Ask the Vegan Chef, Part 2

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Not sure of the difference between tofu and tempeh? Need to know how to make vegan versions of your family’s favorite recipes? Worried about how a vegan diet will affect your health?

Luckily, chef and author Robin Robertson kindly answers questions just like these, right here on, in the monthly column titled “Ask the Vegan Chef.” If you have a question for Robin, browse past questions and answers here, where you can also submit your own questions.

As promised, this is part two of the sneak peek at Robin’s answers to your latest questions.

Ask the Vegan Chef, Part 2
Answers by Robin Robertson

Q. I am working on redoing our vegetarian options on our plated menu here at the Hynes Convention Center. I want to start using vegan meats. I have a bunch of recipes for the basic vegan meats, but they all call for veggie beef broth or veggie fish stock, etc. What I can’t find is how to make the veggie meat broths. Any info you could give me would be of great help. Thank you.

A. A good rich homemade vegetable stock can be used to add great flavor to recipes—you might try that first and see if you don’t agree. If you really want a more “meaty” flavor, you could add one of the following products to your broth (available in natural food stores or online): Vegex Beefy Flavoring, Vogue VegeBase Vegetable Broth Mix, or Vogue Reduced Sodium Instant Vegetarian Chicken Base. Here’s one site that sells these products:

Q. I’ve tried to go vegetarian many times but don’t seem to have the “intestinal fortitude” for it. Let’s just say, all those beans and tofu do not agree with me. How can I become vegetarian without spending the day in the bathroom, popping Tums every hour, and burping every three minutes? Can it happen with a gradual adjustment? Is there a bean out there that’s easier to digest? Or a way to cook them that would be easier on my system? I really want to stop eating meat, but it sure makes life uncomfortable! Any input would be appreciated.

A. Here are some things that can help: Soak dried beans in water for eight hours or overnight, and then discard the soaking water before cooking. After soaking, drain the beans and cook them in fresh water. Be sure to cook the beans until they’re very soft, because this will make them more digestible. Adding the dried sea vegetable kombu or the herb epazote to a pot of beans is believed to help make them more digestible. Just add 2 teaspoons dried epazote or a 2-inch strip of kombu to the pot before cooking the beans. Begin eating beans just a few times a week until your body gets used to digesting them. Soon, you should be able to eat them more often. Some beans are said to be easier to digest than others. Among the most digestible are adzuki, black-eyed peas, and lentils. If all else fails, use a digestive enzyme product to make beans easier to digest. These products are generally taken as a tablet or sprinkled on cooked beans before eating them.

Q. This Christmas, I was given a Lodge cast-iron Dutch oven to use at my campsite. It came with a cookbook with all sorts of chicken, beef, etc., recipes. My daughter is vegan, and I try to stay as close to her diet as possible. Where can I find vegan recipes for cooking over my campfire?

A. Check out this feature: “Cooking With Fire”. There are also some cookbooks that can help, such as The Vegetarian Grill by Andrea Chesman. You also might enjoy some of the quick-and-easy recipes for cooking with nonperishable food in Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out by Jon Robertson (and for which I wrote the recipes).
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