What is VeganEaten?

Reasonable question. VeganEaten was actually an astonishingly underused hashtag on Instagram when I started using the app in Spring 2015. I was trying to label my dinner pics and the phrase popped into place. Today, VeganEaten is a resource for those who want to eat a vegan diet, are curious about veganism, and have no clue how to follow it without eating food that tastes like nothing.

VeganEaten is definitely the right resource for you if:

  • You are BUSY
  • You are health conscious or have a wannabe healthy mindset
  • You aren’t totally clueless about food- tomatoes are a fruit, you know what they look like, etc.
  • You feel helpless when you consider taking on a vegan diet with EVERYTHING else you already balance
  • You think that eating vegan is HARD
  • You don’t really know how to shop for groceries, besides grabbing everything that looks good
  • You don’t have a whole boatload of $$$ (It’s cool if you do, but the beauty of eating vegan is that it’s pretty cheap!)
  • You don’t have time to do menu planning and research every goddamn week
  • Your Pinterest boards are full of healthy recipes that you have never made and always intended to
  • You beat yourself up because you don’t make time to plan/shop/cook healthy meals
  • You don’t want someone “holistically guiding” you-whatever that actually means
  • You like to EAT GOOD FOOD
  • You don’t want to give up cheese
  • You don’t live alone and therefore can’t totally go vegan because you have to made two meals every time

VeganEaten is NOT for you if you identify with the following:

  • You are a devout vegan with years of eating a completely plant based diet
  • You have all the time in the world to stand in your kitchen and prepare food for hours each day just so your family can all eat a healthy diet
  • You really just love the taste of raw vegetables and are confused why people say giving up cheese sounds impossible
  • You routinely research the food products that you’re eating for any hint of animal product and feel horribly about it

Yeah, no. Not me either. I started eating a mostly vegan diet about three years ago. My family started following the RICE diet for a summer, and I was grumpy about it until we hit week 3. I stopped focusing on how much I missed sugar (and salt) and started focusing on how I could add more flavor to my food without them.

What made me feel satisfied? What food combinations did I look forward to the most? Why did roasted veggies taste so much more delicious than raw? How did I feel so much more awake now?

Most of these questions were answered over the next year or so, as following the plan became my key to feeling like I was actually living. Following a vegan diet was what made me feel alive and energetic, which wasn’t normal for a college student. I was used to complaining about how tired I was, listening to friends talk about how bloated they were from the weekend’s parties, and generally bitching about not being healthy.

Which is really an unhealthy mindset.

So, here’s where I can help you. I went to school to learn to cook, and have worked in restaurant kitchens for the past 8 years. I also try to stick to a vegan diet, which I view as the best way to help myself stay healthy, stick to a reasonable budget, and to reduce my impact on the planet by not consuming commercially raised meat.

Do I mess up? Yeah. Does that kind of crush me inside with guilt and regrets? Yup. Do I keep going after I fall off the wagon? A little dust and a bruised ego shouldn’t stop anyone. Am I super skinny? Nope.

Eating vegan helps me maintain a strong and healthy body. You can take it as a weight loss plan, but I’m not promising that. I am promising that you will feel more awake, have more energy, and feel like you are constantly eating, but not constantly hungry.

That’s VeganEaten. Alive, strong, confident, and constantly eating. 🙂

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What Does Vegan Mean?

I love these perfectly reasonable, and yet, really difficult questions from friends and family. To be honest, I was asking myself this question in culinary school, while learning exactly how to change whatever dish I was making to suit multiple food issues.

The bakers took a whole class on baking for certain allergies and lifestyle choices. Per usual, the cooks just had to figure it out on the fly. Bakers are so much more regimented and scientific than cooks are.

But VEGANS. I’m talking Vegan Nazis, the ones who will absolutely disembowel you of your right to say “I’m vegan!” at the slightest whiff of leather on your person. What do they call vegan?

