Two Chubby Vegans

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Vegan substitutions, condiments and spices. Oh my. (the draft I was working on when MSP had her heart attack)

Ever since we started eating vegan and low-fat (when I can stop sabotaging myself) we have utilized spices and condiments in more creative and exciting ways than we ever did before. It isn’t about covering up the taste of anything, on the contrary, it’s about enhancing the tastes we’ve covered up all these years with our layers of fat, salt and sugar. I’ve noticed that those who do not share our eating habits seem to require almost an overdose of “flavor” on their food to the extent that the flavors of the real food are buried and no longer recognizable. I think of it as the “Ranch Dressing Syndrome”, when you can recognize the texture of the vegetables in your salad but can no longer see them or taste them owing to the ocean of dressing you just buried them in. It’s a syndrome I am intimately familiar with having had a rather unnaturally close relationship with Ranch dressing for years. One might say Hidden valley was my adopted home town even.

But now what? Let’s face it, vegan ranch dressing is, well… vegan ranch dressing. You can make it vegan but it just doesn’t taste the same no matter what you do. I’ve discovered that there are some things you can substitute with vegan versions and others that you just can’t. Pot roast for instance. Others you can barely tell the difference or they taste so good on their own that it doesn’t matter. So I’ve decided to show some of the products/recipes we use in the event that it might help someone else avoid the vegan ranch dressing trap.

1. Malt Salt/Bacon Salt. These are exactly what they say they are. And oh so very tasty as well. The malt salt is essentially a vinegar powder like you find sprinkled on salt and vinegar chips but with a stronger and yet more delicate vinegar flavor and less salt. I love it sprinkled on salads and especially thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes. The bacon salt is still vegan and comes in a variety of bacon flavors. It tastes more like bacon bits than real slices of bacon but I find that’s ok in a vegan universe. I sprinkle it on my tofu scrambles for a tasty bacon ‘n’ eggs kind of thing as well as on lettuce, tomato and veganaise sandwiches. *I should mention we had a late night snack of Cheddar Bacon microwave popcorn made by the same company last night. Not low fat or low salt but it is vegan.

2. Parma: Vegan Parmesan cheese. Does this taste like the aged parmesan cheese they so freely sprinkle on your salad at the Olive Garden? No, not really. But it does taste good on things like spaghetti and sauce and in pesto. It adds that salty, gritty texture that is really what makes parmesan work so well on Italian food. It’s main ingredient is nutritional yeast. Not a flavor I’m enamored with but as I said, sprinkled on other foods as a counterpoint it is excellent. I have even discovered that it works not just well, but exceptionally well, on my hot cereal in the morning. I can hear the confused “eh?” now. Who puts cheese on their hot cereal? Well, I do. I don’t do sweet things very well anymore. Too much sugar, especially processed sugar, makes me sick though you would never know it some days the way I sneak cookies. So instead of putting brown sugar, honey or maple syrup and butter on my hot cereal in the morning I make it savory. I add diced tomatoes and scallions, a bit of vegan parmesan and a touch of Hawaiian chile water for tang. It’s hot, creamy, savory and usually lasts me for hours without the need to snack.

3. Bragg Liquid Aminos and nori furikake. For liquid aminos think soy sauce with a high protein content. It’s a non-GMO liquid protein concentrate that replaces tamari and soy sauce. Although I have heard it has less salt than soy sauce I can’t seem to verify that from what I find in terms of sodium content but the protein content information seems to be right on.  Nori furikake is basically shredded, dried seaweed seasoning that is sometimes mixed with sugar, salt, fish flakes or sesame seeds. I usually pick mine up at Uwajimaya in the International District. I go for the one with just plain nori and sesame seeds and nothing else added. It’s great sprinkled on tomato slices, steamed rice, stir fry, congee and anything else that goes well with a light Asian flavoring. *If you click on the Bragg Liquid Aminos link I’ve provided you can sign up to be sent some free samples of their products. they also have a seaweed based seasoning mix but I do not recommend it.

