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Vegan in the Region

A few great cookbooks to help you drop the meat and animal byproducts.

Bob Kasarda, The Times

When I went vegetarian shortly after graduating from college in 1986, I quickly had to learn how to cook for myself.

This was more of a challenge than it may sound because it was not as easy back then to find items such as tofu, soy milk, veggie burgers and all the other meat and dairy alternatives that now populate grocery store shelves.

There were also far less cookbooks available. Remember, this was before the internet, so vegetarian and vegan recipes were not just a Google-search away.

The first book I was able to lay my hands on was The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, which was put out by San Francisco hippie transplants who established an intentional community in rural Tennessee known simply as "The Farm."

The book introduced me to such then-exotic food items as tofu, soy milk, textured vegetable protein and nutritional yeast flakes. I loved the book's soy bean burrito recipe, though went through some scary times learning how to use a pressure cooker that would occasionally clog and threaten to blow up right there on my stove.

There are now much safer electric pressure cookers available, new vegan cookbooks coming out all the time and a countless number of vegan recipes available online.

In keeping with the ongoing theme of "how to go vegan," I want to make a few suggestions on where to find easy recipes while learning how to cook without meat, dairy or other animal byproducts.

I still buy cookbooks because, well, I love all things books, and because I like to know I have my favorite recipes within reach.

One of the best beginner vegan cookbooks is "How it all Vegan!" I still turn to this book for some quick and healthy meals, including my favorite: the curry vegetables. It also features helpful information for new vegans and suggestions for substituting animal products in recipes.

Another cookbook that never fails to impress me in its simplicity is "Eat, Drink & Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating." Buy it and try the Monkey Minestrone soup.

No reason to give up the delicious sweet treats when going vegan. If you doubt me, pick up a copy of "The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets." The cake and cupcake recipes from this book have proven themselves by winning over some very doubtful family members.

There are also countless numbers of vegan recipe sites and blogs online and new ones popping up all the time.

Among those that have consistently impressed me, include Oh She Glows, Minimalist Baker, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and Post Punk Kitchen.

I also just Google the types of dishes I am looking to prepare and often find many options to choose from.

So, a lack of options and resources is no longer a valid reason for delaying going vegan for the animals, your health and the planet.

The opinions expressed here are solely that of the author. Please feel free to contact me at bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 or find me at the Vegan Heart group on Facebook.

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Porter/LaPorte county reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.