Why I’m going to avoid artificial colors from now on. (Update 8/31/17)

 

I have been hearing all sorts of bad things about artificial and synthetic food colors for a long time. I had heard that they were tested on animals at some point, that they’re harmful to our health, that they’re not environmentally friendly, and that they are unnecessary. Yet, I kept seeing products labeled as vegan that had them in them and I assumed I could eat them despite what I believed were rumors. They are in, after all, in some of my favorite mainstream candies that are widely accepted as being accidentally vegan.

Realizing that many people avoid synthetic food colors for the reasons I listed above, I set out to begin to find some alternatives when I cook for other people and for the cookbook I am writing. I was not thinking I would decide to avoid them for the most part until I began to research them more as I was writing this.

However, I discovered some facts that upset me and convinced me otherwise:

Synthetic colors can be present in almost any product in the market, from food and drinks to toothpaste, chewing gum, medications, cosmetics, and even tattoos. They are typically made in a laboratory from petroleum products (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10) or Coal (FDA, 2007). The petroleum and coal industries are destructive to our environment, and produce products and byproducts that are not exactly considered food!

To identify an artificial food coloring in your foods’ ingredients lists, you must look for the prefixes FD&C, D&C, or Ext. D&C, followed by the name of a color, and a number. Sometimes the artificial color may be listed just as the color and number. These labels mean that these colors have been “certified” by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been approved by them to be safe for use in food (FDA, 2007). Today, there are nine dyes that are approved to be used in food, and these are (minus the prefixes): Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

However, the FDA does not require certain colorants derived from plants, animals, or minerals, though some are still considered artificial colorants and need to be regulated differently (FDA, 2007). This list includes some unappetizing options for colorings such as carmine and cochineal extract (which are produced using beetles and therefore not vegan), canthaxanthin, Sodium copper chlorophyllin, Toasted partially defatted cooked cottonseed flour, ferrous gluconate and ferrous lactate, synthetic iron oxide, mica, etc. The same list includes ingredients we vegans are more familiar with, such as beets, turmeric, vegetable and fruit juices, spirulina, saffron, paprika, carrot oil, and annatto (FDA, 2015). For more information on these lists you can check them out here.

In order to certify a synthetic colorant’s safety, they are tested on animals. The FDA requires that there are tests on at least two different species of rodents (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). That alone may be a reason to avoid these dyes. However, if it does not sway you for whatever reason, know that even scientists are critical of the ways in which animal testing is used and applied in research. In order to test the carcinogenicity of these colorful products effectively, scientists believe that more animals needed to be tested, that the tests need to be performed on pregnant animals and their fetuses, and have a longer duration than the two years they are conducted for at present (Potera, 2010). Personally, I would rather avoid or even encourage a ban these questionably safe products than advocate for more extensive animal testing.

Scientists, medical doctors, nutrition experts, and even psychologists, teachers, parents, and other concerned folks also take issue with some of the research findings of some dyes when the FDA has not. For example,  Potera states, “Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 contain free benzidene, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low, presumably safe levels” (2010). However, benzidene has also been found to be bound to the chemical structure of the dyes at a greater level than the free benzidene. The tests the FDA does do not consider or identify bound contaminants, only free ones (Potera, 2010). Yellow 5 (also called tartrazine), can cause allergic reactions that can be severe in some people. Tartrazine is now required to be listed by name on food labels, but that isn’t the only concern with this colorant. In a majority of the test-tube and animal experiments for it, this yellow colored dye was shown to damage DNA, which may indicate that it is a carcinogen. Unfortunately, the studies that showed the data was not considered by the FDA (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). Furthermore, it has been suggested by researchers that artificial food colorings can increase hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD, as well as children without the diagnosis (Arnold, Lofthouse, & Hurt, 2012).

