All recipes are analyzed for nutritional content. Depending on the version of the cookbook you have,
the percentage of daily values for nutrients such as vitamin A and calcium will be shown (not shown in the ASCII
text version). These values are helpful for determining the nutritional content of the recipe. There are some
problems with this analysis though. First, the nutrients shown are only a fraction of the important nutrients (e.g.,
magnesium is not shown). Second, some of the ingredients listed in the recipes are not included in the ingredient
“dictionary” that was used to calculate these numbers (the USDA handbook) (e.g., flax seeds), so the analysis of the recipes in not always exactly correct. Third, these “percent of daily values” have been calculated off the US RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) that are (according to the National Research Council committee that developed the RDAs) set too high for most people. The levels were set high as a built in “safety factor” according to the 1989 report. For example, the committee has set the current RDA for calcium at 1000 mg per day. That does not mean that you must have 1000 mg per day; it means that if you are among the population whose bodies are least able to absorb calcium consumed, you may require that much calcium to absorb the amount your body needs. Nutrition experts usually say that 75 percent (750 mg) of the RDA for calcium is acceptable. Additionally, experts say that vegetarians tend to absorb nutrients more efficiently than meat-eaters, and they tend to need less of some nutrients because they generally eat less protein. (A high protein intake increases the body’;s excretion of certain nutrients, especially calcium.) Therefore, these “percentage of daily values” are useful and interesting, but should not be taken as a gold standard. (Reference: Vegetarian Times, September 1997)

When a choice of ingredients is given, the analysis reflects the first ingredient listed (i.e., not the alternative
ingredients). Optional ingredients listed in the main ingredient list are figured into the analysis. Options given in
the VARIATIONS section are not figured into the analysis. Recipe declarations such as low-fat or non-gluten only
apply to the original ingredient list without optional ingredients, and not necessarily to any of the other options
or variations.
As a general rule, I support individual creativity in cooking, therefore, I urge you, the reader, to alter recipes to
suit your needs/wants. For example, I often substitute ingredients or just leave things out if I do not like them or
do not have them on hand. Additionally, people have different tastes for saltiness, sweetness, and richness, so feel
free to change ingredient quantities to fit your tastes. Lastly, if you have an allergy or sensitivity to one of the
ingredients called for in a recipe, try to think of a replacement (or just leave the ingredient out) to make the recipe
fit your needs.
Some of the recipes in this cookbook serve more than 8 people (up to 24 servings for some of the appetizer type
dishes). If you want to have fewer serving, simply divide the recipe to meet your needs. In the recipes included
here, this causes no problems. I personally like to cook in large amounts so the food will last for a number of days.
Additionally, some items I will store in the freezer for later use. I find that the following items freeze well: bean
dishes (including dips and pates), stews, some vegetable dishes, cookies, and cakes, whereas the following do not
freeze well: grain dishes and pies.
I recommend the use of organically grown ingredients (i.e., food grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides)
when ever possible as I have found organic produce and staples to have substantially more flavor than
conventionally grown items. Additionally, there are studies which have shown that organically grown food has
more nutrients that conventionally grown food.
In all the recipes in this book, I try to call for the use of entire vegetables. For example, with onions, if at all
possible, I call for the use of whole numbers of onions, instead of halves of onions. I have found this to be the
best way to use vegetables so that leftover cut pieces do not sit around getting old (exposed to the air, losing nutrients) before they are used in some other dish.

I believe that a balanced vegan diet should include 5 components:
1) Vegetables
2) Whole Grains (primarily non-glutinous grains such as brown rice and quinoa, but also glutinous grain in
moderation, such as whole spelt, if a person is not gluten intolerant)
3) Concentrated Vegetable Protein (tempeh, beans, tofu)
4) Leafy Greens (kale, collards, …)
5) Fruit
The menus listed at the end of this cookbook are composed to represent all of these important dietary components
(with the exception of fruit, which is often eaten on its own, rather than with a meal). See the discussion on
“Menu Composition” in the Menu chapter for more about composing meals.
The contents of “A Taste of Vitality” are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should
be obtained from a qualified health professional.

