Archive for: Vegan
There are many cookbooks out that feature vegan cookies, cakes and other treats, but many people still have the perception that eating a vegan diet means that you eat a whole lot of sprouts, nuts and berries while missing out on most good-tasting things. It’s not that sprouts, nuts and berries don’t taste good – it’s just that they’re in a different category than waffles, brownies and creme brulee. Vegan Junk Food is a cookbook that aims to bridge this gap by providing more than two hundred recipes for “junk foods” (most of which seem like “normal” foods) that have been given a makeover to be completely vegan.
The cookbook features recipes in both sweet and savory categories. It starts with breakfast and offers recipes for everything from quiche to muffins to apple fritters. Other chapters include Deli Favorites, Meatless Entrees, Crusts and Carbs (pizza and breads), Party Favorites and Dips. For dessert, there are chapters that feature cakes, pies, cookies, candies, bars and brownies. And, yes, you’ll find totally vegan recipes for indulgences like creme brulee here, too. There is something for every meal, every occasion and every junk food craving! The recipes are easy to follow along with, with clear and well-written directions. Some of the recipes call for storebought vegan products, such as vegan sour cream, but recipes are provided for many of those same products, so that you can make them yourself at home as an alternative and use those in your recipes instead of running out to buy them. Not only do you get a lot of useful recipes, but you won’t need to rely on pricey storebought products to work with this book.
The only thing missing are more photos, but the sheer volume of recipes in the book makes up for the lack of photos because everything sounds tasty just from the descriptions. Vegans, without question, will have a lot of fun with this book. Non-vegans, whether you’re trying to cut back on meat/dairy or are simply looking for something new in the kitchen, will still have a good time with these recipes and enjoy the results – which are very tasty in their own right, not just substitutions for the “real” thing.
Coconut oil is a type of vegetable oil made from pressing the natural oil out of coconut meat. It can be used for a wide variety of culinary uses, including cooking and baking. It has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor to it but when used in conjunction with other ingredients, you are unlikely to taste it. It is not an ideal frying oil because it has a lower smoke point than other vegetable oils, such as canola and peanut oil, but it is popular for creating stir-fry and sauteed dishes. It is solid at room temperature because it has a very high saturated fat content, which is unusual for vegetable fats. This high saturation means that coconut oil is also extremely resistant to rancidity, and has an extremely long shelf life, even when stored at room temperature.
Because it is a solid at room temperature, coconut oil can be used much like shortening. It can be cut into flour to form a flaky dough and it can be creamed with sugar for muffins or other baked goods. It is very popular with vegans and vegetarians, but has gained a much wider audience in the past few years as new research has shown that the saturated fat in coconut oil is not necessarily a cause for concern.
For years, the high saturated fat content kept consumers away from using coconut oil in their recipes. More recently, new research on fats and on coconut oil has changed the perception of this product. Trans fats are now widely regarded as being much more harmful than saturated fats, for instance. Also, much of the saturated fat in coconut oil is in the form of lauric acid. Lauric acid is known to boost “good” HDL cholesterol and new studies have begun to suggest that their might be links between lauric acid and a boost to the immune system. Even as more research is done on coconut oil, it is still a fat and best used in moderation – but it can be a great ingredient to work with and is well worth trying in your kitchen.
Carob is a power made from the carob pod and is commonly used as a substitute for chocolate. Carob pods are dried and the pulp of the plant is roasted and ground into powder, which can be used in baking or to make carob chips, which are an alternative to chocolate chips. Carob is not as bitter as cocoa, although it has some background flavors in common with it, but it does have a distinctly vegetal note to it that takes a bit of getting used to.
Carob doesn’t contain any caffeine or theobromine, two mild stimulants found in chocolate, which means that it is popular with people looking for chocolate substitutes. It went through a period of being hugely in vogue in the 1970s, but is a bit less commonly seen these days. It also lacks the antioxidants found in chocolate, so people are much more likely to dark about dark chocolate as a health food than carob these days.
