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

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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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Better than Cadbury Cream Eggs! (vegan, fair trade, and gluten free) with update for palm free/gmo free recipe

Hi!

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I’ve been wanting to make a vegan chocolate cream egg since…well…every year I’ve been vegan. This year I finally decided to take action.

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I bought an egg shaped mold from a craft store and everything. However, I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Hell Yeah It’s Vegan which does not require a mold (and I think comes out better if you don’t). Please check the blog out beyond this recipe. It’s amazing!

Originally I just made some simple adjustments to the recipe. Instead of using yellow and red food coloring, I made the yellow out of water and powdered turmeric. I also changed the method a bit, instead of using two disks I used one and just free-styled the yellow part of the egg by placing it in the center and wrapping the white part around it and shaping it into an egg shape. It was actually really easy in terms of making candies and other stuff.

The chocolate I used was Equal Exchange Fair Trade chocolate chips which I am really passionate about buying from now on. Not only are they conflict/child labor/slave labor free and on the Food Empowerment Project chocolate list, but they’re also the best tasting chocolate and worked like a dream.

But I was annoyed that I was making these with Earth Balance, which has palm oil in it, and corn syrup, which is often gmo and not organic (genetically modified). So I had to totally revamp the recipe. It works just as well if not better. The updated recipe is below!

Of course, these are also gluten free and also nut free (if you don’t consider coconut a nut!)

Chocolate Creme Eggs–vegan, gluten free, palm oil free, fair trade, organic

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp refined coconut oil (solid) –plus 2 tsp for the chocolate
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 cups organic/gluten free powdered sugar
  • Ground turmeric and water, as needed
  • 8 oz (or more, just use the full bag) fair trade, vegan chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer, cream the brown rice syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and water together.
  2. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar into this mixture, blending until well combined. If it is hard to mix add a small amount of water, no more than an 2 additional teaspoons.
  3. Place a small amount of the mixture into a small bowl (a third or less of it), and sprinkle the turmeric powder and a small amount of water (you do want this to get a little runny), use a small whisk or spoon to stir it together until it all incorporates and is a bright yellow color. It will be hard to combine at first.
  4. Cover both bowls and place them in the refrigerator for an hour or more. If you are short on time you can place them in the freezer for no more than 30 minutes.
  5. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper.
  6. With a small spoon, place little blobs of the yellow mixture onto the tray. You want to aim for about 15 nickel size pieces.
  7. Then shape the white mixture into 30 flat egg shaped discs and place on the other tray.
  8. Place the white ones in the fridge and the yellow in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
  9. Take one white disc, place the yellow blob and put it in the middle, then place another white disc to form a sandwich. Smush together and then shape by rolling in between your hands into an egg shape. Continue on with the rest of them. It’s okay if some of the yellow is oozing out, it gets better looking results that way.
  10. Place again in the freezer for a half hour (or more).
  11. Melt the chocolate with 2 tsp coconut oil in the microwave or a double boiler.
  12. Dip the frozen eggs fully into the chocolate one by one, placing on a cookie sheet with a fresh sheet of parchment paper or wax paper to set. I have found that the best method is to use a spoon to roll the egg in the chocolate and then carefully take out of the chocolate, letting the excess drip off back into the chocolate, and then placing onto the tray. They will not be perfect, you may have some drips that deform the egg shape. Once you let them set you can break those off a little bit.
  13. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to set fully. I like to keep a big batch of them wrapped in foil in the freezer, and when there is a day that I want one, I place it in the fridge for a few hours, let it sit out for a little longer at room temperature, and then dig in! They are so good.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Vegan MoFo day #13 Post #10: Kitchen tour time and recipe for yellow rice

Hey,

Today’s Vegan MoFo post prompt is: It’s kitchen tour time!

Technically “my” kitchen is actually my mom’s kitchen. I am very lucky to live with my parents right now because they have a really awesome kitchen. I’ll miss it when I move out.

The pictures I will post at the end will show that the kitchen a bit messy, and that’s because I took them right after I made an elaborate dinner. My mom is always complaining about the messes I make. I really can be a bit of a hurricane when I cook.

