Some people become vegetarians because they love animals. Some, as comedian A. Whitney Brown put it, because they hate plants.
But vegans are committed. Not only do they not eat food that harms or kills animals, some don’t even want food that inconveniences animals.
Like honey. Hardcore vegans will not eat honey because, as Noah Lewis of vegetus.org puts it, “the simple fact is that the bees are enslaved.” Similarly, some vegans will not eat sugar because, while it comes entirely from a plant, some sugar is whitened by using bone char, which comes from animals.
Although the vegan diet lacks meat, dairy and egg products – or because of it – the diet can be better for you than the standard American diet. In 2009, the American Dietetic Association took the position that vegetarian and vegan diets reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
It can be healthy, but there are some things to watch out for when on a vegan diet: You have to make sure to get enough protein and vitamin B-12 – and calcium, iodine, vitamin D, iron, zinc and n-3 fatty acids.
Fortunately, a well-balanced vegan diet provides all of these essential nutrients, though you may want to take vitamin B-12 supplements, just in case.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 pound fresh Chinese noodles – yellow wheat or “stir fried” – or 12 ounces dried spaghetti or linguine
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup soy sauce
4 large shallots; 2 minced and 2 sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sambal oelek, see note
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 pound bok choy, stalks and greens separated and sliced ½-inch thick
4 scallions, sliced thin on bias
Note: Sambal oelek can be found in the international aisle of grocery stores.
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add noodles and cook, stirring often, until tender. Drain noodles and set aside.
Whisk sugar, molasses and soy sauce together in bowl. In a separate bowl, combine minced shallots, garlic and sambal oelek.
Spread tofu on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and let drain for 20 minutes. Gently pat tofu dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper, then toss with cornstarch in bowl. Transfer coated tofu to a strainer and shake gently over bowl to remove excess cornstarch. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add tofu and cook, turning as needed, until crisp and browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes; transfer to bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty skillet and heat until shimmering. Add sliced shallots and cook until golden, about 5 minutes; transfer to paper towel-lined plate.
If necessary, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty skillet and heat until shimmering. Add bok choy stalks and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Clear center of skillet, add garlic mixture and cook, mashing mixture into skillet until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir into vegetables.
Stir in noodles, tofu, bok choy leaves and scallions. Whisk sauce to recombine, add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle fried shallots on top. Serve with lime wedges.
PER SERVING (based on 6): 665 calories; 26 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 18 g protein; 91 g carbohydrate; 29 g sugar; 6 g fiber; 1,624 mg sodium; 264 mg calcium
– Recipe from “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook,” by America’s Test Kitchen
INDIAN-STYLE VEGETABLE CURRY
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons curry powder
1½ teaspoons garam masala, see note
2 onions, chopped fine
12 ounces red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ head cauliflower (1 pound), cored and cut into 1-inch florets
1½ cup water
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed
1½ cups frozen peas
½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
Note: Garam masala can be found at international food stores and the spice aisles of well-stocked grocery stores.
Pulse diced tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until nearly smooth, with some ¼-inch pieces visible, about 3 pulses.
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add curry powder and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Stir in onions, potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and potatoes are golden brown at edges, about 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium. Stir in garlic, chile, ginger and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cauliflower florets and cook, stirring constantly, until florets are coated with spices, about 2 minutes.
Gradually stir in water, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in chickpeas and processed tomatoes and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce to gentle simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Uncover, stir in peas and coconut milk, and continue to cook until peas are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over rice.
PER SERVING (based on 4): 429 calories; 21 g fat; 8 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 15 g protein; 53 g carbohydrate; 17g sugar; 17 g fiber; 367 mg sodium; 161 mg calcium
– Recipe from “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen
Yield: About 8 to 10 (6-inch) pancakes
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups water
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons soy or almond milk, optional
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla and optional soy or almond milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir until just blended.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Pour batter onto the griddle or skillet until it forms a 6-inch puddle. Cook until bubbles form and the edges are dry; check underneath to see if the bottom is lightly browned. Flip and cook until browned on the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter.
PER PANCAKE (based on 8): 102 calories; 2 g fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 2 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 125 mg sodium; 78 mg calcium
– Adapted from allrecipes.com