Emily Arenberg’s Vegan Cooking
Written By Maayan Jaffe
Mt. Washington’s Emily Arenberg has learned to cook for herself. A vegan because she “does not believe in exploiting animals for our use,” Arenberg, husband Jeff and 20-month-old daughter Aviva May have mastered what it means to cook without — and consume no — animal products.
Calling herself a self-taught success story, she became a vegetarian in high school and a vegan several years later. She learned that she could not depend upon options when she went to restaurants or to eat at friends’ houses. If she wanted good, nutritious food, she would have to prepare it herself.
Today, Arenberg is considered by family members and friends to be a master chef and baker. She makes egg-free and butter-free cakes, pasta with homemade tofu cheese in lieu of baked ziti, and hamburgers out of lentils and mashed potatoes. She marinates her tofu and often picks up new vegetables and oils, then searches online for how best to prepare them.
“Experimentation is a big part of our vegan diet,” Arenberg says with a laugh. Although, she does not have many cookbooks, there is a wealth of vegan recipes online, as well as vegan bloggers. She usually starts with what she finds on the Internet and then adapts it to her and her family’s own liking.
Arenberg believes that a lot of people’s attachment to food is psychological. Sons remember getting hot dogs at baseball games with dad and, even if they don’t like hot dogs, they’ll be driven to get one next time they are at the stadium. Getting over the psychological attachment to food is the first step in being a vegan — and eating healthily. For example, she recalls eating a lot of pasta and cheese growing up and is drawn to that type of food.
“I make whole wheat pasta with nuts and some garlic in there, and I get the salty, cheesy, crunchy taste I love. I just replaced the ingredients and retrained my brain to believe this is the taste I am looking for,” she says.
One of the big questions that is often asked of vegans is how they get their protein source. Arenberg relies on tofu, lentils, beans and nuts. Tempe is also an option, she says, though none of them are big fans.
In the winter, she makes mostly what she calls “bowls,” one-dish meals prepared in a wok. The mix is usually vegetables, rice and beans or tofu, with the flavor of her choice. She also makes vegetable chilies.
In the spring and summer, she opts more for salads. Several times per week, she and Aviva go grocery shopping, looking for innovative veggie choices. She shops at the area Asian market and also takes regular trips to the Jones Falls Farmers Market to pick up fresh lettuces.
“We go from place to place and look for inexpensive, organic, well-grown vegetables, interesting things that might be new that I can make vegan,” Arenberg says. “The fresh stuff smells so good.”
Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
2 cups cooked brown or green lentils
2 large russet potatoes
1/2 head cauliflower
5-7 Tbsp safflower, flaxseed or hempseed oil
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup Baby Bella mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt
2 cups fresh/frozen peas
2 cups fresh/frozen corn
3-5 medium carrots, chopped
Salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare lentils according to package directions. Set aside.
2. While cooking lentils, chop potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut cauliflower into florets. Fill 4-quart pot with cold water. Place potatoes in pot. There should be 3 inches of water on top. Bring potatoes to boil. Add cauliflower and lower heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Once tender, turn off heat, drain and return to pot. Mash with potato masher. Add oil, vegetable broth, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Place onion in large pan on medium heat with 1 Tbsp of oil. Sauté. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté. Add cooked lentils, 2 Tbsp oil, spices. Sauté.
5. Run peas and corn under hot water in separate strainers. Remove lentil/onion/mushroom mixture from heat. Place mixture in a casserole.
6. Sauté carrots in oil for 5 minutes. Place in casserole on top of lentil mixture. Sauté peas in oil for 3 minutes. Place in casserole on top of carrots. Sauté corn in oil for 5 minutes. Place in casserole on top of peas.
7. Place potato/cauliflower mash on top of peas. Put in oven for 10-15 minutes until top is browned.
Vegan Jewish Apple Cake
2 Tbsp flax meal
6 Tbsp water
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 1/3 cup unbleached or raw sugar
3/4 cup safflower oil
2 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2 cup unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 medium red apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup unrefined/unbleached powdered sugar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flax meal and water.
2. In a large bowl combine flax mixture, applesauce, soy milk, sugar, oil and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients: cinnamon, flour and baking powder.
3. Combine. Add apple slices. Mix until evenly distributed.
4. Pour mixture into a generously greased bundt pan. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool completely before removing from pan. Once cool, use a strainer to sprinkle powdered sugar on top.