Well, it means that you don’t eat this:

  • Meat from any animal
  • Dairy from any animal
  • Honey- made by bees (an animal)
  • Eggs- because they’re baby animals
  • Gelatin- made from bones (hopefully just of animals…)

And it means that you don’t use these:

  • Any item made of leather
  • Or silk
  • Or wool
  • Or fur of any kind (because animals.)

If you’re a Vegan Nazi, you also avoid:

  • Refined white sugar (Bone Charcoal is used to purify the color of the sugar)
  • Some wines (Some vintners use egg whites to clarify the wine)
  • Any product that is tested on animals (Cosmetics or household products)

If you want more detailed information, or if you are interested in becoming a Vegan Nazi (I’ll still love you, promise, I’m just not interested in becoming one), then head on over to the lovely list of RESOURCES.

Do you have another question about being a super vegan? Comment away and I will answer to the best of my abilities!

All About that Acid- VINEGAR

In case you missed it, CITRUS is the first in this series and can be found here.

The acid love continues! The second major family of acidic variables to add to your kitchen cabinets and that special place in your heart that’s just for ingredients, is VINEGAR. Vinegar is actually a fermented product, caused by acetic acid bacteria that feeds on ethanol (naturally produced alcohol from yeast fermentation) and makes acetic acid.

Essentially, it’s double fermented alcohol.

What it can be used for, well, there are a lot of options. There are a lot of types of vinegar. Their flavor profiles are pungent, but have different components, not dissimilar from alcoholic spirits because it’s pretty much alcohol without the alcohol.

VINEGAR

  • White Vinegar- No. This is a cleaning product. Buy a gallon sized bottle that will go everywhere but past your lips. It can be used in kitchens as a base for infused vinegar, and pickling, but no restaurant kitchen has white vinegar to cook with. You mix it with baking soda and pour it down a clogged drain. See next vinegar for a better cooking option
  • Apple Cider Vinegar- Ahh, the slightly sweet, fruity, not too complex, but just enough flavor and tartness of apple cider vinegar makes it one of the most widely used acids in the kitchen. Used in dressings, baking, pickling, and generally brightening up sauces and soups, as well as making a quick buttermilk when you don’t want to buy a quart of buttermilk to bake with.
  • Red Wine Vinegar-Made from red wine that has undergone a second fermentation, this vinegar usually ends up in salad dressing, pickled onions, and marinades. Easily transfers into a more Mediterranean flavor profile and I love the color that it can make the dressing, even if it doesn’t show up at any other point than when I make it.
  • White Wine Vinegar- Also made from wine, hence the name, white wine vinegar can be used in the same ways as listed above, usually when you want less of the wine flavor and apple cider tastes too sweet. This vinegar is the main reason you don’t use white vinegar.
  • Champagne Vinegar- In most cases, I would just reach for the White Wine Vinegar instead, but champagne offers a sweeter, milder, and not fruity alternative.  Really, the two are fairly interchangeable. Champagne just sounds fancier.
  • Balsamic Vinegar-Oh, my love! My one true love! To the moon and back, I love you Balsamic! Originally from the Italian region of Emilia-Romangia, in the town of Modena, thick, luscious, syrupy, and sweet balsamic has become the most widely used finishing vinegar in Western culture. Combined with a little olive oil, it’s a two ingredient dressing when it’s a thinner consistency. At its thickest, you can pour it on a plate with chocolate cake and strawberries for a dessert to die for. I use it constantly, in dressings, as a final zing in a grain salad, to marinate tofu, on top of roasted veggies- the list goes on and on! I added some to a roasted veggie and bean soup the other day and I rocked my socks!
  • White Balsamic Vinegar- The version made from white wine, white balsamic has a much more mild flavor, but can still be used in a similar manner. It’s definitely a solid finishing and dressing vinegar. Don’t cook with it, just add it at the very end.
  • Sherry Vinegar- Heralding from Spain, in the town of Jerez, sherry vinegar is most commonly used on the Iberian peninsula. I adore it as a more astringent alternative to balsamic, without the depth of sweetness, and a saltier finish. I’ve seen it more commonly used in marmalade, jams, and sauces in restaurants. Occasionally, it takes a starring role in a salad or finishing a meat-centric dish.
  • Malt Vinegar- Mostly used as a finishing vinegar, such as traditionally on fish and chips in the UK. I haven’t seen it used in great quantities in any restaurant I’ve worked in and I don’t stock it in my house.
  • Rice Vinegar- The vinegar of Asian cuisine, as represented in Western kitchens. Light in color and without a super sharp acidity, this is the best vinegar for pickling, making slaw, dressings with spicy and salty components, marinades that focus on flavor profiles from across Asia, and dipping sauces. You can use it as a finishing vinegar for soup as well, but I tend to use citrus in that case.
  • Fruit vinegar- Any time you see a Raspberry, Pomegranate, Orange, blackberry, whatever type of fruit vinegar, it’s usually one of the above vinegars that has been allowed to sit with the fruit macerating in it for a period of time.

