Q: What are the serving sizes for the recipes on this blog?
A: I usually prepare all recipes to feed me and my husband with enough for leftovers for lunch. We are both big eaters so most recipes could easily feed 4 people.
Q: What exactly is a vegan? What is veganism about?
A: The word “vegan” (pronounced VEE-gun) was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson and was defined as follows:
“Veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.”
“Veganism is a way of living, which excludes all forms of exploitation, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.”
Q: Why do most people go vegan?
A: People begin their vegan journey for a variety of reasons. Some people become vegan out of compassion and respect for animals. They wish not to participate in the violence inherent in animal slaughter and see living vegan as a reflection of their values of peace and justice.
Other people adopt a vegan diet for their health. Extensive worldwide studies by independent, highly respected international health advisory boards have concluded that a vegan diet is significantly healthier than a diet which includes meat and other animal products. Adopting a vegan diet can substantially mitigate the impacts of type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. It has been shown to reduce the risk of various forms of cancer and heart disease, as well as many other chronic diseases.
Others choose veganism for environmental reasons. According to the U.N., raising animals for food is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions that all of the world’s cars, buses, planes, and trains combined. Raising animals for food requires an immense amount of water–both to feed the animals and water the crops that will be fed to the animals–but also causes large amounts of water pollution as manure often spills into due to rivers, creeks, and coastal wetlands. In addition, the massive amounts of land and water that is used to raise animals and grow crops to feed those animals could instead be used to feed the nearly 1 billion people who suffer from hunger. (For more information on environmental reasons, click here.)
While people may initially turn to veganism for one reason, over time, many come to see the synergy between all the reasons. (For more detailed information about the history of the word “vegan” click here.)
Q: How do you get protein on a plant-based diet?
A: The short answer is beans, greens, nuts, seeds, grains, tofu, and tempeh. But see my more in depth answer here. Despite the effective marketing the meat and dairy industries, getting enough protein is not something you likely need to be worried about because protein-deficiency is virtually impossible if you are consuming enough calories. In fact, most Americans get nearly double the amount of protein they need. Excess protein cannot be absorbed by the body. It just goes to waste and puts tremendous strain on our organs.
Q: Why don’t vegans consume dairy products?
A: Despite what many of us have been raised to think, cows don’t just produce milk. We aren’t doing them any favors by milking them. Cows are mammals just like us, and just like us, a cow only produces milk after she has given birth. In order for her to keep producing milk, a cow is forcibly impregnated year after year, enduring a 9-month pregnancy each time. All she wants to do is nurse her baby but humans take her milk instead and separate her from her newborn. This separation is devastating, causing the mother to bellow in grief for days. Because male offspring are useless to the dairy industry (because males don’t produce milk), they are slaughtered when they are four or five months old and sold as veal. In fact, the veal industry is the biproduct of the dairy industry.
Now, I know your next question is what about small family farms? The physiology remains the same. On small family farms, a cow still needs to be pregnant in order to produce milk, and on small farms they simply do not have the space to house and feed a new mouth every year. So male babies are inevitably sold for slaughter. The forced impregnation, the separation between mothers and babies, and the selling to slaughter are intrinsic to the dairy industry regardless of the size of the farm. You can learn more about this here.
Q: How do vegans get their calcium without cow’s milk?
A: Nondairy milks are excellent sources of calcium, but you can also get plenty of calcium from beans and greens like kale and broccoli. For more details, see here.
Q: How does one go about replacing dairy?
A: Swapping out dairy milk is a cinch as there are a plethora of plant-based milks available. It seems they can make milk out of practically anything now, from nuts (almond, hazelnut) to beans (soy) to fruit (coconut) to grains (oat, rice) to seeds (hemp, flax). Because these milks are plant-based rather than animal-based, they are entirely free of that harmful cholesterol, lactose, and casein, and they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthful fatty acids. If you have a recipe that calls for dairy milk, simply swap it out and use one of these plant-based milks instead. Simple as that!
If you are baking and a recipe calls for buttermilk, this formula yields 1 cup:
3/4 cup plant-based yogurt (i.e. soy or almond) + 1/4 cup plant-based milk + a splash of white vinegar
If you take cream in your coffee, there are several nondairy creamers to choose from including Silk, So Delicious, Wildwood and Trader Joe’s.
