Friday, September 6, 2013

Vegan Diner - Cookbook review-ish

Today I'd like to cover a book that has been hanging out in my collection a while, but not too long, and I've been hording photos of for ages but missing quite a few photos too because I can't for the life of me lay my little mouse pointer on them . . . 

I've been seeing Julie pop up on the ppk forums since I first became vegan and have learned that she is a great vegan chef.  Recipes that she comes up with are to be trusted, tried and fed to your family.  I guess it probably helps that she's looking to feed her own family as well as running a vegan food business.  It is in her interest to produce delicious foods that anyone and everyone can enjoy.

Starting with breakfast I made the:
Blueberry Nutmeg Muffins (pg 19)
Mocha Muffins (pg 20) 
Banana Biscuits (pg 25)
Breakfast Potatoes with Peppers and Onions (pg 45)
Soups Salads & Sides:
Quick and Hearty Chili (pg 70)
A nice quick chili.  Great on it's own but super awesome over potatoes.  
Garlic Dill Potato Salad (pg 80)
This was awesome!  As with everything I make with raw garlic these days, I scaled down the amount asked for because I couldn't bare to hear it was too much.  I am totally in love with creamy potato salads anyway, always have been.  This doubled as a good help to use extra fresh dill I had hanging out in my fridge.
Vampire Fries (pg 85)
Yup, more garlic and I loved them.  But not too much garlic.  Garlic is good for you!
Sweetheart Fries (pg 86)
Main Courses:
Very Sloppy Joes (pg 93)
I've always had a love hate relationship with sloppy joes.  I like sandwhiches and I like the sloppy joe filling but half of it always squeezes out and you end up eating it with a fork anyway and for sandwhiches I feel like they are fork free foods.  I forget which blog I recently saw this on but I had to do the old forhead smack on this one.  Sloppy joes over potatoes.  I think baked potato would be best but I don't do baked spuds often so the cubed and roasted are just fine here.
Quinoa Burgers (pg 100)
Cheezy Mac (pg 104)
Just add something green for a super yummy rounded out meal.
Jambalaya (pg 105)
Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (pg 124)
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (pg 125)
Ooey-Gooey Brownies (pg 126)
Ok these I almost had to report a problem with before I realized the problem was me and my oven.  It's a gas oven and I've always had trouble regulating temperature in gas ovens.  Sometimes the seal has been crap.  Sometimes there isn't even a suggestion of temperature control, just on or off.  First I didn't make them exactly as written I had substituted whole meal flour and then realized as they were baking that I forgot the sugar completely.  They still tasted ok, good thing I like dark chocolate!  Both the first and second times I made them there was a baking time issue.  I just could not get the centers to bake.  Then I thought about it, no matter what I baked in there if it were dessert/snack bars or dinner casseroles I had a ridiculous time getting the centers to heat up before the edges hardened and turned to cemented lumps of charcoal. The final time I improvised a tray on a cookie sheet and followed the recipe exactly and voila! Perfect delicious best brownies ever brownies.  Seriously make these.  
Apple Crumb Pie (pg 138) with All Purpose Pastry Dough (pg 136)
 Sauces & Incidentals:
I won't comment on these individually but just say as a group all the sauces I tried were awesome and I have made them more than once since the first try.
Creamy Sage and Pepper Gravy (pg 160)
Rich Brown Gravy (pg 176)
Rough Rider Barbecue Sauce (pg 178)
 Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce (pg 179)

There are loads more I want to make.  When I made the bulk of these recipes I was keeping away from too much gluten for our family.  Lately I have been reintroducing it a bit and my little one seems to be doing much better with it.  While I won't be going crazy with it I am now able to try out some more of these recipes.  On that note I did find the book a bit gluten heavy.  For some things like sauces and gravies when a flour is called for it's not a hard sub to choose something wheat and/or gluten free but in recipes where vital wheat gluten flour is called for the substitution is much more difficult and the result will almost certainly not be the same as the recipe creator intended.  Aside from a gluten aversion this book does not disappoint and I look forward to trying out more recipes.  Just now writing this I know that tomorrow morning I will be making Cherry Almond Poppyseed Muffins (pg 18) but with the cranberry variation.  The recipes cover lots of diner style food and definitely hit the comfort food spot.

Julie's latest book is Vegan Pizza: 50 Cheesy, Crispy, Healthy Recipes.  Can't wait to get my mitts on that one.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Make Your Own Tortillas - Save money and preservatives!

