LAST NIGHT’S DINNER: Tofu Quiche!

This recipe is so simple – and best of all, you can give it whatever flavor you want!

This is the basis for ANY vegan quiche: 1 block tofu, 1/3 cup nondairy milk (I use soy), pie crust (homemade or vegan store bought).

After that, you can add anything you’d like – vegetables, faux-meat, curry powder, fresh herbs, daiya cheese or another vegan cheese, etc etc…. Once you make one of these, you’re going to want to play around. This is also a great way to use up the last bits of any fresh veggies you may have on hand. So have fun!

JAIME’S TOFU QUICHE

  • vegan pie crust
  • 1 block tofu, pressed
  • 1/3 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 12 0z. mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp. tamari sauce (more to “deglaze” the pan if needed)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp. tumeric
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add the rest of the veggies, cut to size of your liking, and sautee until softened but still crisp.

Add dried basil and tumeric. Remove from heat. In a food processer, combine pressed tofu (just crumble it in) and soy milk. Blend until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine tofu mixture with the sauteed veggies.

At this point, add vegan cheese if you wish. I added about 1/3 cup nutritional yeast. Mix together.

Spread tofu mixture into the pie crust evenly.

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees, until the top is browned.

Let cool, and ENJOY!

*Note: Make sure, if you are using a non-disposable metal pie pan, you spray it first or oil it to prevent the crust from sticking.

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

MANIFEST VEGAN: An interview with Allyson about her Beautiful Blog!

One of my favorite vegan food bloggers has agreed to talk to us for a super-inspiring interview! The wonderful Allyson Kramer of Manifest Vegan tells us about using food as activism, raising a vegan family and building community through the internet.

One glance at Manifest Vegan and you’ll see why this lady is such an inspiration! And it’s nice to know the woman behind the blog is every bit as sweet and friendly as her food is beautiful and delicious. Allyson’s recipes are her own and she is also the talented photographer behind the photos that help us look at our computer screens and begin to imagine the tastiness on her end.

Please enjoy this interview, and keep an eye out for the cookbook Allyson is working on. We should all be so lucky to invite her into our homes! Thank you, Allyson!

You started Manifest Vegan in 2009. Did some event happen that got you to finally start the project? Was it a long time in the making? What influenced your decision to write the blog?

Well, it was sort of a series of events…. I studied art in college (painting and sculpture).  And although I loved making art, I didn’t love the scene that came along with it. I was a homebody, and not much of a face to face people person.  I also was working various art related jobs, heading to a career in museum work, and I just became burnt out. At that point I knew I was using my creativity incorrectly.

I was always making art about subjects that mattered the most to me- mostly sexism and in a strange, and nowhere near as defined way, animal rights ( because they are completely connected, although I didn’t realize it at the time). I wanted to share my experiences through my art, and talk about the issues that were always on my mind.  And even though I was immersed in the art scene and actively showed my work- I never felt like I ever had an audience with my art.  Even if there was literally an audience, I was not convinced my message was getting through to anyone. So, I stopped pursuing traditional “art” in a sense, and converted my energy to advocating veganism.

I thought the web would be a nice gallery space where I would have an easier time getting my work seen, although my subject matter and message became a little more direct.  Now my medium of choice is photography, and my message is “go vegan! ” or at least “hey, try this cookie!”

How would you briefly sum up your blog and its mission?

I want to share recipes of delicious vegan food so people will make it, eat it, and enjoy it – with no animals being harmed along the way. I’d like to think I am helping to debunk the “vegans eat only salads myth” by handing out free info about how much youcan eat while being vegan. It’s my own version of vegan activism. Some people hand out pamphlets, I hand out recipes.

(Sticky Buns!  Vegan and AWESOME.)

When did you first become aware of veganism? Did something in particular trigger your decision to delve into this lifestyle?

I first became a vegan back when I was 15 years old. At the time, there was limited internet access, and “being vegan” was not too common. There was very little information out there, and I had only been exposed to the more glamorous side (the health benefits) of becoming vegan. I had checked out a small book from the library about vegetarianism, and in the very back of the book there was a section encouraging you to take one step further and go vegan.

