Cooking Vegan 101

January 3, 2012 9:46:05 AM PST
Many people are resolving to eat better in the new year. Some are turning to a vegan diet. Incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet could help you get healthier and lose weight. Vegan 101: Master Vegan Cooking with 101 Great Recipes is a good resource to find creative recipes for any beginning vegan or for someone who's been following that lifestyle for some time. Anupy Singla, a contributor to the book, suggests any beginning vegan should:

  • Swap out meat with tofu, seitan, tempeh, or beans
  • Swap out butter with soy, olive oil, or coconut margarines
  • Swap out cream with cashew cream or by blending your dish with an immersion blender
  • Swap out yogurt with unsweetened, plain soy yogurt
  • Instead of meat-based broth use vegetable broth or plain water
  • Use beans to your advantage - a great plant-based way to get your protein

Vegan 101: Master Vegan Cooking with 101 Great Recipes and Anupy's Vegan class at Whole Foods on Thursday, January 12 from 7 - 9 p.m. Address: 1550 N. Kingsbury St., Chicago.

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Mustard Greens with Spinach
10 Servings (1 cup each)


1 pound (454 gm) mustard greens, trimmed and washed thoroughly
1 pound (454 gm) spinach, trimmed and washed thoroughly
1 large yellow or red onion, roughly chopped
1 (2-inch [5 cm]) piece gingerroot, chopped
15 cloves garlic
6-8 green Thai or Serrano chiles, or cayenne peppers, stems removed
1 tablespoon (15 mL) ground coriander
2 tablespoons (30 mL) cornmeal
1 ½ tablespoons (22.5 mL) salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) turmeric powder
2 cups (473 mL) water
1 teaspoon (5 mL) garam masala

1. Combine mustard greens, spinach, onion, gingerroot, garlic, green chiles, coriander, cornmeal, salt, turmeric, and water in slow cooker; cover and cook on high 6 hours.
2. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth, or transfer to blender and process, returning mixture to slow cooker. Add garam masala. Cook in a slow cooker on low 1 hour. Serve with Indian breads, such as corn rotis, regular rotis, or naan.
To make this dish in a 3 ½-quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. A half recipe makes 5 cups (1.18 L).

Tofu Curry
Yield: 2 cups

This dish was one of my biggest surprises. The soy yogurt mixed perfectly with the spices and provided the much-needed moisture and texture that normal 'dairy' yogurt does for traditional Indian curries. The tofu was an especially delicious addition, especially if baked first. You can also use unbaked tofu, but this will naturally have a softer texture, which I liked but did not make the cut with my more discerning husband. Make it both ways and decide for yourself.


1 small yellow or red onion, peeled and chopped into 4 pieces
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed
1 medium tomato, quartered
2 - 3 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chile peppers, stems removed (chopped in half)
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
1 heaping teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi), lightly crushed in your hand to release flavor
1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods (lightly crushed)
2 whole cloves
1/2 cup water
14 oz. extra firm, organic tofu, baked and cubed
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

1. In a food processor, grind the onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, and chiles until you have a smooth, slightly watery paste. Transfer to a bowl.
2. Add yogurt, salt, garam masala, fenugreek leaves, and red chile. Mix well.
3. In a deep, heavy pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
4. Add asafoetida, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Heat for 30 seconds until the seeds sizzle.
5. Add soy yogurt mixture and water. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down and simmer for 3 - 5 minutes until the mixture slightly thickens. This step is key. The spices need to cook and blend evenly into the other ingredients.
6. Add tofu. Simmer for another 4 - 5 minutes. Remove whole spices, garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve immediately over a bed of brown or white basmati rice.

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