Vegetarian Culinarian

Recipes and resources for food lovers going green, local, and compassionate.

Category: Book/App/PDF/Website Resource Reviews

Compassionate Holidays Begin with Vegan Baking


The rule to remember when substituting for eggs, dairy, meat, fat, sugar, and/or animal by-products is that what you put in should function the same way (leaven, bind, tenderize, provide structure, etc.) in the recipe as what you take out.

Some products you can substitute cup for cup, as in, for example, soy or rice milk for dairy milk. Other ingredients need to be replaced by two ingredients to achieve the same function. For example, you’d need to replace buttermilk with a combination of non-dairy milk and lemon juice or vinegar. Some substitutions may require that you lessen or increase other ingredients in the recipe to compensate. For example, if you substitute oil for butter in a cake recipe, you’ll use only 7/8 cup oil for every cup of butter, and you’ll need to increase the sugar and egg substitute to avoid creating a heavy texture. Sometimes a substitute you may use to replace something in one recipe won’t work in another. For example, ground flaxseed mixed with water is a great substitute for eggs in baked goods, but won’t work in recipes where eggs create the structure of the food, as in meringues or cheesecakes, or in flourless cakes and cookies that rely on eggs for structure.

Use a great guide:
The absolute best, most comprehensive resource I can recommend for substitutions is The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions, by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman. Their guide covers substitutes for dairy, eggs, meat, animal by-products (honey & gelatin), gluten, soy, sugar, and fat. They walk you through how and what to substitute, and provide convenient substitution tables. Each section of substitutions gives you a sample of an “ordinary” recipe, like one from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which has yucky ingredients swapped out for healthy, vegan ones. They also provide great recipes for staples, such as a gluten-free baking mix, eggless mayo, and seitan, as well as meals, desserts, and baked goods, such as their versions of shepherd’s pie, chocolate pie, and gingerbread cake. These are not hockey puck granola recipes. I am serious when I say these are better that what our society has grown up on. The switch to real, chemical-free, pain-free ingredients creates refreshing, delicious food.

Get it here:
It is also available on Kindle and iBooks, so there is no excuse not to have this amazing resource in your kitchen.

Get info online:
To get an idea of the role of different baking ingredients, you can check out FoodWorks.
(Note that the sweetener section is not complete; it leaves out agave nectar, date sugar, and maple syrup, among other alternatives.)

Cook’s Thesaurus, at, is another great resource for looking up ingredients, their functions, and possible substitutions.

The Post Punk Kitchen has a very informative, refreshingly-written piece on baking substitutions for vegans and when each substitute works best. You can find it here:

Try substitutions I’ve used:

Replacing Milk (cup for cup):
*Coconut milk
*Soy milk
*Almond milk
Note: You can make your own. Blanch a 1/2 cup of raw, organic almonds, then slip the skins off when cool. It doesn’t hurt to leave the skins on, but they can have a bitter aftertaste. Blend up your almonds and 2 cups or so of filtered water, depending on how thick you like your milk. You may need to stop and stir, then blend again. Strain out the nuts that are leftover using a mesh filter. If you’re using the almond milk for a savory recipe, I wouldn’t add anything else, except perhaps a pinch of salt. If you’re drinking it or using it for baking, you can add agave nectar or date or maple syrup to taste.
*Rice milk
Note: Read this article from Vegan Reader about the connection between Rice Dream brand and Monsanto. It also provides a great, easy recipe for making your own rice milk.

Replacing Buttermilk:
Buttermilk acts differently than milk in recipes and can’t be replaced with milk alone. The acid in it reacts with baking soda to help baked goods rise. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, replace it cup for cup with
*1 cup of any milk alternative plus 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

Replacing Cream:
*Tal Ronnen’s Cashew Cream
Note: The recipe is available in his amazing book, the conscious cook, and also on his website,, where you can watch a video of Tal preparing it himself.
*Coconut cream

Replacing Butter:
*Earth Balance (available at Whole Foods)
*Coconut Oil (solid at room temperature, available at Whole Foods)
*Vegetable Shortening (Celine & Joni recommend subbing 3/4 c shortening for every cup of butter a recipe calls for.)

