Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chickpea Curry with Cauliflower

Well, my son is having issues with heartburn, so I've had to modify his curry a bit. The curry doesn't actually bother him, but the tomatoes do. It doesn't help matters much that the curry paste I usually use (Patak's) has started using corn flour in it, which he's allergic to. So, on curry night, I just make two curries now. One nice thing about making two is that there are a lot of leftovers for the manfolk (I can smell some being reheated by the kiddo now - YUM!) so I don't have to cook lunch or worry about my better half stumbling in the door after work as if he's starving to death.

First, I pressure cooked the chickpeas. I have not had good luck with the method where you pressure cook them for a few minutes and then let them soak for an hour before cooking. They consistently come out with soft outsides and a little rock in the middle. This time, I let them soak for 24 hours and then cooked at high pressure for 16 minutes, letting the pressure release naturally. Then I drained them and let them sit while I did all the chopping and veggie cooking. You could use canned chickpeas, though, or cook them the normal way.

This is our curry:

I made our curry like usual, but with 1/2 cup vegetable broth extra for the cauliflower, which was one of my picks at the CSA drop this week.

This is Jacob's curry:

I modified Jacob's like so: Saute onions and carrots, then garlic, like usual in olive oil. Then, add 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon curry powder (plus a little coriander and turmeric — wish I'd gotten the fresh at the CSA this week dadgummit — because the blend I get from the bulk bin at Central Market needs just a little more in my opinion) and stir for about a minute. Add vegetable broth (about a cup), chickpeas and cauliflower and simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve over Basmati rice.

This is sriracha. Duh. Put it all over your curry. And banh mi. And French fries. And soup. And pizza. And...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vegan Hoppin' John with Tatsoi

This weekend we had our first pickup of the Winter session for our CSA. I got to meet Beverly, the woman who grows it all and check out all the lovely fruits and veggies. And they were lovely. She picked out five things for us: Tatsoi (I think), burdock, mirlitons (also called chayote), cilantro and a gorgeous, ginormous lettuce. Then we picked five things, too: Purple carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green onions and a purple cabbage.

Could be tatsoi, right? Let's just say that's what it is.

I saw this stuff that looked sort of like ginger root, but I already have some ginger, so I passed that by. Turns out it was actually turmeric. I had no idea that's what it looked like. Will have to get some of that next time. Also missed some chioggia beets. Definitely going to try and get some of those next time if there are any left. I have to tell you, it's pretty fun to see all this stuff and think of the possibilities. It's also fun looking at something and later finding out what it is and realizing that's the first time ever in all my 40 years of living that I've ever seen that thing in its natural form. Turmeric.

Kind of sad, too, really. I should be seeing these things. People should be seeing these things. I know what a Cheez It or a Twinkie is but I've never seen turmeric? I cook with the stuff all the time in its powdered form. How did I think it got that way? Magic? I just didn't think about it at all before, really.

Another part of this that I'm liking is that there's a bit of pressure. I've got to cook this stuff. Something about all this food just calls to me. I can't let a bit of it go to waste or go bad just because I'm busy or feeling lazy. I've got to have a plan. I have actually met the woman who grows this food and shook her hand and I feel like it would be an affront not to get every morsel in my belly in a timely manner. I mean, it's not like I don't cook. I do. I send boyfriend to work with his leftovers every day and people look at him like he's crazy. Someone at work told him that his food smelled so good and said, "Nobody cooks like that any more." But we do. I'm no stranger to cooking, it's just that I cook the same damn things all the time and I need to branch out.

Anyway, I used what I think is the tatsoi in Hoppin' John tonight. I made it in the pressure cooker, though next time I think I will just saute it on the side with some garlic and butter. I really like throwing greens into beans and soup, though. It's such an easy way to get some extra nutrition and flavor. It seems like you're throwing a ton in there, but then when it cooks down, you wonder where it all went.

Vegan Hoppin' John with Tatsoi (pressure cooker version)

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried blackeyed peas, rinsed / sorted
  • 1/2 cup Basmati rice
  • 5-6 bunches tatsoi, chopped or ripped up
  • Salt to taste
  • Hot Sauce if desired
  1. Saute onion until translucent, then add garlic and saute 1 minute more.
  2. Add spices and stir for just a few turns and add water or vegetable broth and blackeyed peas. Bring to high pressure and hold there for 5 minutes.
  3. Quick release the pressure and add the rice and tatsoi. Bring back up to high pressure and hold there for 5 more minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally from there.
  4. Season with salt to your liking and add hot sauce if desired.
More cooking with CSA goodies to come...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Just Joined a CSA

So, you know how they say that your tastes change when you go vegan? Well, they do. Dr. Neal Barnard is always comparing it to the switch from whole milk to skim milk. After you've been drinking the skim milk for a few weeks, you get hold of some whole milk and it's practically like drinking cream. So it goes when you go vegan. At first you might miss the meat and feel like something is missing from everything you eat. You might not feel as satiated. But then, after some time passes that feeling lessens. You find yourself surprised by the simple flavors of a ripe tomato or the crunch of an almond. You feel full after eating a bowl of brown rice and veggies. You wonder just how long those oats are going to stick around because it's two hours past lunch time and you're still not hungry.

