Never Too Late to Go Vegan

The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet

Slow-Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

Pat Spradley1 Comment

by Carol J. Adams

photo credit: Matt Halteman

photo credit: Matt Halteman

This is the best macaroni and cheese recipe in the world. Well, this may be a little overstatement, but it was taste-tested by a group of international visitors to Dallas last month, and they all claimed it to be so. The meal that evening included barbecued tofu, tempeh, and seitan, spicy beans, cole slaw, two kinds of cornbread, braised greens, AND the mac and cheese. By the end of the evening, this container (see how large it is?), was almost empty. And there were only ten people at dinner!

Everyone asked me for the recipe, so I thought I would share it with you too! I veganized a mac and cheese recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two by Beth Hensperger. 


½ pound elbow macaroni or mini penne tubes
½ to 1 cup of cashews soaked for 6-8 hours and then drained (not necessary to soak if you have a high-speed blender)
1 ½ cups water
One 14-ounce can of coconut milk
8 to 10 ounces of silken tofu
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic 
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne
¼ to ½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup nutritional yeast
1 bag Daiya mozzarella shredded cheese
1 bag Daiya cheddar shredded cheese
1 head of kale, washed, destemmed, and shredded or a bag or two of Trader      Joe’s baby kale

1)    Cook the macaroni or penne according to package directions until al dente.  (I used whole wheat macaroni). After draining it, place in a large mixing bowl.
2)    Blend the cashews in a high speed or regular blender with the 1 ½ cups of water.
3)    Add the coconut milk, silken tofu, Dijon mustard, garlic, spices, salt and pepper to the cashew milk and thoroughly blend together.
4)    Add the blender ingredients to the cooked pasta. 
5)    Add the shredded or baby kale (lots!), the two bags of Daiya cheese, and the nutritional yeast.
6)    Spray the bottom and side of the inside of the slow cooker with nonstick vegetable spray. 
7)    Put the macaroni and cheese mixture in the slow cooker. If you were tempted to add more than 8 ounces of macaroni, add some unsweetened soy milk if it looks too dry. 
8)    Cover and cook on high for at least 30 minutes. I actually put this on high for 90 minutes because it was such a large amount (I had used more pasta probably 11 ounces uncooked would be my guess). Then put on low till macaroni and cheese looks like the photo, which is probably another two or two and a half hours.

Note: you could easily use just 1/2 a bag of each of the Daiya cheeses and low fat coconut milk if you wish.

Ditching Dairy: 5 Tips to Help You Transition to a Cheese-Free Diet

Ginny MessinaComment
                           Add guacamole to a veggie burger sandwich instead of cheese.

                           Add guacamole to a veggie burger sandwich instead of cheese.

by Virginia Messina, MPH, RD

Whether you go vegan overnight or are moving toward a plant-based diet one step at a time, it’s likely that you’ll find some changes are easier than others. Many people say that deleting cheese from their diet is the biggest challenge.  

It’s no wonder. Cheese sits front and center at many social gatherings—including vegetarian ones. It’s associated with some of our favorite comfort foods like pizza and mac ‘n cheese. And it’s familiar and convenient.  

But there are 5 simple tips that can help you move beyond cheese toward a vegan diet that is simple and satisfying.  

Add Umami. This hard-to-define flavor/essence has been called “the 5th taste” (in addition to salty, sweet, bitter and sour). Certain cheeses are especially high in umami, but so are many plant foods. One reason that many vegans love to use nutritional yeast in “cheesy,” recipes is because this ingredient is packed with umami. Other foods that provide a similar essence include dried mushrooms, olives, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, ripe tomatoes, ume plum vinegar, miso, sea vegetables, and balsamic vinegar. Roasting and caramelizing also bring out the umami in vegetables and so does cooking with wine.

Make use of ingredients that include healthy fats. Going too low-fat with your vegan diet might leave you craving foods like cheese. Try onions caramelized in olive oil on top of pasta. Or spread a sandwich with hummus, tapenade or tahini. Skip the cheese on burritos and double up on the guacamole instead.

Try commercial vegan cheeses. To be honest, some of these are better than others. Many work better as part of a recipe than as a straight-from-the-package snack. Some are good, though, and if you experiment a little bit, you may find a few that meet your needs perfectly. Some of the new artisan nut-based cheeses in particular—such as Miyoko’s Kitchen, Kite Hill and Parmela—are especially good.

Let gifted vegan cooks show you how fabulous cheese-free cooking can be. Check out my pinterest board devoted exclusively to macaroni and not-cheese! You’ll find thirty recipes from some incredibly talented cooks.

Remember the cows. It can be hard to think about animal suffering. But it can also be helpful to remind yourself once in a while about why you are making this choice. And giving up cheese—or any other animal food—becomes just a little bit easier when you remember that every time you choose a vegan meal, it makes a difference for animals.

The next time you need a little bit of cheesy flavor for a dish, whether it’s vegetables or pasta, try our super-simple Vegan Parmesan. The nuts provide healthy, satisfying fats and the nutritional yeast provides lots of umami.

