Wow. I had just recently come to the same conclusion: eat better rather than depending upon lots of supplements. And with very few exceptions, you get it all with a plant- based low-processed food diet. Thanks Jean for another great post:
Paul and I like to eat granola but frankly most of the granola out there that you can buy is full of fat and sugar, and over-processed. Making your own granola, however, is quite easy. My granola recipe is influenced by Kathleen Daeleman’s crunchy granola recipe from her book Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen, but I’ve made it even healthier by reducing the sugar and adding chia, flax, and cocoa nibs. It’s of course a completely plant-based (vegan) recipe.
- 1 cup organic coconut sugar or organic brown sugar
- ½-cup water
- 4 tablespoons of organic chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons of organic ground flax
- 2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 8 cups organic rolled oats
- 1 cup of chopped nuts (e.g., cashews, almonds, pistachios)
- ¼-cup cocoa nibs (optional)
- 1 cup of dried fruit (e.g, cherries, cranberries, raisins, currants)
- Coconut flakes (optional)
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Using a 4-cup microwave proof glass measuring cup, add your sugar and water, and microwave for 1-2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add chia, flax, vanilla, and salt to the measuring cup and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Get out your biggest bowl, and combine the oats and nuts with the contents of the glass measuring cup. Add the cocoa nibs if you are using them.
- Mix well then spread the granola onto cookie sheets.
Ready for the oven.
- Bake for 90 minutes.
- After removing the granola from the oven, add dried fruit and other mix-ins like coconut flakes.
- Let the granola cool completely, before storing it in an airtight container.
Fresh out of the oven.
Carefully pouring the granola from the parchment paper into a glass container after it has cooled.
Each time I make this recipe, I vary the nuts and dried fruit used. Some great flavor combinations I’ve made in the past:
- Pistachio & dried cherry
- Almond & cranberry
Today’s mix included:
- and sweetened coconut flakes.
I usually use 1-cup of nuts and 1-cup of dried fruit, but you can adjust to suit your needs. You can use either raw nuts, or roasted/lightly salted nuts.
I admit that one of my favorite daily indulgences during the past fifteen or so years has been my daily (or twice or, when under duress, thrice daily) café latte. And until very recently that has meant a non-fat cow’s milk latte. But a few months ago, Suzanna and I became vegans (with the only exception being the occasional eating of wild seafood).
So thus began my search for the perfect non-dairy plant-based “milk” to have with my latte. I’ve tried them all. Okay, not all but the following: soy, oat, hemp, almond, rice, coconut, and an almond-coconut mix. And for each, I have tried both the unsweetened and “original” or sweetened varieties.
And after much experimentation, I have pretty much settled on four that I can drink:
- Coconut milk. This is my milk of choice when making my latte at home. I don’t use the kind you can buy in the carton, though, that will do in a pinch. I prefer to make my own. (See later in this post for my home-made recipe.) I have yet to find coconut milk served in a café, though.
- When out, and if available, rice milk. But the arsenic in rice, does concern me.
- Almond milk is another option when rice is not available. I have also tried making my own almond milk but soon after decided that I didn’t like almond milk that much after all.
- When no other option is available (like at Starbucks), soy milk.
First of all, let me get it right out there: IMHO, none of these tastes as good as dairy milk. No one said that going vegan was going to be easy. (Actually, a few people have said this and they are, frankly, not telling the truth.)
Secondly, at almost all espresso bars and cafes, they use way-too-sweet versions of the above milks. Apparently, the majority of the USA consuming world, likes their foods either too sweet, too salty, or too hoppy. And those with more moderate tastes are left to scramble to find something that they can tolerate. And it’s worth calling out Starbucks in particular: other than dairy milks, they only stock this ridiculously sweetened vanilla-soy milk that is barley drinkable. I just don’t understand why they can’t serve a less-sweetened variety and then let the sugar hawks add vanilla syrup and/or sweetener rather than push the overly-sweetened soy pap on all of us.
