Today is world vegetarian day. It is also a year since Alex and I started our new vegan lifestyle. We had been vegetarian for 3 1/2 years at that stage, but I was still a bit daunted by the full switch to veganism. How would I bake without eggs, milk or butter? Where would our protein come from? How would I survive a life without cheese? And most importantly, could I still eat chocolate?
In the end, it has been so much easier than I expected. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made and I couldn't be happier about it. Yes, I do miss some foods, but not as much as I had expected. And the peace of mind that comes with this new lifestyle far outweighs any cravings I might have for dairy products or eggs.
This year we have discovered some wonderful new foods that we might otherwise never have tried. Quinoa, kale, buckwheat, tempeh and agave nectar are just some of our new staples, and we are continuing to discover new foods. I have learnt how to bake without eggs or dairy (including making the most delicious vegan cupcakes from this book), cook beans from scratch (much cheaper than the canned ones), make a pizza without cheese (not as weird as it sounds) and make my own soy yoghurt. And I have discovered that, yes, I CAN still have dark chocolate (Whittakers and Richfields have the best ranges for vegans).
Below are a couple of favourite easy recipes that now often feature on our weekly menu.
If any of you are considering a vegan lifestyle, or want to know what is so bad about dairy and eggs, I encourage you to check out the wonderful podcast Vegetarian Food for Thought, which played a significant role in our decision to become vegan. There are also some vegan FAQs here.
We mostly eat this in sandwiches, but you could also have it diced in a salad, in a stir-fry or even in sushi.
Shake the following together in a screw topped jar:
2 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar (you can get agave in Wgtn at Commonsense Organics)
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (see note below)
Preheat your oven to 220 degC. Slice your tofu (I use Hings brand extra firm tofu in the 250g packs - this gives about 10 slices) into slices about 5mm thick.
Spray an oven proof dish lightly with oil (make sure the dish is big enough to fit the tofu slices). Lay the tofu slices in the dish and pour over about 1/3 of the marinade. Use a pastry brush or your hands to spread the marinade around and ensure the tofu is covered on both sides. If you have time, leave the tofu to sit in the marinade for about 10 mins (optional step).
Bake for approx 20 mins, turning over the slices halfway through cooking. When cooled the tofu should should be chewy but not crispy. Great for sandwiches. The marinade makes enough for about 3 batches and keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
**A note about liquid smoke - this gives a great smoked flavour to dishes. It is really concentrated, so you only need a very small amount. I bought mine online from Nelson Naturally.
Easy Bean Salad
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together:
330g can mixed beans (or the equivalent of home-cooked beans)
1/2 small red onion, diced
3 tbsp water
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Great as a side dish for dinner, or by itself for lunch. You can also add diced capsicum or celery if you wish.