I listened, and went vegan for about two years. Unfortunately High School got the better of me.  I fell off of the vegan wagon and jumped back on again about 5 times until I finally bucked down and watched “meet your meat” and “earthlings”.  I forced myself into a very needed wake-up call and immediately turned vegan… again… for good.

How do you hope to illustrate the idea of veganism to people who aren’t familiar with it, or may have preconceived notions of what it is?

I hope to illustrate it colorfully, deliciously, and simply… exactly as veganism really is!

(A throwback to comfort food. Creamy NO-Chicken and Rice)

For you, is a vegan diet about health, the animals, the environment? All of the above?

I definitely do it because I believe (above most other things) in leading a non-violent life.  The health benefits of eliminating animal products and the environmental benefits of a vegan diet are also very good indicators for me that I am doing the right thing.

How has blogging impacted and maybe even changed your life?

It has really opened up many doors for me. For a long time I was only exposed to people and ideas relating to art. Now, I feel like the people I can have conversations with about my work are from all types of backgrounds and experiences.  My blog keeps me focused on constantly upping my knowledge and connecting with people who have similar goals- very much like I have always done with art. Blogging has changed my perspective on art and communication in general, though. I see the potential of art everywhere now -not just in a gallery or museum.

(Fig and Walnut Ravioli Dolci. Clearly made by someone who studied art.)

I also have made advancements in my recipe development, and food photography skills which is enabling me to write my very first cookbook.  I never saw myself as a cookbook author until I began blogging, but now I am excited to be on such a path.

What sort of feedback do you get from people about your blog and your recipes? How does that encourage and inspire you, or perhaps cause you to reassess what you do?

I love my readers. Hands down, I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group of people! It seems like readers are really enjoying my work, and actually look forward to new stuff- which is amazing. My readers give me confidence about my work, fuel new ideas, and I take their feedback (whether it be comments, emails, or links from other bloggers) as a critique. I like that a lot, and I learn from it  constantly.

One big thing that I was afraid of doing with my blog was going gluten free- I thought everyone would freak out and unsubscribe. But, seeing as I had celiac disease, I really had no choice. The amount of positive reaction I received after the change was incredible! I not only didn’t lose my original subscribers, I gained more who were looking for gluten free recipes. I feel really grateful for having such open minded and loyal readers.

(This one seals the deal for me. PIEROGIES. Oh yes she did. Somehow, Allyson crawled into my dreamland of Polish dumplings raining from the sky and growing from the earth like cabbages. Well, at the very least anyone who includes pierogies in their recipes is a true friend of mine.)

Do you have any cooking inspiration? Do you watch cooking shows, read certain books or blogs, get inspired by certain cuisines, etc? Is cooking a personal or meditative experience for you?

My mom taught me how to cook without actually teaching me. She would cook for hours in the kitchen and I would lurk around, secretly noting every move she made and every ingredient added. When I was just 8 years old, I dove into her humongous recipe file and whipped up my first batch of cookies. They turned out really well!  I have been hooked on making my own food ever since.

We don’t own a television set so I never see any cooking shows, and to be honest, I really try and NOT read other people’s recipes unless the idea of what I am trying to make is totally foreign to me.  I feel like too much exposure may influence my originality. Again, it’s a lot like making art. You have to see a lot of it and talk about it often to understand it, and appreciate it, and to get a better perspective… but making your own stuff (all the time) is really the only thing that will make you better at it. At least that’s true for me.

(Mushroom and Asparagus Tart. Showstopper. Make your dinner guests salivate.)

And, cooking is definitely both personal and meditative for me. My favorite place to be is in the kitchen, I could spend all day in there! I even enjoy washing the dishes, and will just start doing them to get a break from all of the hustle and bustle on the weekends!   You can easily find me cooking something up three times a day. It’s kind of an addiction, I’d say. Now that I have a family, the rewards of sharing my cooking creations make spending time in the kitchen even better.

