Category Archives: Vegan: FAQ

30-Day Vegan Challenge: A Complete Tool for the Curious


Dear readers,

We know many of you are not vegan.  Maybe you are interested in trying out plant-based recipes every now and then, you may practice abstention from animal products during a religious fast, or you may be trying to eat healthier foods.  Do you think you could try a vegan diet for 30 days?

Our dear friend, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, has just released her new book, the 30-Day Vegan Challenge.  
After so many years of being vegan, using available materials to help support a plant-based diet, I can say I have never seen a more comprehensive book for people interested in making the transition.  The 30-Day Vegan Challenge covers every aspect of the vegan experience.  Any question you may have is addressed here.  (If you have ever thought you couldn’t be vegan because you’d miss cheese, there’s a chapter for you!)

Not only does Colleen cover these issues, she also provides essential information about nutrition (reviewed by dietitians), menus for the entire 30-Days, and recipes that are tried and true.  We know because we’ve been using these recipes for years now!!!

Colleen starts out by encouraging you to do a bit of preparation – get a buddy (this is important!), take some measurements (some of the changes you will experience can be measured!), and take a 3-Day food diary before you start (to see what you really normally eat).  Then, each of the 30-Days has a chapter full of specific, detailed, researched information about an issue surrounding veganism.  Some of these include: Eating healthfully and affordably (Day 2), Eating out and speaking up (Day 8), Discovering that there is life after cheese (Day 12), Putting to rest the great protein myth (Day 15), Celebrating the holidays (Day 25), Achieving and sustaining weight loss (Day 28)…..

Colleen ends with the menus, full of favorite recipes from her cookbooks and ideas for easy, simple meals.

This book is now available electronically – yes even in Egypt.  You can purchase it through Amazon and read it on a Kindle reader (either on your computer, your iPhone, iPad, etc.).  For more about this, read this post. (***Not all publishers allow their books to be downloaded in Egypt, but the 30-Day Vegan Challenge is available, so click away!)

If you are interested in checking out other works by Colleen we would suggest her podcast, Vegetarian Food for Thought (it’s free!!! and can be downloaded to your computer or any other mobile device).  Of course, you might also find her other books useful:

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Looking for vegetarian and vegan goodies in Egypt? Try Health Harvest.


We are always happy to find places to buy vegetarian and vegan goodies in Egypt. Don’t misunderstand:  You can find vegetarian and vegan goodies at ANY shop!!! If you make the focus of your diet whole foods it won’t be hard for you to find treasures in every grocery shop, small market and even vegetable vendor.  😉

However, there are certain ingredients that are just not readily available.  While we may not use them often and they may not be absolutely necessary for our survival, some of these ingredients make it possible for us to have compassionate versions of familiar treats,  add nutrition and flavor to our soups and dishes or just try new things.

We discovered a new shop in Egypt, Health Harvest, that carries some of these rare ingredients!  – Okay, it’s not new – it’s been here for about six years or so, but it’s new to us!!!!  With three locations across Egypt, Health Harvest carries a number of products you might be interested in.  Among the items we found are:

These seeds will be great on salads!!!

Sunflower Seeds

Miso adds wonderful flavor to soups and sauces.  It’s basically fermented soy beans.  We have not found miso anywhere else in Egypt.

Miso

Agar agar flakes are made from sea plants.  You can also buy them in powder form (we did not see them at Health Harvest, though).  They serve as a vegetarian gelatin and are wonderful for making puddings or CHEESE (recipe coming soon)!!

Agar agar flakes

We don’t really buy mixes usually.  We love to cook everything from scratch because it’s cheaper and we can be absolutely certain what ingredients are included in the mix.  However, we found a number of gluten-free mixes available and decided to try them out.  They have a variety including:

There were MANY kinds of beans available for sale – even black soy beans!!!  But we bought these little lima beans.  Aren’t they cute?  They’ll be really tasty in a minestrone (recipe here!).

There are even some safer, compassionate beauty products on sale including this deodorant that is free from aluminum!!!

