When the Groundhog Day lag hits the vegan kitchen

CHICO – After the first month of the New Year with many people trying to go vegan or re-engaging, I notice the irony of struggling to plan meals in the endless repetitions of the days within this pandemic, if now actually is Groundhog Day.

We often end “Veganuary” in February with a little fear. Those new to vegan eating may need a break or consider how to balance it with their personal preferences as well as daily and dietary needs. The best scenario is that we’ve established that veganism is a positive influence that we want to continue – maybe it reinforces our commitment to not using animal products or improving diet wellbeing, or it encourages more creative cooking and eating habits .

Wherever we land this month there are a myriad of ways we can keep that momentum going, especially if we stay home until late winter for the most part. Over the past several years I’ve had greater difficulty entering spring on a busy schedule and while I continued to get involved, I needed more time and energy to keep planning good habits, preparing and maintaining vegan cooking days.

Tofu can be mixed with kale and curry powder along with other spices and vegetables for a delicious high-protein breakfast, preferably with a local tin roof sourdough toast. (Natalie Hanson – company record)

Nowadays, one simple perk of working from home is the easy access to the refrigerator and the obvious perks of planning and staying on track. But surprisingly, what didn’t work for me? To prepare. There is very little difference between one day and the next, which greatly affects the ability to both prepare a week’s worth of food and eat it in time. The best I can manage lately is making a large amount of soup and hoping it will be eaten within the next five days.

It’s hard to tell if this happens to other people, but it could be traced back to the Groundhog Day situation we find ourselves in – where cravings may not be satisfied by what’s conveniently in the fridge and the brain for forward planning is simply spent.

If that’s your problem, what do you do other than standing order takeaway (although those options are somewhat limited in the northern state for us continuous vegans)? Some suggest overcoming the burnout of home cooking by continuing the food challenges similar to Veganuary. Buying new types of vegetables at the farmer’s market and challenging them to use them creatively has helped me in the past. Here are two staple meals to experiment with as the winter harvest comes to an end.

Mix the pasta

A farmers market procession is easy enough to partake in a filling pasta dinner. Zucchini and mushrooms are an obvious choice, but I had fun with yellow pumpkin or shredded carrots in marinara or with pesto and broccoli and asparagus.

Especially if you’re fed up with the same basic spaghetti nights or really struggling to incorporate vegetables into meals that sound good, I’ve been very lucky to try this to keep it interesting and to force yourself to consume these vegetables when meal preparation has failed.

Mix in spaghetti nights with Beyond Meat, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and extra spices. (Natalie Hanson – company record)

You could even get creative and make a hybrid pumpkin sauce that still uses tomatoes but simmer butternut or winter squash in white wine and onions before adding fresh tomatoes or the sauce of your choice.

Mix the soup

This is not news, but I will keep adapting endless soups to help with meal preparation and to quickly experiment with a variety of vegetables. I usually make a healthy soup with one or two cups of vegetable stock, maybe half a cup of regular canned coconut milk (creamy kind), and lots of garlic.

Adding sriracha and miso paste is great for flavoring. In particular, boiling your mushrooms for at least five minutes and then adding the water and mushrooms to the broth will only improve the taste. If no one has mentioned mushroom broth in regular creamy vegetable broth, it’s at least worth a try.

Here are ways to mix up Asian-inspired soups, whether it’s noodles and toppings or not:

  • Add some garlic and red chilli pepper flakes to the broth.
  • Add some kimchi of your choice above;
  • Try adding a curry sauce like a red Thai curry to the broth.
  • Mix up noodle shapes and styles between rice and quinoa or vegan udon if you use them.
  • Change your selection of vegetable toppings for different flavor profiles like leeks, bean sprouts and cabbage or alternatively some seaweed, edamame and baked tofu .;
  • Mix everything for a smoother, creamier version and make it a tom-yum style if you wish.

Restaurant picks

We’re kicking off this month with some delicious options that you can find in Chico restaurants on select days:

  • Cafe Coda is back in its building at 265 Humboldt Ave. in Chico. The vegan breakfast burritos and the vegan chilaquiles plates are a dream.
  • OM Foods on 142 Broadway now only offers vegan cookies and sauce on Saturdays and Vegan Dal (a soup with curry, dal, cauliflower, yams and more) on selected days.
  • Aonami Sushi at 128 W. Second St. will have regular vegan ramen for certain weeks, usually Wednesdays. Check in often to find out when it’s next.

Natalie Hanson was inspired to write this bi-weekly column after meeting more vegans in Chico and realizing the need for representation in the Northern Valley. Send vegan-friendly restaurant or business recommendations to [email protected] or visit @northvalleyvegan on Instagram for more recipes.

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