When I contacted you about doing this interview, you made a very positive comment on fellow bloggers supporting each other and not getting too competitive. What is your take in the community aspects of blogging?

Community is everything! I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support that is bountiful in the blog-o-sphere.  I have met so many wonderful people through blogging, who have honestly become better friends of mine than many of my friends in the “real world”.

It is incredible the amount of good that can happen when people connect with each other, rather than segregate themselves. No matter what our core differences, I think ultimately we all [vegan bloggers] want to communicate the same message “stop eating animals”, and having a community of likeminded individuals makes it all the easier to spread that message loud and clear.

(Pumpkin Apple Ginger Soup. The Fall season in a bowl.)

You have a friendly and welcoming approach to your blog, which I personally love and also strive to do. Do you think that approach to vegan cooking makes it easier for people new to the idea to get involved with cooking healthier and perhaps changing more aspects of their life?

Thanks Jaime! I think setting a friendly & positive example (not too far from home) is exactly the attitude that needs to be presented to folks unfamiliar with veganism, or any new idea, really.

I personally have never been happier since I committed myself to veganism, and I think many folks would feel the same if they made the switch too. I like to be honest and upbeat, because veganism is not just a lifestyle for me, it’s a cause I truly and wholeheartedly believe in.  I’d like to set a positive example for people, and show them how fun “being vegan” really is- and that I am not at all deprived. I know I am more fulfilled as a vegan than I was as an omnivore, and I‘d like to invite people to investigate that idea.

(When life hands you weeds…. change your perspective and make Dandelion Fritters!)

Is veganism something your whole family shares in? Does it set an example of values for your family? (Tell us about your family, too! Include photos if you’d like.) Is your child vegan?

My husband and I are blessed to share very similar ideas and values (we met and fell head over heels for each other in art school), so we made the vegan switch together.  Since we believe that eating a vegan diet is the very least we can all do to try and lead good lives, our children are definitely being raised vegan. We have an 8 year old boy Landen, who made the switch with us and he really enjoys it. He fully understands that people’s hamburgers contain dead cows, and he was never very excited about that… so it wasn’t a strain to convert him. He has always been a wonderful eater- requesting dark leafy greens, whole grain pastas and fruit over most other foods.

Our daughter, Olive (pictured above), is just a year and a half old, so she has been vegan since conception. She has a voracious appetite for vegan cookies, hummus, kale and tempeh!

Our kids eat far more diverse and whole foods (and dare I say healthier) than any omnivore children I know.  I take pride in that. Someday, I hope they will too.

If years from now you can look back on your blog as having left some sort of impact or legacy, what would that ideally be?

It would be wonderful to look back and say “My blog was a small part of a big movement that helped veganism become as common as it is today”.

And of course, by then, at least half of the world’s population will have adopted a vegan diet.  It could happen…

(Wine AND chocolate? Get the heck out of here. Lucky we’re at the end because my head just blew up. Shiraz Ganache Glazed Brownies.)

Clearly, Allyson and her blog are beacons for anyone that wonders “What can you eat if you’re a vegan?” Try and find a single thing on that blog that doesn’t look appetizing and delicious. (I’ll save you some time- you won’t find anything that doesn’t meet those descriptions.)

I’m also so thrilled to announce that Manifest Vegan can be found in the July-August issue of VegNews Magazine as one of their Top 10 Picks for Veg Blogs! WOW, what an honor! Get yourself to a bookstore and rejoice.

Now get yourself over to Manifest Vegan, and don’t forget to find her on FACEBOOK too.

Dinner date.

Hectic schedules and saving money for vacation (WOOHOO!) meant that “date night” last week (I feel like a soccer mom being interviewed for Better Homes and Gardens when I say that) was a meal in the back yard with candles, wine and later a walk to Vegan Treats for cherry-chocolate soft serve.