Some food dyes used today are even banned for use in cosmetics and topical drugs but not food. Red 3 has been banned from these applications by the FDA. It has been shown in animal testing to cause thyroid cancer. Today, five million pounds of Red 3 are present in the food supply (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

It is, as always, up to you to decide what you will tolerate ethically and put into your body. Personally, now that I know that these products are harmful to my health, animals, and the environment, I am going to try to do away with synthetic food colorings as much as I possibly can. I will use natural colors instead.

References

Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: Conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599-609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x

Jacobson, M. F., & Kobylewski, S. (2010, September). Color Us Worried. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 37(7), 10-11. Retrieved from Nursing & Allied Health Database.

Potera, C. (2010). Diet and nutrition: The artificial food dye blues. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp/118-a428

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2007, December 10). How safe are color additives? Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048951.htm

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2015, May). Summary of color additives for use in the United States in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/ColorAdditiveInventories/ucm115641.htm#table1A

***

For the purposes of the cookbook I am writing, unfortunately, I had bought a bunch of sprinkles that were labeled vegan that used the artificial colors before I did this research. I feel guilty letting them go to waste and so I plan to use them. However, I feel the need to point out that there are naturally colored vegan sprinkles available. Let’s Do Organic… brand makes a fairly easy to find variety. India Tree makes some too, but not all of them are vegan. You will need to look out for ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze or beeswax (made from insects) before buying. Additionally, there is an Etsy store called Naked Sprinkles that makes a beautiful range of vegan and naturally colored sprinkles that  I’m really excited to support in the future!

Since my cookbook is all about creating fun, rainbowy, unicorn-inspired foods, I felt it especially necessary to provide options for creating these beautiful colors without the cruelty, environmental destruction, and health risks involved.

If you are short on time or these are not cost effective for you or difficult to find, there are pre-made natural colors that you can buy as well. India Tree, Color Garden, and Color Kitchen, all make natural and vegan food coloring that you can buy in stores or online.

The following are my alternatives to artificial dyes, using natural ingredients. I recommend that you mix each color in a small glass jar and keep chilled in the fridge until needed to color all sorts of foods, such as smoothies, cakes, donuts, frostings, cookies, etc. Always shake the jar before using as separation will occur. I will be using these dyes I created in many of the recipes in the book I am writing.

*Though I have not included it in the official recipes, you can make orange colored dye by mixing the beet color with the turmeric color until you get a satisfactory shade of orange. It may be easier to mix into the food item you are making rather than in a jar, as the colors appear darker than they will in the food you are mixing them into.

Vegan Friendly Natural Food Dye Recipes

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Red

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot if you do not have it)
  • ¾ tsp beet powder

Yellow

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Green

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp spirulina powder

Blue

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ½ tsp butterfly pea tea powder

Purple

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ¼ tsp butterfly pea tea powder
  • ¼ tsp beet powder

IMG_3695Here is a picture of some cookie dough I colored using red, purple, yellow, and green dye I made.

 

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New Project! Magic Rainbow Unicorn Party

Hey!

As some readers may or may not know, for the past year I have been studying at the Institute for Humane Education, working towards an M.A. in humane education. Humane education seeks to empower and educate people who can be “solutionaries,” or, people who find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, which often involve human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection issues. I went into this program to become a better vegan mentor and educator, as well as learn more about human rights.

I am always looking for ways to encourage people to make healthier, sustainable, and less harmful product choices. Of particular concern to me are labor issues, cruelty towards animals, the amount of waste and pollution that is created from any particular product, etc. That being said, our quests to find these types of products and making our own food and other handmade activities should still be FUN!

Fat Unicorn

Not only that but learning about how to be more ethical and healthier consumers does not have to be boring or painful and upsetting. Being equipped with information and resources presented in a non-threatening way can make a big difference for people and their habits.

So, for my master’s thesis, I am working on writing a cookbook/eco-friendly craft/kid’s party book, with a magical unicorn rainbow theme.

Inside the book will be a cute chubby unicorn sharing facts and resources most likely, among other helpful tidbits.

