In Pictures: Easy Home-cooked Plant-based Meals

Corn Fritters

Crockpot Chili

Sweet Potato Quinoa Latkes

Teriyaki Fried Quinoa

Zucchini Oat Veggie Patties

BBQ Kidney Bean Kale Burgers

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

Cauliflower Camembert? The New Plant-based Cheese is Surprisingly Delicious

Catherine Lamb wrote . . . . . . . . .

When I was doing Vegan January (also known as Veganuary) this year, there was only one thing I missed: cheese. While there are relatively good substitutes available for ice cream, butter, milk, yogurt, and even eggs, cheese was the one thing that I just could not find an animal-free replacement for that didn’t taste bland, rubbery, or worse.

So when I went into the Big Idea Ventures (BIV) office in New York City this week to taste a new plant-based cheese from startup Grounded Foods, part of BIV’s latest alternative protein accelerator program, I came in with a healthy amount of skepticism. Especially since I knew that the main ingredient in many of the cheeses was one of the unsexier vegetables on the planet: cauliflower.

But before we get to the taste test, here’s a bit of background. Founded in Australia in July of 2019, Grounded Foods grew out of co-founder Shaun Quade’s efforts to develop a plant-based Roquefort (blue cheese) for a new high-end restaurant concept. As he and his co-founder (and wife) Veronica Fil started looking for funding for the restaurant, they realized that people were actually interested in investing in the Roquefort itself. “They just wanted to give money for the plant-based cheese!” Fil said.

Since then the company has participated in the Mars Seeds of Change accelerator, for which they earned $40,000, and just relocated to New York a few months ago to join the latest Big Idea Ventures cohort. As part of the alt-protein accelerator they receive $250,000 in funding. Next up Fil and Quade plan to move to the West Coast, where they believe there is the largest audience for high-caliber faux cheese. Fil and Quade hope that their products will attract not only vegans but flexitarians who either have dairy sensitivities or are looking for healthier ways to get their “cheese” fix.

The pair plan to launch their cheese through high-end restaurants later this year in order to establish the Grounded Foods brand before branching into direct-to-consumer sales and, eventually, retail. Ambitious plans to be sure, but Quade revealed that they’re prepared to scale; in fact, they’ve already secured a location on which to build their first large scale manufacturing facility on the West Coast. They’ve also filed a patent for their fermentation protocol, which Fil told me is the secret sauce that makes their cheese so “addictive” and full of umami (savory) flavor.

Pricing isn’t set in stone, but Fil told me that they expect to be cost-competitive with other cheese alternatives right out of the gate. Since their product is made using relatively inexpensive ingredients and low-tech processes, she claims it’s not expensive to produce. Grounded Foods is also cutting cost by using “ugly” cauliflower — vegetables that are aesthetically unfit to sell to grocers — to make their cheese.

Now for the moment of truth: how did the Grounded Foods cheese taste? I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Most of offerings were a home run, successfully imitating the things I love most about cheese: the umami flavor, silky texture, and creaminess. The camembert (cauliflower + hemp) was a standout; it actually emulated the funky “stinkiness” that you taste with aged French cheese. The gruyere (oats + cauliflower) was slightly less similar to its namesake, though it had a sharpness that would take well to being melted over pasta or tucked in a sandwich. The Australian feta, which was marinated in olive oil and herbs, was pleasantly smooth and fatty, and the scallion cream cheese would honestly have fooled me in a taste test. It was that good.

The only miss for me was the “cheese” sauce, which is meant to replace Velveeta. While tasty it tasted distinctly vegetal and reminded me more of a butternut squash sauce than the beloved neon-orange cheese sauce.

The offerings I sampled were only the tip of the faux cheese iceberg. Quade is already developing other vegan cheeses to add to the Grounded Foods portfolio, including a mozzarella and blue cheese. “We have not fully explored the potential of vegetables,” Quade told me. There’s also another product line in the mix meant specifically to appeal to Gen Z diners.

Besides being quite tasty, Grounded Foods’ biggest advantage is its ingredient list. Most plant-based cheeses are made of nuts, soy, or coconut oil. The first two eliminate consumers who have certain food allergies, and the oil-based cheeses don’t have much nutritional content to speak of. Instead they’re made just of cauliflower, hemp, and oat, transformed through Quade’s proprietary fermentation process (which he, unsurprisingly, was hesitant to reveal too many details about).

While Grounded Foods is trying to crack the animal-free cheese code with plants, other companies are using a decidedly more high-tech approach. Perfect Day and New Culture have developed a method to ferment dairy proteins using genetically engineered microbes; in essence creating milk without the cow (which can then be turned into cheese). However, there’s no word on exactly when these offerings will go to market — or how costly they’ll be when they get there. Next-gen dairy startups like Eclipse Foods and Noquo Foods are also using plans to develop better-tasting cheese alternatives, but neither has announced a concrete timeline to enter the market.

Grounded Foods has been moving incredibly quickly considering it’s just over 6 months old. However, it’s still a young startup with only two full-time employees (Fil and Quade), neither of whom have experience scaling an alternative business. We’ll have to see if they can establish all the tricky parts of running a food manufacturing business, like establishing a supply chain, branding, and finding effective restaurant and retail partners.

However, with demand for plant-based cheese on the rise, there’s a lot of space for a market disrupter who will make vegan cheese that’s actually worth eating. And as far as taste goes, Grounded Foods takes the cake — er, camembert.

Source: The Spoon

Lower Protein Diet May Lessen Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Zachary Sweger wrote . . . . . . . . .

