Regeneration

The Secret to Vegan Food? Make It Fucking Delicious

August 4, 2016
Vegan

Scroll to the bottom for my recipe for Miso-Tahini Noodles with Garlic, Mushrooms, Spinach and Marinated Tofu.

Let’s face facts: When die-hard meat-eaters imagine vegan or vegetarian food, they tend to imagine food that is bland, flavourless, and unsatisfying. To some of us, the idea that a “proper” meal contains anything other than a hunk of meat, a side of vegetables, and a lump of starch is a foreign concept – one that angry, smelly, vegan-nazi hippies pretend to be able to understand.

While I’m not a vegan or vegetarian by any stretch of the terms’ definitions, I’ve recognized – like many of us – that there are benefits to cutting meat out of our diets a few times a week, like benefits to the environment being a major one. Another one that most of us don’t think about is the amount of money it saves us. Because meat is bloody expensive, amirite?!

While there certainly is vegan and vegetarian food out there that fulfills stereotypes (as well as vegan-nazi hippies angrily stinking up the place), there is also animal-free food that is actually, truly, genuinely fucking delicious.

How do I know this? Because I make it at home all the time.

How to Make Your Vegan & Vegetarian Food Fucking Delicious

Add Flavour, and Then Add More Flavour On Top of Flavour

While simple salt and pepper is all that a barbecued striploin steak needs to make it perfect, vegan and vegetarian food benefits from a lot of bold, dynamic, intense flavours. Here are some of my favourites:

Miso: I put this shit on everything. Miso might seem like a complicated ingredient, but it’s simple to use, it keeps, and it adds an explosion of savoury deliciousness to anything. Use it in marinades, soups, sauces, stir-fries – I’ve even added it to scrambled eggs.

Kimchi: Kimchi is not just the coolest drag queen ever, it’s also a delicious food I literally cannot get enough of. I eat it out of the jar sometimes. Simply add it to sautéed or roasted vegetables to make them epic. Note, however, that most kimchi has shrimp paste added – but there are vegan brands out there.

Toasted Sesame Oil: Such a great flavour. Okay, seed oils aren’t the healthiest for us according to some science, but I also believe that everything in moderation is a safe bet in most cases. I would definitely not cook with this oil, but a bit raw in your food is fine.

Garlic, Onions: I make these part of pretty much every meal because they add flavour, amplify other flavours, and they’re good for your gut. Don’t feel like peeling and chopping up garlic? Simply rasp or shred it as an easier method (but note that it will cook faster this way).

Spices: Western meat-heavy food can be primarily dependent on salt and pepper for flavouring. Start experimenting with spices and herbs. Try cayenne, paprika, smoked paprika, dill, sage, basil, curry, cumin, oregano, basil – and the list goes on and on and on.

A bit of sweet: A bit of sweetness helps to bring home many other flavour profiles. Add lemon, lime, honey, maple syrup, stevia, vinegar (e.g., balsamic, apple cider), apples, pears, fruit juice, raisins, etc. But don’t add too much; think of the sweetness you’re adding as a flavouring agent, like salt – it shouldn’t dominate the food, just amplify it.

Fat – It Does a Body Good

We tend to associate the protein content of meat as the macronutrient that causes us to feel satiated when we eat. But what we neglect to recognize is the capacity for the fat in meat to cause us to feel full – so when we remove meat from a vegan or vegetarian meal, we forget that we’re also removing the fat.

Your vegan or vegetarian meals will need fat if you want them to be satisfying for mind and body. Use coconut oil and milk, avocado and avocado oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters. Tahini is a fantastic ingredient you can use to make creamy sauces and to make yourself feel full.

Be Weary of the Meat-Replacement Mindset

Another misconception of vegan and vegetarian food is that the meat needs to be replaced by some sort of freaky-deaky meat-like substance. While I understand where something like a veggie-burger or meatless lasagna is headed, focusing too hard on replacing the meat can leave you feeling dissatisfied – because meat is a think unto itself.

While I love tofu, tempeh, black bean veggie burgers, etc., I also try to imagine my vegan and vegetarian meals as meals unto themselves. I don’t need to build my meal like it’s a circular puzzle on a plate comprised of ¼ protein, ¼ carb, and ½ veg; I just need to make it fucking delicious, regardless of how closely it fits some image the Canada Food Guide has stencilled into my brain.

So are you hungry or what? I dare you to make this vegan meal and tell me you’re not satisfied with just how fucking delicious it is. Go on, do it.

Miso-Tahini Noodles with Spinach, Garlic, Mushroom and Marinated Tofu

Vegan

I’m a writer, not a photographer ;-)

Ingredients (serves 2 normal people or 1 of me)

• 2 cups frozen spinach
• About 8 mushrooms (any kind really)
• 1 medium-sized yellow onion
• 2 cloves garlic
• Package of non-GMO tofu
• Noodles of choice: I like rice noodles
• Coconut oil
• Sesame oil
• Miso
• Tahini
• Dijon
• Unsweetened cashew milk
• Honey (or agave if strict vegan)
• Paprika
• Cayenne
• Black pepper

Marinade

• Soy sauce
• Miso
• White wine vinegar
• 2 cloves garlic

How to Make It

1. Cut the tofu (however much you’d like to eat) into shapes and sizes that you like.

2. Combine soy sauce, a tbsp of miso, 2 cloves of chopped up garlic, and several splashes of vinegar into a container and marinate tofu anywhere from ½ hour to overnight.

3. Chop up onion, mushrooms and garlic. Sauté onion and mushrooms in coconut oil until cooked, then add garlic to cook for about a minute. Finally add spinach and tofu (but not the marinade) and cook until spinach is nicely sautéed. Season with paprika, cayenne, and black pepper. [Do not add salt.]

4. Meanwhile, boil the noodles in salty water with a drop of coconut oil until they are al dente. Strain to prevent over-cooking.

5. For the sauce: On medium-low heat, heat about ¼ cup of cashew milk (don’t let it get too hot as cashew milk will separate). Add about a tbsp of miso, a tbsp of tahini, a dollop of honey (or agave), a dollop of Dijon, a tsp of sesame oil. Smoosh and stir all ingredients until you have a nice creamy sauce.

6. Mix the noodles with the sauce, then top with the vegetable/tofu mix.

7. Eat it.

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