I was poking around the internet for some ideas on an apricot and chickpea salad this morning when I saw a recipe for “circumcised lamb”. Well you can imagine MY face. I really should read things more carefully, cumin-spiced lamb is very different. I’m just saying.
I think, after much more poking around and after a gander at the apricot chickpea salad recipe in my Urban Pantry book I will combine several recipes to make my own, like I often do. Some of the various recipes called for kalamata olives (too salty), some for Bulgar wheat (too bulgary), some for pistachios (I don’t have them), and some for cardamom (Yechhh…) and all of them called for dried apricots. So I’ve decided to use Israeli couscous as the base and a mixture of dried and fresh apricots instead of just dried. With summer here, technically anyway, it’s a shame not to use more fresh ingredients. Most also use a vinaigrette dressing but I am thinking of using something with a fresh lemon juice base instead or the no-fat citrus dressing we tried on our garden salad last week. I should mention that with the garden salad we had another success with a very quick and easy to prepare off-the-cuff meal. I tossed a box of cooked elbow macaroni with two jars of home-canned pinto beans, a can of enchilada sauce and some diced onions and peppers to make a warm and comforting “Pinto Bean Mac”. We all had large servings with a green salad on the side and I have to say that for a cool rainy evening it was delicious. Last night we prepared steamed broccoli with garlic and lemon along with vegan whole wheat and potato gnocchi from Trader Joe’s smothered in marinara sauce. The gnocchi was fabulous and I’m thinking will be a tasty addition to my Puttanesca Stew in the future. Tonight is the teenager’s turn to make dinner (Something I am fairly certain he has forgotten). With the move essentially completed he is back to cooking dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights, a turn of events that apparently shocked him as he gives every impression now of laboring under the assumption that turning 17 and having good grades means that he need not be bothered with contributing to the household in a way that involves taking time away from his social life. But, while I won’t be cooking tonight I will be providing the recipe and ingredients ( I learned the hard way after a meal of meatloaf and ketchup and nothing else that it behooves me to help with the planning in these things). My only problem this evening… I have no idea what to have him make. It’s so much easier when I can just do things on the fly myself. I am trying out the new bread machine today though. I’m using a basic white bread recipe to start but I tossed in a packet of Knorr Vegetable Dip mix. We don’t eat toast much anymore because of the whole problem with applying butter with a putty knife but we still like it for sandwiches and for eating with soup so I’ll be interested to see how this comes out and if it makes for a nice savory loaf.
We stopped at our very neglected P-patch garden yesterday for some much-needed weeding, planting, harvesting and work party hours. I came home with big bags of beet greens, purple kale, dandelion greens and broccolini. I also ran to the nursery and picked up some kabocha, delicata, zucchini and tomato plants as well as some new golden beet starts to replace the ones I harvested yesterday. The other chubby vegan laughed at me for planting 6 zucchini plants, she says we never learn, BUT I pointed out that we didn’t throw away a single zucchini last year. So there, I said, out that in your zucchini bread and smoke it. At this point we have about 3/4 of the weeding done but it is raining today so I will try again on Wednesday when the rain is supposed to stop. I got our 2 tomato plants and a few raspberry canes in the ground here at the house and I’ll try and get some watermelon poppies and coral colored sweet peas into the rockery out front.
Tomorrow I plan on planning out some canning (we ate all the jars of pinto beans I canned and need some more) and making a list of what we really liked: My Secret Recipe Green Beans, Navy Bean and Greens soup, Chili beans, Italian Stewed Vegetables, Herbed Carrots, canned red and green tomatoes, pinto beans, garbanzo beans and butter beans. (I don’t care what anyone says about how quickly you can soak and cook beans, when you’re tired and your feet feel like you’ve walked them down to the ankle bones, just opening a can and adding extras is so much easier than quick soaking and boiling. And not just physically but mentally.) I should also start roaming the farmer’s market looking for deals on whatever vegetables they will sell in bulk. I know Nash’s does carrots but I will have to learn to haggle this year and see what deals I can get on veggies that are not grocery store pretty but are still fresh and good.
If anyone has any good canning ideas let me know!
