Monday, November 23, 2015

Substitutions to Make Holiday Recipes Vegan, Vegetarian or Dairy- and Egg-Free

Do you want to lighten-up your holiday dinner without sacrificing taste? 

Do you have a vegetarian, vegan, or someone with a dairy allergy/intolerance coming to dinner?

Try some of these tips to cut out dairy and other high saturated fat and cholesterol ingredients—essentially “vegan-ize” your meal.

Basic Tips:
  • Eating vegan just means that one is not eating animal-based foods like meat, dairy, seafood, and eggs. Since all cholesterol comes from these products, vegans eat a zero cholesterol diet! 
  • Vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, but no meat or seafood.
  • What about those who don’t want to be vegan? No problem—everyone’s health can benefit by eating more plant-based, whole foods. Most of the recipes I post are aimed at getting people to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other plant-based foods that we know improve health.
  • If you are trying to vegan-ize recipes, the easiest recipes are those that only have one or two animal-based items and these items are not the key ingredients.
  • For dishes that do have meat, dairy, seafood, or eggs as main ingredients, there generally are ways to vegan-ize them, but those methods are either more advanced or use a lot of heavily processed plant-based foods to replicate animal-based food. However, I have given some recommendations for these processed items, based purely on taste, for those who would like to use them. I have only included widely-available brands. There are a lot of faux meat and dairy products out there that either taste terrible or don’t work well in recipes (or both!). 

Here are some quick tips on replacing some dairy and other animal-based foods in recipes:

Eggs: In baked items, an egg can be replaced with 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tablespoons hot water. Alternatively, you can use a product called “Egg Replacer as directed on the package. Both methods only work for recipes with 1-2 eggs in them. Basically, don’t try this with angel food cake, which is mostly made of eggs.

Cream (aka. heavy cream): In items where cream is an ingredient, blend equal amounts of raw cashews and water together until completely smooth. Use as you would cream. This works for everything except whipped cream.

Milk: Silk Unsweetened SoyMilk yields the best results when substituted for milk in my experience, but you can use any unsweetened non-dairy milk (rice, almond, coconut, etc.). Beware that “plain” non-dairy milks often contain sweetener and are terrible in mashed potatoes or savory food. Make sure to find unsweetened. Plain versions are fine for using in dishes that you don’t mind being sweet.

Meat: it really depends on the recipe. If your recipe calls for a bit of bacon or sausage to flavor vegetables, just leave out and use a bit of olive oil instead to add the fat that you’d miss without the bacon/sausage. If you really want the smoky flavor, add a few drops of liquid smoke, though I won’t vouch for it’s health benefits or lack thereof. For items that are made up almost entirely of meat, you can find non-meat versions of sausage (both breakfast and link), turkey, lunchmeat, meatloaf, chicken breast, hamburger, cube steak, meatballs, and burgers on the market that taste great (but, are obviously very processed). Most are quite processed, but if you want recommendations on which taste the best, Field Roast and Gardein brands are generally good (I am not vouching for the taste of their other products). I have not found fake seafood products to be very tasty and would suggest you avoid them.

Butter: I use the EarthBalanceOriginal (the non-whipped version) or the Vegan Buttery Sticks. These have more salt than unsalted butter (the type often used in baking), so you generally have to leave salt out of your recipe if using more than a tablespoon or two.

Shortening/Lard: vegetable shortening is actually vegan but is often full of the most unhealthy thing you can eat—trans fat. I generally substitute either “butter” (as above) or unrefined coconut oil if a solid fat is needed. If liquid oil would work, I use canola, safflower, or grapeseed oils (all oils with little of their own flavor).

Cheese: Most cheese eaters will be disappointed with vegan alternatives. The exception I’ve found for eating straight out of the package is Field Roast brand Chao Cheese, which comes in three flavors (all good and not as heavily processed as many others). For shredded cheese that you cook in/on a dish, I recommend FollowYour Heart Vegan Gourmet Shreds; a runner-up is Daiya brand cheeses. Both of the shredded types are quite processed and are not passable for the real thing, but the best-tasting options widely available.

Cream Cheese: There are many on the market of varying quality, but the best-tasting is Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. If you can find the one with the yellow label it is made without hydrogenated oils and is much better for you than the white label one which does contain hydrogenated oils (trans fat). Again, this is quite processed.

Ice Cream: Try my recipe for Vanilla Bean Ice Cream! Otherwise, look for options that are not fat-free as these tend not to taste very good and be made up nearly entirely of sugar. Don’t be fooled by those ice “creams” that claim to have no sugar—they generally mean they have no white sugar, but can still be filled with other types of sugar. Cashew-based (and some coconut milk-based) ice “creams” tend to be less processed than soy, almond, and rice milk-based varieties.

