10 Tips, Hacks, and Tricks for Tasty Plant-Based Cooking

Culinary secrets exist, and they can elevate your cooking from good to give-me-seconds. Dinner may never be the same after you start adding a tablespoon of smooth peanut butter to your chili, a splash of soy sauce to your tomato sauce, or a touch of vinegar to soups and stews.

When it comes to improving the taste, texture, and flavor profile of your meatless dishes or recreating plant-based versions of animal-based ingredients, it’s all about knowing the right techniques. Maybe your tofu Buffalo wings didn’t come out crispy because you forgot to press the tofu, or your kale not as tender because you didn’t massage the leaves. Sure, these suggestions may seem minor, but they can dramatically affect the outcome of a recipe.

As we are all doing more home cooking, take a look at the list below and see how you can incorporate these cooking hacks into your next Meatless Monday meal.

Add a Spoonful of Peanut Butter to Chili

It might sound crazy, but the secret to many award-winning chili recipes is a heaping amount of smooth, creamy peanut butter. The subtle hint of sweet paired with the peanut’s inherent nuttiness is enough to balance out the spice and acid of vegetarian chili.

Press Tofu for Crispy “Wings”

Removing the moisture from tofu allows it to get nice and crispy, an important step if you’re baking, pan frying, or cooking up Jamaican jerk tofu tacos. To properly press tofu, line a plate with paper towels or clean kitchen towel and place the block of tofu on top. Place another layer of paper towel on the tofu block and apply something heavy — book, cutting board, pan — on top. Let it “press” for at least 20 minutes, replace the paper towels and let it rest for another 10 minutes for extra an extra chewy meaty texture.

Massage Kale for Tender Salads

Kale needs some TLC to become, well, tender. To break down the tough fibers, rip the leaves off the rib (or stem), add to a bowl, coat with some olive oil, and knead them (as if you would bread dough) for around four minutes. Add them to a Mediterranean salad for a quick weeknight meal.

Blend Cauliflower for an All-Purpose “Cream” Sauce

Add richness, depth, and creaminess to any dish with this magic, all-purpose cauliflower sauce. To make this simple sauce, boil cauliflower spears until tender. While boiling, sauté sliced garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Drain the cauliflower and scrape all of the garlic-infused oil into a blender and blend until smooth.

Refrigerate Coconut Milk for Easy Whipped Cream

Simple, easy, and decadent, refrigerating a can of coconut milk overnight results in a thick and creamy whipped topping for desserts, waffles, or coffee. Add some vanilla extract and powdered sugar for some extra flavor and sweetness.

Freeze Bananas for Nice Cream

The best kept secret that every plant-based eater knows about, frozen banana soft serve will change the way you think about dessert. Simply peel a few bananas, throw them in the freezer, and blend them up with some frozen fruit the next day. Maybe add a splash of lemon juice, nut butter, or a sprinkle of maple syrup if so inclined.

Use Avocado in Place of Butter

With a one-to-one ratio, you can use avocado to replace butter in most baked goods and desserts. And while avocado won’t impart a noticeable flavor, you can also avoid butter by using a non-dairy butter substitute (also a one-to-one ratio).

Make Your Own Plant Parmesan “Cheese”

Parmesan elevates anything from pastas and risottos to soup and roasted vegetables. Recreate the sharp umami flavor of Parmesan with a combination of nutritional yeast, walnuts (or cashews), salt, and garlic powder. Give the mixture a couple of pulses in the food processor and you’re good to go.

Customize a Creamy Tofu Herb Dip

Tofu comes in all different types and textures. Blend soft silken tofu together with salt and fresh herbs — basil, parsley, chive, cilantro, rosemary — for a quick and easy dip for crudité. Add some avocado or a splash of citrus to round out the flavor.

Finish Cooking Pasta in Sauce for a Creamier Consistency

Contrary to the instructions on the box, pasta should actually be slightly underdone when you drain it. After draining, immediately toss the pasta into the simmering sauce for another two minutes. This helps the pasta absorb the sauce, but it also releases the starch within the pasta, giving the sauce a creamier consistency.

Source: Meatless Monday

Mediterranean-style Tofu Balls and Vegetables in Sauce

Ingredients

1 pack medium-firm tofu
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1-1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
50 g panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 courgette
1 (400 g) can chopped tomatoes
200 ml vegan red wine
potatoes roasted with rosemary and garlic or pasta to serve

Method

  1. Preheat an oven to 200°C.
  2. Place tofu, chopped onion, 2 peeled and roughly chopped garlic cloves, half the oregano and the breadcrumbs in a food processor and blitz to make a thick paste. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. To make the balls roll the mixture in your hands to the size of ping pong balls about 1 inch in size.
  4. Place the rolled balls into a roasting pan coated with the oil. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes until the balls have browned a little.
  5. Dice the pepper and courgette and add to the roasting pan along with the remaining 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, and the remaining oregano. Mix together and roast for another 10 minutes then add the red wine and put back into the oven for a further 10 minutes to reduce down.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Mix gently being careful not to break the balls.
  7. Put back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until bubbling and the balls are a nice rich colour.
  8. Serve with potatoes roasted with garlic and rosemary or your favourite pasta.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: Vegan Food and Living

Vegan Society Reveals that 1 in 5 Brits Have Reduced Meat Consumption Since Coronavirus

A survey conducted by The Vegan Society has found that 1 in 5 consumers in the UK have reduced their meat intake during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey also reveals that 15% are consuming less dairy and egg products since the lockdown period began.

