"How do you get your protein?"
"Are you getting enough nutrients?"
Over the past several years - having been both vegetarian and (now) vegan - I've been asked these questions on a regular basis. I find it interesting how indifferent people usually are about each others' health and diets until they find out someone is vegan, keto, gluten-free, etc. Last night I had some family over to see my new apartment, and one of my aunts commented that I have, "such a healthy fridge". It got me thinking that people might be curious to see inside the kitchen of a vegan. And since I just got settled into my new place, have my first full grocery 'haul' sorted and put away, it might be the perfect time to share this with you. So without further ado, here's a look inside my fully stocked, fully vegan, kitchen.
Now before we get into the actual food in my kitchen, I have to share that I'm really not a huge fan of most aspects of this space. Its very small, there's poor ventilation, the cupboards are extremely outdated, and the refrigerator vs. dishwasher layout is less than ideal. There's some kind of built-in cutting board/heat pad thing next to the stove because they didn't want to fully replace the counter tops when a former tenant damaged them. The only plus is that my landlord said there is "no value left" in the counter tops and cupboards because they've started updating them in other apartments, so any further damage accidentally caused by me will not result in losing my security deposit. (Wooooo!) So I'm focusing on the fact that this is temporary, and better apartments/homes are in my future.
In terms of food, I don't keep much on my counters. Bananas are a staple for things like smoothie bowls and quick snacks, and of course I love my avocados and sweet potatoes. The two bottles of wine are two of my favorites: "Shaw" Cabernet Sauvignon (Trader Joe's) is the organic version of their 'Two-Buck Chuck". It's a whopping $3.99/bottle, and I love that the cork twists off for easy access. The other is Simply Red, a red blend from St. Julian Winery (made in Michigan). We broke into these last night when my family was over, so the two above are nearly empty. However my guests were extremely generous, and somehow I ended up with way more wine than I started with:
So while we're on the topic of alcohol, I usually don't have beer in my fridge (I've always been more of a wine-o than a beer drinker). So the Michelob Ultra currently in my fridge was mainly meant for family. Things that I DO always have in my fridge are spinach and romaine (usually organic, but frankly I'm not always as picky as I should be), and my Brita pitcher of water. I didn't used to care much about filtered water until a friend of mine in the UP refused to drink the tap water at my apartment. At first I thought they were just being annoying, but figured they probably had a point. I considered buying bottled water, but then that seemed to be a waste of money and plastic. So I did my own research on why it was important to filter your water, reading several articles about the different contaminants in common tap water (and learning these are present in most bottled waters, also). It didn't take long for me to make the switch. One Brita filter typically costs $7.99, and lasts over a month. I drink a fair amount of water (3-4 liters/day), so it's extremely cost effective. PS I bought mine at Kroger.
Now if you're thinking my fridge looks empty, I did, too after taking this photo. But keep in mind that I live independently and my boyfriend lives 4+ hours away.
On the top shelf, we have blueberries and strawberries, which I like to freeze for smoothies, or add as toppings to my smoothies. Bananas and melon are really the only fruits I eat not frozen, so to be honest these will probably end up in my freezer soon too. I also used to keep apples in my fridge, but in the last few months I've noticed they tend to sit funny in my stomach and make me feel sick, so I've just stopped eating them.
You'll also see tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes (Trader Joe's) on the top shelf, which I like to add to cooked zucchini noodles or baked sweet potatoes. Next to those, I keep extra firm tofu (wrapped in plastic wrap - I know, I know, I'm working on it). The container says to keep tofu in water in the fridge, and re-press it every time you want to cook it. I always eat mine before it has time to dry out, so this is something I don't do. Plus it seems like a bit of a waste of time. Thoughts? I'm still fairly new to buying and cooking tofu, so I'd love to know - how do you store it?
As far as my 'necessities' go, I always, always have some kind of hummus in my fridge. Right now I have both Hummus & Horseradish (from Trader Joe's) and Oasis Roasted Garlic Hummus (Kroger). I love dipping pita crackers or carrots in it for an easy snack, or just lob some on top of cooked veggies. Hummus makes everything taste better.