The reason for her chubbiness is simple,  vegans come in all shapes and sizes, and the size of a person, big or small, should not dictate what kind of a role model they are in the vegan movement. So, this unicorn pays tribute to that concept.

Likewise, what people choose to eat, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, is their choice! If they want to eat sugary cookies, or ice cream, or whatever else, they have that right, whether they do it every day or once in a while for a treat. If you are opposed to treating yourself with food, this probably isn’t for you. (Although there will be foods that are more health-oriented as well).

In the next few days, I’ll be sharing with you the details of the first project I tackled for this project. Making your own natural vegan food dyes!

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In the meantime, check out my new Instagram account associated with the project, @unicorns.eat.vegan.

Have fun this weekend!

xoxo Laura

Buffalo Soy Curls Recipe and a review of Daiya’s Blue Cheese dressing

Whew, this summer has been so busy! So much happening in my life right now.

Girls Rock camp starts on Monday and I am super excited to help feed people there.

Today I was in the grocery and came across Daiya’s new salad dressings. I was intrigued by the blue cheese one. I never really liked blue cheese, and I hated chunky versions of the dressing. I only liked it if it was smooth. But I decided to purchase it on a whim, and then suddenly had the great idea to make something buffalo style to accompany it.

I came up with a recipe for buffalo soy curls.

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The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag Butler Soy Curls
  • Water to cover soy curls
  • 1/4 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bottle Frank’s Red Hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Soak soy curls in a bowl covered with water for 10 minutes.
  2. Turn oven to broil.
  3. Drain soy curls.
  4. Place flour, nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powders, and pepper in a ziplock bag.
  5. Toss soy curls into ziplock bag.
  6. Spray a wide-rim baking sheet sprayed with cooking oil.
  7. Dump out soy curls out of bag and spray the tops of the soy curls with oil.
  8. Place in the broiler for about  5 minutes (watch them carefully, every oven broils slightly different, you may require more or less time).
  9. Toss, flip, or stir soy curls around a bit. Place back in the broiler for 2 minutes.
  10. When the soy curls are starting to get crisp and slightly brown, take out of the broiler and pour the hot sauce on top.
  11. Broil for another minute, then take out of the oven.
  12. Serve with celery and vegan blue cheese.

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REVIEW OF THE DAIYA BLUE CHEESE DRESSING:

Despite my reservations, I was quite impressed. It’s been ages since I’ve had the real thing, but once I tasted it I had to re-check the ingredients to make sure Daiya hadn’t pulled a fast one on me. It’s very convincing and there’s no chunkiness. Woohoo! It’s perfect for taming buffalo stuff.

Hope your summer is going well too!

Adventures in Ethiopian Cooking

Over the holidays, I got a vegan Ethiopian cookbook, Teff Love, by Kittee Berns, for a present.

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I have loved Ethiopian cuisine since I lived in the Boston area, where I used to go to a restaurant in Cambridge, MA called Addi’s Red Sea. It is a very vegan friendly cuisine. Vegnews recently shared a story that has more about Ethiopian culture and their food and why it’s so vegan-friendly. Check it out here.

At first I only had the time and energy to try the Ethiopian style tofu scramble recipe. I’m pretty sure I could eat that almost every day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it. What really makes it is the berbere spice, the signature spice mix for the cuisine…although I’m a baby when it comes to spice and so I reduce it by quite a bit.

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You can get it in the international section of Whole Foods, among other places, I am sure.

One of the best parts of the food is the Injera, the spongy, crepe-like sourdough bread that you eat everything with. It can be used instead of utensils. It’s naturally gluten free (made from teff flour–which inspired the name of Bern’s cookbook). However, it takes up to a week to fully make, which is a bit complicated…but worth it if you can figure it out. If you are pressed for time though, the book has a teff crepe recipe which is really awesome as well.

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Another great aspect of Ethiopian food is that it makes a lot of food, and it lends itself to making multiple dishes and feeding lots of people.

