Friday, April 20, 2012

Back to Basics

Way back, I remember buying the Joy of Vegan Baking only to return it days later - I was really annoyed that it seemed like a Betty Crocker style of book with simple subs like Earth Balance and tofu cream cheeze. Then, years later, I remember seeing Kathy Freston on Ellen encouraging folks to go vegan with the help of Gardein. Again, I found myself wondering what the point of being vegan was if it simply meant subbing meat with a processed soy product. And many of the tweets I receive regarding a vegan lifestyle are basically trying to promote a new and surely overpriced vegan junk food or convenience product.

Now I'm not trying to shun this advertising and rampant processed product availability - I'm a capitalist. But it just seems to be against what veganism is all about - at least for me. Some are vegan since they are disgusted about the treatment of animals; some take on this diet due to a health crisis of some sort; some do it since it seems to be the 'it' thing. For me, I never liked the taste and texture of animal products and how they made me feel so that was the initial driving force, then came the realization that cooking without animal products is more interesting, flavourful and more challenging. Please note that I find the 'challenging' part to be a positive; not something to be perceived as negative or frustrating. So, as a result, I'm disappointed that vegan food seems to be promoted more through packaged products and recipes that rely on those products.

Thank goodness there are some chefs/cookbook authors that are bucking the overprocessed stuff.  Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Chloe Coscarelli and Dreena Burton have cookbooks that don't always call for processed products.  It's refreshing!  The way we should be cooking!  So naturally those are the cookbooks that I tend to gravitate towards when preparing my meal plans.

Given our allergy situation, I can't go to the store and buy some products - purchased seitan and mayo always have soy; soy-free Earth Balance has pea protein, flax, sunflower, palm, coconut and more; bread has something in it or is produced in a facility that also processes nuts; crackers have soy, sunflower or safflower...the list goes on.  But I've found a few good recipes that I make loads of basics, so although there are a few things I need to make in order to be able to prepare many recipes, it's really not much effort.

So if you have a billion allergies like us, or want to go vegan without having to buy all the vegan products, or want to get to know what is in your food a little better, here you go!

Seitan - I prefer my recipe, as it doesn't make a spongy or squishy seitan.  It's more dense.  I make a loaf each week and slice for sandwiches, dice for casseroles and stir fries, use it ground in pasta sauces, bread name it.  Most normal people would have variety in their diets, but given that tofu and beans are out, this is it.

Blue Ribbon Bread - Love that this makes up 3 loaves at a time, so you only have to make it once and freeze them.  I tend to use cooked quinoa to bump up the complete protein factor.  I make my burger buns using this versatile recipe, and just shorten the baking time.  I can't believe I have no pic of this!  

Buttah - Was using Mattie's, now using Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe.  It's awesome!  It stays soft at room temp, and makes a perfect sugar cookie, chocolate chip cookie dough, and buttercream.  Her write up about fair trade ingredients was really helpful, and I just received my 7lb order of deodorized cocoa butter!  Although I have to say I won't use UPS as the shipping method again - brokerage fee?  Anyways, I use IKEA silicone cupcake molds as each one holds 1/2 cup so it's easy to measure for baking.  I simply omit the lecithin since we can't do soy or sunflower, and I can't be bothered to order an obscene amount of canola lecithin.

Mayonnaise - I never was a mayo girl, but some recipes are just plain calling for it.  This one from Bryanna Clark Grogan is easy and reliable.  I think it tastes like the real thing!  I'm hoping to tweak it to use as a replacement for silken tofu in recipes like cheezecakes...that's the one thing that I haven't been able to make since the allergy diagnosis.

I hope this list proves to be useful for those in Ottawa looking to participate in the NCVA's Veg Challenge - good luck!

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