Replacing Oil:
*Date paste
*Mashed avocado
*Mashed beans thinned with water or liquid sweetener

Replacing Eggs:
*For each egg replaced: Mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed and 2-3 tbsp water, let sit a few minutes until thickened
Note 1: Use this in baked goods like cookies and cakes but not recipes in which the eggs provide much structure, like flourless cakes and cookies, meringues, etc.
Note 2: Buy whole flax seeds & grind them yourself in a cleaned-out coffee grinder, as ground flax easily goes rancid on store shelves – if you grind more than you end up needing, refrigerate unused portion in airtight container or plastic zip bag. Store unused flaxseeds in the freezer.

*Egg replacer, such as Orgran Gluten Free No Egg Natural Egg Replacer
Note: This comes in powdered form. It is used by mixing the powder with water, and can also be used straight in some recipes. Details for each brand differ. I get mine at Whole Foods.

Follow this link to the Post Punk Kitchen for a more comprehensive list for egg replacement, as well as which substitutes can be used in which sorts of recipes:

Replacing Sugars:
If you decide to use granulated replacements in place of liquid sweeteners, or liquid sweeteners in place of granulated, your ratio of dry to wet ingredients will change, and you’ll need to adjust your recipe accordingly by increasing or decreasing your other liquids.

Replacing Granulated Sugar (refined white sugar isn’t vegan, as it is usually filtered with animal bone)
*Less refined sugar, such as Sugar In the Raw or Sucanat
*Brown sugar
*Molasses sugar
*Date sugar
Note: You can make this yourself by drying the dates (pits removed) in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then grinding.

Replacing Liquid Sweeteners (corn syrup, honey, etc.)
*Agave nectar
Note: Agave is great because it has a low glycemic index. This means it doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels like ordinary sugars do.
*Date syrup (I started using this after my recent move to teach at an international school in the Middle East. I love it because it has an earthy sweetness that is less sharp than refined sweeteners. It’s made of dates boiled in water.)
*Maple syrup (real, not the pancake stand-in)
*Celine and Joni mention using brown rice syrup or fruit syrups, which I haven’t yet tried.

Replacing Meat (in sausage rolls, cornish pasties, pot pies, etc.)
*Mushrooms (never underestimate the mushroom’s ability to mimic meat’s chewy mouthfeel or its ability to absorb any flavor it’s simmered in!)
*Chopped walnuts
*Soy meat substitutes (such as MorningStar Farms Veggie Sausage Patties)
*Tofu or tempeh
*Mycoprotein such as Quorn brand (I LOVE this stuff)
*Quinoa & lentils (both great sources of protein, and although quinoa is fluffy, like rice, mixed with lentils it can sub in baked goods where you might use ground meat)
*Beans (whole or mashed)

Alternatively, don’t bother subbing, and use great recipes instead:
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Vegan Baking Classics by Kelly Rudnicki. Because baking (in our society, at least) is so synonymous with eggs and dairy, oftentimes our attempts at recreating childhood favorites sans eggs and milk end up in the trash. If you want proven, scrumptious, like-you-had-at-home baked goods without the bother of reading up and testing new recipes, this baking book is an absolute must-have. Kelly began creating recipes for her son, who is fatally allergic to nuts, dairy, eggs, and legumes. Because she has five children to feed, she doesn’t use expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. These are recipes created by the drive a mother has for her children, and the necessities of low-cost, wholesome, easily accessible baked goods. Her first cookbook, The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, was snapped up by vegans. This second baking book is a response to the demand.

Get it here:
Vegan Baking Classics is also available on iBooks and as a Google ebook.