For example, the first time I made it, I gave some to my friend who had just had a baby as part of a meal train.

Here’s a picture she took of her plate:

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And here is one of my favorite pictures of my own plate (one of many):

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Also, my dad happens to work with someone from Ethiopia, who ended up giving me a huge jar of Teff flour! It was very exciting as it’s like hitting the teff jackpot!

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After making a large batch of food for myself and my friend and her family, I made a dish by itself. It is called ye’zelbo gomen be’karot, which is kale with carrots, onions and mild spices. It’s seriously the best kale dish I’ve ever eaten, and that is saying a lot (I love kale) and my whole family loves it.

Speaking of which: yesterday (Wednesday April 7), after spending the weekend in my kitchen making a big feast for Monday, only to have snow (!!!) cancel the class, I served the small college program, College Unbound, who helped me get my bachelor’s degree, the feast as well! I kept raving about the kale dish to everyone, and one student said she doesn’t like kale, but I got her to try it anyways, and she really liked it! Her cousin who was also there, was claiming she might need to contact the local news channel because I had her trying foods she’d never tried before, and she’s usually so picky…which was a big compliment for myself and the author of the cookbook! Here are a few pictures of some of the other students posing with their plates:

Also, the majority of the students had never had Ethiopian food before when we asked. Most people who tried it were not put off by the fact that there wasn’t meat in the dishes, which can happen sometimes when I am feeding large groups (or at least they didn’t say it to my face! haha). I had one person comment to me that the split peas in mild sauce (called ye’ater kik alicha in the book) had a meatlike texture. My friend Domingo, who is pictured in the first picture above, was excited also that I made the vegan Ethiopian style mac and cheesie, because he’s lactose intolerant.

It was a really positive experience for myself and all involved. Especially because I could effortlessly share my love of another culture’s food and share that vegan food doesn’t have to be bland, boring, or leave you craving protein (in fact, the red lentils in spicy sauce, in a dish called ye’misser wot, have 15g of protein per serving, according to Teff Love!). I hope to do it again soon.

And I can’t recommend the cookbook Teff Love, enough!

Gluten Free and Vegan Boneless Spare-no-ribs

I recently bought four bags of Butler soy curls from Veganessentials.com because they are my favorite gluten free vegan meat substitute. I use this recipe I love for Sweet and Sour Soy Curls, and while I was making it, I realized that soy curls are the perfect shape, size, and texture for trying to replicate Chinese boneless spare ribs. It’s mostly a coincidence that I happen to have perfected the recipe and am posting it on Chinese New Year, although once I realized the coincidence it pushed me to post this faster than I normally would.

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Today starts the year of the Red Monkey according to Chinese astrology. I was born under the year of the rat. When I looked up my Chinese horoscope for the new year for fun, it said I might have a good year, with some luck in career stuff, education, and romance. I hope so!

Gluten Free and Vegan Boneless Spare-no-ribs

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Butler Soy Curls
  • Enough water to cover dry soy curls in a bowl
  • ¼ cup mirin wine

Marinade:

  • 1 tbsp gluten free hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp cherry jam or preserves
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp five spice powder
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp potato starch
  • 1 tsp egg replacer powder without water added
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp cherry jam or preserves
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup gluten free soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Reconstitute the soy curls in the liquid for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Drain and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. You can use a clean dish towel to help with this process. Place in a ziplock type bag or bowl.
  3. Prepare the marinade in a food processor or whisk vigorously until smooth.
  4. Pour into the ziplock bag or bowl with the soy curls.
  5. Shake or stir the soy curls so that they are fully coated with the marinade. Allow to marinate overnight or for at least 2 hours.
  6. Before frying the ribs, make the sauce. Stir all ingredients in a small saucepan together and heat over medium heat until warm.
  7. Add in the cornstarch and water and continuously whisk until it thickens and bubbles.
  8. Set aside.
  9. Toss 2 tbsp cornstarch, potato starch, and powdered egg replacer into the bag/bowl and again coat the marinated soy curls.
  10. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Allow it to get hot. Place the soy curls into the pan (they should sizzle if the oil is hot enough), and stir until coated and brown. The coconut oil should have fully absorbed. Don’t stir too long or they might start to stick together too much.
  11. Turn the heat to low and stir in the sauce.
  12. Serve and enjoy!

