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Guest article: One Great Way to Eat Vegetarian

You have decided to become a veggie or vegan?  Please be aware it may take you a while, it took a few months at the least for my family and I to get into the swing of things as the saying goes.  At first like any new lifestyle change it can be difficult to know just how to go about it, and this in fact may put many people off becoming vegetarian or vegan. What will I cook? How will I cook it? What should I buy? Where will I go to purchase the correct food? How will I find the time to cook long complicated meals? Will I get sufficient nutrients to be healthy? These are some of the doubts that swirl about in your mind. The information below I hope will answer some of these questions and make the transition for you easier.

Seemingly, time is of the essence these days, many people have little time for complex meals which take a long time not only to prepare but to shop for ingredients some of which may be expensive.  However vegetarian and vegan cooking can be as quick and as simple as any non vegetarian diet and it is healthier and cheaper, and of course better for the animals.

There is little point in my going into extensive detail about the huge variety of foods which are available as this information may be found elsewhere on the net along with some very creative and tasty recipes:  I will provide you with some good links to more comprehensive information about the types of food available, how to cook it, recipes and so forth. Here you will find more personal information about some of the foods my family and I use. We are not interested in cooking as such and have no wish to spend hours 'cooking up a storm,' but for those of you who do there are some very good recipes out there for you to try included in the links below.

Please note: there is no paid advertising on this website, any advertising is for your information to assist you in making your life as a veggie or vegan easier.

Vegetarian

Animal Aid: Vegetarian recipes

The Vegetarian Society - Recipe Index

Vegetarian Recipes from A to Z - The Veggie Table - Vegetarian Recipes and Info

Vegan

Simple Vegan Recipes

Vegan Recipes - Kake's (Vegan) Cookery Site

blog.veganfamily.co.uk/kitchen/

There are no complicated recipes here on this website, just straight forward advice for beginners about simple meals you can prepare using vegetable based foods, many of which are repacked and as easy to cook as a lamb chop. Not having time is one of the many reasons people hesitate to become veggie or vegan, but you need no more time to cook a tasty meat free, cruelty free and nutritious meal. 

Important: Brand names are only mentioned to assist you with your goal of becoming vegetarian or vegan as quickly and as easily as possible, I am not particularly recommending these brands and there is no paid advertising on this website.

The ideas below are based on the type of meals my family and I eat or have eaten in the past. Most will take less than an hour to prepare and cook.

I will list the type of products available and how to use them, and include extra comments for vegans (highlighted in this colour) as some of the products below may not always be suitable as they may contain eggs or milk. I will tell you from my own experience which products may contain these ingredients. But please remember I am not an expert, this is simply personal advice and although the information is given in the best of faith and with the best of intentions I may, like any other human being, make mistakes and I except no responsibility for anyone acting on information I have given them. If you are in doubt about the contents of some of the products please contact the manufacturer or a suitable society such as the vegetarian society or  Vegan Society for more information. Links to similar Societies in other countries may be found on the International Vegetarian Union  website which will direct you to Vegetarian and  Vegan organisations, websites and other information in a number of countries including North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, West Asia, East/southeast Asia and Oceania and India. 

Many products on the market may display some kind of authentication, such as those shown below, that demonstrate that their products is vegetarian or vegan. Here in the UK, the Vegetarian and Vegan society's symbols are perhaps the most reliable
 

This is the vegetarian Society's logo and for vegetarians it is the one that is most trusted, it is currently the only vegetarian symbol which is legally governed by a trademark licence agreement and the only one recognised by the NHS. In order to display this logo the product must adhere to a strict criteria which states that it must not contain meat or other animal-derived ingredients such as animal fats, fish oils or gelatine, and all eggs used must be free-range.

Some companies are adopting the Vegan Society's trademark Sunflower logo. For a detailed list of requirements for manufacturers to use this logo on their products please visit the Vegan Society's website.