Recipe: White “Sausage” Gravy from The Grit Restaurant

(Before you read this post….Yes, I believe in whole, fresh food – mostly raw and green. But the half of me that is not Tongan is deeply southern. Sometimes I need some soul food. Biscuits and gravy are my guilty pleasure…)

The next time you are in Athens, Georgia, you need to experience The Grit. The first time I opened the menu at this edgy-yet-homey, art-filled vegetarian & vegan restaurant, I was daunted by the idea that I could order anything off of it. (So used to scanning a menu to find what is vegetarian and then choosing between two or three options…) This is true, down-home, southern cooking that happens to be vegetarian/vegan. I thought I’d forever given up my grandmother’s biscuits and gravy – but I experienced a version no meat-eater could turn away at The Grit. The Reuben Sandwich (on their homemade Ted Bread) gave me chills. It was at The Grit that I discovered I could actually love tofu. I now cook it the Grit-way (which involves breading with nutritional yeast) at home at least three times a week. They serve up everything from southern Collard Greens to southwestern Roasted Corn and Zucchini Quesadilla to Coconut Ginger Curry. ¬†About half of their items are vegan, including their homemade Famous Vegan Ranch Dressing. All of these recipes (130 in total) are published in The Grit Cookbook, which I was lucky enough to receive for my birthday last year. ūüôā I love that it includes recipes for staples, like hummus, breads, dressings, stocks, pie crusts, tofu, and seitan, as well as recipes for dishes, like ¬†Sunday Miracle BBQ Sandwich, and desserts, like their vegan Crumble-Top Apple Pie. Here is their recipe for White “Sausage” Gravy. If you were raised by a southern family, you know what to do with this. Slather it over fluffy biscuits and escape into heaven. The only question: After cutting your biscuit in half, do you place the fluffy, just-cut halves of the biscuit down on the plate, or face up? My mom and I argue about this. I side with my grandmother, who hailed from Tennessee: fluffy side up. And so, lucky you, on to the recipe:

The Grit White “Sausage” Gravy

Ingredients [Note: The butter and milk links take you to the Living Cruelty Free page which discusses dairy farm certification]

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter

8 breakfast link vegetarian “sausages” such as Morningstar Farms, frozen

1/2 scant cup all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk [Note: I haven’t yet tried this with soy milk…if you do, let me know how it turns out!]

2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce [Note: the non-vegan sauce contains fish]

1 1/2 teaspoon salt [Note: I like sea salt]

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 scant teaspoon ground sage

1/2 scant teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions: [Note: These directions are my sum-up of what the cookbook says…]

Melt butter in skillet and fry frozen “sausages” until thawed. Either remove from skillet, chop up, and return to skillet, or do it the lazy-Sunday way and mush them into pieces with your bamboo spatula right in the skillet. Set aside.

In a saucepan or large skillet, melt butter, then stir in flour. ¬†Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has bubbled for 4 minutes. Gradually add milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly all the while. I sometimes use a whisk for this. What happens is that what you have in the pan is a nice, thick, gravy already, but once you add milk, it thins out. Whisking it ensures that the milk blends evenly with the gravy. Stir it longer, over heat, and your thin gravy thickens up again. If you get impatient and add the milk all at once, your gravy may not thicken up at all…. so be sure to let it thicken up between additions of milk. Add the Worcestershire sauce and spices with the last addition of milk. Continue stirring until your gravy thickens up again, then add the cooked “sausage”. Remove from heat and allow to sit five to ten minutes before serving.

Get Your Yum On: Internet Resources

Gems that shine in the world of online vegetarian/vegan cuisine:

This is not a mishmash of every veggie site ¬†I could find online…only the ones I know well and use often. If you know of any greats that I’ve missed, please post a link in the comments section! ūüôā

