Vegan cooking. The only thing that’s more unfamiliar to me than cooking without the addition of cheese or meat are the rules of soccer. I’ve always wondered why I would watch soccer when I have football, the same way I’ve wondered why I would cook with vegetables when I have meat. Recently I’ve taken a shot at a few vegan dinners for Stephanie, my vegan girlfriend, and things have turned out pretty well so far. I’m someone who has a genuine interest in anything having to do with cooking and food, so trying to cook with ingredients that do not involve my two favorite things in the world (meat and dairy) has actually become a pretty fun challenge for me. I often spend over an hour at the grocery store visiting every aisle twice, so actually reading through ingredient labels only extends my shopping time. Great success.
When I first started attempting to cook vegan, I relied too much on imitation meats and trying to create alternate versions of meat based dishes.. While I give Morningstar and other vegetarian/vegan food companies credit on some of their stuff, the majority of it tastes like complete shit. It was a little creepy to me how much the vegetarian chicken tenders tasted like actually chicken tenders, and also creepy how much the grilled chicken strips tasted exactly like tofu. I’ve learned that being creative with ingredients and ideas is the best way to come up with a dish, rather than trying to rely on someone else’s meatless version of meat.
Let me stress again that I love meat and cheese. They are like my best friends that happen to be edible. I was not receptive to the idea of the vegan lifestyle, but like I said before it’s been fun for me. I still eat my bacon, but I’ve added about 100 new things to the list of foods that enter my stomach.
My most recent endeavor was Cajun chickpea patties, dairy free mashed potatoes, a little side salad, and homemade garlic bread. This was the first time I had ever made mashed potatoes without adding some sort of dairy product, so I was a little nervous. To me, perfect mashed potatoes achieve a perfect balance of chunkiness and creaminess. That’s why I always like to hand mash my taters. No fancy mixer in this kitchen. Also, I tend to just buy garlic bread from the store instead of making it myself. I’ve never been able to make garlic bread that’s better than store bought, so I have always just stuck with that. Shocker, every store bought garlic bread contains some form of dairy. Had to get creative.
The chickpea patties don’t look too amazing, but I promise you that they are absolutely delicious. Chickpeas have always been in my diet, due to my frequent flafel consumption, but I had never cooked with them. They are very filling, even for a heavy meat eater like myself, and very nutritious. I can’t believe I just said that. They contain a very high amount of protein, and almost as much calcium as milk.
The mashed potatoes turned out incredibly well. I used a margarine replacement product which oddly tastes better than actual butter. To make up for the lack of creaminess, I roasted some garlic, smashed it up, and mixed it into the potatoes. Don’t know how to roast garlic? Well, heat your oven up to about 475, drizzle oil over a head of garlic, cover in tin foil, and leave in the oven until soft. I often roast garlic in my apartment just for the smell. Actually, I don’t ever do that. It just sounds nice. But yeah, the potatoes were delicious with only garlic, salt, and pepper.
The garlic bread is just a store bought loaf baked at 375 until crispy. I cut it up, put the pieces in a pan heated up with olive oil for about 30-45 seconds on each side to add a little crispyess, and rubbed with a clove of garlic. If you’re a fan of garlic like I am, this is a great way to make your own garlic bread with as much garlic flavor as you like.
If you’re interested in trying these out, he’s my recipe. I don’t usually eat anything resembling this meal, but if you’re interested in trying something new this is a good way to start. If you would’ve told me a few months ago that I would be attempting to cook vegan, I would’ve laughed at you. Buuuut, the ladies will make you do weird things.
Oh, and for the first time I actually measured everything.