Vegan revolution: Familiar recipes easily tweaked to meet dietary guidelines

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    Vegan Amaretto Cheesecake.

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  • Veganism — eating no meat, fish, poultry, or other animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey — is one of the biggest dietary trends, these days.

    Millennials, those concerned with the welfare of animals and the environment, people with food allergies, and Baby Boomers trying to reverse health problems such as high cholesterol and hypertension are all contributing to the rise in plant-based eating.

    In a December story, Forbes recommended that veganism should be incorporated into business models because of its huge market growth. The article referenced research from Nielsen for the Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute showing that plant-based food sales increased by 8.1 percent in the United States in 2017 to reach totals of more than $3 billion.

    Surveys from GlobalData indicate that from 2014 to 2017, the number of people identifying as vegan rose 61 percent worldwide. In the United States, according to a March story in Forbes, there has been a 600 percent increase during this time.

    Veganism is on the rise in Toledo too.

    “More restaurants in the Toledo-area are becoming vegan friendly, adding vegan options to their menus, giving customers wider choices,” said Mike Zickar who runs the site Vegan Toledo ( with his wife, Rachel.

    As for shopping, the Phoenix Earth Food Co-op and health food stores have long been the primary sources of vegan items. But traditional grocery stores are jumping on the bandwagon.

    A proliferation of ingredients and techniques has made it easier to eat a vegan diet. Eggs can be replaced with tofu, with a mix of ground flax seed and water, or with aquafaba: the leftover liquid from canned or cooked beans, which can be used in baking or even be whipped to make meringue. Soy yogurts, cashew-based ice creams, nondairy milks, the Impossible Burger made with wheat and potato proteins, and the Beyond Burger with pea protein have all expanded a plant-based eater’s menu, as has Hellman’s vegan mayonnaise.

    Note that sugar can be an issue if it’s processed with bone char from cattle, which is used as a filter to make the sugar white. Beet, date, or coconut sugars and raw sugar can be used without concern.

    We’re offering recipes that traditionally use eggs, cheese, milk, meat, and other ingredients not permitted in vegan food to show how easy it can be to modify familiar favorites.

    Our version of Jam-Stuffed French Toast coats the bread with aquafaba, while White Shells and Cheese is made with a creamy cauliflower-cashew sauce rather than with dairy cheese that includes rennet (a meat product to induce the separation of curds and whey). Sweet Potato and Walnut Koftas replace the traditional lamb sausages in these hearty pita sandwiches. And Cookie-Crust Amaretto Cheesecake will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth using tofu-based cream cheese and sour cream.

    Meatless Monday has clearly gone beyond a meme.

    Being vegan is becoming mainstream.

    Vegan Stuffed French Toast prepared by Blade food editor Mary Bilyeu at her home in Toledo.
    Vegan Stuffed French Toast prepared by Blade food editor Mary Bilyeu at her home in Toledo.

    Jam-Stuffed French Toast

    4 1-inch thick slices crusty Italian bread

    Jam, whichever variety you like

    1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans

    ½ cup non-dairy milk beverage

    2 tablespoons sugar

    1 teaspoon vanilla

    ½ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

    ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg

    Butter substitute

    1 cup fresh berries

    Using a serrated paring knife, cut a pocket into one side of each of the bread slices. Spread jam into the pocket of each bread slice.

    Drain the beans, reserving liquid. (Cover and chill beans up to 3 days for another use.)

    In a shallow dish whisk ½ cup of the liquid until foamy. Whisk in the next five ingredients (through nutmeg). Dip each bread slice into the milk mixture for 5 seconds per side. Sprinkle each side lightly with a bit more cinnamon.

    Brush a nonstick griddle or a 12-inch skillet with the butter substitute and heat over medium heat. Place bread on griddle or in skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes each side until nicely browned.

    Top with berries and serve with maple syrup.

    Note: So Delicious cashew milk and Earth Balance butter substitute were used for recipe testing.

    Yield: 4 servings

    Source: Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen

    White Shells and Cheese.
    White Shells and Cheese.

