The Best Meat and Dairy Alternatives (all your old recipes need not change)

What an incredible time to be vegan.  My goodness, when I was a vegetarian fresh out on my own there was some weird hotdog/Alpo thing in a can.  That was it.  I ate a lot of burritos and spaghetti.  I learned to be creative and have always loved spices and sauces.  Now that I can add delicious plant based alternatives to dairy and meat into my cooking, my guests, and especially my husband, are always pleasantly surprised and satisfied.  It opens up a lot of opportunities for trying to recipes and expanding dinner options.  And it adds a lot more fun in the kitchen.  I don’t particularly love meat but I do enjoy the added textures and creaminess from some of the animal product alternatives now available.  It also allows us to keep our old tried and true and family recipes because we can just sub out what we need.  Food makes memories, brings people together, and creates comfort.  I have no desire to harm animals (and I am sure you don’t either) and I know that near 100% of ailments can be reversed and prevented with a plant based diet.  We won’t even go into the ecological, economical, and karma benefits.  So, here’s what’s out there!

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English muffin pizzas with Miyoko’s mozzarella, orange peppers, and olives with Caesar salad. (Try Daiya Caesar dressing)

Best Dairy Alternatives

“But I LOVE cheese,” um, everyone says.  Scientific fact that cheese affects the brain the very same as heroin.  Truth.  So, we are all actually addicted to cheese.  There are some companies coming to our rehab rescue.

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Rustic Alpine “cheese” wrapped in pie crust and baked like Brie.  Topped with homemade peach jam and served with crackers and a glass of wine….oh my.

Miyoko’s has many different varieties of cheese.  She has rounds of cheese platter ready cheese, like Rustic Alpine, Smoky Cheddar, and Truffle.  She has cheese spread.  And I love them all, whether I get them from the store or online, but what I really love is her butter.  Oh my, it tastes like the real deal.  Cooks the same, spreads the same, and it’s healthy.  No weird ingredients in any of her products.  Cashews and other delicious ingredients are fermented just like dairy to get the taste.

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Fresh popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with truffle salt, basil, nutritional yeast and Violife parmesan.

Violife is…I have no words….so damn realistic, you could fool a cheese maker.  No kidding.  (I was a cheese maker.)  Made from pea protein and other delicious ingredients, you cannot go wrong. The new cheeses do not have that weird rubber aftertaste and they melt.  Try the cheddar or provolone slices.  Make a grilled cheese on sourdough and spray the outside of the bread lightly with olive oil spray and then top with shredded parmesan.  Fry.  The best grilled cheese ever.  Their parmesan is our favorite.  I sneak it around in my purse when we go to restaurants.

And I can’t forget Kite Hill!  Best cream cheese and ricotta.  Better than dairy.

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Bakes fries with homemade cashew cheese, Beyond Meat, guacamole, and all the fixings.

Best Meat Alternatives

Beyond Meat is so convincing my daughter won’t eat it.  Try their burgers.  Try the ground.  The “chicken” is just okay.  But the beef alternatives are great.  Oh, and try the sausage!

Bob’s Mill TVP.  GMO soy will cause problems.  GMO anything will cause problems.  Soy stops bone loss and balances estrogen levels while supplying calcium and vitamin D.  Bob’s is GMO free and it cooks up in chilies or soups or nachos or whatever just like ground meat.  And it’s super cheap.

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Gardein anything.  Lord, they are good.  Always vegan.  Crab cakes (put in hoagies with homemade slaw), fish sticks (with French fries), meatballs (with Victoria Vegan sauce and pasta), meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and corn), and so much more.

I do tend to say away from the super processed, large company owned, GMO, and not-so-vegan brands like Morningstar and Boca.  Quorn is the best for chicken flavor and they are coming out with vegan options as we speak.

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The “I’ll never go vegan”ers. 

My granddaughter is funny.  Independent.  Funny.  “I don’t like vegan food.”  “I don’t want vegan food.”

We then name off dozens of foods that she likes or loves that are vegan.  Most people do not realize how easy it is and how many things are already vegan or have a vegan-ready counterpart next to it at the store or in your pantry.  Maybe we need a new name for vegan food.  How about GOOD FOOD.  I’m a good foodist.  And with the help of innovative new chefs and companies, it’s that much easier to get good food on the table.