Home-Made Coconut Milk
This is why I prefer to make my own lattes at home where I have complete control over the “milk” selection process. Now, I did start out buying coconut milk that comes in the carton but I have two issues with that. First, it’s too sweet and second, there are two many ingredients. I prefer to get more elemental than that.
But then I remembered that many stores carry canned coconut milk. The kind you buy for making Thai dishes, curries, and baked goods. And the ingredient list is pretty simple:
Actually, not all of the coconut milks contain this last ingredient, guar gum (a paste made from the ground endosperm of guar beans), but after trying both those with and without guar gum, and after reading about guar gum, I have decided that I prefer the emulsifying and stabilizing qualities of the guar gum (which, by the way, is high in fiber and has been found to lower cholesterol) that makes the coconut milk retain a more even consistency. However, you may prefer to sacrifice a little emulsification for one less ingredient.
The Coconut Milk Recipe
Okay, enough chatter. Here is my recipe for coconut milk that works great in café lattes, and probably would work equally as well in other recipes requiring a milk substitute.
- 1 can (13-14 ounces) of Organic Coconut Milk. I have used coconut milk from the Thai Kitchen, Natural Value, and Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brands. Don’t buy the the light version of coconut milk which is just a watered down version of the milk since you will be adding your own water.
- 2 cans of water
- 2 teaspoons of Organic Sugar (or honey or some other sweetener). Note: most non-organic sugar from sugar cane is not vegan!
- If using the coconut milk containing guar gum, pour the contents into a pitcher or container. If using the kind without guar gum, add the contents to a blender. You may need to use a knife, spoon, or some other utensil to scrape the coconut from the sides of the can and lid.
- Add two cans of water to the milk. (Use the can that the coconut milk came in.)
- Add two teaspoons of granulated sugar. Two teaspoons works well for me, but you might wish to reduce or increase the amount of sugar to suit your taste buds. I’ve also made it with honey and, most recently, with organic coconut palm sugar.
- If using the variety of coconut milk containing guar gum (and thus, of a more even consistency), stir the mixture with a long wooden spoon; there is no need to use a blender. If using the variety without the guar gum, however, you will need to blend the mixture in the blender for about a minute.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or so.
The calories depends on the variety of milk and sweetener you use. Also, I have always added 2 cans of water; you can certainly choose to add more water to the Natural Value brand of milk, for example, to reduce it’s caloric punch a bit. It’s also worth noting that most of the calories in coconut milk come from saturated (but plant-based) fat. The computed calorie counts are in the same ballpark as dairy milk and other non-diary milks.
Here are my calculations using the three different types of milk I have tried(comical side note: notice how each brand uses a different serving size value):
- Coconut milk: 5 x 140 = 700 cal.
- Sugar: 2 x 16 = 32 cal.
- Total: 732 calories for 41 ounces or 17.9 calories per ounce. Or about 144 calories per cup.
- Coconut milk: 6 x 120 = 720 cal.
- Sugar: 2 x 16 = 32 cal.
- Total: 752 calories for 40.5 ounces or 18.6 calories per ounce. Or about 147 calories per cup.
- Coconut milk: 4 x 200 = 800 cal.
- Sugar: 2 x 16 = 32 cal.
- Total: 832 calories for 40.5 ounces or 20.5 calories per ounce. Or about 163 calories per cup.
Since posting, I have changed my habits: now I have lattes made with Hemp Milk. We get the Pacific Original Hemp milk. I tried making my own hemp milk but that didn’t work so well. Pacific makes a very good hemp milk.
- On a couple of occasions, I have gotten very sour canned coconut milk that was almost undrinkable. In these cases, I have simply poured the whole concoction down the drain after tasting it. I’ve tried adding more sugar, but it didn’t help much.
This post is part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, held on November 16, 2013. At the bottom of the post, you will find links to the previous and next recipe posts in the Virtual Vegan Potluck. Enjoy! Here is a link to the beginning of the potluck posts.
Paul and I recently became vegan. Not too long ago, Paul requested some lentil soup. I rooted around online and adapted a recipe I found somewhere. This is my adaption. It makes for a great fall or winter meal.