If you've already been reducing your intake of meat for a while, this change happens pretty quickly. If you haven't, it takes about 3 weeks to a month. If you're still having a lot of "relapses" into cheese and bacon, then it might not come at all until you've been able to go a while without those things.

For me, I'm past that now that it's been over a year. My biggest stress is eating away from home, really, and I just need to learn to manage that better. There is, however, this other issue that has been cropping up again and again for me. At first, eating a lot of fruits and veggies was really rewarding because so much of my diet had been meat / milk / eggs / cheese. I couldn't believe how good I felt each time I removed one of those things and replaced it with something plant-based. That was reward in itself. But now, the wall I'm hitting is taste related. It's variety related. I feel like there's something missing again, but this time it's not meat or dairy. It's something about the actual tomato I'm eating. It's something about the garlic.

The food I'm eating isn't as flavorful as it should be or the flavor is always the same. I've been eating the same hydroponic tomatoes from Costco for years. They are not terrible tomatoes really, but when I see a picture like this or this or this... Something inside me moves. My mouth waters and I feel such a strong pull to those gnarly jokers. Then I go eat a tomato from my kitchen and it leaves me wanting.

When I went to Super H Mart, I saw all these amazing things... Water caltrops, jackfruit, daikon radish, bitter melon and things I can't even remember now. When I see something like this purple cauliflower, I want to eat it. Desperately. And then I go eat the cauliflower from the grocery store and something about it is not completely satisfying to me any more. Maybe it's the taste. Maybe it's the sensory experience. Maybe it's that I need more purple stuff in my life. I have been severely drawn to blue potatoes, red onions, purple green beans and beets lately. Maybe my body is saying eat some damn anthocyanins already! But whatever it's saying, the food I've been getting at the store just isn't doing it for me.

So, I joined a CSA. I've been looking for a good one for a while. My friend Terri was part of one for a while but she didn't really like it. A lot of the ones around here are kind of (for lack of a better word) fake. They're not really CSAs, but more like a co-op, except one where the members don't make many choices. They are in the "style" of a CSA or are "like" a farmer's market. I don't really want to be part of something that is really just a couple of people rounding up vegetables from all over the world and not really knowing where they came from. If you're just sticking the same blackberries in my box as they have at Aldi and charging me quadruple the cost for the pleasure, that's not what I want. I can appreciate an avocado in my box, but if figs will grow here I don't want figs from California and I sure don't want them from Greece.

What I want is to know who my farmer is. I want someone who will bring me new, delicious things. I want someone who can talk to me about what I'm getting beyond what the stocker at the grocery store can tell me. (Hell, sometimes I have to tell *them* what I'm looking for. "Yes, I know that's cabbage over there but what I'm looking for is Napa cabbage...") I want to stare into that box and see surprises. I want to pull something out and be challenged by it and I want to go searching for the ways other people have prepared that thing. I want to hold a tomato in my hand that begs me to eat it like an apple. I want to feel what it's like to eat something at the peak of its season. Hell, I want to get my brain out of this time warp that doesn't even know what foods are in season in the first damn place.

That may be a tall order, but I'm hopeful that my farmer can handle it. I think she can (and then some). So, bring on the rain and hold back the frost, because she's got a job to do! Her name is Beverly Thomas of Cold Springs Farm:

In other news, things in my own garden are shaping up. Peppers have gone crazy and tomatoes are trying to make a come-back. Even the basil is going along with this "second spring" effect here in Texas. I'll take what I can get because I know a cold front is on the way.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pressure Cooker Vegan Fasolakia (Greek Green Beans)

Greek restaurants are always a great choice for vegans and for those times when you're eating with omnis. There's a little something for everyone. Hummus, baba ghanoush, pita bread and great salads (just watch out for the feta) are available at the very least and lots of times there are vegetable dishes that require little to no changes to be vegan. I was impressed enough with the hummus and whatnot, but what really had my mouth watering was the fasolakia or green beans. These had potato and tomatoes and were just so tender and flavorful. I decided to try to make some in my newly christened pressure cooker.

Pressure Cooker Vegan Fasolakia (Greek Green Beans)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
  • 2 - 3 pounds green beans, washed and ends trimmed
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes including liquid (or 4-5 fresh tomatoes, diced)
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and then more to taste
  1. Saute the onions in the olive oil in the pressure cooker until translucent.
  2. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pressure cooker. There should be enough liquid in the tomatoes that you don't have to add any more, but follow the directions on your particular pressure cooker. Some call for 1/2 a cup of liquid no matter what and you might not build up enough pressure if you don't add it. I didn't need to. I use a Fagor Rapida and my tomatoes had quite a bit of liquid.
  4. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure.
  5. Once high pressure is reached, lower the heat (but maintain pressure) and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Release the pressure however you'd like. I've released both quickly and naturally and both times the recipe turned out great. The potatoes were super soft with the natural pressure but still held together on the fork and weren't mush.

