Vegan Desserts

August 2nd, 2012

Summer’s in full swing, and for most of us, that means ice cream season. But what about vegans, who swear off anything and everything animal-based? No worries–vegan ice cream options abound, perhaps now more than ever. And unlike in its early years, when compromises had to be made between flavor and nutritional value, vegan desserts are just as good as their dairy counterparts, if not better.

Vegan alternatives to common treats first cropped up in the 1980s, when brands such as Rice Dream and Tofutti first gained popularity. Their quality has improved significantly since then, and they remain staples of vegan and organic groceries today. Like most brands, they are completely dairy-free and eco-friendly, and often safe for a wide range of food allergies.

Besides rice and tofu, nuts are also a widely used base for vegan dairy imitations. Almond Dream is one of the best-known brands of nut-based milk desserts, and comes in a good selection of flavors. Dairy replacements can also be made from peanuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and pecans. Among white nuts and seeds, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds tend to work well.

Soy milk has always been, and still is, a staple of vegan cooking, and desserts are no exception. Although it has given way to several other alternatives, most people still stick to soy for its added nutritional value and hypoallergenic quality. Soy ice cream tends to come in the widest range of flavors, and many vegans find it more natural-tasting than other plant-based dairy. Many also say it’s more filling.

If you like your ice cream with generous toppings, your best bet would be to find a vegan ice cream place in your area. These can be found in most major cities today. While some places sell vegan options alongside non-vegan ones, they usually do not make the distinction when it comes to toppings and garnishes, so it’s important to ask questions. In an all-vegan shop, although the prices are higher, you can be sure everything that goes into your cup is plant-based.

Another alternative, especially for those who have time on their hands, is to make your own vegan ice cream. Most ice cream maker models will work with plant-based ingredients without any significant difference in quality. As mentioned above, you can use soy, rice, or nut-based milk, and add your own flavors. Try experimenting with different mixes before making a big batch.


Sprucing Up Your Salads

April 17th, 2012

Salads aren’t a vegetarian’s only food option, but they’re definitely a big part of their diet. And unfortunately, that’s what makes many otherwise health-conscious people think twice about going meat-free. But the salad’s reputation as a bland side dish is largely undeserved. Although it can get unsatisfying if you have the same two or three things every day, salads lend themselves very well to experimenting. That’s the fun part: you can mix and match to your heart’s content and come up with a variety of salads that satisfy your cravings minus the guilt. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

Roast your veggies: Roasting brings out a different side of vegetables, layering them with richer flavors and softer textures. You can roast them on a grill or your oven, or just sear them on a pan if you’re in a hurry. Eggplants, zucchini, mushrooms, and bell peppers are especially ideal for roasting. Toss them in with some orzo or couscous, drizzle on some olive oil and spices and herbs of your choice, and you’ve got a quick meal that’s good enough for seconds.

Experiment with cheese: Cheeses lend both volume and flavor to salads, making an otherwise light dish a lot more satisfying. Crumbled feta livens up a bowl of greens, while provolone or mozzarella grains add bite to a zesty tomato salad. If you’re a vegan, no worries–most soy-based alternatives are now up to par with their dairy counterparts. Just make sure to use it sparingly–a little goes a long way!

Get your protein: Vegetarian salads don’t have to be completely protein-free. If you like the taste of meat, tempeh or other meat substitutes can do the job pretty well, although you have to watch for the sodium content as some of them are highly processed. Grains, beans, and pulses are also a great source of protein, as well as fiber. If you’re watching your carbs, grains like quinoa and barley can safely satisfy cravings.

Think fruit: Vegetables and fruits can go surprisingly well together. Whether it’s a few orange slices in your Thai salad or a bold mix of grapes and turnip, there are lots of ways to experiment with contrast. Throw some mango slices into your chicken salad or toss your favorite greens in some strawberry vinaigrette. It’s a great way to change things up a little, not to mention getting an effortless daily dose of antioxidants.

What Can Vegans Eat?

August 27th, 2011

Veganism is considered an “extreme” form of vegetarianism, but it’s more than that. While vegetarians put restrictions on their diet, vegans change the way they live, from what they wear to the bags they carry. But there’s little doubt that diet is the biggest and most challenging aspect of veganism. Easily half of all commercial foods, if not more, will not make the cut.

So what can vegans eat? It’s easy to say what they can’t: anything that contains animal products, whether meat or dairy or animal-based food dyes and thickeners. Many vegans replace common “main dishes” with meat replacements such as tofu, textured vegetable protein, and tempeh. These are usually made to taste and feel like meat, and provide much of the protein in the diet. Some mushrooms, such as Portobello and porcini, are known for their meaty taste and often take their place in soups and sandwiches.