Still, carob is readily available in natural food stores as both non-chocolate carob chips and as carob powder. Both can be used in recipes in much the same way as real chocolate chips and cocoa powder can be, for a not-quite-chocolatey treat that uses no chocolate. It is worth noting, however, that carob chips will start to burn at a lower temperature than chocolate chips will, so keep that in mind if using them for a batch of cookies,
Baked goods can be some of the most difficult foods to vegan-ize because eggs, butter and milk usually play a big role in cookies and cakes. Cookbooks like Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar have tackled the task of creating excellent vegan baked goods in two popular categories. Now, the same author has taken on pies in Vegan Pie in the Sky: 75 Out-of-This-World Recipes for Pies, Tarts, Cobblers, and More and put together a book that covers all of your pie needs, from nuts to fruit to chocolate, without any dairy or eggs needed.
The cookbook starts out with an introduction on how to make pie and how to make a great pie crust. Vegetable shortening is a vegan product, so that is the primary fat used in these crust recipes. There are also a couple of recipes for olive oil-based crusts and a gluten free almond-based crust, all of which are very versatile. Once you have the crusts, the book gets into the fillings. It includes fruit pies, cream pies and chocolate pies. There is also a section dedicated to harvest pies, which includes favorite fall ingredients such as pumpkin and pears to ensure that the most popular pie-baking season of the year is well-covered. There are plenty of pictures of the pie making process and the finished pies to inspire you and help you along.
The book is fun to read and it’s clear that the author really enjoys her work. As you read through the adorably-named recipes and friendly notes, you’ll find that the enthusiasm is catching. It makes you want to bake the recipes, whether you’re vegan or not. Non-vegans should note that these pie fillings can easily be adapted to work with a store bought crust (of course, there are also vegan store-bought crusts out there) if you are not vegan and don’t mind doing a little crossover with some of the recipes. You may need some special ingredients for some of the recipes – such as agar agar, for some of the cream pie fillings – but most of the recipes don’t have any special requirements and you’ll be able to try them out right away and bring a little more pie into your life with ease.
The phrase “vegan baked goods” once conjured up thoughts of dense, chalky and not-very-sweet approximations of cakes, cookies and other treats. But vegan baked goods have become much more advanced over the past several years as bakers (and those who like to eat baked goods!) have spent time refining their techniques and recipes to make treats that are just as tasty as conventional baked goods. Vegan baked goods are winning competitions on the Food Network and vegan bakeries, as well as bakeries with a wide variety vegan offerings, are opening all over the county.
But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that with the increased success of vegan baked goods, many bakeries that sell them are distancing themselves from the term vegan. Bakers have found that although buyers are receptive to the products – and that many love the idea that their baked goods are egg free, dairy free and gluten free (although gluten free products don’t have to be vegan, of course) – many buyers are turned off by seeing the word vegan attached to the products. Numerous bakeries have said that they don’t use the word “vegan” in their store’s marketing. Some who initially used the word and later removed it reported a steady increase in business after distancing themselves from the term, even though their recipes didn’t change. There are many strongly pro-vegan eaters who are offended by bakeries distancing themselves from the term, while others feel that as long as the products (and the movement) are gaining acceptance, that is all that counts.
Are you put off by the term “vegan” when it is attached to your baked goods? Or do you know people who are turned off by that, even if you’re not?
I bake and cook vegan things on a fairly regular basis, such as my Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf, Chai Latte Muffins and these Orange Chocolate Cupcakes. There are definitely times when I won’t go out of my way to mention that something is vegan, simply because I feel that a good product will speak for itself regardless of what ingredients were used. Other times, I’ll mention it after a given cupcake has been eaten, since I know that it’ll help dispel the myth of the tasteless vegan pastry. That being said, I will also admit that I’ve had some good vegan baked goods and others that still harken back to the days when a quality “vegan baked good” was little more than a myth and that there are times when even I’ll approach them with skepticism. Vegan baking has come a long way and there are some outstanding products out there – and I’m sure that whatever they’re called, there will be even more good things to come.