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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition

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Vegan Food Undergoing a Renaissance

Vegan foods (besides raw, organic veggies, of course) have come a long way since the grainy baked goods of the 1970's. These breakthroughs in the world of vegan cooking aren’t highly processed—they’re plant-based foods that are kinder alternatives to their animal-based cousins—and they’re changing the face of veganism.

One of the biggest complaints usually heard about a vegan diet is that vegans rely too much on “fake” food to satisfy cravings for the animal products they left behind. However, a vegan lifestyle is arguably about protecting animals, not asceticism. The vegan community is constantly experimenting with cooking techniques and flavors, and some of the results have made eating vegan much more accessible than it once was.

Eggs are useful for baking, and cheese tastes good. Bacon may not be a spice, but its smoky, rich flavor certainly enhances a dish. Finding ways to replace foods like these makes transitioning less overwhelming.

Aquafaba

Aquafaba is just bean cooking liquid. The vegan community has started calling it that because “bean juice” doesn’t do this magical egg replacer justice. Garbanzo or white bean liquid seem to get the best results, but it can be red bean, black bean or lentil, as long as there is enough liquid.For most baking recipes, three tablespoons of aquafaba replaces one egg. Folks have used it to make cookies, brownies, cakes,pies and even meringue.

Vegan Cheese

Vegan cheese can be heavily processed, but there are companies making fermented vegan cheese out of nuts that rival its dairy cousin. We can even make your own vegan cheese at home. Miyko Schinner published a cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese, with recipes mostly for fermented cheeses, but there are some newbie examples, too.

Coconut Bacon

There are many ways to make plant-based bacon in the kitchen. Probably the most satisfying is coconut bacon, which we can make from scratch or buy pre-made. It’s rich, fatty, smoky and a little bit sweet. The coconut bacon from a small company named Phoney Baloney’s contains organic coconut, organic tamari (water, organic soybeans, salt), maple syrup, liquid smoke (water, natural hickory concentrate), grape seed oil, sea salt, pepper and spices.A sprinkling of coconut bacon turns an iceberg lettuce salad and plain baked potato into a feast.

Whipped Coconut Cream

There are a number of processed vegan whips, but for a whole food, plant-based whipped cream, look no further than a can of coconut milk. Only two ingredients are needed (see recipe at MinimalistBaker.com).Some people think that coconut health claims are dubious, but remember that coconut bacon and coconut whip are replacing pig bacon and heavy cream. Vegan food doesn’t always have to be health food. It just has to be free of animal products.

Vegan Mayonnaise

Vegan mayo doesn’t have to be loaded with processed ingredients. The most popular commercial vegan mayo right now is probably Just Mayo, which contains non-BMO expeller-pressed canola oil, filtered water, lemon juice, white vinegar and 2 percent or less of the following: organic sugar, salt, pea protein, spices, modified food starch and beta-carotene.Aquafaba can be used to make vegan mayo from scratch (see recipe at PeanutButterAndVegan.com/april-all-natural-day-5).

It is much easier to cut out or cut back on animal products now than it was 10 years ago. Like many other healthy, conscious practices, veganism has come a long way, baby.

For more information, visit Care2.com/greenliving.

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