A Cooking Rut

I would not say that I have natural talent with cooking. I have talked about my cooking failures extensively with most of my friends and I even wrote about it for the blog of my mom's old bakery (RIP Flour Girls and Dough Boys). There have been times in my life where I haven't cooked a single thing in months. That was okay while I was in college, since social opportunities to eat out were common and my income source somehow never ran dry. However, at age 24, I am now somewhat of an adult, and I think it is important to be able to cook for myself if necessary (and in the last couple months, my then-impending and now current #unemployment has made it necessary to cut costs where I can).

Whenever I thought about cooking meals for dinner or even packing a lunch for work days, I was completely stuck. How could I decide what to eat? There were infinite options! It's not like I kept my kitchen stocked with food, so I would have to go to the grocery store no matter what. Analysis paralysis (please forgive that annoying rhymed cliche) plagued me and I was incapable of doing anything about it. So I didn't cook. I would snack, I would eat at restaurants, and I would accept meals from friends. But my cooking skills were getting no better and my wallet no fatter.

Toward the end of December, I decided to introduce a challenge into my culinary routine starting January 1. The challenge was being VEGAN. Yup. I said it. I decided to cease my consumption of all animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs) for a period of 11 weeks. And besides the health benefits and the increase of discipline I have developed, it has done wonders for my cooking abilities. I can't find acceptable food at parties or at most restaurants. My kitchen is the source of almost every thing I eat. And therefore, I have learned how to cook everything I want to eat.

It has been thrilling to learn how to veganize my favorite foods. I have tried tons of recipes and some of them have failed, but most of them haven't. I have created for myself a goldmine of recipes that are easy and quick and tasty. I have cooked for several of my non-vegan friends and they have enjoyed these meals because apart from being vegan, they are independently delicious.

This week I had a friend over while I was cooking. I chopped onion, garlic, bell peppers, and butternut squash and then added cumin, chili powder, black beans and rice to the pan and served dinner. He was surprised that I had done it so quickly and effortlessly. When I told him he could make the same meal easily, he said "no, I would need to know the exact amount and length of time for everything." I recognized my former self in his words, but I realized how far I have come. I am kind of a cook.

One other important aspect of my vegan cooking: I don't really believe in replacements for meat or cheese. I have never purchased tofu or tempeh or Daiya cheese or even nutritional yeast. I look for recipes that are made with food that anyone with a "normal" diet would eat, and I prepare them in a way that is flavorful without begging for added animal products. That has had the best result for me.

I have linked my favorite recipes below. The message I hope you get out of this post is not that you should become vegan (because I realize that it sounds impossible and awful to most of you). Rather, if you are in a cooking rut, I suggest giving yourself some sort of challenge and seeing what happens. And, I recommend trying some of these recipes because they are honestly delightful.

Sweet potato chili is my go-to vegan recipe that literally everyone likes.
Orzo spinach soup was a recipe I found when I realized I had a huge bunch of spinach that I had to use before it went bad, which moment was a huge step for me because previously I was never even aware of what food items I had that were about to go bad and much less was capable of finding a recipe to use them in.
Thai curry was a dish I always thought would be impossible to make. Surprise! It's actually not very hard and super tasty.
Sweet potato black bean burritos. I have seen a bunch of recipes like these floating around and I'm sure they're all similar. The idea is that you put sweet potatoes and black beans together in a burrito and it's delicious. I left out the cheese and did not miss it at all.
Thai chili quinoa I actually made two days in a row. Embarrassing to admit? Maybe. I left out the chicken obviously.
Tacos with nut meat. This recipe is more complicated than the rest of them, but not because it's hard to make, just because there are a lot of steps. Also, my roommate is still laughing about the phrase "nut meat," so that's added value.
Peanut butter apple pie. I actually did not make this myself, but I found the recipe and started the crust. My dear friend Carol Ann finished it up and it was phenomenal. It tasted more like caramel than peanut butter in a super delicious way. Plus, most of the ingredients are actually not unhealthy, so as far as desserts go, this is a winner. We subbed coconut cream for heavy cream.

My original goal was to be completely vegan until March 16, which is the day I am running a half marathon in DC. I have a few non-vegan meals planned for that weekend, but this vegan diet is in no way exiting my life completely. If you have recipes you'd like to share, please do! I am definitely interested in maintaining and improving the skills I have developed.


  1. I made the Sweet potato chili and it was DELISH! Thanks Kami!

  2. These recipes look delicious! I'm going to try some of them. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I want to try these! They sound delicious. I am definitely in a cooking rut and have to start building a relationship with my kitchen. I am always impressed when people step into cook-hood. Not an easy feat!

  4. love this post! thanks for sharing the recipes. i totally agree with you on finding replacements. i've been staying away from gluten for 3 years and trying to "replace" it is impossible. finding recipes that are naturally gluten free are just the way to go! these treat recipes are vegan and unbelievably easy...



  5. Made this a few weeks ago- it was amazing!!


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