I bought flour tortillas and wraps for the longest time just assuming that there was some magic trick to making them and therefore it would just be too much work to make at home.  Turns out that is so far from the truth it's laughable.  When I finally got around to trying it, while living in Spain where tortillas are available but silly expensive, I goggled a recipe and just went for it.  I had no special equipment, not even a rolling pin, working in a tiny hostel kitchen with thin beat up pans.  So I think it's safe to say that pretty much anyone can do this and once you do it a couple times you'll get into a rhythm and it truly is super fast, like 10-20 minutes fast!  So I'll get right to it shall I?

Flour Tortillas
2 1/2 c all purpose flour*
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour*
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 c vegetable oil, like canola/rapeseed**
1 1/2 c boiling water**

Combine flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add oil and boiling water and mix and knead into a soft, but not sticky, dough.  Be careful of using your hands with the hot water.  Allow the dough to rest about 5 minutes and preheat a griddle or pan(s).  Before I used a griddle I would use 2-3 pans at once.  Heavy bottomed pans (cast iron is great here) is best but thinner pans can be used.  They will not require much preheating.  Once the dough has rested a bit divide into desired number of tortillas.  I usually use these for tacos and would divide the dough into 32 balls.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour and have extra handy as needed.  Roll dough fairly thin but so you can still handle it.  We're not looking for paper thin here.  Place your rolled tortilla onto the hot griddle or pans, pans should be dry, no oil needed.

You may need to increase or decrease the heat on your pans as they come up to temperature.  What you are looking for are small/medium bubbles to start forming on your tortilla within a few seconds.  The first one or two for me always take a bit longer as I usually don't wait for things to preheat properly.  Once you have those bubbles all over your tortilla (or you check and the bottom is starting to lightly brown) then flip and cook the other side for a few more seconds.  Once everything is nicely hot, but not smoking, my tortillas usually take roughly 30 seconds per side.  To steamline the process I am cooking and rolling out dough at the same time.  Once your tortilla is cooked pile them up, they are ready to eat.  If you are storing them allow them to cool fully so as not to trap loads of moisture in with your tortillas.

*You can mix this amount of flour any way you desire.  I have used only all purpose flour and all whole wheat as well.  I prefer a mixture of the two for the best texture.  The resulting tortillas are soft and light but also flavorful and filling.  In general all purpose white flour gives softer fluffier more flexible results, whole wheat will be heavier and make for stiffer cooked tortillas.  You can also directly substitute spelt flour without trouble.
**You can also change the ratios of oil and water within this amount although I have never tried an oil free tortilla.  I have found that this amount of oil really helps in maintaining a soft flexible tortilla once they have cooled in in the following couple days without needing to reheat the breads.

I'm writing out this recipe fast and furious so if something is unclear or you have general questions please feel free to ask and I will try to clarify or modify the recipe :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Vegan Pantry - Welcome to Vegan Mofo 2013!!!

Vegan Mofo in September!  Exciting but that means it kind of snuck up on me.  I haven't participated in a couple years and I've really been wanting to get back to this blog regularly so I've signed up.  Fingers crossed I can make a good showing :)

While I won't have a particular theme for the month I will be mostly expanding on what I intended this blog to be about, how to feed a vegan.  This can cover everything from ingredient use, recipes for new foods as well as old favorites, and places to eat out or how to eat well in a nonvegetarian establishment.  Hopefully you find some helpful things to feed yourself or the friendly vegans in your life.

To kick off the month I wanted to share my vegan pantry with you.  This is the master list of what I try to stock in my pantry.  Different households will favor different things but hopefully this is a good starter list for anyone wanting to refresh their own pantry or those just wondering what a typical vegan might be storing in their kitchen cupboards.