The figures related to consumption of animal products in the UK follow shortly after the Financial Times report which reveals that the pandemic is accelerating a global shift to plantbased, as well as a market report which predicts that COVID 19 will cause the plantbased meat market to increase significantly.

The Vegan Society UK, whose founder Donald Watson first coined the term vegan in 1944, says that many of the one in five respondents who enjoyed the new alternatives they have tried during this period have committed to continue buying them in the future. Half of those who have tried vegan meat alternatives such as vegan burgers and sausages have said they will keep on purchasing them after the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Vegan Society states that, of those who have reduced their meat or dairy consumption, 41% did so due to their preferred product not being available on the supermarket shelves, however 43% chose to reduce their meat consumption out of concern for reasons of health, environmental or animal rights.

The data shows that UK consumers who stated they are reducing their meat and dairy consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic have been sampling alternatives that are new to them, with the most popular being almond milk (42%), meat alternatives such as vegan sausages and burgers (38%), soya milk (36%) and pulses such as lentils and chickpeas (34%).

Plant milks are also proving to be popular, with 54% and 42% of those who have tried soy milk and almond milk respectively saying they will make them a regular purchase once the lockdown has been lifted.

Matt Turner, spokesperson for The Vegan Society, said: “After the unprecedented success of Veganuary and the swathes of new vegan products hitting the shelves in recent months, it’s no surprise that many consumers have made the switch to plant-based alternatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that be for convenience, cost, or concern for their own wellbeing, the environment and the rights of animals.

Many Brits are trying these alternatives for the first time and enjoying them so much that they intend on keeping them in their shopping basket when we return to normal times. They are purchasing items that they wouldn’t have given a second look a few months ago, but are now seeing these brilliant vegan alternatives as the new normal.”

Source: Vegconomist

Study: Blood Count May Offer Clues to Treatment of COVID-19

The severity of COVID-19 illness may be influenced by what researchers call “cytokine storms.”

In a new study, investigators assessed 522 COVID-19 patients, aged 5 days to 97 years, who were admitted to two hospitals in Wuhan, China, in December and January. The study also included a “control group” of 40 healthy people.

Compared to the control group, 76% of COVID-19 patients had significantly lower levels of T cells — a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in immune response against viral infections.

Patients admitted to the intensive care unit had much lower T cell counts than those who didn’t require ICU care. Patients over age 60 had the lowest T cell counts, the findings showed.

And the T cells that did survive in COVID-19 patients were exhausted and unable to function at full capacity, the study authors said.

COVID-19 patients also had high levels of cytokines — a protein that normally helps fight off infection. Too many cytokines can prompt an excessive inflammatory response called a “cytokine storm,” which causes the proteins to attack healthy cells.

That suggests the new coronavirus does not attack T cells directly. Instead, it triggers the cytokine release, which results in the loss and exhaustion of T cells, according to the authors of the study published May 1 in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.

The study results provide new clues on how to treat COVID-19, the researchers said.

“We should pay more attention to T cell counts and their function, rather than respiratory function of patients,” study author Dr. Yongwen Chen of Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, said in a journal news release.

Chen added that “more urgent, early intervention may be required in patients with low T lymphocyte counts.”

In addition, he noted, future research should focus on pinpointing subgroups of T cells that may be most important in COVID-19, along with identifying drugs that boost T cell counts and functioning.

Source: HealthDay

A Milder Hair Dye Based on Synthetic Melanin

With the coronavirus pandemic temporarily shuttering hair salons, many clients are appreciating, and missing, the ability of hair dye to cover up grays or touch up roots. However, frequent coloring, whether done at a salon or at home, can damage hair and might pose health risks from potentially cancer-causing dye components. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have developed a process to dye hair with synthetic melanin under milder conditions than traditional hair dyes.

Melanin is a group of natural pigments that give hair and skin their varied colors. With aging, melanin disappears from hair fibers, leading to color loss and graying. Most permanent hair dyes use ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, small-molecule dyes and other ingredients to penetrate the cuticle of the hair and deposit coloring. Along with being damaging to hair, these harsh substances could cause allergic reactions or other health problems in colorists and their clients. Recently, scientists have explored using synthetic melanin to color human hair, but the process required relatively high concentrations of potentially toxic heavy metals, such as copper and iron, and strong oxidants. Claudia Battistella, Nathan Gianneschi and colleagues at Northwestern University wanted to find a gentler, safer way to get long-lasting, natural-looking hair color with synthetic melanin.

The researchers tested different dyeing conditions for depositing synthetic melanin on hair, finding that they could substitute mild heat and a small amount of ammonium hydroxide for the heavy metals and strong oxidants used in prior methods. They could produce darker hues by increasing the concentration of ammonium hydroxide, or red and gold shades by adding a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. Overall, the conditions were similar to or milder than those used for commercially available hair dyes. And the natural-looking colors deposited on the hair surface, rather than penetrating the cuticle, which is less likely to cause damage. The colored layer persisted for at least 18 washes.

Source: American Chemical Society


Today’s Comic