Anything You Can Do…I Can Do Vegan!!
To quote Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Choices for those embracing a vegan lifestyle used to be few and far between. Going out to eat was a drag. Menu items were limited to plain baked potato and salad with oil and vinegar. There were few substitutes for eggs, mayonnaise, cheese and, of course, meat.
Those days are gone. Restaurants now offer delicious vegan options — some menus even have their own vegan section. For a long time, it was a challenge to get creative in the kitchen and an adventure of safari-like proportions to find the right ingredients in the grocery store. But today, it is as easy as can be to find a vegan version of just about anything you like.
And to be clear — veganism is not a diet, not just what you eat — although that is a major part of the commitment. Any cruelty to animals is rejected; therefore, what we wear — no leather, fur, wool, down feathers or silk — what household and beauty products we use — only those not tested on animals — and the entertainment we enjoy (no zoos, marine parks, petting zoos or animal circuses) has all been thought out before we make our choices. To take an animal away from its natural habitat or to systematically breed animals to use for food, clothing, testing or entertainment, goes against our conviction of non-cruelty. Vegans strive to do the least harm possible.
As this movement grows, more and more alternatives to animal products abound. Food companies are coming up with plant-based versions of all kinds of foods and improving on them all the time. Gardein, Field Roast and Earth Balance are some of the companies I love. Their products are so delicious and easy, especially for those who are transitioning to plant-based eating. Entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates are investing in companies such as Hampton Creek, that makes plant-based versions of eggs and egg products. (www.forbes.com/sites/ryanmac/2013/11/23/bill-gates-food-fetish-hampton-creek-foods-looks-to-crack-the-egg-industry) Some cosmetic companies are leaving out animal products and animal testing altogether. “Is it Vegan?” is an app that scans barcodes to tell you if the product you are interested in is cruelty-free and vegan (http://isitvegan.net).
And the more information that is disseminated about circuses, zoos and marine parks, the lower these conglomerate’s stocks plummet. (www.blackfish.com.) Clothing companies are catching on, too. I recently bought some amazing purses, boots and belts that are made without the skin of animals, and they look just as stylish. They can even be found in TJ Maxx.
Once you begin to make the vegan connection, fur and leather become unappealing. Vegan, cruelty-free fashion is not yet mainstream, but it is out there if you take the time to look for it.
Coming back to the kitchen, I want you to know there is no limit to the culinary creativity a vegan lifestyle affords. I recently threw a dinner party for non-vegan guests, and the menu consisted of vegan potato-leek soup, beet and arugula salad with walnuts, toasted pine nuts and sweet balsamic dressing, and the main dish was vegan spanakopita (recipe on page 39 of the “Vegan Planet Cookbook”). Dessert was vegan chocolate cupcakes. It was a gourmet hit. I even impressed myself.
I teach plant-based cooking classes, but in full disclosure, I must admit that I was notMartha Stewart in the kitchen. It has taken some trial-and-error, some research and a few cookbooks to get me to this point. And I am learning more every week. It is part of this exciting journey. The resources are endless. The cookbooks are amazing. And the satisfaction of eating and living according to my values of compassion, health and concern for the planet, is my favorite part of all.
If you are interested in trying your hand at a vegan recipe here are a few of the cookbooks on my kitchen shelf that contain easy and delicious recipes: “Vegan Planet” by Robin Robertson, The “Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon and “The Candle 79 Café Cookbook.”
And here is a recipe for one of my favorite soups. When I made it the first time and tasted it, I couldn’t believe that it was me who actually made the soup. It was that good.
Creamy Carrot–Ginger Soup
This is a creamy, warming and seasonal autumn/winter soup. The warming spices and coconut fat take the chill out of your bones. I am a huge fan of turmeric for it’s anti-inflammatory and healing properties, and this recipe is a good opportunity to hide it in ingredients that are already orange and yellow. Please use organic ingredients whenever possible, especially for the carrots and onions.
Yield: Makes 6 big bowls
2 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
2 pounds organic carrots (about 2 big bunches, or just under half of those 5-pound bags), peeled medium dice
2 onions, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-inch piece of ginger, grated or chopped small
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pinch chili flakes (or more — or none — it’s up to you)
1 can whole fat coconut milk
Around 6 cups (1.5 liters) vegetable broth (I love just adding 2 cubes of Repunzel brand vegan vegetable bouillon with sea salt. I buy it at the health food store. It is so easy to just drop them into the 6 cups of water, and it tastes amazing)
Sea salt to taste
Optional garnishes: extra coconut milk and/or cilantro/green onions
1. In a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, ginger and carrots until softened.
2. Add spices and stir until they become fragrant.
3. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth.
4. Simmer until the carrots are softened.
5. Let cool slightly and blend (I use a hand-held immersion blender) until smooth and season with salt. It thickens to the perfect consistency without any potatoes or thickening agents.
This soup really warms you up on a cold winter night. Wishing you days filled with purpose and a heart filled with compassion