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What the sauce looks like when done.

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Dig in!

I hope you enjoy this recipe! 😀

Asparagus and Saffron and Garlic Aioli

When I was younger, my mom used to make a non vegan version of this that I loved. Every time she’d make it, she would say “Saffron and Garlic Aioliiiiii” all long and drawn out in a funny voice and it made me have fonder memories of it. It leaves you with horrible garlic breath, but is worth it.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • Olive oil or spray oil
  • 1 cup Just Mayo (vegan mayo brand…I do not recommend trying this with other brands of veganaise, they will get too thin and the taste won’t be the same)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch saffron threads

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Trim the ends of the asparagus off. Place in a baking pan with oil spread or sprayed on the bottom. Spray the tops of the asparagus with oil as well or use a couple teaspoons of oil if you don’t spray.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. To prepare the aioli, place the vinegar, agave, and saffron in a saucepan and bring it to a boil on medium heat.
  5. Allow the vinegar to cool in the refrigerator.
  6. Stir the garlic together with the Just Mayo.
  7. When the vinegar mixture is cool, mix together with the mayo and garlic.
  8. Dollop the aioli over the asparagus. Enjoy! It also makes a yummy dip for other veggies and such.

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Gluten Free Shiitake “bacon” vegan quiche recipe

Gluten free Shiitake “Bacon” Vegan Quiche

Well, I am finally back with a new recipe. My previous few recipes received a lot of attention, and I felt a little frozen to try and top them! This may not top the rainbow cookies, but I am excited that I made it. This recipe is adapted from my jalapeño popper quiche I made awhile ago here.

This recipe is quite nutritious. 1/6 serving has about 15g of protein, 325g potassium. It also contains 19% zinc (which I have a hard time getting in my diet), 14% iron, 122% b-12, 20% calcium (depending on the vegan milk you use), and is also a good source of folate, B-6, Riboflavin and Thiamin because of the nutritional yeast.

The Shiitake bacon:

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I am now quite smitten! In fact, I think it is the closest us vegans have come to replicating the texture of actual bacon. I have adapted my recipe from Chloe Coscarelli…her recipe requires a pound of shiitake (which would cost me at least $10, probably more) and I can only seem to find 3.5 oz containers of sliced shiitake near me. It is so good though. And it is not even fried! I like it by itself, in her Carbonara recipe (http://chefchloe.com/entrees/pasta-carbonara-with-shiitake-bacon.html), and now in this quiche, which is the perfect place for it!

Ingredients:

  • 3.5-4 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place mushrooms in a ziplock bag. Add in the oil and salt and pepper.
  3. Seal bag and shake until mushrooms are coated.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Flip over.
  6. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Voila! They should be simultaneously crispy and chewy (the smaller, thinner pieces will be more crispy, and the thicker bigger pieces chewier)
  8. Use for whatever reason or in the quiche recipe below.

 

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pie Crust

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I am back to eating gluten free after majorly slipping up during the holidays. I have been using this packaged pie crust dry blend for awhile, and I have adapted the rest of the ingredients and directions more to my liking. I do love this product and it makes gluten free pies much easier but the method for using it could use some improvement. In the past when I followed their directions, I often found myself working with a very crumbly crust that was almost impossible to roll out and use without it cracking or worse. I have been thinking of ways to make it better and more like an actual pastry pie crust, and this seems to have worked.