The Vegan Pantry
  • chickpeas (dried and/or canned)
  • blackbeans (dried and/or canned)
  • lentils (dried)
  • kidney beans (canned)
  • vegetarian baked beans (canned)
  • soy mince (tvp)
  • soy chunks 
  • tofu (fresh extra firm)
  • brown rice 
  • white rice
  • gluten free pasta
  • whole wheat pasta (preferably organic)
  • rolled oats (preferably organic)
  • whole wheat flour (preferably organic)
  • white flour (preferably organic, rarely use this anymore)
  • whole spelt flour (preferably organic)
  • brown rice flour
  • chickpea flour (besan)
  • corn meal (maize flour)
  • corn starch
  • white sugar (non bone char)
  • dark brown sugar
  • confectioners sugar 
  • treacle/molasses
  • golden syrup (in the US I had corn syrup)
  • maple syrup
  • vegan non hydrogenated margarine
  • canola/rapeseed oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sunflower seed oil
  • raw coconut oil
  • toasted sesame seed oil
Other Baking
  • cocoa powder (fair trade)
  • vegan semisweet chocolate pieces/chips/bar
  • baking powder
  • baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • cream of tartar
  • xanthan gum 
  • vanilla extract
  • almond extract
  • peppermint extract
  • active dry yeast
Other Canned Goods
  • tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • coconut milk
  • pineapple
  • balsamic vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • brown rice vinegar
  • soy sauce/tamari
  • thai curry paste (red or green)
  • liquid smoke
  • ketchup
  • mustard (whole grain, dijon, english, etc)
  • hot sauces
  • brown sauce
  • marmite/yeast extract
  • miso paste
  • vegan vegetable stock cubes/granuals
  • nutritional yeast
Dried Fruit/Nuts/Seeds/Nut Butters
  • raisins 
  • prunes
  • figs
  • cranberries (unsweetened)
  • dates
  • shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • flake/chip coconut (unsweetened)
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • walnuts
  • sesame seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • flax seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • peanut butter
  • almond butter
  • tahini
  • soy milk (unsweetened and/or sweetened)
  • coffee (fair trade organic)
  • teas (green, black, herbal)
Spice Rack (items with * I consider basic spice rack needs)
  • anise seeds
  • allspice (ground)
  • basil*
  • bay leaves
  • cardamom
  • cayenne
  • celery seed
  • chili powder*
  • cinnamon* (ground)
  • cloves (ground)
  • coriander
  • cumin seed (and/or ground)*
  • dill
  • fennel seed
  • fenugreek seeds
  • garlic powder*
  • ginger*
  • mustard powder
  • mustard seed
  • nutmeg* (ground)
  • onion powder*
  • oregano*
  • paprika*
  • paprika, smoked
  • peppercorns*
  • red pepper flakes*
  • rosemary*
  • sage*
  • salt
  • thyme*
  • tumeric
Basic Produce
  • potatoes (preferably organic)
  • onions
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • bananas
  • apples
  • oranges
  • lemons
  • peppers
While this looks like a huge huge list remember that this is pretty much every bit of food in the kitchen and lots of things, like the spice/herbs list are small bottles.  Like I said before, different households will favor different things or more or less choices.  I like knowing that I don't really have to shop most days if most of these things around.

Here's to a month of vegan food greatness!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (low sugar)

Ok so I realize looking at this picture that these totally look like dog biscuits and your dog would not mind eating these at all.  I think to remedy the dog biscuit look you can make these just into drop cookies but I made these with my 2 year old and she loves loves loves to play with the dough.  I decided she would probably like pressing these into shapes with the cookie cutters.  Or rather she played and I pressed them.  

This recipe is based on the Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar but with a couple tweeks to use a banana that was a little beat up on the counter and to reduce the sugar to alleviate any guilt that might crop up when feeding your kids cookies.  Although with the reduced sugar and banana these are definitely less sweet than your typical cookie.  Luckily my little Noodle hasn't really learned what sugar is.  If you're not into the light banana flavor, apple sauce/puree would work just as well.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

1 medium banana, mashed
1/2 c peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/3 c nondairy milk
4 tsp ground flax
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 c oats (whatever kind you have)

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Mix together the banana, peanut butter, sugar, milk, flax, and vanilla until smooth.
Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Add oats and mix together.
Drop by rounded teaspoon (or press into shapes) onto prepared cookie sheets and bake about 10 minutes.  

Meal Plan Wednesday (13/3/13)

You'll probably see a trend forming between previous weeks and this one.  I'm really cooking up a storm with Vegan Diner.  I'm working up a consolidated review of the book but there will be snippets here and there through dinners.

Quick & Hearty Chili (Vegan Diner 70) with oven chips
I neglected to snap a pic of our actual plates but I simply scooped this chili over our oven chips (fries).  This chili was super quick (as advertised) and the whole family enjoyed it.  I might have mentioned this before but I do enjoy things over oven chips.  Such an easy way to construct a satisfying filling meal.

Pasta with Esme's sauce, broccoli & chickpea bacon and Marinated Portabella Mushrooms (Vegan Table)
I've made Esme's sauce ages ago but in working to clear out old bookmarks I have rediscovered it and it will move to the family favorites binder.  This is an excellent alternative to the usual cheesy pasta sauces which I do also enjoy but it's good to mix it up.  Especially with a toddler to feed, I want to keep that palate alive and accepting of different flavors.  The Noodle really enjoyed this but with pasta you're already half way there anyway.  She loves her mushrooms and broccoli as well so this really was a winner.  I've made this marinated mushroom side before as well with a couple types and sizes of mushrooms and it's always been a treat.

