Like I’ve mentioned, I have once again embarked on a switch to veganism for 40 days as part of our church’s Prayer and Fasting program. When you’ve been doing this for a couple of times in the past few years, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Still, a lot of people don’t really quite get the concept yet. So, here, RG Enriquez of the blog Astig Vegan takes time to answer a few questions and concerns that meat-lovers might have before deciding to embark on a lifestyle change.

Okay, this is obvious – exactly what is veganism?
Veganism is a lifestyle that omits all kinds of animal products. Some do it for health reasons, some ethical, and some environmental. I do it for all of the above. There are so many benefits with going vegan that could improve the condition of your health, the environment, and animal life.

Since being vegan means cutting a lot from a regular diet, is it healthy?
Going vegan is relatively much healthier than the usual diet because you’re cutting out cholesterol and animal fat. It’s also safe to say that incorporating more vegetables in your diet is healthy for you. At the same time, you could eat fries all day and call yourself vegan. It’s still important to be mindful of what you put in your body, vegan or not.

So what should someone do to make sure that they’re staying nutritionally balanced while on a vegan diet?
I am not a dietitian nor a nutritionist but I did learn from research that variety is key to a nutritionally balanced meal. Vegan meals could have plenty of variety! Aside from leafy greens, vegan food includes legumes, beans, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruits – and each one has countless types and varieties on their own! For example, beans has more than 1,000 varieties. I’ve been vegan for more almost 10 years and there are so many ingredients I still haven’t explored but I’m excited to find out.

It sounds like vegans have to involve a lot of substituting certain foods. So how do you keep it practical?
Meat is usually expensive so I think going vegan could save you money. The only time that going vegan could get expensive is if you rack up on vegan processed products – mock meats, vegan cheese, vegan TV dinners, eating out, and so on. You could save a whole lot of money if you cook at home using whole foods like produce and buying at the bulk section of your grocery store. Besides, cooking with whole-based food is much healthier for you anyway!

And how did Astig Vegan start?
When I was starting to veganize Filipino dishes, I got so excited about my discoveries that I wanted to share them to as many people as possible. I started the blog, Astig Vegan, to share my recipes to the world in hopes that people will use them or at least get inspired to create their own vegan versions of their favorite dishes. In the beginning, I was simply sharing recipes as guests posts on my friend’s blog. Over time, I developed my own site and learned the ropes of blogging and recipe writing. I’ve come a long way but I also still have so much to learn!

Great! So what is an example of an Astig Vegan dish?
Right below is my recipe for Vegan Longganisa Sausages.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for at least 20 minutes, minced
  • 5-8 pieces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water for at least 20 minutes, minced (optional)
  • ½ block firm tofu, crumbled
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoon chili oil (or sesame oil for non-spicy version)
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts (crushed) (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • drizzle of maple syrup
  • pinch of black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs (or more if needed)
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Using a bowl, mix all of the ingredients except for the last two ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Add breadcrumbs. Thoroughly combine everything using your hands so the breadcrumbs could soak up the moisture from the mixture.
  3. Set aside and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
  4. Taste mixture and adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Still using your hands, form mixture into sausage links (or whatever shape you desire). Add more breadcrumbs if needed to firm up.
  6. Heat a medium pan over medium heat.
  7. Once hot enough, pour refined coconut oil and let it heat for a minute or two.
  8. Fry the vegan sausages until all sides have nicely browned.
  9. Turn off heat and transfer sausages to a serving plate.
  10. Serve hot with your favorite starch on the side.

NOTES

Feel free to taste the mixture before frying so you could adjust the seasoning to taste.

If you don’t want to fry all the sausage links, wrap the rest in foil or parchment paper and store in the fridge.

Save the broth from the shiitake you’ve reconstituted. You could use the broth to make flavorful soups.

I found all my ingredients at a nearby specialty store called Rainbow Grocery (which has an amazing bulk section) and at my nearby Asian grocery store. If you don’t have a nearby store that carries the ingredients, you could also buy them online.

Pictures courtesy of Astig Vegan.

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