    White Shells and Cheese

    ½ cup raw cashews

    About 3 cups small cauliflower florets

    8 garlic cloves

    ¼ cup olive oil

    2½ teaspoons sea salt

    1 pound medium pasta shells, regular or gluten-free

    2½ cups water

    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    Freshly ground black pepper

    Vegan parmesan, for serving

    Preheat the oven to 425F.

    Soak the cashews in boiling water to cover for 10 minutes, then drain.

    On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower and garlic with the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Arrange in a single layer and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very soft, tossing frequently.

    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Drain and return the pasta to the pot, off the heat.

    Transfer the roasted cauliflower to a blender and add the water, cashews, lemon juice, and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Blend on high speed for about 2 minutes, until very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

    Add the sauce to the pot with the pasta and toss to coat. Season with pepper and top with vegan parmesan. Serve immediately.

    Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    Source: Adapted from Chloe Coscarelli, Chloe Flavor 

    Sweet Potato and Walnut Koftas.
    Sweet Potato and Walnut Koftas.

    Sweet Potato and Walnut Koftas

    1 medium-small sweet potato, quartered

    Olive oil

    Salt and pepper

    1 tablespoon milled flax seed

    3 tablespoons water

    1 cup lightly toasted walnuts

    Generous 1 cup panko bread crumbs

    1 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 teaspoon cumin

    ½ teaspoon coriander

    ½ teaspoon cinnamon

    ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

    Large handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped

    1 scallion, very finely chopped

    For serving: pita breads, lettuce, hummus, and/or tahini

    Preheat the oven to 425F.

    Lightly brush the sweet potato quarters with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, arrange skin-side down on a baking sheet, and bake for 40 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven, scoop out the flesh into a bowl, and season lightly. Let cool.

    Combine the flax seed with the water. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes.

    Place the walnuts in a processor and pulse to a fine crumb. Add the bread crumbs, oregano, spices, and flaxseed mixture and pulse again to combine. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the cilantro, scallion, and sweet potato, and season generously. Fold to combine, working the sweet potato into the mixture until completely incorporated.

    Pour a thin coat of oil into a medium skillet and warm it over medium heat.

    Take ⅛ cup of the mixture and gently form it into a cigar-like cylinder using your fingers. Repeat with the remaining mixture, then add the kofta to the pan in batches and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden, turning carefully as you go. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain briefly.

    Serve in pita breads with lettuce, hummus, and/or tahini.

    Yield: 4 to 6 servings

    Source: Adapted from Aine Carlin, Cook Share Eat Vegan 

    Vegan Amaretto Cheesecake.
    Vegan Amaretto Cheesecake.

    Cookie-Crust Amaretto Cheesecake


    1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs

    ¼ cup ground almonds

    ¼ cup sugar

    ⅓ cup butter substitute, melted


    2 8-ounce containers non-dairy cream cheese, at room temperature

    ½ cup sugar

    ½ cup silken tofu

    2 tablespoons Amaretto


    1 12-ounce container non-dairy sour cream

    ¼ cup sugar

    1 teaspoon vanilla

    To serve:

    Chocolate sauce

    Prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

    Mix ingredients with a fork until well blended, then pour into the pan. Press crumbs against the sides of the pan, then be sure to cover the entire bottom with crumbs, pressing the crumbs to help them adhere. Refrigerate crust while preparing filling.

    Prepare the filling: Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat well with an electric mixer. Pour into the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes; the filling will still be a bit wobbly. Remove from the oven and let stand on a rack for 20 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 425F.

    Prepare the topping: Place all ingredients into a small mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Carefully dollop the topping over the filling, smooth it into a layer, then bake for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door ajar slightly; leave the cheesecake in the oven to set for 30 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight.

    To serve: Remove the springform ring. Cut into slices, plate, and drizzle each portion with chocolate sauce.

    Note: For recipe testing, Kedem chocolate tea biscuits, Earth Balance butter substitute, Go Veggie non-dairy cream cheese, Tofutti non-dairy sour cream, and Hershey’s chocolate syrup were used.

    Yield: 12 slices

    Source: Mary Bilyeu

    Contact Mary Bilyeu at 419-724-6155 or, and follow her at