¼ cup almond meal*½ cup raw slivered almonds or chopped walnuts

¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes

Salt to taste

Mix together in a jar and shake to blend. Use on cooked veggies or on top of pasta sauce.

 *If you don’t have almond meal, you can pulse ½ cup of raw slivered almonds in a food processor until very finely ground. Walnuts work, too.

Going Vegan—some thoughts on habits, strengths, and weaknesses

Carol Adams2 Comments
After reading the New York Times about the myths about habits, I thought I would apply the insights into developing the good habit of being vegan. For the record, that's our pizza from Christmas Day--vegan pepperoni, olives, spinach, pesto and Daiya cheese.

After reading the New York Times about the myths about habits, I thought I would apply the insights into developing the good habit of being vegan. For the record, that's our pizza from Christmas Day--vegan pepperoni, olives, spinach, pesto and Daiya cheese.

The New York Times recently carried an article on the myths versus facts of keeping New Year’s resolutions.

Much seemed applicable to becoming and staying vegan. Here’s my (Carol’s) interpretation.

1) The Times tells us that “To create or change a habit, you have to think much more about altering your environment and patterns of living than work on steeling your mind.” Quoting Professor Wendy Wood: “behavior is very much a product of environment.”

  •  Create a vegan-friendly environment so that you don’t have to think about what you should be preparing when you are under time pressure.

    • Stock your pantry with vegan staples (for instance, stock, beans, tomatoes—right there you have a soup base to which you could add veggies).

    • Keep some vegan foods prepared in your refrigerator

      • Prep for salads

      • A luscious soup

    • Have a few frozen vegan meals in your freezer

    • Read vegan cookbooks to learn how vegan cooks think about food preparation.  

  • Identify vegan-friendly restaurants to patronize   Don’t expect your non-vegan friends to be as supportive you would wish. Develop vegan contacts from online discussion groups or local vegan associations.

2) Good habits persist during times of high anxiety. That’s what the Times says. But sometimes it's being vegan that creates the anxiety because of the way non-vegan friends or family members relate to your decision. So develop some reassuring actions around your veganism:

  • Remind yourself that your veganism is a positive action, one you can make, in world where there is so much that is negative.

  • Remind yourself that their reaction, no matter what they say, isn’t really about you. In Living Among Meat Eaters, I attribute their bad behavior to being blocked vegans.

  • Develop a mantra: “I choose be vegan because [fill in the blank] and I am glad I did. I hope you can support me, but if you can’t, please respect me and our friendship by keeping your opinions to yourself.” Practice saying this and whenever needed, repeat yourself.

3) It takes 18 days to 245 days to make a habit (the average was 66 days). Be kind to yourself as you develop a practice of veganism.

  • Crowd out the meat with veggies on the plate.
  •  Explore new vegetables; perhaps try a new veggie a week.
  • Identify what foods you already love are vegan or could be easily veganized.
  • Do an internet search to discover all the national chain restaurants that offer vegan choices.
  • Learn to cook if you don’t know how and discover how much fun and relaxing cooking can be.
  • Give yourself the gift of time to notice how you feel. Learn to notice how veganism can speak to many of your senses—not just taste, but sight, the combination of colors, and smell, (for instance, when you cut up fresh herbs and smell your fingers); and touch: What foods do you eat with your hands? With chopsticks? With a spoon?

4)  Develop the ability of “mental contrasting.” This means not just focusing on your optimism for change but acknowledging the hurdles to achieving change. Identify your dream, (being a vegan), but be realistic about the obstacles. In fact, don’t ignore your “weakness” when you hit up against an obstacle, don’t blame yourself for that “weakness,” but get to know it. If a table leg is weak, wouldn’t you study it, figure out what it needs, and then reinforce it?

Figure out where your weakness is: is it wanting to go out for pizza? Find places that carry vegan cheese, or try ordering a pizza with the double the amount of veggies and adding a little red wine vinegar (to give the kind of sharpness that parmesan cheese conveys), or learn to make pizza at home, or buy frozen vegan pizzas. Is it wanting to relax with family who don’t acknowledge your veganism?

Eating out at an Ethiopian restaurant

Eating out at an Ethiopian restaurant

Bring something you can really enjoy and share it, meet them at a vegan-friendly restaurant, do activities that don’t involve food, have them to your house and don’t tell them the food is vegan.

Track the obstacles you come up against: friend, friends, co- workers, travel? You won’t be the first vegan experiencing these obstacles. Tons of advice exists from those who overcame it. (And Never Too Late to Go Vegan chimes in on this.)

5) Habits free us up so we can think about other things.
Vegans follow habits all the time. Putting the water on to boil
while unloading the groceries; washing lettuce or greens while unpacking the rest of the groceries. Fixing the muesli (see recipe in Never Too Late to Go Vegan) the night before so that you can just grab it for breakfast in the morning without having to stand in front of the fridge and wonder what you should eat.

Finally, people should show compassion for themselves if they lapse. Veganism is a compassionate approach to the world. Certainly you, the aspiring vegan, deserve some of your compassion as you learn how to be the vegan you are meant to be. 


