The Edgy Veggie

Spoiler alert: Some of your favorite foods may be vegan

Jam crostata
Jam crostata For the Miami Herald

You’ve made your New Year’s resolution to drop the December holiday pounds. You’ve pledged to eat better.

But it doesn’t sound fun. And you’re not sure what “better” means, anyway.

You’re in luck — welcome to Veganuary, your free, monthlong, all-inclusive intro to plant-based eating.

Started last year in the UK, Veganuary is the brainchild of two animal-loving advocates who realize January is when we’re most likely to make positive changes. Their website veganuary.com encourages you to take a monthlong vegan pledge and gives you everything you need to succeed — recipes from rock-star vegan chefs, nutrition basics (yes, vegans get plenty of protein), dining out strategies and menu options.

Yet followers of the Standard American Diet (note the acronym, SAD) still ask, What do I eat if I don’t eat meat? Cheer up — being vegan means giving up meat and dairy but keeping the pleasure. It turns out many of your favorite brand-name foods and drinks are vegan. They always have been. Check out PETA’s list of “accidentally vegan” foods at peta.org/living/food/accidentally-vegan/.

We’re talking Kraft Taco Bell Taco Dinner (14.9 ounces, $3.09), Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets and shells (17.3 ounces, $3.75), Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, blueberry and strawberry, unfrosted (14.7 ounces, $2.55), Red Bull (contains caffeine and glucose but no bull or any other animal) (8.4 ounces, $2.19) and dozens more, most available at your favorite supermarket. Caveat — just because they’re plant-based doesn’t mean they qualify as health food or will help whittle the waistline (think Doritos and Oreos). For that, both Veganuary and PETA’s websites offer plenty of produce-packed recipes of every ethnicity and cuisine.

Traditionally, people go vegan for three reasons — personal health, protecting the environment and saving animals.

Now there’s a fourth — vegan is tilting from fringey to fab, with more (and more delicious) vegan foods available in stores and restaurants, and the likes of John Salley, Jared Leto and Ellen (another vegan, the rich, blonde, famous one) on board. It’s so hot, Bill Gates has invested some of his bazillions in vegan food start-ups.

Veganuary lets you in the club, too. So try it for a month. Take the pledge, pass the Pop-Tarts and have a happy, healthy Veganuary.

Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.”

Dessert

Jam Crostata

Vegans eat dessert. Frozen puff pastry, available in the frozen foods section of most supermarkets, means you can make an impressively artisanal one with ease (and without animal products). Note: Ground flax seed is available at Whole Foods and many supermarkets. Makes 6 servings.

12 ounces seedless raspberry jam or your favorite jam

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice, orange flower water or orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)

1 sheet puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm), thawed and softened

About 1 tablespoon flour for rolling out pastry

2 tablespoons soy milk (unsweetened or vanilla)

2 teaspoons ground flax seed (also known as flax meal)

Heat oven to 400. Spoon jam into a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir in the orange juice, orange flower water or orange liqueur and continue stirring for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until mixture is syrupy and liquid is incorporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the sheet of puff pastry into a 12-inch round. It need not be perfectly round — the puff pastry is very forgiving. Spoon the jam into the center of the pastry. Using the back of a spoon or a pastry brush, spread into a smaller circle, leaving a 3-inch border of pastry uncovered. Fold the pastry loosely around the edge of the jam, leaving the center exposed.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy milk and ground flax seed. Using a pastry brush, paint the top and sides of the pastry with the soy milk mixture, especially at the pleats. Bake for 20 minutes, or until pastry is brown, puffed and flaky. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Source: Ellen Kanner for Edgy Veggie.

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