There’s your VINEGAR folks! Any questions?

I can think of more items that add acid to your foods but don’t actually fall into the two major families. What do you think folks? Do you want EVEN MORE acid?

All About That Acid-CITRUS

I don’t know about you, but I love ACID.

Not that kind, really, I’m not a druggie. I am addicted to using all kids of acid in the kitchen, though.

Why the hype about acid? The acid and salt in your food is what makes it taste so good in a restaurant. If you want something to taste bright and dance along the tongue, acid is what you need. Even if you don’t want that the be the focus of your dish, acid cuts through the richness of a plate and refreshes your palate so you want to keep eating it.

The salt/acid balance of food is something that line cooks finely hone over their days of preparing the same dishes, over and over. You know when you get it right because the flavors of the ingredients all burst out and fill your mouth with each one of their unique flavors, without overwhelming each other.

I don’t use a lot of salt in my cooking, but I definitely use acid in everything. I think that it’s probably the biggest factor in making my food feel fresher and lighter and healthier as I eat it.

The Big Acid Categories are CITRUS and VINEGAR. Can you get a kick of sour acid from yogurt? Yes, but it’s far more noticeable with other ingredients with an addition of juice.

CITRUS

  • Lemon- Bright, fresh, and the most sour, lemon juice is the most common acid used in American kitchens. We add lemon juice to risotto, to salads, to fish, to literally every dish. One of my favorite ways to cut the lip curling acidity, but keep the juice is to grill the lemons. Cut them in half, rub a little oil on the cut side, and grill until they are GBD- Golden Brown Delicious.
  • Meyer Lemon- A sweeter, more subtle cousin, Meyer lemons are a special treat for chefs, as they are only available during the winter in most parts of the United States. To get a strong hit of acid, you would need to use regular lemon to bump up the Meyer lemon juice, or embrace it, and make it the star of your dish. One of my favorite resources, The Flavor Bible, recommends it as an accompaniment to the flavor of other citrus, as an addition to cream, or sugar, but I have seen it used successfully in a “relish”, essentially a combination of tons of chopped herbs, the pulp of the lemons, and some olive oil. Now tell me that doesn’t sound good on top of some grilled tofu, corn, or fish!
  • Lime- Probably the most used citrus outside of traditional French and American cooking, limes offer a more subtle and chlorophyll filled flavor that favors Asian and Latin cooking. I have gotten away from dressing my salads with lemons and olive oil, and started using limes instead. One of my favorite quick dinners is a Morning Star Black Bean Burger with Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde, some feta, and a bunch of greens, dressed with lime and OO.
  • Key Lime- These little babies are just so cute! But a right pain in the ass to get any juice out on your own. I usually buy Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice if I am going to make a Key Lime Pie, but I rarely look for the tiny guys unless I want them for plating.
  • Kaffir Lime- This citrus is a bumpy, vibrant cousin from SE Asia and it is the best for curries and stews that rely heavily on the regional trio of garlic, ginger, and green onion. You often will have a hard time finding Kaffir Lime in the US, but try to get your hands on their double hearted leafs to use in those soups. They are the coolest shape, have a very unique (not unpleasantly so) aroma, and add a great flavor that echos authenticity.
  • Orange- Not usually thought of a strong acidic contender, oranges bring a more robust and sweeter flavor that blends flawlessly with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. I use orange juice in dressings, braising carrots, and for marinating, especially with spicy marinades where I need to balance the strong heat with a flavor my taste buds want more of. (Hint: this is why Americanized Chinese food is often so sweet- it takes away from the high spice levels that the Chinese, specifically in Sichuan province,traditionally use.)
  • Blood Orange- Also not a super tart member of the citrus family, blood oranges are more known for their color than their flavor. An amazing combination is a Blood Orange and Mint dressing that I adore with just some toasted almonds, but can absolutely be used as either a marinade or a finishing sauce for any grilled items.
  • Mandarin Oranges- Mandarin oranges were the bane of my existence when I was little- I hated those fruit cups, blegh! Today, the make a great addition to a fruit compote, a dressing, or salad component.
  • Grapefruit- I’m the first person who will admit that I am so not a fan of grapefruit. I spit out grapefruit gummy bears, for goodness sake! However, I have had some fantastic salads that use grapefruit juice in their dressings and one of my favorite desserts of all time included a candied grapefruit peel. Its father, the Pomelo, is much more prominent in SE Asian cuisines, and has a similar, but less obscenely tart flavor.
  • Kumquat- OMG, if I could get my hands back on a pan roasted pigeon with some kumquat mostarda, I- well, I can’t get my hands on it right now, but that dish has stuck with me. Kumquats have a unique feature, besides being adorable. You can eat the entire thing! No peeling, woohoo! They are super tangy, and I love slicing them really thin and tossing them in a salad, or using a kumquat jam to make a dressing.

