Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Go Grocery Shopping


I used to hate grocery shopping, but these days I see it all through different eyes. I love the food and the people I make it for, so it follows that I've also learned to love the process of shopping for it and preparing it. To me it's a creative outlet I'd been ignoring for years. So now when I head out to the market, I think of it as going out to buy Art Supplies.

A lot of people think vegan food is somehow different from, uh, "normal" food. Really? Come on, now! By definition, omnivores eat everything, so it follows that what you'll find in a well stocked vegan kitchen is simply a portion of that everything that America is used to expecting. Most of what we eat around here is pretty "normal," meaning you've actually heard of these foods, and can easily locate them in most markets. Sometimes I'll use exotic ingredients, but most of the time I work from a fairly simple list of staples. With a few basics on hand, it's always easy to come up with a good meal without having to run to the store every day.

If you're new to vegan cooking for yourself, or if you have a vegan guest coming for dinner, and aren't really sure how to put a meal together, an easy formula is - half vegetables, raw or cooked, one quarter whole grain, and one quarter protein, like beans or tofu. This isn't written in stone, of course. Mix it up, serve a variety of fresh whole foods, and don't stress out over protein. We don't need nearly as much as certain industries would have us believe we do.

You can check out Alicia Silverstone's own list for a trip to Whole Foods. Here are some of the things I like to keep on hand. I love that my friends are beginning to realize they'll always be well fed here!

Kale - My number one favorite vegetable. Dark and leafy, it's a good source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and fiber, and even has 2 grams of protein in a one cup serving. You can use it in all sorts of cooked dishes, as well as salads. When using it raw, I usually "massage" it to soften it up a bit. Oh, I have such a crush on kale!

Vegetables - Broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, avocados, frozen corn and peas, lettuce - Mix and match in soups, stir-fries, salads, wraps, and sandwiches.

Zucchini - This could be in the list above, but I also like to "spiralize" it to use in place of noodles.

Fruit - To be honest, we eat far more veggies than fruit in our house. I usually buy what's in season, and keep a couple of bags of frozen berries around for smoothies. We also buy bananas year round, to use in smoothies and in Chia Seed Pudding.

Lemons & Limes - I use these two fruits almost every day. They're essential seasonings in my kitchen.

Whole Grains - Brown basmati rice and quinoa are the two I use most often, but there are so many more to play with.

Beans - I usually cook beans from scratch. They're just so much better that way. I particularly like black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans. Buy canned beans if you're pressed for time.

Tofu & Tempeh - Wonderful, versatile sources of soy protein that adapt to all sorts of dishes.

Food For Life's Gluten Free English Muffins - These are my current breakfast obsession.

Tortillas - I get organic, whole grain torts. Try Ezekiel, sprouted corn, or whole brown rice varieties for wraps, burritos, and tacos.

Bread - I usually buy Ezekiel sprouted grain bread for sandwiches and toast.

Flackers - These flax seed crackers are my favorite for snacks and appetizers.

Whole Grain Pasta - Rice and quinoa are two favorites.

Olive and Coconut Oils - I use these for cooking, and also on my skin and hair. Really. Olive oil is best for lower temp cooking, while coconut oil can take more heat, and comes in refined and unrefined varieties. I like the unrefined because it smells so good and coconutty.

Coconut Milk - It adds richness to sauces and curries, and makes wonderful whole grain hot cereals.

Vegenaise - I think it's every bit as good as "real" mayo.

Earth Balance Buttery Spread - I buy the organic version.

Popcorn - We use a hot air popper and season with Earth Balance mixed with a little olive oil, and nutritional yeast and sea salt.

Sea Salt - The good coarse kind. It's full of minerals and tastes far better than standard table salt.

Truffle Salt - It's expensive, but I love to use it in cashew cheeses.

Herbs and Spices - Use what you like. You can't get it wrong.

Nutritional Yeast - Good on popcorn and perfect for making cheesy sauces and dips.

Tamari - Great for seasoning all kinds of things, and nice in stir-fries and salad dressings.

Miso Paste - Adds a nice richness to sauces, and makes the best soup ever.

Seaweed - You might need to work up to this one, but I use it often to season soups and other dishes.

Dijon Mustard - Another all-around handy condiment, for sauces, sandwiches, and dressings.

Peanut Butter - For sandwiches, snacks,  and sauces.

Curry Paste - I like the green kind for an easy sauce.

Raw Almonds and Cashews - I make milk and cheese from these.

Chia Seeds - High in anti-oxidants and omega 3's, these super seeds do so much more than grow green hair on silly little statues. I sprinkle them in all sorts of dishes, and make a wonderful tapioca-like pudding with them.

Whole Grain Flours - I'm not a big baker, but I always, always, always use whole grains.

Maple Syrup - A lovely, natural sweetener. Agave is good too. Honey is not really vegan, since it's made by bees.

Extras - Raisins, Dried Fruits, Unsweetened Coconut, Walnuts, Tamari Sunflower Seeds - Nice extras to toss into various dishes.

There are also lots of packaged vegan foods that can make your life really easy. You don't see them here, because I prefer to start from scratch most of the time, but we do use them now and then. I recommend them as great transitional foods to get you started, and also for traveling, when "road food" can be pretty sketchy.

So, wow... getting to the end of this, I see that there's about twice as much as I thought there would be. No big deal. Go to the store. Get what feels easy and comfortable for you, and add to it as you go along. We all like different things, so buy what you'll use, and what makes you feel like you have what you need. With a few of your own favorites around, making good vegan meals for yourself and those you love can be really easy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

love your recipes and your posts here...i'm a vegetarian wannabe vegan and reading your posts/recipes makes me want to try give it another try. the main thing i worry about is...the B vitamins. was wondering what you do for that? would love to see a post on this particular topic...B vitamins, the 'supposedly' less nutritious aspects of becoming a vegan?