Are you an experienced vegan cook seeking to go a step higher or a beginner wondering where to start? Here are nine good tips to keep in mind when cooking vegan. You should bookmark this page for later reference, as the ideas will probably flutter in your mind like a thousand butterflies.
1. Be creative.When cooking vegan, you must realize that you are not an omnivore cook bound by extra chains. You are a vegan cook, you cook with fruit and vegetables, and you are free to use those ingredients to your best advantage. Do not think that you must follow the same traditions followed when cooking with meat. Do not feel that you must necessarily substitute meat with fake meat. Fruits and vegetables have their own good sides, so focus on utilizing those instead of thinking of substituting for meat and dairy all the time.
2. Focus on the veggies.When cooking vegan, there is no meat to steal the spotlight, so give the veggies their due place and let them be the star. Prepare the dishes so as to highlight the vegetables' and fruits' unique attributes.
3. Keep it bright.Since the veggies are the star in vegan cooking, do not burden them with long, wearisome cooking that drains all the color from their cheeks. A faded, muddy-brown bell pepper that has cooked an hour in a stew is not appealing, nor is over-cooked, mushy celery or squash. It is true that long (slow) cooking has its place – for example, onions and garlic make such a flavorful broth when boiled for a long time – but generally, the cooking should be kept to a minimum. Let the veggies pop right out of the dish!
4. Use fresh.Again, the veggies are the star, and to be so, they must be fresh. Have you ever compared mashed potatoes made from powder with the real mashed potatoes from real, fresh potatoes? If you haven't, then don't try - the powdered potatoes will disappoint you badly. If possible, use fresh garlic and onion instead of the powder, use fresh herbs instead of dried, use fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned, use fresh all the time. A bonus is that you get more of the nutrients too!
5. Use contrast.Contrast is always pleasing. Contrasting colors give life and vibrance; and contrasting texture adds the unexpected, adventurous feel; while contrasting flavors fulfill the beauty of completeness.
The combination of colors is an art. If you don't mind being a food-styling nerd, consult a color wheel (such as this one http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hIRC7UPIP5U/UDlxwbs3OkI/AAAAAAAAApU/J40QGA22QGY/s1600/colour-wheel.jpg). The colors opposite each other are complimentary, for example red and green. That is why bright red tomatoes in a green salad look so good. I you don't care for the color wheel, just remember the combinations red-green, blue-orange, and purple-yellow.
For contrasting texture, think of how crispy lettuce complements juicy tomatoes and creamy avocado. Why does granola taste so good on yoghurt? Contrasting texture. Mix up big and small, soft and crispy, juicy and creamy for the most exciting experience.
Contrasting flavors trigger all the different tastebud areas all over the tongue at the same time. One rule of thumb is to always have something salty, sweet, and sour in the same dish. You could also use bitter, for example tahini or sesame seeds, when appropriate.
6. Build flavors.Most of the omnivore cooking relies on meat and dairy to add flavor to the food. While vegans cannot do that, there are other ways to build flavor. Onions and garlic are excellent for building a subtle base. Herbs are good for more pungent flavors. However, do not over-season the food, as the delicate vegetable flavors should not be overpowered. Sometimes, vegan food can seem tasteless to the unconverted tastebuds, but if the principle of a little, well-directed seasoning is followed, the tastebuds will become more sensitive and appreciative of the subtle, yet delicious, flavors of vegan food.
7. Add fat.Some dishes just seem a little flat, but when you add some fat, they suddenly revive to their true self. I know I am writing on a health blog, but we are not necessarily talking margarine or oil here. It is amazing such difference a tablespoon of peanut butter can make in tomato sauce or a dash of coconut milk in soups. Avocado and olives are also good fat sources together with other nut and seed butters. And according to at least one study, a few nuts a day does not cause weight gain (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/milk-protein-vs-soy-protein/), which is good news for those watching their tummy!
8. Learn the science.Sometimes, to be creative, you must learn the principles behind making the food you want to cook. Learning the principles behind making ice cream allows you to create a refreshing summer treat instead of something that should belong on the south pole. It was first when I understood that there are certain ratios that must be followed when baking cakes that I was able to make a truly good vegan cake. It is first when you learn that too much gluten in crackers makes them tough that you can create the tenderest, low-fat crackers with a gluten-free flour. The list could go on and on, and there are many good sites on the internet that explain the science behind food.
9. Make a big batch.After all this, you might think that cooking vegan will take all day and your sleep at night (which, of course, is not true), so here is a tip that will greatly relieve the (imaginary) burden. Whenever possible, cook a big batch and freeze the leftovers. Sauce, soup, lasagna, vegan meatloaf, and patties generally can be frozen. Most vegetables, fruits, berries, and herbs can also be frozen and used in cooked dishes (thawed vegetables and fruits are generally not nice to eat uncooked). In this way, it is easy to remove the amount of food needed from the freezer in the morning and leave it on the counter to thaw. It will be ready to heat and eat for lunch!
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