 

The Well Stocked Pantry and Repurposed Antiques

I love interesting furniture pieces.  These were cubbies in a hardware store in 1950.  I love the original stenciled numbers.  I bought it at an antique store ten years ago and it was the primary showpiece, holding my tincture bottles, in my shops.  It now holds a place in my kitchen.  I realize that it is getting really dingy looking.  Sixty-nine years of army green can only hold up for so long.  (Spoiler alert!  Next week I am revamping my kitchen.  Can you guess what color the cubbies are becoming?)  I just sold my Hoosier yesterday to make room for my new kitchen idea.  It held glasses and barware.  You can take any old piece and reimagine its purpose.

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I love this idea with the pantry items.  It looks fun and unique while being practical.  Things do tend to get lost in the back of the pantry or spoil.  I end up buying way too many of one thing over time, thinking I am out.  This is a great way to keep track of what pantry pulses I have on hand.  It makes grocery planning easy.  And it serves as dinner inspiration.  Choose a grain or legume, see what veggies I have on hand, think up a theme, and go!  Dinner is on.

What the World Eats (and being aware of what we eat!)

I saw the photo montage go by on my Facebook feed of What the World Eats.  Each photograph of a family in a different country with all the food that they eat in a week.  It took me by surprise, really.  Many of the countries that I thought would have healthier food choices did not.  And the ones that I would consider healthy had little more than five bags of staples like beans and rice.  What really astounded me though was the sheer amount of processed food.  My goodness, big companies have made their way around the world.  One photo showed liters and liters of Pepsi.  Packages of pre-cut meats.  Boxes and boxes of processed foods.  And some produce.  It made me think, What am I eating? What would our photograph look like?

Just for a day I began photographing my meals.

When we had our practically off-grid farm there for a bit, we were practically self-sufficient.  We had a root cellar filled with fruits and vegetables.  A freezer full of local meat and my own cheese curing from my own goats.  What that photo wouldn’t show is all the food that went to feed the animals that I consumed.  (Nor would it show the chronic heartburn, weight gain, and gout.)  What do I eat now? was a question that would ultimately help me see what I could make myself and just how much processed food I consumed.

Breakfast- I love a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  I buy the organic box of raisin granola for $4-$5 and it feeds me for five days with roughly four cups of cereal in the box.  I wrote a book many years ago called, Gone Vegan, and I pulled out that trusty manual to find my old granola recipe.  It is so good and it made doubled the granola in roughly 40 minutes for a fraction of the price.  One less box I need to send to recycling and one less plastic insert that goes in the trash.

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Homemade Granola

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 6 cups of oats with 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 T pumpkin pie spice, and 3/4 cup of canola, sunflower, or safflower oil, and a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Spray a cookie sheet with oil and after mixing all ingredients well, pour onto cookie sheet.  Drizzle with agave or maple syrup.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.  Then add 1 cup of nuts and 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit (I used pecans, raisins, and cranberries) and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.  Stir a few times after it comes out of the oven as it’s cooling to keep it from sticking or clumping.

Now, this is delicious with almond milk.  And indeed, I can make my own cashew, hemp, or almond milk.  But, I usually buy the carton because it lasts longer.

Lunch- For lunch I had a power smoothie.  My Vitamix is ten years old (a new one is on my wish list) so I have to juice the big stuff first.  I put in the juicer a large leaf of aloe, 3 apples, 3 carrots, a big handful of chard, and a chunk of ginger and turmeric.  Then I poured that into the Vitamix and added a big banana, spirulina, maca, hemp protein powder, pumpkin pie spice, frozen berries, a dollop of both peanut butter and coconut oil.  A drizzle of maple syrup or agave and on the machine goes.  I split it in half and send my husband with his tomorrow in his lunch and drink my half with a few crackers and vegan cream cheese and jam that I preserved.  I could certainly make my own crackers but they aren’t quite as good as organic Ritz style.  But maybe I will work on that this week!  I do buy packaged vegan cheeses and meats.  The packaging is far less waste than the actual act of raising meat and dairy and the karmic value of going vegan is astronomical as well as the lessened impact on the environment.

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Dinner- Pizza with a homemade, 15 minute crust.  I topped it with my own preserved tomato sauce, vegan mozzarella and cream cheese, a ton of spices, and a bunch of delicious vegetables.

