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Turning coconut flakes into bacon bits and cauliflower into chicken wings seems intimidating, impossible even. I mean, cashew cheese? Really? But don't fret, vegan cooking can be easy-peezy lemon-squeezy (literally, there's a lot of lemon squeezing). Whether you plan on deep diving into full-on veganism, or you're just celebrating Meatless Monday, there are a few do's and don'ts that will save your life when it comes to vegan cooking.
1. DON'T: Skimp on the spices.
This is without a doubt the most important tip to keep in mind. When a recipe calls for a looooong list of spices and you find yourself thinking, "Liquid smoke? What's that? Maybe I can skip it." THINK AGAIN! Creating a flavour profile similar to the meat and dairy you're used to eating is a process, but stick to it, because the pay off is huge!
2. DO: Prepare ahead of time.
Before you dive into a recipe you want to test, make a list of all the ingredients you already have and a list of ones you need to buy. It sounds simple, but nothing is worse than getting part way through your cashew cheese and realizing you forgot lemons, or worse, nutritional yeast! Meal prepping your food will also be a huge help. Staple items like rice or quinoa can be made at the beginning of the week and added to meals as needed.
3. DO: Stock your pantry.
Having a fully stocked pantry will come with time. Buying everything all at once would be ridiculous, but there are a few things you can buy to start yourself off. Some types of beans, rice, nutritional yeast, garlic/onion powder and chili flakes are a good place to start. Eventually, the more recipes you try, the more pantry essentials you will collect. You'll have a power-house pantry in no time.
4. DON'T: Give up easily.
The more you cook, the better you'll get. If a recipe doesn't work out the first time, don't give up on it! Just make note of what went wrong, and you'll know what to look out for next time. Or maybe the recipe did work, but it still doesn't taste right to you—that's okay, too. Eventually, you'll start to learn what works best for your palete—what spices you want to be prominent in your dish, what flavours pair well together, etc. Practice makes perfect.
5. DO: Have fun with it.
Most importantly, let yourself have a good time. You're going to mess up, but that's half the fun. Don't be afraid to get messy. If you burn something, laugh it off and try again. It's easy to get overwhelmed or stressed out when you have too many things on the go at once. That's where prep work is going to come in and save you. To make things even more fun try including your significant other or your kids in the cooking process.
Vegan cooking is constantly advancing and evolving. You can now find different fake cheeses and meats in most grocery stores and new restaurants open all the time. While it’s great to try new products and restaurants, creating your own kitchen masterpiece is the most rewarding. So, Keep these do’s and dont’s in mind and get your vegan cooking on!
If you need a place to start looking for recipes and inspiration the following are a few of my go-to’s:
Hot For Food - Vegan comfort food, expect lots of deep frying and lots of nacho cheese!
Thug Kitchen - A hilarious look at a serious problem: health. Amazing and easy to grasp recipes.