Vegetarian Culinarian

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

Category: Vegetarian/Vegan Resources

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.


Vegan Pumpkin Nog


I was on Our Family Eats last night, and found an awesome homemade pumpkin creamer. Loving autumn and all things pumpkin, I was ecstatic to find this idea of using pureed pumpkin in coffee, instead of buying the heavily-sugared stuff from Starbucks. I didn’t have all of the ingredients though (the dairy or maple syrup), so I mixed up mine with soy milk and agave nectar. It was incredible, and by itself tasted like a thick, creamy pumpkin eggnog, sans egg. Who needs to add coffee? 🙂 I’ve had three cups of it today, and the day isn’t over yet.

Basic ingredients:
soy milk
pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
agave nectar
autumn spices such as cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg

The ratios are up to you and your individual tastes. You may like more or less pumpkin, more or less agave nectar, and you’ll probably use the spices you have on hand. If you have a pumpkin pie spice, that would work, too. Here’s what I do for an individual cup:

Into a mug, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (I used the 365 Organic brand). I’d start with 1/4 then add more if it wasn’t thick enough. Mix in a tiny pinch each of ground clove, ground nutmeg, and ground ginger, and a pinch each of cinnamon and ground cardamom. I would opt on the teeny tiny side and then you can add more spice if you need to. If you mix the spices in with the pumpkin first, it will help them to incorporate into the cold soy milk. Not to worry if you don’t have all of those spices sitting around. You can also just use cinnamon, or any combination. Fill the rest of the mug with cold soy milk (I’m sure almond would work, too). Mix with a mini-whisk, then add a few tablespoons of agave nectar to taste. I squirt my in straight from the bottle. I haven’t tried it with maple syrup or honey, but I’m sure those would work, as well. Happy Autumn!

Airlines, Airports, and the Vegetarian


Airlines, Airports, and the Vegetarian

I’m about to embark on yet another flight – a long, 12 hour one. My preparations by now are almost mechanical; the checklist in my head honed from the need to protect myself when I venture into the meat-eater’s world. It is frustrating to be stuck somewhere, hungry, with limited options and few sympathizers. I thought a rundown of my experiences and planning tips might be of use to some of you out there. I would also love to hear tips from other traveling vegetarians.

On the airplane:
If your flight is long enough to offer an in-flight meal, airlines will allow you to reserve a vegetarian or vegan meal. I’ve done both; the vegetarian options have usually included some sort of cheesy, vegetable pasta such as lasagna (though flight attendants usually can’t verify that the cheese is rennet-free), or a boiled egg and muffin for breakfast, but airlines (even international ones) seem at a loss for vegans, whose meals often include the standard fare minus animal foods. This has left me with plates of lettuce and bread many a trip. Only one memorable flight (to Hawaii) afforded me the opportunity to sample a hummus & olive platter, which was delicious and nourishing (and $9.00).

At the airport:
Airports offer little more. If you are lucky enough to find a Burger King, a BK Veggie Burger made with a Morningstar Farms Veggie Patty is a filling vegan option if you hold the mayo. Some airports, like Houston’s, are almost anti-vegetarian in their limited choices and meat-scented corridors. You can assuage your hunger with snacks from one of the many over-priced airport shops – granola bars, chips, and the like – or Starbucks offerings like scones, oatmeal, or the cage-free egg-white and spinach wrap. When I’m taking a short flight, and am hungry enough that I don’t care about overpaying, these are doable options. However, when I’m traveling ten or twelve hours, I need to plan ahead.

Packable, cheap, security-friendly food options:

Subway. Get a footlong veggie sub on your way to the airport. Yes, it can go through security. This sub is two meals, complete with protein, just-baked bread, and fresh veggies of your choice. Alternately, you can make sandwiches at home, but I’ve found that meat substitutes like soy chicken patties tend to get stiff and chewy shortly after heating, while Subway’s veggie patties stay moist and tender longer.

Hummus. Good-for-you protein that is filling and delicious. Your typical carton of Sabra Hummus can’t go through security, though, so you’ll need to head to Whole Foods and get the dry hummus mix from the bulk bin section. I sprinkle in some chile flakes and dried parsley, as well. This dry mix is lightweight, takes up very little room, and is security-friendly. Once on the plane, either ask the attendant for a cup of water or use water from your water bottle (which you filled after going through security). I take along a pack of crackers (like Triscuits) with which to dip the hummus, and a container of olives (from which the liquid has been drained).

