Sometimes said once, and sometimes twice, but what the heck is it?
We are long past the days of bringing Jell-O molds to a dinner party. Gelatin and dyed boxes of wiggly substances just don’t scream “treat” to most of us.
However, gelatin is not only used for molds. It is also found in shampoo, beauty products, in yogurt, in marshmallows, and the list goes on. Vegans tend to stay clear for the fact that it is made from the bones, tendons, skin and ligaments of cows or pigs. However, even if you are carnivorous, there is an alternative that may be worth considering.
Agar, or kanten, is a vegetarian gelatin substitute produced from a variety of seaweed vegetation. Like gelatin, it dissolves in water, but it is a little firmer and doesn’t melt quite as easily. It can produce some gorgeous desserts with some impressive health statistics. It contains calcium, iron, and fibre and is great for digestion. It has an ability to reduce inflammation, and has no calories. People in Japan even use agar as a weight loss supplement.
Agar comes in bars, flakes or powder, and needs to be softened before adding it to recipes. Do follow the directions on the box, but consider as a rough rule 1 tablespoon of flakes to 1 cup of liquid or 1 teaspoon of powder to 1 cup of liquid. Agar can be found in health food stores or in the Asian section of your supermarket. Once you have acquired some, here are five places you may want to consider using it (and not all of them are edible!):
1) Agar jam. Not only is agar a great alternative to gelatin, but it also stands in well for pectin.
2) Make a dairy free cheese. Agar can be used to make a firm vegan cheese, with nutritional yeast and cashews providing a lot of flavour.
3) Dairy free whipped cream. Water, agar, sweetener and coconut extract can combine to make a low-calorie topping that you can heap on any coffee drink without being afraid of the waistline repercussions.
4) Marshmallows. Making marshmallows immediately renders you impressive, and it really isn’t that hard. Make your hot cocoa a dream with a vegan marshmallow recipe with sugar, agar, vanilla and some other mix-ins. Simply delicious.
5) Hair gel. Take the toxic ingredients out of your hair products and make your own with water, agar and some optional essential oil.
Whether you say it once or twice, agar is worth considering storing in your fridge for a healthy and natural shot of vitamins in a new form.