Monday, January 2, 2017

Vegan Eats: Dairy Edition


I'm slowly transitioning to a vegan diet after nearly a decade of vegetarianism, and I've been using the holiday break to stock the fridge with some basic staples: milk, butter, yogurt, coffee creamer. The plan is to eat up whatever non-vegan food we have left in the house--there isn't actually a ton to begin with, as we're out of eggs and we already eat lots of vegan foods--and then not replace it when it's gone. I'm definitely not one of those people who believes that to be a "real" vegan or vegetarian, you need to eschew versions of those carnivorous or omnivorous foods that you loved before. I'm moving toward veganism for ethical and environmental reasons, not taste ones. I love all kinds of foods (quite literally--the only foods I dislike are sea urchin and caraway), non-vegan ones very much included, so my vegan diet includes lots of versions of the foods I ate as an omnivore, including meat and dairy alternatives.

I've already got great meat alternatives in my repertoire, both store-bought and homemade, but I'm less experienced at replacing the dairy in my diet. I've made my own nut milk in the past, but never non-dairy yogurt or butter. I've also never made a vegan coffee creamer with which I was really satisfied. This is one of the reasons that I love cooking vegan food--a new challenge!

I made a first batch of vegan butter, using Miyoko Schinner's recipe, last week. It has a slightly off taste (I think from the sunflower lecithin? or the soy milk?) that I'm not loving, but texture and creaminess wise, I'm a fan. It's just 1.5 cups of refined coconut oil, 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil, 1/4 cup of soy milk, 2 tsp sunflower lecithin, and a decent pinch each of kosher salt and turmeric blended together and then frozen. Next time I'm going to try it with my homemade yogurt in place of soy milk to replicate a cultured butter, and add a decent splash of butter baking essence for flavour, and see where we get.

I made a first batch of non-dairy yogurt last week that I was pretty happy with (a carton of vanilla soy milk thickened with a teaspoon of agar and then cultured with a packet of Cultures for Health vegan yogurt starter), but this time around I'm again using a recipe of Miyoko Schinner's from The Homemade Vegan Pantry, this time for thick yogurt. It combines unsweetened soy milk with blended cashews, a bit of agar, and a bit of cornstarch, which you cook until thickened, then cool and culture. The base was delicious pre-culturing, so I'm excited to see what I get when I pull it out of the Instant Pot in a few hours.



The last two things I made today were coffee creamer and milk, both of which start out as the same recipe. I blended a cup each of soaked cashews and almonds with four soaked dates, four cups of water, and a pinch of salt, then strained it through a nut milk bag. Two cups of the milk went into a saucepan with an 1/8 teaspoon of agar and a 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch. I cooked it over medium heat until it thickened up a bit, then stirred in a splash of vanilla--that's the creamer. The remaining two and a half cups of milk went into one of my Ikea milk bottles, where I topped it up with a cup and a half of water to make a total of four cups of almond milk. That will keep for a about a week, and now my fridge is stocked.

The last thing I'm doing this afternoon is figuring out what to do with the leftover almond-cashew pulp from my milk making--it's delicious and still full of goodness, so I want to repurpose it. I'm looking for some new sandwich spread ideas, so turning into something cream cheese-y sounds lovely. I'm also a big fan of all things snacks, so these rosemary crackers also sound delicious. So many options!

I was feeling a bit nervous as December wound down about making the transition to veganism in the new year. But now that I'm doing it, and approaching it from the perspective of adding new delicious, nutritious things to my diet rather than taking things away, the nerves are gone. I have a history of disordered eating that tends to be triggered by rules and restrictions on my eating, so I'm going to approach this the same was as my vegetarianism: something that I do because it makes me feel better about myself and my impact on the planet and the other animals on it, and something that is both flexible and forgiving.

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