Tag Archives: vegan recipes

Warming Up to Vegan Masala Chai

The first time an Indian friend prepared masala chai (tea) for me, it was one of the most heavenly things. I had his recipe affixed to my refrigerator for years, but somehow stopped making it after giving up dairy products. Making a vegan tea masala is so simple, it’s silly, but that was before I realized anything is possible without animal ingredients.

Hot chai tea masala is great  in the winter, due to the warming effect of fresh ginger. Iced chai tea masala makes a super satisfying drink in the summer, too.

Ingredients (2 servings)

2 TB black tea (I use Brooke Bond Red Label orange pekoe, but Assam is also good)

1 cup soy milk (or other non-dairy) milk – unsweetened/unflavored

1 cup water

2 TB fresh ginger (grated)

1-2 cardamon pods (slightly crushed)

Tea masala spice mixture (powdered ginger, black pepper, bay leaf, green cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg), to taste

Method:

Place tea into a small sauce pan and add soy milk, water, ginger, and cardamon pods

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Don’t let your eyes off the pot, because it boils over in an instant!

Reduce heat immediately, and simmer for another 5 minutes

Shake some tea masala spice into the bottom of a cup.

Pour the tea into cup through a strainer, stir, and enjoy!

If you’re used to drinking traditional tea masala (most Indian restaurants don’t offer a choice with soy milk), it may take some getting used to the taste of non-dairy tea masala, but enjoy knowing it has no cholesterol and is loaded with anti-oxidants. Use sugar sparingly (if necessary), in order to appreciate the taste of the masala spices.

Vegan Okara Oatmeal Carob Chip Cookies

Cooking with okara (soybean pulp) is fairly common among vegans attempting to make the most of the fiber rich bi-product of homemade soy milk. These versatile cookies served as breakfast, snack and energy bar on a recent visit to Hawaii. I found the recipe online, reduced the sweetener, and jazzed it up with spices from Veganomicon’s chewy oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Makes 20 large cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup okara

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1-1/2 cups rolled oats (or quinoa flakes)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegan carob

1/2 cup pecan (or other) nuts, sunflower seeds, etc

1/2 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

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Craving a Wholesome Sweet? Try Halvah, the Ancient Candy

My mother used to buy halvah bars when I was young, believing it safe to keep the adult-tasting treats in the refrigerator–that was until I discovered just how delicious they were. After growing up and turning vegan, I rediscovered the wholesome snack.

Halvah of all varieties has been cherished all over the world for at least 3000 years, and is considered “food of the gods” by some accounts. The 2 main types are flour-based and nut-butter based. This sesame-based recipe is my favorite because it contains no animal products or sugar, instead using dates for sweetener. Note that many store bought halvah bars contain dairy products and eggs, so always check labels carefully.

I ground the sesame seeds into tahini without using any added oil, as per the original recipe. The food processor got very warm, and you may need to let it rest a while as you go. Unless you have a high-speed blender, you may prefer to purchase tahini instead of making it from scratch.

The recipe is quite flexible. You can adjust the number of dates you use depending on how sweet you like it (I used about 10 dates per 250g of sesame seeds), as well as stir in any kind of nuts and dried fruits you like. I added some tart dried cherries and vanilla syrup to a recent batch, and it came out tasting like a cherry pie!

While halvah is more nutritious than the typical candy bar, be aware it is far from low-calorie. According to the recipe’s author, it has 528 calories per 100g, and 70 percent of calories from fat. Portion control (and sharing) is advised, or you may devour the whole batch (1600 calories) before you know it.

Yet another reason to avoid added oils

Recently, in the course of looking for recipes using the natural sweetener and wonder food lucuma, I discovered one for butterscotch tahini bars containing tahini and coconut oil, a popular ingredient in raw vegan diets. Continue reading

Are Soba Noodles Healthier Than Spaghetti?

One thing those following a healthy plant-based diet must know is the importance of reading labels carefully. Not only because food manufacturers sneak animal ingredients into the most surprising of places, but because labels often mislead you to believe unhealthy food is nutritious.

Take “soba” noodles for example. Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat, and synonymous with the popular noodle dish. The main reason for eating buckwheat–besides its fragrant aroma–is its exceptional nutrition (high protein, vitamins and minerals) and health benefits (protecting cardiovascular system and controlling blood sugar).

However, just like “whole-wheat” bread–which may contain as little as 5% whole-wheat flour–soba noodles typically contain less than half soba flour (some have practically none), instead using unhealthy white  flour made from wheat.

Even in my neighborhood grocery in Tokyo–where there are over 15 kinds of soba noodles (both dry and fresh)–not a single one is 100% buckwheat. Only a couple even listed soba as the main ingredient, and of the two that did, one contained egg-whites of all things! Consequently, most so-called soba is little better than plain-old white pasta, and perhaps worse.

Why is this? Continue reading

Reuben Sandwiches So Tasty, Nobody Will Ask “Where’s the Beef?”

Recently, taunted by an aged jar of sauerkraut that I had bought intending to make “Potato and Mushroom Sauerkraut Pierogi” from Vegan Brunch–before I realized the Polish dumplings required 4 time-consuming steps–I decided to tackle something so easy anyone can make: a vegan reuben sandwich.

