vegan

Taking Off the Blinders

Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try  Everyone’s story of their path to becoming vegan is as different as the people themselves.

Many decide to live a vegan lifestyle because they see animals as sentient beings and can no longer be part of a cycle which causes pain and suffering to the animals who live in our supposed food chain. Others have come to understand that the greatest positive affect they can have on our environment is to exclude all animal products from their life. Some have adopted to this lifestyle simply because they believe it to be healthier for themselves. For many, it is the combination of all of these ideas that starts them on the path to a plant-based life. For me it was a little different; it was a very slow process of removing the blinders that had been covering my eyes for decades.

For the majority of my life, I lived like most people; taking weekly shopping trips to the grocery store looking for good buys on meat, veggies, dairy products and pantry items. I looked at labels, believed them and bought what I thought to be healthy’ish choices for my family at prices I could afford. This was all I knew and all I had been taught by my mother. It was simply the way it was and the way it had always been. During this period, my oldest daughter had decided not to eat meat at the age of five, and so her meals were as vegetarian as I could make them. I knew really nothing about nutrition and a vegetarian lifestyle but did my best.

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Fast forward ten years …

Knowledge is power, but only when it is appliedI moved to a 150-acre organic farm which homed highland cattle, laying chickens, pigs (occasionally) and once each year, what the industry and farmers call, meat chickens or broilers. There is also a stocked pond with fish on the property, and a number of dogs and cats. During this time, I began researching pesticide and herbicide use in the food industry and did not like what I saw. So for most of my time on the farm, we organically grew all of our own veggies and raised beef, chicken, pork and eggs for our own consumption. I made my own bread, cookies and cakes, my own lemonade, mayo, pickles and ketchup, soups and stocks and almost everything you can think of. It was a ton of hard work but made my grocery store trips few and far between. At this point, my oldest was vegan and my middle daughter had become vegetarian. I was participating in meatless Mondays and the odd vegetarian meal but I was not buying into the vegan lifestyle. I found that many vegans were what I described as hard-core and found myself defending my omnivore lifestyle with them in person and on social media. I justified my position by saying that I did not participate in the meat industry and that every one of my animals were treated with respect and care, which they were. They were spoiled; they did not live the life of the animals in the industrial farm settings. That was, until I sent them to be killed and put into my freezer. I felt quite strongly that for me this was a great way to live.

I am an addicted researcher and began exploring the industrialized meat industry. The more I learned, the more I felt the need to continue investigating. What I found was disgusting and almost unbelievable, but my stance remained - I was raising my own food and was therefore not part of this horrendous production. I also began to sell products from the farm in an attempt to keep others from participating in these industries.

Fast forward to three years ago…

Your eyes will only see what your mind is prepared to comprehend My oldest daughter asked if I could help with writing articles for her blog. I love to write but it was a vegan site and so most of my articles were based on research rather than personal experiences. It was during the research for plant-based articles that my blinders slowly began to come off. I very quickly came to realize that facts do not cease to exist just because they are ignored. I began to grasp that, yes my animals were well looked after, they were not beaten nor were they starved, mutilated or made to live in filthy confined areas with other abused animals, but they were sentient beings. They, like us, did not want to die. They were not put on this earth to become a spot on my dinner plate. I finally came to understand that they experienced love, sadness and pain just like we do. My cows did not want to become steaks; my pigs were not just bacon and chops; and my chickens would fight not to end up as stew or fried pieces of their body parts. This epiphany was a punch in the stomach, a knife in my heart and a huge wake up call.

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Fast forward to two years ago…

Deep down you already know the truthAfter a long and winding road, my blinders finally came off. I realized that animals do not need to die for me to live. I do not need to eat meat, dairy or eggs in order to be healthy. I see that a vegan diet is filled with great tasting food. And I see that I really don’t miss cheese as much as I thought I would. I see that buying cruelty free products is as easy as a quick google search; that telling companies to stop using Palm Oil can be done in seconds on their social media; and that educating others can be accomplished without shaming.

Through my research, I now know the truth about the industries that abuse and exploit animals for our food, clothing, medicines, cosmetics, sport and even our entertainment. I know the harmful impact they have on our environment. And, I know it does not need to be this way! Each of has the power to make a change. Each of us needs to become the best version of ourselves. It has been wisely said that the greatest threat to our planet is that someone else will save it.

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Thank you to my daughter for helping me to see again.

