — mistakes and all.

I’ve finally reluctantly accepted the title of amateur chef, but I’ve gone a step further and now call myself a plant-based recipe developer because I do love being an alchemist in the kitchen and creating new things from basic ingredients and turning simple food into food that looks extraordinary and tastes great and has things like “flavor profiles”. I feel that if the passion and willingness to learn is there, you don’t need classical training to be considered a chef. In fact, I know a couple of chefs with no classical training in the field, although I very much admire those who do have it. However, I myself definitely do not have enough experience in the kitchen or enough knowledge of food, flavors, or cooking techniques to take the “amateur” part off yet. And even when I do, knowing me, I’ll probably still call myself an amateur. I don’t know if cooking will become a more prominent part of my life after I leave grad-school or if it will remain as a passionate hobby. Just as my vegan and chef journey has organically unfolded, I am letting that part of my life organically unfold as well. But I am absolutely certain that so long as I can help it, and in some capacity, cooking and developing vegan recipes will always be part of what I have to offer to the world.

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Now I have more pride (and patience!) in all areas of cooking, especially the R&D part of things. It’s actually a lot of fun figuring out what flavors go well together and if they look aesthetically pleasing to the eye as well. Here’s a tasting plate I made while trying to come up with a recipe for an upcoming series.  I wanted to see if some or all of the flavors I had in mind would mingle well together together in the dish. Pictured from left are: homemade pickled beets, organic green grapes, mango, pan-seared “scallops” (heart of palm), and a lemon-ginger dressing I created, inspired by a fresh dressing at Trader Joe’s.

The Staple Foods I Always Keep in the Kitchen

As I approach my one year vegan anniversary, I can definitely say that I’ve eaten a lot of food. But that’s not really any different than before I was vegan. I ate a lot of food then too. The difference is, I ate a lot of bad food. Even if we eliminate the definition of “bad food” by way of what most vegans might say (so removing animal meat, dairy and eggs from the picture), I also ate a lot of junk food, processed stuff and just had an overall unhealthy relationship with food; I ate horrible portions, never really ate intuitively, and didn’t listen to the signs my body would give me regarding the nutrients it both wanted and needed.

After going vegan, a lot of that changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat my share of processed foods and junk food. But now, I eat them more in moderation— they aren’t staples in my diet. I also eat them as part of an overall balanced diet, filled with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. And my relationship with food has and continues to improve.

When I first went vegan, I was riding that fine line of trying to figure out what type of vegan I was going to be. Having eliminated so much of what I had been eating previously, the very act of eating was new to me. I started out trying to revamp the salad as we know it, making so many variations of it because it was my safety zone. Then, I made my way into discovering vegan fast food — all thanks to living in one of the major cities of the world that offers practically limitless vegan options. I also found frozen options like Gardein products, and it blew my mind. These things were not new to most vegans, I know, but I was shocked to see things like burgers, mozzarella sticks, chick’n tenders, “beef” tips, and meatballs. I thought to myself that this vegan thing wasn’t gonna be so hard after all. And then all the other realizations set in about foods I had previously been eating that were also vegan: pasta, rice, most bagels, and snack foods like pretzels.

You might be able to see where this is going.

I knew I would keep salads on board so I could get my veggies in, but all of this new information in such a short period of time was overwhelming. It took all the strength I had inside along with the powers of the universe and God himself to help me get a grip (I can get kind of anxious when I’m overwhelmed) and figure everything out so that I didn’t start to go down the forbidden vegan path of “unhealthy veganism”. In the beginning, this journey was only about health for me, so I thought to myself that I’d be damned if I let the former unhealthy me continue to be just as unhealthy but in vegan form— and although that sounds like an oxymoron, it’s not. It is possible to be an unhealthy vegan.

Now, I’ve slowly started to find my balance. I don’t buy as much food as I used to several months ago, because I’m learning to use and produce at a more sustainable and realistic level. No need to have an overstock of food if I’m not cooking for a lot of people— after all, I’m not stocking up for the apocalypse. So with these new revelations, I do have several staple foods that I keep in the kitchen to have on hand, no matter what. That means that if you were to come over at any given moment, it is highly unlikely that you would not see most or all of these foods. Here’s my go-to list of vegan goodies:

