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If you are a vegan, you may be wondering if it is possible to "veganize" your existing recipes. Even recipe books with meat and fish recipes can be converted to a vegan recipe with some imagination and some know-how. Here are some ways to help you to achieve this.
- Look through your recipe books and choose a recipe that appeals to you.
- Check off all the items in the ingredients list that are not vegan, for example, meat or fish, dairy, gelatin etc.
- Start substituting the ingredients. For example, you can substitute most items as follows:
- Cheese - vegan cheese (soy or rice based)
- Beef - veggie mock beef strips (usually seitan-based)
- Chicken - veggie mock chicken (usually gluten-based)
- Pork/bacon - veggie mock pork/bacon (usually soy-based)
- Sausages - there are many mock sausage versions on the market
- Sliced sandwich meat - a variety of mock veggie sandwich meats exist
- Butter - substitute oils or vegan margarine. For baking, solid coconut fat is a great choice and it is good for you in small quantities owing to its vitamin E content.
- Ice cream - try soy or rice substitutes
- Milk - try soy, rice, nut or oat substitutes. Water or juice will often substitute in baking.
- Eggs - there are many egg-substitutes on the market. Other ideas include pectin (for example, use pureed apple in cakes).
- Honey - try agave nectar or brown rice syrup.
- Gelatin - agar agar and pectin are good choices; sometimes banana or apple can substitute. It is best to follow instructions in a vegan cookbook on substituting gelatin.
- Try other alternatives if you detest meat substitutes. For some vegans, anything resembling meat is off-putting and undesirable. There are still choices! Try chunky cuts of vegetables in stews and stir-frys, try tofu or seitan for substance and texture.
- Experiment. It will take a while to get the ingredients right and also the measurements. It is a good idea to try and start out with keeping the measurements in the recipe as close as possible but you will find that you need to make adjustments with practice over time. Some of the hardest things to convert are in the area of baking, so it is very prudent to borrow some books on vegan baking to give you a good idea.
- Read up. Use the internet, the library and your local bookstore to browse through vegan cookbooks and recipes. Get as many ideas as you can and start trusting your own instincts for what textures, flavors and substitutes work well together. It takes some patience and some experimentation but within three months you should be starting to cook confidently with substitutes and remembering without having to check what can be quickly substituted for your non-vegan recipes.
- Take notes! You'll want to remember what worked and what didn't when you revisit your recipes.
- It's really healthy to be vegan but you must pay careful attention to your diet and take any dietary supplements that may be missing, including vitamin B12.
- Vegan foods are as delicious as other foods and they are generally healthy. (Although beware over-using dessert substitutes, such as whipped soy cream - no nutrition there.)
- Some scientific studies have shown that vegans may live longer than those on other diets and that vegans have less health and disease problems. However, as with any diet, care with the nutrition must be taken.
- Try to buy health food stores and focus on organic produce.
- As a complementary measure to eating vegan, try to use environmentally-friendly products for household cleaning, gardening, and personal care.
- Always look for the cruelty-free labels - avoid items tested on animals and avoid those with animal ingredients.
- Veganize your food and thrive.
- Vitamin B12 and iron levels can be lower in vegans if not carefully attended to as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
- Be aware that soy and tofu do not contain iron.
- Be aware that some substitutes will not carry the same heating or freezing properties as the original ingredient and sometimes, there will not necessarily be a substitute. Read the instructions on prepared products or be prepared for some failures in your quest for finding new substitutes.
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