"Steak" and Ale Stew.  OK, this wasn't steak or ale but like most recipes I end up making it's just a starting off point for my easily distracted brain.   This wasn't actually in my original meal plan but we had a half a bottle of Spitfire to use.  I started with this recipe which is super simple and made only slight changes (like using soy chunks instead of cow, no celery, added potatoes and parsnips), and I just made this on the stove top.

Winter Vegetable Curry with rice.  No pics but this is a good mild curry that you can easily modify to your own tastes.  I ended up adding garam masala to up the flavor.  We're used to a bit more spice around here.

Quinoa Burger (Vegan Diner 100) with Vampire Fries (Vegan Diner 85)
This I had to modify not because of our preferences but because quinoa is expensive!  I'll probably manage to get my hands on some sometime soon but I figured rice would work just fine here and I happen to have some leftover in the fridge which worked out swimmingly.  I dressed up the burger with some hummus, ketchup and cherry tomatoes (the only ones around right now that have flavor).  For the fries I added carrot sticks to the pan and roasted them in the oven as oven fries.  I also opted to add the garlic to the fries as they went into the oven rather then after.  Although I would have loved to eat them with the garlic on post cooking I know that my husband would have picked on me about my garlic tastes and the little Noodle would have found the flavor too overwhelming.

Very Sloppy Joes (Vegan Diner 93) over baked potatoes
This, in my opinion, is a way better option than sloppy joes on a bun.  I love sandwiches as much as the next guy but most of it ends up on the plate needing to be scooped up somehow and I end up with a rubbish joe to bread ratio in each bite.  An potatoes are just the best!  In the background you can see kale.  That was just quickly steamed.  That was pretty good too :)

Hmm looking back is making me hungry . . . .time to get some lunch.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Meal Plan Wednesday (6/3/13)

This was a weird week where everything was trying it's best not to fall into place.  We made it through pretty well mostly winging dinner as most of the meal plan was thrown out the window.
Cheese Mac (Vegan Diner 104) with Hamburger Steaks
I was really pleased with this mac & cheese and the addition of the last of my fresh spinach didn't hurt either. The side of hamburger steaks is a recipe I bookmarked ages ago as the flavor profile sounded like something to try out (my main reason for bookmarking anything burger like these days).  I skipped the gluten and the steaming step (since that for the benefit of cooking the gluten properly).  They were definitely a nice natural side for the mac.  Especially topped with left over bbq sauce.

Veggie and Lentil Soup.  Lex cooked tonight.  The Noodle and I were out early in the morning stomping around town hitting the library and visiting ducks.  Then we all went out for our big weekly shop finally.  By the time we hit the checkout the Noodle could hardly hold her head up.  She nearly fell asleep twice during the day but when it came to laying down for a little nap . . . oh heck no! so she was tired and velcro'd to mum for much of the day.  So Lex stepped up and threw together this delicious soup.  It's another reminder that a good veggie soup is only a little way away.  Raid your fridge and cupboards, chop chop chop, simmer simmer, yum yum!

Thai Red Curry over brown rice.  Lex cooked this one too!  I know! You don't have to tell me!  Enough with the exclamation points though  . . . well maybe one more. . .  This was so good!  The Noodle thought so too.  She ate a little of everything in this dish.  It helps that she has an undying love for coconut.  Thai curry is another one of those awesome dishes that goes together pretty quickly like a soup if you keep the curry paste around.

Not your Average Potato Soup
I recently discovered Oh She Glows and I have to say I'm hooked.  I haven't explored the rest of the site but the recipes are great and the photography gets your mouth watering.  If you need help with making delicious healthy meals this is a must visit for you.  This week has been all about the one pot meals.  They are perfect when you can only steal away 2 minutes at a time away from your clingy toddler.  This is a super easy recipe that you can get together on a busy weekday night with no problem.  It will also keep well for a couple days in the fridge if you are one to do some cooking in advance.  I followed the recipe as written then added to it to fill it out and fill the pot.  I added an additional half pound of potatoes and half cup of lentils (I don't have the split lentils in the house so used whole) then snuck in some carrots.  I know it's supposed to be potato soup but the original is both a potato soup but a lentil soup too.  It's like the two got together and had a baby anyway so I said to heck with it.  Carrots go with everything.

Chickpea Crockpot Pie with Biscuit topping
Another recent blog discovery, Peas and Thank you.  Not a veg blog but enough wholesome family meals that there are plenty of veg options and things to be modified to such.  The photo really sucked me in with winter making it's usual last hurrah in March it just looked so cozy.  As you'd expect I subbed veg options for butter and milk.  For the biscuits I used spelt flour and skipped the nutritional yeast and herbs.  I'm sure they would have made tasty additions but Noodlepants was helping me and she can be a bit over zealous with the herbs and spices.  Also we are pretty low on nooch.  As one of the more expensive ingredients we use I'm trying to spread it out a bit.