Some manufacturers use their own labelling, the inclusion of variations of a V should indicate that at the very least the product is vegetarian however as some manufacturers may be confused about what is or is not vegetarian or vegan, for instance the use of animal rennet in cheese, one needs to be rather more wary and if in doubt it is a good idea to check out the ingredients or contact the manufacturers as rennet will of course not appear on the list of ingredients. As both of these society's however are in the UK this will only apply to food products produced in the UK. Concerning products produced elsewhere you will need to carefully check the ingredient list or look for similar endorsement. Both the Vegetarian and vegan society provide information about ingredients not easily recognised as animal products such as Es and other addictives, for example: E120 - cochineal, hexaphosphate 

Vegan information:
vegansociety.com/lifestyle/is-this-product-vegan.

Vegetarian information:
vegsoc.org/goveggiehelp

Despite all this there is no need to feel overwhelmed. New vegetarians or vegans please be mindful that it does take time and there are pitfalls, don't be put off or discouraged if you make a mistake, at least you are heading in the right direction and are acting in the spirit of improving the situation for animals and the environment and sending food producers a message that you no longer wish to eat meat or other animal products. After eighteen years I still make mistakes. In the beginning when I first became vegetarian I had no such information and did the best that I could, it does take time, you cannot be the perfect vegetarian or vegan overnight. Simply do the best you can. If however your diet is merely one undertaken for health reasons, allergies for example, you do need of course to be very careful to check that the ingredients are suitable.

We gradually became vegetarian over a few weeks and vegan over several months. It is not easy to make a complete change over all at one time, this can be overwhelming and cause many people to give up. Try replacing two meals with a vegetarian alternative for a week or so, perhaps with something simple as a veggie burger, than after a time replace three meals and so on. Get used to using and trying out new foods and ideas, it takes time to get into a new routine and it may take considerably longer before you feel it is an integral part of your life and that you shop and cook as easily as you once did, and eating vegetarian is as habitual as eating meat. After you feel at ease with a vegetarian diet you may wish to take the next step and become lactose free or vegan but this is a matter of your own personal point of view and ethics. Something that may take a while to develop: as you knowledge increases your point of view may change.  I first became Vegetarian and remained so for over ten years or so without questioning that perhaps it was not good for a cow's welfare for her to be used as a milk making machine and that her milk was really meant for her calf, after all when any animal is weaned he no longer has milk as part of his or her diet. As a result of such consideration I then became a lacto free vegetarian abstaining from using milk products but still eating free range eggs and finally only a year ago after finding out that free range eggs are not as cruelty free as I once thought, I am now vegan.

Meat substitutes

Quorn

In recent years it if far easier to become veggie or vegan and stop eating meat as there is such a variety of alternatives on the market some of which you simply substitute for your usual meat. Quorn is one of them. All Quorn products are vegetarian. Quorn products contain mycoprotein which is a fungus like a mushroom, it is low in fat, but high in protein and is entirely cholesterol free making it a good healthy alternative to meat. Products are available in the UK, USA, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and The Netherlands. Important: Quorn products are not suitable for vegans as they contain a small amount of egg white. Before becoming vegan my family and I used this as a replacement for meat.
For more information check out their website
Quorn | Home

Quorn chucks may be used to replace meat in stews or meat pies and minced Quorn may be used in such recipes as Shepherds pie. A Quorn roast provides a good alternative for Christmas or other festive dinner or your usual Sunday roast although after a time you may find that the importance of a big roast type meal on Sundays diminishes. There are ready prepared "sausage" rolls and other pastries along with a range of "cold meats" useful for salads and sandwiches.

Soya

The Soya bean is the seed of the leguminous Soya bean plant and has been the staple diet of China for over 400 years. It is only since the mid 1960s that it has been a significant part of the western diet, generally it is mostly found in bread and margarine. For both vegetarians and vegans It is a very useful alternative to meat and dairy products. Soya food includes tofu, textured vegetable protein TVP as Soya chunks and mince, temph, soya sauces oils and margerines 

Soya is high in protein, cholesterol free and low in saturated fats making it a good alternative to meat. It also has anti-carcinogenic properties.