Tonight’s dinner was from the cookbook Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats From Around the World by Allyson Kramer. It was the Peanut Mole soy curls, although I’m not sure why it’s called that, since there are no peanuts in it. In addition to that, I decided to make a yellow rice recipe, which wasn’t in the book, but somehow came out looking almost exactly like the rice that was pictured in the recipe.

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The mole may not be exactly attractive, but let me tell you, anything that has a whole bar of melted chocolate in it is worth making!

Here is the recipe for the rice I made:

Yellow Rice Makes about 4 cups cooked

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup defrosted frozen peas

Directions:

  1. I recommend using a rice cooker for this as it’s easier and I love rice cookers! Place all the ingredients except the peas and tomatoes into the pot of the rice cooker and stir before turning on.
  2. If using a rice cooker, set to cook and leave it alone until it switches to warming. If you prefer not to use a rice cooker, cook on the stove as you would any other rice (you probably know better how to do that than me at this point, since I’ve grown reliant on rice cookers.)
  3. Once cooked, transfer into a large bowl and fold in the tomatoes and peas.
  4. Serve as a delicious side.

And now, what you’ve been waiting for: the kitchen tour!

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This is the area where the stove, oven, fruit basket, utensils, and blender reside. You can also see my rice cooker and the mole I just made when this was taken.

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This is the corner where my new juicer resides that I am loving and endlessly intrigued by.

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This is the sink area. You can also see on the left hand side (sorta, it isn’t clear) some pencils, pens, and paper that we keep there along with my parents’ actual landline phone. It is a mess of dirty dishes in this picture AHHHH! I cleaned them up right after eating.

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This is where a lot of the cups and glasses are stored above and where I often prepare food but am not really supposed to because my mom likes it as clean as possible. My hot water heater is currently on the top of the counter top. My cat Neko often jumps up onto this counter to get his food (since we prepare it on there), which we’ve tried to discourage him from because it’s gross, but we haven’t been consistent enough with correcting the behavior so he’s still doing it. In the background you can see the eating area where my brother is eating the Mole dish as well (he’s not a vegan but likes the food I make and eats it happily).

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The pantry area, spice rack, microwave, toaster oven, Mrs. Pots Cookie jar, etc. You can also see the cupcakes left over from the bbq I told you about that I made for Saturday, my Vega One shake, some random ingredients such as gluten free vegan breadcrumbs and buckwheat flour, and other cluttery stuff. Check out my mom’s alphabetized spice rack…we have a bit of an overgrowth of spices, as the overflow is housed in the cabinet above.

That’s all for tonight, it was fun showing you the kitchen!

Jackfruit Sloppy Joe Recipe, slop slop sloppy joes!

Before I get to the recipe I have a funny story to share.

First of all, I don’t think my mother would have ever made sloppy joe’s for my brother and I to eat if it weren’t for my dad’s apparent love for musical comedy CDs.

My dad is famous in our family for several things. For awhile, it was always needing the newest technology to play music or movies with. He had cd players in his cars pretty early on. The other thing he was famous, but still continues to this day, is the sick joy he gets out of torturing his family with the way he listens to music when we are in the car with him. He will make a point to have a bunch of music queued up, and will play the first 30 seconds of each song, until he finds the most annoying song he has, and then listens to that one in its entirety.

Anyways, some time during my childhood, there was the song that all I remember from it was the chorus of “Sloppy Joe, slop sloppy Joe, yeah.” Except, until now, I had somehow thought that this song was either a Meatloaf song or some other classic rock group’s song (as those are probably my Dad’s other favorite types of Musicians). I don’t even know why, it’s obvious that this song was not meant to be serious. After researching for more details of the “Sloppy Joe song slop sloppy joe” (yes that’s what I googled) it was on an Adam Sandler CD. Apparently I was only 9 at the time when this song came out, and I don’t remember any of the other songs on this album. Up until now I hadn’t even realized it was an Adam Sandler song, even though I know all of the lyrics to the Chanukkah songs by heart.

So, as I realized that there did not yet exist a vegan sloppy joe recipe that’s main ingredient was jackfruit, this song popped back into my head and I made it up. The jackfruit ends up complementing the other flavors very well, because jackfruit is a bit tangy, and with the seasonings and sauce almost makes it taste like there are pickles in the recipe. To me it tastes kind of like a fake cheeseburger with no burger or cheese.

