More people are switching to a vegan diet for health reasons. Vegans do not eat meat, or any animal based product such as milk and eggs.
We talked with Pat Crocker, author of a new cookbook called "The Vegan Cook's Bible."
1. What are the health benefits of a vegan diet?
Today the big killers in Westernized societies are the cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension, most of which are preventable by diet– a diet diverse and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and herbs...a diet that greatly reduces or eliminates animal products: meat and dairy.
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A vegan diet does just that. A vegan diet reduces the risk of heart disease by reducing dangerous cholesterol. A vegan diet reduces the risk of cancers by providing antioxidant (cancer and age prevention) nutrients.
2. Does a vegan diet make you protein deficient?
The protein issue is a very old concern, first raised by doctors and nutritionists who did not comprehend that the variety of a vegan plant-based diet could provide complete protein. Now, both the Canadian and American Dietitians have endorsed both a vegetarian and vegan diet as a healthy choice and one that, if properly planned, "[is] healthful, nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases," according to a joint statement by the Dietitians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association.
3. What are some principles of making vegan dishes flavorful?
I spent a lot of time developing a healthy (pardon the pun) 'Basics' section in order to do just that. This section includes vegan sauces, dips, spreads, glazes for perking up vegetable and fruit dishes, as well as providing many nut and fruit milk alternatives, along with egg, cream and butter plant alternatives. My promise in accepting the challenge of writing a vegan cookbook was that the recipes would be delicious and that even non-vegetarians and non-vegans would enjoy them because they simply tasted divine.
4. How does switching to a vegan diet help the environment?
There are a legion of benefits to the environment by switching to a vegan diet, or even going vegan one day of the week. We have altered vast ecosystems and devoted much of the world's water, oil and gas resources to support the world's burgeoning livestock herds and the problem is growing. The waste produced by the world's livestock animals is 130 times more than that of humans. This waste is polluting waterways worldwide.
Switching to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle will halt forest destruction in Central and South America in addition to freeing up vast acres of land for re-forestation or the growing of more productive grains or produce. It is estimated that if each American gave up meat for one day each week, enough grain would be saved to feed 25 million people.
Sample Recipes from "The Vegan Cook's Bible"
Avocados are actually a semitropical fruit native to Mexico and Central America. Now grown in California for export, the Hass variety accounts for up to 85% of the more than 80 varieties known. Rich in dietary fiber, vitamins K, A, B6, C and folate, avocados also provide unsaturated fats containing oleic acid. It is the fats in avocados that lend their creamy texture to this soup and to other dishes such as sauces and dips.
2 large ripe avocados
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups (1 L) Mushroom Broth (see below)
Vegetable stock or water
1 potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup (125 mL) rice milk or soy milk
4 tablespoons (60 mL) chopped fresh chives or Basil Pesto, optional
Peel, pit and slice avocados in half and place in a bowl with lemon juice.
In a saucepan, bring broth to a gentle boil over high heat. Add avocados with lemon juice and potato. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potato is soft. Let cool.
In a blender, combine rice milk and avocado mixture and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until well chilled. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with chopped chives, if using.
Avocado Vichyssoise may be made up to 2 days in advance and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.
This broth is brown and rich, full of earthy mushroom essence.
8 ounces (250 g) shiitake mushrooms
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced
1 cup (250 mL) chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons (25 mL) olive oil
3 cups (750 mL) vegetable stock or water, divided
1 teaspoon (15 mL) pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
Trim and discard mushroom stems. Slice caps and set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine leek, onion, garlic and oil. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until very soft. Add mushrooms and 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the stock. Bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add remaining 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) of the stock, maple syrup and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
For a clear broth, strain through a sieve and discard vegetables. For a thicker soup, using a slotted spoon, lift out half the vegetables and transfer to a food processor or blender. Process for 30 seconds or until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Repeat with remaining vegetables. Keep remaining broth liquids hot in the saucepan over low heat. Return purée to the saucepan and stir into the liquids.
Store stock in clean jars with lids in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze in 2- or 4-cup (500 mL or 1 L) portions in freezer containers for up to 2 months.
ROASTED VEGETABLE SALAD
In summer the grill is easy and fast for grilling vegetables. Use an oiled basket or skewer the veggies whole to grill, then cut into serving-size bites. When combined with balsamic vinegar, the plums morph into a tart-sweet self-basting dressing.
• Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
• Rimmed baking sheet, lightly oiled
2 black plums, cut into eighths
1 red bell pepper, cut into eighths
1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into eighths
1 onion, cut into eighths
2 cauliflower florets, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons (60 mL) olive oil, divided
2 cups (500 mL) packed seasonal greens
2 tablespoons (25 mL) balsamic vinegar
1 can (14 to 19 oz/398 to 540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
On prepared baking sheet, combine plums, red pepper, carrot, onion and cauliflower. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with 2 tablespoons (25 mL) of the oil and arrange in a single layer. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
In a salad bowl, toss greens with roasted vegetables and pan juices. Add remaining oil, vinegar and chickpeas. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if required.
You can use 2 cups (500 mL) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed, instead of canned.
POACHED PEACHES WITH LAVENDER CUSTARD
People will wonder what the “spice” is here as long as you don’t use too much lavender. The fragrant flowery taste complements the bland flavor of the custard.
4 peaches, halved
3/4 cup (175 mL) apple juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) soy milk or rice milk
1 piece (3 inches/7.5 cm) vanilla bean
1 piece (2 inches/5 cm) licorice root, optional
1 tablespoon (15 mL) dried lavender buds
12 ounces (375 g) silken tofu
In a saucepan, combine peach halves, apple juice and wine. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the tip of a knife meets with some resistance when inserted. Remove from heat and let peaches stand in the poaching liquid until ready to serve or overnight.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine soy milk, vanilla bean, licorice, if using, and lavender. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until bubbles form around outside edge of pan. Let cool with cover on. Strain and discard vanilla, licorice and lavender. In a blender or food processor, process tofu until smooth. With the motor running, add cooled soy milk through opening in lid. Blend until smooth.
Using a slotted spoon, lift peaches into bowls and top with custard. Custard will keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Use only organic lavender, which has not been chemically treated.