Ingredients:

  • A bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pie Crust Dry Mix
  • 12 tbsp Earth Balance Sticks (1.5 sticks total)
  • 8 tbsp coconut oil
  • 6 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Pour the dry mix into a food processor.
  2. Cut up the Earth Balance into small pieces and place into the food processor. Do not process yet!
  3. Place the coconut oil into the processor by each tablespoon at a time.
  4. Process until a smooth somewhat cohesive mixture is formed.
  5. Take out and place in a large bowl.
  6. Sprinkle the water over it.
  7. Use your hands to combine everything together and make it moldable.
  8. Separate in half. If making the quiche, keep one half out and wrap the other in a disk shape in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer, defrosting before ready to use for another quiche or pie of some type later. If making a double crust pie instead, place the disk in the fridge for 30 minutes before using.

BEHOLD! THE QUICHE!!

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Ingredients:

  • ½ recipe Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pie Crust as prepared above
  • 1 lb firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp Ener-g Egg Replacer (do not add water to it!)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup plain almond milk or another favorite vegan milk substitute
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp Indian Black Salt (optional, it makes it have an eggier flavor. When searching for this, please note it is actually a pink color and not black) If you can’t find it, place ¼ tsp of your favorite salt instead
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ Daiya cheddar shreds
  • 1 3.5 oz batch of shiitake bacon as provided above

Directions:

  1. Spread half the prepared pie crust into a deep dish pie pan with your fingers. Try your best to make it even across the pan and up the sides.
  2. Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. Place pie crust with several fork stabs to the bottom in the oven for 10 minutes.
  5. Prepare the filling by placing the tofu, egg replacer, nutritional yeast, and plain vegan milk in a food processor. Blend together until smooth.
  6. Add the onion powder, turmeric, and black salt, and process until combined, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula a few times to really incorporate everything.
  7. Scoop out into a large bowl and fold in the Daiya cheese and shiitake bacon until they are evenly dispersed throughout.
  8. Spread into the prepared pan with the pie crust in it.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for a bit (10-15 minutes…although it is easier to cut when you wait longer) before digging in! Enjoy!

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Italian Rainbow Cookies Veganized

During Christmas, I had this bad habit of being at the grocery store and looking at the ingredients of the Italian Christmas cookies hoping some of them would be vegan. Not a chance. I’ve been craving these all season.

After Christmas, I looked up some recipes for this type of cookie. I wasn’t sure what they would actually be called, but it was easy enough to find. I found this recipe, which I knew I could veganize with the magic vegan ingredient, aquafaba.

I was so worried I’d really mess up making these a lot earlier on. The parts I thought would fail were not as difficult as I thought. The hardest part was cutting it after I put the chocolate on top, which ended up crumbling a bit and making it not as pretty as I would have liked. The recipe makes it sound much more complicated and some of the steps are needlessly complicated, so I’m re-writing the recipe in the way I did it with the vegan substitutions.

This recipe also required making vegan almond paste (with aquafaba as well!)

That is the first step to making these babies.

Vegan Aquafaba Almond Paste

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups blanched almonds
  • 1.5 cups vegan powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea water/brine from a can)
  • 1.5 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, blend the almonds until smooth and pasty.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, aquafaba, extract, and salt.
  3. Process again until smooth and dough-like (it should form into a big ball).
  4. You may need to scrape the sides down frequently throughout the process.
  5. When finished, set aside 3/4 cup for your Italian Rainbow cookies. You can save the leftovers, it’s super yummy!

