Category Archives: Food Products & Recipes

Mexican food, vegan style

Mexican cuisine is one of the easiest in which to find good vegan options, given that it is traditionally cooked with a lot of beans, rice and vegetables.  If you’re looking for a restaurant in a town with limited vegan options, a Mexican restaurant will often be your best bet.  A key question to ask is whether they use lard in their refried beans.  Whole beans are a good choice if lard is used in the refried beans. At most Mexican family restaurants, you will likely have the choice of a bean and veggie burrito, veggie fajitas, vegetable enchiladas, veggie tacos, and other options.  Just ask them to hold the cheese and sour cream and you’ll have a delicious and wholesome meal.  Salsa and corn chips are always vegan and delicious as a starter.  

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Is gelatin vegetarian?

The rumors are true. Marshmallows, Jell-O, gummy bears ….while they are free of meat, fish, dairy and eggs, these foods usually aren’t vegetarian. That’s because they contain gelatin, a substance used to create the “fun,” gooey, chewy textures we expect from these foods. It’s also used as a thickening agent in some gravies, cake icings, cream cheeses, soups, and sauces. Some chewing gum brands include gelatin, and it’s also occasionally present in drinks.  

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Beans, Beans, Beans

Legumes (a family of foods that includes beans, peas and lentils, plus foods made from them such as soy products) are among the most versatile kinds of plant foods, but they don’t always get the attention they deserve. At restaurants you may find them in a garbanzo bean curry, falafel, a tofu stir-fry or a black bean burrito, for example. At summer picnics, three-bean salad or baked beans are often favorite options.

They are an important part of a plant-based diet. Because of their nutritional composition, these economical foods have the potential to improve the diet quality and long term health of those who consume beans regularly. The same goes for other legumes such lentils and peas. It seems that one of the things people living in blue zones (regions known for the longevity of the people who live there) have in common is that beans form a regular part of their diet.   Their health benefits derive from direct attributes, such as their low saturated fat content and high content of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, substances only found in plant foods that act to help prevent cancer and many other diseases.  

The vitamin profile of beans  includes vitamin C, and seven out of the eight B-vitamins – thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, and folate—but not vitamin B-12. Additionally, the mineral composition is quite notable, with amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, selenium, iron, zinc, and potassium. Beans are a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. On average, beans provide 7 or more grams of total dietary fiber per ½-cup serving. Dietary fiber intake contributes to feelings of fullness or satiety and helps maintain functioning of the digestive system.  

Beans are also a good source of protein. Just half a cup of black beans provides 8 grams of protein. It’s important to remember that there’s no need to combine beans with grains to meet all your protein needs. A variety of plant foods over the course of a day or two will do just fine. Unlike animal foods, beans are low in saturated fats and have no cholesterol.  If you worry about gas, introduce beans into your diet in small quantities and start with lentils. This will allow your gut bacteria to gradually adapt to the new foods in your diet, and so they’re less likely to cause a problem.

So add beans to your salads, use soy products such as tofu and tempeh regularly, enjoy chilis, curries, soups and stews with plenty of beans in them, and you’ll get an amazing boost to your nutrition. You can cook dried beans in bulk at home and store them in portion sized containers in the freezer, or you can buy canned beans for convenience. Lentils don’t need pre-cooking, which makes them more versatile.

To learn more about cooking with beans, see the online cooking series – Cooking with Amanda – Lentils and Beans.

Odd Burger to launch in Washington State

More vegan fast-food options are coming to Washington State.  Odd Burger, a Canadian chain of vegan fast-food favorites, has recently signed a franchise deal with a holding company 5GH to open 20 locations of the chain across Washington in the next eight years, the first state in the USA to do so.  

Odd Burger became the first publicly traded vegan fast-food chain in the world and the first to offer a 24hr drive-thru, when it took over a shuttered location of the popular Canadian fast-food chain Harvey’s in 2017. While it is already expanding across Canada, it has yet to open a location in the US.  

“We are excited to be the first US Area Representatives and to lead Odd Burger’s expansion into this key market,” Luke Ceraldi, President of 5GH—which is also developing two Odd Burger locations in Victoria, British Columbia—said in a statement.   

Odd Burger’s expansive menu includes the Famous Burger, a vegan version of the McDonald’s Big Mac, the Vopper (a vegan version of Burger King’s Whopper), along with “chickUN” sandwiches in Buffalo, crispy, and sticky (slathered in Korean sesame sauce) varieties, breakfast sandwiches, onion rings, milkshakes, wraps, and more. 

Doctor invests in plant-based jerky

Meet Rizwan H. Bukhari, M.D., known to his patients as Dr. Riz, a vascular surgeon in the Dallas area who has been in practice for over twenty years. As a plant-based physician, he advocates for a whole food plant-based diet and lifestyle modifications for optimal health. But now he’s taking the next step by becoming an investor in All Y’Alls, a plant-based food company, thereby helping more people to good health. Dr. Riz says, “I am excited to join forces by investing in and becoming All Y’alls Foods medical adviser to help promote and develop healthier alternatives to animal-based products.”

