Category Archives: Food Substitutions

ASK GRETTIE – Stumped By Tempeh

My latest Ask Grettie column on Chic Vegan.

I just tried tempeh for the first time at a restaurant today and really liked it, but I am not sure how to prepare it on my own.  Do you have any tips, or recipe suggestions for preparing tempeh?


Hi Monica!

I am glad to hear that you like tempeh.  Tempeh is a wonderful source of protein and is further beneficial due to the fact that it is fermented.  In addition, cooking with tempeh is a great way to add protein to your meals without buying processed meat substitutes.  As with anything in life, moderation is key since tempeh can be high in fat.

I understand that tempeh can be a bit intimidating to prepare, but once you cook with it a few times you will realize that it is actually very easy to work with.  Tempeh can be prepared using the same methods that are used to cook meat (barbecuing, baking, broiling, stir-frying) .  One of my favorite ways to use tempeh is as a ground beef substitute.  Sarah Matheny of “Peas and Thank You” likes to make ground meat substitutes with tempeh by grating it.  You simply take the block of tempeh and grate it on your cheese grater then add it to your recipe.  Alternatively you can crumble a block of tofu with your fingers or pulse it in your food processor and garner the same results.

TIP – Some people find tempeh to be slightly bitter.  If you steam the tempeh for 20 minutes, the bitterness disappears.

Recipe Ideas

  • Peas and Thank You is a blog with a lot of recipes that include tempeh and it is a great place to start.  Sarah just came out with her first book, Peas and Thank You – Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love and it is a worthwhile purchase (For my review of the book click here).
  • Vegetarian Times is also a great resource for tempeh recipes and they have a great recipe search function on their site that I am sure you will find helpful.  Their recipe for tempeh bacon has a four star rating.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.  Cooking is an art form and can be a lot of fun to play around with.  Once you make a few recipes containing tempeh you will have the confidence to whip-up meals containing tempeh without even following a recipe.  Let me know if you come across some winning recipes along the way since I am always looking for recommendations as well.

Here’s to health!


**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her at .**

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Education, Food Substitutions, General Vegan, Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian


Recently my kids had the day off of school and I surprised them by taking them to the aquarium for the day.  Our family has always loved going to the aquarium and we are very fortunate to live near the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

My kids have a weird fascination with cafeterias and get so excited to eat lunch at the aquarium’s cafeteria, Cafe Scuba.  When I looked at the menu there really wasn’t anything I was excited about eating as displayed on the menu (a lot of fried, mayonnaise, and meat-based dishes), but there was a wrap that I thought might work if the chefs were willing to substitute out some ingredients.  The wrap had chicken and feta cheese in it along with a balsamic vinaigrette, which wasn’t going to work for me and the side that came with it was a mayo-based pasta salad.  When I got to the front of the line I asked if they were willing to make some substitutions and they were VERY accommodating.  The chef that serviced us found some grilled asparagus and red onions, tomatoes, and spinach for the wrap.  When I asked if she could sub out the pasta salad for me she was very willing to provide me with a green salad in lieu of the pasta salad.

My meal was very tasty.  I dished-up some yellow mustard on the side and dipped my sandwich in it and dressed the salad with some lemon juice.

Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want (very nicely of course).  I find that the vast majority of the time people are more than willing to help…they ultimately want you to be happy with your meal which means that it is very possible to eat healthfully almost anywhere.


Filed under Education, Food Journal, Food Substitutions, Vegan, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – Eliminating Cheese From Your Diet

This is my latest column for Chic Vegan.


I am in need of your expertise. I am considering taking dairy out of my kid’s diet to look more like me & my husband’s diet, but I am finding the right cheese replacement to be the hardest part. They really like the soy cheese, but I don’t want them to have that much soy. They also like the rice and/or almond cheese but they both contain casein, which is in dairy and not exactly healthy for you! All the ones at Whole Foods that say Vegan have soy and all the Rice Cheese have casein. Can’t decide which is worse…Help…any suggestions? Do you make nut cheeses for your kids?


I love to hear that parents are considering taking dairy out of their children’s diet.  My children do not consume dairy and are thriving!  That being said, it can be a tough battle to remove something from a child’s diet if they really have a fondness for it.  I removed dairy from my children’s diet about 3 years ago and some items were harder to remove than others.  There was some kicking and screaming with regards to the removal of string cheese.  The milk was easier to remove because I slowly changed their milk without them even realizing it.  My method involved slowly diluting their milk with almond milk.  On day one I replaced about 1/6th of their milk with almond milk and the next week it went to ¼ of their milk, the next week 1/3, then ½, ¾, until it was all almond milk.  I personally think that the milk transition would have been even easier if at the time I had access to So Delicious’s Unsweetened Coconut Milk.