For us, this soup meets all our needs: it’s easy to make, wonderfully delicious, and naturally vegan. That is, it’s vegan without really trying since it’s all vegetable-based. We hope you like it as much as we do.
Mushroom Sweet Potato Lentil Soup
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils (or cooked lentils)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 Tbs chopped garlic, minced
- 3-4 cups chopped mushrooms (any variety or mix)
- 1 Tbs each
- Chili powder
- 4 cups vegetable stock (home-made or from a box)
- Add the olive oil to a big soup pot.
- Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil.
- After a few minutes, add chopped sweet potato to the pot.
- Being careful not to burn it, add the garlic and continue to saute until the potatoes are soft.
- Add mushrooms and spices.
- Saute until slightly browned.
- The secret that makes this recipe very quick and easy is to use a package of steamed lentils from Trader Joe’s. Now I usually shy away from pre-fab food, but these are minimally processed and really make life easier when dealing with lentils. Of course, you can substitute cooked dried lentils if you prefer.
- Add lentils and broth.
- Bring to a boil.
- Simmer for 15 minutes or so.
- Serve in bowls with some crusty bread.
This post is part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, held on November 16, 2013. You can use the images above to navigate to the previous and next recipe posts in the Virtual Vegan Potluck. Here is also a link to the beginning of the potluck posts. Enjoy!
Suzanna and I have been pescetarians for some time. That is, we have been eating a vegetarian diet along with some animal products: eggs, milk and dairy products, and sustainably-raised seafood. We try to concentrate on sustainable organic minimally-processed foods as much as possible which requires constant vigilance.
At the same time, we both hoped to move towards a truly vegan diet at some point.
Now there are a number of reasons why people choose to become a vegetarian. I moved gradually to being vegetarian. I gave up red meat around 20 years ago. At the time, the primary motivation was health. I decided that red meat was not good for me and that was that. Actually, at first, I actually gave up all meat, but then I backed off a bit and resumed eating poultry and seafood. Fast forward to about 5 years ago when I decided to become a lacto-ovo pescetarian. And while my original motivation was health, I gradually became more and more aware of animal cruelty that is commonly practiced in farming. Still, I thought that milk and eggs were okay, especially organic milk and egg products.
Now, I think it’s fair to say that most people live with a certain number of inconsistencies in their lives. I know that I do. Another way of saying it is that most of us are, to some degree, hypocritical. That is, we try to do the right thing, but it’s not always possible unless you are ready to control everything in your life. As soon as you interact with the rest of the world and buy food, pump gas, purchase a toy for your child, watch a film, drink that beer, work at a job, purchase a sweater, live in a house, or visit a doctor, you lose some of the control over the ethics of the people and processes that happened to get you your sandwich, gasoline, toy, movie, glass of beer, job, sweater, home, or medical clinic.
Even your decision to do something as noble as write a check to a charity or hand a five dollar bill to a homeless person, comes with the potential of a number of unintended consequences, e.g. the misuse of the money, contributing to alcoholism.
Then there is the matter of suffering and injustice in the world. Or the fact that we may be living on once stolen land. “How do we sleep while our beds are burning?” What are we to do about all the suffering, disease, and injustice in the world?
At some point, you have to short-circuit the thinking. You can’t constantly think of every possible chain of consequences of every decision you make. Otherwise, life would be unbearable. But for me and Suzanna, this doesn’t mean giving up. We believe in being mindful of the ramifications of the choices we make and taking care of our neighbor, both local and globally speaking.
On The Other Hand
Getting back to the point I was trying to make: I would be lying if I said that I always do the most sustainable, most just, most considerate, least self-serving thing. Of course not. But, when it comes to the choices I make in my food, I try to be fairly conscious and conscientious. And, to be frank, over the years, I have learned about a number of issues with farming, especially the industrial farming that is so commonplace in the United States and “western world.”