Evaporated Milk: My pumpkin pie recipe uses Mori-Nu Firm or Extra-Firm Silken Tofu (this type is sold on the shelf in an aseptic package, unrefrigerated) in place of both the evaporated milk and eggs generally found in pumpkin pie recipes. This substitution doesn't work in all recipes using evaporated milk and/or eggs.

For full vegan holiday recipes, check out the following posts:

**I am not paid to endorse products, nor do I received free products, from any of the companies mentioned above. I am simply recommending what works based on my experience.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Sides & Desserts

Last year, we were lucky enough to have my husband’s family come out to California to spend Thanksgiving with us. Even though I don’t eat animals, I am not one to force family members out of their holiday traditions…so, we had a vegan + turkey Thanksgiving. Basically, I made my in-laws a turkey and made everything else—salad, sides, desserts—vegan. I can only comment on the former, but the recipes were too delicious not to share! These work great for meals throughout the holiday season.

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season!

Clockwise from 6 o'clock: 
(Outside circle) Mushroom Pecan Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Beets, Persimmons, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Caramelized Pear and Endive Salad, Vegan "Turkey" Roll, Apple Pear Cranberry Gluten-free Crumble, Vegan Pumpkin Pie
(Inside circle) Mushroom Red Wine Gravy, Turkey Gravy, Crispy Scallions, Turkey, Red Wine (Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz)
*Cranberry Sauce & Vanilla Bean Ice "Cream"  also made, but not pictured

Mushroom Pecan Stuffing

1 loaf (approximately 1 pound) artisan bread (or other hearty bread), crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes, dried on sheet pans on the counter, uncovered, overnight or a couple days, if possible
¼ cup olive oil
8 ounces of mixed mushrooms (e.g. cremini, button, shitake), roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh (or 1 Tablespoon dried) sage leaves, chopped
1 large leek (white part only) or 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
16 ounces vegetable stock (To make excellent homemade stock, see Vegetarian Stock Recipe)
3 ounces of roasted, chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor, pulse mushrooms several times until roughly chopped; transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot, stock pot, or Dutch oven. Add mushrooms, stirring frequently until they have cooked down and the moisture has cooked away and they have browned (about 5-10 minutes). Add the sage, onions/leeks, celery, garlic and cook about 10 minutes until vegetables have softened.
  4.  Add stock and pecans; bring to a boil. Add bread cubes and stir until liquid has been soaked up and ingredients are evenly dispersed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer to a 13” x 9” baking dish; cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes.
  6. Remove foil and cook until golden brown on top (about 15 minutes).
  7. Remove from oven and cool 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Mashed Potatoes
See the Vegan-Vegetarian Holiday Menu post for this recipe and other great holiday recipes.

Roasted Beets

Beets (approximately 1 large beet/person)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Clean and trim beet greens and stems leaving only about 1” of stem still attached to the beets. Place in a single layer in a cake pan or baking dish.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss or stir until the beets glisten. There should not be so much oil that it puddles in the pan.
  4. Add about ¼-inch water to the baking dish and then cover tightly with foil. If beet are large, bake for 60 minutes (if small, try 40 minutes) then remove from over and test doneness by stabbing with a fork. If the tines go in easily with only a little resistance, they are done. If not, recover and return to over for 15-20 minutes at a time until they are done.
  5. Remove from oven and cool enough to be able to handle the beets. At this point, trim the skinny root and stem ends completely and the peel should slide off in your hands. 
  6. Cut beets into desired shape/pieces for serving and place in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and season with a bit more salt and pepper.

Serve warm or at room temperature. These are great on their own or as part of a salad. Beets pair well with citrus, avocado, and/or mint flavors.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
See the Vegan-Vegetarian Holiday Menu post for this recipe and other great holiday recipes.

Caramelized Pear and Endive Salad with Hazelnuts

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1 Tablespoon of maple syrup, agave or honey (*many don’t consider honey vegan)
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Salad Ingredients
2 Bosc pears that are still firm, cored and cut into ¼-inch thick slices
1-1/2 Tablespoons EarthBalance or other vegan “butter”
1-1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Belgian endives (trim bottoms, separate leaves, washed and dried in a salad spinner)
1 head frisée lettuce (remove dark green outer leaves which are very bitter; use only pale yellow inner leaves. Pull leaves apart, wash and dry in salad spinner)
6 cups (approximately 8 ounces) arugula leaves (washed and dried in a salad spinner)
Seeds (arils) from 1 medium pomegranate (about 4 ounces if buying pre-seeded)
½ cup roughly chopped, roasted hazelnuts
Freshly ground black pepper
*Optional: crumbled blue cheese on the side

