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Cheat Sheet

Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook For Dummies

Vegetarians have so many fantastic ways to prepare all the foods that grow from the ground that your options are limitless, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on fancy-shmancy ingredients (college students don’t have a ton of cash to throw around!). Vegetarian meals can be inexpensive, quick to cook, healthy, and tasty — all at the same time. Before you get cooking, though, you need to stock up on a few staples. With a little experience under your belt, you’ll be cooking up feasts for guests in no time!

Shopping for Vegetarian Cooking Staples

Before you cook your first vegetarian meal at home, you need to shop for basic ingredients. Stocking your pantry, fridge, and freezer with vegetarian staples is essential for cooking success.

Canned, jarred, and bottled pantry staples include the following:

  • Beans (black, pinto, navy, kidney, garbanzo, and so on)

  • Canned veggies (frozen or fresh veggies are healthier for you, but some veggies are easier to find or use in cans, like artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, green chiles, and pumpkin)

  • Diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spaghetti or marinara sauce

  • Nut and seed butters (such as peanut, almond, and sunflower)

  • Olive oil and vegetable oil

  • Salad dressings and other sauces of your choice

  • Soups, including lentil and vegetable (make sure the broth in any soup you choose is vegetable, not chicken or beef)

  • Vinegar (apple cider and balsamic)

Spices and seasonings to stock in your pantry include the following:

  • Chili powder, ground cumin, dried parsley flakes, Italian seasoning (this takes the place of oregano and basil), dried cayenne red pepper, dried red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and any other spices of your choice

  • Minced garlic in oil (and/or a bulb of fresh garlic for your fridge)

  • Mustard, ketchup, soy sauce or tamari, and hot pepper sauce (only if you really like spice!)

Dry boxed and packaged pantry staples include the following:

  • Baking mix (such as Bisquick or Jiffy Baking Mix) to use in place of flour, baking powder, and baking soda; seasoned breadcrumbs; and breakfast cereal

  • Dried fruit, nuts, popcorn kernels, and sesame seeds

  • Instant brown rice and whole grains (quinoa, bulgur, oats), plus containers of single-serving cooked brown rice

  • Ramen oriental flavor noodles (the seasoning packets in the other varieties often contain meat flavorings) or GreeNoodles (green noodles that cook in just 2 minutes!)

  • Sugar or a natural sugar substitute such as Just Like Sugar, date sugar, or agave syrup

  • Whole-wheat pasta

Refrigerated staples include the following:

  • Fresh vegetables of your choice

  • Fresh fruit of your choice — and don’t forget lemons and limes for marinades and for seasoning foods

  • Fruit juices and/or vegetable juices

  • Hummus, seitan, tempeh, and tofu

  • Milk, cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, and eggs

  • Sandwich bread and tortilla wraps

Freezer staples include the following:

  • Bread items: pita bread, English muffins, bagels, and pizza crusts

  • Cheese pizza

  • Frozen fruits, especially berries

  • Meatless protein burgers and crumbles, hash brown patties, and breaded eggplant patties

  • Pasta or rice dinners

  • Plain frozen bags and boxes of vegetables (your choice!)

Cooking Up a Vegetarian Feast for Guests

One day, Mom and Dad or some other significant people may call to say they’re visiting you at school. How should you entertain them? If you have a little notice, you can cook a vegetarian feast that will definitely impress your guests — even if they’re not vegetarians! Here are some tips:

  • Come up with a menu to please all palates: A nonvegetarian guest may not appreciate sautéed seitan on a bed of flavored barley, but everyone recognizes and loves pasta marinara, tossed salad, and garlic bread. Choose a menu that’s guest-friendly.

  • Assemble amazing appetizers: People love to munch, especially when they’re hungry. Serving small bits of delicious and colorful foods before a meal is a teaser that gets their taste buds into full gear in anticipation of the main event.

  • Keep breakfast and brunch simple: The first meal of the day can be very impressive when you add subtle touches. Drizzle salsa over scrambled eggs; put a muffin on the plate instead of a slice of toast; toss a cinnamon stick into the coffee grounds before brewing the coffee. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make breakfast a special event.

  • Fix sandwiches, salads, or soups for lunch: A simple cup of soup and a sandwich can impress guests when you float a fresh mint leaf or a sprig of fresh dill in the soup. Make the sandwich on specialty bread and spread it with something a little different than the standard mustard or mayo. Use salsa, hummus, cream cheese, pesto, or some other snazzy spread before adding the sandwich filling.

  • Think outside the box for dinner: Dare to be different. Awe your dinner guests by serving pumpkin-stuffed tortellini with a sage and butter sauce or gnocchi with a garlic mushroom sauce. Vegetarian sushi is visually stunning, as is broccoli cannelloni topped with an alfredo sauce. (Oh, are you getting hungry just thinking about all this beautiful food?)

  • End with something sweet: Even if people overeat at dinner, they always have room for dessert. Stun them with a chocolate silk pie, tiramisu, caramel pecan cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, or something equally spectacular that leaves them totally captivated with your cooking ability.

  • Go for garnishes: Garnishes work magic on a plate. They make ordinary food look special. You can put a pickle next to a sandwich, but if you slice the pickle and fan it out, it makes everything on the dish look more appealing. Fancy restaurants use edible flowers, raspberry glazes, sprigs of fresh herbs, and more to transform simple foods into a masterpiece. When entertaining, add a small garnish to each dish to elicit the wow response.

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