Q: How do you bake without eggs?
A: The purpose of eggs in baking is to serve as a binder. Here are several simple plant-based ways of doing just that. All yield the equivalent of one egg.
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water (let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to congeal)
1/2 large banana, mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch + 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder + 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons potato starch + 1 tablespoon water
1 heaping tablespoon soy flour + 2 tablespoons water
Ener-G Egg Replacer (a boxed powder that is available in grocery stores and online)
Besides being kinder to animals and our heart health, baking without eggs has another huge benefit: you can lick the batter without the fear of food poisoning!
Q: How will I ever give up cheese?!?!?
A: If you are one of those people who say or has ever said, “I could never give up cheese!” you are in good company. Many people are quite literally addicted to cheese because it contains some highly addictive properties. The primary protein in mammalian milk is called casein. When casein is digested, it produces casomorphins, which have an opiate-like effect that helps to ensure that offspring will bond with their mothers and get all the nutrients they need in the early stage of life. Because cows are so much larger than humans, there is significantly more casein in cow’s milk than in human milk, which results in significantly more casomorphines. In cheese production, all liquid is expressed out so the casein is very heavily concentrated, resulting in extremely high levels of casomorphines.
I mention all this to let you know that while there are numerous vegan cheeses available now that are unbelievably tasty, it’s possible that you may not initially find them as satisfying as dairy cheeses. This is not because they aren’t as tasty; it’s because they don’t have those addictive properties! So, keep this in mind as you become acquainted with the wonderful options that are on the market now, and be open. I have no doubt that eventually you’ll be wondering why on earth you ever ate the other stuff.
Here are some great brands to keep an eye out for: Daiya, Kite Hill, Follow Your Heart, Heido Ho Veganics, Dairy Tree, Tofutti.
Q: What about ice cream?
A: More and more vegan ice cream brands are showing up in supermarkets every day. (Boston now has two 100% vegan ice cream shops!) Some brands to look for in your grocery store include: So Delicious, Purely Decadent, Tofutti, Soy Dream, Rice Dream, Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy, Coconut Bill, Temptation, and WholeSoy. Tofutti and So Delicious both make ice cream sandwiches and fudge bars, and several well-known ice cream companies—such as Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s—make sorbets which are free of dairy.
While vegan ice creams are certainly more healthful than dairy ice creams, they shouldn’t exactly be considered health foods. We recently purchased a device called Yonanas which is an ice cream maker that uses just frozen bananas and other frozen fruit. We adore it, which is why I’ve added it to my Amazon store.
Q: Do vegans eat chocolate?
A: Yes! Chocolate comes from cacao beans which are, of course, vegan. It’s only when dairy milk is added to chocolate that it becomes not vegan. Many dark and semi-sweet chocolates are free of dairy; just check the label for ingredients. The chocolate trade is rife with its own horrific practices, including child labor and even slavery. To learn about vegan and slavery-free chocolate companies, take a look at this list compiled by the Food Empowerment Project.
Q: How will I ever replace the taste of meat?
A: While many people may say they crave meat or that love the way it tastes, what they likely mean is that they enjoy the salt, the fat, and the chewiness, not the actual flesh itself. After all, unlike true carnivores, we humans have to cook flesh in order to make it non-lethal to our digestive systems, and then we add various seasonings to cover up what (or rather who) it is we are actually eating. Interestingly, the seasonings we apply are almost always plant-based (for example, ketchup, mustard, horseradish, relish, onions, pickles, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, wasabi, garlic, and countless herbs and spices) which means we can satisfy our cravings without taking another’s life.
More and more companies are creating “mock meats” which are a great way to transition to a vegan diet. Some well-known brands to look for include Beyond Meat, Boca, WestSoy, Yves, Gardein, Upton’s Naturals, White Wave, Lightlife, Tofurky and Field Roast. Most major supermarkets carry at least some of these brands, but if yours doesn’t, don’t hesitate to ask the manager to start stocking them. The more widely available these products are, the better.
While these products certainly are tasty and are more healthful than their cholesterol and carcinogen-laden animal-based counterparts, they are nonetheless processed foods. What is even more healthful—and less expensive—is to eat a diet centered on whole foods. So once the transition period is over, I recommend to my students that begin to rely on whole foods such as beans, grains, tempeh, and tofu. I am a huge advocate for beans as they are widely available, dirt cheap, satiating, simple, and rich in nutrients—including what you’ll soon find is every non-vegans biggest concern—protein! (If you are concerned about getting enough protein, see here.)
Q: How were you led into a plant-based diet?
A: My husband Robert and I both grew up believing that we needed to consume animal products to be healthy. In our minds eating animals was just one of those cold, hard truths about life so neither of us was inclined to question the ethics.
Shortly after we got married, Robert went to the doctor for his annual physical and found out he had very high cholesterol. Because he is thin and active we assumed high cholesterol just ran in his family and wasn’t the result of dietary habits. Robert was all set to start cholesterol lowering drugs but the doctor suggested he try cutting out all animal products for six weeks and see if it changed his results. (Most physicians have almost no training in nutrition and thus rarely present dietary changes as a viable alternative to taking drugs.) We didn’t think anything would come of the six week experiment as we believed we already ate a very healthy diet– “no red meat, just fish and chicken, and only non-fat dairy,” we used to boast. But much to our surprise, cutting ALL animal products made an immediate difference in Robert’s cholesterol levels. His LDL dropped nearly 20 points in just six weeks! Plus, we both felt fantastic. Six months after fully committing to veganism, Robert’s cholesterol had dropped 50 points!
Discovering that meat and dairy products were not only unnecessary but actually have a negative impact on health was a total shock to us. It went against so much of what we’d been taught about nutrition growing up. Who knew that dairy products were actually harmful to bone health, or that chicken and beef have nearly the same amount of cholesterol? That was a catalyst for me to start on a reading crusade about the health dangers of eating animal products and the benefits of a plant-based diet (see my books section).
From there, I started listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s inspiring podcast and began to understand the ways in which eating animals did not reflect the values I strive to uphold, namely compassion, wellness, and truth. Like so many people, I had turned a blind eye to the truth of what happens to the animals we use and kill for food. For so long, I hardened my heart so I could justify eating them. I would think things like, “that’s what they are here for,” “we were meant to eat animals,” or “they don’t suffer that badly. They don’t know any better.” But the animals we eat for food are no different from the animals we live with. Like cats and dogs, farmed animals have complex emotions. They feel joy and get scared. They feel love. They feel pain. Yet we slaughter 53 billion land animals– that’s 53,000,000,000– for food per year. Having cut out animal products from our diet–and becoming healthier as a result–meant I needed to come to terms with the fact that we don’t need to eat animals to survive and so to continue eating them would mean I was contributing to unnecessary suffering and death.
“Waking up” and becoming vegan was the best thing I ever did. I feel more at peace than I ever have, and it is incredibly empowering to know that my daily food choices are a reflection of my values of compassion, wellness, and truth.
Q: Why are so many of your recipes gluten-free?
A: I have Crohn’s colitis, a disease of the digestive tract that causes ulcers. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, triggers my symptoms so I personally avoid it. I have found that since going vegan (and focusing on whole foods rather than processed foods) my symptoms have gotten significantly better. Numerous gastrointestinal studies have shown that the amount of fiber provided by a whole foods vegan diet really does help the digestive tract immensely (see just one example here). Very occasionally I may post a recipe with gluten, but that’s only when I’ve made a special treat for my husband and thought it would be worth sharing.
Q: Why are so many of your recipes oil-free?
A: I avoid oil for a couple reasons. First of all, it is one of the foods that triggers my Crohn’s. Second, oil is not a health food (yes, that includes ALL oils, including olive oil); it is a processed food that is essentially pure fat and calories. I never used much oil in my cooking because of my Crohn’s, but after a third member of Mr. Goldhouse’s family suffered a cardiac event and eventually died, we read Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” and decided to eliminate oil from our diet completely.
My goal is to help people learn to cook and eat in a way that embodies compassion for animals, the planet, and their own health. Since I believe a diet centered on whole, plant-based foods best accomplishes this, that is what I promote. That being said, you certainly do not need to avoid oil in order to be vegan.
Q: I have a question that you didn’t address here. What should I do?
A: Great! I am here to help! Please feel free to email me any questions you have. Don’t be shy. If you are wondering, others probably are too, so I may even turn my answer into a blog post (with your permission, of course) so others can learn the answer as well. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.