I don't need a recipe for beans, greens, and pasta, one of our ten often-served meals.
I just ran across the Veganuary website, which promises to help people who want to become vegan in January 2014. Check it out, then come back here, because I have more advice.
It's hard to fathom someone not knowing how to be vegan—it's like not knowing how to ride a bike. When you've never thrown yourself over a two-wheeler and tried to maintain your balance as you hurl down the pavement, the idea seems mad. But once you've tried it a few times, rode your bike to school and back, you're a pro.
Likewise, the idea of going all day without eating animal food seems daunting, until you've tried it for a few weeks. For me, it's second nature. Eating animals or their by-products—milk, eggs, cheese, etc.—is completely alien to me. Yet my meals would look pretty normal to most everyone. I ate Sloppy Joes last night, with a spinach salad in a nod to healthy eating, and whole wheat buns. The night before we had roast, gravy, and mashed potatoes, with oven-roasted broccoli and runner beans (drizzled with citrus flavored balsamic vinegar) for sides. Last week we had fajitas, and I made a seitan roulade stuffed with mushrooms for Christmas dinner, accompanied by all the usual sides.
Here's the startling fact: Most families have ten meals they eat on a regular basis, only rarely incorporating other dishes into their rotation. You might be different—but I bet you still have about ten dishes you make on a regular basis, no cookbook or recipe necessary. Something you can throw together without a special trip to the supermarket. Spaghetti, tacos, burgers, stir-fry—you get the drift. We make all those dishes pretty regularly, using vegan ingredients like mince (hamburger "meat") or fake chicken or beef strips for fajitas.
Find ten dishes you normally eat, and figure out how to veganize them. After you do this, you'll be more than halfway on your way toward living the vegan good life. If you don't like the sound of tofu tacos (I certainly don't) find another substitute. Maybe beans, or maybe vegan crumbles. If you don't like one brand of crumbles, try another. You'll find wide variation in taste and more importantly, texture. Likewise with dairy substitutes. Most vegan cheese isn't all that good, or at least melty, but there are some that are worth checking out. But I've discovered I don't really miss cheese, since my dishes are so flavorful without it. Try making a bechamel sauce with soymilk if you want a creamy addition to a casserole.
Another fact: most non-vegan recipes adapt very well to vegan additions, such as non-dairy margarine and soy milk (or rice or nut milk). Be careful you're not using sweetened soymilk or nut milk. And do make sure your margarine is non-hydrogenated—that is, free of trans-fats. It's pretty easy to find such a thing nowadays, either in the UK or the US.
Seek out specialist on-line grocers for hard to find ingredients. Amazon delivers almost any vegan product, right to your door. Here in the UK I've found Vegusto makes superb vegan products, including meats, sausages, lunch slices, and the best tasting cheeses I've ever had—including dairy cheese.
This vegan olive cheese spread from Saf, based on cashews, is better than any dairy-based cheese spread.
Here's another fact: After I gave up butter, which I used almost exclusively, thinking it was far superior to lowly margarine, I discovered that after about a month I couldn't stand the taste, or even the smell of butter. It smells off, which indeed it is—think about it: it's made from milk that came out of a cow months ago, and has just been sitting around getting rancid all this time. If you give me a cookie that's made with butter, I generally make a face. I'm not a supertaster, but the wang of butter will put me off the whole cookie.
So don't try giving up butter one day, then switching back the next. Like Dean Ornish says, when you switch from whole milk to fat-free, if you keep switching back and forth every day, in an effort to cut back, you'll never forget the taste of whole milk and fat-free will always make you feel like you're missing something. Go whole hog. (Well, not really—pork isn't vegan, but Vegusto has some great sausages.) Give up dairy, including butter, for a month, and you'll find you actually prefer the alternatives. You'll no longer think of them as "substitutes" and instead they'll be your first choice.
Last Christmas, my daughter made deviled "eggs", using a recipe from Vegan Crunk. Now, some people call bacon their gateway meat product—they can sustain a vegan lifestyle until they pass a plate of bacon. Not me. You can keep your bacon. But deviled eggs—I would seriously consider popping one of those in my mouth if you passed me a plate, preferably one of those special deviled egg plates like your grandmother had. Not any more. Now that I've had vegan deviled eggs, I'll have to say no thanks to their chicken-produced counterpart. The vegan version is better. Honestly.
This is perhaps the most important advice I can give you: if you're constantly considering your vegan diet as second-best, as a substitute for the "real" thing, you'll never be satisfied. You need to think of the exciting possibilities instead of the dreary sacrifices. You're not making a sacrifice in any way by choosing a vegan diet. You're simply replacing animal food with plant food. Very delicious plant food that can stand up to non-plant food any day, as long as you are willing to give it a chance.
Go on, give peas a chance.