When we first got word from our former landlord that he was losing the condo to foreclosure and we would need to move I spent a considerable amount of time in a state of high anxiety convinced that we were looking down the barrel of living in either a freezer box on the street or perhaps one of those weekly hotels with rental sheets and a generous sprinkling of prostitutes and crack addicts. Now is probably the time to admit that in my mental world everyone online is thinner and better looking than me, everyone I went to high school with more successful, every prospective tenant more appealing and with better credit and every other job applicant more qualified. It’s exciting to be me, no? Thankfully, we are NOT living with cardboard walls or fending off the tempting money-making offers of street pimps but after this move the life of a wandering mendicant is looking more and more like a practical lifestyle choice. Whoever recommended moving a freezer with the food still in it so that nothing defrosts needs to be slapped really hard with a frozen mackerel. And what’s with all the boxes? I dump them in the garage and then every time I go back in there… more boxes. It is clear to me that they are breeding in there. And the old condo is like Mary Poppins bag, every time we reach in and take something out something else appears. At this rate we won’t be done moving until… maybe… Christmas??? Okay, I vented enough now. And truly I am thankful for the beautiful home and wonderful landlord we have found.
This last week has been an exciting and challenging one in so far as cooking has been more difficult in terms of both prep ( I can’t find all my kitchen stuff) and finding the time and energy to cook. But we have actually made some really tasty and relatively easy to prepare meals given the circumstances. One night we made a quick vegan curry “stew” served over red Thai Hom Mali rice using S&B Golden Curry mix with potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, home canned butter beans and chunks of delicata squash. The great thing about using
delicata is that even though it is a “winter squash” the skin is thin and edible making it a breeze to use in stews and soups. Another night I chunked up a half-dozen tomatoes, some onions, red peppers, garlic and zucchini and simmered it all, no water, with some Italian herbs. When it had cooked down we added sautéed meatless Italian sausage chunks from Trader Joe’s and sliced green olives. I think of it as my Puttanesca Stew… which I was thrilled to find out means “Whore’s” stew. I think that has a certain ring to it. Last night I made a Mexican cornbread casserole by mixing Trader Joe’s soy chorizo with roasted corn, diced onions and peppers a little enchilada sauce and topping it all with cornbread batter and baking it. On the side I made a green salad of romaine hearts, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, black olives and red onion slivers. The dressing I made by tossing some tofu, half an avocado, the juice of one lemon, jarred guacamole mix and some water in the blender. It made a wonderfully creamy Mexican style avocado dressing. Topped with cracked pepper the salad was a real winner.
We have taken real advantage of Freecycle the week (see the link on the right), using it to re-home many of our moving boxes as well some items we didn’t need or no longer have any use for. It’s been a real godsend not having to either throw these things out or haul them away and that doesn’t even take into account that these items are going to someone who needs them. It’s another step in our effort to consume and waste less. I was also able to find a second-hand shower chair that retails new at Home Depot for $90 in perfect condition for $10 as well as a gorgeous, nice condition overstuffed reading chair for $40 at our local Goodwill.
Hopefully tomorrow I can start posting normally again, including real recipes and ideas and such. We have done well sticking to our vegan plan this week but we have modified it to include occasional fish which I realize makes it a non vegan diet but thankfully the world is still a place where we can make our own rules and labels for ourselves. Perhaps we should consider calling ourselves “vegish”? Yeah, we’re vegish, I like that! Of course that means we’d have to change the blog title to Two Chubby Vegishes. What exactly IS the plural of a vegish? Vegi? Ah well… more mysteries to ponder!
It suddenly occurs to me that somewhere in here (probably subconsciously AND on purpose) I failed to mention that I had a MAJOR slip-up some days ago. Yes, that’s right, not only did I blow my vegan choice but I actually bought and consumed fast food, something I haven’t done in almost 2 years. Normally I try to keep some sort of snack like dried fruit, tomato strips, sandwich, etc. in my backpack to head off the temptation for anything “fast” but I was out and about unexpectedly, failed to pack a snack AND let myself get overly hungry. To be fair, I immediately confessed my sins to the other vegan, who in a fit of supportive sensitivity, gasped, fell backward, clasped her chest like she was having some sort of cardiac episode and stage-whispered my name in the same sort of way that your mother might upon discovering you’ve sold small handicapped children on the black-market. And so now I am reminding myself just exactly what I consumed… NOT a tasty treat that tickles my tastebuds and leaves my tummy singing it’s burger-iffic praises, but 720 calories (the equivalent of 2 large vegan meals), 44 g of fat (a whole days worth on a “recommended” diet but about 4 times what I have on my vegan diet) and 1240 mg of sodium (stroke anyone?). And none of that takes into account the other issues… sugar-filled buns made with white flour, thin-skinned veggies with high pesticide content and possibly contaminated with E Coli or Listeria if the farmer hasn’t been careful, pre-formed meat with high fat content from factory farmed cows fed grain, chemically altered with added “flavoring” and God only knows what else so that all whoppers everywhere taste the same, cheese that isn’t really cheese at all and condiments swimming with fat and sugar. I may as well have brewed up a hot cup of lard, sugar and salt now that I think about it. *Note: I did not pick on the pickles. I never have a bad word to say about pickles. I am, I confess, a pickle supremacist.