I’ve pulled out some cookbooks I haven’t flipped through in a while to give me new flavor ideas, and came across this simple and absolutely wonderful recipe for Caribbean Jerk Tofu and roasted vegetables from Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites. Allow me to share! This is a copy of the recipe, edited a little by me.

Caribbean Jerk Tofu

2 tofu cakes, pressed and cut into triangles, cubes, or “steaks”

MARINADE/SAUCE:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 fresh chilis or jalapeno, sliced and seeds removed
  • 3 TBPS tamari sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • a little black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Press the tofu to drain water. Put all marinade ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Put tofu in a dish and pour marinade over the top. Store in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Put marinated tofu on a baking sheet, spooning extra marinade on top. Bake for an hour, turning over once or twice.

Caribbean Roasted Veggies

(This is very close to the marinade recipe above, so you can always try making extra and just using that if you want to save a little time! But I think this recipe holds up better to coat the vegetables.)

DRESSING

  • 3 TBSP tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 fresh chili or jalapeno, seeds removed

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.

The vegetables I used were: one zucchini, 2 red potatoes, one large sweet potato, one large bell pepper. (You can use these and/or carrots and thick slices of onion.) Veggies were cut into chunks.

Oven should be heated to 425 degrees. Toss veggies with dressing in a large bowl, then add to a baking sheet coated with spray oil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Stir veggies once or twice during baking to prevent sticking to the pan.

Verdict: SO DELICIOUS, and the house smelled great for two days! This is a really unique combination of seasonings and flavor, and with a well-stocked pantry, the marinade can be made almost any time, for whatever you’re cooking.

I also made wheat berries (in place of rice), dressed simply with olive oil, fresh cilantro and lemon juice. If you’re not sure what a wheat berry is, get rid of your preconception because NOT a berry. It’s a whole wheat kernel (flour is made from these little guys!) that can be used as you’d use rice.

Wheat berries are cooked with a 3:1 ratio (3 cups water, 1 cup dried wheat berries), and once cooked, they have a very chewy al dente texture and an earthy, nutty flavor. If you like white bread, these may take some getting used to. If you like whole grain bread full of nuts and seeds and little crunchy things, you’re going to LOVE wheat berries.

I had many ingredients already in my pantry, so this whole dinner only cost about $5.00. And there were plenty of leftovers. And room for vegan ice cream (barely).

Pink Dress and Pretty Cake: VEGAN WEDDING special!

Every Monday for the past few weeks, Facebook has seen a barrage of wedding photos from the weekend. It’s been very adorable to see so many dear friends celebrating their Wedding Days in unique and personal ways. (And, I admit through gritted teeth, it makes me want to start to plan my own huge celebration party!)

This brings me to Kate. Kate is a Save the Kales! reader and recently married her super cute now-husband, Aaron (who have both started a non-profit called the Animal Awareness Project – read on to learn more!) The photos of this beautiful couple prompted me to ask Kate more about their wedding, only to learn so much useful and inspiring information about not just wedding planning, but incorporating your values into all you do.

Read on to see the interview with Kate about the occasional stresses but mostly joys of throwing an all-vegan wedding.

Did you ever consider having a wedding that wasn’t vegan? A lot of people may feel that they are putting their guests out by doing this. How did you overcome that feeling, or did you ever have it?

We knew from the moment we got engaged that we would have a vegan wedding no matter what. We did not for one second want to compromise our ethics or beliefs and we saw it as a great way to show our family and friends how amazing vegan food is, and how easy it is to do. My dad was worried at first that some people would not like the food and he constantly tried to convince us to have one meat dish. But we did not compromise, and all the guests were really impressed with the food.


Did you face obstacles planning your vegan wedding? Was it difficult to find businesses that supported your ethics? Can you offer readers any tips?

We really lucked out with planning. We held our event at a Green Wedding facility called the Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Maryland. They encouraged us to do a vegan wedding because that would make for the “greenest” wedding they had ever had there. Basically I would recommend that people search the internet like we did, and go meet with and sample the possible food options. We were really impressed by everyone who played a part.

Tell me more about the reception and the Irvine Nature Center.