If you are interested in visiting Health Harvest here’s their contact information:

  • 00237483851- Mohadessen
  • 0126007879- Nasr City
  • 002035231001 ext: 1085- Alexandria
  • General Manager-0020145253777
  • healthharvest[at]hotmail.com
  • Find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Health-Harvest/173199636066856?sk=info
  • Their website: http://kushicenter.com/index.php
Do you know of other shops specializing in specific vegetarian or vegan products?  Tell us about them!!!
Alf Hana!!!

Why vegan? For the environment


We’ve been sharing lots of vegan recipes, resources and information over these last few months. Recently, we’ve been asked more and more about why we are vegan. As we wrote in Why Vegan?: For your health, there are many reasons to become vegan. In fact, it is probably not just one reason that causes someone to move toward veganism. For more about the health impacts of veganism, read our first article in this series.

Our topic for today is veganism and its impact on the environment.

When you stop eating meat, you save tons of water, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce soil erosion. The business of raising animals and making them ready for consumption uses a tremendous amount of energy and creates even more waste. Here are a couple of statistics about your diet and the environment.

Water
National Geographic interactive tool: helps identify and compare how your diet impacts water consumption. You can scan through different products and find out how much water is needed to produce each.

Just one for you to consider:
1 pound of beef (or about ½ a kilogram) requires 1,799 gallons (6,810 liters) of water while 1 pound of soybeans (or about ½ a kilogram) requires 216 gallons (818 liters) of water

Melanie Joy, PhD, has also written about the negative effects of a diet based on animals on the Earth’s water.  She writes “Animal agriculture is likely the world’s largest source of water pollution.  The main sources of the pollution are from antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, animal wastes, sediments from eroded pastures, and fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops.”

Carbon emissions
The business of raising animals for food has been found to produce more carbon emissions that all the world’s forms of transportation added together (according to a 2006 report by the United Nations).  Also, another report from the University of Chicago has startling information to share.  Because it takes 7 kilograms of feed to raise 1 kilogram of beef, and the methane released by the animals through their bodily gases, the meat-eater, on average, is responsible for the release of 1.5 more tonnes of carbon a year than a vegan.  Put another way, many sources place the methane produced by cattle and their physical waste can have a polluting effect equal to that of 33 million cars!!!

Erosion

Erosion: courtesy of Soil Science

Erosion is the process by which the fertile soil, and the nutrients therein, are worn away.  Erosion is especially damaging to the Earth.  According to several studies, the process of growing animals for food is responsible for 55 percent of all the erosion now occurring in the United States.  If we would stop growing animals for food, we could greatly reduce the amount of erosion of fertile topsoil.

Choosing more plant-based options in your diet will help you make less of an impact on the Earth.

But the reasons to include more plant-based foods in your diet don’t end here.  Keep an eye out for more posts about reasons to try a more plant-based diet.

Source:
Joy, M. (2010). Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows. San Francisco: Conari Press.

5 Resources for New Vegetarians / Vegans


This weekend, we learned that an acquaintance has decided to become vegan. It got us to thinking about when we first became vegan more than 10 years ago. At that time, we didn’t have access to all the amazing resources that are currently available. From nutrition advice, to easy FREE recipes, you can find almost anything you need now to maintain a healthy, plant-based diet. Many of these resources (and our favorite cookbooks) are listed here on Alf Hana’s resource page, but we thought it useful to focus on some resources especially made for new vegans.

1.  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a vegetarian starter kit that you can download as a pdf.  Also, on this page, you’ll be able to find links to articles dealing with the most commonly asked questions about plant-based diets.

2.  Compassion Over Killing also has a starter kit that can be downloaded, but this page also links to information about the most common reasons for considering a vegan diet, as well as recipes and issues about transitioning to a vegetarian diet.

3.  Vegan Outreach is another place to find a guide covering frequently asked questions, recipes, and other resources.

4.  PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) also has an interactive starter kit that is informative and bold.

5.  Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, of Compassionate Cooks, has a podcast called Vegetarian Food for Thought that is inspirational.  Addressing vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike, Colleen has a straight-forward style of dealing with issues that is at once informative, analytical, emotional, comprehensive, and motivational.  Colleen, her cookbooks, and this podcast have provided tremendous personal support for us in our journey as vegans.

