March 15, 2011

Test driving "vegan-ism"

I read a lot of food blogs. Fortunately --or unfortunately-- I have FoodGawker and TasteSpotting on my Google Reader, so I'm always sifting through great food pictures, as well as posts from my favourite bloggers.

Among the blogs I read are a few vegan blogs. I've said in previous posts that I'm not vegan, but lately I've been experimenting with the possibility of sometimes eating vegan. I'm indecisive, can you tell? I'm sure there are merits to eating both vegan or "regular," but I just don't see food as something limiting and restricting. I don't want to deprive myself of enjoying food--especially cheese, meat and eggs--because of certain guidelines or rules. I think that as long as I eat my five food groups, three meals a day and make healthy choices I shouldn't have to deprive myself.

Here are two recipes done two ways. One is the regular way I usually make it and the other is the slightly modified vegan method. Here's what I think:

1. Risotto

Here's my regular version of a classic risotto made with butter, wine, chicken broth, parmesan cheese and vegetables, plus some shrimp on top (full recipe):

Alright, admittedly quite a rich meal and probably not the healthiest of options. However, risotto for me is a "sometimes" food and often something I order at restaurants simply for that reason. I don't eat risotto every night.

Here is the "vegan" risotto I tried with a recipe from Ohsheglows, a vegan blog. This version is a Tomato and Barley risotto with a vegan "cheese" sauce. (Risotto recipe)

This was the first time I used nutritional yeast in cooking and I have to admit, it was a little weird. Nutritional yeast is often used in vegan cooking as a substitute for cheese. I use regular yeast when making bread and dough and I don't really like the smell, so the idea of actually eating yeast freaked me out a bit. I also used regular milk, so I suppose the recipe isn't completely vegan.

The "cheese" sauce (recipe) was made by pulsing cashews, milk, garlic, spices and the yeast in a food processor. The risotto included crushed tomatoes, pearl barley, nutritional yeast and milk, plus a bit of the "cheese" sauce. I was actually quite surprised by the taste. It smelled a bit weird, but didn't taste that bad. I loved the use of barley instead of rice; however, the leftovers the next day didn't taste that great heated up in the microwave. I'm still not sure about this recipe.

2. Mac and Cheese

I have been working on perfecting my butternut squash Mac and Cheese recipe for quite some time now. I've tried a few different recipes and methods in the hopes of creating the perfect cheesy mac and cheese with vegetables. The recipe I like uses milk, butter, flour and cheese to make the sauce. Like risotto, mac and cheese is a "sometimes" food for me, although in University, Kraft Dinner was an "always" food.

Obviously not the healthiest choice with tons of cheese and dairy products, but I do put vegetables like butternut squash, spinach and broccoli in it (that has to count for something, right?)

I put broccoli in this version instead of butternut squash. The vegan mac and cheese is basically pasta mixed with the "cheese" sauce from the previous recipe. Instead of cheese and butter, the cashews, nutritional yeast and milk make the creamy sauce (full recipe). I have to say, I really liked this version of mac and cheese. It has the same texture and creaminess, but without the fat of cheese, and it almost looks and tastes the same as regular mac and cheese. I was impressed with this recipe and I will definitely make it again.

In conclusion, I think it's good that I now know some healthier alternatives to my favourite comfort foods. I wasn't completely sold on the risotto and the mac and cheese was pretty good, but it's still not enough to convert me to being a vegan just yet.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I think I will try it out. I'm not vegan, but I would enjoy the challenge making something that is. Your blog is fantastic!

  2. Veganism or vegetarianism isn't only about health, for many people it's mostly about environment (cf. huge pollution caused by meat industry, left alone other considerations).
    Continue to enjoy food, try and discover ! :)

  3. Try coconut milk! It is a great alternative to milk and it has a similar texture (more so than others I have tried such as soy milk and almond milk). Also, be sure to get the reduced fat kind if you are worried about fat because regular coconut milk is really rich. I use it for a lot of my cooking, and I am finding that I finally do not miss milk or yogurt anymore! Give it a try :)


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