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12 Easy Vegan Cooking Hacks from The Full Helping

 
Gena Hamshaw is the author of the blog The Full Helping, where she shares accessible vegan recipes and musings on mindfulness and self-care. Her work has been featured in Food52, Self, Shape, Slate, Washingtonian, Redbook and more. Her latest cookbook, Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals, will be published on January 23. Gena works as a nutrition counselor and is completing her master of science degree in nutrition and education at Teacher's College, Columbia University. She lives in New York City.
 
To celebrate being vegan I’ll be sharing tips, grocery shopping strategies, product recommendations and simple vegan cooking hacks to kick-start your culinary adventures. Follow along and use the #FeedYourResolution and #vegan hashtags so we can regram your colorful creations.
 
Exploring vegan cooking for the first time? Here are a few simple culinary tricks and techniques that can help to make the whole process easier, faster and tastier.
 

Easy Vegan Cooking Hacks

Cashew cream for dairy. The answer to any pesky dairy cravings, cashew cream is made by blending raw cashews and water in a powerful blender or food processor. It can be used anyplace you’d typically use heavy cream, half-and-half or whole milk (you can thin it with extra water to adjust its richness). Stir it into your favorite vegan soups or fold it into creamy pasta dishes. I always keep a container handy in my freezer, where it’ll keep for up to a month. 
 
Nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor. If you want to add a “cheesy” flavor in some of your favorite meals, it’s time to get to know nutritional yeast. This inactive form of yeast adds an unmistakably cheesy, umami-rich flavor to food. I almost never make pasta or risotto without it! Added bonus: nutritional yeast is rich in B vitamins and protein that can support healthy energy.
 
Smoked paprika. Also known as pimentón, this type of paprika adds a deep, smoky flavor to chili, chowder and baked beans. You can also use it in marinades; I love to soak thinly sliced tempeh in a mixture of tamari, vinegar, maple syrup, smoked paprika and crushed red pepper, then bake it low and slow to create homemade vegan “bacon” strips.
 

Plant-First Baking Tricks

DIY buttermilk. Getting your hands on vegan buttermilk doesn’t require a trip to the grocery store: All you need to do is add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of nondairy milk, then allow the mixture to thicken up for five minutes. After that, it’s ready to be used in all your homemade vegan baking projects
 
Fruit and vegetable pureés. A major challenge of vegan baking is to replace eggs. One of my favorite solutions is to use pureéd fruits or vegetables — like applesauce, bananas, prunes, beets, or canned pumpkin — in place of eggs or egg whites. The pureé will act as a binder while giving your muffins or quick breads extra nutrition (a perfect strategy for encouraging kids to eat more produce!). Rule of thumb: Use ¼ cup pureé for each egg you’re replacing.
 
Aquafaba. This is the liquid brine that comes in a can of chickpeas. It may seem disposable, but if you put it into your stand mixer, it’ll whip up just like egg whites! Fold it into sponge cake batter, homemade macaroons or even a stunning vegan baked pavlova. Wondering when to use fruit pureé vs. aquafaba as an egg replacer? I use pureéd banana or applesauce in muffins and quick breads, and I turn to aquafaba for more delicate baked goods, like cookies or cakes. 

 

Almost-Instant, All-Purpose Vegan Toppings 

Avocado spread. One of my favorite, simple breakfasts used to be a toasted, whole-wheat bagel with butter or cream cheese. Nowadays, I replace the butter with smashed avocado (which I also use on English muffins and toast). The avocado is every bit as creamy as dairy, and it adds healthful fat and fiber to the meal. 
 
Coconut whipped cream. One of my favorite dessert hacks is to use coconut cream — the thick caps that solidify at the top of a can of coconut milk — to make authentic, whipped cream alternative. Simply skim the cream from the rest of the liquid in the can, add it to a stand mixer and whip it into soft, white peaks. It’s a perfect accompaniment to vegan cake, pie or ice-cream sundaes. 
 
Vegan parm. I like homemade vegan parmesan topping so much that I’ve been known to smuggle it into restaurants! It’s a snap to make: just throw a handful of your favorite nuts or seeds into a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt. Process the mixture till it’s crumbly, then use it in any recipe that calls for regular parmesan cheese. 
 

Three Simple Vegan Dinners-in-a-Hurry

Stuffed potato. One of my favorite vegan dinners for busy work nights is a simple baked sweet potato, stuffed with veggies and beans and smothered in one of my favorite sauces. If you prebake potatoes over the weekend, this hearty meal can be ready in 15 minutes or less. 
 
Easy tacos. For taco night in a hurry, I top two whole grain tortillas with 365 Everyday Value® Organic Refried Black Beans, avocado slices, a handful of chopped salad mix, and some cooked rice (I love the 365 Everyday Value® Organic Long Grain Brown Rice in this meal). It’s a fast and nutritious meal — not to mention a handy vehicle for leftover proteins and grains.
 
Power pasta. “Power pasta” is my affectionate nickname for pasta marinara that’s been supercharged with plant proteins and vegetables. I add my pasta to a pot of boiling water, and about five minutes before it’s done, I add a cup or two of vegetables, like cauliflower florets, chopped kale or zucchini slices. I drain everything, stir it together with some warmed up 365 Everyday Value® Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce and then top it with chickpeas or lentils and a few tablespoons of my vegan parm. It’s comfort food at its finest, with a nutritious twist.