I’m a home baker; here are my tips for vegan baking!

I’m a home baker; here are my tips for vegan baking!

A plant-based vanilla cupcake on a plate.

When I first went vegan, I spent a lot of time experimenting with new savoury recipes. The curries, chilis, pastas, sandwiches, salads, and other dishes I already loved tasted amazing with plant-based swaps! But there was one area that I was a little more hesitant: baking.

I have a major sweet tooth and have always loved baking. I even became known as the “cookie person” when I got together with loved ones for the holidays.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great vegan treat brands and “accidentally vegan” store-bought goods, from Maynards Fuzzy Peaches to Oreos; but for me, there is nothing quite like biting into a warm cookie fresh out of the oven. So I set out to hone my plant-based baking skills.

It didn’t take long! As it turns out, it’s very easy to make delicious plant-based treats. It might even be easier than baking with animal products—say goodbye to fiddling with eggshells in your batter! It wasn’t long before I was turning out quick desserts that were wowing even my non-vegan friends.

Here are some of my favourite ways to make non-vegan recipes plant-based.

The best non-dairy milk for baking

According to my research, the best non-dairy milk for baking is soy milk, followed by almond milk. If you bake a lot of treats with thin batters, like cakes, you might want to consider those as your top option.

A batch of chocolate chip cookies close up.

However, I mostly bake cookies with a thicker dough that only call for a couple tablespoons of milk. For recipes where your non-dairy milk is not going to be the star of the show, I’ve found it makes no difference to use whichever milk you prefer for your everyday use like sauces, coffee, or tea. When a recipe calls for dairy milk, I normally substitute 1:1 for an equal amount of oat milk.

The best plant-based butter for baking

There are so many great plant-based brands that make dairy-free butter. Here is the best side-by-side comparison I’ve found of the various vegan butters for baking cookies.

My personal favourite cost-effective butter substitution is Becel Vegan Margarine, which I’ve found works well in cookies, squares, and even buttercream.

A batch of vegan brownies cut into squares in a pan.

If you’re in a pinch, a neutral oil like vegetable oil or canola oil works just fine in cake recipes.

Applesauce can also be substituted for butter if you’re oil-free.

The best plant-based egg substitutes for baking

Replacing egg with flax egg

A flax egg is my go-to egg swap in cookie recipes. If a recipe calls for only one or two eggs, a flax egg works flawlessly. Watch the video below for instructions on making a flax egg or see the recipe here.

One thing to be cautious of is using flax eggs in recipes with 3-4 eggs or more. In egg-heavy recipes without other binding ingredients, the flax egg loses some of its power as a binding agent and can leave you with a dessert that doesn’t set properly. A store-bought substitute can work best in these cases.

Using Just Egg in baking

Store-bought egg substitutes like Just Egg are designed to mimic the fluffiness and binding properties that you would see from using an animal egg in baking.

A bottle of Just Egg vegan egg replacement on a muffin tin.

Bonus: When you’re done with your sweet recipe, they also work great in savoury dishes like plant-based omelettes.

Replacing egg with pumpkin or banana in baking

One egg can be replaced by ¼ cup pumpkin puree or mashed ripe banana (equal to about ½ a medium banana).

A bunch of overripe bananas on the counter.

Pumpkin and banana make baked goods dense and moist, making them perfect for breads and muffins. This replacement works especially well for recipes that naturally incorporate these flavours, like:

  • pumpkin cookies
  • pumpkin spice muffins
  • pumpkin cake
  • banana muffins
  • banana pancakes
  • banana bread

Replacing egg with tofu in baking

Silken tofu is an effective egg substitute in a wide range of recipes, including cakes, cookies, squares, and breads. Each egg can be replaced with ¼ cup pureed silken tofu.

Silken tofu can be used as an egg sustitute.

What to use instead of egg in meringue

For recipes that call for egg whites to be whipped into a meringue, aquafaba is a naturally effective plant-based substitute.