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Plant Based Options for Easter

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Easter is here - it came really fast it seems. Like any other holiday, the easier you can put your food together the more you can enjoy your company.  Here are some really simple plant based dinner ideas that will make your day healthier and more enjoyable.

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Buying store bought organic hummus is easy peasy. You can serve it with just about any type of fresh vegetable, plant based pitas or chips. There are other great plant based dips available at your grocery store, so serve a few of them for variety. Everyone will enjoy this one.

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Today there are quite a few tasty options available to serve as a main, that will please everyone at your table. Gardein has some great options that come with the stuffing, gravy and cranberries, making your job easier. 

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Side dishes are always the easiest part when you are choosing a plant based menu. Spring offers up great options like asparagus, peas, artichokes and even fiddle heads. Our site is filled with great side dish options, or you can google bazillions of easy recipes. Just make sure to use plant based butters and milks when preparing your side dishes. Salads are always a great option as well, and putting dressings together is as easy as your favorite oil, vinegar and some salt and pepper. You can make your dressing up the day before. 

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If everyone isn't filled with chocolates from their egg hunt, Daiya offers 7 or 8 different types of "cheese" cakes. My favorite is the Key Lime. For a lighter option, fresh fruit with a plant based dip or a chocolate sauce is another really easy option.

Hoping you all have a happy, peaceful, plant-filled easter!

Plant Based Poutine - YUM!

Poutine may have started out as a Canadian treat, but you can find it anywhere now. This plant based recipe is really easy and absolutely delicious! You can either make the entire dish from scratch or buy the ingredients and simply assemble - whichever works for you!

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Quick and Easy Classic Poutine – 4 servings

For the fries:
-  2 large Russet Potatoes, cut into thin fries – leave skin on
-  1 Tbsp Oil (Grapeseed, Olive or Sunflower)
-  1 tsp salt (or seasoning salt)

DIRECTIONS:     
-  Put the fires into a large bowl of ice cold water and let soak for 30 minutes to overnight.
-  Heat oven to 425F (220C).
-  Drain the fries and place on a dry dish towel to dry out as much as possible.
-  Add fries to a large bowl and toss with oil and salt.
-  Spread the fries over two large baking sheets in a single layer and bake for 30-40 minutes
-  ALTERNATIVELY – You can buy premade French fries and cook about 2-3 cups according to the directions.

For the gravy:
-  2 C of sliced mushrooms – any type you like
-  2 cloves of garlic, diced small
-  ½ onion diced small
-  2 C of mushroom stock (or vegetable stock)
-  ¼ C of AP flour
-  2 Tbsp of oil (or vegan butter)
-  1 tsp salt, pepper and thyme

DIRECTIONS:
-  Heat up the oil or butter over medium high heat in a large saucepan.
-  Add mushrooms, onion and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes (or until soft).
-  Add flour, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook for 1 minute.
-  Slowly whisk in stock and cook for about 2-3 minutes (until it thickens).
-  ALTERNATIVELY: You can buy a package of Vegan gravy and prepare according to the directions.

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For the Cheese:
-  1/2 cup raw cashews
-  1 cup water
-  3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons tapioca flour
-  1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
-  1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
-  1/2 teaspoon each: salt and garlic powder           

DIRECTIONS:
-  Add the cashews to a small pot and with water. Bring to a boil for 10 to 15 minutes until they are softened.
-  Drain and rinse the cashews and add them with the 1 cup of water and all the remaining ingredients to a blender. Blend until completely smooth. It will be watery.
-  Pour into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, and continually stir as it cooks (about 5 minutes). Continue to cook and stir for an additional minute to make sure it has firmed up completely. Cool in fridge for 30 minutes or up to overnight,
-  ALTERNATIVELY: Use a Plant based cheese like Daiya Mozzarella Shreds.

To assemble your poutine:
-  Place Fries in a large serving dish. Top with as much cheese as you like and cover with hot gravy.

 

Thanksgiving Dinner Side Dishes - Yum!

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For me, it really is all about the side dishes. Lots and lots of delicious veggies!  Here are some quick and delicious side dishes.

SPICY CORN
- 2 cups of frozen organic corn
- 1 tsp each: garlic powder, chili powder, lime juice
-  ½ tsp cayenne
- 1-2 Tbsp of Vegan Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast

DIRECTIONS:
- Mix all spices and add to frozen corn.
- Heat up in microwave or on stove top.
- Sprinkle with cheese or yeast and serve.