Oatmeal and fruit. I don’t use instant oatmeal at home, but a packet of oatmeal is another easy-to-carry, lightweight, packable meal which is security-friendly and can be mixed with hot water once on the plane. Check the nutrition labels at the store; some brands are infinitely better for you than others. Bring along cheap, potassium-packed bananas or a box of raisins to mix in.

Snacks. Once again, Whole Foods bulk bins come in handy as a cheap way to bring along organic nutrition. Mix your own trail mix using your favorite dried fruits and nuts. I also get fruit leather and limited-ingredient animal crackers from Whole Foods.

Drinks. Bring along your water bottle, which can be filled after going through security. I pack my own non-dairy creamer for the flight because oftentimes the only creamer option for coffee or tea is half and half. I also bring individually-wrapped Yogi tea bags. Tea bags are another little luxury that are light-weight and security-friendly, and infinitely better than what you’ll be offered on the plane. Alternately, there are many drink choices at the airport gift shops if you’re willing to pay.

Foods you can’t bring:
Unfortunately, many go-to travel food choices aren’t options at the airport. Anything liquid-like won’t go through security. This includes individual packs of applesauce, yogurt, peanut butter, veggie dip, and protein shakes. You can sometimes find these items in gift shops after security, but they will be pricey, and your brand choices will be limited. (For example, Yoplait Go-Gurt tubes are widely available, but contain gelatin.)

What else to pack in your carry-on:
*To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensils. Eco-friendly, reusable, beautiful. I have three of these sets, and don’t go anywhere without at least one. A set includes a bamboo spoon, fork, knife, and chopsticks. Invaluable when you pack your own food and need to mix up hummus or eat oatmeal!
*Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap. You can buy a 1 oz container of it which will fit into your allowed 1 quart ziplock bag of liquids (remember that each item in your 1 quart bag cannot be more than 3 oz.), or you can buy a larger bottle, and pour some soap into a small travel container. You’ll use this for everything – washing utensils or containers, hands, and face. Great for sensitive skin, cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable.
*Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes. Grab a small travel pack at Target for a few bucks. These are great face refreshers for after a long flight, require no rinsing, and are security-friendly. I also use them as regular wipes to clean my hands and tray table before a meal. Great for sensitive skin, cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable.
*Tupperware. These reusable products are airtight, recyclable, and BPA-free. They don’t leach when filled with hot food or liquid or when microwaved. They are great for after the flight, too, when you need a reusable, microwaveable container for your restaurant leftovers. Tupperware products I carry with me include: water bottle, Vent n’ Serve sealable mug (useful for oatmeal, cereal, coffee, tea, soup, hummus, leftovers), and sealable snack containers for my homemade bulk snack mixes.

I also couldn’t live without:
*Happy Cow. This searchable website is a guide to vegetarian and vegan restaurants and health food stores the world over. **As Valerie mentioned in the comments section, this is also an ipad app!!**
*VeganXpress. This ipad app is a great guide for figuring out what is and isn’t vegan at many fast food chains and restaurants.

Pasta Dough From Scratch

Here are two from-scratch pasta dough recipes that I use all the time- one vegan, one vegetarian, both by wonderful chefs. It is easy to experiment with pasta flavors – incorporate flavors that mesh well with the sauce you’re going to use (like garlic, spinach, or basil for a pesto sauce, or red chile for a marinara). Try chopped fresh herbs, like basil and oregano, or powdered spices like garlic and red chile powder. You’ll have to experiment according to your tastes, but I’ve found that if I’m using fresh herbs, I need a few tablespoons at least, whereas if I’m using powdered spices, I’ll use one or two teaspoons or so of all of them combined. It also depends on how fresh your powdered spices are. Fresh spices are obviously stronger, and so you’ll need to use less. Knead your herbs into the dough or, if using spices, premix into the flour before creating your egg well.  Keep in mind that fresh pasta, while tasting better, will also fall apart more easily if boiled too long. Remember that pasta continues to cook unless you rinse well with cold water after straining.


Tal Ronnen Vegan Pasta Dough Recipe – Utilizing tofu in place of traditional eggs

From the indispensable the conscious cook

4 ounces silken tofu

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red palm oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting

Pasta dough: Place all ingredients except flour in a food processor with 2 tablespoons cold water and process on high for 1 minute.

Gradually add the flour, ½ cup at a time. It may be necessary to add a bit more water to make a smooth dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes. Wrap or cover, and sit in fridge to rest for 30 minutes.


