Friday, 22 June 2012

Break the Fast with Vegans

Never let it be said that I don't listen to the pleas of the masses (okay, the one-time request of one person).  Here it is, an ENTIRE post devoted just to the breaking of the fast, veganly.  Herein we will discuss many options for the vegan breakfaster, both healthy and indulgent, cheap and, well, mostly just cheap.

A few posts ago, I suggested that if you're looking to adopt a more healthful diet, fixing one meal at a time was a good idea, and suggested starting with breakfast first.  I don't want to repeat that maxim about breakfast that we've all heard a million times since birth (you know which phrase I'm talking about), but it's true.  The quality of your breakfast will affect how you feel on a particular day more than anything else you eat.  That's reason one to fix breakfast first.  Reason two, healthy breakfasts are often the cheapest.  Reason three, when you wake up first thing in the morning, you're generally too sleepy to give into cravings for crappy foods; therefore, simply by getting yourself into the routine of eating healthy, plant-based breakfasts, you will stay in that routine.  Reason four, a lot of traditional breakfast food is either already vegan, or very easily made vegan, so it's an easy adjustment.

I hear from a LOT of people that they often just don't feel like eating in the morning, or even that they feel a little nauseated if they try.  I used to be one of you.  I really had to force food down my throat at 7:30am, and left the table feeling queasy.  But I whole-heartedly believe that once you start eating breakfast, you will eventually not only be able to eat it without any problems, you will need to eat it, or suffer for the rest of the day.  And I'm sure I don't need to quote at you the many studies that have found that those who eat breakfast have higher rates of this good thing and lower rates of that bad thing, because I know you've heard them, and you all know that you're supposed to be eating breakfast. 

But, you don't want to puke on your morning train in the meantime.  I get it.  A reasonable request.  So my suggestion would be to simply start small, and start light.  Grab an apple or a banana.  Maybe mix together some dried fruit and nuts.  Try a small fruit salad.  You could even try the pre-run breakfast I used to eat in the mornings, back in another lifetime when I actually ran (ha!).  Nuke a banana for a few seconds in the microwave, then add in a little spoonful of natural peanut butter and mix it together.  I know it sounds gross, but it's kind of like a warm peanut butter and jam sandwich, without the bread.  Once these lighter breakfasts become old hat to you, try adding a little more until your ready for a proper breakfast.

So, for the rest of you who, just like I do, think about food the second you open your eyes in the morning, here's a collection of vegan breakfast ideas.  They're roughly ordered from most healthful to most indulgent.

Everyday breakfasts:

1.  Porridge. 

Are you sick of hearing me talk about porridge yet?  Too bad, I'm not going to stop.  Porridge is amazingly nutritious, easy, and cheap.  And it can be dressed up in so many ways.  Try it with dates, dried apricots, raisins, sliced almonds, walnuts, frozen or fresh blueberries, jam, frozen or fresh raspberries, apples and cinnamon, or even a little dark chocolate, if you're feeling indulgent.  

Porridge need not be limited to oat porridge.  Try a porridge of brown rice, quinoa, or cornmeal if you don't like oats, or have trouble digesting them.

  2.  Muesli.

When the weather turns warm, or theoretically when the weather turns warm because it doesn't happen in the UK, sometimes you don't want want a nice steaming bowl of porridge.  Sometimes you want essentially the exact same thing, but cold.  Try making your own out of rolled oats, dried fruit, nuts, and maybe some wheatgerm, or look for a brand that contains no added sugar.  You can vary up the flavour by trying a more traditional combination of dried raisins, dried apples, and cinnamon, or you could go foresty and make one with dried blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries, or you could go CRAZY and make a tropical version with dried pineapple, mango, papaya, and coconut.  Serve with soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or hazelnut milk.  The oat milk might be overkill.

4.  Fruit Salad.

A salad of fruit.  Doesn't really need an explanation, does it?  I tend to like my breakfasts a little grainier, but some people like it. 

5.  Fruit Smoothies

If you've got a blender or a hand held blender and a tall container, chuck in a frozen banana, some berries, a spoonful of nut butter, a splash of non-dairy milk, and a little natural sweetener.  And then blend it. 

7.  Peanut butter and jam sandwich/peanut butter and banana sandwich

Why not, eh?  Wholemeal bread, natural peanut butter, fruit juice sweetened jam.  Wholefood goodness and delightfully immature, to boot.

6.  Toast.

Top it with vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine, with fruit jams, with nut butters, with Marmite, with peanut butter and sliced bananas, with a little sweetener (maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup), cinnamon, and sliced apples, with vegan chocolate spread, with baked beans, or with sauteed mushrooms.  Please note, the last two can only be consumed if you are living in the UK.  Otherwise, too much confusion will ensue.

Commercial sliced bread is the work of the devil!  It tastes like how my brothers' shoes used to smell after their various sporting activities!  Even the supermarket brand unsliced stuff is so much better, and no more expensive.