So yum! The second time I made this I added twice as much sliced garlic and threw some whole cloves in as well. We like garlic a lot, though, so keep that in mind if you adjust that. I've had this before where the onions weren't chopped and were just rings or long strips. That would save time at the cutting board. I just chopped them because the man-people in the house don't like their onions that way. They like the flavor of onion but not the large, sliminess of them.

You cold also make this in something other than the pressure cooker like a big soup pot or enameled dutch oven. Same basic directions but I think it would take about 45 minutes to an hour of simmering in a covered pot.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vegan Potato, Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

Did you know that the Martha Stewart food site has a collection of vegan recipes? So pretty! How does that woman do it? I say woman like she is back there doing it all single-handed, but still.

I have been on a serious zucchini kick lately and am going to miss this stuff so much when it's all gone. It's really the only part of summer that I'm clinging to for dear life. You can take your 110+ degree days and stuff them where the sun literally does not shine, but let me have some more of that zucchini! I have a friend who is about to harvest some eggplant, though, so maybe that will be a good transition away from summer and into the winter squashes. And then before you know it I will be pining for butternut squash.

I made this recipe for Vegan Potato, Zucchini and Tomato Gratin and it was so incredibly easy and delicious. I made two. Hers looks super fancy in her gratin pan and all, but I just used made one in a cake round and the other in a metal pie plate. They fit in the toaster oven that way so I saved a little energy and didn't heat the house up.

This is what one of them looked like before baking. I added thyme and pepper.

This one I made for the omnivores and they wanted a little Parmesan sprinkled on top.

This is one is the vegan one. The recipe calls for the foil to be taken off and at that point, I added some Panko bread crumbs that I sprinkled a little olive oil over.

The vegan one turned out so nice that the boys ended up sampling mine. After that, they didn't even care about the Parmesan and said I could leave it off next time. WIN! That night I served it with some breaded tofu, crescent roll (yeah, I know, I was being lazy) and some saffron rice.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pressure Cooker Vegetable Stock

I'm constantly needing a vegetable stock that doesn't have salt in it so that my rice and beans don't get too firm. Today, I decided to see if I could use my pressure cooker to make some. It turned out very good and made enough to freeze in batches: a 6-cup batch for risotto, a 2-cup batch for beans and a 1-cup batch for gravy or some other purpose. I'm making risotto tonight, so I threw the other two containers in the freezer.

Here's the recipe:

Vegan Pressure Cooker Vegetable Stock

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 onions (2 yellow, 2 white), peeled and quartered
  • 4 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into inch-long pieces
  • 6 stalks celery, cut into inch-long large pieces
  • 2 heads of garlic, smashed with the side of a knife and peeled
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 peppercorns
  • 1-2 teaspoons no-salt seasoning like Mrs. Dash
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes

  1. Saute vegetables (except garlic) in olive oil for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  3. Add water, spices and nutritional yeast flakes.
  4. Add lid and bring up to high pressure according to your cooker's specifications. When pressure is reached, cook for 10 minutes and let pressure release naturally.
  5. Strain through a mesh sieve (compost the veggie mash) into storage containers and refrigerate or freeze.

Makes about 9-10 cups depending on how much you smoosh the veggie mash in the sieve.


If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can use all the same ingredients but cook for about 30 minutes to an hour, tasting as you go along.

If you have leftover veggies in your fridge that are about to go bad, throw those in there, too.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do I Still Have Non-Vegan Stuff in my Pantry?

I've been seeing this brown carton in the pantry out of the corner of my eye for quite a while now. It's a carton of Pacific chicken broth. I'd bought a case of it before going vegan and haven't been able to figure out a way of using it up. There are a couple of other food items like this still in the house. Things that only I would cook with in that former life.

Boyfriend is still buying milk and cheese and breaded, frozen fish. My son is still eating it, too, though he's consuming way more rice milk and almond milk as time goes on. I continue to try and be an example. I continue to not exert pressure or anything like that. As I've said before, it's not like flipping a switch for everyone. And everyone makes mistakes even once they've tried to flip the switch. Intentionally or not. I know I have had those moments.

I read a kind of heated exchange on Facebook recently where someone was saying that he excluded all the meat-eaters out of his life and actively went out of his way to shame them, etc. That he wasn't "making excuses" for them any more or giving them any free passes or whatever. The thing about it... the person who was saying all this said it in this way that indicated he was a pretty big asshole. So, shunning those people and excluding them from his life was probably a big relief for the people on the other side. And I'm sure his attitude about it did nothing to promote veganism and may have even bolstered the resolve of his friends to continue eating the same way they always have. Maybe they even attributed his behavior to his diet!

If someone like that had treated me that way back when I was still eating meat, I probably would have gone and celebrated their shunning of me with a giant pot roast.

At any rate, two things my son said to me recently:

A) Are we out of rice milk? I think I like rice milk better than cow's milk. It just tastes better.

B) I'm thinking about going vegan. Maybe soon.

After ground beef recall #bajillion, boyfriend is once again not eating meat when we dine out.