Aquafaba meringues from chickpea liquid.

Aquafaba refers to the liquid left over from cooked chickpeas. If you’re making a recipe with chickpeas like this scrumptious chickpea salad sandwich, chickpea tagine, or hummus, simply save the liquid from your canned chickpeas or the leftover cooking liquid from cooking dried and soaked chickpeas. The word can also refer to the meringue-like foam made by whipping this liquid.

To make aquafaba, whip the liquid saved from cooked or canned chickpeas for 3-6 minutes. Check out this step-by-step guide on making aquafaba.

The bottom line

There are so many easy plant-based substitutions for baking, and even more unique recipes to explore that are plant-based by default—like these tender and fragrant plant-based cranberry lemon yogurt muffins! Plant-based baking is a wonderful (and delicious) way to get creative in the kitchen.

What did you think of these plant-based substitutions for baking? Do you have a favourite that we missed? Find PlantUniversity’s posts at @vancouverhumane on Tiktok or Instagram and let us know your thoughts!

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Plant-Based Eating in the Classroom

Plant-Based Eating in the Classroom

Featured author: Emma Levez Larocque, Plant-Based RHN

It is said that we tend to be as healthy as those we spend the most time with. This is one reason why encouraging the consumption—and enjoyment—of nutritious plant-based foods in the classroom can be such a powerful influence.

As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Community Educator I have delivered a number of plant-based workshops in schools, in partnership with teachers, and sometimes parent helpers. Though there are almost always students who vehemently declare at the beginning of the class that they “hate all vegetables,” when they are invited to help make the food, and see how tasty and vibrant it looks, they can rarely resist taking a bite. Even the most reluctant veggie eaters are often won over by simple, colourful plant-based dishes that they have had a hand in making.

Helping students make connections between what they’re eating, their own health, planetary health, and compassion for non-human animals can arm them with wisdom that will last long past their school days.

Inviting a qualified guest into the classroom is one way to bring this type of information to students. However, there are lots of ways to work plant-based learning into classroom curriculum or the school day on a regular basis too.

3 ways to bring plant-based learning into the classroom

1) Incorporate regular food preparation and cooking in the classroom

Most kids love to eat, and many love to cook or help prepare food—especially if it involves getting their hands dirty! Exposing children to healthy, tasty food can have a huge impact, particularly when it is done consistently and over time. Keeping the recipes simple and low tech makes it easy to implement these types of lessons more often. Massaged Kale Salad is a recipe that I have made with many groups of children, and they love it because they get to crush the avocado into the kale and get their (clean!) hands dirty. Because they have made the salad, they are usually eager to eat it too.

Power balls, no-bake cookies and fruit/veg “face pizzas” on pitas or tortillas are other things that don’t take a lot of equipment and are very hands-on for students. When cooking and food prep is part of your classroom routine students have opportunities to try new foods, develop and practice important life skills, and it can help encourage the regular consumption of plant-based foods.

2) Use activities that make eating plants visual and fun

An example of this is teaching kids about “eating the rainbow,” a very visual concept that often resonates with young people. Colours in foods often correspond with the nutrients they contain, and this is one reason why eating vibrant, colourful foods is so good for us! Counting the number of colourful foods they have eaten in a day can become a fun game for students.  In addition, using the rainbow framework can be helpful in discussing how colourful foods can be beneficial for different aspects of our health (e.g., orange foods are good for our eyes and help protect us from getting sick, etc). There is a free infographic download from Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine on the Nutrition Rainbow that may be helpful here.

3) Talk to students about where their food comes from

As a society we have become disconnected from our food and farms. However, that is beginning to change as mainstream society acknowledges the impacts our food choices have on planetary health and the wellbeing of non-human animals.

Eating more plant-based foods is a positive, pro-active thing we can all do to tread more lightly on the earth and understanding this can be very empowering for students. Discussion content will necessarily depend on the age of the students involved.