Tofu

Tofu is a classic vegan food. I always have at least one to two packs of it in the fridge. It’s versatile, cheap and can be used with any meal — salads, as a standalone protein in a main meal, tofu scramble, and of course, as the base for so many vegan “remakes” like egg salad and certain cheeses such as vegan ricotta. It’s also a flavor sponge. Tofu has often gotten a bad rap because people say it has “no flavor”. I was one of those people. There are also gripes with the texture. But what folks don’t realize is that tofu comes in a variety of textures, from silken to extra firm. And as for flavor, the soybean based protein takes on the flavor of whatever you want it to, savory or sweet! When it comes to tofu, with the right seasoning and cooking techniques, you end up with a completely different food than what you started out with. There’s also the health benefits. Tofu is one of the greatest comebacks within the vegan community when people ask the infamous question: “where do vegans get their protein from?” Not only is it low in calories, coming in at about 100 calories for 1/4 of an average size block of tofu, but there are about 10 grams of protein for every 1/2 cup serving. Not too shabby. That means a whole block of tofu would come in at around 400 calories and between 30-40 grams of protein. That’s AMAZING. Just make sure to get organic tofu to avoid any GMO clash; it’s usually the same price or very close in price to non-organic tofu.

Avocado

Ahhh, my food bae. I live and breathe for this fatty green fruit. Avocados are a staple in my fridge for sure — in fact, my fridge might as well be an avocado tree because it’s never without this fruit in there. Avocados are another versatile food (versatility is definitely a common thread on this list), coming in handy for literally any and every meal you can think of– you can chop it up on top of tofu scram, salads, and tacos, or as a side for pretty much any meal in practically any type of cuisine. You can also mash it up and slather it on bread, creating avocado toast, or mash it up and throw some tomato, onion and spices in it and make some guac — the possibilities are endless. Not to mention that when it comes to avo, you don’t even need all the pomp and circumstance — you can totally have it as is with a little salt or some EBTB seasoning, or completely plain if that’s your jam. And of course, there are health benefits. Avocados are full of vitamins and minerals. Just to name a few, they are packed with: lutein, potassium, and are a great source of vitamin B. And unlike most fruits, they are low in sugar, and they’re also a great source of fiber. Then there’s all that healthy fat– avos are one of the best sources of monounsaturated fat, which is the good fat that our bodies need to help lower bad cholesterol. But avos are high in calories, so be careful not to overdo it or you might counteract the good stuff.

Beans (lots of ’em)

I keep a variety of beans on hand for quick and easy meals. The three main types I always have on hand are black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans (or chickpeas). You can throw kidney beans in there too. Whole Foods Market sells organic versions of all these varieties for only 99 cents per can which is amazing. I usually have no less than three cans of each and I replace them as I use them. I use beans for any and all meals — pinto and kidney beans go great with tofu scram, and you can use them in stews, chilis, over rice, in cold salads, or have them on their own. So that means that yes, they are versatile — there, I said it and I’m not ashamed because foods that are versatile are kind of important when you’re thinking economically and efficiently. You can also mash them up and have them refried or use them as a bean dip. And beans and legumes are another heavy hitter when it comes to health benefits. They are filled with protein and fiber, both of which are important for reducing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, as well as (re)building muscle. Chickpeas have approximately 14 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber per one cup serving, while kidney beans have approximately 13 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber per one cup serving. That’s a lot of protein and fiber, not to mention they taste yummy.

Fruits

This is a broad category I know, but I usually have at least one of the following on hand: bananas, apples, grapes. In that order. Sometimes I have all three; sometimes I have several different types of fruits going on at once, and once in awhile I spring for berries which are a little pricier but worth it because I not only get my antioxidant kick but I can jazz up my smoothies and chia pudding for about a week with just one container of strawberries or blueberries. I often eat bananas alone, but also have them with peanut butter as a snack. And 9 times out of 10 I’ll throw them in a smoothie. Maybe 10 times out of 10. I eat apples alone as a quick snack and often carry them with me when I’m out as one of my recharge snacks (along with snack bars). I buy them in bulk when I plan on making juice. Grapes are a great snack for grazing, which I often do– that is eating food in the form of small meals and snacks throughout the day. Personally, I like green grapes more than the red variety but I’ll eat either. All fruits are full of a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants depending on which ones you’re noshing on, and they’re at the top of the (vegan) food chain of foods we should be consuming in abundance. They are truly nature’s medicine and I try to consume them daily but if not daily at least several times a week.

Peanut Butter

This is a big one. It’s almost up there with avo for me. I will literally eat peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon. Yes, I’m an adult and I said it. Furthermore, I will also take a giant spoonful of peanut butter and top it off with some sort of jelly or fruit preserve and have that in spoonfuls. Come at me if you dare. I have no shame, and why should I when peanut butter is not only delicious, but also high in good fats. Like avocado, peanut butter is also high in calories– there are about 200 calories in just 2 tablespoons; meaning I should probably lay off the spoonfuls, but don’t judge me. I rarely make a smoothie without peanut butter because, in my opinion, it’s one of the best flavors in the world. As I mentioned, I often snack on it alone, but it taste great on apples, bananas and celery. It can also be used to create yummy peanut sauces which you can slather on all different types of noodles or veggies. And of course, there’s the classic PB&J — no, it’s not just for kids. I’ve been known to have a PB&J sandwich for lunch — or breakfast, or dinner, on more than one occasion.

Cilantro

Cilantro is probably my favorite herb ever. I have yet to meet anyone that doesn’t like cilantro, but I’m sure they exist as silly as they may be 😀 Basil is a close second here, as I also love that herb, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the champ cilantro because I don’t think it’s as versatile. I think it’s important to keep at least 1 or 2 herbs in the fridge. I can add cilantro to anything. And I usually do. I don’t care if it’s a fruit salad, I will add cilantro to it. I don’t know what it is about the flavor of it that is so intoxicating to me, but I’m obsessed. I buy it in bunches and can go through about three bunches in two weeks or less. Yep, I’m a fan. Health-wise, cilantro (also known as coriander) is a great source of antioxidants and also has vitamin A which helps many of our organs work properly, and also assists in healthy vision and a healthy immune system.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is hand-down my favorite plant-milk. I usually go for the unsweetened variety whether I get plain or vanilla. Whatever your poison, the point is that it’s always good to have milk on hand, and I usually have about 2 to 3 containers of it in the fridge at any given time. Plant-milk is good for all the same stuff dairy milk was good for: cereal, soups and sauces, as a smoothie base and for baking all sorts of goodies. Not to mention chocolate milk, duh. The health benefits will vary depending on your plant-milk of choice. So if you favor oat, soy, hemp or rice milk over almond, the calories, vitamins and minerals will all depend upon your choice. As far as almond milk goes, like dairy milk, it is often enriched with additional vitamins and minerals. However, almond milk specifically is naturally higher in vitamin E, providing approximately 49% of the recommended daily amount, whereas dairy milk provides no vitamin E at all. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant in the body, helping to protect cells from free radicals. So drink up!

Rice

This can really be called “grains”, but I’m talking about my kitchen so I’m being very specific because within the gamut of grains, I kinda like rice a lot. But broadly speaking, rice could easily be replaced with quinoa or farro, so don’t limit yourself. And each grain has their own set of health benefits (farro for example, is higher in fiber than both brown rice and quinoa). I always have rice on hand because it’s a basic grain that is both filling and tasty and goes with just about any meal but also tastes great on it’s own. It’s an amazing base for foods from many different cuisine types as well. I won’t lie, I’m somewhat partial to white rice over brown rice. It’s a bad habit for sure, but not the worst of problems to have when trying to eat healthier. Both white and brown rice have vitamins and minerals — but it’s no secret that brown rice is more nutritious overall, particularly in the fiber department. The main problem with white rice is it’s high glycemic index, which can have an affect on blood sugar. In addition to this, brown rice is also considered a whole food, whereas white rice, because of the processing it goes through, is not a whole food– or more specifically, is not a whole grain. So it may be better to go with brown rice, especially if you know you have problems with sugar in you body or diet or you’re trying to consume more whole, plant-based foods in your diet.

Olive Oil

I debated adding this to the list, but if you have read or made any of my recipes, it’s no secret that I use olive oil a lot. I use it to saute everything and anything. I actually rarely use it as a dip for breads although I do that as well (especially if there’s a flavored olive oil on hand!) but I mainly use it to cook with because of it’s high heat point and mild but rich flavor. I also love that it has health benefits. It’s another food that is high in monounsaturated fats, and it also contains polyphenols which act as a form of antioxidants. I am less cautious about using small amounts of olive oil than I am with avo and peanut butter. Maybe it’s a mental thing since olive oil is in liquid form so I feel as though it’s not as bad? Either way, it should also be consumed in moderation due to it’s high fat and calorie content, but I still say use it to saute every and anything!

So that’s my list. These foods are always in my kitchen no matter what. They are all super nutritious and taste great, and most of them are like the transformers of foods, able to change forms to become many different things making them extremely versatile for cooking. Using many of these base foods, I can simply add other goodies to make amazing meals. But if I don’t feel like doing that, I can just mix and match some of these base foods to make an exceptional meal as well. I didn’t even factor in all the amazing spices, vinegars and sauces I also like to keep around, but that’s a whole other list for a whole other blog post.

Sources:
https://www.thespruceeats.com/tofu-nutritional-value-information-3376923
https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/all-about-avocados
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthiest-beans-legumes#section4
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/277627.php
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318612.php
https://draxe.com/farro/
https://californiaoliveranch.com/olive-oil-101/extra-virgin-olive-oil-health/