Saturday, January 27, 2018

HOW TO REPLACE EXPENSIVE (& SOMETIMES ECOLOGICALLY AND/OR ETHICALLY SUSPECT) NUTS IN VEGAN COOKING

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My Lowfat Vegan Mayonnaise, utilizing peanuts, sunflower seeds and/or sesame seeds
Peanut and/or Sunflower Seed and Tofu Ricotta 
Lasagne made with my Peanut and Tofu Ricotta


After almost 11 years of blogging, I must be getting lazy, because I found myself doing fewer and fewer blog posts every month, and then... nothing new, for about a month and a half.

But, in the last little while my interest has been sparked again. 


My current interest is in cutting way down on the amount of  oil and expensive (and potentially ethically and environmentally suspect) tree nuts that I use in creamy vegan mixtures, such as sauces, cheeses, mayo, ice creams, spreads, etc.. My reason is only peripherally due to the fact that we are trying to lose some weight.


I know that nuts are good for us and I will certainly use walnuts, pecans, etc., in baking for special occasions or for our weekly treat, but it has bothered me for some time now that so many cashews and coconuts are used in vegan cooking these days.  (Oh, and don't forget about almonds!)


It's not that I have anything against cashews per se, but, to quote from this article"What are the most eco-friendly nuts?(worth a read): "Cashews are a little trickier. They’re light on the land, providing wildlife habitat and preventing erosion, but the processing stage is much more intensive. Cashews grow primarily in Vietnam, India, and northern Africa, but most are shipped to India for processing; there, workers shell the nuts by hand, sometimes exposing their skin to burns from the caustic oils inside. (Check out this detailed look at the system.) And that’s nothing compared to the human rights abuses suffered by some cashew processors in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch. Fortunately, there are some Fair Trade cashews to be had, and I’d go for them whenever possible."  Here is an article about the treatment of cashew processors in India.

Note from me: They, of course, are more expensive than non-Fair Trade. (And organic does not necessarily mean fair trade as well.)

The other tropical nut that is over-used in vegan cooking lately (in my opinion) is the coconut.  I won't go into the nutrition debate here, but there is an animal cruelty issue with coconut products, as well as human and ecological issues. The following is from an article entitled "Are coconut products bad for the environment?":

"...The use of coconut oil grew 780 percent between 2008 and 2012, and the demand for coconut water jumped 168 percent between 2010 and 2013. And if an informal survey of my local yoga-goers and farmers market-shoppers is any indication, the boom is still going strong. So what kind of impact are we having?

The first consideration: Everyone’s favorite hairy-on-the-outside, succulent-on-the-inside fruit (sorry, kiwi) comes to us from the tropics — Indonesia, most often, plus the Philippines and India, and to a lesser extent, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. So unless you’re currently lounging on an idyllic beach — you lucky so-and-so — that coconut product was shipped a considerable distance to reach you, with all the transportation-related carbon emissions that entails. Locavore eating it’s not.


Then there’s the growing of the trees themselves. Fortunately, coconut farming isn’t linked to the kind of deforestation that makes palm oil so devastating to local ecosystems. But those lovely coconut trees can still be grown in a monoculture, which hurts tropical biodiversity and soil quality.


And finally, there’s the human rights side of things. As with other cultivators of the tropics (those who produce chocolate, cashews, and coffee, to look just at the Cs), coconut farmers very often toil in terrible poverty — as high as 60 percent of them in the Philippines. Coconut water alone sells for a couple of bucks or more per bottle, but the farmers behind it make as little as 12 cents per coconut. Kind of a bitter system, huh?"

See also http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/is-your-obsession-with-coconuts-harming-the-environment/

Apart from the above concerns, there is the animal cruelty issue I mentioned above. I urge you to read the following and be an informed consumer:

See this article for a list of cruelty-free brands of coconut products and other products that contain coconut oil.

See photographs at this article

"Life in chains: Heartrending pictures of caged Indonesian monkeys being sold to coconut farmers"

Published earlier this year, the most comprehensive article I read, Pay Coconuts, Get Monkeys, gives us an idea  of what life is like for these monkeys, how valuable they are economically, and how legal loopholes enable trainers and “zoos” to essentially get away with animal abuse and neglect.


Early on in the piece a man called Noi Petchpradab, who has been training macaques to harvest coconuts for thirty years, was interviewed and discusses daily life for these working monkeys: "When they are not working, the animals are chained to tree stumps, which Mr. Noi said is due to their aggressiveness. They are given three daily meals, consisting of rice mixed with Lactasoy milk."


