I have a lot of favorite foods. Perhaps you do, too? There are so many delicious things to love, even if you restrict your diet for health, environmental, or economic reasons. So much abundance, so much goodness, an almost overwhelming variety of options. And this time of year, as the summer produce kicks into high gear, we are practically swimming in seasonal goodies. At the grocery store the other day, I was inspired by a conversation I’d had with a friend the night before, and I totally went on a fruit binge. I bought fresh blueberries, cantaloupe, and peaches, just because they looked good. That’s the kind of shopping that makes me happiest. My fruit wasn’t locally grown, except for my Texas peaches, but it was certainly seasonal. Summer, you are so good to us.
Grocery shopping is, in my opinion, the foundation of a healthy diet. Shop well and you will eat well. With that in mind, I wanted to share a list of my vegan MVP foods, the ones that I think are particularly awesome to have on hand. You don’t have to be vegan to love vegan foods, of course, but during my month of veganism (waaaaay back in April—good heavens!), these foods were my go-to items. Note that with the exception of cultured coconut milk, they are all whole foods.
* Cashews. I do two important things with cashews: roast them and eat them plain or turn them into a cashew cheese. In either form, they add flavor, richness, fat, and nutrients to your meals.
* Coconut “kefir” (cultured coconut milk). This luscious beverage was my answer to two vegan questions: how to replace my beloved yogurt and how to sneak more probiotics into my diet. I used it almost every morning on my overnight oatmeal in place of dairy-based yogurt.
* Black beans. Black beans are my favorite bean, and I like them every way imaginable: in soups, stews, salads, or mashed into a spread. I want to get into the habit of cooking them from scratch, so that’s one of my kitchen goals for the summer, but I don’t diss the canned beans. Canned beans have saved many a weeknight meal at Chez Rose-Anne.
* Canned tomatoes. Another incredibly versatile food. I love canned tomatoes for making soups, stews, sauces, even oven-roasted tomatoes like Molly’s pomodori al forno. You can make that recipe with canned tomatoes, and the results are heavenly, even when tomatoes have been out of season for six months.
* Ground flax seeds. Flax is a recent addition to my kitchen, but man, I love it so much. I love the omega-3 fatty acids. I love sprinkling it over my oatmeal. And most of all, I love baking with flax eggs, like in my peanut butter cookies or Chrissy’s chocolate chip cookies. (Hi, Chrissy! Lots of link love for you around here these days!)
What are some of your favorite vegan foods? Do you have any secrets for adding good flavor and nutrition to your meals, even when your kitchen rations are running low?