by Nancy Sweet, director, LLCC culinary program and operations
When you hear that a person is vegan, do you automatically assume a certain “type”? Do you raise your eyebrows, cock your head, and wait to hear all about it? You know the old joke, “How do you know if a person is vegan? Oh, don’t worry – they will tell you.”
Being vegan means having a lifestyle that abstains from using any animal products. Like a vegetarian, they their diet contains no meat or fish. However, veganism takes it another step – no eggs or dairy which means no milk or cheese products. It also means no honey as that is made from bees.
Though it can be challenging to eat vegan – either regularly or just here and there, the benefits to yourself and the environment really are eye-opening.
As population increases, so does the need for meat. And in order to keep up, the effects on our planet are alarming. Since 1961, world meat production has quadrupled. As a result, the impact the livestock industry and livestock-raising activities have had on global greenhouse gasses exceed that of even transportation. And the amount of land used in some way for the raising of animals is now at 30 percent of the Earth’s mass – which is roughly the size of Asia!
Not ready to become a vegan just yet? No problem. Having a diet that is more plant-based doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Try some of the fun ideas like Meatless Mondays or Vegan until 6 pm. Michael Pollan, a noted author, journalist and activist has some good advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Cashew cream is a great base to use in variety as a substitute for heavy cream and sour cream.
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 – 3/4 cup water or non-dairy milk (like soy, almond, etc)
Soak cashews covered in water for at least two hours. Drain. Add drained cashews along with the water or non-dairy milk and blend until smooth. Adjust amount of liquid based on consistency you are looking for.
With no seasoning, this is a good substitute for sour cream.
Add apple cider vinegar and/or olive oil for a salad dressing
Add savory seasonings such as garlic and salt for an Alfredo style pasta sauce or chipotle peppers to make a topping for black bean soup
Add sweet seasonings like maple syrup or vanilla to top fruit
Curry Salad Dressing
Makes about ½ cup of dressing
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 garlic clove, minced
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in blender, then add non-dairy milk to cover about 1/2 inch above ingredients. Blend until creamy.
1 cup raw cashews or walnuts
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
Process all in food processor until consistency of Kraft Parmesan. Great topping for salads and pastas.
Vegan Alfredo Sauce
1 cup cashews
¾ cup water or non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional).
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Cover the cashews with water in a bowl and soak for 2 hours.
Drain and rinse thoroughly. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Mediterranean Bulgur Salad
Bulgur is a whole grain with a light, nutty flavor. It is often used as a side dish, like pasta or rice, and can be used in a variety of ways such as in pilafs, soups, stuffing, salads and baked goods. Compared to white rice, bulgur has more fiber and protein, a lower glycemic index, and higher levels of vitamins and minerals.
1/2 cup quick cook bulgur (Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand)
1 small red onion, small diced
2 medium tomatoes, small diced
1 medium cucumber, small diced
2 bunch fresh parsley chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
juice of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a small pan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in bulgur and season with a pinch of salt. Let boil for about 1 minute. Turn off heat and let sit about 20 minutes to absorb water. Fluff with a fork when done and transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl.
Add onion, tomato, and cucumber to bulgur and stir. Stir in chopped herbs.
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Add to bulgur salad along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste to see if seasoning needs adjusted.
Soba Noodle Salad
8 ounces soba noodles (about 2 bundles) or spaghetti noodles of choice
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tamari or soy sauce
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoon sesame oil (or salad oil)
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons mint, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons basil, minced
Veggies of choice sliced thin – Cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, green onions, Swiss chard, sugar or snap peas, zucchini, cabbage, etc.
Cook noodles in a pot of boiling water until just cooked through (Soba should take only about 5 minutes.)
While the noodles are cooking, make dressing. Whisk together vinegar, ginger, miso, tamari, lime juice, oil and water.
Once noodles are done, toss with dressing, herbs and veggies.
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 can (13.5 ounce) full fat coconut milk
½ cup coconut sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine coconut milk, coconut sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil (keeping a close eye on it, as it can quickly boil over), then immediately lower the temperature, keeping the sauce at a light simmer.
Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the sauce reaches the last 5 – 8 minutes of cooking time, stir more frequently to incorporate the darker caramel bits from the bottom into the sauce.
Once the sauce has turned a dark amber and has thickened to coat the back of a spoon, remove the heat and stir in the coconut oil and vanilla extract.
Serve warm or refrigerate in sealed jar.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.