The article also goes on to say:

"Due to their ability to work for long hours, the macaques are capable of collecting 600-1,000 coconuts per day, compared to only 100-200 for humans. On a few occasions, he admitted, the monkeys are so tired they faint.
VIDEO: https://youtu.be/8gWEsNL-RJc

This practice will surely continue as long as there is both a market for coconut oil and consumers who are ignorant to the fact that this is even happening. Also, there will always be an economic incentive for people in these areas to use monkeys as performers as long as tourists are willing to spend money to visit them."

So, what about the domestic favorite, almonds?? See this article: Here’s the Real Problem With Almonds  and this one: The Problem With Eating Almonds That No One Is Talking About "If you care about the drought in California, you might want to read this."


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What to do?  Yes, we  could use macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts.  But these nuts can be beyond the average budget even if they are grown in North America (especially the last two).  


I have not really researched macadamia nuts-- we think of Hawaii first, but they are native to and grown extensively in Australia. Organic macadamias sell for about $25 lb Cnd. 


I have used Brazil nuts because, according to this article"What are the most eco-friendly nuts?: "What about those exotic nuts you mentioned? Brazil nuts, grown in – wait for it – Brazil’s Amazon, actually support the rainforest because they don’t grow well without their natural, diverse ecosystem around them. Cultivating them, then, gives locals an economic incentive not to slash and burn.

"Hazelnuts are a dream to grow: long-lasting, hardy, erosion-blocking, and requiring no pesticides. You can find US hazels, mostly from Oregon, and that’s a good bet because of child labor issues associated with Turkish hazelnuts."  But, again, not for everyone's budget in the long run.

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So, what's my solution, one that will allow me to make rich-tasting, creamy vegan dishes even on a tight budget and while trying my best to avoid humanitarian and ecological pitfalls?


Peanuts and seeds!  
They are inexpensive, easy to find, grown in North America, and chock full of nutrition and good fats. I have only just begun my kitchen explorations, but have produced a few delicious items so far, so read on, if you are interested.

I'd love to hear what you think, and/or any recipes you've come up with.


MY THREE STAPLES:

(You can use them alone or in combination.)

Raw Hulled White Sesame Seeds




Raw Shelled Sunflower Seeds
Unsalted Dry-Roasted Peanuts

Other possibilities? North American-produced organic hulled hemp seeds and/or pumpkin seeds are other possible choices, but they are also fairly expensive when compared to the three choices above, and can lend a greenish hue to your finished product.




Printable Copy


BRYANNA'S TOFU & PEANUT OR SUNFLOWER SEED “RICOTTA”

Makes 3 1/2 c.
Adapted from my book “Nonna’s Italian Kitchen”.

This mixture is very similar to the creamy full-fat ricotta used in 
Italy.  It's so creamy that you can use it as a spread on bread, or as a filling for crespelle (crepes), or in desserts.  NOTE:  Most vegan ricotta recipes that I have seen contain herbs.  This puzzles me because the ricotta that I grew up using in San Francisco was plain.  You could add herbs if you wanted, but it was used as-is in lasagne and in desserts, too. (No, that's not a typo: "In Italian, lasagna refers to one sheet of pasta and its plural form, lasagne, refers to the dish with several layers.")

Ingredients:

2 (12.3 oz.) boxes extra-firm silken tofu, crumbled (OR 2 lb. medium firm tofu, pressed down to around 24.6 oz. and drained)
1/2 c. shelled chopped dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, OR raw shelled sunflower seeds (OR 1/2 & 1/2)
2 T. + 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt

In a food processor, high-speed blender mix about 3 cups 
of the crumbled tofu with the soaked,drained peanuts or sunflower seeds, the lemon juice and salt. Process until they are very smooth.  Then crumble in the remaining tofu and process again in bursts. The resulting mixture should be mostly smooth, but with a little graininess-- it doesn't have to be like cream cheese.

Scoop the "Ricotta" into a plastic container and refrigerate.  It firms up when chilled.

More recipes using seeds and/or peanuts instead of nuts:
EASY, INEXPENSIVE, NO-COOK, OIL-FREE VEGAN CREAMER

and 

Enjoy!




