Nightshades VegetablesI struggled for years with being full on vegan. I had all sorts of excuses. As the years progressed I would fall back to consuming meat and animal food products like butter, eggs, and cream. I love that stuff. It is my comfort food. The other reason was that I couldn’t find any decent vegan food on the grocery store shelves. Frozen dinners and canned food usually had some animal food in it. It was near impossible to get good prepared meals. So I had to cook the food myself, or eat what was on the shelves.

The journey of becoming a chef taught me technique, knife skills, and a love of all food. I rediscovered what I once knew as a child, when I stayed at my grandparents farm. I love to cook, and I love vegetables, salads of all kinds, and fruit. I am really fond of fruit. I’ve taken these skills and applied them to my own kitchen. But for those down days, when I’m tired, or haven’t had time, the partner buys prepared foods. And thank goodness for Amy’s Kitchen, a small company that started in 1987, with a small distribution. They have grown into delivering to major grocery stores, and smaller independent markets. We usually have several entrees and several cans of chili and soup in the house, just in case.

But as an almost vegan, I also have dining choices, which 10 years ago, especially in larger markets, was virtually impossible to find. Unless you went to a local burrito joint and ordered a rice and bean burrito, finding vegan take-out was a challenge. (If the beans weren’t cooked with lard, and the rice cooked with chicken stock).

Today, I have not only one, but half a dozen choices in Phoenix. Smaller restaurants like Green New American Vegetarian, and the chains, like Pei Wei serve fine vegan food. There’s new places that pop up and show us staying power, like Pomegranate Cafe, that serves raw, vegan, and vegetarian food.

My kitchenI spend a lot of time in my kitchen at home. As a vegan and a chef, I have no reason to be eating prepared meals. I make tried and true dishes, like Portabello Mushroom Burgers, or Orange Glazed Tofu Cutlets with Steamed Broccoli and cauliflower, or something as simple as Stir Fry and Rice. I also have a passion for creating new dishes for the non-foodie Partner to try.

I am especially grateful for the explosion of vegan food blogging. I would still be floundering a bit for recipes and inspiration without this delightful community. I discovered The PPK and Vegweb early on, and they are still my go to websites for recipes and information, although search engines on the internet have come a long way with finding recipes. I do have a list of my favorite food writers/bloggers that I check in with on a regular basis. Without all of you, I would not be as confident cooking vegan cuisine. We’d still be eating mainly rice and bean burritos and veggie sautes. Over the years I have conquered my fear of tofu and have delved into the depths of grains and legumes. I’ve come to love split peas and dahl and my all time favorite, the chickpea.
Tofu that has been marinated and grilled in orange sauce.As this month progresses, I’ll be writing more about each of the dishes I create, and a bit of history behind the food we eat.