Low budget vegetarian cooking is about a return to a simple, whole foods, vegetable based diet.
If you want to have a diet that isn't based on some form of animal food for its primary protein source, you need to know how to cook and combine grains, beans and vegetables to give you the nutrition you need in a way that is satisfying and enjoyable.
Most American vegetarian cookbooks rely very heavily on dairy products for protein. This isn't necessary.
Vegetarian cooking doesn't have to be imitation meat cooking. You don't need expensive meat substitutes, convenience foods or flavoring ingredients.
A simple diet, based on grains, vegetables and beans, can be nutritious, tasty, and easy to cook.
Vegetarian cooking is also very economical. Whole grains, dried beans, and fresh vegetables are the most economical foods you can buy.
Why did I decide to create this site?
I decided to do this after I read an article on the internet site Wiretap. It was by a high school age woman and was titled something like, "Can we afford to be Vegan." In her eyes eating a diet based on anything other than meat and dairy was a luxury of the rich, and she bewailed the high cost of vegan ice cream.
That was shortly after having a few friends over for dinner. One of them commented that it was nice to have a vegetarian meal that was more interesting than a bagel with cream cheese and a celery stick.
At that point I decided I wanted to help get the word out about real, whole foods vegetarian cooking.
Correcting Misconceptions about Vegetarian Cooking.
There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about diets based on vegetables, grains and beans. People think that you have to be really careful to eat vegetarian, and that it is safer to stick to a meat and dairy based diet, unless you REALLY know what you're doing.
I find the opposite to be true.
Other people think that vegetarian cooking takes a lot of work, and that it's easier to just eat meat and dairy.
Again, not true. Once you learn a few basic cooking techniques and get used to the ingredients, vegetarian based cooking is easier than meat and dairy based. I find that it is also safer to cook, since you don't have to worry nearly as much about foods spoiling or rotting on you.
People new to vegetarian cooking and eating seem to think that you have to worry about coming up with meat and dairy substitutes. Vegie burgers, imitation chicken chunks, vegan ice cream, even (gasp!) Tofutti. That stuff gets expensive, and much of it doesn't taste very good.
The truth is, you will have a better diet if you learn to cook vegetable based foods in ways that fit those foods, rather than trying to use them to imitate meat dishes.
A simply cooked diet based (all or mostly) on grains, beans and vegetables is probably the most economical, nutritious, healthy and tasty diet you can find.
And that is why I wrote my book, to help get the word out. Vegetarian based cooking is too good to be a trendy luxury.
Vegan Friendly Recipes
After years of browsing through vegetarian cookbooks that include milk and cheese in almost every recipe, I decided the recipes included here would all be vegan-friendly.
None of the recipes on the site require any dairy products or eggs.
The only exception is that I sometimes use some butter in cooking. That is very easily omitted.
I am convinced that vegetarian whole foods make sense as the center of any diet, whether or not meat and dairy are included also.
You can still eat meat and dairy foods without relying on them for the center of your diet.
You can make grains, vegetables and beans the main part of your diet, and use dairy products or meat as occasional side dishes as you wish.
This is a healthy alternative to a diet based primarily on animal foods. It is also less expensive and easier to digest, and tastes better.
Neither grains nor beans by themselves, with few exceptions, are complete sources of protein.(The only grain I am aware of that is a complete protein by itself, is quinoa.)
However, if grains and beans are eaten together, they do supply complete protein that is easy to digest.
This means that you don't need to worry about eating a lot of dairy products to make sure you get enough protein.
Grains are the center, the grounding part of the meal. I find that I feel best when grains make up around 35% to 45% of my total diet.
Rice is probably the single most widely used grain, and other grains like barley, oats, and buckwheat, as well as good quality wheat products like bulghur and good breads are also widely used.
With a vegetable based diet, the grain provides the center of the meal.
Beans provide a lot of the variety. There are many different kinds of beans from all over the world, and they vary a lot in taste, in texture, and in the kind of spices they work well with.
Knowing how to prepare a variety of beans to go with grains and with vegetables helps to keep a vegetable-based diet varied and interesting.
That is why many of the recipes available on this site, and in my cookbook, use different kinds of beans. It is an area of vegetarian cooking that is not as widely known or well-developed as it could be.
If you want to find out about making beans easy to digest, please click here.
Grains and beans together provide the protein in a vegetable-based diet, as well as having most of the calories. Vegetables and fruits provide a dazzling variety of tastes and textures to go with the grains and beans.
Whether or not to eat meat or dairy products is very much an individual decision. Some people get along fine without meat and dairy; others find they feel better if they include some animal food. Either way, the high proportion of animal food in most american diets is unnecessary, uneconomical and unhealthy.
If you do choose to include animal food in your diet, I suggest you consider trying out making grains, beans and vegetables together something like 85% to 90% of your food, and try making meat and dairy products a side-dish complement. Animal food then becomes more like a condiment than a main course. That way, you get a lot of the health advantages of a vegetable and grain based diet, and can still eat some animal foods if you so choose.