Tag Archives: Cooking

The Vegan Survival Guide – Chapter 2 : Substitution

On your way to becoming a vegan master, you will undoubtedly run into several obstacles when it comes to making your favorite dishes. The good news is you don’t have to say goodbye to baking, making cream sauces, or any other edible or drinkable that requires dairy. This post will assist in your survival in your perilous vegan journey of DOOM!

… only not really. The doom part. Whatever.

Milk

Milk is easily substituted in consumption and in cooking. Our go-to is almond milk. It is mostly allergen friendly, has some protein, twice the calcium of moo milk, and tastes effing delicious. For cooking, non-sweetened plain almond milk is suggested. It won’t add any mysterious extra flavors, and can seamlessly be integrated into your dish for similar results. Other alternatives include coconut milk and soy milk. Coconut milk is distinctively thick and coconutty. I recommend it for smoothies and as a density agent for things like sauces. Soy milk comes last; it’s pretty well known and established in most stores. It has a buttload of protein (thank you, soybean), and can be a solid substitute for cooking. Speaking of soybeans, to make a cream sauce you can start with a block of silken tofu as a base. Alternately, use cashews that have been soaking overnight. Boomsaucylaucy!

PROTIP : Almond milk is portable and storable. It can be purchased in little boxes that store well in most conditions. Christie, for instance, has a box of chocolate almond milk at her work desk. She can keep it there until she needs it. No refrigeration necessary. Booya!

Eggs

Substituting eggs is a deceptively simple task. At first glace as a vegan, you’ll say ‘But Brent, you magnificent beast, there’s no substitute for the sexiness of chicken embryo!’ Nay, I say to you. Forsooth! Hark! Gadzooks! Flax seeds! No, really, that last one was what you were supposed to read. Flax seeds when ground down with your mighty fists can be a nice substitute for eggs.

How to make an egg :
1 Tablespoon Ground Flax Seeds
3 Tablespoons Water
Heat in microwave for ~20 seconds, stir. Repeat until mixture is thick, consistency agrees with you.

If making your own does not appeal to you, you can use applesauce when baking fluffy things. Note that it may affect the flavor of your creation. Finally, commercially available egg substitutes are available. EnerG makes a boxed egg substitute. But since you will have to mix it with water, you may as well just stick with the flax seeds.

When baking isn’t your game, but breakfasting is, tofu scramble is a go-to for us. It’s simple to make, and with the right texture of tofu, it will resemble eggs with virtually no magic. Virtually.

PROTIP : More like ‘good for you for choosing an egg alternative’; By not consuming eggs, you are avoiding salmonella, cholesterol, and cruelty in one fell swoop. Feed your kids cookie dough batter with no consequence! Throw them at cars! Make a Rocky shake! Whatevs!

ADRIAAARRRRRRRGABLLGH!

Cheese

This one was really hard to give up when it came to going vegan. The good news is there are plenty of alternatives. Commercially available cheeses are freaking everywhere, and they are gaining strength in the market. What’s more is that they are tasty, healthier, and some even melt like moo cheese. I could wax about vegan cheese alternatives, but Christie and I already have!

PROTIP : Daiya for melty goodness. Also check out our three cheese posts to date! 1.1 2.0 3.0

Sexy Conclusion
After reading this, I’m sure you’re thinking ‘Wow, Brent, you are a smelly hairy weirdo!’ And you’d be 100% correct! But what you may not have known before this post is that substitution is integral to your success as a venturing veganator and AND it doesn’t have to be rocket science. By getting this far in the post, I can assume that you care enough to seek alternatives to your cooking needs, and that’s freaking awesome. Take the next step and try some of these alternatives out!

Peace out, my vegans.

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Vegan Kalbi with Mustard Salad

I miss Korean BBQ. A lot. So I veganized it using soy curls.

Traditional Kalbi uses short ribs. The meat is thinly sliced, quite fatty, and can take a lot of work to get “right” because the meat will need to be tenderized quite a bit lest it end up tough. Soy curls are a lot easier to prepare. Soak them in some water for ten minutes, drain, and… well, that’s it. As a bonus, you don’t have to worry about icky stuff like e. coli. For this batch, I used about 3/4 cup of dried soy curls.

Kalbi marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2-3 cloves garlic, coarsely minced
sesame seeds
1 tsp turbinado sugar (optional)

I mixed everything but the sesame seeds in a plastic container and then added the soy curls. I mixed it around so the soy curls were covered. After I mixed it around, I sprinkled some sesame seeds on top.