We didn't make it to the market this week and Noodle is all about being Mama's shadow these days so she's doing everything I'm doing.  Both of these things probably contributed to the off-ness of the week.  I look forward to our market trips.  Hopefully we get back to them next week.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Meal Plan Wednesday (27/2/13)

1. Chinese Sweet & Sour 'Pork'
So super yum.  As you can work out I forgot to take a pic but I will totally make this again.  For us I used soy chunks (tvp chunks) hydrated with water, soy sauce and a splash of liquid smoke.  I didn't do the breading and frying part.  While I love fried stuff it's not really that good for ya and more importantly I had a short person hanging off my trouser leg trying to pull and push me out of the kitchen so I had to shorten the method a bit.  The sauce for this is glorious.  I skipped the optional tomato soup powder as well as the food coloring and I dare say I probably doubled the pineapple but again there was this little person saying something like "want pine apple" (yup she says it separated like that, so cute).  I added the extra because I knew she would be picking a bunch out for herself.

2. Lentil & Vegetable Soup
I feel like everyone has a veggie lentil soup on their blog and I'm sure they're all tasty.  Let's face it, veggie lentil soup is pretty quick and easy.  You can add any veg you'd like and the stock can be light or dark.  It's simple healthy delicious food (well unless you add something not delicious, unhealthy and/or complicated).  This is a good place to start if you've somehow missed the boat on lentil soups.
3. Jambalaya (Vegan Diner pg 105)
Yes, this is a photo of some ugly food.  I could have prettied it up I suppose given more space and time but we wanted to eat.  Given the first two meals of the week we should all consider ourselves lucky I managed to snap a photo at all.  All that out of the way this was some good food.  In the past I've really enjoyed the recipe in Veganomicon but since I've been focusing on giving Vegan Diner a good testing I chose this one.  It's some excellent comforting food let me tell you.  I doubled the recipe (reminder, I have a hungry husband)  and added kidney beans because I knew they wouldn't take anything away from the original recipe and it would stretch the meal out a bit more yet.
4. Mashed potatoes, broccoli and Chickpea Cutlets with Rich Brown Gravy (Vegan Diner pg 176)
The real focus for me in this meal was the Vegan Diner's Brown Gravy because I love me some tasty gravy but a happy discovery occurred while further simplifying and deglutenizing the already simplified chickpea cutlet recipe.  The original recipe for the cutlets was a winner in my book already but I now have a couple issues with it.  1. We don't have vital wheat gluten so readily available to us these days and 2. we're shifting away from eating wheat and gluten.  So with that in mind along with an impromptu trip out to Frampton Marsh left me rushing to get dindins out.  I'll post my  modifications after I make it again just so I'm not sharing something that will leave you all hating me when it turns into a big pile of slop in a bowl.  What about the gravy you ask?  It was delicious and pretty nutritious as gravies go.  Julie doesn't use corn starch to thicken here instead opting for a couple flours mixed with the other seasonings.  My only criticism of it is that there may be too much dried onion powder in there for my tastes.  I actually reduced it when I made it, suspecting that the printed amount would be a bit over powering.  Noodle ate this first.  She scraped it off her potatoes and cutlets and into her mouth then asked for more.

5.Baked Potato & Greens Soup with Potato Croutons (Veganomicon)
I have had my eye on this soup ever since getting a copy of Veganomicon but for some completely unknown reason never actually made it.  I probably had it in my head that I didn't have enough time or it wasn't hearty enough of some lame-o thing or other.  Whatever the reason I totally should have made this ages ago.  It's delicious and easy (my two favorite things in food at the moment).  I only added chickpeas to round out this to a one pot meal and create some leftovers.
6. Pigs in Clover and for lunch we had a nice big salad of spinach, avocado, cucumber, beet, chickpea bacon and hummus dressing.  No pic of the salad but it looked like a salad, trust me :)  I definitely recommend the chickpea bacon.  Super yum and a great way to boost your salad (Lex asked for a good high calorie salad).  I liked the idea for this baked potato dish and liked the idea of making it more of a twiced baked potato thing even more as it made it a bit less fiddly to accomplish.  I used lentils instead of oats and also added fennel as it always instantly reminds me of sausage.  Since I had a baked potato item on the agenda for the previous night I went ahead and baked the potatoes for both nights at the same time which cut down on time and energy to make this.
7. Pan-Fried Chickpeas, Brussels Sprouts with Crash Hot Potatoes and Rough Rider Barbecue Sauce (Vegan Diner pg 178)
I can't get enough potatoes, can you tell?  Crash Hot Potatoes is another recipe I've had bookmarked for a while.  I knew I would like them and I'm always looking for more ways to enjoy one of my favorite foods.  The barbecue sauce was excellent.  It really is a good classic barbecue flavor as far as I'm concerned.  I know barbecue, like chili, is a regional thing.  For me this is classic barbecue.  I might be making this regularly and keeping it on hand rather than buying premade stuff with the extra preservatives.