+ Cooking Beans

Beans should never be cooked with salt (or any salty ingredient) or anything acidic (like tomatoes, vinegar, orlemon juice) because these substances make the outer coating of the bean tough, so the bean will never get soft because the water can not penetrate the coating around the bean. Before soaking or cooking, all beans should be sorted (to remove large foreign particles like stones) and washed (to remove fine dirt and dust). See “Washing Grains and Beans” below for further information. For time savings, and to ensure properly cooked beans, I prefer a pressure cooker, although this is not necessary to get properly cooked beans. For long and medium term cooking beans (such as garbanzo beans and navy beans), soak for about 12 hours before cooking. Short term cooking beans (such as lentils and adzuki beans) do not require soaking. Cook beans with water in a 1:3 ratio (1 cup dried beans to 3 cups water), and cook until they are soft, but not so mushy that they loose their structure. Cooking beans with a small piece (about 2 inches) of kombu (a sea vegetable) will help the beans be more digestible. After the beans are fully cooked is the time to add salt (and also acidic ingredients if desired).

+ Sealing (vegetables)
Saute in a little oil (as directed), so that the oil lightly glazes all the items (vegetables), under a medium to
medium-high heat. The word seal refers to the effect that the oil and heat have on the vegetable; It is “sealed” by
having a light coating of oil cooked around it, sealing in the flavors and juices. A sealed vegetable usually takes on
a brownish tinge (it is partially “roasted”). Usually, items (vegetable) are sealed one at a time, starting with the
longer cooking vegetables which do not readily absorb oil. Therefore, oil is the first ingredient into the pan after
which the first ingredient (vegetable) is added, and mixed to distribute oil evenly over all pieces. These pieces
should be sauteed/sealed for a few minutes before the next vegetable is added, thereby allowing the pieces to
develop a rich flavor, and have these flavors sealed in. When the next ingredient is added, it should be gently
mixed to allow the oil on the first ingredients to spread on to and cover this new ingredient. Items should not be
added too quickly in succession or the pan can get over loaded with raw ingredients, and the flavor of each
ingredient will not develop as richly as possible.
+ Toasting Nuts and Seeds
Toast nuts or seeds on baking sheet in a 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) oven for about 15 minutes. Mix nuts on
sheet, and continue to bake, watching to make sure they do not burn. The total amount of time needed depends on the type of nut (pine nuts toast very quickly, whereas almonds take longer), and on how toasted you want the nuts. I toast them on a low temperature because most nuts, when they are near done, go quickly from light golden brown to burnt. A lower temperature slows down the process, reducing the chances of ending up with burned nuts. If seasoning the nuts with a salty liquid like tamari soy sauce or ume vinegar (see “Glossary of
Ingredients” for more information about these ingredients), splash this over the nuts near the end of toasting, mix
thoroughly to coat all nuts, and then if needed, bake a few more minutes to dry the nuts out again. If glazing the
nuts with a liquid sweetener (like maple syrup) and/or with a liqueur (like Sambuca), follow the same directions as
for a salty liquid, but do not expect them to become as dry in the oven if using significant quantities of liquid
sweetener (in drier climates, they will dry out completely when they sit outside the oven for a while).
+ Washing Grains and Beans
Whole grains and beans (which have not been processed; that is, not made into flour or rolled) should be washed
before cooking to remove all dust and foreign particles. If not washed, the flavor of the dish could be negatively
effected (possibly a dusty flavor). To wash, place grain or beans in a large bowl, add water to cover generously,
and massage grains or beans between hands to remove all dust. Drain, and repeat 2 more times (or until water
poured off is clear). Certain grains and beans should be washed more gently, and more quickly than this; these
include: buckwheat, red lentils, and split peas; when pouring off washing water from these foods, the water will
never be clear, so just stop after 2 or 3 quick washings.

+ Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a flavorful “cheesy” tasting powder or flakes which is grown as a food and food supplement. It
is concentrated in amino acids and B vitamin complex. It is not a by-product like “brewer’s yeast” (from the beer
+ Quinoa
Quinoa, pronounced keen-wa, is a small pseudo-cereal (350 grains weigh 1 gram). The National Academy of
Sciences has called Quinoa the best source of protein in the vegetable kingdom because it is a complete protein,
containing high amounts of all the essential amino acids. Quinoa cooks similarly to rice with a 2 part liquid to 1
part Quinoa ratio. It cooks in only 15 minutes. Like all grains, it needs to be washed before cooking, but it is
especially important to wash quinoa because it has a bitter tasting substance coating the grain and this is best
washed away to obtain a good flavor. It can be used as a side dish (like rice often is) and in stuffings, soups, and
puddings, as a topping for salads, or as a hot breakfast porridge.
+ Roasted Garlic Paste
To make roasted garlic paste, take an entire head of garlic and cut off the tips of garlic cloves (about 1/6 of the top of the head). Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of oil on cut top, and coat the oil around as much as possible. Wrap head in
foil, and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes (until garlic cloves are soft). (I like to bake
more than one while I am at it.) Squeeze soft garlic cloves out of the papery skin, and puree. The flavor of the
garlic is significantly mellowed by this roasting process, although it is still very flavorful. This no-fat paste is
delicious added to sauces, soups, pates, or sautes. It is also good as a no fat spread on rice cakes or crackers.
+ Seitan
Seitan, also known as “wheat meat,” is a fat-free food that is high in protein and a good meat substitute (including
in place of poultry). It has a delicious flavor, a meaty texture, and is very filling. It is usually made exclusively
from wheat gluten (the high protein part of the wheat berry), so for this reason, I recommend it in limited
amounts in the diet since gluten is often energy dampening. People sensitive or allergic to wheat should avoid
seitan altogether.
+ Spelt Berries
Spelt is a primitive form of grain that is related to wheat. It can be cooked (kernels have a sweet, nutty taste and
rice-like texture) or ground into flour and used in place of wheat flour. Some people who have wheat sensitivities
or allergies can tolerate spelt, but spelt still has high amounts of gluten.
+ Sucanat
Sucanat (Sugar Cane Natural) is a replacement for white sugar. It is made from the juice of sugar cane, and has a
brown color. It has a variety of vitamins and minerals not contained in white sugar. It comes in two forms:
granulated and as a syrup (sugar cane syrup). Not to be confused with “Sugar In The Raw” or “Turbinado Sugar”
which are basically just white sugars.
+ Tamari Soy Sauce
A version of soy sauce that is made without wheat. It has a rich flavor. Any type of soy sauce can be used in its
place. It is wonderful for seasoning toasted nuts and seeds (see the “Glossary of Cooking Terms” for more
information on how to use this on toasted nuts and seeds).
+ Tempeh
Tempeh is a fermented soybean product, native to Indonesia (dating back more than 2000 years), and is rich in
protein. It is more of a whole food than tofu since tempeh is made from whole soybeans. It is made by soaking
whole soybeans overnight and then briefly cooking them until they are softened. A dry powder of the mold
Rhizopus oryzae is added to the beans, the beans are formed into cakes, and they then sit for about 24 hours. The
cakes form very solidly with a chewy, meat-like texture, and have a slightly nutty, smoky flavor reminiscent of
+ Ume Vinegar
Technically not a vinegar since it contains salt, ume (or umeboshi) vinegar comes from the pickling of umeboshi
plums. It has a pink color and is very salty (like tamari soy sauce), so it should be used in place of other vinegars
carefully or the resulting product could be too salty. It is wonderful for seasoning toasted nuts and seeds (see the
“Glossary of Cooking Terms” for more information on how to use this on toasted nuts and seeds).
+ Vegetable Shortening (Organic Non-Hydrogenated)
The organic non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening by Spectrum Naturals that I have used gets half of it’;s fat
grams from saturated fat, but since it avoids the problems with a hydrogenated shortening (most brands or
shortening are hydrogenated) and is trans fatty acid (TFA) free, it is a good alternative to standard shortening.
The Spectrum Naturals product is make entirely of organic palm oil which is naturally solid at room temperature
without hydrogenation, and contains 40% less saturated fat than Palm Kernel Oil. This fat makes much better pie
crusts than using liquid oils like canola or sunflower oil.
Similar to coconut oil, an organic non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening is particularly good in desserts that
traditionally use butter (also a saturated fat) such as cookies and pie crusts. It gives the cookies a wonderful
texture with less oil than if you used an unsaturated fat (like canola oil). Generally, canola oil can be used in place
of vegetable shortening with fairly similar results.

+ Adzuki BeansAdzuki beans (also azuki or aduki) are small oval-shaped beans with a deep reddish burgundy color used commonly in Japanese cooking. These beans accommodate salty and sweet flavors. They are short to medium-term cooking beans, taking about 1 to 1.5 hours to cook. Like all beans, it should be carefully washed/rinsed before cooking (see “Glossary of Cooking Terms” for more information).

+ Agave Nectar
This natural sweetener is extracted from the pineapple-shaped core of the blue agave (a cactus-like plant native to
Mexico best known for its use in making tequila). A 93% fruit sugar content allows agave nectar to absorb slowly
into the body, decreasing the highs and lows associated with sugar intake. Also, because fruit sugars are 25%
sweeter than sugar, you use less. It has a very neutral taste.
+ Arame
A sea vegetable – the most mildly flavored of sea vegetables. A good introduction sea vegetable since it only has a
mild sea/fish flavor. As with all sea vegetables, it is a nutritionally dense food that is high in mineral and trace
+ Barley Malt Syrup
This natural sweetener which is made from sprouted whole barley and is similar to honey. The caramel-flavored
syrup is about half as sweet as sugar or honey in consistency. It is high in carbohydrates, and is generally the least
expensive natural sweetener. Similar to Brown Rice Syrup, which can be used in its place.
+ Broccoli Rabe
This vegetable is more leafy than regular heads of broccoli, and is high in calcium.
+ Brown Rice Syrup
A natural sweetener similar to barley malt syrup. Brown rice syrup contains complex sugars that are not hard on
the body/blood sugar levels. It is my absolute favorite sweetener because it has the mildest flavor (not as strong as
barley malt syrup), and it’;s pH is closer to our bodies’; pH than any of the other sweeteners, making it the most
gentle on the system. It is about half as sweet as maple syrup. Often times I “balance” brown rice syrup with
maple syrup in a recipe because brown rice syrup all by itself has a slightly bitter butterscotch flavor, so I like to
round out that flavor with the straight sweet flavor of maple syrup.
+ Coconut Oil (Unrefined)
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but the unrefined version (which you never find in commercial baked goods – they
use the refined type) can be part of a balance diet. It does not contain any trans fatty acids (TFAs) like
hydrogenated oils do. It is a source of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are especially valuable to people
who have trouble digesting fat. MCTs enable the body to metabolize fat efficiently and convert it to energy rather
than storing it as fat. Additionally, almost 50% of coconut oil’;s fatty acid content is lauric acid, a disease fighting
fatty acid not commonly found in plant sources.
Coconut oil is particularly good in desserts that traditionally use butter (also a saturated fat) such as cookies and
pie crusts. It gives the cookies a wonderful texture with less oil than if you used an unsaturated oil (like canola
oil). See “Mail Order Companies” at the end of the cookbook for sources of unrefined coconut oil (some of which
are also organic). Generally, canola oil can be used in place of coconut oil with fairly similar results.
+ Collard Greens
Used traditionally in African and African-American cooking, I find this strong green best when quick cooked (e.g.,
sauteed) rather than boiled. A slightly stronger flavor than kale. It can be used in place of kale. This green beats
all other vegetables on nutrition.
+ Egg Replacer Powder
A starch based powder (similar to the look and texture of corn starch) which is used as a binder/leavening
ingredient. It is a unique egg replacement item since it contains no animal products (whereas most contain egg
whites), and one box (costing a few dollars) makes about 150 “eggs”. Approximate replacements for egg replacer
powder is arrowroot powder or cornstarch, but these mainly only provide the binding effect, not the leavening
+ Filo (or Phyllo)
A thin paper-like dough used for savory dishes (see “Greek Spinach Pie”) and desserts (see “Orange Custard in Filo
Cup”). It is low in fat, and can be used to enhance the presentation of dishes, particularly by making filo sheets
into cups. These cups can be filled with any number of foods like: “Gingered Fruit Compote”, any type of bean dip
(like “Adzuki Bean Dip”), side salads (like “Asian Sweet Potato Salad”), side vegetables (like “Spiced Butternut
Squash Puree”), pie fillings (like “Pecan Pie Filling”), or custards, puddings, or mousses (like chocolate mousse – see
“Chocolate Cream Pie Filling”).
The first way to make filo cups involves the use of a muffin tin. Fold one sheet of dough so that it covers one cup
on the muffin tin (approximately a square), with about 1 inch to spare on all sides. Lay folded sheet into muffin
cup, pressing down so the center of the sheet is touching the bottom of the cup (the overall effect is to create a
cup shape with the dough). Repeat for as many cups as needed, and bake in the muffin tin for about 5 minutes at
350 degrees F (175 degrees C) or until cups are crisp and lightly browned. The second way to make filo cups does
not require a muffin tin, but a baking sheet. This method is best done when the filling to be put into the cups can
be heated, as cups are best made around the filling, and then briefly baked. As before, fold a filo sheet (or
multiple filo sheets if you want to create a more substantial cup that will hold more or heavier fillings). Lay folded
sheet on a baking sheet, and place some filling into the center. Then fold the outer filo up to make a wall around
the filling. Repeat for as many cups as needed, and bake for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) or
until cups are crisp and lightly browned.
+ Ginger Juice (Fresh)
To make fresh ginger juice, take fresh whole ginger root pieces and grate them. (Asian groceries often sell
purpose-made ginger graters.) Then press the juice out of the pulp. Alternatively, run ginger root through a juice
(as you would carrots). If ginger juice is to be stored for more than 5 days, add some lemon juice to the ginger
juice to help it keep. Place it in a sealed bottle in the refrigerator. It should keep about 5 days without lemon
juice, and about 10 days with lemon juice (or something acidic). A half cup of fresh whole ginger root pieces
makes about 3-4 tablespoons of ginger juice. A teaspoon of dried, powdered ginger can be used in place of a
tablespoon of fresh ginger juice, but the flavor will not be quite the same.
+ Kale
This winter green is related to cabbage, and may be the oldest known green. Similar to collard greens, which can
be used in its place. I prefer it quick cooked and it is nutritionally superior to most all other vegetables.
+ Kombu
This variety of seaweed is most commonly used as a flavoring (as in soup stock). It has a mild flavor compared to
most seaweed. Kombu often is used in cooking beans and seitan, since it improves the flavor and digestibility of
those products. Generally an optional ingredient.
+ Millet
Millet is a small, yellow, bead-like grain which has a mild, nutty flavor and fluffy texture. The earliest mention of
millet comes from China, dating back to about 2800 B.C., and referred to as a “holy plant”. It grows with very
little water and poor soil.
Millet cooks similarly to rice, but likes more water, with a 3 part liquid to 1 part millet ratio. It cooks in 40
minutes on the stove top, and 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. Like all grains, it should be carefully washed/rinsed
before cooking (see “Glossary of Cooking Terms” for more information). It can be used as rice and in stuffings,
soups, and puddings, as a topping for salads, or as hot breakfast porridge. It can be ground in flour and used in
baked goods.
+ Miso
A fermented paste made from beans and/or grains and salt. It is a remarkable digestive aid. It is used mainly as a
flavoring agent in soups and sauces. Tamari Soy Sauce can be used in its place, but the flavor will not be as deep,
and rich.

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  • About Author

    Thomas Neal

    Thomas Neal was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He was a bookseller before shifting to publishing where he worked at a literary development company, a creative writing website for millennials, and as a book reviewer of adult and young adult novels. He lives in New York City and is obviously a voracious reader. He has just released his debut novel and working on his second already!

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