Here are before and after shots of the soy curls. The photo on the right was taken about an hour after I added the curls to the marinade. My advice: don’t let them marinade for much longer than that. I baked the soy curls for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Okay, I totally burned them, but they still turned out yummy!

I had planned to go to the store to pick up veggies and seaweed salad to accompany the kalbi, but the store was CRAZY. If you’re in the Chicago area, I’m talking about Jerry’s. Oh, Jerry’s. Prices and product are so good, but I feel like I die a little every time I go there because it’s so crowded. Anyway, I asked my Dad to pick some fresh mustasa (mustard greens) from the garden for me and made it into a little side salad with lemon, olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper. The mustasa was in prime form and gave a serious mustard kick to the kalbi. It was delicious.

Here’s my niece, granting peace to all of you and posing with the food. She didn’t try the kalbi and opted to have cereal for dinner. I was glad I didn’t have to share.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and I’m spending it hanging out with family. I’ll be away from home most of the weekend, so I cooked the rest of my soy curls this morning so I would have something vegan to eat. I opted to cook them in a pan this time, mostly because I didn’t want to burn them again. It ended up looking more like bulgogi than kalbi, but regardless — this wins out over meat versions because look at the lack of fat and oil on the plate! Soy curls have the perfect texture for this. This is also where I learned that marinading soy curls overnight in soy sauce is probably not the best idea. It’s still good, though, and I am still amazed by the soy curl.

I am so happy that I can still have Korean BBQ! All that’s missing is one of those little grills that I can put in the middle of my kitchen table… Have a lovely Saturday! –Melissa

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Mustard Greens and Tofu

Mustard greens or mustasa are not my favorite, but they symbolize the start of summer and my Dad’s garden. We end up with a mess of mustasa when the weather warms up, and we prepare it in many different ways. As Filipinos, we put it in some soupy dishes such as sinigang, and it’s traditionally eaten raw with fish, rice, and buro. Fresh mustasa almost looks like loose romaine leaves, but it has a slightly bitter taste.

One very easy way to cook mustasa is to gisa or sautee it with scrambled egg, onions, garlic, crushed fresh tomatoes and fish sauce, and then serve with rice. My Mom did just that today.

Since Mom is awesome, she also made a vegan version. She dropped the egg and fish sauce, and added tofu:

I added some Sriracha and it was a yummy way to enjoy mustasa! Now that I’m turning veganese, I’m curious about how else I can cook mustasa.

Do you have any suggestions for vegan dishes using mustard greens? Let me know! –Melissa

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Melissa’s Fried Rice

I mention garlicky rice a lot. It’s because I eat a lot of garlicky rice. In my pre-veganese days, I never went hungry as long as I had rice, eggs, and garlic. Breakfast, lunch or dinner: fry up some leftover rice, fry an egg or scramble it in the rice, and then serve with tomatoes if available. I still eat a lot of fried rice, but I leave out the egg. It’s so quick and easy and versatile.

Today was a “Use What You’ve Got and Clean Out Your Fridge Day.” I was about to step out and go to the grocery store when I realized that there was a mess of things in the fridge that I could make into something. I’ll post about my interesting lunch another day. Let’s talk about the fried rice I made for dinner.

The basic recipe never changes:

leftover rice
garlic, minced (as much or as little as you want)

Today, I added minced ginger, a small sliced onion, and leftover broccoli and carrots to leftover rice (brown/white mix).

First, I heated up some olive oil and then threw in the garlic, ginger, carrots and about 3/4 of the onion.

Then, I added the rice.

I then added the broccoli and sprinkled in some salt. When you make fried rice using this method, fry it up at least until it’s heated through, but fry for long as you want beyond that; longer can yield some crunchy rice which a lot of people enjoy.  Once it was fried to my satisfaction, I turned off the heat and added the rest of the onion and some ground black pepper.

I steamed some edamame from the freezer and served it with the rice. I mixed in some Sriracha which gave it a really nice kick.

There’s so much more you can do with basic fried rice: add soy sauce, chilis, curry powder, sugar, coconut flakes, peas, corn, tomato, basil, cilantro, nuts, etc. You can go crazy or you can just fry it up with tons of garlic. Do whatever suits you at the moment you make it.

I’m off to have some green tea coconut milk ice cream for dessert… Melissa

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Tahini Lemon Cauliflower

Simple, easy, delicious. That’s what I strive for. Here’s what you need:

One head cauliflower, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tahini
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp water
salt
olive oil

Put some olive oil in a pan, add the cauliflower and some salt, and brown the cauliflower. You can add a bit of water for a more “steamed” vegetable… I did not. Remove the cauliflower from the pan and set aside.

