Exploring Vegan Cooking For The First Time?

Well the new year is well under way and many many of you are going vegan, some perhaps for the first time. I though I would share some simple vegan cooking hacks to kick-start your vegan culinary adventures.

Here are a few simple culinary tricks and techniques that can help to make the whole process easier, faster and tastier.

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Easy Vegan Cooking Hacks

Cashew cream for dairy. The answer to any dairy cravings, cashew cream is made by blending raw cashews and water in a powerful food processor. It can be used anyplace you’d typically use heavy cream or  milk (you can thin it with extra water to adjust its richness). Stir it into your favourite vegan soups or fold it into creamy pasta dishes.

Nutritional yeast for cheesy flavour. If you want to add a “cheesy” flavour in some of your favourite meals, it’s time to get to know nutritional yeast. This inactive form of yeast adds an unmistakably cheesy, rich flavour to food…. Added bonus: nutritional yeast is rich in B vitamins and protein that can support healthy energy.

Smoked paprika…..This type of paprika adds a deep, smoky flavour to chili, chowder and baked beans. You can also use it in marinades; I love to soak thinly sliced tempeh in a mixture of tamari, vinegar, maple syrup, smoked paprika and crushed red pepper, then bake it low and slow to create homemade vegan “bacon” strips.

Plant-First Baking Tricks

DIY buttermilk. Getting your hands on vegan buttermilk doesn’t require a trip to the grocery store: All you need to do is add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of non-dairy milk, then allow the mixture to thicken up for five minutes. After that, it’s ready to be used in all your homemade vegan baking projects.

Fruit and vegetable pureés. A major challenge of vegan baking is to replace eggs. One of my favourite solutions is to use pureéd fruits or vegetables — like applesauce, bananas, prunes or pumpkin — in place of eggs or egg whites. The pureé will act as a binder while giving your muffins or quick breads extra nutrition…..Rule of thumb: Use ¼ cup pureé for each egg you’re replacing.

Aquafaba. This is the liquid brine that comes in a can of chickpeas. It may seem disposable, but if you put it into your  mixer, it’ll whip up just like egg whites! Fold it into sponge cake batter, homemade macaroons or even a stunning vegan baked pavlova. Wondering when to use fruit pureé vs. aquafaba as an egg replacer? I use pureéd banana or applesauce in muffins and quick breads, and I turn to aquafaba for more delicate baked goods, like cookies or cakes.

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All-Purpose Vegan Toppings

Avocado spread….. One of my favourite, simple breakfasts used to be a toasted, whole-wheat bagel with butter or cream cheese. Nowadays, I replace the butter with smashed avocado (which I also use on English muffins and toast). The avocado is every bit as creamy as dairy, and it adds healthful fat and fibre to the meal.

 Coconut whipped cream……the thick caps that solidify at the top of a can of coconut milk — to make authentic, whipped cream alternative. Simply skim the cream from the rest of the liquid in the can, add it to a stand mixer and whip it into soft, white peaks. It’s a perfect accompaniment to vegan cake, pie or ice-cream sundaes.

Vegan parmesan…… I like homemade vegan parmesan topping so much that I’ve been known to smuggle it into restaurants! It’s a snap to make: just throw a handful of your favourite nuts or seeds into a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt. Process the mixture till it’s crumbly, then use it in any recipe that calls for regular parmesan cheese.

Three Easy Peasy Vegan Dinners

Stuffed potato. One of my favourite vegan dinners for busy work nights is a simple baked sweet potato, stuffed with veggies and beans and smothered in one of my favourite sauces. If you prebake potatoes over the weekend, this hearty meal can be ready in 15 minutes or less.

 Easy tacos. For taco night in a hurry, I top two whole grain tortillas with Organic Refried Black Beans, avocado slices, a handful of chopped salad mix, and some cooked rice. It’s a fast and nutritious meal — not to mention a handy vehicle for leftover proteins and grains.

 Power pasta. “Power pasta” is my affectionate nickname for pasta marinara that’s been supercharged with plant proteins and vegetables. I add my pasta to a pot of boiling water, and about five minutes before it’s done, I add a cup or two of vegetables, like cauliflower florets, chopped kale or courgette slices. I drain everything, stir it together with some warmed up roast Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce and then top it with chickpeas or lentils and a few tablespoons of my vegan parm.

let me know how you get on or if you want any more tips get in touch…. Happy Cooking

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