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OVEN ROASTED BALSAMIC BRUSSEL SPROUTS:
- 3 cups Brussel sprouts cut in half
- 3 Tbsp each: balsamic vinegar and olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Arrange Brussel sprouts on a baking sheet.
- Mix together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and drizzle over sprouts.
- Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

MAPLE CARROTS:
- 5-6 medium carrots, sliced on diagonal
- 1 Tbsp each: Vegan butter and maple syrup
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- Salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS:
- Boil carrots in water for about 15 minutes.
- Drain and stir in maple syrup, butter, rosemary, salt and pepper.

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ROASTED ROOT VEGGIES WITH CURRY
- 4-5 cups of peeled and chopped root veggies: carrots, parsnips, turnip
- 1 large onion, chopped in big chunks
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
- Salt & pepper
- 2-3 Tbsp Cilantro or parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS:
- Preheat oven to 425. Toss all ingredients except cilantro together and layer on to two baking sheets. Cook for 15 minutes and turn over (or just stir them around). Cook another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

OPTIONS:
- Replace curry powder with 1 tsp each: rosemary and thyme

GARLIC MASHED POTATOES
- 8 medium potatoes cut in chunks, peel if you prefer
- 3-4 Tbsp of vegan butter
- 5 cloves of roasted garlic (see note)
- salt, pepper and chives

DIRECTIONS
- Put potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Boil for about 30 minutes.
- Drain potatoes and add to a large bowl. Add butter, salt and pepper.
- Mash with a potato masher or use a hand mixer (don't over mix).
- Mash the roasted garlic and stir into potatoes.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

NOTE:
- To roast garlic, wrap cloves in tin foil add a few drops of olive oil and roast in oven at 400 for 30 minutes.

OPTIONS:
- Replace potatoes with sweet potatoes. Replace garlic with a small sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Where Do Vegans Get Their Protein From??

This is most likely the number one asked question I hear from non-vegans.  They will probably never stop asking, and I will never stop answering. So hear it is again. The recommended intake of protein is .36 grams per pound, so an average of 56 grams per day for a sedentary man and about 46 grams for an inactive woman.  Healthy active people and even serious body builders have no problem following a plant-based diet as well. You can incorporate protein all throughout the day on a plant-based diet, especially in snacks, where it’s most often overlooked, without really needing a massive source at every meal. Here are just a few easy ways to include protein in your everyday lives.

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Lentils – They are super affordable and super-filling! They add about 9 grams of protein for each half cup, plus a ton of fiber!  Add your favorite Mexican spices to cooked lentils, throw in a few veggies and your fav salsa and presto – Lentil Tacos! A cup of cooked lentils added to your favorite salad is another easy way to add this versatile ingredient.

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Quinoa – This glutton-free grain racks up 8 grams of protein per cup, and is a great source of magnesium, antioxidants and fiber!  Transform your morning smoothie into a legit meal by adding some cooked quinoa.  Replace your morning oatmeal with this cooked grain and add a handful of your favorite berries. Adding to salads, soups and stir-fry’s are all easy ways to include quinoa in your daily meals.

Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews, and Pumpkin, Chia and Flax seeds are all great sources of protein, fiber and many other health benefits.  Hemp seeds are a complete protein that are hard NOT to love. Packing 13 grams in just 3 tablespoons, these tiny seeds are easy to add anywhere. Try mixing in nuts to your non-dairy yogurt, sprinkle a handful on your favorite salad, add ground flaxseed to your morning smoothie, or just snack on a handful of almonds.

Artichokes - Containing 4 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup, artichoke hearts are a great way to boost fiber, protein, and they are filling but low in calories.

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Edamame – Another great source of protein, antioxidants and fiber, these young green soybeans are delicious and pack in 8.5 grams of protein per ½ cup! Snack on them with a sprinkle of salt or add to soups, burgers, and salads. You can also dry roast them for a great snack.

Green beans, Broccoli and Asparagus – These are great sources of protein and are all easy to add to your best recipes.

Nutritional Yeast – This cheesy tasting ingredient contains 8 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons and can usually be found in the Natural department of your grocery store. An easy way to add this to your diet is to sprinkle some into your mashed cauliflower or potatoes, salads or pizzas or add to a bowl of popcorn. Cheese dips and Mac and Cheese are all great foods for this ingredient.

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Korean Tofu Stir-Fry - So Good!