The cauliflower is something I buy fairly often to roast (just rinse, cut, toss with spices, and bake at 450 for 35-40min). I used to buy it pre-cut and would just steam it right in the bag, but buying the entire head and taking those few extra minutes to cut it myself saves a lot of money. And there's less plastic - woohoo!
In the drawers of my fridge, I keep melons (I prefer watermelon or cantaloupe) and veggies like zucchini, red pepper, carrots, and broccoli slaw. Having these two giant crispers is new to me in this apartment: my old ine only had one small drawer right in the center, which was certainly not big enough to hold everything. I feel spoiled here!
I'm also ecstatic about finding Nancy's Organic Soy Yogurt at Whole Foods, since I haven't been able to find it since my summer in Portland (2015). I always bought it at a local store called 'New Seasons', and haven't been able to find it since moving to Michigan. And then there it was (finally!) at Whole Foods! I like to eat it with granola or blended into my smoothies. As someone who was an avid Greek yogurt eater before going vegan, I'm so glad to have found a comparable alternative that's dairy-free. I'd highly recommend it, and its even on sale right now at WF ($3.49).
Turning to the door, you'll see more of my staples: Bragg's liquid aminos (like soy sauce), Green Dragon hot sauce (Trader Joe's), Chipotle Tabasco sauce, salsa, and nutritional yeast. (I used to buy Bragg's, which came in a Parmesan cheese-like shaker, but the Trader Joe's variety is cheaper. I just keep it in an old oregano shaker and it works just fine!) I've also randomly got half an avocado and a peach in the butter tray. I mean they do say avocados are nature's butter, right?
The "milk" I use is Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Cashew milk. (Or as my dad likes to call it, 'nut juice'. LOL) For awhile I was buying almond milk, but I find that cashew milk blends better and if I put it in coffee or black tea the flavor isn't overpowering like almond milk's. I haven't tried Flax Seed or Hazelnut milk (yet) but I've heard they are rather similar.
You'll also see Apple Cider Vinegar (2 tbsp every day!), mushroom marinara sauce, and vegetable stock. I've learned that TVP and cauliflower rice taste 100% better if you cook them in veggie stock instead of water, so I've been experimenting with different brands to see which I like the best. Recipes to come for both!
Totally not oregano.
Trader Joe's vs. Whole Foods - so far I prefer TJ's
Before we head to the dry goods, here's a look inside my freezer. It's usually pretty empty since I prefer fresh vegetables to frozen, but you'll always find frozen bananas and cauliflower rice in my freezer. Of course there are ice cube trays, and a few glasses for chilled beverages. I also currently have a container of frozen blueberries and strawberries that I've been adding to smoothie bowls.
Occasionally I will buy frozen sweet potato french fries or tater tots, which are insanely delicious dunked in the mushroom marinara sauce. I used to buy Halo Top as well (which now has several vegan flavors), but after learning that they add palm oil to a lot of their products I've lost my interest in it. Don't get me started on palm oil. Oh well. My own homemade banana smoothies/nice cream is way better than store-bought anyway...
Moving on to my snack cupboard, you'll find some of my favorites. I always have a bag of the Late July Chia & Quinoa chips (Meijer or Kroger), which go great with the black bean & corn salsa in my fridge. When my family came over last night, my mom brought the Stacy's Pita Chips, which I love but don't often buy. And then air-popped popcorn like this Whole Foods brand, Annie's Boom Chicka Pop, or Kroger brand are a necessity. Just popcorn, safflower oil, and sea salt - delicious! My awesome lunchbox chills out here, too.
Next we have the cupboard above my sink. I keep all of my spices, baking ingredients, superfoods, protein, and peanut butter here mostly because its the only cupboard with tall enough sections to fit them. I buy most of my spices at Trader Joe's (including the ever-so-necessary 'Everything But The Bagel' seasoning), and the Vega protein comes from Amazon. One scoop of Vega has 20-22g of plant-based protein, which is similar to most whey- or casein-blend proteins (just saying). The Oatmeal is a staple (I make mine with the protein, a bit of pumpkin puree, and chia seeds). And while I don't really use salad dressing, I do like to have the option of Balsamic Vinegar. I think I had it once in France and ever since, I've bought it occasionally for spinach salads. Not bad!