A plant-based diet may be key to lowering risk for heart disease. Penn State researchers determined that diets with reduced sulfur amino acids — which occur in protein-rich foods, such as meats, dairy, nuts and soy — were associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease. The team also found that the average American consumes almost two and a half times more sulfur amino acids than the estimated average requirement.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. A subcategory, called sulfur amino acids, including methionine and cysteine, play various roles in metabolism and health.

“For decades it has been understood that diets restricting sulfur amino acids were beneficial for longevity in animals,” said John Richie, a professor of public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. “This study provides the first epidemiologic evidence that excessive dietary intake of sulfur amino acids may be related to chronic disease outcomes in humans.”

Richie led a team that examined the diets and blood biomarkers of more than 11,000 participants from a national study and found that participants who ate foods containing fewer sulfur amino acids tended to have a decreased risk for cardiometabolic disease based on their bloodwork.

The team evaluated data from the Third National Examination and Nutritional Health Survey. They compiled a composite cardiometabolic disease risk score based on the levels of certain biomarkers in participants’ blood after a 10-16 hour fast, including cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and insulin.

“These biomarkers are indicative of an individual’s risk for disease, just as high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Richie said. “Many of these levels can be impacted by a person’s longer-term dietary habits leading up to the test.”

Participants were excluded from the study if they reported having either congestive heart failure, heart attack or a reported change in diet due to a heart disease diagnosis. Individuals were also omitted if they reported a dietary intake of sulfur amino acids below the estimated average requirement of 15 mg/kg/day recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Medicine.

To meet this daily requirement, a person weighing 132 pounds might eat, throughout the course of a day, a medium slice of bread, a half an avocado, an egg, a half cup of raw cabbage, six cherry tomatoes, two ounces of chicken breast, a cup of brown rice, three quarters of a cup of zucchini, three tablespoons of butter, a cup of spinach, a medium apple, an eight-inch-diameter pizza and a tablespoon of almonds.

Nutritionists collected information about participants’ diets by doing in-person 24-hour recalls. Nutrient intakes were then calculated using the U.S. Department of Agriculture Survey Nutrient Database.

After accounting for body weight, the researchers found that average sulfur amino acid intake was almost two and a half times higher than the estimated average requirement. Xiang Gao, associate professor and director of the nutritional epidemiology lab at the Penn State University and co-author of the study, published today (Feb. 3) in Lancet EClinical Medicine, suggested this may be due to trends in the average diet of a person living in the United States.

“Many people in the United States consume a diet rich in meat and dairy products and the estimated average requirement is only expected to meet the needs of half of healthy individuals,” Gao said. “Therefore, it is not surprising that many are surpassing the average requirement when considering these foods contain higher amounts of sulfur amino acids.”

The researchers found that higher sulfur amino acid intake was associated with a higher composite cardiometabolic risk score after accounting for potential confounders like age, sex and history of diabetes and hypertension. They also found that high sulfur amino acid intake was associated with every type of food except grains, vegetables and fruit.

“Meats and other high-protein foods are generally higher in sulfur amino acid content,” said Zhen Dong, lead author on the study and College of Medicine graduate. “People who eat lots of plant-based products like fruits and vegetables will consume lower amounts of sulfur amino acids. These results support some of the beneficial health effects observed in those who eat vegan or other plant-based diets.”

Dong said that while this study only evaluated dietary intake and cardiometabolic disease risk factors at one point in time, the association between increased sulfur amino acid intake and risk for cardiometabolic disease was strong. She said the data supports the formation of a prospective, longitudinal study evaluating sulfur amino acid intake and health outcomes over time.

“Here we saw an observed association between certain dietary habits and higher levels of blood biomarkers that put a person at risk for cardiometabolic diseases,” Richie said. “A longitudinal study would allow us to analyze whether people who eat a certain way do end up developing the diseases these biomarkers indicate a risk for.”

Source: The Pennsylvania State University


Today’s Comic

Oxo To Launch Plant-Based Beef Stock Cube

Beef stock cubes have become the unlikely target of a vegan makeover with Oxo scheduled to launch a meat-free version of the famous meat extract amid a boom in sales of plant-based foods.

Premier Foods, which is also behind brands such as Mr Kipling and Bisto gravy, said the beef-flavoured stock cubes would start appearing on supermarket shelves soon.

The UK is gripped by plant-based food fever. This year 130,000 people, up from 100,000 last year, have pledged to stick to a plant-based diet during what is billed as Veganuary. The lifestyle overhaul has been made easier by high-profile new vegan products such as Greggs vegan sausage roll and its meat-free steak bake.

This scale of the business opportunity is not lost on food manufacturers and retailers with one in five of all new foods launched last year labelled vegan. Market research firm Mintel predicts sales of meat-free foods will soon pass the £1 bn-a-year barrier.

The Premier Foods chief executive, Alex Whitehouse, said: “The whole plant-based eating thing is clearly very important. There was a clear role for a vegan but beef-flavoured cube.”

The meat extract was, according to Oxo, invented by the German chemist Baron Justus von Liebig in 1840. It started being sold as cubes in 1910, with soldiers serving on the western front receiving Oxo in their ration kits. In recent years the store cupboard staple has been given a new lease of life with flavours such as “red wine” and “garden vegetables” (which is also suitable for vegans).

The alchemy involved in a vegan recipe that tastes like beef stock includes extra yeast and an altered mix of herbs and spices, the company said. The distinctive red Oxo packaging will stay the same but the packs will be labelled “meat-free”. They will be the same price at £1.59 for a pack of 12.

Source: The Guardian