As I started to approach Senior Citizen status, I became concerned that the looming years are normally thought of as a time of decline. This bothered me quite a bit, and I wanted to see if there was something I could do that would allow me to stay healthy and active as long as possible. Everywhere I looked - documentaries such as "Forks Over Knives" and "What the Health", books such as "How Not To Die" (Michael Greger) and "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" (Caldwell Esselstyn) - clearly explained how eliminating meat and dairy can improve your life.
While I was excited about making this change, it became clear early on that friends and family found it a bit odd. How could I possibly life without ice cream, eggs, cheese? How could I get enough protein or iron without meat? Most are very supportive of my lifestyle, and I am grateful for their help and encouragement. I like to tryout recipes and share them with my family so they can see how delicious food made this way can be. It makes me so happy to see my grandchildren gobbling down "Gamma's soup", my daughter asking me to make her some vegan chili, and everyone enjoying various cookies and desserts made without dairy, eggs, or fat.
There are various dairy alternatives on the market, but caution must be exercised to make sure you are not getting a lot of fat, salt, or chemicals in the product. Reading labels is key. A better option is to start with healthy foods and use familiar seasonings to transform them into the texture and flavor of the dairy you are replacing. For me, that means it must be creamy.
Here are some suggestions for dairy replacements:
There are plenty of choices available, made from nuts, soy rice, oats, or coconut, but brands different quite a bit with additives. The best selections are usually those that contain the least number of ingredients.
Firm tofu makes a great ricotta; nutritional yeast adds a cheesy umami flavor similar to Parmesan; and there are many "cheese" sauce recipes online using ingredients like cashews, potatoes, or cauliflower as the base.
Mayonnaise or sour cream
Make a substitute using silken tofu or cashews. Add vinegar or lemon juice, along with seasonings to make a darn good duplicate.
For a sandwich, I like to use hummus instead of mayonnaise. In fact, I often make a sandwich with hummus as the star, adding tomato, roasted red pepper, pickle, and fresh salad greens to toasted bread. It is my husband's most requested lunch!
And what about ice cream? Check out plantbasedgabriel.com to find many recipes using frozen bananas as the base to a creamy satisfying treat.
But what I am really craving at this time of year is soup! A creamy, flavorful homemade soup is heaven on a blustery day. Most cream soups get their richness from milk, butter, and flour, but it is easy to eliminate all of those and have a delicious hearty meal that only needs a whole grain roll to be complete. There are several ways to thicken a soup and make it savory. If you want it to be completely smooth, put a few ladles in a blender and process until it is the consistency you want. You will need to do this in batches and leave the plug at the top open for steam to escape. Put each batch in a serving bowl until you have finished with the entire pot.
If you want bits of vegetables in the soup, a great way to achiever this and have a rich broth is with beans or pre-soaked cashew nuts. Put the soaked cashews or a can of white beans in the blender with a few ladles of the soup and process. Add the mixture back to the soup.
The recipe below is a favorite of my grandchildren, ages 9 months to 3 years old. I like it because it is quite versatile, and my husband and I also enjoy it - when we can get to it before the grand kids!
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup other diced vegetable of your choice (mushrooms, parsnips, cauliflower)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can white beans
Veggie broth mix (see below)
1 cup cooked grain of your choice (quinoa, brown rice, millet)
Cook onion and celery in a little water until softened. Add more water by tablespoons if they begin to stick. Add carrots and other vegetables and cook until softened. Add vegetable broth, 2 tablespoons veggie broth mix, cooked grain and stir. In a blender, put white beans and up to half of the soup mixture. Process until smooth, then stir into soup. Cook until hot, then taste and add more veggie broth mix, salt, or pepper as desired.
Veggie Broth Mix
This is a wonderful mixture for adding to soups and casseroles to help round out the flavor of water commercial vegetable broths. Because vegetable broth brands vary in ingredients, there is no exact amount given in the Gamma's Soup recipe. Taste and adjust as you go along until you get the savory flavor you like.
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp turmeric
Mix all ingredients and keep in a sealed container.
I hope you enjoy!