Both soya and Quorn chunks may be added to stews in place of meat and the mince makes a good alternative to a meat based Shepherd's pie.

Vegans need to be aware that some pre-packaged frozen soya products such as Asda's soya mince and chunks may contain milk or eggs, it is a good idea to check the list of ingredients. It is perhaps best and cheaper for vegans to buy the dried chunks and mince from a health food store such as Holland and Barret here in the UK. The dried soya mince and chucks are only £1.59, entirely vegan and will be sufficient to make at least a couple of meals for a family of four depending upon the recipe. We use chunks in place of meat. Use them in any recipe for stew by simply replacing the meat with the soya chucks, the dried variety will need to be hydrated in water for a while and than used in the same way as you would meat for cooking in a stew. Soya mince makes a good alterative for shepherd's pie also, but with both a stew and shepherd's pie perhaps more spices and herbs will need to be added to improve the flavour. You can get both chunks and mince with beef and chicken flavours although these are natural flavourings they are not animal derived. Include plenty of tomato puree, a good quality bouillon vegetable cube to enhance the flavour, we use:  Kallo yeast free vegetable stock cubes which are vegetarian and vegan. However be careful as Kallo also make meat stock cubes. Similar to meat dishes wine may also be added. It may take a while to get used to using both Quorn and soya.

Dumplings make any stew more interesting; you need not give up dumplings you can use vegetarian or vegan dairy free margarine in place of suet. We use Pure dairy free soya, sunflower or organic margarine Pure Dairy Free - Soya, Sunflower and Organic Spreads for specific dietary req. All you do is crumble the margarine with the flour and add water in the proportions below, in the same way as you make pastry - after crumbling and before adding the water you may add some herbs according to your taste, we like mixed herbs or tarragon.  Mix to a dough in a similar consistency to pastry, roll into about eight small balls in floured hands and drop into your gently simmering stew, replace lid and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes. 

8 oz of self raising flour
4oz of margarine
herbs of choice
water to mix.

Burger and sausage mixes are also made from textured vegetable protein.

Protoveg and Holland and Barrett make both, and both are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Vegans must check the list of contents as occasionally some varieties may contain milk. There are other brands of course but these two brands are the ones which we are most likely to use. 

Both veggie burger and sausage mixes may be cooked in all manner of ways to provide a great variety of meals and are easily and quickly prepared by adding cold water and mixing and leaving for about five minutes. You may add your own herbs and spices to add further flavour but these products are quite tasty as they are. Burgers are easily made into the appropriate shapes and may be grilled or fried in the same way as a regular meat burger or baked in an oven. Sausages can be cooked in a similar way. Make sausage rolls by wrapping in pastry. You can place the prepared sausage or burger mix in a loaf tin to make a meat loaf, perhaps layering it with stuffing mix and nuts. Here is one of our favourite recipes which we cook at Christmas Viva! Very Veggie Christmas. A favourite of ours is welsh apple pie. Although not really a pie this is easy to make simply by lining a greased oven proof dish with sausage or burger mix, then a layer of chopped cooking apples and a further layer of mashed potatoes and if you 're vegetarian a topping of cheese. After cooking Vegans may add "Parmazano" a dairy free Parmesan style hard cheese replacer. It is a cheese alternative and can be sprinkled where you would normally use parmesan cheese, it may be added to Pizza, and all kinds of savoury dishes, we sprinkle over roast vegetables and burgers. It carries both the vegetarian society and vegan society's logos.

With vegetarian or vegan cooking you can improvise most of your favourite dishes substituting soya, or Quorn (not suitable for vegans), if appropriate, for meat.

We use rice, quinoa, and pasta to produce a good variety and variation of meals. Often a simple mixture of vegetables such as carrots, onions, mushrooms, courgettes, tomatoes to name the ones we mostly use, stir fried and added to a sauce accompanied by rice, quinoa or pasta make a good and quick meal.

