Friday Tips: Buliding up flavor

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Breakfast: Blueberry smoothies and toast for all of us, followed by a fantastic potluck brunch with friends and babies!  This delicious vegan brunch included:
  • – Barley risotto
  • – yogurt and fruit
  • – potato and tempeh hash
  • – lemon poppyseed muffins
  • LP and Dad munched on some crackers post-nap as they walked to see the commuter rail trains.  The got to see two trains go by at the same time.  Jackpot!
  • Dinner: Grill Night!  The G-man grilled corn and beets, and then I made some baked BBQ sauce tofu.  Yummy!
  • Mom and Dad has some vanilla yogurt with chocolate chips for dessert

Money Matters:
Today we spent the following:

  • $8.53 on a kindle book for Mom

Friday Tips for Living Vegan and Living Cheap – with kids!:

Building up flavor in your spice cabinet

When I started eating vegetarian I had a basic spice rack that I bought at Costco.  It was one of those turning racks that comes with some spices and dried herbs as part of a package.  It served me well during my vegetarian college days when most of the foods I ate were so drowned in cheese and butter that good quality seasoning didn’t seem important.  However, around the same time I became vegan I also had a job that allowed me to splurge a bit on cooking supplies.  I discovered that there was a huge difference in the quality of certain seasonings, and I also learned how to use certain ingredients in new ways as I started exploring vegan options beyond pasta with marinara, pizza sans cheese and burritos with soy chorizo.  I started making tofu scrambles, vegan seitan sausage and baked tofu, and I learned how to season my food with better quality (mostly from Penzys Spices)  and more interesting spices.  I built up my spice cabinet with high-quality ingredients, which soon allowed me to both follow more elaborate recipes and experiment with cooking more myself.

So, if you are starting to cook for yourself more, consider building your spice cabinet and adding some new high-quality spices to your cooking repertoire.

Here are some of the seasoning basics I can’t live without!

Soy sauce/tamari: We put tamari in everything from tofu scramble to pasta dishes.  Before I was vegan I only used soy sauce in stir-fries.  However, from the vegan cookbooks I read it became clear that soy sauce (or its low-sodium cousin, tamari) was key to adding saltiness and umami to lots of dishes.  Now we buy large containers of San-J tamari every-time they are on sale at any of our grocery stores.

Cumin: This is a spice I knew nothing about until I became vegan.  Now I put it in everything – mexican dishes, chilis, tofu scrambles, indian dishes, etc.  This was also a spice where the more expensive stuff seems to be better.  When we started using the ground cumin from Penzys we totally noticed an improvement in the flavor of our food.

The Italian trio – Oregano, Thyme and Basil: While I love the fresh versions of these herbs, we always have dried on hand for those times when our little herb garden isn’t available or we don’t have the time to go and pick some for dinner.  I used these dried herbs to add flavor to plain tofu cream cheese, to make a tomato sauce base for pizza and to generally flavor any italian dish.  Again, we really noticed an improvement in the flavor of our food (especially my marinara sauce) when we started using Penzys.

Spicy stuff – Red Pepper Flakes and Cayenne: I love dishes with a spicy kick, and I know I can always add some with these two spices.  When I want my food a bit more spicy than LP or the G-man, I can always add some Red Pepper Flakes to my meal once it is on my plate.

Sesame Seeds and Tahini: Well, to be fair, tahini isn’t really a seasoning, but it is a key ingredient in hummus and my chocolate chip shortbread cookies.  But we started using both of these ingrediants a whole lot when we became vegetarian.  Sesame seeds are a great addition to stir-frys, and to roasted veggies.

Liquid Smoke: One of my favorite foods (especially when the G-man makes it) is tempeh bacon.  We also make smoky tempeh grilled with collards and several other dishes.  And the best thing about liquid smoke?  No animals have to die to get that great smoky flavor!  We just buy this at our local grocery – you don’t really need any gourmet version of it!


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