Tyler Florence Pasta Dough Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, plus 1 for egg wash

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cornmeal, for dusting

Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use 1 hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. [Note: Don’t skip the step of making a well with the flour and slowly incorporating the flour into the egg – if you try to combine it all at once, it will not form a smooth, pliable dough.] Continue as directed above.  Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Brush the surface with the remaining olive oil and wrap the dough in plastic wrap; let rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.


Wondering what to do with your dough?

Watch a video about how to use a pasta machine.

Photo Credits:Dan at

Animal Welfare Awareness

There is no doubt that the best way to care for animals is not to use them at all – to adopt a vegan lifestyle…

…but everyone out there is on a continuum, progressing in understanding according to their own awareness and the development of their empathetic capacities. I know hunters who feel nothing when they kill animals. Some friends own ranches and are emotionally removed from the slaughtering process. Other friends eat meat, but readily admit they could not kill animals themselves or watch the animals being killed. Some friends have reasons for eating some meat (like fish) but not others (like veal).  Friends and family in Tonga eat dogs, while friends from India balk at the idea of eating cows, which are sacred to them. Others will not eat meat, but will still eat cheese made with rennet (the lining of a calf’s stomach).  Some still buy sugar filtered with animal bone. A few are acutely aware of where everything they buy comes from – down to the tires on their bicycles (some tires are not vegan) – and ensure that nothing they purchase was produced in any way through animal slaughter or with animal materials. I never buy cleaning or bath products that have been tested on animals. What I’ve seen in almost everyone is the struggle that occurs when one becomes aware of another being’s suffering. Everyone deals with it differently, in their own time, in all sorts of ways – from shutting their eyes to campaigning for PETA and all of the life changes in between. But the paradigm shift always begins with that first gleaning of awareness.

There are some great websites out there that help us grow our awareness, allow us to use our purchasing power to change farming and experimentation practices, and help us make the most compassionate choices wherever we currently are on the continuum.

The Animal Rescue Site

Animal Rescue Site – The animal rescue site provides funding support for The Fund for Animals, Foundation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the the North Shore Animal League America.  Click for free each day, and sponsors will donate money towards food and care of rescued animals. In addition, sign petitions, send e-cards, shop for fair trade gifts (proceeds go towards fund), and read animal rescue stories.

Animal Welfare Approved “The Animal Welfare Approved program audits and certifies family farms raising their animals humanely, outdoors on pasture or range…Animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range on true family farms with the ‘most stringent’ humane animal welfare standards according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Annual audits by experts in the field cover birth to slaughter. AWA is able to offer this certification and technical and marketing services to farmers at no charge. Because AWA is not financially dependent on farmer fees, the program is unbiased and completely transparent.” Find AWA farms and products in your area, and read about the science and research behind AWA’s standards.

Better World Shopper This great, research-based website ranks products and companies according to social and environmental responsibilities, including animal welfare. The link will take you to the dairy ratings, but you can look up seafood, meat, and fast food, in addition to non-food items like cosmetics.

Cornucopia Institute publishes scorecards for companies and farms. Review the organic egg scorecard, and dairy scorecard,in addition to their organic soy scorecard.

Eat Well Guide Find sustainable, organic restaurants, caterers, bakers, gardens, co-ops, and farmers in your area, and avoid factory farming altogether.

Farm Sanctuary “works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.” Participate in rescue and adoption of farm animals, understand the issues underlying factory farming, and get involved with current bills and campaigns.

Global Animal Partnership is “a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2008 [which] brings together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers, and animal advocates—a diverse group with the common goal of wanting to improve the welfare of animals in agriculture.” This group has introduced the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards.

Living Cruelty Free The blog title speaks for itself. Lots of resources here, including more in-depth details than you’ll find at some other sites. For example, Better World Shopper lists The Body Shop as one of the top 20 overall companies for ethical practices, but Living Cruelty Free actually digs a bit deeper to find that while The Body Shop does not test on animals, it is a subsidiary of L’Oreal, which does test on animals.

Local Harvest Find small local farms, farmers’ markets, and the CSA closest to you, and avoid factory farming altogether.

Maple Farms Sanctuary -Check out this amazing animal sanctuary submitted by Jake Johnston from Play With My Food. “Maple Farm Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary providing lifelong homes for abused, abandoned and unwanted farmed animals while promoting veganism and respect for all life through public information. Maple Farm Sanctuary has taken in a fraction of the billions of farmed animals that are bought, sold, tormented and slaughtered by the meat, dairy and fur industries.”

PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals provides this invaluable list of companies that do and don’t test on animals.

Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine– This non-profit organization of members of the medical community is focused on research-based preventative medicine (they offer a Vegetarian Starter Kit towards this end) as well as encouraging and campaigning for higher ethical standards in medical research. They have successfully persuaded several universities to cease the use of animals for medical school training and in experimentation.

Whole Foods 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards provide consumers with information about the animals their products come from, ranging from Step 1: No Crates, No Cages, to Step 5: Animal Centered (Entire Life on Same Farm). They are working with Global Animal Partnership in launching this effort.

World of Good This online store by eBay “brings you thousands of Animal Friendly, People Positive, and Eco Positive products and listings that Support a Cause – 100% verified by independent Trust Provider organizations and labeled with Goodprint statements that show your positive purchase impact.”

Do you know of other resources that help us make compassionate choices? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo Credits: Peter Haken

Foods for Fasting

People have fasted for centuries for many different reasons. As a Baha’i, I participate in the fasting tradition, and abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset between March 2nd and March 20th. In addition to reminding us that we are truly spiritual beings, fasting can help us regain balance in our eating habits. It forces us to eat purposefully, and to choose what we eat wisely. My first fast over 15 years ago didn’t go well because I didn’t fast practically – I thought that spiritual help would come and I wouldn’t have to pay attention to what I ate before the sun came up and after it went down. I’ve realized by now that we are given intellect for a reason! In addition to using prayer, meditation, and yoga to refocus spiritually, I regain balance in my eating habits through purposeful choices, as well.

Here is what I do:

*Remember that because calorie intake is reduced, all calories count. Cut out all empty calories during the fasting period. This includes processed foods (like soda and frozen dinners) and high glycemic index foods (like white bread), which don’t provide a lot of nutrients for the calories you’re eating and don’t last as long in your body as low glycemic foods (e.g. whole grains). Click on the glycemic index link above for more information.

*Hydrate wisely. Because of its high caffeine content, coffee dehydrates your body. If you’re one of those whose only liquid in the morning is in the form of coffee, you should probably consider rethinking this habit during the fasting period. I love coffee, but can get too dependent on the caffeine, and my yearly fast helps me break that caffeine addiction. Each morning I drink a few cups of tea, water, and Gatorade. Gatorade (or any other drink with elecrtolytes) helps my body stay hydrated throughout the day, which greatly reduces dehydration headaches.

*Include whole grains and fiber in your breakfast. Whole grains take longer to break down, and therefore keep you feeling full longer. Oatmeal (whole oats – not instant) is a great breakfast for the fasting period. I’ll microwave half a cup of oats, 1 cup of water, and a quarter cup of raisins and pecans at 50% power for five or six minutes, then stir and add a bit of honey and sea salt.

*Include protein in your breakfast.  I am sure to include lots of protein for breakfast to keep up my energy supply for the day. I’ll have a soy sausage patty, eggs, yogurt, bean burrito, chocolate soy milk, or soy protein shake in addition to a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and nuts.

*Break your fast slowly. When the sun goes down, I purposefully break my fast with water or tea, instead of gorging (as my hunger sometimes urges me to do!) on whatever is to be had. Friends of mine break their fast with broth or juice. Rehydrate with fluids, and then go ahead with your meal.

*Plan ahead. I try to plan out a few meals that will be quick to prepare and ensure I have the ingredients on hand. If I don’t do this, then I end up eating whatever junk can be had at the end of the day. Here are some quick meals I make during the fasting period that are packed with nutrients, fiber, and whole grain:

Bean Burritos – vegan: Saute onion in olive oil until translucent, then add a few cloves of chopped garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Stir in either chopped green chile or dried red chile flakes, to taste. If you can’t get find good green chile (not canned!) I would go with the dried red chile flakes, which are easier to find. At this point, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll add two or three cups of prepared beans, either from the crock-pot or canned. If I have a bit more time, I’ll add in some other vegetables I have on hand in with the onions, such as zucchini, summer squash, corn, and tomatoes. Saute until zucchini is crisp-tender, then add in the beans. Stir to heat through, then remove from heat. Salt to taste, then wrap in whole wheat tortillas. If you’re not vegan, you can top with sour cream, yogurt, or cheddar cheese.

Egg Fried Rice – can be vegan (substitute egg beaters for egg): Prepare a cup of basmati, jasmine, or brown rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few diced carrots and peas, and a handful of edamame, saute a few minutes more. Add in sliced mushrooms, then the rice. You may need to add a bit more oil at this stage. After everything is stirred through, make a well in the center of the rice, and break in one or two eggs. Scramble quickly, breaking the egg up into small bits, and then incorporate in with the rest of the rice. Remove from heat. Sprinkle over with sesame oil and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and top with sliced green onion.