NOW, moving forward… having discovered a most tasty vegan tuna salad recipe (which is included in an earlier post and is even better with the addition of even more kelp powder) I am moving on to one of my other most-missed sandwich venues, egg salad. I am going to try a tofu egg salad recipe from online. This looks even simpler than the vegan tuna salad but will require that I search out and find some Turkish Sea Salt to give the salad that familiar sulphury taste that is imparted by the eggs in the egg salad. I’ve also noticed that humus often has a similar taste to the filling in a deviled egg and am wondering if there is a way to combine the 2 recipes to make a really kick ass version. Alas it will have to wait until this evening however so that I can pick up some celery. I also want to look for some no-fat nasoya as I suddenly realized I am out of no fat mayo and have packed up my food processor. Poor planning on my part . (I never did find the turkish black salt… my search continues. I tried mixing the hummus into my egg salad recipe and that didn’t cut it, I wasn’t impressed. I still far prefer the mock tuna salad, as do the non-vegans I cook for who were impressed with how tuna-y the mock tuna was.)
Last night I made a cottage pie that was pretty simple. I made a filling of frozen peas, fresh diced carrots, one leftover zucchini (diced), a can of baby limas, a can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes and TVP I soaked in vegetarian “beef” broth. Then I made a gravy using more vegetarian “beef” broth seasoned with onion, garlic, thyme and oregano and thickened with cornstarch. I mixed the filling and the gravy and dumped it into my dutch oven and then topped the whole thing with mashed yukon gold potatoes made with a bit of unsweetened almond milk and sea salt and baked it at 400 degrees for 45 mins covered and another 15 uncovered. Served with a side of halved brussel sprouts sauteed with some Pele’s Fire Hawaiian seasoning, we ended up eating the ENTIRE thing.
Okay, back to moving…
* Cheating alert* Junior found a can of Spam in his room tonight (don’t ask because I have NO idea and I’m afraid I don’t want to know) and given my embarrassing weakness for preformed, overly salty and canned pork products used to make things like Spam Musubi, I see a possible moral dilemma in my near musubi future. And you simply cannot make decent Spam from tofu no matter how hard you try.
On the more positive side, I’m feeling particularly thrifty this week as we prepare to move into our new home with several “new” goodies. On the “reuse and rehome” front this week we scored a Waring Pro Blender for $8.00, a gorgeous stoneware shortbread mold for $2.99 and a Breadman Ultimate bread machine for $0.00 on Freecycle (the best thing about this last one is that you can throw the ingredients in the machine, set it, set the timer, go to bed and wake up to a loaf of warm bread as it mixes it, kneads it and bakes it all in one… now if only they would invent one that removes the calories after slicing and buttering it).
Forgetting my knotweed fiasco last week I started my spring canning today. With our change to veganism we are eating a lot more beans and while dried beans are certainly less expensive than canned, canned are a lot more convenient. My solution, can your own. I’ve tried freezing them after cooking but I find it makes the beans more mushy and storing either big containers or zip lock bags of beans in the freezer, even a chest freezer is a pain. And trying to quickly defrost a large bag of frozen beans that froze in big ziplock wrinkles is a real treat… NOT. Not to mention I like having foods that won’t go bad and can be eaten out of hand in the event of a power failure. I know, I know, more zombie apocalypse preparation you’re thinking, but no, just being prepared in general. As it is I’ve been avoiding canning my own beans because it seemed like a big hassle to cook the beans first and then can them but as it turns out I don’t have to do that. I’m following a simple procedure I found online. Right now I’m prepping 7 quarts of black beans, 6 quarts of garbanzo beans and 1 quart of field peas. We got the field peas from our local farmer’s market last year and they taste remarkably like split peas when cooked in soup (a fact that doesn’t impress the other vegan AT ALL I might add… she hates split peas) so I am curious to see what happens when they’re canned. Oh, and I strongly recommend that even if you buy your bulk beans from a grocery store you double-check them before canning, and here’s why (see picture below)…
[I thought I had 7 jars of black beans and 6 jars of garbanzo beans. 1 jar of black beans shattered when I set it into the pressure canner and one jar of garbanzo beans has come up missing. (?!?!?!?!).]
As I finish this the black beans are just coming up to pressure and must go for 90 minutes so I will post the photos tomorrow or the day after as I have to take a few loads over to the new house in the morning as well as doing a bit more garden prep.