For younger students a great place to start may be an activity that compares various environmental impacts—like water use or pollution—of animal foods versus plant foods. This information from The Vegetarian Resource Group could help teachers interested in creating such an activity. PETA’s Share the World kit may also be helpful for elementary school teachers looking to bring education about the importance of compassion and empathy into their classroom.

Conversations with older students may be inspired and informed by documentaries like Seaspiracy, Game Changers or David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.

As major organizations like the United Nations are recognizing the merit of a global dietary shift toward more plant-based foods, schools and universities around the country and continent are beginning to embrace their important role in educating students about the connections between food and health, environment, and compassion.

Are you a teacher, educator or parent who has helped to introduce plant-based learning into your school? How are you doing it? Let us know in the comments below. Or, if you’re interested in helping to implement more plant-based learning into your classroom/school and need support, we’d love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to subscribe to Vancouver Humane Society’s PlantUniversity Platform to stay updated on new free resources and tips uploaded to the site.

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Eating habits pose a problem for fish

Eating habits pose a problem for fish

A tuna swimming in the ocean with more tuna in the background

You’ve probably heard somewhere that goldfish have only a three-second memory.

Like so many of the “facts” about fish that have been widely accepted for decades, it’s not true. It’s also symbolic of the many misconceptions humans have about the estimated 3.5 trillion fish with whom we share the planet.

It turns out fish can not only remember things; they can plan, use tools, socialize and play. They are far more intelligent than previously thought and, more importantly, they are sentient. They can experience feelings such as fear, frustration, comfort and enjoyment. They can feel pain.

Sadly, these complex and misunderstood animals are in trouble; and our society’s appetite for fish and other animal-based food products is largely to blame.

This World Oceans Day, let’s explore some of the ways fish are harmed by eating habits—and what we can do about it.

Skip to section:

Fish farming

Industrial fishing

Agricultural runoff

How you can help

Alternatives to eating fish

Fish farming

A fish farm in British Columbia

Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, has been referred to as the factory farms of the sea. That’s because farm-raised fish are kept in crowded conditions without enrichment where they cannot engage in their natural behaviours.

Fish raised in fish farms are subjected to intense stress that leaves them vulnerable to disease. To prevent disease, fish farms depend heavily on antibiotics, which can contribute to drug-resistant infections in humans.

Farmed fish aren’t the only ones who suffer due to aquaculture, though. Naturally carnivorous fish like salmon, halibut, and tuna are typically fed diets made with fish meal and fish oils. The antibiotics and waste from fish farms can seep into the surrounding water, impacting the local ecosystem. Fish farms can spread disease to wild fish. Most First Nations in B.C. oppose open net fish farming, citing the harms they cause to wild fish populations.

Farmed fish account for about 20% of Canada’s seafood production.

Content warning

The following video contains graphic scenes depicting the inhumane conditions and slaughter of farmed fish.

Industrial fishing

Fish caught in a net from a commercial fishing boat

To meet the world’s growing demand for fish, the commercial fishing industry uses methods that result in massive losses of marine life. Methods include:

  • Bottom trawling: a large net with heavy weights is dragged across the seafloor, scooping up everything in its path and damaging sensitive marine habitats.
  • Longlining: Boats use lines that can extend for up to 50 miles, with thousands of baited hooks branching off from the main line.  

It has been estimated that between 0.79 and 2.3 trillion fish are caught globally from the wild each year (2007-2016). According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 34 per cent of fish in the world’s marine fisheries were classified as overfished and nearly 90 per cent of the world’s so-called marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.

An estimated 80 fish species have gone extinct in recent centuries and more than 3000 are threatened with extinction.

Industrial fishing methods also result in bycatch, the unintentional capture of non-target species such as dolphins, sea turtles and diving birds. Animals unintentionally caught in nets often die by suffocation, starvation, or drowning.

Agricultural runoff

An animal agriculture feedlot seen from above

The animal agriculture industry is a major source of ocean pollution. Manure from animals raised for food and pesticides used to grow animal feed can make their way into our earth’s waterways with each rainfall.