Pilau -vegan – Prepare a cup of basmati rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a handful of raisins and/or chopped dates, and a handful of chopped nuts such as almonds or pecans. Saute through, and sprinkle with sea salt, a 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp clove, 1/4 tsp cardamom, and a 1/4 tsp cumin. Stir in the rice, adding oil if necessary. Taste, and adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary, and increasing other spices to your liking. Set aside. Saute cubed extra-firm tofu in vegetable oil until golden on all sides. Drain and sprinkle with salt. Add to the rice. Eat with flatbread and a garden salad.

Quelites (beans and spinach) – vegan: Chop an onion and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Add in a few cups of prepared pinto or red kidney beans, either from a can (in this case, use two cans) or homemade. Stir through to heat, and add a few teaspoons of dried red chile flakes (to taste) and a bag of fresh spinach. Heat through just until the spinach wilts. Eat with whole grain tortillas or flatbread.

Whole Wheat Penne Pasta – vegan: Saute a diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Dice up a few cups (total) of whatever vegetables are in season where you are. For me this includes summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots. Saute the vegetables in with the onion and garlic, adding olive oil if necessary. Set aside. Add in a rinsed can of beans of your choice, or chop extra-firm tofu into 1-inch cubes, then saute in oil until browned on all sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Prepare whole wheat penne according to package directions. When drained, add the pasta to the vegetables and beans or tofu. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste, then squeeze over with lemon juice and add in either fresh chopped rosemary or fresh basil or red chile flakes.

Do you fast? If so, do you fast for a cause or a religious tradition or health? Do you have special meals that cleanse or sustain? I’d love for you to share!

Photo Credits: lobster20 at

Oprah’s Vegan Week & A Recipe for Moong Dhal

Watch Oprah’s show about thinking about what you eat and where it comes from here:

Although I was glad that Oprah did this show, and I appreciated Michael Pollan’s contributions, I was not happy with the way vegan eating was represented. The whole aura of the show was “doing without” and making substitutions. It looked and felt like everyone was on a strict diet. They seemed to view it this way, as well.

Our society is most familiar with a meat/starch/vegetable format for meals. Instead of looking at other meal formats, the vegan representative took one of Oprah’s producers on a grocery run which included only highly processed meat and dairy substitutes, and instructed the producer to cook what she normally would using these processed substitutes. If you are going to examine what you eat and where it comes from, you can’t simply raise your head enough to make substitutions and then stop there. There are meat substitutes that I enjoy and cook with – in moderation. You can’t, however, take the meat/starch/vegetable eating habits of our society and simply throw in a meat substitute and make a vegan. The reason everyone on the show was floundering is because of the way our society views meals and food. What can you make instead of your chicken dinner with peas and mashed potatoes? Interchange the chicken with a chicken-like soy product and use soy milk and butter-substitute in the mashed potatoes? Ugh. Please. You simply can’t live off of processed substitutes any more than you can live off any other processed food.

Ours is an animal-based eating format. To continue eating in this format without animal products is strict and diet-ish. No wonder everyone felt deprived. If you see the need to be cognizant of what you are putting in your body and where it comes from, you need to take the extra step and look at other eating formats the world over. You need to educate yourself and experiment with a variety of nutrient sources. Meat and dairy are two, out of hundreds, of nutrient sources on this earth. Consider that there are over 65 types of leafy greens, over 29 types of legumes, 15 types of sea vegetables, and over 50 types of root tubers – I’m not even getting into seeds and grains – each teeming with nutrients. To eliminate meat from your diet, you need to take a look at other meal formats.

My favorite eating format is Indian, which includes a wealth of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Although some Indian cuisine features animal products, the Indian eating format is not animal-centric. To illustrate, in most cities in India, a restaurant will advertise that it is “non-vegetarian” – if it doesn’t specify, then it is assumed to be vegetarian, which is the norm.

I spent my high school years in Tanzania, which has a large Indian population. I was often at friends’ houses, watching their mothers make whole grain chapatis and moong dhal. Dhal is a sort of thick soup made of lentils, beans, or peas. There are as many recipes for dhal as there are households. Mung beans are highly prized in Ayurvedic cooking and are often used to make khichari, a nourishing dish for those who are ill.