1. Place 1 cup of beans in each clean quart jar and cover with hot water.
2. Soak overnight.
3. Rinse several times in cool water and replace the beans in the jars.
4. Fill each jar with hot water to within 1/2 inch of the top and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
5. Pressure can at 10lbs for 90 minutes.
6. For pint jars use 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 tsp salt and can for 75 mins at 10lbs.
The other night I made a Tofu and Apricot Tagine and it turned out WONDERFULLY. My only observation is that I would have preferred it without the tofu and used more vegetables and fruit. The other vegans in the house disagree, but as I pointed out, I’M the cook! Neener neener neener. So there! And again, I changed the recipe to the point where it really bears little resemblance to the original so I’m including it here:
Fresh Apricot and Tofu Tagine
16 oz super firm tofu, marinated in vegetarian chicken broth and poultry seasoning and cut into cubes
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups vegetarian chicken broth
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped (I used chili spiced dried pineapple)
6 apricots, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 to 4 tbsp cornstarch mixed with cool water
1. Place marinated and drained tofu on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and brown under the broiler, turning as needed. Set aside.
2. Coat large pot or dutch oven with cooking spray and add carrots and onion. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until lightly brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and chile flakes. Cook one minute, stirring often. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add stock paste, water and dried fruit and bring to steady simmer.
3. Add tofu back into pot. reduce heat and gently simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened to desired consistency. Add fresh apricots and simmer until soft, but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Serve over couscous, brown rice, quinoa or any soft whole grain. Each serving can be topped with pine nuts and mint (we used chopped scallions). Stew can be prepared up to 2 days in advance; cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently. Serves 6.
Serving Size 268 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 42
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4.6g, 7%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg, 0%
Sodium 687mg, 29%
Total Carbohydrates 16.9g, 6%
Dietary Fiber 2.9g, 12%
|Vitamin A 80%||
Vitamin C 14%
Nutrition Grade B+
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet
We have signed the paperwork for our new house and all that remains is to deliver the rent check and start moving in. Now, instead of trying to can during the summer in a 3rd floor condo with southern exposure and very little ventilation we have a gorgeous little wood framed house with a small but open and bright kitchen, a wood-paneled breakfast nook with built-in cookbook shelves and corner cupboards, and plenty of gardening space in the yard. Now, I have to admit that I won’t be canning knotweed there this year as the knotweed we picked is not suitable for canning now. The condo we are in is being sold by our landlord and in a frenzied attempt to straighten up before another realtor showed up we stashed the bags of knotweed and I forgot about them until it was too late. I feel terrible about the waste but I suppose the community garden is happy we thinned put the pesky “invasive” at least. On a happier note, I am already gardening at the new house (Thank you to A and pbA) and I took over some boysenberry plants, raspberry, scarlet runner beans, and garlic chives. I also did some more clearing of the blackberry brambles and clipped the neighbors overhanging trees to give the rhubarb growing along the side of the garage more sun and air. Well, that and me better access to it without the danger of slashing myself to ribbons on the blackberry thorns. Right now I look like I shaved my legs with a steak knife. I’m hoping to pick up a huckleberry plant, lilac bush, jasmine and perhaps an antique coral colored rose in memory of my nana, who loved roses. So we move in on Saturday the 28th and I can hardly wait!
Thankfully, I’ve had no slip-ups with meat or cheese since the last one I posted. It’s so much easier when I simply don’t have the meat or dairy in the house at all. We stopped by Trader Joe’s last night to pick up some staples… unsweetened vanilla almond milk for coffee, apricots, super firm tofu, veggies, vegan cookies called “Cafe Twists”, and some apricot Pyramid Ale to help me pack. One of the things I like about TJ’s is that you can click on the vegan logo on their product page and it will give you a list of every vegan product in the store listed by category. VERY helpful when making out a shopping list. Right now I’m marinating the super firm tofu in vegan chicken broth with herbs so that I can use it to make a Fresh Tofu and Apricot Tagine that I’m basing on a chicken and apricot tagine recipe I found in this month’s Clean Eating Magazine. The recipe has it being served over regular couscous but I don’t care for the tiny little couscous and am going to use either israeli couscous or quinoa. I also made another batch of my faux tuna salad. I tried making my tofu mayo with extra firm tofu instead of silken, and although the silken gives a much creamier texture (the extra firm looks, if not tastes, a little grainy) the firmer tofu made for a stiffer mayo. I found the silken mayo too runny. I also switched from brown to yellow mustard in the mayo recipe and found the flavor a bit more mild and mayo-like without that undercurrent of horseradish that you get with spicy mustards. If it turns out okay I will post the recipe and a picture tomorrow.
Now that summer is closer (I won’t say arrived yet as I don’t want to jinx anything and start the rain up again) my mouth is
starting to get ready for stone fruits, berries, fresh salads and tomatoes. I also can’t wait to start experimenting with garden produce, especially now that we have more garden space. Our purple kale,
golden beets, rapini and rainbow chard are going like gangbusters already, the miner’s lettuce, squash seeds and chinese mustard not so much. That last one can’t get a start before the bugs nibble all the
leaves off. I suspect snails. I ALWAYS suspect snails. Ok, I admit it, I have snail prejudice. They have slime and for their size, enormous poop and even bigger eggs. And they leaves them everywhere. AACCCKKKK. We also planted celery root for the first time this year and it seems to be doing well. I am waiting on mexican sour gherkins from the nursery and plan on putting in tomato starts soon. We’ve planted 2 catnip starts but I have come to the conclusion that their must be a cougar with a catnip problem roaming the community garden because every time I go to weed/water, the poor catnip is chewed on, snapped off and generally mauled.
I am signing off with a haiku in honor of today’s predicted apocalypse since I won’t be attending our local “end of the world” party:The world is ending I have weapons and canned goods Where are the zombies?
Continuing on with the trials of switching to veganism… when one is genetically inclined to meals that lean towards white bread, liverwurst and an ungodly amount of full fat mayonnaise it is clearly going to be a bit of a mental challenge for me to change my way of thinking from “Oh God… is that maple sausage and biscuits… I’m being deprived!” to “Mmmm… Flaxseed cakes with extra fiber!” Sunday we cleaned out the chest freezer of everything meat-related and drove them out the home of my PLP (platonic life partner) and her family. Well, I should point out that the other chubby vegan did the cleaning. THIS chubby vegan looked this morning and discovered ham, turkey, cooking fat and what looks suspiciously like buffalo. (Note to self, we must discuss with the other vegan that ham does not technically grow on a tree, but I digress.) I also noticed when dropping off the frozen chickens that they were the size and shape of a bowling ball and had a sudden urge to set up an alley in PLP’s garage with soda bottle “pins”. I am hoping that with the meaty distractions out of the house I will be less inclined to do things like I did yesterday. I won’t go into the food-porn details but suffice to say that I have invented something called “Pizza Rice” and it is DAMN tasty if you like things with cheese. Thankfully, I have confirmed there is no more dairy in the house with the exception of dried staples for baking. I am having a hard time getting rid of the dried staples in the freezer (buttermilk, whole eggs, whole milk, butter etc..) because they were purchased as emergency back-ups. While I am not by any means running around and preparing for the end of the world, I am acutely aware that this country only has a 3 day supply of food at any given time and I don’t fancy counting on the authorities for food in the event of an earthquake or other crimp in my otherwise elegant lifestyle. Which is not to say I don’t have enough beans and brown rice to see me through Armageddon or the “zompocalypse” because I do. And a 9 iron for self-defense. I’m just saying.
Yesterday I soaked a big bunch of canary and cranberry beans and decided to tweak a recipe for Creamy Hungarian Bean Soup that I found in Sundays At Moosewood Restaurant (purchased 2 weeks ago at the room of requirement for $2.99). It is a fabulous ethnic and regional cookbook that is vegetarian and so the existing recipes are easily changed to vegan versions. I had a few leftover cooked beans and so will find a way to incorporate them into dinner tonight. I hope. I also pulled some leftovers from the freezer. The teenager will be thrilled, “Hi honey! We’re having a big bowl of WTF for dinner because I forgot to label whatever this is again. Dig in!” Do I know how to put the shiny on a meal or what?
Onward to the recipe however,
SpongeBob’s Vegan Creamy Hungarian Bean Soup
4 cups cooked beans (Moosewood uses navy beans but I prefer something creamier) with cooking liquid
1 leek, rinsed and chopped
4 young garlic shoots, about 10″, rinsed and chopped
1 lrg yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp sweet paprika (I used smoked paprika for extra richness but sweet is fine)
1 package of firm tofu
Put your beans, cooking liquid, chopped veggies and seasonings in your crock pot and crank that bad daddy up on high for about 3 hours, or on low for an hour or 2 longer. As usual I don’t have exacts, it’s more a feel your way along sort of a thing. Once the veggies are soft, take out a couple of scoops of the broth, the juice of 2 lemons and toss it in a blender with your tofu. Puree until rich and creamy and incorporate back into your soup. double check seasonings and adjust if necessary and serve with warm crusty bread. or Pie. Pie is good.