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Veganized Italian Rainbow Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks plus 4 tablespoons Earth Balance sticks
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup almond paste (recipe above)
  • 3/4 cup vegan sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas)
  • 12 tablespoons aquafaba
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • food coloring method of choice (red and green)
  • 15 oz Apricot Jam (not the kind with clumpy pieces in it, you want it to be smooth)
  • 10 oz vegan chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place parchment paper on three jelly roll pans or rimmed cookie sheets and spray parchment with cooking oil.
  3. In a stand mixer bowl, place the almond paste and 3/4 cup with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix on the medium speed setting until crumbly.
  4. Cut the Earth Balance into small pieces and place into the the mixture while beating together until all the Earth Balance is in there and the batter is smooth.
  5. Sift 2 cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Add into the mixer slowly and continue to mix until combined. Do not over mix.
  6. In a large metal bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, place the 12 tablespoons of aquafaba. Whip until foamy. Slowly add in the 2 tablespoons of sugar while continuing to whip on the highest setting. Stop when you have created firm peaks (if you take out the whisks from the meringue, and place them upside down, it will not drip down).
  7. Add 1/3 of the meringue into the batter and fold in with a rubber spatula. Add the rest of the meringue and mix until fully incorporated.
  8. Place the batter evenly into 3 bowls. 1 bowl keep plain, and then add green and red to the other two bowls.
  9. Transfer the batters onto their respective cookie sheets one at a time with a wet rubber spatula . My sheets were too big to be able to spread out the batter entirely, so I tried my best to make the most even shaped rectangles on each cookie sheet so they’d match up when layered together after baking.  Don’t worry too much about it, you’ll cut the edges so they’re prettier when it’s all assembled anyhow. Just worry about making relatively even thickness rectangles for now.
  10. Bake for 4 minutes, rotate the pans around in the oven so that one pan is not on the bottom rack the whole time, and bake for another 4-6 minutes until the edges are slightly browned.
  11. Allow to cool completely.
  12. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam on top of the red layer.
  13. Cut any excess parchment paper from around the white layer. Holding the bottom of the cookie with both hands, carefully line up and flip the white layer onto the red.
  14. Spread another layer of jam. Repeat step 13 with the green layer, but do not place anymore jam on top.
  15. Cover with plastic wrap. Place a clean cookie sheet on top to press down the layers. Place something heavy and even (like two cans on either side) on top of that, and place into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  16. Take off the cans, cookie sheet, and plastic wrap. With a sharp knife, trim the uneven sides into a clean rectangle shape. Let sit for a moment or a few.
  17. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave.
  18. Spread over the top layer and sides with a spatula.
  19. Allow to set, and then cut into smalls squares.
  20. Place in a container and store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Enjoy! I know I certainly will!

 

 

Kittens, final classes, vegfest, oh my!

Hi! I’ve been slacking a bit with my posts, but with good reason!

First, I adopted a kitten!

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He’s the best. He was already named when we got him. His name is Sam (his litter mates were all named after Lord of the Rings characters), but we like to call him Sammy. He’s so playful and cuddly but also a little skittish.

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(oh, and as you can see I am rocking a new colorful hair style!!) I’ve been spending a lot of time with him, bonding and such. He was really scared at first and was skeptical of sleeping in my bed, but now he likes to cuddle with me in it, especially in the mornings. He’s keeping me on a better sleep-wake routine which is awesome. He is 13 weeks old, and we got him when he was 12 weeks. He really loves people too, lots of people have met him so far, and he isn’t afraid or timid of any of us.

Next up on my big news, I finished all the work for my degree! As part of one of my classes, I made a new website too and got business cards! You can check it out at veg-edu-ables.com! I’m hoping to start mentoring people who want to be vegan near me, and doing other things like cooking classes, food demos, providing food for different organizations, helping with people’s writing (which can be for anything, vegan or otherwise, but most of my writing has something to do with veganism, so that’s why it’s there too!), and more! I finished all my work for my Bachelor of Science degree on October 18, 2015! I will have that paper in my hand some time after December 31st! (My college has 8 week terms, where you take 2 classes each term for a total of 4 classes per semester). I’m so happy to be done early and have some time to really start working on some of my awesome projects!

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This calls for some celebration!

Part of that celebration was going to the Boston Vegfest! I went there today with my mom…my mom was really excited because she’s lactose intolerant and could have cheese and chocolates and all kinds of stuff! She’s never actually been somewhere that she can have so much stuff at! I got a lot of cool stuff, some for my birthday coming up this Thursday the 29th…

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I couldn’t decide what stickers to get at Herbivore so I got a ton…also some pins from Compassion Co.