Agricultural runoff can lead to the overgrowth of algae, which then decomposes and depletes the water of oxygen. Fish, who cannot survive in oxygen-depleted water, either die or move elsewhere to compete for increasingly scarce territory and resources.

In 2017, the meat industry was criticized for causing what is now considered the world’s second-largest ocean dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

How you can help fish

School of fish underwater

By shifting to a plant-based diet, you can directly save about 348 fish lives each year! This includes fish who are caught or farmed for eating and those used as feed for farmed fish. Eating more plant-based foods also decreases the demand for industrial land animal agriculture and fish farms, two major contributors of ocean pollution that harm wild fish and other marine life.

Alternatives to eating fish

PlantUniversity’s Recipe Library has plenty of tasty meals and snacks, including plant-based versions of fish foods!

Try this tasty Chickpea Salad Sandwich for some quick and easy lunches, or use this clever Vegan “Fish” Sauce in a mouth-watering Pad Thai!

You can also take the Plant-Based Pledge to receive free weekly recipes straight to your inbox. Each week you’ll receive a unique and delicious recipe, like this Sticky Garlic Vegan “Salmon”, just in time for Meatless Monday.

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Plant-based popularity seems ever-growing

Plant-based popularity seems ever-growing

Plant-based eating has moved into the mainstream in recent years, as demonstrated by a 2018 national survey conducted by Dalhousie University which found British Columbia is leading the dietary revolution. The survey found that nearly 40 per cent of British Columbians 35 and under say they follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

In North America, a growing number of schools, hospitals, food service providers, businesses and municipalities are recognizing and acting on the collective impact of our food choices, and as a result are embracing the plant-based movement.

At least 16 U.S. cities and counties have included meat-reduction efforts in their climate change mitigation strategies. For example, Santa Monica, California’s climate action plan commits the municipality to reducing meat and dairy purchases by 15% and Portland, Oregon’s climate action plan commits to increasing institutional purchases of healthy, climate-friendly food at public meetings, events, and in government facilities. 

In the U.S., Chartwells and Morrison Health Care committed to shifting 20% of menu offerings to plant-based by 2020; the University of Guelph in Ontario is working to replace 20% of meat protein with plant-based proteins; and Western University in Ontario is aiming for 55% of menu options to be based on plant proteins.

Metro Vancouver has seen amazing progress in recent months. In November 2021, the City of Vancouver unanimously passed a motion to shift 20% of animal-based purchasing to plant-based, citing a report from the Vancouver Humane Society. The District of North Vancouver passed another plant-forward motion in March citing the same report.

Amaga Food, a North Vancouver food service provider for several secondary schools, has also committed to transitioning 20% of menu offerings to plant-based. To date, 16 secondary and post-secondary schools throughout Metro Vancouver have also worked to increase their plant-based offerings through initiatives like Meatless Monday.

Share the plant-based movement!

Find tools and tips to advocate for more plant-based options in your area here.

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More cafes increasing plant-based milk options

More cafes increasing plant-based milk options

As the demand for plant-based foods is increasing, more cafes are responding by shifting menus.

Chain cafes are shifting their menus

By 2030, Starbucks is aiming for a 50 percent reduction in its carbon emissions, water withdrawal and waste sent to landfills. “Alternative milks will be a big part of the solution,” said Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson. “The consumer-demand curve is already shifting.”

Johnson says the company will encourage consumers to choose plant-based milk made from coconuts, almond, soy or oats, which all have a smaller environmental footprint than dairy products. In North America, 15 to 20 percent of Starbucks customers already opt for plant-based milk options.

However, the company has not yet moved to remove the additional $0.80 charge from its plant-based milk options in North America. This is a necessary next step to truly encourage a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly and animal-friendly shift.

The company’s announcement comes after an environmental assessment determined that dairy products are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions across its operations and supply chain.