BONUS resources:

United States Department of Agriculture actually has a fact sheet about the healthy nature of a plant-based diet.  You can download it here.

The American Dietetic Association has also produced a document called Position on Vegetarian Diets that you may be interested in.  You can find it on the Vegetarian Resource Group site.

We know many of you also have resources that you can share.  What has helped you in your journey toward a more plant-based, compassionate diet?

Resolve to be healthy and compassionate!


Happy New Year, everybody!  Have you made a resolution?  Are you planning to get healthy, stay fit, eat right?  Maybe you’re thinking of trying to move toward a plant-based diet, but don’t know where to start?

Well, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has exactly what you need!  They run a program several times a year called “21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program“.  It’s full of recipes, tips, messages, encouragement and community for anyone who wants to try the benefits of a plant-based diet for 21 days.  Here’s what they say on their website:

“Based on research by Neal Barnard, M.D., one of America’s leading health advocates, this program is designed for anyone who wants to explore and experience the health benefits of a vegan diet. Low-fat vegan—plant-based—diets are the easiest way to trim excess weight, prevent diabetes, cut cholesterol, lower blood pressure, prevent and reverse heart disease, and reduce cancer risk. They even trim our carbon footprint.”

When you sign up, you will receive daily emails, recipes, and have access to all their very valuable information.  I participated last time and it was really great.  You can connect to them on Facebook and watch their webcasts!  You will find that it is a great resource!

Make this year’s resolution one that will keep you healthy AND compassionate towards our animal friends.  Sign up today – it starts tomorrow!!!

Alf Hana!!!

How to replace eggs in your cooking…


Many of our Egyptian friends who taste our delicious treats can’t believe that they are free of animal products.  This is especially true when it comes to baked cookies like cookies and cakes.  We always get the question:  How did you do that without EGGS?

As many of our readers already know, there are many ways to replace eggs in your cooking, whether you’re making something sweet or not.  And yes, dear Egyptian readers, you can do it with products available here in Egypt.  So, here goes.

Why are eggs used in recipes?

Before you begin to replace the eggs in your recipe, it’s important to know what role the eggs were playing in the original recipe.  Usually, eggs are used for two main reasons: to add leavening (or lightness) and to bind (or hold) the food together.   We will discuss ways to replace eggs that play both roles in the following.

Sometimes you can leave the egg out of a recipe entirely without replacing it.  In such cases, you may need to add some liquid (non-dairy milk, fruit juice, water, etc.) so the moisture in the recipe remains the same.

Using plant-based ingredients to replace eggs when they add leavening to a recipe

There are many ways to get lift in a recipe without the use of eggs.

  1. vinegar + baking soda
    1. 1 egg= 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vinegar
    2. you can use white distilled vinegar or other vinegars (apple cider vinegar is nice!)
    3. this substitution is especially nice for cakes, cupcakes or quick breads
  2. ripe mashed banana
    1. 1 egg = 1/2 ripe mashed banana
    2. this substitution is especially nice when you don’t mind the banana flavor like in muffins, cookies, pancakes, or quick breads
  3. tofu
    1. 1 egg= 1/4 cup of tofu, blended with the liquid ingredients in the recipe
    2. this substitution works when you want a rich texture like in moist cakes or brownies
  4. applesauce, canned or mashed pumpkin or squash
    1. 1 egg = 1/4 cup of any of these
    2. these may add flavors to your final product, so watch out!
    3. you may want to add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe because these fruit purees may make the finished product heavier than the original
    4. this substitution works well with moist baked goods like cakes, quick breads and brownies
  5. cornstarch + water
    1. 1 egg = 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
    2. this substitution works as a binder and a thickener
    3. we use this substitution frequently like for spinach and cheeze phyllo pasteries, chocolate chip brownie surprise, chocolate chip cookies, and apple cake
  6. flax seeds + water
    1. 1 egg = 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water
    2. this is especially nutritious because the flax seeds provide essential Omega 3 fatty acids while they bind and provide lift in your recipe!