Noodle Snacks:
Figgy Pudding Gingerbread Granola
I love this idea.  I've been thinking about granola a lot but didn't want the Noodle to be eating all the sugar that traditionally covers those lovely chunks of oats and nuts and other goodies.  This was my first go at fruit sweetened granola and I'm sure we'll find our favorites and I'll improve my methods.  I used this recipe as a guide and used some additional bits I had about (like a single super ripe banana).  I meant to snap a photo before the chunks were all eaten up but well, they were all eaten up.  I can't believe the Noodle maintained interest throughout the whole batch rather than getting bored of it after the first day.  Toddlers aren't so much picky as fickle in regards to food.  Well as long as they have a good diverse palate from the start.

the market haul
The groceries:
kale (250g)
red grapes (500g)
2 parsnips
cherry tomatoes (500g)
4 bell peppers (3 yellow, 1 orange)
sm potatoes
flax seed
soy milk
tvp mince
tvp chunks
peanut butter
baked beans
canned tomatoes
tomato sauce
coconut milk

Totally lost track of the slips this week but there was little pantry restock this week.  Mostly the regular weekly stuff.  Definitely less than £50, I'd be surprised it if was £30 but I don't have my totals so we don't know for sure.

Friday, March 1, 2013

My go to "meatball" recipe, finally! and Meal Plan Wednesday (20/2/13)

I know that Meal Plan Monday has this great ring to it and everything but we've started this new tradition of doing our big weekly shop on Wednesdays.  Going to the market in near by Boston and then hitting up the supermarket for the rest of our stock-up   Maybe there is a stop at an additional shop for a little fun treat for the Noodle.  I've been having more fun than she has collecting little Playmobile guys (and gals).  I, of course, have not been very regular on posting my meal plans for the week but in the interest of full disclosure I do not get them done every week.  I don't know how you moms do it out there.  Between looking after the Noodle, and keeping the house and cooking in between my day is over.  I struggle to get proper exercise in as evidenced by my significant lack of strength.

This was the last week in dinners.

1. Sloppy Joes over potato (Vegan Diner  - page 93).  I'll be making these again and will do a separate post highlighting their deliciousness with my preferred serving method.  And maybe a photo which I totally flaked on this time.

2. Bean and Pea Garden Burger with chips & veg
These were plenty tasty and another good burger for putting in those random bits of vegetable.  I added off cuts of the kale and cabbage I had (stem and tougher leaves cut into small confetti).  Seriously, don't throw out your kale stems they are edible they just need to be cut up due to their fibrous nature.  Toss those bits into burgers and soups.  We served these with spicy sweet potato fries.

3. Nacho Potatoes
Another delicious bowl idea.  I've been leaning toward the bowl presentation more and more lately.  Especially as we lean away from eating bread and wheat over all.  Potatoes make a great base for many of these sandwichy type things.

For some reason this link doesn't want to work and bumps you to the home page of Lisa's Vegan Project but no matter.  In the top right corner there is a search box and enter "pistachio tofu" and it is the first result :)  This was really nice and simple.  A couple things overall I might change if I make it again.  I think I'll add a bit of corn starch/flour to the mix to help the crust stick onto the tofu better and I'll also think of a sauce for the hubs to use because he really wanted a sauce on this.  He does like his sauces though.  I thought it was fine as is.  I added carrot to the rice mix for more flavor/color/veg and I used regular onion as I rarely buy leeks. I caramelized the onion and carrot together then mixed it with the peas and rice.

5. Vegetable Cobbler
Because let's be honest.  No one thought I'd bake this right?  The stew was great anyway.  I ended up adding kale, green beans and chickpeas.  The topping was made with a combo of spelt and oats in biscuit form.

6. Gluten-Free "Meatballs"
Of course I didn't straight up follow the recipe but I didn't make that many changes either.  And I totally flaked on the photo but again, I'll be making this again and will do a better job of it next time.  I think this is my go to recipe.  After so many months, years, searching.  Thank you Susan! Try these balls!!!
My adjustments and thoughts on the recipe . . .
-Doubled the overall recipe to give us leftovers (didn't double the salt though).
-Sunflower seeds instead of walnuts (Susan does suggest the use of other nut/seed)
-bit of extra oats to account for my slight shortage of chickpea flour
-put lentils in for the kasha because I had some cooked and don't generally have kasha on hand
-used the optional ingredients except for the tomato powder I used tomato paste and accounted for the moisture by adding it as part of the boiling water measure.  Reduced the water to 1c due to the already moisturized cooked lentils
-I was tempted to skip the baking soda in the recipe but opted to go ahead and add it and make note of if it seemed to add anything to the texture.  Think of these as meatball cookies.  It will work without the baking soda but the soda does help aerate and texturize the balls.  Without it I think they will be much more dense and they may take slightly longer to cook due to the lack of tiny little steamy pockets inside.

