Thursday, May 11, 2017


Best Blog Tips

What do I mean by "cruelty-free"?  Read on...

**NOTE: This is an amalgamated, revised and updated version of my two previous posts on making this easy and delicious homemade vegan Butter-y Spread.

Some of you may know that I devised a palm oil-free (and coconut oil-free) vegan "butter" (which I call "Buttah") back in 2012.  I devised it as part of my plan to eliminate palm oil from my diet for environmental reasons and also for the animals harmed in the growing worldwide industry. (You can read all about it here and the printable recipe is here.) "Buttah" is a solid product which can be used in baking and as a spread, or for cooking. Though I use it sparingly, we love it and it has been a hit with vegans and omnivores alike.

Here's the "but" part-- My "Buttah" is made with oil and cocoa butter (organic and steam-deodorized so that it doesn't smell like chocolate).  It only needs a small amount of cocoa butter compared to liquid oil (which makes the fat profile healthier than most spreads). But cocoa butter, and especially organic and fair trade cocoa butter, is getting more and more expensive and the steam-deodorized organic block type that I have purchased in the past is getting hard to find.  With our low Canadian dollar, it is really expensive!

I have some of that cocoa butter left and I will use it for "Buttah" to use occasionally in (and on) special baking.  (I use oil- sometimes frozen-- and much less than most recipes call for, in my pie crust.) But I wanted a spread for toast or pancakes, and no commercial vegan spread that I can find does not contain palm oil or a derivative or two.

One day it occurred to me that I should try the old method (which I believe originated with Seventh Day Adventist vegans many years ago) of making a vegan mayonnaise by drizzling oil into some soymilk while blending, then adding the appropriate seasoning. Evidently, the natural lecithin in the soymilk enables the oil and soymilk to coagulate into a creamy, spreadable mass.  (I had made this in the past, but now use my very lowfat vegan mayo, which can be made with only 1/4 cup oil for a slightly-over-2-cup batch, or with 1/4 cup of certain seeds and/or nuts instead of extracted oil.)

So, I tried making a "butter-y" spread using that method, adjusting the flavoring, of course, and adding a bit of liquid lecithin and vegetable gum powder to make it less apt to separate. It worked! This new spread looked to be a winner-- a.) inexpensive, b.) quick and easy to make, c.) keeps well, and d.) tastes yummy, with a good mouthfeel.

But I wanted to also make a soy-free version for anyone allergic to soy, so I tried it with almond milk and also with a low-fat coconut-based unsweetened creamer, and it didn't work as well, simply because only soymilk contains the lecithin that seems to be the key to thickening this product. However, with slightly more lecithin and vegetable gum (guar or xanthan), which I included to keep it it from separating so easily, it worked out reasonably well.

However, I then decided to try using solid coconut oil in place of 1/4 of oil in an attempt to make the spread a bit more solid and less apt to separate. It was definitely an improvement!

Truth to tell, I prefer not to use coconut oil very often, despite the craze for it, because of the saturated fat. (No, I am not convinced that saturated fat is good for us! See this article and this one, and also this column from vegan RD Ginny Messina.) There are also many concerns with coconut oil producion, of which most people are not aware.

Photo from this article
We vegans try to "do no harm".  But, when the "developed" world goes crazy for a particular product, it often has a huge impact on the farmers who raise it, the soil and other aspects of the environment, deforestation, loss of habitat for and endangerment of indigenous species of animals, etc., without any real improvement in the lives of the producers on the ground. This is the certainly case with palm oil, which now replaces hydrogenated fats in so many items worldwide, as well being used in cosmetics, cleaning products, etc.  (See the end of this page for more info on the palm oil problem.) And now there are even harmful effects being seen from our addiction to avocados-- for more about this issue see this articleand thisand thisand this, and lastly, this one.  BUT we also need to be aware of the coconut issue. Please read the info in WHY CRUELTY-FREE COCONUT OIL? at the bottom of this post.  And see this article for a list of cruelty-free brands of coconut products and other products that contain coconut oil. Silk and So Delicious brands use cruelty-free coconut products.

Enter my friend, Brenda Wiley. She told me that she has been making my Butter-y Spread recipe with cocoa butter instead of coconut oil, making a more solid mixture that doesn't separate if not frozen. Since my recipe calls for only 1/4 cup of the solid fat, the price of cocoa butter is not such a cost issue as it is with the larger amount called for in my "Buttah" recipe. (Only 1/3 the amount of cocoa butter is used in this recipe compared to the "Buttah" recipe, which is why the more solid "Buttah" is better for certain kinds of baking.)

I used cocoa butter in my last batch of Butter-y Spread (see photo above) and it works beautifully-- no need to keep it frozen. I have added this option (noting the weight of the cocoa butter before melting) to the recipe below. Thank you, Brenda!

(NOTE: Because we try to keep our fat intake reasonably low, we don't always use a butter-type spread on toast, etc.  Often, we simply use low-sugar jam or my low-fat "Corn Butter", or a low-fat vegan "cheesey" spread of some sort.  But, sometimes a thin film of "buttery" goodness is a good thing. This new Butter-y Spread contains 84 calories per tablespoon ( about the same as in my "Buttah", compared to about 100 for dairy butter or Earth Balance.)

The Butter-y Spread made with liquid oil and coconut oil: soy version on the left, and the non-soy version on the right, frozen so that you can just scrape some of the spread off the top. It's best to keep this frozen so that it doesn't separate.

CLEANING YOUR BLENDER CONTAINER AFTER MAKING YOUR "BUTTER-Y SPREAD": My friend Brenda Wiley said that she had a heck of a time cleaning the greasy blender container after making this.  She was using Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap, which I also use as an all-purpose cleaning product, but not for dishes.  She said she had to wash the container about 3 times. I have not had this problem, and, no, I do not use Dawn!  I use Nature Clean Dishwashing Liquid (I like the Lavender & Tea Tree Oil one  -- there's an ingredient list at the link) and very hot tap water and have never had a problem.  (Nature Clean is a sulphate-free Canadian product and you can buy it online or in most supermarkets and drug stores in Canada.) Before I add the soapy water to the greasy container, I rinse out as much of the greasy residue as possible with hot tap water, using a bottle brush in the corners.  I dump that out and add more hot water and a generous squirt of the dishwashing liquid.  I scrub the inside with the bottle brush and rinse with more hot tap water.  
I looked online for some US products that looked similar.  This looked like a good one, and the price seemed reasonable: Natural HomeLogic Eco Friendly Liquid Dish Soap, Powerful & Pure Non-Toxic Cleaning | Plant & Mineral Derived.  It's available on amazon and their website gives you other locations.  If you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comment section-- thanks!

New version of Butter-y Spread made with liquid oil and a small amount of cocoa butter (instead of coconut oil) for a more solid texture and no separating.  This works well with either soy or non-soy versions.

BRYANNA'S NEW, EASY PALM OIL-FREE VEGAN BUTTER-Y SPREAD (Soy & Non-Soy versions; made with liquid oil and a small amount of either cocoa butter or coconut oil)
© Bryanna Clark Grogan 2017.   All rights reserved.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

This is an inexpensive, delicious and easy-to-make butter-y spread to use on bread, toast, muffins, etc., in sauces on and cooked vegetables.  It may not be firm enough to use in place of butter or solid margarine in some baking-- though it may work if used in a frozen state. Originally, I added just a small amount of coconut oil to the liquid oil so that it firms up better. Refrigerated, the non-soy version is softer than the soy version. Refrigerated, the soy version is similar to a tub margarine in consistency. Both may separate a bit in the refrigerator after a few days, but can be stirred back to smoothness. Frozen, both are firm and can be scraped with a knife to use on toast, etc.)
In my last batch, I used melted cocoa butter instead of coconut oil and that makes a firmer product, with no separation, so that is my preference.

Instead of soymilk, use Silk or So Delicious Coconut Creamer (Original), which are both cruelty-free, or you can use a creamy sort of plant-based milk that has a pleasant taste. (Rice milk is too thin).  NOTE: Silk and So Delicious brands use cruelty-free coconut products. 

See WHY CRUELTY-FREE COCONUT OIL? at the bottom of this post.

Frozen non-soy version made with a small amount of coconut oil
If you use coconut oil in the non-soy version, use 3/4 tsp. guar gum and 1 Tbsp. sunflower lecithin, but it's not necessary to use the larger amounts of these if you use cocoa butter, no matter which type of milk you use.

Ingredient List:
1/2 cup soy milk (I used Silk Organic Original-- have not tried it with homemade soy milk yet)  (see recipe intro for non-soy version)
1/2 Tbs liquid soy or sunflower lecithin
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum
3/4 cup neutral tasting oil
1 1/2 oz.(44g) steam-deodorized cocoa butter, melted to make 1/4 cup OR 1/4 cup cruelty-free coconut oil, melted (see brands here)

Important Note: I melt the cocoa butter or coconut oil  in a small cream pitcher in the microwave for a couple of minutes at medium heat. If you prefer, place the pitcher in a small saucepan with hot water and heat over medium heat until it melts. Either way, remove carefully using a potholder. You can add the neutral oil to this and use the little pitcher to pour the mixed oils into the blended mixture with more control and no spilling.
NOTE: Use organic, fair trade cocoa butter, if you can.  If you live in the USA, this is a reliable vendor with decent prices--Chocolate Alchemy.
Affordable prices are harder to find in Canada, so you might want to try using an organic natural, UN-deodorized cocoa butter, which is cheaper, from a health food store [wafers or chunks].  It's such a small amount that it may not make a difference. Online,  this one is a good price and this one, too, if the shipping is by Canada Post.

Pour the milk and the lecithin into a high-speed blender container, add the lemon juice, salt and xanthan or guar gum, and place the cover on it, with the central cap off.  Mix the liquid oil with the melted cocoa butter or coconut oil together in a small pitcher (like a cream pitcher)-- see Important Note at end of Ingredient List. Turn the blender on to Low speed and pour a thin stream of a mixture of the two oils slowly into the milk until all of it is used up.  (When I say “slowly”, that’s what I mean-- a slow steady stream, but NOT drop by drop.)

Increase the speed of the blender to High. Blend for a short time, just until it thickens to the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise.

Use a small silicone spatula to scoop the mixture into  one or two shallow glass refrigerator containers with lids, or a larger butter dish with a lid. Scrape as much of the blended mixture out of the blender container as you can. Smooth the top.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours before using. You can also freeze it, or freeze it until the mixture is firm and then refrigerate.
Makes 24 Tablespoons

Nutrition Facts (Serving size: 1/24 of a recipe/0.5 ounces/1 tablespoon.)
Calories 84.17, Calories From Fat (100%) 84.04, Total Fat 9.45g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Monounsaturated Fat 4.2g, Polyunsaturated Fat 2.24g, Trans Fatty Acids 0g , Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 41.29mg, Potassium 7.01mg, Total Carbohydrates 0.2g, Fiber 0.07g, Sugar 0.13g, Protein 0.15g , Vitamin A 0.02IU, MyPoints 2.46

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."
Photo from this article
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.


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."

More articles:

Monkey being sold in Indonesia; photo from this article

Tourists photographing monkeys made to perform; photo from article in Bangkok Post

Monday, May 8, 2017


Best Blog Tips

You may have noticed that I don't post many dessert recipes.  That's because, though we're not "on a diet", we are of a certain age and need to "watch our weight', as the saying goes.  So, we generally only eat desserts at other people's tables, or when we have company. And I try to go easy on the fat in my dessert recipes, without ruining the texture and flavor of the dish.

We had dinner with some old friends last week, and I brought this pie for dessert.  It's actually a recipe (slightly altered) from one of my old cookbooks, Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause (not my biggest seller, I must say-- perhaps partially due to the anti-soy hysteria of the last decade or so).  The filling is a richer version of the Tofu Chocolate Mousse in that book.

Our hosts (not vegans) LOVED this pie!  It's really a winner-- easy to make, and so silky, creamy delicious. It's a low-fat as I could make it, but certainly lives up to expectations!

Printable Copy

Yield: 1/ 10" pie; 10 servings
Easy to make and richly delicious without excessive fat. NOTE: Nutrition facts are for the pie without the whipped creme topping. See Tips below for calorie and fat counts for toppings.

1 cup unbleached sugar
7 Tbs strong liquid high-quality coffee, preferably espresso
9 Tbs unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cup (6 oz.) dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
24.6 oz extra-firm SILKEN tofu-- that's two 12.3 oz. boxes.
2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 pinches salt
3 Tbs rum, or a liqueur or flavored Italian syrup (used for special coffee drinks)-- coffee, chocolate or orange liqueur flavors
NOTE: You could use the grated zest of 1 large orange instead of the liquor or syrup, if you prefer.
One pre-baked and cooled 10" pastry crust (my standard lower-fat vegan recipes here and here) or your favorite crumb crust (I prefer the pastry crust).
For Chocolate-Banana Creme Pie, place sliced ripe banana over the crust, spread on half the chocolate filling, another layer of banana, and then the remaining filling.

Place the silken tofu, vanilla, salt and liquor or syrup (or orange zest) into a large food processor or high-speed blender. Set aside. Now, mix the sugar and coffee in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until dissolved. Lower the heat to medium or medium-low and stir in the cocoa until a paste forms. Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the chocolate mixture into the food processor or blender, on top of the other ingredients. Process until VERY smooth.

Spread the mixture evenly in a pre-baked and cooled 10" crust of your choice (you may have a bit leftover for tasting).  Chill thoroughly.

Before serving, top with your favorite non-dairy creamy whipped topping, such as So Delicious CocoWhip! or (in Canada) Gae Lea Real Coconut Whipped Cream. Both products are delicious and much lower in fat and calories than whipped canned coconut milk. (See Tips below recipe for calorie and fat counts and website links.)

Nutrition Facts (See Tips below for topping suggestions & links, and calorie/fat content of toppings.)
Nutrition (per serving without whipped topping): 296 calories, 91 calories from fat, 10.6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 248.8mg sodium, 282.4mg potassium, 42g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 21.4g sugar, 9.1g protein, 8.8 points.
(This was calculated using regular Mori-Nu Extra-Firm Silken Tofu.)

Whipped Toppings:
So Delicious CocoWhip! contains 60 calories and 4g fat per 1/4 cup.

Gae Lea Real Coconut Whipped Cream contains 30 calories and 2g fat per 1/4 cup.

According to this pretty standard recipe for whipped canned coconut milk, 1/4 cup contains 126 calories and  9.4g fat, 8.4 of those saturated.


Monday, May 1, 2017


Best Blog Tips

This recipe is from one of my older cookbooks, Soyfoods Cooking for a Positive Menopause.  I don't know why I haven't posted the recipe before-- it is one of our favorites, especially for potlucks.  I prefer it to your run-of the-mill Shepherd's Pie. It's not heavily seasoned, but a bit more exotic.  The filling mixture is actually a type of picadillo, a traditional Spanish hash of sorts, consisting of ground meat, spices, tomato, vegetables, and quite often raisins and sliced olives.  Latin American countries and even the Philippines, each have their own versions.

I hope you will enjoy this version as much as we do!

Printable Copy


Makes one full 9 x 13" casserole; serves 6 to 12, depending on appetites
This is one of our favorite winter dishes and my husband often suggests that I make it for potlucks or for bringing a dish to a dinner party.  From my soy foods cookbook.

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
6 cups commercial vegetarian "hamburger crumbles" (I use 3 pckgs. Yves "Ground Round")
NOTE: I think this works best with a commercial hamburger replacement, but you could substitute ground "beefy" seitan, OR an equal amount of reconstituted textured soy protein (TVP) granules, flavored as you like them, OR a combination of cooked brown lentils (not mushy!) and sautéed chopped mushrooms, with a splash of soy sauce.
1/ 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, well-drained
1 cup leftover vegetarian brown gravy (your own, or see this recipe. [If you prefer, use 1/3 cup unbleached white flour in place of the oat and bean flours.])
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. sliced pitted green olives (plain or stuffed with pimiento)
6 large yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled and chunked (about 1" square-ish)
approximately 1/4 c. soymilk or other creamy non-dairy milk (you may need a bit more)
salt to taste
paprika (can be smoked)
breadcrumbs and/or Parmesan substitute (we like Go Veggie!)

You can boil the potatoes if you wish, but these days I steam them to preserve nutrients.  You can either steam them in a basket over boiling water, or you can put the metal tray in your Instant Pot, add 1 1/2 cups water, add your chunked potatoes and pressure cook them for 4 minutes, using the quick release.

Drain the potatoes and mash or rice the potatoes well. Add the soymilk and stir with a spoon. Add salt to taste. Cover and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large heavy seasoned skillet or seasoned stir-fry pan/flat-bottomed wok over medium-high heat and stir-fry the onion, garlic and green pepper until the onion has softened.  Add the "hamburger crumbles" and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and place in a 9 x 13" casserole or baking pan.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling and sprinkle with soy Parmesan and/or breadcrumbs, if you wish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.  Cut into rectangles to serve, plating it with the filling on top.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/8th of casserole): 394 calories, 36 calories from fat, 4.3g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 806.2mg sodium, 1994.1mg potassium, 65.5g carbohydrates, 11.8g fiber, 9g sugar, 29.7g protein, 11.3 points.