I didn’t take any photos of this next step, but add some more olive oil to the same pan, and then brown the garlic a bit. Add the tahini, lemon juice, and water. Add a bit more salt if you’d like. Let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring often, and then turn off the heat. Add the cauliflower back to the pan and coat it with the sauce.

Sprinkle some parsley on the cauliflower and serve. I’m betting that mint would be a great garnish for this dish as well. Experiment!

Happy veggie eating… Melissa

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Tofucino: Kid-Approved!

Tocino is a really quick and easy Filipino recipe. The vegan version is even easier… and healthier and less gross. Pork is used in traditional Filipino-style tocino. It’s a perfect sweet and savory blend that has a red/pink glow from the annatto. Thankfully, the key to tocino lies more in the spices than in the meat fat/flavor, so I knew it would work well with tofu.

Only two ingredients were needed for this recipe: extra firm tofu and Mama Sita’s Tocino marinating mix. Guys, Mama Sita is Filipino food gospel. You do need a bit of oil for frying, so I guess three ingredients are needed.

After slicing and drying out my tofu, I covered it with the tocino mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes while I cut up some tomatoes.

I fried the tofu in some safflower oil until cooked.

My niece was over and was adventurous enough to try it. She liked it! “It’s kind of like eggs,” she said. She even asked for more. Thankfully, the three slices along with some rice and tomatoes were enough to fill both our tummies.

Have a great weekend! –Melissa

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SunDried Tomato Mac & Cheese

This is a similar dish to the nacho mac and cheese that Brent and I concocted not long ago. This is sundried tomato mac. You’ll need the following:
1 14.5 ounce can of chickpeas, drained or 1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked
1 lemon
1 pinch chili powder
1/4 cup sundried tomato, minced
olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp oregano
1/4 cup chopped basil (optional)
8 ounces of vegan cheese (we used Ste. Martaen colby)

I started by sauteing the chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice and chili powder. When the chickpeas started to steam and soften I added the onion, and dry herbs and stirred until the onions became translucent.

Add the cheese and tomato, then stir until it’s melty. When the pasta is ready, stir in the sauce and basil. It’s an incredibly simple meal and delicious.

The tomato gives this dish a richer color than it would have otherwise and it’s flavor is made to match. We love easy, quick decadent dishes like this one after an intense exercise session.

This is Brent and Christie, signing off.

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Baaaaa.

I am celebrating Easter with my family tomorrow. I’m not terribly religious, but Easter would be a BFD if I was. I loved Easter as a kid and I still kind of do. It symbolizes springtime, white and bright colors, and bunnies (of the chocolate variety). Growing up, it meant that I got to wear one of my fancy dresses to church. My Mom usually prepared a lamb. It’s a big deal because we don’t often have lamb. In addition, as a family, we usually don’t eat any meat for at least a week leading up to Easter.

Easter, 1982. When else will I get away with wearing that fabulous head accessory?

I won’t be eating lamb this year, obvs. But… the little Catholic girl in me is all like, “Hello? Jesus? Are you there? DUDE, what am I supposed to eat to celebrate your rising from the dead?” There’s this expectation that I’ll get to eat something special on Easter. Well, I won’t be eating anything special — I’m not about to use Easter as an excuse to eat poor little lambs, no matter how delicious I remember lamb to be, but it’s hard for me to get excited about a tofu entree when everyone else will be eating pork chops and lamb. All that said, I CAN get excited about all the vegan appetizers and sides we’re preparing:

White bean hummus with freshly toasted pita bread and tortilla chips
Cucumber and tomato salad, with red onion and feta on the side
Cauliflower and carrots, cooked in this style — I’m also making a dairy version since my sister is allergic to soy
Roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic and rosemary
Grilled asparagus
Steamed broccoli
Lots of fresh fruit for dessert, and I’ll probably whip up ‘mousse’ for myself using silken tofu and cacao powder; the non-vegans are having a chocolate mousse cake
Vegan chocolate bunnies (I got them for my nieces but they better share)

The fact that I’m excited about the veggie smorgasbord proves how much my eating philosophy has changed in the past several months. It also poses an interesting challenge that I wasn’t prepared to meet this holiday: Start new holiday food traditions that are vegan. Will I cook something that’s especially difficult or time-consuming? Will I choose more exotic ingredients? These traditions are mine only, for now anyway, so I’m in complete control. To make the challenge more, uh, challenging, I want to avoid having my own plate of vegan food that doesn’t mesh with everything else on the table.