When I make moong dhal, I eat it with quinoa, which is a high-protein grain. Each grain is smaller than a grain of rice, and round instead of oblong. Its taste is mild, like rice, but slightly nuttier. I cook mine in the rice cooker, using one cup quinoa to one cup water. Use the quinoa link above for cooking instructions on the stove top and quinoa recipes.

Moong Dhal Recipe


1 cup mung beans, rinsed well

2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder (or more, to taste)

1 tsp red chile flakes

2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil



If using garlic cloves, peel, smash, and dice the garlic, and saute in olive oil or coconut oil briefly over medium high heat. Add the chile flakes and turmeric, and heat for half a minute or so. If using garlic powder, add all spices at once to the oil and heat briefly. Add your mung beans, stir a bit, and then add 3 cups of water. When the water boils, lower heat to medium and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes, adding in your salt about half way through. You may need to add more water throughout the cooking time, so keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally. The beans should be quite soft when done, having absorbed all of the cooking liquid. I prefer mine this way, mostly whole, but partially smashed due to the stirring. Others like to place the beans in a processor, so that the dhal has a smooth consistency similar to split pea soup. Taste your dhal, then adjust seasonings as necessary.

Photo Credits: Photo by Dan at

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. 🙂 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! 🙂

  • 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

Recipe: So Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce

The key to good, whole food is good, whole ingredients. I grew up thinking I hated apples, because all I’d ever been exposed to were the grocery store wax-coated mostly-tasteless “red” or “green”. However, I absolutely loved (and still love) spinach, because my grandfather grew it in his garden. Only years later, when I first tasted an apple off an orchard tree, did it all click for me. I realized I actually do like apples. A lot. Only they have to be real.  I immediately had to go out and try all of the fruits and vegetables I thought I didn’t like – only I had to try them fresh from someone’s garden, or from a farmers’ market. Turns out I adore brussels sprouts, eggplant, red bell peppers, and kale. I think it works the same way with pasta sauce. It’s best if you make the sauce from garden tomatoes. Lacking those, grocery store tomatoes will do. Anything is better than canned sauce, chock- full of salt, sugar, and chemicals. Simple is best. This is more of a recipe guideline – you’ll notice no measurements and a range of optional ingredients. It’s how I learned to cook – all of my grandmother’s “recipes” were handed down to me as lists of ingredients. Frameworks, really. Pasta sauce then becomes more of a celebration of whatever is on hand, whatever is in season, in whatever amount you have it.

Create Your Own So Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce Fast

Basic Ingredients:

Tomatoes, garlic, sea salt, basil or oregano, olive oil

Basic Sauce: To make the basic sauce, peel a few cloves of garlic (more or less according to your taste), and smash them or push them through a garlic press. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, and add the garlic. After a minute, add 2 or 3 cups of chopped tomato. This can be around three to seven tomatoes, depending on tomato size (I use however many I have on hand). Add a few teaspoons of basil or oregano (or more if using chopped fresh herbs), and then about a teaspoon of salt. Stir for a minute or so, then taste and adjust seasoning – you may want to add salt or more herbs. Heat a few more minutes, so that the tomatoes begin to break down but are still chunky and defined. Viola! Fresh sauce.

Optional Ingredients:

Onion, carrots, celery, eggplant and/or broccoli (really, any vegetable you like will do)

Sauce With Added Veggies: If using any optional ingredients, begin with them FIRST, as they will need to cook longer. The beauty of making your own basic tomato sauce is that you can use any vegetables you like. The only things to remember are to dice your veggies so they are small, and to saute your vegetables in order of cooking time – vegetables that take longest should go in first. Dice an onion, carrot, and a few celery stalks. If using eggplant, dice about half a medium-sized eggplant. It seems like a lot at first, but shrinks as it cooks. If using broccoli, dice enough for half a cup or so (or to your liking).  Saute the onions in oil over high heat until almost translucent, then add the garlic, carrot, and celery. Saute a few minutes. Add the garlic. If using eggplant, add a bit more oil and then the eggplant. Eggplant absorbs a lot of liquid, so you may need to add more oil or some water. Saute several minutes until the eggplant is translucent, then add the broccoli. Saute a bit longer – only a minute or two, because you want your broccoli to be bright green and still crisp, not the sort of mush-green broccoli you’d get at a cafeteria – and then add in your tomatoes. Season with salt, basil, and/or oregano. (Try a few teaspoons of basil and oregano first, and then add more if you need to. If using fresh herbs, add a few tablespoons, then add more if you need to.) Cook a few minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. You may need more salt or herbs. Cook down until sauce is combined but still chunky and fresh.

Photo Credits: Simon Howden