It was easy to have the ceremony and reception in one place and it was so beautiful there. We wanted a place that was outdoors and brought us and our guests in close contact with the natural world. We were able to have a ceremony in the woods over-looking a beautiful valley, hear birds, have a bonfire, and be surrounded by flowers and trees. It was a beautiful place and when we first visited we felt it was magical.

Okay, the food. Let’s talk about the food. Where did it come from, and what did you serve? Who made the wedding cake?

The food, oh the food. It was amazing. We went with a catering company who offers many vegan and even raw vegan options. Zia’s Cafe/Catering of Towson Maryland. They were amazing! Some of the yummy items were: Raw Spring rolls with peanut ginger sauce, raw vegan pizza, raw vegan pineapple and cucumber shooters, vegan Portobello and polenta Napoleons made with Daiya vegan cheese, asian ginger string beans, vegan butternut squash lasagna with vegan bechamel sauce, drunken strawberries, spinach risotto, herbed dinner rolls, tempeh chick’un skewars with peanut sauce and balsamic lentil and beet salad.


We had so many non vegans saying how much they loved the food and how impressed they were. It was so yummy. We did some food items at our cocktail hour, and the rest was done buffet style.

The wedding cake was made by an All Vegan bakery based in Baltimore city called Brunie’s Bakery. Tamara, the owner and baker made us an amazing cake called “Spring Time Divine”. It was layers of yellow cake with lemon and raspberry curd. She also made us a separate sheet cake that was a vegan red velvet cake.

There was no cake left at the end of the night. It was so good, that the non vegans kept asking how she did it. 🙂

What other vegan or eco-friendly components went into the wedding? (Did you have invitations on recycled paper, did you ask guests to contribute to a nonprofit, etc..)
As a favor for our guests we gave little thank you jars with vegan mints inside. We also sent out a limited amount of paper invites which we made ourselves on recycled paper. The rest of the announcements we did through the internet to save paper.
In Lieu of presents we asked our guests to make a donation to our non profit; The Animal Awareness Project, Inc. Any disposable cups and forks that were used by Zia’s were all compostable.

You’re amazing. Tell us about the Animal Awareness Project.

The Animal Awareness Project, Inc is an Animal Rights organization we started last summer 2009 and we are based in Ellicott City, Maryland. We are striving to become the first Vegan/ Animal Rights AD company in Baltimore City and around Maryland.

Other cities use advertising as way to spread the compassionate message and Baltimore has yet to embrace that method. We are now working with AD companies to start doing Bus ADs, Billboard ADs, Radio AD’s and more. We also do humane education in the school systems. We go into schools in Baltimore and around Maryland to inform students about the reality of where their food comes from and how animals are treated.

We do tons of vegan outreach as well. We go to colleges, concerts and local events to leaflet vegan material to the masses! We hold vegan feed ins on college campuses and at festivals and events. This summer we are joining other AR groups to leaflet the Warp Tour, and we will be tabling at the TAFA conference. We are starting to do lots of fundraising and benefits to grow vegan ADs in Baltimore and beyond.

How did some of your non-vegan guests react to a vegan wedding? Did you get feedback?

Everyone was impressed who was a non vegan. We were really happy that people liked the food and the cake so much. It was a great way to show people how amazing and creative vegan food is. All of the feedback was positive!

Can you talk about your personal feelings on the notion of combining personal morals and ethics with “the happiest day of your life”? Could you have imagined it any other way?

We knew that this day was about us and our love and our new journey together and we wanted every minute of it to stay true to who we are and our beliefs. Even though we were somewhat pressured at first by family to not go with an all vegan wedding, we did and we are so glad we followed our hearts and stayed true to ourselves. We would have not done it any other way!

What final advice can you give to folks looking to plan their own wedding?
Always stay true to yourselves and make sure you are both equally involved in the planning and that you keep it fun. Do not stress about things and on your actual day stay as present and in the moment as possible because it all happens so fast.

