Frankly, eggnog has always freaked me out. While it is delicious, I've never known exactly what was in it. (Could there really be raw eggs in there?) And I'd always heard that it's just insanely bad for you. Besides the alcohol, it's got more fat than any liquid should. And while it's served in small portions, who can stop at just one? Not me. I've definitely drunk three servings of the stuff, no problem.

But I've come to an eggnog compromise. For the past five or so years, I've looked forward to the time of year when Silk releases its soy nog (which comes in pumpkin spice and mint chocolate versions, in addition to the original), and while it's definitely not health food, cup for cup, it's not nearly as bad as regular 'nog. (For comparison, the Silk nog is 90 calories per 1/2 cup with only 2 grams of fat, none of it saturated, whereas regular eggnog is about 175 calories and 10 grams of fat, half of that saturated.) If you add an ounce of brandy (a bit less than a shot), that adds about 70 calories to the beverage either way.

But you don't have to buy nog, vegan or non. If you're making your own, here's a fantastic vegan recipe by Kathy on Healthy, Happy Life (go to the site for more variations and noggy info!):

Spiced Vanilla Soy Nog (Vegan)

Makes about 6 mugs (with foam)

4 cups soy milk, plain*
1/4-3/4 cup soy creamer**
1/2 ripe banana, mashed
1 whole real vanilla bean, seeds and bean pod
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp spice blend (nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt
A dash fine black pepper
1/8 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp coconut oil (optional)

Garnish: A dash of cinnamon/cayenne/maple foam
Adults-only add-in (optional): 1/2 shot of brandy per mug (about 3 shots total)
Maple foam
1 cup soy milk
1 Tbsp soy cream
1 tsp maple syrup

*I used Soy Dream for this recipe

**More creamer, richer beverage


Before starting, note that you can do a "quickie version" of this recipe by leaving out the banana, coconut oil and grated fresh ginger. If you really must leave out the real vanilla bean, substitute 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and use vanilla flavored soy milk. However, I highly advise using a fresh bean. Now onto the recipe in full...

1. Combine the soy milk and mashed ripe banana. Add to a blender. Blend until the banana has become smooth and thickens the milk. Pour contents of blender into a soup pot on stove. Note: If you want an extra-smooth soy nog, strain the banana-milk through a liquid strainer in order to remove any banana grains/strings/chunks.

2. Add to the soup pot: soy creamer, spices, salt/pepper, sweeteners, optional coconut oil, optional brandy, salt and grate in the fresh ginger. The only ingredient not yet added is the vanilla bean.

3. Turn the stove on medium and allow the liquid to warm and simmer while you prepare the bean.

4. Slice open your vanilla bean with a small sharp knife. Simply split down the center of the pod. Scrape the seeds from the inside of the bean and place them directly into your soy nog on the stove. Do not throw away the leftover bean pod! Toss it into the liquid, for extra flavor. Remove the pod before serving, you can store any leftover soy nog with the bean pod added to the container.

5. Bring your nog to a slight boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for a few minutes. Stirring constantly so the spices don't stick to the pot or burn. If you have a whisk or immersion blender, a brisk beating can help blend the flavors. Do a taste test and check for richness, sweetness and spiciness. Adjust ingredients as needed (to taste).

6. Once the nog is simmering hot, turn your burner on low heat and prepare your maple foam. Combine your maple foam ingredients and microwave in a tall glass on high for 40 seconds. Either steam foam the liquid (using whatever tool you may own), or use a wand foamer like an Aerolatte. This is my preference. If you do not have any "foaming" tools, simple stir briskly. Make sure your liquid is heated enough if you are not foaming it. The ideal milk foaming temp is about 60 degrees.

7. Before serving, bring the nog liquid to another quick boil, then ladle into small mugs. Top with a bit of maple foam, spices and serve hot. (Can also be served cold.)

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

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