Serving Size 214 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 29
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.3g, 5%
Saturated Fat 0.7g, 3%
Cholesterol 0mg, 0%
Sodium 305mg, 13%
Total Carbohydrates 72.2g, 24%
Dietary Fiber 19.9g, 80%
|Vitamin A 22%||
Vitamin C 18%
Nutrition Grade A
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet
Now that we’re getting ready to move very very soon (end of the month), the OTHER chubby vegan is strongly encouraging me to use up as much in the freezer as possible. Which I am diligently trying to do. Really. I promise. Cross my fingers and hope to eat Crisco. So yesterday I dug in and yanked out a
2 lb bag of sliced frozen okra that I picked up in a fit of culinary adventurousness. Mom never cooked with okra growing up because she said she hated it and being the good and obedient daughter that I was *cough* I went along with that for all these years. But after a trip to Hawaii a few years ago when I decided there was no point to eating the same food I could get at home, I’ve been far more adventurous in trying new foods… soursop, custard apple, durian fruit (and the flavor of THAT is best described as zombie flesh smeared with poo and a sprinkle of garlic powder), mountain apples, both raw salmon and raw tuna poke, dried hibiscus flowers, eel sushi, knotweed, miner’s lettuce, chickweed, wood sorrel, wild dandelion leaves and now, okra. After all, where is the fun in going somewhere exciting and then eating at McDonald’s? I’m using that figuratively of course. I was so gobsmacked standing at the market in Koloa Town amidst piles of seasonal tropical fruit and fresh fish only to see so many go by with carts piled to the top with Corn Pops, powdered donuts and hamburger meat.
I picked an okra soup recipe from the May 2011 issue of Saveur magazine that features soul food from Charleston. The recipe is obviously not vegan, it uses bacon, or low-fat but I tweaked it to suit our dietary choices and prepared it in the crock pot.
This morning I made what I’m calling a Greek Scramble. We’ve missed having scrambled eggs very much, not “tuna melt” much, but darn close. So I’ve been trying different tofu scrambles. First I tried extra firm tofu and that seemed a good texture, then I tried super firm and that didn’t work out well at all, imagine cooking your scrambled eggs until they have the texture of a tenderized rubber erasers and that pretty well covers it. This morning I tried just plain firm tofu and that came out a little soft, so extra firm it is going forward. I will also say that I feel that having plenty of turmeric on hand to give your eggs a good rich yellow color so that it gives more of the illusion of scrambled eggs is necessary for a better scramble experience for us vegan newbies. Maybe when I’m more experienced at this it won’t matter so much but having my scrambles white-colored makes me feel like I’m eating dirty egg whites. And of course, scary food coloring is so not acceptable.
I’m including my recipes of Okra Soup and Greek Tofu Scramble below:
Vegan Southern Okra Soup
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Thyme
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 Bay leaf
Kosher salt and smoked black pepper to taste
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
1 lb Okra, trimmed and cut into 1″ slices
6 cups “No Chicken: Better Than Bouillon” stock
1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
Heat oil in well seasoned cast iron pan over medium high heat and add thyme, garlic, onion, celery and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and cook stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste; cook, stirring, , until carmelized, about 2 minutes. Add vegetable tomato paste mixture, okra, chicken stock, and tomatoes to crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours until okra is very tender and soup thickens slightly. Serve with warm rice.
1 serving (701.0 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 32
Total Fat 3.6g, 6%
Saturated Fat 0.5g, 3%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg, 0%
Sodium 1140mg, 47%
Total Carbohydrates 23.5g, 8%
Dietary Fiber 6.6g, 26%
Greek Tofu Scramble & Sausage
1 pkg extra firm tofu
2 zucchini, diced
4 scallions, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp Cavenders seasoning
1 pkg. Gimme Lean non-fat vegan sausage
Place oven on broil. Slice vegan sausage and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Place sausage in the broiler. While sausage is browning dice onions, zucchini and tomato. Saute vegetables lightly in well-seasoned cast iron pan. If sausage are well browned on top at this point, flip them over and allow to brown on the other side. While sausage is finishing crumble drained tofu into pan with veggies and spices. Toss mixture until warmed through and seasonings are evenly mixed. Serve scramble with browned vegan sausage.
