5@5 - Easy vegan staples to get you started
March 19th, 2014
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Editor's note: Angela Liddon is the writer, photographer, and recipe developer for Oh She Glows, the web’s destination for healthy vegan recipes. Her first cookbook, The "Oh She Glows Cookbook" was released this month. She also has an M.S. in Social-Personality Psychology and enjoys helping others find happiness and health through a plant-based diet.

When I first shifted to a vegan diet, I bought all of those packaged and highly processed mock meat and dairy products that I thought I was supposed to buy. "Isn’t this what vegans do?" I thought as I stuffed my mock turkey slices into the cart.

The problem? My energy wasn’t as supercharged as I hoped it would be on a vegan diet. Surprise, surprise, once I rid my diet of all of these imitation products filled with a million unpronounceable ingredients the only other option was to embrace a whole foods diet and get busy in my kitchen. Yes, I had to suck it up and teach myself how to cook real food. Or bust.

In 2008, I started my blog, Oh She Glows, sharing my recipe successes complete with step-by-step photos so others can have success in their own kitchens. Not only did my energy levels skyrocket and my skin start to glow, but I realized many of these products can be made quickly without much fuss - some in a matter of minutes!

If you’ve ever wished for a real food sour cream made without dairy or a delectable one-ingredient soft serve, I’m here to tell you there is hope. These recipes below are the ones I make time and time again and I promise they taste much better than store-bought versions.

If you are looking for a healthy alternative to dairy products like sour cream or a homemade jam that’s low in sugar and bursting with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes below. Be warned: Once you get hooked it’s hard to go back.

5 easy vegan staple recipes to get you started: Angela Liddon

1. Homemade Vanilla Cinnamon Almond Milk
For a long time, I thought making almond milk at home would be a drawn-out, complicated process. Then I discovered just how easy and delicious it really is. Once you soak raw almonds overnight, all you need to do is blend them with water and strain them through a nut milk bag. It’s so easy, and the flavor beats store-bought almond milk by a landslide!

A nut milk bag is my preferred method of straining out the pulp, but you may also have success using a fine-mesh strainer and cheesecloth. The result is a creamy, healthful non-dairy milk that can be enjoyed alone, in smoothies or cereal, and in baking.

2. Homemade Sour Cream
Rich and tangy, my vegan sour cream makes the perfect complement to any bowl of chili or Mexican entrée and it’s all-natural too. To make it, all you do is soak raw cashews in a bowl of water overnight and then blend them up with fresh water, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt. It takes just seconds to make and you won’t believe how much it tastes like actual sour cream.

3. Coconut Whipped Cream
Did you know you can make a decadent, fluffy whipped cream by using a can of full-fat coconut milk? Just chill a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight in the fridge. The next day open the can and scoop out the white cream portion. Now whip the cream and add a touch of sweetener to taste. Not only is it simple to make, but it’s easily the best-tasting whipped cream I’ve tasted.

You can use this whipped cream just like regular dairy whipped cream. I like to use it as a garnish for desserts, and it’s also amazing with a bowl of fruit, on top of a fruit crisp, or stirred into Banana Soft Serve. The options are really endless!

4. Magical Chia Seed Jam
If you’ve got twenty minutes, you can make a healthy jam that will rival any store-bought jam. All you do is cook down fresh fruit (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.) with chia seeds and a touch of sweetener until it thickens up. You won’t believe how thick this gets - hence, the name Magical Chia Seed Jam!

Many of my blog readers say it’s even better than traditional jam. Thanks to the chia seeds, we’re also pumping up the jam with all kinds of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, iron, fiber, protein, magnesium, and calcium. Who knew jam could be so healthy? Try it on oatmeal, parfaits, toast with almond butter, or even as the filling for thumbprint cookies.

Recipe: Magical Chia Seed Jam
Makes 1 cup (250 mL)
Prep time: 20 minutes, Chill time: 2 hours

3 cups (750 mL) fresh or frozen raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries
3 to 4 Tablespoons (45 to 60 mL) pure maple syrup or other sweetener, to taste
2 Tablespoons (30 mL) chia seeds
1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the berries and 3 Tablespoons (45 mL) of the maple syrup and bring to a simmer over medium to high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Lightly mash the berries with a potato masher or fork, leaving some whole for texture.