4. Lastly, because I saved the best for last, Nacho Mom’s Vegan Queso. We have decided to return to our whole foods ways, in other words,no more oil-riffic fake cheeses and meats. If I can’t make it myself or reasonably reproduce it in my own kitchen then it’s too processed, and likely to full of fat, for us. So to find this vegan queso sauce was a real treat. To begin with it tastes FABULOUS. If you miss nacho cheese sauce then you MUST run out and buy this stuff. And if you miss nacho cheese sauce but haven’t been able to even enjoy the store bought stuff or make your own with vegan “cheeze” then you will be ecstatic to note that this queso sauce in NO fat. Yes, that’s right Virginia, Santa came early this year and he left a big heaping jar of vegan no fat cheese sauce that tastes really really good! As mom never said, well butter my butt and call me a biscuit!

Peace!

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July 18, 2011 Posted by | Being Vegan, Cheating/Struggling, Vegan condiments, Vegan Products, Vegan Salad Dressing | Leave a comment

Feeling superior for being vegan. Confessions of an underachiever on the fourth of July.

I was reading the news the other day about Costco dropping pork produced by Iowa Select Farms due to a video made by Mercy For Animals documenting some of the most heartbreaking animal abuse I’ve ever seen and I was feeling proud that I no longer contribute to the continued torture, abject misery and sadness of these animals and then I realized that I was actually feeling a bit, well, superior as well. As I think I’ve mentioned before this is somewhat unusual for me. I have long believed that the rest of the world is thinner, prettier, more successful and generally better at whatever it is they do than I am. This is a  belief compounded by the internet, a place where I can’t see the pot-bellies, double-wides and mullets of the world. Not even People of Walmart seems to disabuse me of this nagging suspicion. So it’s a bit of a surprise to me that being vegan has helped me to claim a bit of the “I’m better than” for myself and not always handing it out so freely to others. Hard as it is to give up so many things that I love ( and I DO stumble), finding reasons to be proud of myself and proud of my choices is turning out to be better than what I’m giving up. On another sort of related side note, giving up television has turned out to be much easier than I had hoped. I not only find I don’t miss it at all but I find myself actively excited about our evenings now… reading together in front of the fireplace, having friends over for dinner and coffee more often, time to work in my art studio. I never realized how much even limited TV had sort of insidiously hypnotized me into not noticing the things I was missing. And at last count I have read 56 books since January.

So what did you do for the fourth? I cleaned and cooked mostly and worked out household/teenager issues with the other CV. Not exactly a 10 on the excitement-o-meter but good nonetheless. We did stick to a vegan diet for the day except for some non-vegan peanut butter cookies that I justified under the excuse that they were made by a very good, and expensive local bakery and normally unaffordable but since these were on the day old rack… and now you see another way I justify sabotaging myself? Our “official” holiday dinner menu consisted of a vegan sausage and potato salad, a sour cucumber onion and dill salad, watermelon and homemade french bread. The potato salad was so darned good that I didn’t even miss having barbecue!

Vegan Sausage Potato Salad

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 1 pound red potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces vegan kielbasa or Italian “sausage”, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup walla walla or vidalia onions, chopped

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 clove garlic, large, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add whole potatoes; boil about 25 minutes or until tender. Drain and let cool. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a large bowl.

In a large skillet, heat the 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Brown the vegan sausage (I used Tofurkey kielbasa). Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add sausage to the bowl with the potatoes along with celery and onions.

For the dressing, in a small container use a hand blender to whip together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper until thick and creamy. If you do not have a hand or wand blender you can use a whisk. However using a hand blender produces a thick creamy product like a flavored mayo while whisking will not. Add the dressing, celery and green onions to the potato mixture and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Peace!

July 6, 2011 Posted by | Being Vegan, New recipes | Leave a comment