Monday, October 1

Eat Your [Artichoke] Heart Out

Holy cow, the response from my post on veganism was overwhelming!  I got so many questions and comments - and I'll do my best to answer all of them :)

A few to start:

What is the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan?
Simply put, the only thing a vegetarian doesn't eat is meat.  But a vegan is a little more strict; a vegan stays away from all animal products - so no meat, but also no eggs, no milk, no cheese, no butter, no honey, no gelatin, etc.  Many vegans I know are somewhat flexible on that, and will occasionally eat something that contains dairy or egg purely out of convenience (I personally will never eat a dish with meat in it, but will occasionally eat dairy or egg if it's the only option; i.e. if someone has prepared food for me that's not entirely vegan).  Some vegans are more hardcore and will NOT eat any dairy-or-egg-laced food.  Which is fine, but very difficult.

Is bread vegan?
Depends on the bread; most of the time, yes.

Is chocolate vegan?
Usually not, since most chocolate contains traces of milk fat.  But am I that hardcore of a vegan?  When it's chocolate that hangs in the balance... I often cave :)

Are turkey dogs vegan?
... Seriously?  [crickets]

How does a vegan get protein?
Beans, soy products, protein powder, leafy greens, etc.  I'll post more on that later.

So... what does a vegan eat?
Oh, I'm glad you asked!  I've actually had several requests for vegan recipes.  And by golly, I'm just all too happy to provide examples of some of my favorite vegan dishes.

Yesterday, for example, I made a vegan spinach artichoke dip.  It was to die for.  I shared it with my sister and brother-in-law who came to visit (both carnivores).  And they were hooked! 

Spinach Artichoke Dip

5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
1 pkg (16 oz) frozen spinach, thawed (and drained as much as possible)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. soymilk
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
3 T. nutritional yeast
2 t. dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste

1.Peel and mince the garlic.
2. Enjoy the fabulous aroma that should be radiating your kitchen at this very moment.

3. Throw the garlic in a greased skillet (using oil, not butter) and toss around on med-high heat for a few minutes. Very important: keep an eye on the garlic to prevent burning (you want it browned, not burnt).

4. Pop open that can of artichoke hearts.

5. Throw the artichokes in the pan.  (optional: Shout, "Bam!" as you do it.)  Saute for just a few minutes.  Chop 'em up with your spoon/spatula as they saute.  Mash.  Mash it up.

7. Toss the entire bag of thawed, drained spinach into the pan.  Let that simmer for about 10 mins.

8. Pop open that can of beans and throw them all into a food processor.
(Side note: if you have a Ninja, be sure to insert the blade mechanism before pouring the beans in, like I forgot to do in the above photo... and like I forget to do 92% of the time)

10.  Add lemon juice, soy milk, and oil to the beans.
(Tip: did you know that rolling the lemon around before cutting it up will help get the juices flowing and make it easier to squeeze the juice out?)

11. Add your dry ingredients: nutritional yeast (which gives it a cheesy flavor, yet is totally vegan), dry mustard, salt, pepper.  Optional: toss in some additional spices (for example, I used fennel, oregano, and cracked black pepper... but then again I have access to more spices than one person rightfully should, as well as a vested interest in cooking with said spices).

12. Also optional (and not listed in the ingredients at the beginning of the recipe): dairy-free cheese.  I used a brand called Teese, which is a mozzarella substitute that turned out to be good-not-great... I'd say you can take it or leave it.  What I did is chop it up and throw it in the Ninja with the rest of the ingredients.

13. And blend it all up.

14. Hug your Ninja and say, "Oh Ninja, what was life like before you came along? I adore you so."

15. Pour the mixture into an ungreased baking pan and bake at 400 for 18-20 mins.
16. Sit back and try not to drool as your house smells more and more like garlic-infused heaven.

17.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately with crusty bread, pita chips, tortilla chips, or fresh veggies.  Or... you can just take a spoon and dig right in (I may or may not be speaking from experience).

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