Saturday, January 20, 2018

HOMEMADE (LOW-SATURATED FAT) VEGAN "BACUN GREASE"

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Why am I writing about making vegan "bacun grease" when I advocate eating pretty low-fat?  Well, I do try to use as little fat as I can, but I'm not a totally "no-fat" cook and the tastier the fat, the more flavor you get even in a small amount-- which is why a little good olive oil or roasted sesame oil goes a long way in a simple dish. This fat packs even more of a punch, so you don't need much of it to really satisfy some of your pre-vegan cravings. (No-- I wouldn't spread it on toast, but you might, and I hear that French toast is yummy when browned in this type of cooking fat. )

Uses?? Here are some ideas: Scrambled tofu; as the fat in gravy; in bean dishes and BBQ dishes; rub on the outside of baked potatoes before baking; to cook hash browns and potato pancakes; on steamed or sauteed greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage; as the oil in fried rice & vegan "warm bacun dressing"; to saute mushrooms and onions; to grease the pan for making cornbread.

You've probably heard of the commercial vegan version of this, and I'm aware that there are  quite a few copycat versions online. However, from a quick peruse, most, if not all, utilize coconut oil. I have a jar of organic, fair trade coconut oil in my pantry, but it's going to last me a long time because I use it mostly for making my homemade Cake Release.


**Why don't I use coconut oil in this recipe**? Please read this blog post to learn about the dire environmental and animal issues involved in the massive coconut oil production that feeds this relatively new fad of using coconut oil in everything. (I always thought this obsession with coconut oil was too good to be true, and it is, but the environmental and animal issues are so sad and unnecessary.)

And then there are the
 nutritional concerns: If you used coconut oil instead of the cocoa butter and vegetable oil, the fat profile would be high in saturated fat: 1.76 g mono unsaturated fat, 1.54 g polyunsaturated fat, 8.33 g saturated fat  (for 1 tablespoon)
Comparison, per tablespoon, with my version, which is high in the healthier fats:
12.4g total fat, 5.7 g mono unsaturated fat, 3.24 g polyunsaturated fat, 2.7 g saturated fat
 

"But, I thought that coconut was the healthiest fat and has all sorts of healing properties!" you say. Not so fast! 
I know that many vegans check out the videos of health and nutrition by Dr. Michael Greger, author of "How Not to Die", and I'd like to recommend that you check out his videos on coconut oil usage:
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/does-coconut-oil-clog-arteries/
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/coconut-oil-and-the-boost-in-hdl-good-cholesterol/
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/coconut-oil-and-abdominal-fat/
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/does-coconut-oil-cure-alzheimers/
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/what-about-coconuts-coconut-milk-and-coconut-oil-mcts/
(See also his 4-part series on oil-pulling, which starts with this video-- links to the other 3 parts are below the video.)

Anyway, bottom line, this is so easy and inexpensive to make, tastes so delicious that you don't need much of it, and has so many possibilities for flavorful cooking, that I hope you will give it a try!


Printable Copy

BRYANNA'S HOMEMADE LOW-SATURATED FAT VEGAN "BACUN GREASE"
Yield: 18 tablespoons
CAUTION: Don't melt "Bacun Grease" at high temperatures-- it burns easily.  After you add it to the pan, use medium heat at most and don't walk away.  After you add and mix with the food you want to sauté, you can turn the heat up a bit.  It depends on your stove (my large burners are super-hot), so you'll have to use trial and error with your stove.

Oil Mixture:
1/4 cup (2 oz.) melted steam-deodorized cocoa butter, either wafers, or small chunks
 (should be pale or light-beige-y yellow, with no chocolate odor)
1/4 cup toasted Chinese sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil (you could use high-oleic safflower or sunflower oil instead, if you like)
1 tsp soy or sunflower lecithin
Additions:
1/2 to 1 Tbs your favorite vegan "Bacon Bits" (see below for commercial ones or homemade recipes)
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 Tbs dried onion flakes
1/2 to 1 tsp liquid smoke (I used 1/2 tsp., but you might prefer 1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp garlic granules
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Place the cocoa butter in a microwave-safe 1 qt. pitcher (Pyrex) and microwave on High for about 5 minutes, or until melted. OR place the cocoa butter in the top of a double boiler and place over simmer water until the cocoa butter has melted.

Add the sesame oil, canola oil and lecithin to the melted cocoa butter. Blend the mixture with an immersion blend until a bit foamy. It will not thicken at this stage.

Add the Additional Ingredients and blend with the immersion blender for 30 seconds or so.

Use a spatula to scoop the mixture into a 1 to 2-cup wide-mouth canning jar and place in the freezer. Every 10 minutes or so, stir the mixture to keep the Additional Ingredients suspended in the mixture. You may have to do this 3 or 4 times before it is firmed- up enough so that the "Bacon Bits", etc. stay suspended in the mixture.

Twist on the lid and keep in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how often you plan to use it.