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Jackfruit Sloppy Joe Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans jackfruit, drained and rinsed, chopped in a food processor
  • 1 1/2 cups Heinz Chili Sauce or ketchup
  • 1/4 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp turmeric (I’ve been reading all these articles lately about the benefits of turmeric lately, so I try to put it into my recipes as much as I can)
  • 1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce or vegan steak sauce
  • Vegenaise as needed
  • Vegan Kaiser rolls sliced in half

Directions:

  1. Heat oil on medium heat in a large frying pan with cover.
  2. Add in the onions, allow to cook until translucent.
  3. Add in the pepper and garlic and cook until the pepper turns bright green and then softens.
  4. Stir in the jackfruit and allow to cook for a few minutes. Stir for a bit, place the cover on top for a minute or two, and then take off the cover and stir a bit more.
  5. When the jackfruit has heated, reduce the heat to low and add the chili sauce, sugar, seasonings, and worcestershire sauce and stir until combined.
  6. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  7. Spread Vegenaise onto the bun and put a generous amount of the sloppy joe mixture onto the bun.
  8. Try not to make too much of a mess of yourself while eating it.

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Vegan MoFo 2014: Sunday Brunch: Bagel Casserole

During Girls Rock Camp this Summer, we had an influx of day old bagels being donated to us daily.It was awesome and fed a lot of hungry campers and volunteers. However, I ended up with most of the leftover, slightly stale bagels that we had cut in half for ease of serving. What was I to do with all these? Well, considering I was already thinking about recipes for Vegan MoFo (in the very early stages, however) I thought: VEGAN BAGEL BREAKFAST CASSEROLE!

And so, this beauty was born.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 large somewhat stale everything bagels, cut in half and then into chunks
  • Oil cooking spray
  • Vegan chive and garlic (or onion) cream cheese (I used Go Veggie vegan brand by Galaxy Foods, Daiya makes one too)-the whole container
  • 3 daiya cheddar slices, broken into bits
  • 1 block firm tofu
  • 1 cup unsweetened hemp milk
  • 1/4 tsp (or less) Indian Black Salt (the kind that smells like eggs)—this is somewhat optional to your preferences and availability of this ingredient
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Heaping 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt, to taste (I used none)

Directions:

  1. Spray a 13”x9” casserole dish with cooking oil spray
  2. Place bagel chunks into the dish, and spray the oil again over the bagels
  3. Take a butter knife and place chunks of the chive cream cheese around the bagel chunks
  4. Do the same with the pieces of Daiya cheddar slice bits (refer to picture)
  5. Drain and break up the tofu into a food processor, and add the hemp milk, blending until smooth
  6. Add the remaining ingredients into the processor and blend until combined
  7. Pour this mixture over the casserole you have assembled so far (picture)
  8. Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator over night.
  9. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, place in the oven for 45 minutes, uncover, and heat for another 5 minutes.
  10. Voila! Dig in!

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Reference picture for step #4

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Reference step 7

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A photo of the finished product!

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Vegan Mofo Day 10-Worldly Wednesday-Curry Chickpea Salad with Apples and Almonds

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This is one of the simplest, easiest, and delicious recipes I like to make. It also has a good amount of turmeric in it, which I have been hearing so much of the benefits of recently. Pairing the almonds with the chickpeas gives it a firmer texture and the apples give it a nice crunch. It’s really good in a wrap or some sprouted rye bread as a sandwich, or even as a topping for a salad.

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Ingredients:

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  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup vegenaise
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 chopped apple of choice

Directions:

  1. Place the chickpeas and almonds in a food processor and chop thoroughly. The almonds give the chickpeas a more chicken like texture.
  2. Transfer the chickpeas and almonds into a large bowl (bigger is better, I used a bowl that was too small at first that caused some overflow.
  3. Add the vegenaise, curry powder, turmeric, and nutritional yeast, and stir well, until the ingredients are all combined.
  4. Fold in the chopped apple.
  5. Serve in a wrap with lettuce, in regular sandwich bread, or on top of a salad.

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