Founded in 2018, All Y’alls offers a line of savory snacks formulated with soy, olive oil and seasonings. Inspired by different regions in Texas, the lineup includes black pepper and sea salt, prickly pear chipotle and prickly pear teriyaki. The brand also introduced crunchy bacon-flavored bits made with soy. A portion of each sale supports an animal sanctuary in Texas.

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Vegan cheeses – options abound

Selection of packets of vegan cheese brands.

One of the foods that non-vegans most often say they could never give up is cheese, made from cow’s milk.  But these days, there are so many great vegan cheeses to choose from, the only real reason not to make the switch is “I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

Vegan cheeses can be made from many different ingredients.  Coconut oil is a common ingredient which helps to mimic the texture and meltiness of animal-derived cheese.  Cashew nuts or other nuts or seeds can also be used to provide a rich creamy texture. Other ingredients might include thickening agents such as corn starch, potato starch or tapioca. Protein powder from chickpeas or peas might be added, along with a plant-based oil. Acidifiers like lemon juice can give a vegan cheese a tangy flavor, and seasonings such as salt, onion, garlic, nutritional yeast, and herbs can be added to get the flavor just right.

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Nutritional Yeast – the not-so-secret ingredient

When you decide to move toward a plant-based diet, sooner or later you’re going to discover Nutritional Yeast.  This denatured yeast will not enable your bread to rise, but will add a nutty, cheese-like flavor to meals and snacks, and packs a nutritional punch. 

It comes in the form of golden flakes or a yellow powder, and in just 5g (1 teaspoon) you get 3g protein, and 1g of fiber. It also includes iron, potassium and some antioxidants, plus it’s often fortified with B vitamins including B12. It’s available in packets, shaker jars, or from bulk bins in most grocery stores.

It’s easy to sprinkle on popcorn, oatmeal, cooked vegetables or any other food, with a flavor similar to Parmesan cheese. It can also be added as a thickener to soups and sauces, providing more nutrition than conventional white flour.

Here are some easy recipes to help you easily replace conventional cheese dishes at home:

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Fish sauce goes vegan

Fish sauce is going vegan. What is fish sauce? It’s a sauce made by fermenting seafood in salt, and it’s usually associated with food from Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam and Thailand. Generally it’s made from anchovies, but tiny shrimp can also be used. The flavor of fish sauce comes from its umami quality – the earthy, savory flavor field that makes things like mushrooms and vegetables taste so complex and craveable. There’s a distinct, pungent aspect to the sauce, sure, but that flavor is flanked by a salty, briny, caramel sweetness.

There was a time when the use of fish sauce made it hard for vegetarians to enjoy Thai food. But those days are over. Sales of plant-based fish sauce are growing quickly – $18 million of plant-based fish sauce was sold in the United States last year and almost $160 million was sold globally – and sales are growing quickly.

There are now so many brands of vegan fish sauce to choose from.  Follow Your Heart, Primal Kitchens, Sir Kingstons, The Vegan Mayo Co., Danone S.A, The Archer Daniels Midland Company, Daiya Foods Inc., Ripple Foods Inc, Impossible Foods Inc., Eat Just, Inc., Beyond Meat, Inc., Amy’s Kitchen, Tofutti Brands Inc., and Earth’s Own Food Company Inc. are some of the major players in the vegan fish sauce market.

So when you next get a craving for Thai or Vietnamese food, be sure to buy or ask if a restaurant uses a vegan fish sauce!

Market for plant-based foods continues to grow

Every year the market for plant-based foods continues to grow.  Globally, the market for products is expected to grow by about 18% per year to reach almost $92 billion by 2027, according to a new report by market research firm “Research and Markets”. 

The report says that consumer interest is driven by several different factors, including the rising support from medical professionals recognizing the health benefits of plant-based diets. They point to the reduced risk of diseases transmitted by animals and antibiotic resistance, and the ability to feed more people with fewer resources by producing meat from plants, fermentation, or cultivation from animal cells.  They also note that consumers can help to minimize air and water pollution, slow biodiversity loss, and protect the oceans by choosing plant-based options.

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Nestlé launches plant-based Foie Gras

Nestlé has just come out with a plant-based version of the duck liver pâté, Foie Gras. Nestlé, the multinational food giant, sees plant-based food as one of its biggest growth opportunities.  Based in Switzerland, Nestlé’s products cover everything from baby food, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea to confectionery, dairy products, frozen food and even pet food.  They are produced in 447 factories operating in 189 countries.  So when they decide to launch new plant-based products, it’s a big deal.

One of the products we’re most excited about is their Garden Gourmet Voie Gras, a vegan pâté that mimics the taste and texture of the traditional duck liver pâté, Foie Gras, which is making its debut in Switzerland.  We’ve written before about the horrific way that ducks are treated in order to produce Foie Gras, which is considered a delicacy in many high class restaurants.  However, with various cities, states and even countries banning Foie Gras, the production of an animal-free replacement product seems like a great opportunity.

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