So, back to this box of chicken broth in the pantry. I'd already eaten last night and was going to make them both some dinner that would make enough for leftovers. I decided I'd finally make something with that broth. Why I can't throw it out, I don't know. Seems like it's worse that way. Wasteful. I don't know.

I made this pasta with sauteed mushrooms and red peppers, thyme. It called for butter but we don't buy that at all any more so I used Earth Balance. It called for cream but I used the cow's milk. I knew I wasn't going to eat it because of the broth anyway.

Then I get to the part where I need to pour the broth out. I open the box and start to pour it into a measuring cup and what comes out is this pinkish-brown milky looking stuff.

What. The. Hell. ?

I turned the box around and realized that it was not chicken broth at all, but instead, it was a box of Pacific hazelnut milk!! I swear, they look just the same from behind if you're not really paying attention and you have the notion already in your head of what it is.

LOL. Very quickly, I grabbed some vegan bouillon mix and added that instead. So, I could have had this meal anyway, but I'd already added the cow's milk.

Nice to know I don't have to figure out what to do with the rest of the chicken broth, since I would have only used a cup of it. Now, however, I need to figure out what recipe it was that called for hazelnut milk, because I bought it for a special recipe.

Other pantry items that need to go... 2 cans of evaporated milk, 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, 3 cans of salmon, some non-dairy creamer (that of course, isn't non-dairy). I think I will donate the milk cans to a food pantry and then keep the salmon cans on hand for luring ferals that need to be taken to get spayed or neutered. My son is taking care of the Nutella.

Once those things are gone, I won't feel like I have contributed to any non-vegan items in my pantry any more. Now it's time to take care of furniture and wardrobe violators...

Share with me, if you will, how you handled this when you went vegan. Did you just get rid of everything at once, overnight? Did you get rid of it slowly? Give it away? Throw it away? Why did you decide to do it the way that you did? I mean, what was your thought process. If you have already written an entry about it, please do point me in that direction. It really helps me (and I know it helps others) to see how others have handled these situations.

Now, back to the asshole guy who is shunning all his friends who eat meat... I could understand this if he was doing it because being around them bothers him. I could get it if it makes him uncomfortable or he doesn't like to watch them chow down on carcass and gnaw on bones, etc. I could get it, too, if he was spending less time with them because he was spending more time with new vegan friends who he has more in common with. Kind of like an alcoholic that comes out of rehab and realizes that he can't hang with his old crowd or he'll go down a bad path... or like when you were a kid and came back from summer break only to realize that you have nothing in common with your old friends any more, so you go your own way and find new friends.

I mean, for instance... a year ago, I could not have told you about this Chili's commercial. This commercial talks about how two can eat dinner for $20 and there's all these choices... the camera pans over plates full of all the choices and eventually, front-and-center are these baby back ribs. A rack of them. The camera stops, focuses on them and then, the ribs SPLIT APART revealing their pink, jagged insides.

That commercial makes me just about pass out every time I see it. Thank God for TiVo. I mean, I can't do anything but touch my own ribs. I feel something there, you know? I realize what my ribs are made of and suddenly every time that I've ever eaten ribs flashes before my eyes and I have this image of looking square into the eyes of a roasted pig on a table and I can see myself eating my own ribs, my cat's ribs, my kid's ribs. And I know. I know what I've done. I know what ribs are. And I could not be more disgusted by it. And I don't exactly ever want to be around someone eating ribs in the future.

A little over a year ago, however, I attended a wedding reception and they had a whole, roasted pig. I didn't eat any of it because I was not eating meat at that point, but it didn't exactly bother me to see it there. And after a few drinks, I stuck my tongue out at its head while someone snapped a picture. Even though I didn't eat it, that image sticks with me when I think about eating meat, when I think about how much I used to love the taste of ribs. Talk about shame. But that's my own shame. My own realization. Nobody could have done that to me. For me. No friend or family member could ever have said, "Hey, you eat meat and I don't want to be around you any more and I think you're a shameful person, but we can be friends when you're not such a murderer." I would have thought that they were the one with the problem. Not me. Of course. And I don't think that this feeling that I have toward images of meat could ever have happened when I was still eating it, either. It's only happened with distance from it. Distance from touching it. Distance from cooking it. Distance from eating it. Distance from accepting it. I have become separated from it. Yet, at the same time, I have been reconnected to it in a different way. It's kind of like that picture where you either see the young woman or the old woman depending on how you look at it.

And I get what that guy is trying to do and the stand he is trying to make. This guy either actually imagines that he is going to turn them all into vegans by shunning and shaming them or he is at least taking a strong stand and saying that killing animals is killing just like killing people is killing. And if you wouldn't hang out with a serial killer of humans, then why would you hang out with a serial killer of animals? I get it. I'm just not there. Maybe not yet. Maybe not ever. I still don't think that *at this time* he's going to affect change that way.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vegan Ricotta Cheese

I made some ricotta cheese out of tofu a while back when I was making vegan tortellini. I was going just off of memory and it turned out pretty good. Basically, though, I just mixed silken tofu, olive oil and some lemon juice.