In fact, Suzanna and I have talked many times over the past few years about becoming vegan. And then we would move on to something else while we sipped our lattes, ate our cheese, and, though less frequently, consumed a plate of scrambled eggs.
Then we recently watched the film Vegucated and the desire to move towards veganism was cemented. If you are curious about veganism or wish to learn more about what really happens on most farms, I suggest you watch this film. It’s available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and many other sources. See the Vegucated site for more details.
Okay, enough beating around the bush, here’s the long and the short of it:
the businesses and people who bring the vast majority of animal products to market, including meat, eggs, and dairy (yes, even dairy has major issues), treat animals in a disrespectful, cruel, and torturous fashion.
And they are not exactly doing good things for global warming and managing the world’s resources either. This is not to say, that there aren’t positives to come out of industrial farming: obviously, many people love animal-based food products. And these practices make food affordable for many people.But Suzanna and I can no longer support these practices.
We have drawn a line in the sand and farmed animals and animal products are on the other side.
Of course, we still have our inconsistencies. To name a few: we buy food at grocery stores and restaurants that do handle animal food. We aren’t throwing away our leather goods. (Though, it’s our intention to not purchase any more leather, feather, or fur-based products.) Also, we often share food with people who eat meat. I will also buy animal products for my children who are not vegan, though I have to say we mostly serve vegan food when they are with us.
Oh, we also believe it is okay to occasionally eat sustainably-harvested wild seafood. (In reality, we eat seafood rarely; perhaps 2 or 3 times a year.)
We get plenty of protein: from beans, tofu, and nuts. And we are adapting to substitutes when necessary. Like Daiya cheese. And soy and coconut milk. And coconut ice cream. Hopefully, we can share some vegan/pece-vegan tips and tricks in future posts on this blog.
After a few false starts, I think we have finally committed to this for good. Our biggest give-ups have been milk and cheese. But, despite what you may have heard, there is life after cheese. And we still have gluten, beer, and wine!
A few weeks ago I spotted too many darkening bananas on the counter and decided it was time to make some banana bread. A quick search of recipes using SpringPad on my iPhone located this recipe by Emily Malone on the Dailly Garnish site.
I have modified this already vegan recipe somewhat. My goals were two-fold: make it healthier, make it tastier, and make it from ingredients already in the kitchen. Okay, that’s three goals. Thank you Emily for a fantastic recipe. You can, of course, choose to follow the original version or my version or make up your own variation.
I’ve italicized ingredients that are not in Emily’s recipe, as well as measurements that differ from Emily’s recipe. Also worth mentioning: as much as possible, I try to use organic ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the chia seeds to a one-cup glass measuring cup and a 1/4 cup cold water. Stir.
- Wait around 15 minutes until the chia seeds absorb a significant amount of water to form a gel.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil, and chia gel.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the ingredients for a few minutes until well combined.
- In another one-cup glass measuring cup (or perhaps you could simply clean the cup in which you made the chia gel), add the teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to the non-dairy milk. (I’ve used both soy and almond with good results.) and stir. This concoction makes a non-dairy version of buttermilk.
- Add the milk and vinegar solution to the mixing bowl along with the vanilla and mashed bananas. Beat with the mixer for a few more minutes.
- In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix together with a fork.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined well. Don’t over-mix.
The mixture before placing it in the loaf pan.
- Grease a loaf pan with a little olive oil and a paper towel.
- Pour the bread mixture into the loaf pan, leveling it as much as possible.
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Check the bread by inserting a knife into the middle of the loaf until it reaches the bottom of the pan and withdraw it. The knife should be pretty clean; that is, no wet batter stuck to it.
Fresh out of the oven. The smell is wonderful!
- Let sit on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the loaf to separate it from the pan. Bang the pan on the counter a few times and turn it over, the loaf should come out pretty easily.
- Let the loaf cool on a cooling rack. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist slicing off a piece while it’s still warm. Enjoy.
The finished product right before the first slice was made.
What’s so great about the recipe is that it uses whole wheat flour, a relatively small amount of sweeteners, and is vegan without really trying that hard. We love it anyway!