I also got this gluten free magic bar from FoMu:

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I also got a vegan bacon chocolate bar from Rescue Chocolate, a t-shirt with a cow on it that says “Create Kindness” from Herbivore, some (vegan of course) sour cream and chive cashews, some Pulsin protein bars (it’s really hard to find good gluten free AND vegan protein bars), and tons of free samples. My mom was especially excited that So Delicious was giving away free full size mocha ice cream pops, her fave! (I was surprisingly not very hungry and so I didn’t eat that much stuff until I had a vegan hot dog that came in a gluten free wrap and had a delicious kale salad, coconut bacon, and chipotle mayo on it!! yum!) It was a really great day and my mom actually loved it, which I was a little worried she wouldn’t like it as much as she did! 🙂

I came home and made some pizza with Schar’s gluten free crust which makes pizza so much easier for me. It was a buffalo chicken ranch pizza.

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I made it by spreading the buffalo sauce on the crust, putting a mix of Follow Your Heart (hand-shredded) mozzarella and cheddar on top, cooking up Beyond Meat vegan chicken strips and then cutting them into pieces and putting them on top…then I baked the pizza. When it was done I drizzled this amazing vegan ranch dressing I found at my local grocery store!

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It’s so good, it has a coconut milk base. I love it! And they have other varieties that are both gluten free and vegan that I want to try too! 🙂

So yeah, it’s a really easy pizza to make. I also made a similar one not too long ago with bbq sauce…

Anyways, that’s the update, hope you’re having as much fun as I am lately!!

To-fu Young Recipe

Oh man, I messed up this time on Vegan MoFo towards the end. Just wasn’t feeling it as much. I think I would have preferred a theme I had chosen and developed a bit more.

But, onward and upwards, so the saying goes?

I have a new recipe to share. Also, I’m very tired from not sleeping well and having run a 5k race today.

The other day I remembered egg fu young, and was like, “why haven’t I made this vegan yet?” so…I did.

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To-fu Young with gravy recipe

Gravy ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

To-fu Young Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup shredded celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (optional if allergic, use another oil or no oil at all)
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1/2 tsp Indian black salt (the kind that smells like eggs)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • dash white pepper
  • 1/3 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 tbsp egg replacer powder (I use Ener-g)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • Peanut oil (or canola if you’re allergic to nuts) for frying

Directions for gravy:

  1. Mix all ingredients except cornstarch and water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Heat until bubbling.
  3. Add cornstarch and water mix while whisking constantly.
  4. Continue to whisk until the gravy thickens.
  5. Serve on top of To-fu Young when ready

Directions for To-fu Young

  1. Cook all veggies all together with the sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until soft and the mushrooms have become darker.
  2. Turn off heat.
  3. Break the tofu block in half. Crumble one half into small pieces into the pan with the vegetables are in. Stir well.
  4. Place the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and blend well until it becomes a thick liquid batter.
  5. Fold into the vegetables and tofu, stirring well.
  6. To fry them up, I used an electric fryer that we use for making potato latkes because I thought it would work better than doing it in a frying pan. You can definitely do it in a frying pan though if you have one that doesn’t stick too much with this sort of stuff (I don’t).
  7. Heat the oil (you want about a half inch of oil or more) until some of the batter begins to sizzle when flicked in.
  8. Place large spoonfuls of the batter into the oil. Cook on one side and then flip when the side is browned. If not ready yet keep frying it on the side until it becomes crispy and brown. I would have tried to be more mindful of time, but it can vary so much depending on your equipment and your ability to keep the temperature of the oil stable.
  9. When both sides are sufficiently browned and crispy, place on a paper towel on a plate to soak up some of the oil and cool.
  10. Serve with rice and the brown gravy.IMG_5449