Nutrition (per tablespoon)-- high in the healthier fats: 114 calories, 109 calories from fat, 12.4g total fat, 5.7 g mono unsaturated fat, 3.24 g polyunsaturated fat, 2.7 g saturated fat,  0mg cholesterol, 29.9mg sodium, 18.7mg potassium, 1.1g carbohydrates, less than 1g fiber, less than 1g sugar, less than 1g protein, 3.3 points.

Copyright: Bryanna Clark Grogan All Rights Reserved 2018

HOMEMADE “BACON BITS" RECIPES ONLINE, AND ONE COMMERCIAL ORGANIC VARIETY :

OR, COMMERCIAL ORGANIC VARIETY
from Vegan Supply in Vancouver, BC  and  in bulk in Canada from amazon.ca; and widely available in the USA (in bulk, as well):


Enjoy!



Friday, January 5, 2018

FRENCH CANADIAN-STYLE VEGAN MAPLE BAKED BEANS

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This is my first blog post in a month!  I've been taking a bit of a rest from blogging in the last few months, but am feeling more inspired since the New Year.

My husband, who was born and raised in Quebec City, has been requesting that I make the sort of French-Canadian baked beans that he was used to back home in Quebec, but vegan, of course.  And no brown sugar or molasses; just real Canadian maple syrup for the sweetener. The Quebec version of this common North American meal is also not quite as sweet as what I grew up with in the USA. 

I hope you'll enjoy this as much as we did! It makes alot, but leftovers can be frozen.

Just in case you wondered:
DIFFERENT WAYS TO SERVE BAKED BEANS: 

1.) We like ours with just a green salad or cooked greens, and crunchy artisan bread or cornbread. Braised cabbage would be a great as a vegetable side dish, too.

2.) Some good vegan sausages or sliced vegan “ham” or vegan “bacon” alongside would be good.  Or seitan “ribs”, perhaps?

3.) Leftovers are great as “beans on toast” or baked bean “Sloppy Joes”.

4.) Try them on top of split baked potatoes, or split baked sweet potatoes.

5.) Coleslaw makes a good side dish with baked beans.

6.) Pickles on the side?

7.) Heat leftover beans with chunks of veggie hotdogs or spicy vegan sausage.

8.) Corn on the cob!

9.) If you like beans for breakfast, serve with some scrambled tofu and hash browns.


Printable Copy (Includes Chili Sauce recipe)

BRYANNA'S FRENCH CANADIAN-STYLE VEGAN MAPLE BAKED BEANS
Serves 10-12

Ingredients:
4 cups (about 2 lbs.) dried small white beans or navy beans (which are also called white pea bean, Boston bean, Yankee bean or fagioli, depending on where you live), 
(Other possibilities are cannellini beans--also called white kidney beans or fazolia)-- OR Great Northern beans OR marrow beans)

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup real maple syrup (preferably the darker kind-- Grade B)

3/4 cup bottled chili sauce (the spicy, sweet-ish sauce-- Heinz makes it), or use a favorite tomatoey BBQ sauce, or the easy homemade recipe* at the end of this recipe)

2 tablespoons Chinese toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon mustard powder (such as Coleman's or Keen's)

1 tablespoon fine salt

OPTIONAL:  1/4 cup of vegan “bacon bits” or 1 cup of chopped vegan “ham” or “bacon” of your choice

Instructions:
Soak the beans in lots of water overnight.  

The next day, drain them in a colander.  Place the soaked beans in a large Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a fitted lid. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let stand, covered for 1 hour. After an hour, if there is not about a 1/2-inch of water over the beans, add some to that level

Turn your oven to 300°F.  (I use my counter-top oven for this job-- saves energy.) While it heats up, add the remaining ingredients to the pot of beans and mix gently to distribute evenly.

Cover and bake for 4 hours.  Check after 2 hours and add some water if the mixture looks too dry.  (Do the same when they are fully-cooked.) You don't want the beans swimming in liquid, but you don't want them to be dry either.



*EASY HOMEMADE CHILI SAUCE
Makes about 11/2 cups

This sauce is great baked on top of a vegan meatloaf, and it can also be used in homemade Thousand Island Dressing, on burgers, vegan "ribs" and "hot dogs". 


6 oz. can of good-quality tomato paste (I used Kirkland organic.)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup golden syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup or brown rice syrup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce (here's my homemade recipe)
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. EACH ground cloves, garlic granules or powder, and chili flakes
a few grindings of black pepper

Mix the ingredients together well in a 1-quart saucepan.  Bring to a low boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until thickened (almost the consistency of ketchup-- it will thicken  a bit more as it cools).  Keep in a jar in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!