Last night, I was about to get started on some pizza dough and -- serendipity -- the Whole Foods newsletter hit my box just as I was about to shut the lid on my computer. I skimmed through it, went to the site to see if there were any good coupons and happened upon this tofu ricotta recipe. I was intrigued because it uses extra firm tofu instead of silken and has stuff like tahini and white miso (which I just bought and want to use in everything).

Bad phone pic taken by boyfriend who has a camera but insists on using my phone instead? He tasted it and said he got a hint of pickles off of it. I thought it tasted good. Something about it was really nice and I kept sneaking bites of it as I was making pizzas.

It was much firmer and really held up to cooking on top of my pizza. This was a nice change for me since I've just been eating just tomato sauce and veggies as toppings. I'm not too much of a fan of any fake mozzarella cheeses that I've tried. Now I've got another option and that rocks.

I'm going to use the rest to make some lasagna. YUM!

More recipes for vegan ricotta you might want to give a try:

  • Vegan Ricotta Cheese Substitute - This one uses half a block of firm tofu and you push it through a potato ricer. Why didn't I think of that? I have one of those and I never use the thing.
  • Chive Ricotta Nut Cheese - This one uses soaked, raw cashews instead of tofu and there are lots of flavor variations you can try.
  • Vegan Ricotta with Sausage Stuffed Shells - I love this one because it uses vegan sour cream to make it creamier. Just what you need when you're making stuffed shells.
  • Vegan Ricotta - This recipe is more like actual cheese making. It doesn't use pre-made tofu or nuts, but rather, soy milk and nigari, which is a tofu coagulant. It's fresh tofu that isn't allowed to drain and compress completely like the cakes we find in the store.
  • Vegan Ricotta Ravioli - The recipe here uses soy yogurt for the creaminess. Sounds good, although I've yet to find a soy yogurt that wasn't too sweet to use for something like this.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Impromptu Super H Mart Haul

We just got a new Toyota Yaris and with the gas mileage savings, we decided to take a drive. We went and had lunch at Which Wich where the guy loaded up my Tomato and Avocado with so much hot pepper mix I thought I was going to die.

And go to heaven! Except a fiery version of heaven where the burn is so good.

Then, we went to Frys and wandered around aimlessly looking at video games and computers and whatnot. I did not buy Little Planet 2 despite its low price because, at boyfriend's urging, I realized with school starting it might clash a bit. And by clash a bit I mean derail me completely.

Then, I got a hankering for some Super H Mart so we just drove right over there and grabbed a ton of tofu and other treats. I love that store more and more every time that I go. It's super easy to find vegan, stuff, too. Although you do have to watch out a little bit for things that sound like they might be innocuous enough, but then turn out to be completely meat. Like bonito. Everywhere I went, there was some product PLUS BONITO!!! Turns out bonito is fish. Watch out.

It's kind of weird, though, because stuff has either 8 million ingredients or like, four ingredients. It's pretty safe to just see a long list and put it right back on the shelf. The more ingredients, the higher the chance that one of those ingredients is going to be a type of fish or shrimp.

Was sad that they only had the Patak's Hot Curry Paste and not the Mild. That stuff is getting harder and harder to find. I'm going to have to learn to make real curry if this continues.

Am going to try and make some Jackfruit tacos with this stuff. Just realized I need two cans. Oh well. Guess I'll make a half batch.

Instant Tom Yum Paste. Yum. Literally.

Organic Tofu is getting easier to find here and this company (Pulmuone) I like overall. I got soft and firm here.

It's also Kosher (parve). I find that if I can't find something that's certified vegan, then knowing it's parve is pretty close because it means that the product doesn't contain meat or dairy. You can't rely on it alone, however, since to be parve fish or eggs don't count as meat or dairy. So, something could be made with gelatin and it might be agar agar, but it could also be fish gelatin. Luckily, though, since fish and eggs are highly allergenic, if they are in the product, then a bold warning has to be with the ingredients list. So, it's a three-fold process to figuring out if the item is vegan using this tactic. First, see it's certified parve. Second, check for known insect ingredients or other offenders that aren't meat or dairy (like dyes or honey). Third, check for an allergy statement for eggs and fish.

That same company makes these noodles that are fresh, refrigerated noodles. I'm about to eat some of these for lunch and I just can't write this entry fast enough so I can make them!

We've gotten these before and they're really firm and hold up to just about any kind of cooking where there's a lot of stirring.

I have no idea what this is going to be like. I've never had it before.

This is what I make banh mi and tortas out of. I may try Philly Cheesesteaks or a French Dip type thing this time, though.

And finally, soybean paste (or miso) in both white and red. I've been needing this forever. Not only do I love miso soup, but there are a ton of vegan recipes I've been wanting to try that call for a little miso.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not Vegan: Black Spaghetti

I'm one of those people who is drawn to the clearance items at a store like a moth to a flame. I've never even heard of black spaghetti, but saw it on the end cap at Target and was thinking, "That looks interesting!" So, I flip it over to see if it's vegan and... squid ink. It's colored with squid ink. Boo hiss.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Great Pecan or Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I made a batch of cookies for my boyfriend's mom for Mother's Day recently. They were made with Earth Balance and other vegan ingredients, but I happened to have a couple of eggs leftover from a science experiment my son did last semester that were still good, so I used those. I felt really bad buying them in the first place but even worse about the possibility of throwing them away. (A whole other topic I need to write about one of these days!) It was basically the Tollhouse recipe subbing pecans for the chocolate chips.