On the bottom left, you'll see my peanut butter. I use PB2, mostly because a lot of the organic/non-GMO brands at the store are either A) too expensive, or B) contain a lot of oil and sugar. PB2 is literally only crushed peanuts, a very tiny amount of sugar, and salt. Just 2 tbsp PB2, 1-2tbsp water, and voila - perfectly creamy, perfectly tasty peanut butter.
Along the bottom shelf on the right, I have organic brown sugar, Navitas Acai Powder and Cacao Powder (which make smoothie bowls taste like red velvet cake), organic chia seeds, and Nature's Path Granola. Right now I have the Peanut Butter granola, but if you follow me on Instagram you'll know I far prefer the Coconut-Chia kind. For some reason I can only find it at Big Lots ($2.50/box) and online it runs about $4.99. Note to self: make a trip to Big Lots soon!
Moving along to the cupboard next to the fridge, you'll find some of my canned goods, coffee, tea, vitamins, etc. I take D3 and a B-Complex, both recommended to me by my doctor to complement my vegan diet (I am not a nutritionist or health care professional by any means - see your doctor for any questions as to what you should be taking). Just below that you'll see my coffee and tea collection, which is actually extremely small compared to the cupboard-full I had in St. Ignace. I love Caribou's Daybreak blend, or the Meijer-brand organic Breakfast blend. Fun fact: I don't actually own a coffee pot. Rather, I only make coffee in my French press and the difference in taste is incredible (as in I'll never go back). I keep black tea, Green Tea Kombucha, and Lemon Ginger tea on hand at all times, though I much prefer the Mango Ginger (tea snob, I know). Typically with the citrus/ginger tea, I make it overnight in the fridge and add Apple Cider Vinegar and one packet of the Pyure sweetener (like Stevia) in the morning for an amazing drink. If the thought of choking down two straight tablespoons of ACV every day makes you cringe, I'd highly recommend trying it this way!
Some other staples are tri-color beans (which I add to stir-frys or baked sweet potatoes), garbanzo beans (aka salad toppers or for making homemade hummus), and of course cooking spray. Above that, we have pumpkin puree (for smoothies and oatmeal) and Green Jackfruit (a vegan's 'pulled pork' for sandwiches or tacos). Just to the right of the Pyure is my container of Bragg's Textured Vegetable Protein. I add 1/3 cup TVP to 1/2 cup boiling vegetable stock or water, add cumin and paprika, and the result is something akin to ground turkey or chicken. I add this to cooked vegetables, but I know some vegans/vegetarians also make chili out of it (a recipe I'll be trying soon for fall). On a side note, per 1/4 cup of TVP, there's 12 grams of vegan protein - just another example of how easy it is to get protein from plants!
And that's it! A lot of the ingredients/foods here are fairly new to me as of the past 2 years or so, but its been fun trying out so many new things and starting to incorporate more foods into my diet. In my big post on being vegan, I did mentioned that this is actually the second time I've gone vegan, since I didn't have the resources or 'know-how' to do it in a healthy way the first time. Things like TVP, superfoods, sweet potatoes, and even the Vega protein were unavailable to me that first time around (or if they were, it was difficult to find or prepare them). So even though I'm not a huge fan of my kitchen, at least I can fill it with all of my favorite foods and prepare them without having to lug everything to my residence hall's kitchenette.
If you have a special diet - whether its vegan, keto, gluten-free, paleo, etc. - I think its incredibly important that you stock your kitchen with everything you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I've definitely learned a lot in my transition to veganism, including the simple concept of what I like vs. what I don't like. (I can not, will not eat Veganaise, whether its dairy free or not. And while some veggie burgers are phenomenal, Boca Burgers are also a huge YUCK). You have to do what's right for you! I hope you've enjoyed taking a peek into my kitchen and seeing what I eat as a vegan. As I mentioned in my last post, I am planning a full apartment tour soon (just waiting on a few pieces of furniture). Until then, let me know in the comments what you'd like to see on the blog!