(Kate on her honeymoon in Hawaii… surely dreaming about that beautiful cake.)

To learn more about Kate and Aaron’s non-profit, the Animal Awareness Project, please click here.

While it’s so beautiful to learn about a celebration like this and discovering there are ways to make it your own, remember: you don’t need a huge event to make choices every day that can do good and make you feel good. Every moment is a chance to live our lives with passion and purpose.

COOL DOWN, IT’S HEATING UP

I love summer and all, but this heat does not fare well for a pale Polish auburn-head like me. I walked to the library and thought I’d melt into a swirl of green and purple ooze.

Okay, I’m done whining now. YAY SUMMER. To help you cool off, here are just a few ideas of inexpensive, healthy and unique snacks to cool you down. Once you make some, please invite me over.

Make Your Own Popsicles: What better way to control exactly what goes into a frozen treat than to make it yourself? This is a fun, healthy and inexpensive way to have a little summertime snack. Water freezes (obviously – hello Pennsylvania winters!) which makes for an easy base ingredient. Take some fruits, maybe some citrus juice and a little agave nectar, blend together, and pour into popsicle molds. HOW EASY IS THAT!? Go to the farmers market and go crazy with different kinds of fruit.

You can also try making some with vegetables if you’re feeling extra-healthy. Carrot juice popsicle? I’ll eat it. Cucumber and mint? Sign me up. Adding bananas or silken tofu to any base will give the popsicles a creamy consistency. You can find popsicle molds at most kitchen stores, or online!

Make Your Own Ice Cream: Much like making popsicles, making your own ice cream is a great way to play with unique flavor combinations and ensure the ingredients are exactly what you like. Making vegan ice creams is easy with non-dairy milks (try coconut, almond or hazlenut from a nice change from soy!). Experiment with flavors like pineapple, graham cracker and cherries for a pineapple upside-down cake, or try something savory like ginger ice cream.

Ice cream makers can be found in the stores for around $30 – affordable, and a small price to pay for health and fun. (Shown here – the Deni 5200 Automatic Ice Cream Maker, here on Amazon for $42.95)

Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas: This super and delicious snack is easy and barely costs anything. Unpeel a banana, cut in half, and stick a popiscle stick in the flat end. Melt some tasty dark chocolate, and dip the banana in. Allow to cool on wax paper. Wrap in wax paper, place in wax paper baggies, or just use some tupperware and pop in the fridge.

This is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth! The bananas freeze, but maintain their soft creamy texture, so it really feels like an indulgence.

Frozen Grapes: This is a nod to my Gram. Every time I visited her house when I was a little kid, she always had grapes in the freezer. We’d sneak into the kitchen (just because sneaking was fun, not because we had to be quiet or anything) and grab a handful and have a snack!

Wash grapes, put in a tupperware container, and stick in the freezer until frozen. That’s all! They are sweet and juicy without freezing to a perfect solid, so no need to worry about cracking a tooth. Thanks for awesome snack idea, Gram!

SUBSTITUTE TEACHING.

Yesterday I had a lovely morning in the Wise Bean cafe (ahem, see yesterday’s HEART OF STEELcity post!) with my buddies, and one friend that recently lost a bunch of weight by following a very specific weight loss program said she’d like to try using dairy substitutes when she starts eating “real food” again. She’s not vegan or vegetarian, but has found that the way her body feels and reacts to her eating dairy is, well, negative.

That got me thinking about today’s post. Once I said the blatantly obvious, “Low fat soymilk!”, I had a flood of other simple switches for healthier, animal-free (and thus, entirely cholesterol-free) alternatives for cooking.

For a CREAMY texture: Try nuts, like raw cashews – but be wary of added fat if you are looking to lose weight. Great Northern beans (white beans) also have a very mild, almost neutral flavor that help to thicken soups when pureed. And of course, silken tofu.

If you aren’t familiar with different kinds of tofu, silken tofu is sold off the shelf in an aseptic box as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. If you’re making a soup, sauce, or salad dressing the “soft” kind will thicken it and also add protein. It’s neutral in taste, so you get all the creamy texture you want without any fat of a heavy cream! For things like desserts or pies, try “firm” or “extra firm”.