Now, onto cheese.  People have a true addiction to cheese.  In PCRM’s (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine) research studies, “When we take people off meat, dairy products, and other unhealthy fare, we often find that the desire for cheese, in particular, lingers on much more strongly than for other foods. While they might like ice cream or yogurt, they describe their feelings for cheese as a deep-seated craving.” It has been found that cow’s milk and human milk both have trace amounts of morphine in them.  It is theorized that this helps babies bond with their mothers when breast feeding. According, “[C]ows actually produce it within their bodies, just as poppies do. Traces of morphine, along with codeine and other opiates, are apparently produced in cows’ livers and can end up in their milk.  Cow’s milk-or the milk of any other species, for that matter-contains a protein, called casein, that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates, called casomorphins. A cup of cow’s milk contains about six grams of casein. Skim milk contains a bit more, and casein is concentrated in the production of cheese.”

As long as you understand that the removal of cheese will be difficult and you make the decision to stay the course, you will survive the transition and be glad you stuck it out.  In my opinion, there is no direct replacement for dairy cheese in the vegan world.  As for substitutes, different vegan cheeses serve different purposes.  You are right that a lot of the vegan cheese substitutes out there do contain casein as well as soy.  Perhaps these cheese substitutes can help your children with their transition away from dairy cheese.  One thing is for certain, they are more healthful than dairy cheese.  Daiya has been a great substitute for me.  I do not use it all the time due to its high fat content, but it makes wonderful grilled “cheese” sandwiches and macaroni and cheese (click here for my recipe).  I do make nut cheeses on occasion and find that they work really well in my lasagna recipes or as ricotta substitutes.  If I make the nut cheese on its own (i.e. to eat with crackers), I find that I like it more than my children do, but my nephew loved it the last time he tried it.  Mostly I have made peace with the fact that I don’t NEED a replacement for cheese.  For example, pizza tastes great without cheese as does garlic bread and pesto can be made with nutritional yeast.  I think we all need to change the way we think about cheese.

Congratulations on making the decision to improve your children’s health.


**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her .**


Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Children, Education, Food Substitutions, General Vegan, Research, Vegan, Vegetarian

NO EGGS – How to Substitute

I consider myself a plant based eater and 99.9% vegan, however I do eat eggs about once a month and honey will cross my lips on occasion…those are the ONLY exceptions.  While I no longer have them, I used to be the proud caretaker of two very sweet chickens and I know that while with my family they led happy lives (and continue to do so on a farm with our friends) and were not being mistreated or exploited for their eggs.  My husband used to joke that we had the best fed and well taken care of chickens he could imagine…I would make their food (no buying prepared chicken food for me), and see to it that they got all of the good mango scraps, etc. Seeing as we did not have a rooster, the eggs were never destined to become baby chicks.

I believe it was this situation that made my daughter fall in love with eating eggs.  Fortunately for her health we learned that eggs do not love her.  It was this that forced me to find appropriate substitutes for eggs in her diet.

I know many of you are looking for appropriate egg substitutes.  Eggs are generally used either in baking or for eating straight-up.  Different substitutes work for different applications.



Scrambled Eggs Crumbled firm tofu
Eggs for Quiche Regular or firm tofu
Egg Whites 1 egg white = 1 Tbs plain agar powder with 1 tbsp water. Whip together, chill and whip again
Baking Energ Egg Replacer (directions on box)
  Flax eggs:1 egg = 1 Tbs. flax meal mixed w/3 Tbs. warm waterLet sit for approx. 8-10 minutes to thicken
  Salba meal: same directions
  Chia meal: same directions
  1 egg = ¼ cup of mashed banana or applesauce
  1 egg = ¼ cup blended silken tofu
  1 egg = ¼ cup non-dairy yogurt
For Loafs – need binding agent Bread crumbs, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, tomato paste – start with ¼ cup per egg and work from there.  You will need to play with the amount until you reach the right consistency

 Additional egg substitutes available by clicking here.

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Filed under Education, Food Substitutions, General Vegan, Recipes, Specific Food, Vegan, Vegetarian