What vegan holiday traditions have you started? Share, share, share! And whether or not you celebrate Easter, I hope you have a wonderful day eating vegan chocolate bunnies and vegan marshmallow chicks. –Melissa

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The Enigmatic Butter Bean

Butter beans are new to me. I was desperate for something ‘meaty’ to eat this past week: I realized that I was eating a lot in the way of cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cabbage, but not much in the way of beans or legumes or soy protein. I explored my parents’ pantry and found a can of butter beans. Hmm… what can I do with this?

At the risk of sounding like a complete bonehead, I was shocked when I saw the butter beans out of the can. I mean, there’s a picture of the beans ON the can… but I still wasn’t prepared for what looked like mutant, non-green lima beans.

I sauteed the beans – they heated up really quickly and also got mushy pretty quickly. But they are meaty and have a nice texture – a little crunchy on the outside and quick to pick up the flavor of the garlic I cooked with it. I added some tomato paste and ate it with some garlicky fried rice and fresh grape tomatoes and cucumber:

I had leftovers, but I was already bored. So, the next day, I made myself a butter bean burger. I added a little flax meal, nutritional yeast, fresh chopped parsley, and herbs de provence, mixed in a little water, and then mashed it into a burger patty and pan-fried it in safflower oil. I had a ripe avocado, so I mashed it into a spread with some cilantro, and topped my burger with it:

I still had a chunk of beans leftover, so for my next dinner, I cooked some whole wheat pasta in a tomato pesto sauce that I made. I topped it with the beans and some Parma and capers:

One can of butter beans. Three hearty and satisfying meals. I like this bean and I look forward to cooking it in many other ways… including making a butter bean cookie! Nah, I had the worst baking experience today (will blog about that later) so I don’t think I will be making cookies anytime soon. But, just so ya know, butter bean cookies are a thing!

Hope you’re having a great weekend! –Melissa

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Vegan Longanisa

You’re either thinking, “Say what?! Vegan longanisa?!” or “WTF is longanisa?” after seeing the title of this post. Longanisa is a garlicky Filipino sausage made traditionally with pork. Some people liken it to chorizo. It’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight snack and usually served with sinangag (garlicky fried rice) and fried eggs. For me, longanisa is kind of like an equivalent of frozen pizza. We usually had some in the freezer and could cook them up when we wanted something easy and delicious to eat. A lot of Filipino restaurants offer longanisa for breakfast. Uncle Mike’s in Chicago is one of them:

Photo from LTH Forum

Longanisa is one of the things I knew I would miss after going vegan. It’s not just the taste of it. It’s like this connection to my culture, something I can mention to any Filipino person that will instantly bond us. We didn’t have it often growing up which is a good thing when you consider how fatty it is. Longanisa is like the frozen Ramen noodle for Filipino-American kids when they move out of the house and want something that reminds them of home. So, yes. I miss longanisa, and I had accepted the fact that I would probably never eat it again. But then, I decided to try and veganize it.

Ingredients:
14 oz Gimme Lean Beef Style Veggie Protein
1/2 head minced garlic — came out to about 1/3 cup
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
safflower or olive oil, for frying
The following are optional:
2 tbsp flax meal
1-2 tsp annatto powder (to give the sausages a red color; I did not add this)

First, I minced the garlic and then tossed it in with the ‘meat.’ I set it aside and then mixed together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. I added it to the ‘meat’ mixture along with the vinegar. Then I mooshed it all together.

I formed the ‘meat’ into small sausages (about the length of your average breakfast link but with more girth… heeeheh… girth). I ended up with 16 sausages. I put them in the fridge to chill. I won’t comment on how they kind of look like poo. Oh, oops. I just did. Hmm… maybe the whole purpose of adding annatto powder is to make it look less like poo.

Traditional longanisa recipes call for the meat to sit in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably for over 24 hours. I couldn’t wait so I took some out after about 2.5 hours and fried them up in safflower oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning every 2-3 minutes.

I made some sinangag and a salad of tomato, onion, and cilantro to accompany my longanisa. I have always felt like being Filipino and loving Filipino food would make going vegan an impossible challenge. I’m glad to have proven myself wrong yet again. Is the recipe exactly like traditional longanisa? No. But it’s a great substitute that I know I’ll improve on with every try. As a bonus, it has ZERO cholesterol. Who wants all that pork fat anyway? Gross!

Kain tayo! That means “let’s eat!” …. Melissa

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