The good thing about a stir-fry is you can add just about anything you like. This recipe has a Korean inspired flavors but you can easily change up the sauce and the veggies to whatever you like!

photo by VeganKitchn

photo by VeganKitchn

Korean Tofu Stir-Fry (serves 2-3)

-  1 16 oz package of organic extra-frim tofu, dried and cut into cubes (see note below)
-  1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
-  1 small onion, chopped
-  1 cup of each: mushrooms-sliced; cauliflower florets; red pepper-sliced into strips
-  2 green onions, sliced
-  1/2 cup of organic cornmeal plus a pinch of salt and pepper
-  1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Sauce:
-  1/4 cup of Organic Soy sauce
-  2 Tbsp of Sesame Oil
-  2 garlic gloves, minced
-  1 Tbsp of Sesame Seeds
-  1/2 tsp of dried red pepper flakes or a tsp of hot pepper minced
-  1 Tbsp of organic cane sugar

Directions:
-  Mix all the ingredients together for the sauce.
- Once your tofu has been drained and cut into cubes, dredge it in the seasoned cornmeal.
- Heat up a large pan to medium high and add about 1 tbsp olive oil. Place the tofu cubes in the pan. Heat one side for about 2-3 minutes and then turn over and heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
- Add more olive oil and add the onion, cook for 1 minute. Add the rest of the veggies and cook, stirring often for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add sauce to the pan, stir for about 1 minute.
- Add cooked tofu to the pan, stir for about 30 seconds.
- Serve with cooked basmati rice or noodles. 

NOTE: An easy way to drain tofu is to wrap the entire block in several pieces of paper towel and then set a heavy object on it. I use a clean brick but you can place a plate on top and then a heavy food can of anything. Let it drain from 10 minutes to an hour.

Barbeque Season is Here!

Cookouts have been typically meat-laden, but you can easily change that. Putting together a Vegan barbeque can be simple and delicious. If you’re not sure where to start, try some of these tasty cruelty-free recipes – ENJOY!

These recipes serve 6 but you can easily change them up to whatever you need.

Grilled Corn with Chili and Lime

6 ears of corn
1 Lime cut into wedges – one per ear of corn
2 Tbsp. Chili powder
2 tsp. Cayenne powder
2 tsp Sea Salt

Directions:
- Preheat grill to medium high and lightly brush grill with oil.
- Peel corn and place on grill, turning occasionally for about 20 minutes. Corn should have charred spots.
- Mix together the chili powder, cayenne and salt.
- Transfer corn to serving platter, squeeze lime juice over corn and sprinkle with spices.

photo by One Green Planet

photo by One Green Planet

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

6 Portobello mushrooms
½ C of balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Olive oil
2 tsp each: garlic flakes (or minced fresh garlic), dried basil, oregano
Salt and pepper
Whole Wheat Buns

TOPPINGS: Sliced tomato, sliced avocado, sliced onion, Vegan cheese (Follow Your heart is delicious)

Directions:
-  Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Place in a shallow bowl smooth side up
-  Mix vinegar, soy, oil and spices together and pour over mushrooms. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
-  Preheat grill to medium high and lightly brush grill with oil.
- Grill for 5-8 minutes per side. Top with cheese if using for the last 2 minutes.
- Serve on a bun and top with condiments and veggies.

Vegan Potato Salad

1.5 pounds of baby potatoes – red and purple work best but you can use any type
3 cups of cut raw veggies: red and green peppers, celery, onions, carrots, frozen corn and green onions
1/3 C of vegan mayo
3 Tbsp of pickle juice plus 3 Tbsp of chopped dill pickles
3 Tbsp of dried dill
Salt and pepper

Directions:
-  In a large pot, cover the cleaned potatoes with cold water and 1 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
-  Mix mayo, pickle juice, chopped pickles, dill and salt and pepper.
-  Drain potatoes and add dressing while potatoes are hot.
- Once potatoes have cooled slightly place in fridge until they come to about room temperature.
-  Add all of the cut fresh veggies and refrigerate until using (at least one hour before serving).

photo by The Food Channel

photo by The Food Channel

Mint Watermelon Lemonade

10 cups of watermelon
4 lemons, squeezed
2 tsp of lemon zest
6 sprigs of fresh mint
Ice Cubes

Directions:
-  Place the watermelon, lemon juice and zest into a blender or food processor.
-  Pour over ice and add mint sprigs.

 

These are just a few ideas, the possibilities are endless. For convenience and variety, there are loads of great vegan hotdogs, sausages, chicken burgers and beef burgers available at most grocery stores. If they don’t carry them, ask.