How simple? Besides its trademark sauerkraut, a vegan reuben requires rye or pumpernickel bread, stand-ins for the meat and Swiss cheese, and usually vegan thousand-island dressing (in deference to the original non-vegan reuben).

Fortunately, I came across a reuben recipe that suggested using mustard, instead of thousand-island dressing that had previously put me off. Another big attraction of Nava Atlas’s recipe : it’s baked, rather than fried, therefore no need for margarine or oil on the bread. Baking the sandwiches is also a time-saver (especially when feeding a crowd), and even the sauerkraut gets nice and crispy around the edges!

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How Soy Matcha Latte Breaks Milk and Coffee Habit (and Shatters Centuries of Tradition)

Like the Italians who believe milk and sugar ruin the taste of espresso and that cappucinos are not for real men, Japanese purists must be shocked to see their prized matcha green tea being mixed in everything from lattes to ice cream to Oreo cookies, candy bars, and martinis, too!

Some of us may have even added sugar to Japanese green tea when we first tried it (what are those packets of sugar doing on the table, anyway?) However, since most people with an appreciation for Japanese culture and cuisine prefer their green tea straight, I was recently surprised to meet a Japanese-American who sweetens her green tea.

After serving a wonderful macrobiotic dinner, she offered us a “matcha latte”. Once I explained that I limit milk (non-dairy) to a single cafe latte at breakfast (for caloric purposes, not out of respect for Italian taboo), she insisted that we just give it a try. Mixed with sweetened vanilla soymilk and honey, the green tea bag and the tiny amount of matcha powder that accompanied it were overpowered by the sweetness of honey and added sugar in the flavored soymilk.

Ever since that day, I had been craving a matcha latte made with the rich taste of Kyoto (“Uji”) matcha and unsweetened soymilk. Once I got past the idea of pairing matcha with my breakfast oatmeal, I’ve been happily alternating matcha lattes with chai lattes and cafe lattes ever since. Try it for yourself, and let me know what you think!

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No Added Oils Healthiest for Vegans and Omnivores Alike

Although you may just be considering a vegan diet for the first time, you probably already know that the fewer animal products you eat, the better–with a 100% plant-based diet being best for health, as well as ethically and environmentally.

However, given all you’ve heard about the Mediterranean Diet, “healthy fats”, and “good cholesterol” you may be surprised to learn that a diet containing NO (zero!) added oils is both optimum AND possible to achieve.

While it is true that a Mediterranean diet is superior to a Standard American Diet, this is mainly because the Meditterean diet contains less animal protein and more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

A big reason for the confusion over dietary fat is that “healthy” is a relative term, and even foods that exclude animal products can be health-promoting OR health-degrading.

Olive oil is healthier in comparison to animal fats such as butter, but unfortunately cannot be considered health-promoting. In fact, olive oil (even extra virgin) has virtually no nutrients, except fat. Excess dietary fat from any source contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Many people have become obese on the Meditteranean diet consuming too much fat, mostly in the form of olive oil.

According to Dr. John McDougall, the oil extraction processes remove the “naturally-designed and balanced environment of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and ten thousand other chemicals” of the whole food (olives, corn, soybeans, etc.) to such a degree that “Free-oils are not food—at best these are medications, causing some desirable effects, and at worst; they are serious toxins causing disease.”

Rather than using olive oil (or other processed oils), choose instead to eat the whole food, such as olives. One tablespoon olive oil has 126 calories vs 154 calories in one cup of olives. Olive oil may contain traces of the benefits of olives–such as polyphenols–but has none of the fiber, mineral or vitamins contained in whole olives.

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Vegan Lemon Cake with “Wow”

A certain bakery makes a lemon cake with a perfect balance of sweetness, tartness, and softness. This undeniable “wow” factor is attested by their repeat customers, many who purchase lemon cakes as gifts.

Their secret lemon cake recipe took untold hours of development and tweaking. As you would expect, it contains lots of fresh lemons. Unfortunately, the cake is also loaded with eggs and butter and copious amount of sugar.

Putting aside sugar for later, my primary mission was to demonstrate it is possible to make a heavenly lemon cake “cruelty-free” (without eggs or dairy products). I assumed a pioneering vegan baker must surely have done it already…

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Fat-free and Sugar-free Vegan Sourdough Blueberry Waffles

Whoever said that making sourdough is like raising a child wasn’t kidding.

I’ve been eternally time-starved since discovering Bryanna’s recipe for sourdough starter, always looking for novel ways to use my growing treasure.

I confess that until making sourdough culture or “wild yeast” myself, I didn’t understand the difference between it and conventional baking yeast, other than the taste, which many people prefer. It turns out sourdough has all kinds of health benefits, too, including ease of digestion, greater nutrition, regulating blood sugar, and longer shelf-life.

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Matcha Vegan Ice Cream Beats The Heat

Here’s an idea for those who love matcha but don’t find hot drinks quite so inviting in the summer.

While there are countless non-dairy ice cream recipes, few are matcha-flavored, and on the healthy side, too. I found one that used soy milk as a base, but wanted to experiment with some raw cashews I had on hand. I was so pleased with the results I wanted to share them with anyone else craving a mid-summer matcha fix. Continue reading