2. Stir in the chia seeds until thoroughly combined and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens to your desired consistency, or about 15 minutes.

3. Once the jam is thick, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Add more sweetener to taste, if desired. Enjoy on toast, English muffins, oatmeal, oat bars, tarts, cookies, Banana Soft Serve, and more. The jam should keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks and it will thicken up even more as it cools.

Tip: If making strawberry chia seed jam, process the hulled strawberries in a food processor until almost smooth. The strawberries don’t break down as quickly as other berries do, so this helps them along. After processing, simply transfer the strawberry mixture to a saucepan and proceed with cooking as usual.

5. Banana Soft Serve
I first heard about Banana Soft Serve from my talented friend Gena Hamshaw, who writes the blog Choosing Raw. This method changed the way I looked at soft-serve ice cream! All you do is freeze peeled bananas and then throw them in the food processor and process until a creamy soft serve forms. It’s a healthy treat that I make on a regular basis, and it’s a great pick-me-up on a hot summer day.

The sky is the limit when it comes to what you can add into this treat. Frozen berries, nut butter, cacao nibs, and cocoa or carob powder are all very tasty additions. In the summer, I try to always have some frozen bananas on hand, just for this very recipe. Try it and you’ll soon find yourself passing by the ice cream aisle.

Recipe: Banana Soft Serve
Serves 2
Prep time: 5 minutes

4 ripe bananas, peeled, chopped, and frozen
2 Tablespoons (30 mL) roasted almond butter or peanut butter (optional)

1. In food processor, process the frozen bananas and almond butter (if using) until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. This process can take several minutes, depending on your food processor.

2. When the banana mixture is smooth and has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, remove it from the processor and enjoy immediately.

Tip: I recommend using yellow bananas with only a few spots. If the bananas are too ripe and spotted, they do not get as creamy and also have a very strong banana flavor (unless, of course, you prefer that!).

Recipes are reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © GLO BAKERY CORPORATION, 2014.

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Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Make • Recipes • Think • Vegan • Vegetarian

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soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Ben Blue

    I've been vegan for over two years now and it's going great. I have kept up my progress @ http://www.awesomeveganblog.com (a blog worthy of its name) and I recomment everyone try to make healthier choices for themselves :)

    March 27, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
  2. Beth E.

    I read this article to see the recipes and if I could incorporate them into my diet. Unfortunately 4 out of 5 would not work for me since my daughter has a tree nut allergy and they would send her into anaphylaxis.

    March 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'm so sorry to hear that. I'll check with a couple of our favorite vegan experts and see if they can offer up any help.

      March 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
    • Alicia

      Bummer dude. Try substitutions.

      March 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
  3. Ally

    I'm sad to see so much bickering, as always, in the comments section. I have to say, if you think you're better than another just because of your diet choice, you are being judgemental. That works both ways. There are an equal number of meat and non-meat eaters on this thread squaring off against each other.

    Everyone has issues they champion. I think the issue of animal cruelty and mass produced meat and dairy is extremely important. I focus on it enough that I've cut most meat out of my diet. If someone else is terribly concerned about oil drilling and general global friction associated with that then they are just as globally concerned as I am.

    Just because everyone doesn't value your particular cause as the number one issue doesn't make you better. It just makes you different. And I think we have enough global issues at hand that we don't all have to be on the same bandwagon.

    March 21, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
    • RC

      yes, but what's your stance on cooking quinoa? Inquiring minds want to know......

      March 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
      • Ally

        Love the stuff! ….and I agree, sometimes she's funny as hell.

        March 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm |
  4. Happee

    Unless you are eating an all locally sourced, all vegan diet, you ARE eating garbage. Period.

    March 20, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
    • Thinking things through

      Talk about judgemental...

      March 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
  5. tightpinksock

    I do Paleo, so I get the best of both worlds. On my cheat day I eat the usual assortment of crap from the standard american diet, works very well for me.

    March 20, 2014 at 7:07 pm |
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