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The next night we had vegan carne asada with crisp oven fries, cashew queso, Beyond Meat crumbles, guacamole, tomatoes, and homemade red chile.

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The Big Picture– Well, I have a bit to go, don’t I?  But being aware is the first step to doing better.  So, yes, we use some packaged items and some of them could be made and some of them are the lesser of evils.  But produce is a large part of our diet and so are healthy grains.  I grow all of our produce for the four months we garden and I preserve a few hundred jars of produce a year.  This year with my expanded gardens and vertical gardening techniques, I hope to produce doubled what I have been.  This continues to increase our nutrition intake and lessen our footprint even more.  Preparing more ethnic dishes, like Indian and Mexican food allows the use of more beans and pulses, further increasing our health, and costs less environmentally and monetarily.

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Vegan cheesecake with homemade chokecherry sauce

As Americans especially, we have a lot of unwiring to do.  I hope in a year or so to look more like the family from Guatemala (sans meat) then the one from America.

http://time.com/8515/hungry-planet-what-the-world-eats/

 

 

Two Weeks Vegan (cost, cookbooks, and the original nourishing diet)

 

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I was following what my friends were doing for awhile.  The Nourishing Diet, or way of eating (diet always seems to denote weight loss, but this was a lifestyle).  It fit our farm lives, fats, bone broth, nourishing whole foods.  I have never in my life felt more nourished than being vegan.  I am glad we went away from being vegan then came back so I could see the difference.  None of that after fat or grease or overeating ick feeling.  I feel like every cell in my body is being nourished as I consume a smoothie.  Kale, dandelions, or spinach, with apples, bananas, and/or nectarines, topped with frozen berries and a little maple syrup and coconut oil.  Oats (a delicious nervine) and cashews or almond butter or whatever speaks to us today.  The quart of nourishing juice revitalizes us and has to be more nutritious than any bone broth.

Doug has lost seven pounds.  All of our issues are less.  Not gone yet, but geez, it’s only been two weeks!  Less sinus issue for him, a lot less inflammation for me, minor detoxing (when we were vegan before we only needed a shower every five days, we never smelled), so a few extra showers and a few teen zits coming up here and there as we attempt to undue two and a half years of damage in two weeks.

I hear a lot that it costs more for healthy food.  I want to address this because a lot of people don’t do it because of this.  So, yes, an organic apple next to a conventional apple will typically be about ten to twenty cents more.  However, once I cut out all meat and dairy and most processed foods out of my grocery cart, you wouldn’t believe how much I saved!  I spent a lot on meat, especially grass fed, local meats.  Nuts are pricey, beans are not, organic orange juice is pricey, but we were buying that before.  We are consuming a lot of vegetables and fruits and whole grains.  And in the end, it’s cheaper.  We can’t just run willy nilly out to restaurants so we are eating at home a lot more.

I am inspired when I get into my kitchen.  I used to think I was in a rut before we fell off the bacon wagon but nothing says “rut” like “meatloaf or pork chops?”.  We are inspired to make vegan cheeses from creamy cashews and coconuts.  Veggie meats from organic wheat gluten (really, y’all, not all gluten is bad for you) and whole beans make a quick, delicious, protein and veggie filled replacement.  Dipped in panko and baked, covered in vegan gravy with mashed potatoes, you’d think you were back at the kitchen table on a farm.  And none of the icky, overate, too much comfort food feeling, just nourishment.  Salads, sandwiches, vegan pizza, or just fruit salad, anything we want.  We haven’t even missed meat.  If I do not have time to make something from scratch I can grab a vegan pizza from the frozen section at the health food store and embellish it.  Remember when the veggie stuff had so many ingredients and none of them were pronounceable?   Well, a lot of that has changed.  Stay away from Monsanto bought veggie products like Morning star, stick with Gardein, Tofurky, the smaller brands.  Just nourishment.

Here are a few cookbooks I am loving.  The Vegan Bean Book by Kathy Hester has great recipes like chorizo and veggie chicken plus a zillion more, and Thug Kitchen; Eat Like You Give a F*ck is the funniest cook book I have ever read.

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So keep up the good work, heal yourself and the world, kiss a cow, wave at a robin, and eat great this week.  Be nourished.