  • 101 Cookbooks –¬†Breathtakingly beautiful photography, delicious, all-natural vegetarian and vegan recipes – this site is a calming, inspiring oasis in the midst of internet clatter.
  • Care2 is a great resource for food articles and recipes. Read an awesome article on quinoa, a delicious, high-protein grain that is a must-have for vegetarians!
  • Cooking Light offers wonderful vegetarian articles and recipes. Try the¬†Fiery Tomato Chutney or the¬†Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Pizza.
  • Manjula’s Kitchen – Indian food is one of my absolute favorites. Reading through her site brings back so many memories! Most of her recipes are demonstrated with a video, which is extremely helpful when learning how to cook Indian food. I feel as though I’m back at my friends’ houses, watching their mothers make puri.
  • Moosewood – Have you discovered this amazing cookbook series yet? The website will give you a sampling of recipes from the group’s many cookbooks (I have three of them myself). I love the Quinoa Stuffed Peppers and the Spinach Lasagna.
  • Nava Atlas Vegan Recipes – Nava Atlas has written several cookbooks and articles about vegetarian and vegan cooking. Find everything from Buddhist’s Delight Stew to Avocado Quesadillas. I especially love her article on how to pack nutritious, waste-free lunches.
  • Sprouted Kitchen – The photography is stunning. Hugh could take photographs of absolutely anything and make it arrestingly beautiful. It is another, like 101cookbooks, that is an inspiring oasis. Recipes like Pear and Buckwheat pancakes… beautiful, delicious. Another for my bookmarks bar.
  • Tal Ronnen This vegan chef’s website provides only a few of his delectable recipes, but the few he provides are amazing. You have to try the cashew cream…it is a must-have basic staple for vegans who still want creaminess and protein in their dishes! For more Tal Ronnen recipes, the conscious cook is a great investment!
  • Vegan Chef This is the website of Chef Beverly Lynn Bennett, who wrote¬†The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Cooking, and¬†Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles. Through her site you can access these books as well as a plethora of recipes – everything from Eggplant Poor Boys to Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake (all vegan, of course).
  • Vegetarian Resource Group There are all kinds of vegetarian recipes on this site, but my favorite are the Indian and Egyptian dishes.
  • Whole Foods This Whole Foods Market site is continuously posting healthful new recipes.
  • Yoga Journal Love, love, love this site. It is essentially my second home. In addition to food articles focused on health, healing, and nurturing the body, it provides a wealth of recipes for such foods as Dairy-Free Chocolate Truffles and White Bean and Kale Soup. (P.S. This is owned by the same company as¬†Vegetarian Times, another great site for recipes.)

Photo Credits: Carlos Porto (of course!) Find more of his photos at

Resources for a Compassionate Lifestyle

I took this photo at a beach in Tonga.Every year, my students find out I’m a vegetarian. They inevitably notice what I bring for lunch, or my gentle refusals to share in meat-based meals (read: pepperoni pizza parents bring for birthdays). They always ask me why. ¬†One student explained to another, “She won’t eat anything with a face!” It’s true – I don’t eat meat or anything made with meat, which includes foods which contain gelatin (made of animal hooves) or rennet (made of stomach lining). My students are so sweet every year. They gradually learn – without any prompting or preaching from me – which foods have meat, gelatin, rennet, and the like. Children are often more accepting of personal choices than others – although a colleague of mine recently brought a vegan chocolate cake to our staff potluck because she was worried I wouldn’t get any dessert! Basically, I don’t eat or use anything which came from suffering animals, including milk or eggs which haven’t come from small, local, open farms which don’t send their animals to slaughter when they can no longer lay or produce milk. My best friend, B, and I call them ‘pain-free’ products. One of us will pick up something in the grocery store, and the other will say, “Is it pain-free?” Or, “Have you got pain-free eggs on the grocery list?” This includes non-food items, too, like shampoo and make-up. I know it’s good for the earth. ¬†I know it’s good for me. ¬†But really, even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t stand being the cause, or the monetary support, of another being’s suffering. That’s what it comes down to. If it gets too expensive, I eat something else. If it gets too time consuming to check labels and websites (finding sugar that hasn’t been filtered with bone was a bit trying) then I eat something else, or I do without. I can’t face being part of a chain of suffering. And that’s about it.

The Resources

Listed below are links to facts, recipes, articles, and BBC’s great “pitfalls” page, which lists slaughter by-products hidden in foods you might not be aware of.

  • Farm Sanctuary: This group “works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.”¬†Find facts, resources, and current campaigns.
  • Veg for Life: This is a Farm Sanctuary campaign. Find a wealth of resources for beginning vegetarians, in addition to helpful links like a directory for cruelty-free clothing. I love the FAQs section.
  • Tal Ronnen: Find recipes from and info about this vegan chef.