Saturday, January 27, 2018

HOW TO REPLACE EXPENSIVE (& SOMETIMES ECOLOGICALLY AND/OR ETHICALLY SUSPECT) NUTS IN VEGAN COOKING

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My Lowfat Vegan Mayonnaise, utilizing peanuts, sunflower seeds and/or sesame seeds
Peanut and/or Sunflower Seed and Tofu Ricotta 
Lasagne made with my Peanut and Tofu Ricotta


After almost 11 years of blogging, I must be getting lazy, because I found myself doing fewer and fewer blog posts every month, and then... nothing new, for about a month and a half.

But, in the last little while my interest has been sparked again. 


My current interest is in cutting way down on the amount of  oil and expensive (and potentially ethically and environmentally suspect) tree nuts that I use in creamy vegan mixtures, such as sauces, cheeses, mayo, ice creams, spreads, etc.. My reason is only peripherally due to the fact that we are trying to lose some weight.


I know that nuts are good for us and I will certainly use walnuts, pecans, etc., in baking for special occasions or for our weekly treat, but it has bothered me for some time now that so many cashews and coconuts are used in vegan cooking these days.  (Oh, and don't forget about almonds!)


It's not that I have anything against cashews per se, but, to quote from this article"What are the most eco-friendly nuts?(worth a read): "Cashews are a little trickier. They’re light on the land, providing wildlife habitat and preventing erosion, but the processing stage is much more intensive. Cashews grow primarily in Vietnam, India, and northern Africa, but most are shipped to India for processing; there, workers shell the nuts by hand, sometimes exposing their skin to burns from the caustic oils inside. (Check out this detailed look at the system.) And that’s nothing compared to the human rights abuses suffered by some cashew processors in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch. Fortunately, there are some Fair Trade cashews to be had, and I’d go for them whenever possible."  Here is an article about the treatment of cashew processors in India.

Note from me: They, of course, are more expensive than non-Fair Trade. (And organic does not necessarily mean fair trade as well.)

The other tropical nut that is over-used in vegan cooking lately (in my opinion) is the coconut.  I won't go into the nutrition debate here, but there is an animal cruelty issue with coconut products, as well as human and ecological issues. The following is from an article entitled "Are coconut products bad for the environment?":

"...The use of coconut oil grew 780 percent between 2008 and 2012, and the demand for coconut water jumped 168 percent between 2010 and 2013. And if an informal survey of my local yoga-goers and farmers market-shoppers is any indication, the boom is still going strong. So what kind of impact are we having?

The first consideration: Everyone’s favorite hairy-on-the-outside, succulent-on-the-inside fruit (sorry, kiwi) comes to us from the tropics — Indonesia, most often, plus the Philippines and India, and to a lesser extent, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. So unless you’re currently lounging on an idyllic beach — you lucky so-and-so — that coconut product was shipped a considerable distance to reach you, with all the transportation-related carbon emissions that entails. Locavore eating it’s not.


Then there’s the growing of the trees themselves. Fortunately, coconut farming isn’t linked to the kind of deforestation that makes palm oil so devastating to local ecosystems. But those lovely coconut trees can still be grown in a monoculture, which hurts tropical biodiversity and soil quality.


And finally, there’s the human rights side of things. As with other cultivators of the tropics (those who produce chocolate, cashews, and coffee, to look just at the Cs), coconut farmers very often toil in terrible poverty — as high as 60 percent of them in the Philippines. Coconut water alone sells for a couple of bucks or more per bottle, but the farmers behind it make as little as 12 cents per coconut. Kind of a bitter system, huh?"

See also http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/is-your-obsession-with-coconuts-harming-the-environment/

Apart from the above concerns, there is the animal cruelty issue I mentioned above. I urge you to read the following and be an informed consumer:

See this article for a list of cruelty-free brands of coconut products and other products that contain coconut oil.

See photographs at this article

"Life in chains: Heartrending pictures of caged Indonesian monkeys being sold to coconut farmers"

Published earlier this year, the most comprehensive article I read, Pay Coconuts, Get Monkeys, gives us an idea  of what life is like for these monkeys, how valuable they are economically, and how legal loopholes enable trainers and “zoos” to essentially get away with animal abuse and neglect.


Early on in the piece a man called Noi Petchpradab, who has been training macaques to harvest coconuts for thirty years, was interviewed and discusses daily life for these working monkeys: "When they are not working, the animals are chained to tree stumps, which Mr. Noi said is due to their aggressiveness. They are given three daily meals, consisting of rice mixed with Lactasoy milk."


The article also goes on to say:

"Due to their ability to work for long hours, the macaques are capable of collecting 600-1,000 coconuts per day, compared to only 100-200 for humans. On a few occasions, he admitted, the monkeys are so tired they faint.
VIDEO: https://youtu.be/8gWEsNL-RJc

This practice will surely continue as long as there is both a market for coconut oil and consumers who are ignorant to the fact that this is even happening. Also, there will always be an economic incentive for people in these areas to use monkeys as performers as long as tourists are willing to spend money to visit them."

So, what about the domestic favorite, almonds?? See this article: Here’s the Real Problem With Almonds  and this one: The Problem With Eating Almonds That No One Is Talking About "If you care about the drought in California, you might want to read this."


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What to do?  Yes, we  could use macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts.  But these nuts can be beyond the average budget even if they are grown in North America (especially the last two).  


I have not really researched macadamia nuts-- we think of Hawaii first, but they are native to and grown extensively in Australia. Organic macadamias sell for about $25 lb Cnd. 


I have used Brazil nuts because, according to this article"What are the most eco-friendly nuts?: "What about those exotic nuts you mentioned? Brazil nuts, grown in – wait for it – Brazil’s Amazon, actually support the rainforest because they don’t grow well without their natural, diverse ecosystem around them. Cultivating them, then, gives locals an economic incentive not to slash and burn.

"Hazelnuts are a dream to grow: long-lasting, hardy, erosion-blocking, and requiring no pesticides. You can find US hazels, mostly from Oregon, and that’s a good bet because of child labor issues associated with Turkish hazelnuts."  But, again, not for everyone's budget in the long run.

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So, what's my solution, one that will allow me to make rich-tasting, creamy vegan dishes even on a tight budget and while trying my best to avoid humanitarian and ecological pitfalls?


Peanuts and seeds!  
They are inexpensive, easy to find, grown in North America, and chock full of nutrition and good fats. I have only just begun my kitchen explorations, but have produced a few delicious items so far, so read on, if you are interested.

I'd love to hear what you think, and/or any recipes you've come up with.


MY THREE STAPLES:

(You can use them alone or in combination.)

Raw Hulled White Sesame Seeds




Raw Shelled Sunflower Seeds
Unsalted Dry-Roasted Peanuts

Other possibilities? North American-produced organic hulled hemp seeds and/or pumpkin seeds are other possible choices, but they are also fairly expensive when compared to the three choices above, and can lend a greenish hue to your finished product.




Printable Copy


BRYANNA'S TOFU & PEANUT OR SUNFLOWER SEED “RICOTTA”

Makes 3 1/2 c.
Adapted from my book “Nonna’s Italian Kitchen”.

This mixture is very similar to the creamy full-fat ricotta used in 
Italy.  It's so creamy that you can use it as a spread on bread, or as a filling for crespelle (crepes), or in desserts.  NOTE:  Most vegan ricotta recipes that I have seen contain herbs.  This puzzles me because the ricotta that I grew up using in San Francisco was plain.  You could add herbs if you wanted, but it was used as-is in lasagne and in desserts, too. (No, that's not a typo: "In Italian, lasagna refers to one sheet of pasta and its plural form, lasagne, refers to the dish with several layers.")

Ingredients:

2 (12.3 oz.) boxes extra-firm silken tofu, crumbled (OR 2 lb. medium firm tofu, pressed down to around 24.6 oz. and drained)
1/2 c. shelled chopped dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, OR raw shelled sunflower seeds (OR 1/2 & 1/2)
2 T. + 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt

In a food processor, high-speed blender mix about 3 cups 
of the crumbled tofu with the soaked,drained peanuts or sunflower seeds, the lemon juice and salt. Process until they are very smooth.  Then crumble in the remaining tofu and process again in bursts. The resulting mixture should be mostly smooth, but with a little graininess-- it doesn't have to be like cream cheese.

Scoop the "Ricotta" into a plastic container and refrigerate.  It firms up when chilled.


Nutrition facts Per Serving:       

Calories   79.51, Calories From Fat 48.78, Total Fat 5.82g, Saturated Fat 0.73g, Cholesterol 0.00mg, Sodium 87.76mg, Potassium 105.07mg, Carbohydrates 2.42g,   
Dietary Fiber 0.75g, Sugar 0.06g, Sugar Alcohols 0.00g, Net Carbohydrates 1.67g, Protein 6.07g  

More recipes using seeds and/or peanuts instead of nuts:
EASY, INEXPENSIVE, NO-COOK, OIL-FREE VEGAN CREAMER


and 

Enjoy!



11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Many blessings for being the voice of reason and posting
this valuable information.
i have already begun the change.

Anonymous said...

"I have not really researched macadamia nuts-- we think of Hawaii first, but they are gown extensively in Australia now. " Macadamias are NATIVE to Australia, we've been growing them a very long time!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Thanks for correcting me, Anonymous!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

And I corrected my comment in the text, Anonymous.

Cynthia said...

I just made the ricotta and it is delicious! After seeing the mouth watering picture of the Lasagna you made using the ricotta, I'm wondering if the recipe for it is in one of your books?

Anonymous said...

Thanks you researching this - I've been trying to cut down on cashew use since I found out about the human rights issues. Most of my use is for vegan cheeses that start with a cashew paste. I've found I can replace at least half of the cashews with a cooked grain, like rice or millet or oats, and it seems to work fine. I look forward to trying sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog!

I just returned to being vegan not long ago for the welfare of others and my own state of mind!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Thank you, Lon Anderson!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Cynthia, here's a lasagna recipe on my blog: https://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.ca/2014/08/kale-and-vegan-sausage-lasagna.html

Sean Mahan said...

What a great post! Very detailed and informative. I'm already sharing it with my vegan friends. Thank you so much!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Thank you for writing, Sean Mahan!