Dairy free Cheese Flavour sauce mix

For vegan or lacto-free vegetarians who miss a good cheese sauce  "Free and Easy " make a Dairy free Cheese Flavoured sauce mix. This can be mixed with water to make a cheesy tasting sauce. We mix mostly with soya milk rather than all water to make it more creamy tasting. Although it bears neither the vegan or vegetarian logo it is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, at least according to my understanding the ingredients check out for both Vegans and Vegetarians. It is also low in fat and wheat free. We have been using this product for some time and find that in addition to a cheese sauce adding it to a vegetable gravy in stews for instance improves the flavour.

Gravy

A gravy without meat most certainly need not be bland.  There are many vegetarian meat free bouillon cubes on the market. As already mentioned we use Kallo Vegetable stock cubes which are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.  Be careful though to read the label as Kallo also make meat bouillon cubes.  If you feel you need a dark gravy you may also add  "Naturally Good", or "Free and Easy" vegetable gravy and sauce mix, these Gravy powders which in addition to being a stock are also thickeners for gravy which not only add a bit of colour but extra flavour, and also if you use these products you may need to use less thickener such as cornflour. You may find though that after a while you may not worry too much about the gravy not being brown, adding a little turmeric will give it a nice rich golden colour. 

Falafel Mix

We use Orgran Falafel mix produced in Australia, it is Vegan (and therefore also vegetarian), gluten free and wheat free. A food rich in protein leguines, it is quick to prepare. Simply mix with cold water, leave for twenty minutes and cook as directed on the packet by deep frying. However Falafels may also be shaped into burgers and baked or grilled but add a teaspoon of oil or knob margarine on each burger before cooking as they can be rather dry. Falafel mix makes a good stuffing for dishes, like stuffed peppers. We make stuffed peppers by cooking peppers in medium boiling water, after slicing in half and removing the seeds, for a few minutes to soften, then removing, draining and stuffing with falafel mix. Place a knob of margarine or little olive oil on the falafel mixture in each pepper and bake at about 200 c for about twenty to thirty minutes. You can top with ready mix stuffing to add a little interest but check carefully that the stuffing mix you choose is vegetarian or vegan.

Cakes

For vegetarians cakes really present no problem other than ensuring that the margarine that you use is free from animal fats and if you are vegan free from dairy produce, watch out for whey and lactose both of which are dairy derivatives. As already mentioned we use "Pure" Dairy free.

Contrary to what you may think, with the exception of sponges it is easy for vegans to make cakes without either milk or eggs. I have made both a Victoria sponge and rock cakes for instance by simply mixing with soya milk instead of cows milk. You can get egg replacements but I have found at least concerning these two recipes that there is no need, just mix to a dropping consistency by adding soya milk, and cook in the normal way.

Here is a  recipe we use for vegan rock cakes.

Rock Cakes

8 oz self raising flour

4oz Margarine

4oz Sugar

4 oz Dried fruit of your choice

Soya milk to mix

Crumble flour with margarine, add sugar and fruit, mix with soya milk to form a fairly stiff consistency so the cakes stand firm when put on the baking tray. About a couple of spoonfuls for each cake.  Bake for approximately 15 to 25 min's, at about 200o c gas mark 6 but this will depend on your cooker. The oven should be preheated. They are ready when the inside no longer looks raw or a skewer/knife when pushed into a cake comes out clean.

You can adapt most cake recipes in a very similar way .

Try Lemon Drizzle Cake:

heavenlyveganbaking.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/vegan-lemon-drizzle-cake/

Milk substitutes:

Soya Milk

For Vegans there are at least three kinds of plant derived milk replacements which you can use; rice milk, oat milk and soya milk. We use soya milk, it is cheaper and in my opinion is very similar to cows milk inasmuch as it easily replaces cows milk in most recipes. You can use in blancmanges, rice puddings, sauces, cakes, on your cereals, although you may need to add a little sugar or other sweetener.  Also, in your tea and coffee but don't add while the water is very hot right after boiling, let it cool slightly. Stir sauce on a lower heat. It makes an excellent latte and nowadays is about the same price as cows milk. You can improvise with any number of dishes where a white sauce is required.

