Must-Haves For Vegan/Vegetarian Cooking

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I was raised in a meat-heavy household, the kind where our Sunday roast was a weekly tradition, and every meal contained some sort of animal by-product (or three). I decided at 14 to become a vegetarian after my favourite musician at the time (silverchair's Daniel Johns) became a militant vegan (ahhh, impressionable young minds), and it was an adjustment, as you can imagine!

The first five or so years of my vegetarianism consisted of me either just eating doubles of all the carb-heavy sides, or replacing meat with some over-processed tofu product. It wasn't until I moved out at 21 that I really began experimenting with vegetarian cooking.

In the last 10-ish years I have learned SO much! I've scoured magazine articles, cookbooks, and blogs to learn as much as I possibly can. Cooking has become an obsession of mine, and I truly believe that what we eat impacts our lives greatly, so I put a lot of passion into my food.

Not only do I get great enjoyment from preparing food, but I truly do believe that cooking healthy food with love can be easy, too! And the easier it is, the more sustainable it will be. I've often perused recipes and quickly decided against them because the ingredients list is too damn long, or it takes too much time to make. I don't know about you, but I want my meals to be affordable, easy, and quick!

So, I've compiled some of my vegan/vegetarian staples to take some of the guesswork out of cooking for you! These products are ones that I think are essential for every cook who wants to eat healthily, or wants to add nutrition to a meal quickly. Post your faves in the comments!

  • Chia Seeds

These tiny lil gluten-free seeds are ameeeezing. Packed with protein, fibre, and a vegan source of omega-3 (an essential nutrient that's hard to come by in a vegan diet), I love to sprinkle them on just about anything! They don't have much of a taste, so they're extremely versatile and can be used in sweet or savoury dishes.
Recipe ideas: make chia pudding for a super-easy vegan, gluten-free breakfast; sprinkle on salads to add protein; sip on chia water to feel full between meals.

  • Herbamare

I became obsessed with this stuff during my time working at a health food store, and I'm a fan for life! As someone who loooooves savoury food (gimme all the salt!) I love that this blend of sea salt and dried herbs and spices adds a ton of flavour without adding as much sodium as regular salt. A small bottle lasts a lifetime and I use it in practically everything!
Recipe ideas: Use Herbamare to season soups, stir-fries, and cooked vegetables.

  • Balsamic Vinegar

If you're looking for a way to season savoury food without adding a ton of salt, look no further than balsamic vinegar! It can be a little pricy, but a little goes a long way for this kitchen staple that will add some oomph to your dishes.
Recipe ideas: mix with oil and a dash of sea salt for a quick salad dressing; use as marinade for grilled veggies and tofu.

  • Hemp Seeds
Like chia seeds, hemp seeds (which DO NOT contain THC, the compound in weed that gets ya lit) are also rich in protein, fibre, and omega 3. Unlike chia, though, hemp seeds have a deliciously nutty flavour that lends well to both sweet and savoury meals. 
Recipe ideas: add protein to a salad by adding a few spoonfuls; mix in with oatmeal, cereals, or granola; add to smoothies for extra nutrients.

  • Brown Rice
If you plan on being a vegan or vegetarian, you better get familiar with brown rice! A healthier option  (more fibre, less processed) than white rice, brown rice is incredibly versatile and comes in a variety of types, like short grain, basmati, long grain, and so on. I make a big batch at a time and keep it in the fridge so it's always ready to go!
Recipe ideas: base for stir-fries; base for salad bowls; can be used as a hot cereal; gluten-free brown rice bread.

  • Quinoa
Like brown rice, quinoa - a gluten-free grain from South America - is totally versatile, and a veg-food staple. I also make it in big quantities and keep it in the fridge to save time, adding it to whatever dish I want to make rich in protein, fibre, and amino acids. Tip: make sure you rinse it before you cook it to prevent it from tasting bitter, a common complaint.
Recipe ideas: add cold veggies and legumes for a quick quinoa salad; cook as a hot cereal with diced apples and cinnamon; make quinoa bars for a healthy grab-and-go breakfast.

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With the addition of these items, easy, quick, and healthy cooking will be a breeze! Preparedness is key, and with these products on hand you'll be a veggie master chef in no time.

What are your favourite items from the list? Do you have any favourite recipes? Share in the comments!


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