Before I barrel into what happened diet-wise today I should mention I have NOT canned the Japanese Knotweed yet. What was supposed to be a 5 minute trip to sign paperwork with our new landlord turned into a 3 hour conversation over tea followed by a frantic trip to our neighborhood teriyaki place for stir-fried tofu and veggie tempura. So one might say the “fat” ship sailed again today but really, by 8:30 we were ready to gnaw off our own arms from hunger. Even worse, *I* had a part of a cheese sandwich this afternoon. I had thought I would be able to continue having meat and dairy in the house for my catering, and as long as it’s frozen I am fine but let me defrost it, put it in the fridge or cook it and all my willpower heads to Ensenada for a beer and a vacation. So no knotweed, no willpower and the cat won’t speak to me. BUT we did run up the street to our local second-hand shop (we call it the room of requirement and if you get the reference you rock!) to look for a new living room reading chair, which we did not find but we did find 2 older but in very good shape electric space heaters for our son’s new basement room and our new bedroom, or maybe the office downstairs. AND, to make it even better it was 50% off day so we got both heaters and some extra canning jars for about $7.50. (Doing the Snoopy dance today.) I will try to can again tomorrow as the water bath canner is sitting on the stove as we speak giving me it’s most pathetic and neglected look.
Now, onward and forward… I have decided that I simply cannot BEAR another moment without tuna. Mind you, when I was eating tuna I wasn’t eating tuna that often but nonetheless, absence has made the tuna heart grow fonder apparently. So, after tasting an absolutely fantastic vegan tuna substitute at the Wayward Vegan Cafe in the University District (which is across and down the street from Pizza Pi, the site of my first OMG! vegan pizza epiphany) I decided that I had to come up with something. I would have asked the guys at the Wayward for a sort of hint on how they make it but they tend to communicate recipes in what I term an “economy of expression”… i.e. not even Julia Child could figure anything out from what they say. Not that Julia “oh she of the creamery butter” Child would WANT a vegan tuna recipe but you get my meaning. So, here it is, my first attempt at vegan tuna and according to the other vegans in the house it is pretty darn lip smackity.
SpongeBob Fishpants’ Tuna-riffic Vegan Sandwich Spread
1 cup whole brazil nuts
2 (20 oz) cans garbanzo beans
1 tbsp Sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 tbsp brown mustard
2 tbsp nonfat tofu mayonaise
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1. Soak brazil nuts in cool water overnight and then chop finely in a food processor. Don’t process until it’s nut butter though, you want texture in your “tuna”.
2. Rinse and drain garbanzo beans. Mash to desired consistency. Add brazil nuts, relish, mustard, mayo, scallions and celery to the beans and mix thoroughly. If mixture is too thick you can add more mayo or a bit of plant milk (I used plain rice milk).
3. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed for personal taste or let each person season their own sandwich/wrap. Makes aprox. 8 generous servings (You could realistically cut these servings in half and conveniently cut the calories in half as well).
Serving Size 1 serving (89.1 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 80
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8.9g, 14%
Saturated Fat 0.4g, 2%
Cholesterol 0mg, 0%
Sodium 86mg, 4%
Total Carbohydrates 42.7g, 14%
Dietary Fiber 12.2g, 49%
Vitamin A 2% • Vitamin C 6%
Calcium 7% • Iron 24%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet
And how did yesterday go? Fairly well, but not without its bumps. I allowed my post nap munchies to get the better of me and demolished a third of a box of crackers before bothering to check the fat content (we are endeavoring to keep our daily fat intake under 10%). Needless to say, I often need to remind myself that when it comes to processed food, “baked” only means they added the fat directly INTO the cracker rather than frying it in the fat. Also, a far more serious slip occurred in cooking meals for a friend. Sometimes having someone else in the kitchen saying “Oh, are those your homemade meatballs?” with a touch of drool on their chin can be far more dangerous that expected. My resolve not to taste them melted like frosting on a hot dashboard and we both ended up tasting both the meatballs and the minced chicken I made for a Quiche. Bad, bad vegans!
On the positive side, last night we celebrated a belated mother’s day with the kids as well as our daughter’s 22nd birthday. I had picked up a copy of Julie Hasson’s Vegan Diner at our local library and decided to try the Not Your Mama’s Pot Roast with Roasted Vegetables. The picture looked amazing and I am such a sucker for a spanking new cookbook with pretty pictures. And the best part… it’s made in a slow-cooker. You’ll soon learn that the crock pot is my dearest friend as I spend enough time in the kitchen to love any appliance that cooks for me and doesn’t heat the entire condo. The recipe was easy, the ingredients on hand and the results, well… mixed, for us anyway. The simply spiced seitan “loaf” cooks under a blanket of veggies and savory gravy for 4 hours and is served sliced, drizzled in gravy with a side of succulent potatoes, carrots and onions. The problem was that I love pot roast and this was most certainly not like pot roast in taste or texture. So, essentially, I set myself up to not like this by buying into the name. Now, if you REALLY like seitan for it’s own sake, then this roast is right up your alley and I think that the recipe could be tweaked to make a really good meatloaf, but it is most definitely NOT pot roast. So, all in all, I’m giving last night’s dinner 3 out of 5 stars and 2 1/2 are for the veggies. *In the future I will include recipes that I come up with or tweak into my posts, along with photos, but in this case since it isn’t my own to post so instead I will strongly recommend checking out the book from your library and if you love it as much as I suspect I’m going to, picking a copy up.*
Lastly, a few days ago we headed over to a community garden near the University of Washington that has a particularly lush stand of Japanese Knotweed. (Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant that is loved by bees and has a young shoot that tastes a bit like a lemony cross between celery and rhubarb.) This is a doubly good find as we know that they need to keep the stand under control and being an all-organic garden and attached to an aviary, we need not worry about pesticides or herbicides. We picked about 10 lbs and hauled it home. Today is the day that I begin canning it. After a little research I believe that due to the acid content and my addition of honey, water bath canning should be sufficient. That being essentially how I can rhubarb as well. I will post pictures of the results once I actually leave the computer, toddle off to start peeling and slicing knotweed and, oh, get it canned.
