Basic Cooking Trials and Tribulations. Transition from Traditional to Vegan. One step at a time.
Don’t get rid of your regular cookbooks quite yet. You can adapt many of your favorites. This occurred to me about six months into this adventure. I played around with loads of experiments and tried (and served) a lot of “Fail!!!” recipes. Had I simply followed Vegan recipes or veganized my traditionally favorite recipes, one ingredient at a time I probably would've had better results. However, I generally learn a thing or two with a good fail. Let me pass on my lessons.
How to Veganize a Recipe 101 and to Avoid the Processed Vegan Diet ... think whole food and healthy. Honestly, many not so great "food" items are accidentally Vegan. I.E. some puddings. How is that possible? Chemical concoctions. We all want to avoid those nasty test-tube cocktails, right? Unless you are thinking Vegan for animals only, you are seeking an avenue to better health, right? So the more packaged something is the more handled it is, and the further it veers from being food. If you can find organic ingredients that aren't crazy expensive go for it.
Almost all animal products are replaceable. Some are easier than others.
Instead of meat based bouillon and broths, use vegetable. Organic is best. And if you don’t like to spend money on broths, make your own. Stick a gallon sized zipper bag or bowl in your freezer. Dump your veggie peels, odds and ends in the bag (avoid lettuces and rotten bits, do throw in stems from herbs). When it is full, dump the contents in a dutch oven, crock pot or soup pot. Cover it with water and simmer a few hours. Let sit til it cools, strain the liquid and put the liquid in recycled pasta sauce or peanut butter jars. (Leave room for liquid expansion). Freeze til you need them. This is not salted. If you want a salty liquid you can add soy sauce. (I use my seitan (weird word....it's also called wheat meat. It's a stretchy protein that can and does mimic the texture and mouthfeel of some meats. It's made from gluten flour....you can find excellent packaged versions. Trader Joe's and Gardein for example) simmering liquid to cover my scraps as it has flavor in it, too.) I make the seitan, fish it out, throw my frozen veggie bits in, add more water and do big batches of seitan and vegetable broth back to back.
Butter for cooking basics. For sautéing you can use coconut oil (this will give you a slight coconutty flavor/taste unless you buy one that specifically does not flavor) Earth Balance, organic canola oil (buy organic to avoid GMOs). You can use vegetable broth. You can dry sauté using a very hot pan with vegetables that will caramelize like onions, peppers, mushrooms. The key is to get the veggies to immediately sear once they hit the pan. To add flavor in breads and mashed potatoes etc.Earth Balance is the Vegan alternative to butter. It's pretty tasty and has all those same butter properties like melt and taste factor.
Milk might be the easiest ingredient to switch out. Between the options of flax, hemp, rice, soy, almond, coconut, oat and probably a few more, most people should be able to find something that works tastewise. For cooking it won't matter as much as the milk won't be the primary taste. The one thing to be aware of is that some milks work better in some recipes, and any flavored milk (vanilla) is likely to be sweetened. You'll need to look for plain if you are going for savory. Read the ingredients, original does not necessarily mean plain. You can also make your own milks if you have a high speed blender. Basically nuts or oats and water are the ingredients. It won't keep as long as the store bought versions but it's less expensive.
Sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise cheese have commercially prepared substitutes. We've tried a few different types of each of these. Cheese, hands down for us is Daiya. Trader Joe's has a cream cheese substitute. Several cookbooks have recipes for homemade vegan sour creams, cream cheese and mayos. There are even recipes for Vegan cheeses and butters on websites. Tofu is often used for these items and so are nuts. We've been experimenting with cream cheese at our house and the results are pretty amazing.
Eggs. A biggie for me. Eggs in baking can be replaced with commercial egg substitute (or made with tapicoa/potato flour combinations). I use mostly ground flax eggs. 1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSPs liquid replaces one egg. This works great. Ground or whole chia 1 TBSP to 3 TBSP liquid is another common egg replacement. You won't miss the eggs in your cakes, cookies, etc.
Next: Meet the Meat Replacements...