  1. Vinaigrette: Add sweetener, vinegar, oil, a pinch of salt and pepper to a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake vigorously until well combined. Alternatively, whisk together sweetener and vinegar. Slowly whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Pears: In a heavy 12-inch sauté pan or skillet that is heated over medium-high heat, add butter and melt swirling to coat the entire bottom of the pan. Add sugar and swirl until it starts to turn golden brown. Add pears and stir to coat well with the sugar-butter mixture. Stir occasionally until pears are slightly browned but are not yet mushy (roughly 3-4 minutes). Spread pears out on a plate to cool.
  3. Salad: If you plan to go through all of the salad at dinner, add the greens to a large mixing bowl toss all of the greens with just enough dressing to coat (dressing should not pool in the bottom of the bowl). If not, dress salad in the same manner but in individual portions. Top with pears, hazelnuts, and (if desired) blue cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Caramelized Pear and Endive Salad with Hazelnuts

Mushroom Red Wine Gravy
See the Vegan-Vegetarian Holiday Menu post for this recipe and other great holiday recipes.

Crispy Scallions

Scallions, sliced 1/8-inch thick
Flour (any type)
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or canola oil

  1. Heat a small-medium saucepan filled 1/3 -1/2 the way with oil over medium-high heat while doing the following steps.
  2. Season flour with plenty of salt and pepper.
  3. Toss scallions in seasoned flour.
  4. Drop one flour-coated scallion into the oil to test the heat. It should bubble vigorously and turn golden within a few seconds when the oil is the right temperature. Use a Chinese deep frying skimmer (or similar tool) to remove the scallion and place on a plate covered with a paper towel. Use this method to cook scallions a handful at a time.
  5. Chinese Deep Frying Skimmer
  6. After removing the scallions from the oil, sprinkle with salt.

Serve as a topping for Brussels sprouts, other roasted vegetables, soups, or on sandwiches made from Thanksgiving leftovers.

Front-Center: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Scallions. Clockwise: "Turkey" Roast, Rustic Mashed Potatoes + Mushroom Red Wine Gravy, and Roasted Beets.

Sweets: (Clockwise from top-center) Vegan Pumpkin Pie topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Cranberry Sauce, and Apple Pear Cranberry Gluten-free Crumble.

Cranberry Sauce
See the Vegan-Vegetarian Holiday Menu post for this recipe and other great holiday recipes

Vanilla Bean Ice “Cream”

1 vanilla bean (or 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
1-1/2 cups boiling hot water or other liquid
1-1/2 cups raw (unsalted, unroasted) cashews
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon sweetener (agave syrup is best, but maple syrup or sugar work as well)
pinch of salt

  1. Slice vanilla bean open lengthwise and use the back of a knife to scrape the seeds from the pod. Put the seeds and the pod into a 1-quart or larger container and add hot water, steep for at least 15 minutes. Add cashews and soak overnight, if you have time, or for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Remove vanilla pod (not seeds), and add vanilla-cashew mixture to a blender with remaining ingredient (sweetener and salt) and blend at high speed until completely smooth when the blended mixture is rubbed between two fingers.
  3. Pour mixture back into the quart container and refrigerate overnight or until cool.
  4. Pour into an ice cream maker and proceed according to basic instructions for whatever model you have.

Serve with pumpkin pie and/or the apple cranberry crumble. This can be made a few days ahead if needed. Obviously, store in the freezer (in an airtight container). Keeps 1-2 weeks before forming ice crystals.

Apple, Pear, Cranberry Gluten-free Crumble

Crumble Topping
1-1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup quinoa flour (or substitute all-purpose flour), add whole quinoa to a coffee grinder to make flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon freshly grated (or ¼ teaspoon ground, powdered) nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons EarthBalance or other vegan “butter”, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup chopped pecans (or pecan pieces)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh lemon zest (See how to zest a lemon)

Fruit Filling
1 pound (approximately 2 large) green apples, cored, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 pound (approximately 2 large) red apples, cored, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large ripe pear, cored, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 Tablespoons EarthBalance or other vegan “butter”, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated (or ¼ teaspoon ground, powdered) nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor, pulse oats, flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon zest a couple of times to mix. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together all fruit filling ingredients. Pour into a 13”x9” rectangular baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray or greased.
  4. Top fruit filling mixture with crumble topping and place into oven. Cook for roughly 45 minutes until topping is nicely browned and fruit mixture is bubbling up in spots. Rotate pan halfway through cooking.
  5. Cool to slightly warm before serving (can be room temperature). This dessert can be made the day ahead as well, just make sure to cool to room temperature before covering or the topping will get soggy.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

See the Vegan-Vegetarian Holiday Menu post for this recipe and other great holiday recipes

To make the leaves on top of the pie, or any other design you wish, use a cookie cutter to cut the shapes you’d like out of the leftover pie dough scraps. Bake the pie for 15-20 minutes before placing the cutouts on top or they can sink into the batter.
Finally, if you're still searching for holiday recipes, check out previous posts: