There comes a time in some parents' lives when a son or daughter sits them down to deliver the news: "I'm vegan." If you are an omnivorous parent, as fond of meat and fish as you are of ice cream and cheese, this is tough information to swallow.
But swallow it you must, and you'll find that you'll all be happier if you master a vegan repertoire so the family can continue eating together in relative harmony. Even if your own children do not adopt a vegan diet, it's quite possible that some of their friends have done so. And if you are the kind of parents who like to make their kids' friends welcome, it's good to have a few vegan recipes under your belt for them, too.
Veganism is, briefly, defined as a diet that excludes all animal products - not just meat, fish and poultry but dairy products, eggs and honey, too.
In my experience, vegan entrees are not that difficult to produce: think of interestingly seasoned, roasted or sauteed or braised vegetables served on a bed of grains or pasta or potatoes. Hold the cheese. Dinner is served.
But vegan desserts can be a real challenge. We learn that eggs give breads and cakes structure, and help them rise, so how do we bake without them? Soy or almond milk might seem like a simple substitute for cow's milk, but taste results can vary.
Fortunately, vegan cookbooks are sprouting like, well, sprouts. The freshest of the crop is "Vegan Diner" by Julie Hasson (Running Press, 2011). This book shows how to reproduce such diner classics as burgers and a shake, faux pastrami sandwiches and "no-meat loaf" with mac and "cheese." Hasson's dessert section is especially appealing. She has even achieved the impossible: the vegan cheesecake. Your newly minted vegan will be wowed ... as will anyone who shares a bite.
For the crust:
6 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine, melted and cooled, plus unmelted margarine to grease the pie plate
2 cups cookie crumbs (such as animal-cracker crumbs; check label to make sure that product does not include whey or other non-vegan ingredients)
For the filling:
2 (8-ounce) tubs soy cream cheese (suggested brand: Tofutti)
1 (12-ounce) package firm or extra-firm silken tofu (suggested brand: Mori-Nu)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
zest of 11⁄2 lemons
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 91⁄2-inch deep-dish pie plate with a bit of unmelted vegan margarine.
For the crust: In a large bowl, combine the melted margarine and the cookie crumbs. Press onto the bottom and sides of the prepared pie plate. Set aside.
For the filling: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cream cheese, tofu, sugar, lemon juice, zest and cornstarch. Process until the mixture is ultra smooth, a minute or so.
Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared cookie crust. Place in the middle of the preheated oven, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just lightly golden.
Remove the pie to a rack to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Slice and serve.
Yield: 8 servings
Recipe from "Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body & Soul" by Julie Hasson (Running Press, 2011)