The move to prioritize plant-based milk is part of Starbucks’ updated sustainability plan, which includes a pledge to “expanding plant-based options, migrating toward a more environmentally friendly menu.” The company is currently exploring new plant-based beverages and breakfast menu items.

The coffee giant’s expanded sustainability plan and focus on plant-based foods reflects the growing need to address our food system’s contribution to climate change, the global biodiversity crisis and the high demand for meat that drives factory farming.

Tim Hortons is also recognizing the importance of offering more plant-based milk options.

As a response, Tim Hortons introduced almond milk at locations across Canada in 2020, oat milk in 2021 and soy milk at select locations. According to Tim Hortons, research shows that customers who request plant-based milks prefer almond over any other types.  

Independent cafes are leading the way

A hand holds a pink beverage in a glass mug from the top floor overlooking Kind Cafe, Vancouver.

Many smaller cafes are joining or leading this plant-based movement. One in particular is Kind Café, located on Main Street in Vancouver. This locally owned, 100% plant-based and zero-waste cafe offers a number of plant-based milk options, including a variety of nut milks.

This is an excellent example of a cafe that offers plant-based milk as their default option.

Looking to find more plant-based cafes? Visit PlantUniversity’s Animal-free shopping & eating guide!

Why are cafes shifting toward plant-based options?

A global collective of 11,000 scientists recently declared a climate emergency and pointed to six critical steps to addressing the situation. Included in the six recommendations was the assertion that “eating mostly plant-based foods while reducing the global consumption of animal products, especially ruminant livestock, can improve human health and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

Institutions that offer food service can help make it easier for consumers to access plant-based options by prioritizing those items on daily menus. One useful and effective strategy includes making the default menu option plant-based, effectively making the climate-friendly, healthy and humane option the easiest choice for consumers, while still allowing the consumer the ability to modify the default option if they so choose.

Interested in learning more tips for expanding plant-based menu options at your school, workplace, business or in your community? Get in touch with us!

Cambridge University cuts emissions with less meat & more plant-based foods

Cambridge University cuts emissions with less meat & more plant-based foods

Back in 2016, Cambridge University made the decision to remove beef and lamb from its campus menus and offer more plant-based dishes in an effort to reduce its food-related emissions.

Cambridge pointed to the fact that producing beef and lamb emits 250 times more greenhouse gases per gram of protein than legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans) and that one meal with beef or lamb has the same footprint as eight months of chickpea-based meals. They also highlighted that plant-based foods require less water and land than animal-based foods.

The school has since reported that the decision, which was part of its Sustainable Food Policy, has been effective in reducing emissions per kilogram of food purchased by 33 per cent and land use per kilogram of food purchased by 28 per cent. The move cut the school’s overall emissions by 10.5 per cent, while simultaneously increasing sales and profit.

“It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time,” said Andrew Balmford, professor of Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge.

In addition to swapping out red meat options for more plant-based dishes, the school focused on making plant-based dishes appealing and accessible. Cambridge’s catering team took part in plant-based cooking classes and visited restaurants with plant-based menus for inspiration. Managers received training on marketing for sustainability rather than for profit.

Meanwhile, dishes added to the menu were strategically placed in the cafeteria to highlight them and encourage customers to choose them over meat-based options.

When it came to the labelling of dishes, staff focused on the ingredients rather than identifying dishes as specifically “veg” or “vegan”. They hoped this would create universal appeal and that customers would focus on the deliciousness of the dish.

Some of the most popular plant-based dishes include Swedish style vegballs with mash and creamy mustard sauce, smoky Moroccan chickpea stew with saffron infused couscous, and a sweet potato burger.

The success of this decision by Cambridge University serves as an inspiring example for other post-secondary schools and institutions that offer food service. It also comes at a crucial time; a growing body of research concludes that a significant reduction in global meat consumption is essential for addressing climate change, the global biodiversity crisis and the high demand for meat that drives the cruel factory farming system.

Interested in introducing or expanding plant-based menu options at your school, workplace, business or in your community? Get in touch!