Using plant-based ingredients to replace eggs when they hold food together in a recipe:

  1. When you replace for eggs that bind with dry ingredients, you may need to mix it with water, vegetable broth or another liquid (use 1 1/2 teaspoons of dry to 2 tablespoons of liquid).
  2. tofu
    1. 1 egg= 1/4  cup of tofu, blended with 1 tablespoon of flour
  3. Use any of the following at the ratio of 1 egg = 2-3 tablespoons of the following:
    1. tomato paste
    2. potato starch
    3. cornstarch
    4. breadcrumbs
    5. quick-cooking oats or cooked oatmeal
    6. mashed potatoes

Every recipe is different and every substitution acts differently.

You will have to experiment to see which substitution is the most appropriate for the recipe you are changing.  The important thing is to know that there are options for replacing eggs.  You can bake and cook your favorites while maintaining a plant-based diet!

There are other ways to replace eggs in your cooking.  We have chosen these to feature because they are relatively easy to find in Egypt.  Have you tried any these substitutes or others in your cooking?

 

Got B12?


A few days ago, Bikya Masr, a blog we frequently read, posted an article in their new ‘food’ section called Top Ten Vegan Health Tips (originally from another blog called ChooseVeg.com).  This article covered some very important points that we have been planning to discuss here at Alf Hana.  In fact, we have already discussed Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids here and protein; two that were discussed in the article.

In this post, we would like to address one of the most talked about nutrients in the vegan community: B12.

What is B12?

B12 is a vitamin that helps create healthy blood cells.  In fact, it protects a fatty material that coats your nerves and makes it possible to send messages (or electrical signals) between nerve cells.

Where does B12 come from?

B12 comes from bacteria.  It is not available from plant sources.  Foods that come from animals are rich in B12 because bacteria living in the animals’ intestine make B12.  Thus, if plant foods are well cleaned, it is very unlikely to find B12 in a vegan diet.  (This is different for the other kinds of vegetarians, as they may still consume some animal products like milk or cheese, in which case they get plenty of Vitamin B12.)

How much B12 do we need?

We need very little B12 in our diet.  The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 2 micrograms a day.  (That’s a tiny tiny tiny amount.)  In fact, our bodies are so good at storing and recycling B12 that some sources claim that it is possible to have enough B12 stored in our liver to last up to 3 years.

If we don’t get the right amounts of B12, all kinds of symptoms may result, even though it may take quite a while for these symptoms to appear.  Because B12 is so essential to the nervous system, the impacts of B12 deficiency is very serious and can result in permanent damage.  Symptoms include:

  • anemia
  • decreased sensation
  • difficulty walking
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
  • memory loss
  • dementia
  • depression
  • general weakness
  • psychosis

What are vegan sources of B12?

Most vegans get their B12 from supplements or fortified foods.  Fortified foods include cereals, nondairy milks or other speciality foods like nutritional yeast or meat analogues.  Unfortunately, in Egypt, it is rare to find nutritional yeast or meat analogues (once in a blue moon…).  As for nondairy milks:  West Soy, which is commonly available, is not fortified with B12, while Silk, on the other hand, is.

You can find a number of vegan cereals in Egypt that are fortified with B12.  Read the label to be sure.  Our favorite is Fitness (Nestle).

To be absolutely sure, however, that you get enough B12, most health professionals suggest that you take a Vitamin B12 supplement.  Although we only need 2 micrograms of Vitamin B12 daily, you can find B12 (or cyanocobalamin) in 1000 microgram capsules or sublingual tablets.  We buy our B12 from Seif pharmacy, but it should be available anywhere.  We usually buy sublingual because it’s easy to take.  As far as we know both are completely vegan and contain no gelatin.

Sublingual B12

Vitamin B12 Capsules

Vitamin B12 capsules

As a caveat, we want to remind you that information we provide here is from research and years of being vegan.  We are not health professionals.  If you need more information about your diet, ask a doctor or licensed nutritionist.

For more information:

Vitamin B12: Jack Norris, VeganHealth.org

Don’t Vegetarians Have Trouble Getting Enough Vitamin B12? : Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine