As the saying goes, “home is where the heart is.” My kitchen is one of my favorite rooms in my house. I spend most of my time there. We love to gather, eat, laugh, entertain, and share stories in the kitchen; most families do.
My kitchen is a place where I can truly be creative and expressive with my cooking. For some, cooking is a challenge, but I absolutely love it! A lot of people don’t know this, but I also cook 100% vegan.
When I look back on my life, it’s really no surprise that my dietary choices do not include meat, eggs or dairy. As a newborn infant, I was allergic to milk. Doctors tried alternatives including powdered milk, goat’s milk and a few others. Finally, they discovered that soy milk (a high protein plant alternative) was the best option for my needs.
I would love to say that I was trailblazer and ahead of my time for going vegan, but the truth of the matter is, I eliminated meat because of the texture. I was also totally and completely grossed out by the taste. I appreciate looking at my food and not be repulsed! Others go vegan for the love of animals, ethical oppositions, dietary restrictions, health and well-being, religious beliefs, environmental, longevity, and “I don’t eat anything with a face!” Like me, some people just don’t like meat.
Chew on this… I’ve only eaten a total of six hamburgers in my life! Growing up, meat was a main component in our family meals. Thankfully, our family dog came to my rescue. He sat under the kitchen table, right by my chair, patiently awaiting my discarded portion of meat. Since he was “double” fed throughout the day, needless to say his size doubled as well. No one could figure out why. I distinctly remember my Aunt coming to visit and saying, “The next time I come in town, that dog’s going to oink!”
When I moved out on my own, I decided not to buy or cook meat. Not long after, my mom asked me to come over for dinner. She was making one of my favorite meals: spaghetti. My mom’s traditional spaghetti was delicious homemade sauce with meatballs on the side. When I sat at the table to eat, her delicious homemade sauce had turned into ground meat sauce, though. I was appalled that my mom suddenly changed her recipe. Why would she do that to me knowing I was a vegan and not eating meat?! Her reasoning: she wanted to make sure I was getting my protein.
Let me tell you, there are so many misconceptions about protein. Protein is everywhere! It’s very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds contain some, and often a lot, of protein. Broccoli has 11.1% protein compared to beef with only 6.4%, per 100 calories.
In the ‘70’s, Diet for a Small Planet was a cookbook that became my bible. Author Frances Moore Lappe, advocated for correct protein substitution. She was in favor of combining a food low in one amino acid with another food containing large amounts of amino acid, at the same meal, to create a favorable amino mix… which took a little extra time and effort. Now, Lappe has squashed such strict protein combinations, noting that it is much easier to obtain protein than she originally thought. Thank goodness!
You may not realize just how much protein you take in daily. Check out the protein in chickpeas with hummus, soups, salads, patties or soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame), seitan, seaweed, leafy greens, nuts, grains, lentils, beans and dried fruits. All contain substantial amounts, plus several other nutrients, and can be used in a assortment of recipes.
It is recommended you eat a variety of unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and vegetables throughout your day. I think It’s fun to get creative with your choices and explore new taste bud experiences!
Here are a few brief descriptions of variations on vegetarian diets:
- Vegan: Consumes only plants (vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts); no animal products (meat, fish, dairy products or eggs).
- Lacto-Vegetarian: Consumes same foods as vegans, plus dairy products.
- Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian: Consumes same foods as vegans, as well as dairy products and eggs.
- Partial Vegetarian: A vegetarian who supplements the diet with fish or poultry.
There are many resources available for vegetarians: cookbooks, websites, Facebook groups, restaurants, food trucks, and more. A well-renowned vegan restaurant in Omaha and New York is Modern Love. Owner and vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, has several published cookbooks, with many delicious possibilities!
Companies are capturing the high demand for quality alternatives. Food items made with cashews or almonds are now on the market, that actually taste really good! Food companies have gotten creative and realize taste, along with texture, is a priority! A couple of my favorite alternatives are:
- Bitchin’ Sauce. It can be used as a dip or sauce, with almonds as its main ingredient.
- Miyoko’s Vegan Mozz (Regular Italian Style or Smoked), made from cashews. This is an amazing alternative to mozzarella.
I’m excited for the many upcoming new products to be rolled out this year and look forward to cooking in my kitchen. Going vegan or vegetarian can be daunting, but don’t let it be. Start small. Start with a few items at a time. Do what is comfortable for you. Have fun with it!
Here’s the ‘MEAT’ of this blog: your kitchen represents many things. It is an essential space for cooking, creativity and socialization. How many gatherings have you attended where the majority of people hang out in the kitchen? A plaque my mom had on our kitchen wall perfectly stated, “No matter where I serve my guests, they seem to like my kitchen best.”
Enjoy and embrace the love of a kitchen. Bon appétit! For some of my favorite vegan recipes, click here.
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