Soyfoods in Asian Diets (With Two Recipes for Vegan Tempeh Salad)

Ginny MessinaComment

By Ginny Messina

Tempeh wrapped in banana leaves

Soyfoods have been part of Asian diets for centuries. The ones that have long been a part of Asian cuisine include tofu, soymilk, and soybeans along with fermented products like miso, tempeh and natto.  

We have some good information about how much and what kinds of soy are consumed throughout Asia from national surveys and also from epidemiologic studies. They show that people in Japan typically eat 1 to 1 ½ servings of soyfoods per day. Many older people, who have more traditional eating patterns, consume considerably more than this. About half is in the form of fermented foods miso and natto. The other half comes mostly from tofu.

In Shanghai, China, total soy consumption is similar to Japan, but most of the soy consumed is non-fermented—mostly soymilk and tofu. Tofu and soymilk are also the most popular choices in Hong Kong and South Korea.

Tofu is also popular in Indonesia, almost as popular, in fact, as tempeh, which is considered the national food of Indonesia. According to The SoyInfo Center, tempeh is the only traditional soyfood that originated outside of Japan or China. It’s still often made in Indonesia in the traditional manner, by wrapping treated soybeans in banana leaves to ferment.

Including some fermented soyfoods like tempeh in your diet might have a few advantages. For example, if you find that eating too many legumes gives you gas, tempeh is often easier to digest. It’s also possible that iron is more easily absorbed from fermented foods like tempeh.

Aside from those considerations, tempeh can add great interest to vegan diets. It has a tender, chunky texture and a flavor that is sometimes described as “nutty,” “smoky,” or “earthy.” In Indonesia, a traditional way to serve it is with vegetables and spicy peanut sauce (try the recipe on page 304 of Never Too Late to Go Vegan), or simmered in coconut milk with spices.

I love to cook tempeh in those authentic ways, but you’ll also always find a big bowl of tempeh salad in my refrigerator. It’s a more westernized way to enjoy tempeh and it’s great for snacks and lunches.  

Here are two tempeh salad recipes that are inspired by a recipe for “Tempuna” in the classic cookbook Tempeh Cookery by Colleen Pride. I’ve been cooking from this book for 30 years; it’s still one of my favorites. Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print, but it’s easy to find used copies.

Here are two variations on Colleen’s recipe:


Tempeh Salad with Sweet Pickles

8 ounces tempeh
1 cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 to ½ cup of vegan mayonnaise (try Vegenaise or Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo)
Salt and pepper to taste


Steam the tempeh in a vegetable steamer for 20 minutes. Let cool and then grate or chop finely. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Adjust the seasonings and the mayonnaise. (I start with ¼ cup and add more as needed.)


Tempeh Salad with Apples and Walnuts

With just a few ingredient switches, this makes a salad with a completely different flavor. Use the recipe above, but omit the relish and add 1 cup of chopped apples and ¼ cup of chopped walnuts. You’ll probably need a little bit more mayo with this since it makes more salad.


Protein-Packed Meals for Vegans

Plant proteinGinny Messina1 Comment

by Virginia Messina, MPH, RD

How do you get your protein on a vegan diet? Those worries are passé. Vegans don’t need to eat foods in special combinations or depend on protein bars and drinks. Getting enough protein is simply about eating a variety of plant foods throughout the day and making sure you eat enough food overall.

But people over 50—no matter what kind of diet they are eating—sometimes need to give a little bit of extra attention to protein. There is evidence that protein is used less efficiently with aging which means that needs may increase a little bit over time. Higher protein diets can help protect bone and muscle strength and may help to decrease hunger.

There is no consensus on the protein needs of older people, but some experts think that those over 60 should aim for at least one-half gram of protein per pound of lean or “healthy” body weight. So if your lean body weight is 150, you would need around 75 grams of protein per day.

There is no need to count protein grams, though. It’s just a matter of making sure you’re including plenty of the most protein-rich plant foods in your menu. Legumes—which include cooked dried beans, soyfoods, and peanuts—are always a sure bet for giving protein intake a boost. And because they are the best sources of the essential amino acid lysine, they deserve a central role in your meals.  

You can also give protein a little bit of a boost by choosing the most protein-rich grains, nuts and vegetables. For example, pasta, quinoa and potatoes have more protein than other starchy foods. Pistachios and almonds are higher in protein than other nuts and seeds. And broccoli, corn and spinach are the most protein-rich foods in the vegetable family.

Including soyfoods in your diet can also increase protein intake. For example, soymilk is typically much higher in protein than other plant milks (although some plant milks are protein-fortified). Sprinkling a couple of teaspoons of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds on grains or vegetables is another way to sneak in a little more protein.

Here are some examples of vegan meals that are packed with protein.

1 cup oatmeal with ½ cup soymilk
1 slice whole grain bread with 2 tablespoons almond butter

1 cup quinoa
½ cup tofu
1 cup steamed spinach

1 baked potato
½ cup black beans
1 cup broccoli sprinkled with 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

1 cup pasta sautéed with 1 cup mixed broccoli and cauliflower, ½ cup white beans, and 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds

1 cup lentil soup with ¼ cup veggie sausage
1 slice whole grain bread
1 cup kale topped with 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds