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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vegan Substitutes

This morning I have been thinking about all the substitutes I use in my cooking.  Some of these things are pretty familiar to everybody but some are not.  For some people, this post might seem basic but for others that are not familiar with pure plant based food, they won't.  I avoid things like vegan sour cream, cream cheese, and other vegan cheeses.   First of all, they are processed foods and I try to avoid them if at all possible.   My objective it to eat only REAL food.   Secondly, they are expensive and almost always fat laden.   The final reason is that even vegan foods can contain ingredients with weird names that I can pronounce - I have a rule that if a product has somthing in it that I can't pronounce, I don't eat it.

I won't go so far as saying that I won't prepare things that try to mimick the flavor of something they are not; I do that alot.  I cook with no added oil with a few exceptions - I spray a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray (I'm trying to find a way around that) and I will add one type of oil in very small amounts.  Toasted sesame oil is the only type I use.   This oil gives a rich, smoky flavor to some dishes that can't be replicated.    I use a teaspoon or two of it in greens when they are cooking and put it in many Asian dishes but never more than 2 teaspoons in a dish.

Here are some of the ingredients that I use:

Toasted sesame oil (not plain - it needs to be toasted)  - Use when cooking foods that would normally have things like ham, bacon, or other type of meats cooked in with them like beans or greens.   Also great in Asian and Thai dishes.

Nutrtional Yeast - this replaces cheese and butter.   Make sure it is nutrtional yeast and not baking yeast or brewers yeast.   Many people find the smell offensive at first but after you have cooked with it a couple of times you will grow to love it.   Add 1/8 of a cup of it to your mashed potatoes after they have cooked, while you are mashing them and it gives them a rich, buttery flavor without adding fat.

Dulse or Kelp - these are sea vegetables that give a "fishy" flavor to vegan dishes that are mocking fish or seafood.   I haven't ever eaten seafood and I don't like the smell of fish but I like these seaweeds in things like mock tuna salad, vegan crab cakes, etc.

Egg Replacer - Mix equal parts of arrowroot flour and potato flour.  Add 1 tablespoons of this mixture to 2 tablespoons water and this equals 1 egg.   Use it for baking - don't try to make scrambled eggs or an omelet out of it!

Black Salt - this salt is really pink but it is called black salt.  It is readily available in most international grocery stores and is very cheap - it is used mostly in Indian cooking.  It is also called kala namak.   Use this in dishes that mimick eggs, it has a sulfuric smell very much like eggs.  Just use it instead of using regular salt in quiches, omelets, and tofu scrambles.

Silken Tofu - silken tofu is great for making sauces, alfredo, sour cream, mayo, salad dressings, and I use it to make eggs benedict and omeletes.  I will post these recipes soon.   It is low fat and very easy to work with.   Silken tofu is not usually found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.   It is shelf stable and comes in little boxes.  Mori-Nu is the most popular brand.

Unsweetened soy milk - this is used where milk would normally be used.   There are some other vegan milks that are lower in fat but they can be tricky in some applications - I prefer to just stick with the soy milk.  To make soy milk into "buttermilk" just add a 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of unsweetened soy milk.

Regular Tofu - Since we are on a gluten free diet we use this to replace a LOT of things.   Use to make scrambled "eggs" and use to replace beef and chicken in many recipes.  It also makes a great tofu bacon.

Liquid Smoke  - gives a realistic smoke flavor to foods, add a drop of it to sea salt to make a smoked salt, and you can use it in anything that you grill to intensify the smoky flavor.

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