Vegan: Somebody who does not eat any animal products; does not eat meat, fish, dairy products, eggs or honey.

I began educating myself in the vegan diet this past March when I received an email from Kathy in Methuen, a reader with two grown children who observes the vegan diet. Kathy stated it was always a challenge to come up with main dishes with good protein content, and desserts without eggs, and asked if I would consider exploring some vegan items in a “vegan column.”Since that time I have researched the vegan diet to at least know the important basics and find some good recipes that I could offer Kathy and others who observe the vegan “way of life.”

It was totally coincidental when my oldest son Mark told me he had been observing the vegan diet for the past four months, and at a young age of 37, states he feels “totally energized.” When I asked him for any tips he might have on the subject, he said “diversity, diversity, diversity!” To prevent boredom, prepare and eat many different vegetables, fruits, and pasta dishes. Mark also said he likes to make his own almond milk and provided me with the recipe below.

Regarding the Blackened Tofu recipe, this has gained popularity, and is a dish that many of us can enjoy. If you have never had tofu, this would be the dish to make, to try it for the first time. It is well seasoned and delicious.

The recipe came from “Honga’s Pan-Asian Cuisine” by Honga Im Hopgood.

“Blackened Tofu is an original that was discovered by mistake when some tofu fell into a bowl of cornstarch. It has gained popularity and is a signature dish in my restaurant in which I take great pride,” Hopgood writes. “To double this recipe, cook each batch of tofu separately or it won’t turn crisp.”

Blackened Tofu

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2

cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon black pepper

14 ounces tofu, well drained, patted dry, cut into

3/4

-inch cubes

1/4

cup canola oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1/4

cup soy sauce or tamari

3 tablespoons honey (see below for substitute)

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 cup broccoli florets

1/2

cup diced bell peppers

1/2

cup sliced zucchini

1/2

cup snow peas

1/8

cup sliced celery

2 cups packed raw spinach

Mix cornstarch and black pepper together in a medium-size bowl. Dredge tofu in the cornstarch mixture.

Preheat a wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Drizzle the oil down the sides of the wok and allow a minute or two for it to get hot. Shake the excess cornstarch from the tofu and place the tofu into the hot oil. Sauté until the exterior of the tofu is hardened and crispy, and you hear the tofu “clink” against the sides of the wok when stirring (approximately 2 minutes).

Add the garlic, ginger, and half of the soy sauce to tofu and stir. It will begin to steam.

Add remaining soy sauce, honey (or substitute), and vegetables,except spinach. Allow the vegetables to caramelize before stirring. When steam rises, stir the vegetables for approximately 2 more minutes.

Serve over a bed of raw spinach with rice.

Honey Substitute

1. Place 11/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4

cup water into a bowl; stir until well combined, and sugar is dissolved.

2.

Replace honey with equal amount of honey substitute.

Making almond milk

Almond milk is very popular with people who prefer not to drink dairy milk. Here is a recipe to make your own should you wish to do so.

This recipe is for anyone who wants milk that is free of antibiotics, adrenaline, and other harmful chemicals.

Almond Milk

Yields just over 1/2

gallon.

1.

Soak 16 ounces natural almonds in water overnight. Being a live food, this transforms the almond from a carbohydrate to a protein and allows for easier digestion.

2.

Put almonds in the blender and fill just over halfway with water. Some people like to add a handful of raw figs to sweeten the milk but others find the milk naturally sweet enough.

3.

Blend thoroughly. If too thick, add more water. Look for a light, drinkable texture.

4.

Some prefer to strain through a “milk bag” to separate the pulp for other recipes, or a finer consistency, but this writer prefers the pulp version.

Tips for eating vegan

Protein is easy; choose five or more servings per day of protein-rich foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy foods. A serving is 1/2

cup of cooked beans, 2 tablespoons nut butter or chopped nuts, 1 cup soymilk, or 1 ounce of a meat analog.

Have a serving of a vitamin C-rich food at every meal. Choose melons, citrus fruits, pineapple, strawberries, kiwifruit, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes. These foods give iron absorption a boost.

Eat lots of brightly colored vegetables — leafy greens, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots and dark squashes.

Fortified soymilk and fruit juices are great sources of well-absorbed calcium. You can also get this nutrient from firm tofu made with calcium sulfate, leafy greens such as collards, kale and bok choy, and from cooked dried beans.

Check out rice pasta as an alternative to whole wheat pasta .

World Vegan Day

Did you know there’s a special day for vegans to celebrate an ongoing commitment to health, animals, and the Earth? Save the date: Nov. 1, 2012

For more info, go to www.newveganage.blogspot.com/2012.html

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Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.

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