3.  Granola.

Granola has had a long-undeserved reputation as an undisputed health food.  In truth, most commercial brands of granola are loaded with processed sugar and oil, and even a lot of healthier recipes contain large amounts of oil and concentrated sweeteners of some form.  That being said, granola is generally pretty delicious, and its base is healthful oats, nuts, and dried fruit, so it's certainly not the worst option available.  Try serving it with a non-dairy milk, or with a non-dairy yogurt, or with some fresh fruit.  Or even some applesauce.

8.  Cereal with non-dairy milk.

If you like.  Plenty of commercial cereals are vegan, just check the box.

You might be reading this list right now thinking, what the heck?  These are just foods I already eat for breakfast.  That's because vegan food is just food.

More time-consuming, cooked, savoury breakfasts

1.  Tofu scramble

Tofu scrambles are a mainstay of vegan breakfasts and brunches.  They're pretty much exactly what they sound like: scrambled eggs made with tofu.  Crumbled tofu is mixed usually with soy sauce and nutritional yeast for taste, and turmeric to add a yellow colour.  Tofu scrambles are also normally loaded with veggies like spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  I think they will surprise you.

2.  Tofu Omelets

Similar to a tofu scramble.  I've never tried one, but they sound interesting.  Silken tofu, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, and some seasonings are mixed together and cooked to turn into a firm omelet, which you can then fill with whatever veggies you like.

3.  Aga's TomMarmite Toast

See recipe below.

4.  Spanish toast

I'm the only person in the world who refers to this dish as Spanish toast.  When we were in Spain a year or so ago, I kept finding offerings of crispy, toasted bread topped with olive oil and pureed tomato on cafe breakfast menus.  Kind of like lazy bruschetta for breakfast. 

5.  Full English Breakfast

Soooo...Brits do this weird thing wherein they eat a much of stuff you wouldn't think of as breakfast food as breakfast food all together on one big plate and they call it a full English, or more affectionately, a fry up.   I know, it's weird.  But it grows on  you.  Traditional components are generally bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast, sausages, hash browns, and baked beans.  Most cafes offer some sort of vegetarian option, but making your own vegan version is certainly possible.

Vegan bacon:  I mentioned this in the 5 Crazy Vegan Foods post.  Fry some tempeh or tofu marinated in soy sauce, maple syrup, etc.  There are also commercial vegan bacon products available.

Eggs:  Try some scrambled tofu.

Sausages:  Commercial vegan sausages are readily available, in various levels of processing.  Some people make their own vegan sausages.  This seems crazy to me.  Go for it.

Obviously you can healthy this breakfast up as much as you want; cook the vegetables with a little respect, and add as many other veggies as you like.
Happy Tummy Yummy Crazy Indulgent Weekend Breakfasts

Everyone needs them. 

1. Vegan muffins or quick, sweet breads

Just as easily accomplished without animal bodily fluids.  Try replacing the egg in recipes with 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tbsp white or cider vinegar per egg.  Replace butter with canola oil.  Replace cow's milk with soy milk.

2.  Vegan Pancakes

See link to recipe below.

3. Vegan Waffles

Pretty much the same replacement techniques listed above, and recipes can easily be found on the internet. 

4.  Vegan French toast

See link to recipe below.  The recipe below is a little more complicated, but you can also try a simple mixture of non-dairy milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. 

5.  Vegan Crepes

I've never made vegan crepes, but you should be able to find recipes with ease.  For gluten-freebies, buckwheat flour is apparently a very good substitute in crepe recipes.


Giving you just one recipe for a breakfast post seemed kind of cheap, so you lucky ducks, you get several.  Or at least links to several.

Blueberry Almond Porridge

A note about cooking porridge in the morning.  It sounds time consuming, but actually porridge requires very little babysitting while cooking.  Throw the oats, water, and salt in the pot, stir together, then walk back into the kitchen once or twice and stir the mixture to stop it from sticking.  Then you're done.

1/2 cup oats
1.5 cups water
pinch of salt
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
2-3 tbsp sliced almonds
1 tbsp ground flax seed
splash of non-dairy milk

Put oats, water, and salt together in a small pot on medium high heat, and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until thick and sort of...burping.  Pour into a bowl and add in berries, almonds, and flax seed and stir.  Add in the splash of milk to taste.

Aga's TomMarmite Toast

My friend Aga is graciously lending us this recipe that she surprised and delighted me with once while I was staying with her.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
4 slices wholemeal bread
enough vegan margarine to cover 4 slices of toast (optional)
enough Marmite to cover 4 slices of toast

Heat the oil in a sauce pan on medium high heat.  Add the cherry tomatoes, and black pepper (more is better), and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft and juicing a bit.

In the meantime, toast the bread, and spread on the margarine, if using, and the Marmite.

Once the tomatoes are cooked to your taste, top the toast with the tomatoes and serve.  Aga says "a fork and knife make this breakfast easier to eat elegantly."  You heard her.  Eat it elegantly!

Vegan Blueberry Pancakes

See recipe at the bottom of this post.  Don't just stick to blueberries.  Try any kind of berries, apples and cinnamon, chocolate chips, bananas and walnuts...let your mind and ingredients wander free and unfettered!

Vegan French Toast

This recipe is my favourite vegan French toast recipe.  Chickpea flour is also known as gram flour, and you should be able to find it in any middle eastern grocery store.