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I like a challenge as much as the next person. Cooking without any meat, dairy or eggs is a pretty big challenge for me, but every once in a while I do go vegan. My problem with most vegan cookbooks is they tend to veer off into the realm of meat substitutes. Frankly, if I want to eat meat, I will, so I prefer more creative approaches.

vegancookbooks1
To get inspired and learn new cooking techniques there are two cookbooks I rely on, Veganomicon and The Accidental Vegan. Veganomicon was written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, two hipsters and founders of the Post Punk Kitchen. Some great recipes from the book include Pasta e Fagioli and Chickpeas Romesco.

The Accidental Vegan by Devra Gartenstein features recipes that are very straightforward and easy to cook. They are definitely the type of recipes that will make you forget you are not eating meat. The Greek Lentil Soup, Szechuan Noodle Salad, Fennel Tapenade and Baba Ganoush recipes are all keepers. Sadly many of the dessert recipes often use non-hydogenated margarine which does not appeal to me.

jill2I spoke to author, teacher and dietician, Jill Nussinow the "Veggie Queen" to to get her thoughts on the subject:

"I think that the big key to going vegan is to make food taste great no matter what. Many ethnic dishes are or can be vegan easily -- think Thai (minus fish sauce and substitute tamari or Bragg's liquid amino acids), Mexican minus the cheese, Indian, Japanese, Chinese. Classic combos such as rice, beans and tortillas are vegan. The salsa and guacamole are too."

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"Use the freshest food that that you can buy and don't expect anything to taste like meat because it doesn't. One of the worst things to do is buy vegan cheese or some kind of meat substitute and think that it's going to be the same as eating whatever it resembles, at least by name."

Here are my tips for incorporating more vegan meals into your diet:

Cook Asian & Middle Eastern Food
These cuisines are loaded with easy vegan dishes such as Hummus, Thai Style Vegetable Curry, Tofu Stir Fried with Shiitake Mushrooms and Chinese Peas.

Concoct Creamy Soups
Making soup is a great way to use a variety of vegetables. Pureeing cooked corn, black beans or potatoes will yield a creamy soup without any dairy.

Build Hearty Salads
Salads made from ingredients like avocados, bulgur, edamame and shredded vegetables are anything but rabbit food.

Don't Forget to Snack!
Dips and spreads made from beans, nuts, and even roasted vegetables can be tasty and nutritious.

Invest in Olive Oil
Olive oil adds flavor and nutrition and can often be used in place of butter. Try it in mashed potatoes, popcorn and on garlic bread.

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If you have tips of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

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