Some people may be allergic to soya, although nowadays it is present in most bread at least here in the UK and a wide variety of other products. There are also pros and cons concerning soya products:  Hailed as a preventative of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, and certain cancer such as prostrate cancer. Conversely however there may be an increased risk with others types such as breast cancer in post menopausal women (while adversely, helping prevent the same disease in premenopausal women) and may cause dementia in men.

There are alternatives to soya:

Oatley

Oatly is a healthy alternative to milk and soya, with all the benefits of oats, it contains oat fibre. It can be used like milk and looks like milk. It is low in saturated fat and as part of a balanced diet can help to lower cholesterol. Like cows milk and soya milk it can be used in cooking, in cereals and in your tea and coffee. My husband prefers Oatly to soya milk in his breakfast cereals as it is really tasty and adds extra flavour.

Manufacturers website with recipes Oatly erbjuder goda och hälsosamma havredrycker som gör din kropp glad!

Rice milk

Another excellent alternative to cows and or soya milk is rice milk. Again this looks like cows milk and can be used in cooking, in cereals and your tea and coffee. 

Final advice

My advice is to read the ingredients carefully particularly if you are vegan as milk or its derivatives is often hidden, although not deliberately of course, under less obvious names such as whey, lactose. Most products if they do not contain meat will have a V symbol somewhere on the packaging but still be careful as even manufacturers may make mistakes. Vegans be aware that this V means the product is vegetarian and therefore, but not necessarily, may contain milk or eggs so unless it is specially designated as vegan or bears the vegan symbol you need to be more particular about checking ingredients.

Both vegan and vegetarians should be mindful of such ingredients as Shellac and Cochineal are derived from insects.

 

Shellac

 
Lac (Laccifer Lacca) are scale insects (insects that attach themselves in great numbers to plants and trees) which drain the sap from the bark of their host tree, allowing them to secrete lac resin which is scraped off and manufactured into shellac. Around 300,000 insects are used to produce 1kg of lac resin. It is used as a component of paint and varnish, a glaze for fruit, a coating for tablets, hair lacquer, nail varnish and confectionery. Shellac cannot be used to glaze organic fruit under organic standards.

Cochineal

Cochineal is the name of both crimson or carmine dye which is derived from an insect of the same name, this dye of a bright red pigment is used in in food , you may see cochineal also called crimson lake or carmine dye, natural red  4, C.I. 75470, or E120 obtained from the carminic acid produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal, it is used in a variety of products including paint, crimson ink, rouge, yoghurt, food additives, for instance anything red or pink coloured could be cochineal. Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers.

Most important: Do not beat yourself up or make your life a misery. After eighteen years I have only recently found out what Shellac was, before 30th August 2008 I never even heard of it until conducting research for this page. The main thing is to avoid animal derivatives as best as you possibly can, and within your own perspective of what is ethical of course as there are no rules and it is all a matter of your own conscience, world view and personal ethics.  Avoiding the obvious,  meat for veggies and in addition for vegans animal products such as dairy; milk, cheese, eggs and honey is a good step in the right direction.

Remember there is a good variety of recipes for you to try on the internet and in books, you should never be stuck for some new nutritious and interesting meals. A good one we tried only recently was the sweet potato recipe from the Simple Vegan Recipes' website Simple Vegan Recipes which was indeed very tasty, simple to prepare and inexpensive.

useful links

What Vegans Eat - Vegan Society

Home - Vegan Society

nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegetarianhealthhome.

Please note: there is no paid advertising on this website, any advertising is for your information to assist you in making your life as a vegetarian or vegan easier.

Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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