What is your favorite room in the house? Mine is the kitchen. You may think that’s obvious but it wasn’t always like that. Before I became vegan, I rarely cooked. My kitchen was tiny but it was still more room than I needed; the drawer that held my take-out menus was too small, however. My friends teased me that I owned one pot and I never even used it. Once I became vegan, however, everything changed. There was nowhere to eat in my neighborhood so I had to learn to cook. The more I cooked, the more the kitchen became the most important room. It was where I created recipes and cooked for those I loved. I realized that knowing how to cook was only part of the process. The kitchen itself made cooking seem harder or easier, depending on the state of the room. If cooking seems like too much work or frustrating, it doesn’t have to mean you don’t enjoy cooking. It might be that your kitchen needs a makeover into a space where inspiration flows and creativity thrives. The kitchen is the heart of the home so put your heart into your kitchen. Here are some tips to create a plant-based kitchen you love.
1. Set the Scene
If the kitchen is going to be a room you spend a lot of time in, it should be pleasing to your eye and make you feel comfortable and happy. Paint your kitchen a happy color. Adorn the walls with prints, photos and inspirational plaques. Get fun magnets to hang pictures, recipes or your children’s artwork on the fridge. Buy a non-slip mat to cushion your feet at the sink. Motivate your plant-based eating by keeping a bowl of colorful fruit on your counter. Consider an indoor herb garden on your window sill for the smell and having fresh herbs at your fingertips. Keep an iPod dock or radio so you can sing along while chopping veggies. A necessity for me is a book stand to hold a cookbook open to a favorite recipe. Have a few red accents in the room – red stimulates the appetite! Of course, it’s up to the type of décor you like but the bottom line is that when a room is pretty and feels welcoming, you will want to spend more time in it. Get some no- or low-cost decorating tips in 10 Easy Ways to Decorate Your House or Apartment Without Buying a Thing.
2. Let it Flow
You may not have a lot of say about the layout of your kitchen especially things like where the stove and refrigerator are or how much counter space you have. But you can make the most of what you have to create a workspace that is efficient and functional. If you don’t have a lot of cabinets for pots and pans, consider hanging a pot rack. Depending on the room, it can be in the middle of the kitchen over the island or against a wall. In my first tiny kitchen, my husband hung a rod in the small open doorway of the kitchen and I hung my pots and pans from hooks. It was not only space-saving but it made a really cool entryway. If you don’t have a lot of counter space, buy a big cutting board and place it over the sink while cooking. Try to have your cutting board near the stove so you can chop and drop. Keep the cooking utensils, oils, vinegars and other things you use most near your work area or stove for easy reach. Hang your spices on the wall or get magnetic spice holders to hang on the fridge. It’s easier to cook when everything you need is close by.
3. Be Organized
Cooking is a lot more fun when you don’t waste time searching for an ingredient or utensil. Organize your pantry items in groups. Keep all your spices in one place, all your grains and beans in another, and all your jars, cans and bottles in another. Get clear jars for your grains, beans and legumes and print labels on them. I like to keep all my baking supplies like flours, baking powder and sugars grouped together. Have all your baking pans in one place. If you don’t have cabinet space, get a basket to hold them. Keep your vegan cookbooks on a shelf in the kitchen for inspiration and quick reference. Also keep a notebook to jot down your own ideas for recipes or your shopping list. For more tips, see How I Organize My Kitchen for Easy Vegan Cooking.
4. The Food
Once you have your kitchen set up the way you want it, it’s time to fill the pantry and fridge with everything you need to make amazing plant-based dishes. Get sage advice in A Whole Foods Vegan Diet: The Ultimate Guide. It can be overwhelming in the beginning to know what to buy but not when you have For the Newbie Plant-Based Eater: Your Vegan Starter Shopping List and The Smart Shopper: A Beginner Vegan’s Pantry List for Winter. Get An Inside Look into a Healthy Vegan Pantry and find out the 12 Must-Have Items for Your Vegan Pantry, 10 Staples That Make Clean, Healthy Vegan Eating a Breeze and the 5 Pantry Staples You Can Turn into 10 Different Dishes. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Whole Foods Supermarket (unlike me), learn 9 Hacks to Shop at Whole Foods as a Health Conscious Eater on A Budget. Learn How to Navigate the Grocery Store for Clean Food Quickly, How to Shop Your Way to a Healthy, Plant-Based Diet on a Budget and How to Shop at the Farmers’ Market. Get the spices you need for all your vegan dishes. See How to Stock Your Spice Cabinet for Delicious Vegan Cooking. Save money with Frugal Food Hacks! 7 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill in Half, Strategies for Buying Healthy Food in Bulk and How to Properly Store Your Fruit and Vegetables for Maximum Freshness.
5. Tools of the Trade
One of the first things I did when I became vegan was buy a new cutting board and a new set of pots and pans. I wanted to cook with tools that had never touched animal products. You will want to have a Dutch Oven pot for stews and chilis, a large pot to cook pasta in, a medium and small saucepan with lids for cooking grains, sauces and gravies, and 8-inch and 10-inch skillets for stir-fries, sautés and pan-frying veggie burgers. You will want a few large baking sheets for roasting vegetables and a casserole dish that can go in the oven. Even if you don’t bake much, you will probably want a muffin tin, an 8-inch square brownie pan, a rectangular loaf pan for bread or vegan meat loaf and two 9-inch round cake pans. The most important tools in any kitchen are the knives. Invest in a good chef’s knife, a bread knife and a paring knife. Check out The Guide to Knives for the Plant-Based Chef and 5 Prep Tools to Make Vegan Cooking Even Easier. Get a few vegetable peelers with various blades that slice in different shapes, a grater and a zester. With these basic tools, you will be able to make a million incredible plant-based dishes.
6. Appliances and Gadgets
I’m not much of an appliance and gadget person. For me, the most important appliance is a food processor and/or high-speed blender. Depending on your budget, space, cooking needs and affinity for appliances, you might also want an immersion blender, a stand mixer, a slow-cooker, a pressure-cooker, a rice cooker, and a waffle oven. Popular gadgets include an electric can opener, a spiralizer for making veggie noodles, a pasta maker, hand mixer, bread machines, juicers and ice cream makers. It’s a smart idea to only buy what you really need and have room for so you don’t have a bunch of gadgets taking up space and collecting dust. I prefer to do things by hand but that’s my personal preference. For another take, see How to Gear Up for a Healthy and Frugal DIY Kitchen and Must-Have Appliances for the Vegan and Raw Food Kitchen.
When your kitchen is pretty, organized, efficient, and well-stocked, it makes cooking more of a pleasure and less of a chore. Instead of a room where work happens, it becomes a temple of creativity, inspiration, and of course, deliciousness. You may find that you can’t wait to get into the kitchen and start creating healthy and tasty plant-based dishes.
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