Many people say “I could probably go vegan if it weren’t for cream in coffee / the taste of cheese / having to read every label..etc etc”. I think those people are at a point where they can see themselves giving up the big ticket items such as red meat and bacon but are hesitant because of the anxiety around having an alternative for their favourite recipe or to substitute on the go.
2016 will be the year more people than ever choose to go vegan and we need to make sure they don’t get stuck on some little detail that makes them feel they’ve failed or that will make them give up.
These little hacks aren’t rocket science, but they sure do help to transition away from standard ingredients and unhealthy choices. Even if you’re a plant based vet, swap these up for some of your pre packaged vegan products to save money and have better say in what goes into your recipes.
1. dijon for mayo
I know, the taste won’t be the same. It will be better! I personally found dijon mustard to be an acquired taste, but once I fell in love there was no turning back. It adds flavour where mayo was just whipped oil, it blends well with sweet and savoury (such as in a 1:1:1 ratio with maple syrup and balsamic at in the Forks over Knives cookbook recipe) and it is a super easy, super lazy dip for veggies or a baked potato on the run. Add to dressings, in sandwich and as a dip. You can even ask for mayo or non vegan dressings to be substituted for dijon at most restaurants and fast food chains. Adds extra nutrition (from the mustard) and helps keep fat content in check.
2.veggie soup base for chicken stock
Most people have recipes they already love and many of which would be vegan if not for chicken stock. Sometimes you just need to make it easy on yourself and keep making those recipes you love with one minor tweak. Get a gourmet soup base such as Better Than Bouillon vegetable broth or a low sodium option and make anything from veggie casseroles to pilaffs to sautés and soups all vegan. Once you’re more proficient, you can save your celery and onion and veggie scraps to make your own savoury broth. I promise you will not taste a difference from chicken stock.
3. nutritional yeast for parmesan and cheese dip
You may have heard vegans joking about nutritional yeast being “vegan crack”. This is because it is one of those food indulgences that amp up the flavour and “cheesy” factor of any dish to an addictive level. Think vegan nacho sauce or mac and cheese or even vegan alfredo. The best part is that it is actually super healthy. Using it like parmesan or in a cheese like dip boosts the nutrition (thanks to the B vitamin content) as well as taking vegan everyday cuisine to a new level of gourmet. This inactive yeast can be found at Bulk stores and Health food stores and is sometimes fortified with B12.
4. cashews for cheese
Cheese is notoriously the hardest thing for would-be vegans to give up. It was the last non vegan item I ate and at the time, there wasn’t even close to the wealth of vegan cheeses and products as there are today. Though there were and still are faux cheese products such as Daiya and Chaos (which are great on raclette, burgers and pizza fyi!) I like that we have many nut based cheese options as they are less processed, healthier and basically, closer to the feeling of eating cheese in my opinion. The rich, complex flavours in Zengarry Fauxmagerie cheese for example are much more sophisticated than a brick of fake cheese and goes great with fig jam and fruit. Cashew based cheesecakes maintain the taste and texture of dairy cheesecakes and are delicious. Many recipes can be found in one single Pinterest search. (TIP: cashews + nutritional yeast = cheesy bliss. Look for recipes using these in combination). Make sure to start with whole raw cashews and create away!
5. avocado for cream and caesar salad dressing
This one is great because avocado is so naturally creamy and takes on almost any flavour of sauce, dressing or mousse. It is a straight up exchange for cream if you add whipped plain avocado to a recipe (such as caesar salad dressing) and you can make vegan chocolate pudding or mousse if you add simple ingredients such as cocoa and maple syrup. Some words of advice: Works well only as a raw/fresh addition. Best not to attempt to use it in place of cooked or heated dairy. Also, avocados are delicate and are bet eaten the day of (not a good idea to make a batch and store).
6. tofu for eggs
I know we are on the verge of VeganEgg and other plant based egg alternatives so I don’t mean to say not to try these as egg alternatives. It’s just that tofu eggs let you control what goes in and they are really good! Basically tofu imitating egg works for the scrambled egg type alternative. Cook up with some turmeric (for colour and health benefits), curry powder, garam masala, chili pepper, garlic powder, salt and paprika and veggies of choice (mushrooms, onion, red pepper etc) and you have a beautiful omelette or western sandwich style recipe. I am still mourning Red Door Provisions taking the “Curried Tofu Sandwich” off their menu. For eggs in baking, there exists a chart full of conversions such as flax egg or replacer. This year more than ever, vegan bakers had success with aquafaba (or chickpea brine) for making delightful creations such as meringue and macarons. I have yet to try this method out.
7. soy creamer for dairy in coffee
This one seems so obvious. But I can’t tell you how not in the loop veg curious people are on what we put in our coffees and teas! The biggest piece of advice is that non dairy milks are an acquired taste. I used to think I could never give up milk and cream because of its effect on my beloved coffee, now I can’t imagine it the other way around. We also have better products than ever. So Nice Barista Blend makes fantastic latte art, Silk Creamer tastes amazing, Almond lattes have a gourmet nutty flavour unattainable with dairy and coconut milk is so light and fragrant. Keep a dairy creamer in your work or office fridge like me and you can even dump it in Tim Horton’s in a pinch!