Healthy/Healthier Sandwich CONDIMENTS: Fat is tasty. It just is. That’s why so many people like mayonnaise – it’s just oil and raw eggs  whipped together. (Sorry to freak you out if you didn’t already know that!) If you want to keep the fatty, creamy mayo taste and feel, consider switching to Vegenaise. This stuff is freaking delicious. Even people that don’t like mayo love it! It’s not exactly low-fat, but it’s free of dairy, eggs, refined sweeteners, etc… It is sold in the refrigerated section of the “health food” department at your local store.

Other great options for sandwiches and veggie burgers are: hummus, something you buy pre-made or make your own with hummus-style spread by blending beans of your choice with garlic, onion, herbs, or spices. You can also make a homemade pesto-type spread with herbs or green veggies blended with nuts and garlic.

Replacing EGGS in Baking: These are great alternatives for people looking to lower their cholesterol (the yolks of eggs are little yellow orbs of that stuff!), or just use better alternatives. Eggs are a binding ingredient, so depending on what you’re baking, you achieve similar results by using fruits like mashed banana (this is AMAZING in muffins and pancakes!) or mashed avocado. Applesauce is a common replacement when you can have a more wet batter, or you can buy Ener-G egg replacer – white powder that looks like baking soda that you mix with some water. But one of the healthiest and best egg-alternatives is ground flax seed.

It’s best to buy whole flax seeds (you can sometimes find them in bulk bins at the store), and grind them in a coffee grinder or equivalent. Grind 1 Tablespoon of flax seeds, transfer to a bowl and add 3 Tablespoons of water. When you whisk it or mix with a fork, it will become goopy and sticky and this will replace 1 egg. This is best use for things that aim to taste whole-grainy, as flax seed has an earthy, nutty flavor.

un-TUNA Sandwiches: If you like cold, meat-based salads like tuna or chicken salad, you can create very similar vegan salads! You can use all the seasonings you’d normally put in the tuna salad, use Vegenaise instead of mayo, and the filling can be mushed chick peas! Just mush a can of chick peas into a bowl and it will make that “meaty” texture! Or, try using textured vegetable protein (TVP), which is small dehydrated pieces of soy flour that has been pressed and formed into little chunks. If you’ve ever used “fake ground hamburger”, imagine that but without the flavor added. Once rehydrated, a flavorless food that takes on the flavor of whatever you mix it with.

You can also try crumbled tempeh. Tempeh is a thick cake-like food made of pressed soy and grains that has been fermented. Don’t let the f-word deter you! It has absolutely wonderful texture. It can be cut in cubes for a stir fry, sliced thin to make tempeh-bacon, or crumbled up for a sandwich filling. If you like grainy, textured artisanal breads, you’ll love this. It’s best to steam the tempeh for about 10 minutes before you use it to remove any bitter flavor.

Sugar-Free SWEETNERS: The problem with sugar isn’t so much that the one teaspoon you add to your coffee will hugely effect your health – a teaspoon only has 16 calories – it’s that huge amounts of sugar are put into EVERYTHING (processed foods), often in the form of high fructose corn syrup. If you aren’t eating many whole foods, chances are you are consuming a surprising amount of sugar from places you wouldn’t expect.

Agave Nectar has been getting rock star treatment as a great sweetner alternative. It’s sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way, and has the consistency of a thin syrup. It’s made from the agave plant (same as tequila! woo hoo!) and doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. It does have about 60 calories in a Tablespoon, similar to white sugar but obviously less refined and processed. You can also use brown rice syrup which is more mild than agave nectar, but it does cause blood sugar to spike so it may not be great for diabetics.  Maple Syrup (the REAL kind, not Aunt Jemima’s – no offense to her) is a better alternative than honey as it is much lower in calories, and is a great source of manganese and zinc!

Please feel free to comment with some of your favorite substitutions!