Every time I get home from the grocery store with bags full of vegan whole foods I feel so well equipped to for making healthful meals for myself and my husband(Yes, you read correctly. That’s no longer fiance!).
Each week I try to create a balance in our meal rotations with plenty of different kinds of foods. In terms of cuisine, I usually end up with at least one asian style dish on the menu like a noodle soup or Salad with Peanut Dressing as well as a at least one Mexican meal which is always my husband’s favorite. I was reading an article earlier today about a new Vegan Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles and one commenter had the nerve to say that vegan mexican food is not real mexican and that it sounds disgusting. All I have to say is I feel very sorry for that person who has such a closed mind they will never know the joy of such amazing dishes as my Sweet Potato Tacos or Vegetarian Chili.
In addition to balancing the types of cuisines, balance is also important when considering the ingredients of our meals. If we have beans and rice one night, then the next night we might opt for quinoa. If we have salad one night then maybe another night we’ll have broccoli or a baked sweet potato. Switching up the types of foods we are eating will not only keep our taste buds happy but also help to make sure our bodies are getting the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Considering these things when planning out meals to achieve balance both for body and mind, it can be helpful to have some go-to staples in the cabinet. In my last post about Vegan Grocery Essentials, I discussed plant-based milks, tofu and beans. I considered these priority ingredients to discuss since they were vital to making my switch to veganism practically painless. Whenever I wanted to make a dish that I would have previously used meat or dairy in, I could very simply and easy substitute with one of my vegan essential items.
Some other essentials are items that I use every single day.
Nuts have become a huge staple in my diet since going vegetarian and even more so after going fully vegan. Providing a source of protein and healthy fats, nuts add a richness to meals that I would crave after cutting out things like butter and cheese. I commonly throw almonds or walnuts into my morning green smoothies. Pecans make a great addition to soups or salads. Cashews can barely stay on the shelves in my kitchen since I use them for almost anything that needs a “creamy” texture such as cashew queso, mac and cheese and vegan mocha cheesecake. And don’t forget about nut butters like peanut butter, of course, and almond butter. These can make a great base for salad dressings like my personal favorite, Peanut Ginger Dressing or even be used as an egg replacement in vegan baked goods.
Bananas have always been a large part of my diet due to their natural sweetness and versatility. At least one banana goes in my smoothie every morning and I’ve posted about the many uses for ripe bananas. In addition to breakfast items, bananas are a common ingredient for vegan baked goods and desserts.
Herbs & Spices
Having herbs and spices on hand makes it really easy to cook at home and still be able to have a variety of foods options. I’ve found that the meat or cheese in the meals I used to love were not actually the source of the flavor I was craving. It was almost always the combination of herbs, spices and other seasonings that brought all of the flavor to my favorite dishes. For Asian dishes, I frequently use garlic and ginger. For Mexican style cooking, I almost always use cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and cilantro. Most Italian meals I prepare with basil, oregano, sage or thyme. Having these herbs and spices in the cabinet will make it easier to prep flavorful vegan meals at any time.