One last thing, because I can’t help but do the happy dance… we have been cooking our rice in the oven using the Alton Brown method. It makes perfect rice but heats up the house something fierce on warm days, so we put out there that we wanted a rice cooker. I had priced them new at Uwajimaya and eventually came to the conclusion that we would need to take out a bank loan just to make a down payment (larger ones that could cook brown rice were between $200 and $300). So I am sending out a HUGE thank you and a hug to the kind soul that decided to re-home rather than throw away a beautiful, working, 20 cup rice cooker and was additionally considerate enough to include all the extra pieces like the cord, steam basket, and water collector. I was able to buy it for $4.99 at my local second-hand shop!
Because I’m just THAT much of a geek I actually considered researching what to write on a blog before I started this. So I guess that pretty much tells you more about me than you needed to know, or at least gives you some insight. This is going to be the blog that documents my family’s ups and downs as we change lifestyles from one of nightly television watching, boxed cake mixes and oven-smoked Hawaiian pork to one of daily exercise, no television, and a vegan lifestyle. We want to bike ride, kayak, hike and go on adventures. And bottom line… the couch will never get us to those places.
We’ve discovered that vegan has a very wide range of definitions that runs the gamut between scary political types to those that feel that cheese is a vegetable, albeit orange and melty, but a veggie nonetheless. It serves to remind us that the world is a wonderfully diverse place and we don’t know as much as we often think we do. But back to us, the 2 chubby ones. We are doing this for health reasons primarily, less so for political and compassionate reasons, but they do play an important part in the decision. Health because I don’t even want to imagine what my arteries must look like after 44 years of “clean your plate” eating, political because we are tired of being at the mercy of corporate food politics and Big Agriculture greed at every turn, and compassion because no living creature should suffer the way we treat our “food” animals and we both truly believe that anything we put in our bodies that is born of so much misery and pain cannot be doing us any good, spiritually or physically.
But how do WE define vegan? We are going to focus on whole plant foods. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Honey is okay for us. But no meat, no dairy and as much as I can, no processed foods. Does this mean we won’t ever slip. No. I’ve learned the hard way that the fastest way to fail is to make it impossible to succeed. We will do our best. It also means that we have several whole wild sockeye salmon, trout, sole and halibut in the freezer that will not be wasted. So, occasionally, probably increasingly rarely until it’s gone, we will have fish. We are growing as much of our food as possible. We are learning what wild foods we have in our area and foraging and preserving as much as we can. We have learned to can, both water bath and pressure canning, and we will preserve as much of the spring and summer bounty as we can for the coming winter.
And lastly, who are we… we are a non-traditional family in many ways. My partner is an electrician and musician and I am a fresh-water ecologist and artist. A few years ago we looked at the actual cost of 2 people working and decided it was cheaper for one to work and the other to do the work that so many pay for in ways they don’t ever realize. We buy all we can second-hand, from clothes to furniture to appliances. Even our pets are second-hand. If you can learn to wait until the perfect item presents itself instead of buying what you want the minute you want it you would be amazed at the wonderful things you can find, in perfect condition, for a steal. We decide what we need and “put it out there” and eventually we find it. I do all the cooking, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not eating out as much saves us so much in both money and health. I cook for friends when I cook for us and it brings in extra income and helps them eat healthier. I forage, can, and dehydrate foods to take advantage of as much free food as possible. Why pay $6.00 a pint for berries that grow wild all around me?
So, consider this our lifetime vegan challenge. Come along and join us if you’d like or laugh hysterically as we try making our own “wheat-meat”. Whatever makes you smile!