Greens are also a big part of the vegan diet. The health-conscious are particularly drawn to dark leafy greens, as they pack a large dose of nutrients with a small number of calories. Kale, broccoli, and arugula are among the most popular. They are often paired with grains, particularly whole grains such as spelt, millet, or barley. They add volume and make a light yet filling alternative to rice and pasta.

Many vegans also load up on eggplant, potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, squash, and tomatoes–root crops and fruits that are often mistaken for vegetables. What makes these “vegetable fruits” useful is that they add the bite that’s often missing in vegan meals. If you’re coming off an omnivorous diet, you’ll notice that meat-free dishes tend to be texture-free as well–but the right ingredients can take care of that. The same goes for legumes, beans, and pulses. These are particularly useful for their iron content; while most people get their iron from red meat and liver, vegans get theirs from plant-based sources.

Some vegans take it even further and go on a raw diet, which, as the name implies, only allows whole, raw foods. The idea is that cooking takes away some of the food’s nutritional value and creates free radicals, a precursor for a wide range of diseases. Raw food diets include lots of fruit and vegetables and natural fruit juices. It’s more than a little limiting and some doctors doubt that it’s good for the health, but it does keep you away from preservatives and keeps your calorie intake down.

How to Discover The Different Tastes of Vegetarian Cuisine

August 17th, 2011

Vegetarian cuisine is so much more than just some vegetables thrown together in a dish.  The choice to eat only plant based products has been around for years in some cultures and with the variety of fruits and vegetables available in countries such as Australia it is made all the more easier.  To fully discover the different tastes of vegetarian cuisine it is a good idea to be open minded and put yourself out there to try new foods and vegetarian dishes.

One of the best ways to discover different tastes when it comes to vegetarian cuisine is to eat out at vegetarian restaurants.  Depending on where you live there may be quite a few vegetarian restaurants to choose from each with a slightly different take on the vegetarian theme.  When eating out remember to broaden your tastes by ordering and trying new dishes and foods that you have never tried before.

If you are looking to broaden your horizon when it comes to vegetarian cuisine then doing some research online maybe time well spent.  There are a huge amount of websites and recipes available online which are vegetarian and feature foods from all different countries and cultures.

For people who have the time a vegetarian cooking class may be a good source of inspiration when it comes to adding variety to your vegetarian diet.  Many of these classes will show you the basics of vegetarian cooking and introduce you to different fruits and vegetables and how to prepare or cook them.

If you love to go out and eat with friends or family try some new restaurants that have a Thai, or Indian flavour and order the vegetarian dishes that are on the menu.  Many restaurants such as these have excellent vegetarian choices as eating a vegetarian diet is a big part of the cuisine in these countries.

Making sure that the fruit and vegetables that you prepare and eat are as fresh as possible.  Fresh produce is higher in nutrients and ultimately tastes better especially when eaten raw.  Many vegetarian dishes include stir fried vegetables which is a great way to cook and also keep most of the nutrients in the vegetables.

Discovering the different tastes of vegetarian cuisine is a relatively easy task especially if you enjoy trying new things. The information is all within easy reach all that is needed is for vegetarians to go out and enjoy the cuisine on offer.

Some Important Tips on Being Vegetarian

August 3rd, 2011

Being a vegetarian has its good and bad points however a well prepared and enthusiastic person can use the following tips to help maintain being a vegetarian.

One of the most important things (for everyone not just vegetarians) is to drink more water.  Water is an important part of our diet as it not only rehydrates the body it is also important for flushing toxins out of our system.  Drinking water regularly throughout the day is also a great way to reduce snacking on junk food.  Many people mistake thirst for hunger and eat when their body really just needs a drink because you are dehydrated.

When it comes to having lunch with friends, family or co workers a good tip is to be accepting of the fact that not everyone is vegetarian and that people will choose to eat meat around you.  People you meet socially will respect your decision to be a vegetarian however you shouldn’t try to push your views onto others or try to ‘convert’ them to go vegetarian.  If people ask about it share with them the positive aspects of being a vegetarian such as weight loss and general health and well being.

Learning to cook is also a great thing to do when you are a vegetarian.  Much of the fast food and take away foods that we consume are not vegetarian friendly so it is important that people choosing a vegetarian diet have the ability to cook up their own vegetarian ‘fast food’ at home.  Experimenting with new recipes or attending a cooking class can be away of learning how to prepare more interesting and tasty vegetarian foods.

Consulting your doctor or having a medical check up may also be a good idea for people who are going to change their diet to that of a vegetarian.  Any changes in your life can affect your health and consulting a doctor before changing your diet can address any problems that arise.

Another important tip on being vegetarian is eating a variety of foods.  Regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or not eating the same foods every day can be very boring.  As with any diet it is important to consume a large variety of foods.  The easiest way to do this is to make sure that you have foods, especially fruits and vegetables, that cover a variety of colours such as rather than a dish with just green vegetables.