WHEW! We’re already hitting near the quadruple digits here people! Next week, we take on the mother: VINEGAR.

 

Not Quite VeganEaten

Hello Y’all!

When I first started eating vegan, it was with the full support and following of my Mom and my sister. My stepdad, however, not so much. As the lone carnivore, he wanted steak and chicken and sausage, but he was more than willing to eat some of our “rabbit food” because it looked really good!

Fast forward three years: He’s on the wagon, for a variety of reasons. His specialty used to be meat sauce with spaghetti. Now, he can make the best lentil bolognese out of the entire family.

I’m not suggesting that you try to convert all of the meat lovers in your family to immediately eat vegan. In fact, that’s not going to work. Not at all.

What will make it easier on you, who is more than likely preparing the meal for everyone in the house (or just lone you, to eat with bae- I mean, Netflix) is how to make what is solid VeganEaten into NotSoVeganEaten.

With every recipe, I add the NSVE option at the bottom. Often, it’s just a specific cheese that works best with the recipe, but here are some other options:

  • Put an egg on it- fried, poached, or scrambled, a couple of eggs go with almost everything. Your discretion as to what they don’t belong on.
  • Add your favorite cheese. I use a tablespoon or so of parmesan, feta, or manchego to round out the need for salt and umami in my dishes. It makes it more appealing to your beloved omnivores, it’s fast, and helps you feel satisfied.
  • Marinate some meat. If it’s a recipe that calls for tofu to be marinated, coated in a spice, or cooked at all, don’t think for a minute that you can’t do the same with your choice of meat. Chicken, pork, beef, and often fish can all be marinated and prepared at the same time. Multiply your marinade x2 and grab another bag honey!
  • Go nuts! Technically, it’s still vegan, but it rounds out the flavor profile nicely to add sources of natural oil to your food and a good crunch never hurt anyone!
  • Split it. When you’re cooking a stew, soup, or sauce for pasta, remember that you can either double the recipe and make one with meat, and one without, or divide it in 1/2 and share some saucy-ness with their favorite animal protein. More dishes, but more happy diners.

As an overview of simple adjustments, this is what I got. If you really want to get into issues with vegan baking (personally, eew.) then find a guru and a lot of flaxseed. I’m not a baker, and I am totally okay with eating Ezekiel or naan if I start craving bread.

Or, check out some awesome vegan baking blogs. I’ll sort through my favorites and list them in a few for ya.