Despite the egg content, I tasted a bite of them to make sure they were good. They tasted all right, but something was just off about them and I was kind of sad to send them away to her. You know, when you cook for someone in order to honor them as part of a special day like Mother's Day, you want them to be able to stand up to that task of honoring. These did not.

The universe gave me a second chance recently and this time I set out to find a great pecan cookie recipe that was vegan and would impart all the sentiment we were sending. We love you. Congratulations on another awesome year on the planet. Enjoy this, one of your favorite things to eat. Savor the joy that is an amazing cookie!

It comes from Author Dreena Burton and it's magnificent. I've taken to making 2 batches back-to-back now. One with chocolate chips and the other with just pecans. When I make them with pecans, I toast them a bit first while the oven is preheating (about 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet). The use of maple syrup here really brings something so special to this recipe.

I think this batter would probably freeze very well. I used more pecans than necessary because more = good, right?

The recipe says to flatten them a bit, but after making several batches now, I'm finding they work out just fine without that step.

When the cookies reached their destination, we got a phone call with many thanks, an "I know those couldn't have been vegan" and a report that they were all eaten by everyone who came into contact with them by the end of the day right down to the last crumb. Now that's a happy birthday cookie I can be proud of!

I took some to a July 4th celebration where there was a mix of vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian and omni folks and they were loved by all there, too.

Thanks to Dreena! I'm saving my pennies to buy your books and thank you for giving this recipe so freely. If your other recipes are as good as this one, I've got some good eatin' to look forward to.

In other news, do pardon my lack of writing lately. I've been having a bit of a life crisis. Thankfully it's been squared away and I'm feeling refreshed and better than ever. Special thanks for that go out to My Awesome Boyfriend™, My Easygoing Child®, Beyond Karma, Eckhart Tolle, Yoga, the League of Extraordinary ChiaTurtles, and the University of Maine at Augusta.

It's all happening right now!

Monday, June 13, 2011

When Are You Vegan?

Bob Harper tweeted today that he had some egg whites. (I saw this in my Facebook newsfeed from

Is this the personal trainer cum Quaker Oats guy? You know, people who are prone to allergies should not be eating a single food every single day or they run the risk of developing a problem with that food. That's the first thing I thought when I saw his commercials. (I should qualify that by saying that I have a friend on the rotation diet right now with an oat allergy so that's the first thing I think when I hear anyone say "I eat X every day" like he did in the commercials.) Also, I thought, those Quaker Oats would be a lot more nutritious if it took, say, 10 minutes to cook instead of 1. But that's just how my oats roll. Or don't, as the case may be. I'm not above convenience for sure, but I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, in the Facebook comments, folks are all pissed off because it's one more celebrity who has flirted with veganism and waffled. I guess I just haven't been vegan long enough, but I don't get it. One person says,
"So long as he doesn't call himself vegan, or espouse the health detriments of animal products, or otherwise make himself a hypocrite, then sure, whatever."

What does that mean? When does someone who has a slip-up get to call themselves vegan again? I mean, is there like, a set number of days or something? Some special rule? Does it like, reset your entire year or month? Do you have to qualify it? "Yeah, I'm vegan, except for 4 weeks and two days ago when I had egg whites." Or "Because of that cheese incident on my birthday, I'm just a vegetarian this year."

Seems kind of silly and I know there's not a vegan alive that hasn't had a slip-up at some point in their life. And I damn sure know there are very few vegans who started their life that way and have never had contact with an animal product of some sort. And it seems pretty bitchy to the new people who are definitely going to make more mistakes in the beginning. So, when is it that you get your vegan card?

Someone else said,
"He could have kept his egg white cravings to himself, but at least he's not cooking duck ragu with vegan muffins on GMA like A-lister Gwyneth Paltrow."

Yes, that's true. And I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand, aren't you glad that she didn't put an egg and cow's milk and bone-char sugar in that muffin? Aren't you? No, really. AREN'T YOU? And on the other hand... a duck? Are you kidding me? Okay, though, I get that one. She's not vegan any more. She doesn't get to say, "I'm vegan." Preparing a duck dish as part of a planned television appearance when you've already outed yourself as not vegan any more is a world of difference away from tweeting that you screwed up this morning, though. And saying that he could have kept his cravings to himself is kind of encouraging him (or others) to be dishonest and not show a real side of this life. An honest mistake. Or, who knows, maybe the end of him living a vegan lifestyle. We don't know, yet, right? (And certainly jumping all over him about it will make the case and seal the deal?)

