So what exactly do vegans eat? Vegans, much like the rest of the human race, eat a wide variety of foods only they don’t eat any animal products. This includes meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and honey. Simple, right? Not exactly simple but with a little planning and know how it isn’t complicated either.
Let’s start with the burning question that the non-vegan world is most concerned with. “How do you get your protein?” Easily, thank you very much. Americans are obsessed with protein. We more than likely overconsume protein. In any case, vegans can have plenty of protein in their diets and there are many ways to get it. I am going to focus on three of my favorites, tofu, tempeh and beans.
Tofu is made from soybeans in a process not unlike making cheese. It comes in several different textures, silken, soft, medium, firm and extra firm. It is rather bland on its own but absorbs marinades well so it can be quite versatile. Tempeh is originally from Indonesia and is made from soy beans that have been cooked and combined with a culturing agent to form a cake. It also absorbs flavor quite well. Beans do not need to be defined but they are an integral part of the vegan diet. They can be added to soups, stews or casseroles but they can also be made into vegan burgers, dips or sauces.
One of my favorite ways to prepare tofu is to cube it, marinate it and then bake it. This produces a slightly chewy, salty cube that is not unlike a cube of cheese. I use these cubes in wraps, stir fries or as a protein rich addition to soup. The following recipe is from Ellie Krieger, a food network star who holds an MS from Columbia University in nutrition.
This is how it is done. You start with a 14-16 oz. block of firm or extra firm tofu. Drain the liquid from the package. Place a clean folded, cotton dish towel onto a dinner plate. Lay the tofu on top of the folded dish towel and cover with a second folded dish towel and a second dinner plate. Weigh the top dinner plate down with a couple of 15 oz cans of food. Let this sit for 30-60 minutes. Place the pressed tofu on a cutting board and slice horizontally into 6 equal slices about ½ “thick. Then stack 2 slices and cut the stack into 3 long thin batons about ½” thick. Cut the remaining slices in the same way. Cut the batons into 5-6 cubes each. You should have a pile of ½” cubes of pressed tofu.
Now open a large zip lock bag and pour in 2 TBSP soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 tsp canola oil and the juice of half of a lemon. Add a couple of drops of tabasco sauce of you want a little kick. Close the bag and shake to combine ingredients then add tofu, reclose the bag and gently shake and turn the bag to coat the tofu cubes with the marinade. Place bag in the refrigerator for at least an hour or as long as overnight turning occasionally. When you are ready to bake the tofu, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with a sheet of parchment paper. Drain off any excess marinade and spread the tofu cubes out onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the cookie sheet from the oven and give the cubes a good stir. Bake for an additional 10 minutes until all of the cubes are browned. Remove from the oven and they are ready to eat. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated. I like using these in stir-fries, in wraps or added to soup or salad. They are also delicious eaten as a snack right out of the oven.
Tempeh needs to be steamed to take any bitterness out of it and to increase the absorption of the marinade. Place a vegetable steamer insert over 1.5” of water in a large pot with a lid. Bring the water to a boil, turn the heat to low and continue to simmer. Cut an 8 oz block of tempeh in half crosswise and place in the steamer with the lid on. Steam for 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and place the tempeh on a cutting board to cool slightly. Discard steaming water. Now you can make Smoky Tempeh Strips, a recipe from Nava Atlas, a vegan chef and cookbook author. I love these strips on a bun with grilled eggplant, avocado and tomato. Yum!!
Smoky Tempeh Strips
One 8 oz. pkg. Tempeh (steamed)
2 TBSP Soy Sauce
2 TBSP ketchup
2 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP EVOO
Sriracha hot sauce to taste (optional)
1 tsp liquid smoke
1. Cut the blocks of tempeh crosswise into strips no thicker than ¼”.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix.
3. Heat the mixture in a wide skillet. Arrange the tempeh strips over the sauce. Cook, covered over medium low heat for about 8 minutes, turn all of the slices and continue cooking another 8 minutes or until the sauce is absorbed and the slices start to brown lightly.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature in a sandwich.
Last but not least, beans. They are healthful, versatile and inexpensive. I like the Simply Organic brand of canned beans from King Soopers. They have many varieties and are often on sale for a dollar a can. Rinsing and draining the beans before using them in a recipe reduces the amount of sodium by about 40%. My favorite way to use beans is to make chili. If you have a favorite recipe substitute beans for the meat and let your imagination run wild. I like to use three different types of beans, say kidney beans, black beans and garbanzos to create more interest. Check out “Vegan Planet” by Robin Robertson. She has a whole chapter on chili and it is chock full of great ideas for a bowl of chili that will rock your world.