Make Your Own Vegan Cheese

Cheese is one of those things that some Vegans say they miss. Here is a very easy recipe for a tasty spreadable cheese!

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp each: sea salt and white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • OPTIONAL: minced chives or dill for serving
  • EQUIPMENT NEEDED:  Food Processor and Cheesecloth.

DIRECTIONS:

-Cover the cashews with cold water and place in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.
-Drain the cashews and add all ingredients to a food processor. Process until very smooth.
-Place a colander over a large bowl and line the colander with two pieces of cheesecloth. Scrape the mixture into the cloth and twist the cloth so it is tight around the mixture. Secure with a twist tie or elastic.
-Put the bowl and mixture into the refrigerator for 6 hours or until set.

NOTES; Sprinkle with fresh chives or dill for serving, and top with pickled jalapenos, roaster red peppers or sliced olives.

Easy Vegan Weeknight Dishes

These recipes will keep dinner fast, fresh and easy!

AVOCADO PASTA
-  2-3 ripe avocados
-  2 servings of pasta (whole wheat works great)
-  1/3 cup of lemon juice
-  2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
-  ¼ cup olive oil
-  Handful of basil chopped or 1 Tbsp. of pesto
-  Salt and pepper
-  Grated Vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
-  Cook pasta according to directions.
-  While pasta is cooking, scoop out avocados and put in blender with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil. Blend until creamy.
- Drain pasta and toss with avocado mixture. Top with parmesan or nutritional yeast if using.

OPTIONS:
-  Add cooked veggies – peppers, mushrooms, etc.
-  Make noodles from zucchini instead of using pasta.

VEGGIE PIZZA
-  1 large whole wheat wrap
-  1 cup of fresh chopped vegetables: mushrooms, onions, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, etc.
- ¼ cup of tomato sauce or you can replace with olive oil or pesto
-  ¼ cup Vegan mozzarella or cheddar cheese (optional)
-  1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-  1 tsp of dried herbs: oregano, basil, thyme, etc.

DIRECTIONS:
- Spread the wrap with tomato sauce, pesto or olive oil and place vegetables on top. Add garlic and herbs and cover with cheese.
- Place wrap on a baking tray or pizza tray and bake at 375 for about 7-8 minutes until golden brown.

STUFFED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS

-  2 large Portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
- ½ cup each: black beans, frozen organic corn and chopped tomatoes
-  1 Tbsp olive oil
-  ½ tsp each: ground cumin and garlic powderr
-  ½ cup Vegan cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS:
-  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss the beans, corn and tomatoes with olive oil and spices, add salt and pepper to taste.
-  Stuff the mushrooms with the mixture.
-  Put half of cheese in each mushroom.
-  Put in oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes.

Easy Vegan Substitutes

Being Vegan is slowly becoming more mainstream. If you are new to this lifestyle choice and want to try converting some of your favorite recipes to Vegan, here is a list of some substitutes you can easily make to adjust your recipes.

Milk:  It is easy to substitute cow’s milk in any recipe. Use any nut milk, soy milk, rice milk, coconut or hemp milk in equal substitute amounts. For buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to your plant-based milk in the amount needed.

Cheese: So many choices out there. For vegan cheese lovers, Soy cheese melts, spreads and tastes like the real thing, without all the saturated fat! Nutritional yeast is another great choice!

Eggs: There are several vegan egg replacements. Tofu is quite often used when making a scrambled egg dish. When baking, you can use mashed bananas, applesauce, Ener-G egg replacer, a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds plus 3 tablespoons water or other liquid), or soft tofu.

Butter: Vegan margarines are available in most grocery stores. You can also use sunflower, olive or even coconut oil. For breakfast, toast with mashed avocado is amazing.

Beef and chicken stock: You can easily sub vegetable or mushroom stock or even water for most recipes.

Meat: There are tons of meat substitutes on the market today. In recipes you can use tofu, Seitan, Tempeh, TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein – it tastes better than it sounds) and chickpeas or other beans. You can also find veggie bacon and ground beef, veggie deli slices, premade veggie burgers, meatballs, sausage patties, and even soy chicken patties and nuggets.

Honey: Maple syrup and Agave can be used usually measure for measure. There are a lot of sweetener substitutes as well. I would avoid corn based sweeteners unless they are certified organic.

Sour Cream and Yogurt: Both can be subbed with soy or coconut yogurt. There are also commercially made vegan yogurts available.