Guest blog from the PETA blogger: Top 5 Ingredients for Vegetarian Cooking

All week long I've been promising you a guest blog. And today, I'm going to deliver.

But not only am I going to deliver, but I'm going to deliver an amazing blog entry from the ever-talented Amy Cook, PETA's very own blogger from their very own blog, Veg Cooking.

Oh, and hey, not only is this going to be one of the handiest blogs you've ever read (especially if you are new to vegetarianism and want to know what that weird food is), but it comes equipped with this amazingly creative recipe.

Seriously!

Top 5 Ingredients for Vegetarian Cooking
By Amy from VegCooking

Like most, I started out as a meat eater. In my teenage years I moved on to "almost vegetarian," and after many attempts, and a great deal of willpower, I moved to the almost vegan stage—I stayed there for years.

Embarrassingly enough, most of my time as a vegetarian (almost vegan) was spent eating Swiss cheese sandwiches and vegetable soup—almost daily. For some reason, I was incapable of thinking beyond just omitting meat from my plate, and I was missing out on a world of food still undiscovered.

This all changed when I turned 21 and moved to L.A. with just me and my trusty Honda. I was on a mission to work at one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants in the city, Real Food Daily, and after one failed attempt, I eventually landed the job.

My star-struck time at RFD was a crash course on the ins and outs of vegetarian cuisine. I would go to bed at night with visions of seitan, tempeh, and tofu floating through my head, and asking myself "which condiment was tamari and which was gomasio," and what the hell is kombucha tea?

Eventually, vegetarian food started to make sense, and I realized that it wasn't more difficult than being a meat-eater, just different. I discovered new foods I never would have tried before—carob, curries, mirin, and miso—and found that my taste buds were thanking me, and craving more.

To help make the transition easier for all of you "almost vegetarians" out there, and to help make happy taste buds the world over, here are 5 essential ingredients for delicious vegetarian food and easy ways to use each:

1. Ener-G Egg-Replacer: Can be used in baking and savory applications to easily replace eggs. The egg replacer, made from a potato starch and tapioca flour base, is great for leavening and can be used in cookies, cakes, and muffins. Also, it's available at most grocery and health food stores.

2. Nutritional Yeast: A vegetarian staple that many become addicted to, so beware! Sprinkle in sauces for a cheesy, slightly nutty taste, or for breading of mock fried chicken (see recipe below). It can also be used as a great topping for pasta, popcorn, and fried tofu.

3. Miso: This salty paste, made from fermented soybeans, rice, or barley, is the perfect ingredient for adding a savory element to soups, sauces, and dressings. It can be used to make vegetarian Caesar salad dressing, or just added to hot water for a simple broth.

4. Garlic: This plant has long been a cooking staple on almost every continent in the world. In my house, it's used as one of the flavor foundations for almost every dish, and provides a natural way to a depth to a dish. Can be used in sauces, soups, and stir fries, or try roasting and eating on its own, or as a spread.

5. Earth Balance: This vegan margarine is by far the best on the market and contains no hydrogenated oil or trans-fatty acids. Luckily, it too is available at most major grocery stores. Now to put one of these great ingredients to use in a Southern staple you won't be able to resist: Fried 'Chicken'. Enjoy! (Oh, and if you like this one, then there are plenty more just as yummy right here.)
Vegetarian recipe: Fried 'Chicken'
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups unbleached white flour
4 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 lb. mock chicken (try Morningstar Meal Starter Chik'n Strips)
3 1/2 cups vegetable oil

• Mix together the salt, onion powder, pepper, garlic powder, flour, and nutritional yeast in a deep bowl.
• In a separate bowl, dilute the mustard with 1/2 cup water.
• Add 1/3 cup of the flour mixture to the mustard mixture and stir. Add the baking powder to the dry flour mixture and mix.
• Dip chunks of the mock chicken into the mustard batter, then drop each chunk into the flour mixture and coat with the desired amount of “crust.”
• Fry the chunks in hot oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet or deep fryer until crispy and golden brown, turning as needed.

Makes 4 servings.