Since becoming a vegan, I have come a long, long way in being prepared for making meals that I have not planned for. There are things that I always keep in my pantry and freezer, so that when I haven’t gone grocery shopping or I don’t have much time, I can still make a decent meal.
Must Haves for the Pantry
whole wheat pasta
quick-cooking grains and legumes (quinoa, red lentils, rice)
your favorite marinara sauce
Must Haves for the Fridge
Braggs or tamari
dijon or brown mustard (or both)
plain or unsweetened non-dairy milk
Must Haves for the Freezer
With these ingredients, you can improvise mac and cheese, you can have roasted veggies over pasta or grains, stir fry, a veggie saute, a quick veggie and bean toss, or any number of casseroles, depending on whatever else you have on hand at the moment.
|Everything in this salad just happened
to be in my kitchen the day I made it.
I feel lucky that I learned to cook from my mom, who taught me how to make meals from whatever was in the house at the time, rather than being strict about following recipes. If you don’t already have that skill set, start experimenting with your favorite recipes. If a recipe calls for one kind of bean, try subbing in another. If a recipe requires fresh green beans and carrots, for example, try using roasted broccoli and cauliflower (from the stash in your freezer). If the recipe asks for vegan sour cream, what happens with a little vegan cream cheese and some unsweetened almond milk?
|I worked vegan sour cream into the frosting,
to stretch the ingredients I had on hand.
For the caramel drizzle, I added almond milk to the recipe,
just to see what would happen. Both turned out great.
For me, improvising as a vegan started with my very favorite faux cheese sauce. The recipe is Easy Breezy Cheese Sauce from How it All Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard. From that recipe, I have subbed in a variety of different thickeners, I’ve used different kinds of mustard and other seasonings, and I’ve worked in a whole slew of additions. Now I don’t even need to get out the cookbook, and starting from what the recipe taught me, I have made pasta sauces, nacho cheese sauces, sauces for casseroles and the base for a variety of creamy soups.
The key is to not be afraid of your food. Start with a recipe you’re comfortable with. Substitute in ingredients you know you love. Think of pairings that you already enjoy. If you’re unsure, try halving the batch of what you’re cooking. That way you lose less, if you hate the outcome. Or, try to alter a recipe when you have plenty of time and ingredients on hand, so you don’t have the pressure of a busy weeknight or a hungry family, clamoring for supper.
Do you improvise in the kitchen? If so, how’d you get started? What are your favorite go-to ingredients and substitutions? What are required ingredients in your pantry?