And as to the real side of this life, in living it, I'm finding that there is a bit of hypocrisy involved, for sure. And anyone who thinks there isn't is probably not being very honest and open with themselves or others or is just really good at making excuses and justifying things. The Vegan Society defines veganism as "a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." That possible and practicable thing is kind of important. Because that's where the judgment comes in. Who decides what is possible and practicable? Do I get to judge you and decide in my mind that you're not vegan if you don't do things the way I want you to? If I compare you to me and you don't measure up, then I get to say, "You're not a real vegan," right?

I mean, isn't that the thing that you hate about the inflammatory omnivores? They're always pointing out this kind of stuff, hoping it will bring you around to their side. You know, about the tires and the field mice killed during harvest and the pesticides and so on and so forth. My own recent dilemma has been that I own half an acre of land and don't find it "practicable" to grow enough food so that I can stop buying it at the store. You know, the store, which is full of all that food, wonderfully pollinated by bees. The very bees whose honey I won't eat? How can you say there is no hypocrisy there?

I can't. So, I have to live with it. I have to be honest and admit it to myself and figure out where that puts me. I have to give in to those shades of grey and those conversations that end with, "Well, at least this is better than that" or "every little bit counts" or "at least I'm trying." Nobody can withstand that kind of scrutiny. I have to say, "Yeah, Bob had a moment and had him some egg whites, but that doesn't negate the whole rest of his day or diminish the rest of what he did this week that prevented animals from suffering or being exploited." Because if I don't say that, and you don't say that then why should anyone try at all? Why make any effort at all? And if you go out of your way to bag on another person who is otherwise making a concerted effort, then what makes you better than that annoying meat proselytizer who manages to find his way to every vegan forum?

I don't know. Sometimes it is difficult to see two sides of the same coin at once.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cold Season, Be Gone!

Sadly neglected blog. Why do I forsake you?

I have been so busy lately. And have been sick twice in as many months. And have been having computer problems. And have been helping my son get ready for his finals. And have been trying to get on top of all the books I need to review. And five kittens plus mother have taken over my laundry room. And have been doing a ton of what I like to call "networking" with my coworkers (who are all work-at-home writers) but what most people would call "screwing around on Facebook."

Luckily, things are calming down. School is almost over for the year. I'm on the mend and finally my whole summer will be mine, all mine.

Through it all, I have managed to maintain my newly vegan lifestyle with the exception of one intentional cheese incident that I am putting behind me and a soap incident that I'm still kicking myself in the ass over.

I got a little bit disgruntled with food while I was sick. Nothing had a taste. I didn't feel like cooking. I didn't feel like going to the store so even when I did feel like cooking I didn't have things to cook. Then my allergies kicked in pretty hard core between my colds, so I was drugged out of my mind trying to cope with that. Didn't feel like cooking then either.

Now that I'm feeling better, I'm cooking like a crazy woman. And shopping like one, too. I'll post later about the last 3 weeks of budgetary bits, but I'm not doing too bad with the budget. Also, the skies have been cooperative so I may actually see some payoff in the garden. Zucchini flowers are a' growin' my friends.

Anyway, just thought I'd put something out there in the universe to say I'm alive and finally well. I'll leave you with some kitten action... If you live around Fort Worth (I will transport to Houston, Austin, etc.) and want an adorable kitten, then holler!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Project Food Budget: Weeks 14, 15, 16

At Starbucks and McDonald's, they have oatmeal. I don't think that you can get the McDonald's one vegan, but I think it's possible to get the Starbucks one made that way. Either way, they seem so expensive for what it is. It's a bowl of oatmeal. It takes 10 minutes. I mean, if you buy the quick-cooking version, it's like 1-3 minutes. This is just not something I would pay for outside my house. Plus there's all that crap in there. Mark Bittman wrote about the McDonald's version and said:

"Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) 'Cream' (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including 'natural flavor').

A more accurate description than '100 percent natural whole-grain oats,' 'plump raisins,' 'sweet cranberries' and 'crisp fresh apples' would be 'oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen."

And also...

"Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)"

What the damn hell? Anyway, I saw this version at Costco in the refrigerated section. You can see the ingredients are pretty simple and about what you'd put in your oatmeal at home (water, steel-cut oats, dried fruit, maple syrup, brown sugar, sea salt). I mean, if you're in a hurry, this is 8 servings, microwaveable and less than $1 per serving. Vegan. Add your own soy milk, if desired.

My two favorite hot cereals, however, are the 7 grains from Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills. I've tried other-numbered grains, but 7 is, indeed, my lucky number. 10 minutes plus some fruit or maple syrup and almond milk. Yum.

But enough about breakfast...

Wow! Am I behind on the food budget, or what? Went out of town, got sick. Still sick. Homeschooling, work and spring cleaning have all been keeping me busy, too. A stray mother has given birth to 5 kittens in my laundry room, so that's also a distraction from the blog...

But alas, here is the run down of the last 3 weeks. I reduced my food budget to $50 per week so that I could spend the extra $25 a week to get my yard and garden in shape. So I should have spent around $150 for food and $75 for garden stuff. Let's see how I did. I haven't even added it all up so it's going to be a surprise. (So much for careful consideration when shopping, eh?!)

Garden stuff
Catnip 1.00
Italian Parsley 1.00
Thyme 1.00
Oregano 1.00
Sage 1.00
Onion Chives 1.00
Garlic Chives 1.00
Scarlett Runner Bean 1.00
Verbena 1.00
Gypsophila .20
Nasturtium 1.00
Nasturtium 1.00
Texas Bluebonnet 1.00
Flax 1.00
Morning Glory 1.00
Lavender 1.00
Poblano Pepper 2.84
Habanero Pepper 2.84
JalapeƱo Pepper 2.84
Red Chile Pepper 2.84
Red Bell Pepper 1.15
Green Bell Pepper 1.15
Zucchini 2.84
Basil 3.33
Basil 3.33
Basil 3.33
Basil 3.33
Tomato (I) .50
Tomato (I) .50
Tomato (I) .50
Tomato (I) .50
Tomato (D) 3.48
Tomato (D) 3.48
Pollen Masks 2.46
Labels 3.38
Gloves 3.97
16 Stepping Stones 15.48
5 Bags Top Soil 6.25
2 Bags Mulch 4.50
Compost 1.34
Compost 2.67
Total 94.03

Food Stuff
Apple Juice 7.99
Sugar 8.89
Ro*Tel 6.39
Cranberry Juice 5.99
Bread 5.99
Tortillas 2.99
Tortilla Chips 3.39
Coffee 10.99
Sweet Teas 10.99
Cheese for Omnis 5.39
Veggie Patties 11.79
Carrot Juice 6.99
Tomatoes 5.49
Tofu 2.50
Tofu 2.50
Tofu 2.50
Spinach 2.78
Avocados x2 1.66
Avocados x2 1.56
Carrots 1.48
Sriracha 2.54
Grape Jelly 2.29
Chickpeas 2.64
Cocoa 2.98
Tea Bags 1.74
Bananas 1.06
Cilantro .48
Green Onions 1.12
Milk for Omnis 2.19
Yellow Onions 2.48
Cabbage 1.04
Celery 1.34
Half and Half for Omnis 2.08
Turnip Greens .62
Fire Roasted Tomatoes .92
Earth Balance 3.44
Bestlife Spread 1.98
Bolillos 1.58
Total 140.77

Well, I went over on the garden budget by $19. That's OK because I don't plan on spending anything this coming week. Plus, I went under my food budget for the 3 weeks by $10. I guess I did all right.

In hindsight, I shouldn't have gone to big box stores to get my plants and seeds. When I was anxious to get things in the ground, the family-run feed store that is a block from my house didn't have much outside when I drove by. So, I decided to go to Home Depot, Lowes and Wal*mart. They had plenty of stuff, but then as soon as I planted, a giant hail storm came.

Luckily, my plants were spared. The next week, I went to the feed store to pick up some pet supplies and they were overflowing with plants. Much better (less common, heirloom) varieties than I got including some interesting mints, thymes and such. They had amazing pepper plants that were less than a dollar. Everything that I bought was way more expensive than they had at the feed store. I consider the hail a warning from above that next time I'd better spend money in my neighborhood first.

I just need to stop shopping at Wal*mart period, but you know, I kind of justify it thinking if I am not one more person who buys organics and tofu and Earth Balance and almond milk and all those types of things there (and if others are thinking that way and stop shopping there) then they'll eventually think there's not much demand for it and not carry that stuff. It's a conundrum. I want to see them carry those items, especially here in Cowville, Texas. I want it to be easier for a vegetarian or vegan diet to be accessible and affordable to more people. I don't want it to only be for people who can get to a Farmer's Market or have a Whole Foods in their area.

I mean, wouldn't you just crap yourself with glee if everyone who normally shops at Wal*mart started eating less meat? Picked up some almond milk instead of cow's milk because it's there and it's not that much more expensive or maybe it's even cheaper? If someone grabbed some Earth Balance instead of Land o' Lakes because the option is there? A while back I saw this total rugged, badass cowboy buying Morningstar Sausages. It may not be the healthiest stuff in the world, but that's a step away from meat, at least. I talked to him because I was looking at that stuff, too, and he was like, "I'm not vegetarian, but I love these sausages and some of their other stuff, too." Okay. I'll take that. You go.

I don't know. I don't know. It's a sick feeling inside that I haven't worked out, yet. It's not like I don't shop at other stores, too, and it's not like places like Whole Foods are just sooooooo incredibly ethical or much less big box and corporate.

Anyway... Back to the garden. As for how much my garden is going to give me back, I'm going to try to keep a tally of what I harvest and how much that would have cost me at the store so I can see how large a scale I want to have in the future. I have almost half an acre to work with, a lot of sun and a very long gardening season. (Of course, I'll never be able to measure in dollars the pleasure it is...)

And now... Garden and kittens!!!


Nasturtiums sprouting.

Welcome back, lantana.

Scarlet runner beans taking off.

Kitten's eyes are open!

Nursing mayhem!

This entry is part of Project: Food Budget. (Join here!) Check out how the entire crew is doing:
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