Growing up, I learned a lot about cooking…meat. I also learned a lot about how to cook things that went with meat; classic potatoes, steamed vegetables, etc. Some of these skills have translated into the vegan cooking skills world (like how to microwave a baked potato) but others left me lost. How do you go about cooking dried beans, when the only bean experience you’ve ever had is canned chili?
I’ve also noticed that I have a number of friends and acquaintances who constantly say they admire my cooking, but that it looks far too complicated. This often leaves me confused, as most of my cooking is soak beans, chop stuff, and throw it all in a crock pot. Then I saw my roommate bravely tackling a rutabaga for the first time, and I understood.
She had no idea how to chop it. She had no idea how to chop the onion that followed. No wonder learning to cook for many is such a harrowing experience!
This fear barrier and basic skills gap is really detrimental not only to the whole foods movement, but to consumers’ waist lines and wallets. According to the New York Times, the majority of young people interviewed listed “food costs” as one of their major concerns. They did this not because food costs are higher than normal, or because the economy is worse off, but because they are purchasing mainly pre-prepared food. Furthermore, when pressed for money, consumers are more likely to make the least healthy choices because, let’s face it, a Hungry Man gets the immediate job done (link).
Therefore, in an effort to save our communal American cooking soul, I’ve put together some videos and instructions of the most basic, easiest, and simple vegan cooking skills. Masters these babies, and you have all the tools on hand to start your cooking journey at home, with whole foods, in confidence!
Required equipment: 1 skillet, 1 microwave, knives, forks, olive oil and a rice cooker. If you don’t have a rice cooker, go to goodwill, and buy one for $5. Does that sound ewwwwy to you? Just boil some water, and dump it in the rice cooker to sterilize it before you do anything else. Nothing survives a good boiling water bath.
#1 how to cook beans in a rice cooker
Note: If you are not using mung beans, soak the beans first for at least 4 hours, drain, and use new water to cook them in. I usually just throw the beans in water before I go to bed, and pop them in the rice cooker first thing in the morning. If you don’t cook in the mornings, throw them into water before you go to work, and cook them when you get home. In my rice cooker (cooking times very) I cook on high for about 2 hours for my black beans or garbanzo beans to be done. Lentils and mung beans are faster.
#2 how to cook rice in a rice cooker
#3 how to crush garlic
Gosh, what is it about describing cooking with a British accent that makes crushing garlic so sexy?
#4 how to chop an onion
Note, the better you get at this, the faster you will go, and the less you will cry. I recommend having whatever you are putting the onion in ready to go, so that as you chop, you can just dump it in.
#5 how to cut large, hard roots and vegetables
Watch this woman cut her butternut squash. Note the tip down, weight on the back of the knife, and how she uses that body weight to get through the tough to cut squash. If you want to make her recipe vegan, use olive oil instead of butter and don’t use the stupid foil. Just grease and clean your pan for heaven’s sake, and don’t contribute to global warming because you don’t want to wash your own pan.
More advance cutting tips here!
#6 how to spice a dish
First, buy bulk spices so you can have a little bit of whatever you may need. This will be more budget friendly, and will make you not so intimidated of using multiple spice combinations.
Second, learn how to mix then and their basic uses. I really love how this French guy describes everything! Gosh, I feel like doing the research for this post is just giving me all sorts of cooking crushes.
#7 how to cook leafy green vegetables
#8 how to kneed bread
#9 how to cook tofu in the oven
Note, a greased pan works just as well, and I usually just press my tofu by hand. You can also put a plate on top of it, weighted with a light book. Instead of paper towels, you can just put it on a plate and drain the water. I usually just do this for 5 minutes or so and my tofu comes out just fine.
#10 how to microwave a potato
#10.5 my own personal pet peeve, how to make non instant oatmeal in the microwave
Why do this? Because instant oatmeal is icky and has no flavor. Just make sure your bowl is big enough that it doesn’t bubble over in the microwave. If you are having problems, it is probably because your bowl is not microwave safe. For a bowl to be microwave safe IT HAS TO SAY IT ON THE BOWL. Non microwave safe bowls don’t heat your food properly, and may off gas weird and suspicious chemicals. My oatmeal usually takes about 2 minutes. Note, you can use water or soy milk.
This Week in Updates: BUSY
So yes, I have been busy. That is why I went to the grocery store and why I bought a sandwich and a kumbucha and yes that is coming off of the recreational budget so don’t worry! First, late night case. Second, my weekend got split up by a safety stand down. Third, late friday night with the girls watching Beauty and the Beast and eating all you can eat vegan sushi. (The movie wasn’t that good…. just saying) Fourth, Tattoo day. Fifth, late night working Sunday troubleshooting the 2707. My baby works fine for me but she was giving everyone else trouble in flight. Anyway, my workouts definitely suffered. 4/6 workouts completed, though I did have 2 days where I completed half of my work out. I feel…. tired and not tired. BUT, the movie and sushi was really fun, I felt useful at work, and my tattoo is BAD ASS. So here’s to a hard earned Monday weekend day where I shall raise a glass by myself and do TONS of laundry.
The Recipe: African Tangine
Thanks to One Green Planet for the Inspiration. Of course, I changed a few things and added… you got it, beans of course.
An exotic and sweet and savory dish, it goes wonderfully with a baked sweet potato. Yields six servings.
- 2.5 cups dried kidney beans
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 4 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 tablespoons ras el hanout
- 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1/2 cup chopped dates
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Soak beans.
- Put all ingredients in a crock pot.
- Cook on high for 8 hours.
If you can't find ras el hanout in a store, you can easily make it yourself. Just google homemade ras el hanout.