7. Oven fries/chips with Linda McCartney Sausages, baked beans and salad (aka junk food night).  No pic of this one either but I'm sure it's not hard to picture and there wasn't much to making it so there isn't much here to take credit for.  I did enjoy looking down at my plate laughing to myself that this is the most junky our food gets really.  A bit of extra salt and fat but not much really and more than half the plate is full of nice raw veggies anyway.

Noodle Snacks:

So this was my first attempt at trying to lead the Noodle away from bread.  Yes I can make gluten free bread and I will but we still have wheat flour to work through and limited space and most importantly a budget so it's not something I could tackle this week.  While these were plenty tasty Noodle wasn't all over them.  They were of course cookie like as you'd expect and I've come to realize that she like bread bread.  Like yeasty bread.  Ah well.  I ate them and I will no doubt come back to them as she goes into a cookie phase.  As you can see I even tried to make them kinda bread stick like but she was too clever for that.

I've started work on a pantry staples post but assuming your kitchen is semistocked you can do pretty well on your weekly shop.  Especially if you're willing to shop around a bit.  There seems to be a few programs in place at certain stores that amounts to "price matching" but I haven't really gotten around to taking advantage of this and I don't think that works in connection with the veggie markets so we would still be doing a bit of shopping around anyway.

This week's shopping list (some things like rice, miso, and oats we won't finish over the week they just go to stocking the pantry) and some extra bits we picked up on the fly (these are marked with *, this usually happens at the market when we spot a good price on things like fruit that are not on my dinner menu).

bell peppers (needed 1 got 4)
cherry tomatoes
avocados (3)
*mandarine oranges
potatoes (4 kilos)
pistachios (1/4 kilo)
porridge oats (1 kilo)
vegetable shortening
rice (2 kilos)
mushrooms (0.8 kilo)
bananas (1.86 kilos)
miso paste
Linda McCartney sausages (3 pks of 5)

total for this was about £30.  By the end of the week we ended up around £40 with little bits and bobs that were forgotten or found on sale (mostly fruit, we love our fruit).

It looks like quite a low number for a family of 3 (including 1 athlete) but that's definitely the good thing about meal planning.  I can look ahead and chose meals that have low ingredient costs.  In the case of this week I chose one more expensive ingredient that I wanted that I didn't already have on hand (miso) but this jar will last several weeks.  In our pantry (I'll expand on this later) we keep bulk items that we order online which help keep costs down too.  These will show up as more expensive blips in the budget but work out much more cost effective over the long haul.  I really want to show that, whether you're single, a family, an athlete or whatever eating vegan can be pretty cheap and healthy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lemon Rice with Chickpea Pancakes filled with Curried Chickpeas

This is the first meal I can say I'm pretty proud of in a while.  I've made plenty that is tasty but this had the potential to be pretty.  It needed a little green though no?  Sprinkle of coriander perhaps.  This one is actually really easy.  You can make all or parts of this well ahead of time and just reheat as needed.

Lemon Rice with Chickpea Pancakes and Curry Chickpea Filling

This meal came together from a few different sources.  I have been making the lemon rice from Dino's Alternative Vegan for a while now.  Always very tasty and the Noodle likes it too.  As a side note, I recommend the podcast too although it's been a bit quiet as of late.  But I can definitely sympathize with running out of time everyday.  I don't really modify the recipe so much as leave things out that I don't have and it's always good.  I never have curry leaves around (my pantry space/refrigerator space is just too limited right now for little extras).  I also usually don't have the nuts on hand and just skip them although I suspect a teeny bit of nut butter would also be a tasty flavor addition if you are opposed to whole or chopped nuts.

The pancakes came from Madhur Jaffrey on BBC food.  I wanted something thin pancake-ish but with only chickpea flour to make the meal gluten free.  These were silly easy to put together and cook.  My mods to these was to leave out the chillies and the ajwain.  I used a dash of powdered coriander seed rather than fresh which I never have on hand and I cut the garlic back to two cloves.  I love love love garlic but I wanted to keep them toddler friendly.

The curried chickpea filling and the coconut sauce are based on recipes from reFresh by Ruth Tal.  I haven't made as many recipes from this book as I'd like but I've made this a couple times now and it's super tasty and easily kid friendly.  Well my kid as she loves loves loves coconut.

Curried Chickpea Filling
Based on "Curried Garbanzo Filling" reFresh by Ruth Tall (pg. 101)

2 cloves garlic, minced (more if you want!)
1 onion, small dice
1 carrot, small dice
1 bell pepper, small dice
1-2 medium hot chillies, minced (optional)
1 Tb ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
4 c (850 g) cooked/canned chickpeas, drained
1/4 c tomato paste (could use a fresh tomato or 2 here instead)

Heat a medium pot over medium heat.  Add veggies and spices and cook until soft, stir occationally.
Mash chickpeas (or pulse with food processor) but leave them a little chunky.  Add chickpeas and tomato to the saucepan and mix.  Continue to cook until heated through.

Spiced Coconut Sauce
Based on "Coconut Curry Sauce" reFresh by Ruth Tal (pg. 86)

1 onion,  small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tb garam masala
3 Tb flour of choice (wheat, spelt, rice)
2 c (500 mL) vegetable broth
1 can (400 mL) coconut milk
2 Tb tomato paste (or a couple chopped tomatoes)

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.  Add spices and flour and cook stirring for 1 minute.
Slowly stir (or whisk) in the vegetable broth taking care to avoid lumps.  Then stir in the coconut and tomato.  Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally cooking 30 minutes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vegans are eating all the quinoa off the plates of Bolivians!

I hesitate to share the article because I'd rather not give them more traffic but it makes sense to show what's annoying me before I rant about it.  This op-ed piece appeared on The Guardian website today and it's pretty poorly written to say the least.  Now I can talk, but then I'm not a writer by trade.  While this article is an opinion there should still be some integrity/fact checking involved right?  I hear people saying The Daily Mail has gone down the tubes and I'm starting to think The Guardian wants to follow swiftly on it's heels.

Image from Huffington Post

Seriously? Vegans are eating all the quinoa and starving Bolivians?  All 1.5% of us worldwide?  We aren't the only ones who eat quinoa by the way and can we eat that much of it considering some very rarely eat it if ever because it's not that cheap and we vegans are not all wealthy (contrary to Blythman's supposition) .  Also, as vegansaurus has already pointed out, this is old information.  The prices of quinoa have been rising in Bolivia for a while now and other news outlets (Time and NPR) already reported it as news more than a year ago.  I don't think that should mean that we dismiss what is happening to Bolivians and their available foods but this has happened and is happening to many people around the world.  This is a world problem.  Something we should all consider and take action on.  And the soy commentary.  What is up with that.  I've been correcting people on this for ages and the misinformation still goes around and around.  All that soy that is growing in South America is not for tofu!!!!  All this beef that everyone insists on eating means that cattle need more feed and what are they eating? Corn and soy.  On that same point during the entire time that I've been eating soy in it's various forms it's actually only been US grown soy.  Even better when I lived in Vermont we bought Vermont organic soy from Vermont Soy.  Of course not all vegans can buy local but you can bet that most of them (US based anyway) are buying domestic.  This piece reads like it was paid for and not as in weekly pay check kinda paid for.  But then reading the author's other works and we find that this isn't the first vegetarian dig and it all reads the same.  Maybe she's just feeling overly defensive about her dietary choices.

The truth of the matter is that this isn't an article informing anyone about an issue.  This is an article to catch vegans out.  This is a piece to attempt to punch holes in ethical veganism.  No doubt a few people will latch onto it and think "yeah, vegans aren't so great after all."  To them I will say this:  Veganism isn't about being perfect.  It's about doing less harm.  It's about compassion.  It's about doing the best we can for ourselves, everyone we share the planet with (humans and nonhumans) and for the planet itself.  As we learn we adjust more behaviors as we can in the best way we can.

What should we do about the quinoa issue?  I don't really know but I have some thoughts and they aren't particularly complicated ones that I'm sure anyone can come up with but no doubt people with more money and monetary interests will say that it is more complicated than this.  Anyway, start by buying fair-trade and organic.  If you must buy quinoa these are ways to at least do what you can to ensure the growers are properly compensated for their crops.  Shouldn't we expect and hold our governments accountable to take care of their people?  Shouldn't some of a country's crops be held back locally for the local population?  it may be a simplistic view but I find it just ridiculous that farming communities are reduced to hot dogs and ho-hos.  No I don't find it ridiculous, I find it bull shit.  But then I find poverty bull shit.  There is no reason that it needs to continue except greed and cultivated apathy.  That's another rant for another day.