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:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Vegan Southern Fried Cabbage

This recipe is like the cabbage they make at a restaurant called Luby's here in Texas. They way they make it there, however, is not even remotely vegan.

  • 1 head of cabbage (about 2 pounds) cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained, or 2 diced romas
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Fake bacon of your choice, optional

Boil cabbage for about 4-5 minutes in a large pot, just until tender. Drain.

In a large skillet, heat Earth Balance and saute tomatoes with the spices for several minutes.

Add drained cabbage, keep cooking and stir occasionally until the cabbage is done to your liking. Garnish with fake bacon if desired.

Recipe notes: Use a can of Ro*tel tomatoes for some extra spice or add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.

Vegan Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup

We're having a cool day and night today, so I thought I'd make a bean soup while I still have the chance. I know that 100+ degree days will be here before I know it. Plus, I'm looking forward to them lasting as leftovers through at least one round of lunches.

  • 1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight, then drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • "Chicken" bouillon
  • Vegetable bouillon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • handful of fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • tiny pinch baking soda

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-5. Add more water if necessary during cooking. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cornbread with a side of Southern Fried Cabbage or greens.

Some recipe notes:

I buy navy beans in bulk when I can, so I just weigh the beans at the store. Even if I get 3 pounds, I will separate them by pound-sized bags since most recipes call for a pound. Then when I get home I just grab one bag and get to rinsing and soaking.

I don't salt this recipe during cooking since I use bouillon. The bouillon brands and quantities that I use are: 1 cube of Edward & Sons Not Chick-N Bouillon Cubes and 1 teaspoon of Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base. Both are certified vegan. You could also use your own stock in place of the water.

Worcestershire sauce usually has anchovies in it. The Wizard's sauce here is Organic and Vegan.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 14

My Walmart has a pico de gallo station...

This week, boyfriend did the shopping with a list I made. He did a pretty good job and is way better than I am at sticking to the list. And he went to Walmart (because he needed dental floss) which is about his least favorite place on Earth.

It was sort of like I was there since we were being nerdy with the phones. He sent me pictures of labels so I could check for vegan or otherwise undesirable ingredients (did you know that Walmart corn tortillas have methylparaben and propylparaben in them? Bleck!). And when he shops we also text back and forth about price fluctuations (Coffee's gone up $3 this week, WTF? Abort! Abort! I'll just drink tea!).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Strawberries: Syrup, Muffins, Pancakes

I bought a ton of strawberries two weeks ago. Four pounds. They've been holding up incredibly well. I've been snacking on them, eating them with breakfast cereal and slicing them up for my son any time he wants a snack. This weekend I made some muffins using my regular blueberry muffin recipe with some adaptations. I was able to cut the sugar quite a bit and probably could have cut even more if I'd given these just a tiny sprinkle of powdered sugar afterward. Something about that tiny bit hitting your tongue is really deceptive. Works for brownies, too. I posted the recipe to my work site. I think they'll make a pretty good breakfast or snack for the wee tots.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Steamed White Seitan Failure

I'm not really sure where I went wrong here. The red seitan from Viva Vegan turned out great. Not rubbery, not dry, not weird tasting. And so, I thought I'd give the more chicken-like version ("Steamed White Seitan") a go. I followed all the directions and made up some sausages and a cutlet or two.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Project Food Budget: Week 13

Lucky week 13 here. Sorry I'm late this week but better late than never. Again, I'm really enjoying moving along without planning a menu. Who knew? I think I'm getting better at cooking vegan food and throwing things together plus, it's taco season, so I see that becoming a more-than-once-a-week affair through the spring and summer months. All that fresh produce and abundance of tomatoes and avocados has me really feelin' it.

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