Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vegan Recipes

Well, we got a request for some good, vegan recipes.  I’ve been cooking quite a bit recently, and I got to try out some new-to-us meals.  A few of them were not so good (samosa salad, bleh) and a couple were keepers (butternut squash quesadillas, yum).  I don’t like using a lot of pots and pans, so these are post-dinner-cleanup friendly, too.

  v  Butternut Squash Quesadillas (about 470 calories per quesadilla)
These are incredible.  They do require one thing non/new vegans may not be used to: fake cheese.  Daiya makes the BEST.  I use the cheddar style shreds, and they melt like a dream.  *For those of you concerned about soy, it is a tapioca base.
o   1 Butternut Squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into small cubes (think the size of cheese cubes)
o   Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (how much depends on how cheesy you like your quesadillas)
o   1 Can of Black Beans, rinsed
o   Tortillas (we use whole wheat)
o   Oil of your choice (we use avocado, but olive or canola is fine)
o   Pinch of salt
o   Pinch of pepper
o   Pinch of chili powder (these are obviously exact measurements)
o   Optional: some kind of green.  Fresh spinach or kale works.
1.      Heat up the oil in a big skillet.
2.      Throw in the squash, sprinkle salt, pepper, and chili powder, and toss it around to coat.
3.      Cook, stirring/flipping occasionally, until squash is tender. It takes a little while, but stove top is faster than the oven version. (If you want to throw in a green, throw in when the squash is almost done.  Greens wilt pretty fast in my experience.)
4.      Dump the cooked squash into a bowl.  Dump in your rinsed black beans and mix.
5.      Wipe out the skillet with a couple paper towels (DON’T BURN YOURSELF!!!)
6.      Slap a tortilla in the skillet, and pile in the squash/bean mixture and “cheese”.
7.      Cover with another tortilla, and squish it down.
8.      Flip when you think it’s ready (not rocket science.  Cheese melty=flip!)
9.      Slice and eat!  We like to dip ours in salsa.

  v  Vegan Stew (about 420 calories per bowl)
This is the best on a cold day, something we have no shortage of here in Illinois! This one has a meat substitute, but I don’t think of it as “fake meat”.  It’s more of a grain cake that’s packed with protein! Fair warning: it does NOT have the same texture as meat.
o   1 Package tempeh, cubed (as big as you want)
o   1 Sweet potato, peeled and cubed
o   ½ cup lentils, rinsed
o   4 carrots, sliced in discs
o   1 Carton vegetable stock (low-sodium)
o   2 tablespoon flour (I can’t even pretend to know the differences in flours.  Use what you’ve got.)
o   Splash of almond milk (original, unsweetened)
o   ½ onion, diced
o   2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
o   Olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pot)
o   Mrs. Dash Italian Blend (or whatever herbs/spices you like in a stew)
    1.      Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
    2.      Dump in the onions.
    3.      Wait a few minutes, and dump in the garlic.
    4.      When you smell the garlic, throw in the tempeh and carrots.
    5.      Stir everything for a minute, just to get some flavor on the tempeh.
    6.      Sprinkle in flour, and stir to coat everything in the pot.
    7.      Add the almond milk, enough to wet everything, and to scrape up some of the goodness on the bottom of the pot. The milk is also good to eliminate some of the lumps the flour can leave in the final dish.
    8.      Pour in the entire carton of vegetable stock.
    9.      Add sweet potatoes, lentils, and seasonings. (All ingredients should be covered in stock/almond milk)
  10.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer until it’s reduced to a consistency you like. I like a really thick stew, so I let it go for quite a while (about 40-50 minutes).
  11.   Ladle into a bowl and eat!

I also want to include some premade meals that are a lifesaver for me.  Amy’s Low-Sodium Lentil Soup is AMAZING!!!! I eat it for lunch almost every day.  I can pop in in the microwave, and 90 seconds later I’m ready to eat.  That’s vital when you have a ½ hour lunch.  Amy’s has a ton of soups, and they are clearly marked if they are vegan.  I get mine from Kroger, in the natural foods section.  It’s usually on sale for about $2.50.  That may seem like a lot for a can of soup, but it’s better than running to the nearest fast food chain!  It also keeps me full until dinner (no small feat). 

Have I said enough about how much I LOVE Daiya “cheese” products?  They have shreds, slices, and blocks.  I love making grilled cheese with the slices.  Even Tutu likes it, so it can’t be all bad.  It’s not exactly like real cheese, but it’s the second best thing I’ve found so far.

We love Mexican food, so a taco meat substitute was necessary.  Fantastic Foods has a taco mix that is super simple.  It’s dry, so you just boil some water, dump in the mix, and boom!  Taco meat!  We stir in cheddar style shreds and put it over chips for some nachos.  It takes about 5 minutes from start to eating.  The sky is the limit with nachos.  Pour on some salsa and sliced avocado (or guac… my mouth is watering!), sliced jalapeƱos, shredded lettuce, cilantro, and you’ve got loaded nachos! 

I hope this helps all of you that either want to go fully plant-based, or just want to lay off the meat a little.  Enjoy!  Vegans: Do you have any quick recipes that are a go-to on busy nights?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Living Differently

I’ve always liked being a little different; just a little to the left of the norm.  The goal wasn’t to be super weird (though I’m sure I’ve come off that way to some).  I think we have officially ventured into the world of the truly weird.  We’re vegan (weird), we don’t own a home (weird for our income and family situation), and we live below our means (definitely weird for millennials).  That sounds like the makings of the world’s most boring reality show!  The only way you get a show with those criteria is if you also have approximately one thousand children. No thank you.

We’ve almost gone a solid week on the vegan train!  These are the good days.  I haven’t really had time to crave all the things I no longer let myself eat.  To be successful at a plant-based diet, I have to turn around the usual logic: I don’t think about all the food I can’t eat, instead I think about all the food I can eat.  That sounds so cheesy (cheezy?) and straight out of an upbeat diet book, but it works for me. Another strategy I use is getting into a good, solid rhythm of meals.  I have to build a habit or an anti-addiction.  I like to think I’m adaptable, but I’m good at getting in a rut.  Is there a positive word for rut? A moat?  We’ll say a groove.  I need to get in my vegan groove, and after I don’t have to think as much about eating.  I read that it takes 21 times to make something a habit.  Only 15 more days…

People always asked (Zach and I were vegan for a little over a year right before and after we got married), “Isn’t it hard?” It’s not.  So many more options are at the regular grocery store than you’ve ever noticed.  Do I miss ice cream?  No.  I can get a coconut-milk based, turtle ice cream that is out-of-this-world good.  Cheese?  Okay, yes.  I miss it almost daily.  I’d love to take a big bite out of a block of sharp cheddar a la Schmidt in season 3 of New Girl, but I don’t need it.

That is my main goal for 2015: sifting out the wants from the needs.  I majorly lack discipline, and this is the year I’m going to get it.  It was different when Zach and I got married.  I knew it wasn’t just me anymore, but I’m really good at convincing him to go my way.  He says manipulate.  He’s dramatic.  But now?  I can’t convince Tu to not go to college because I want a house.  That’s not fair to her.  It’s especially not fair because she has zero say in the matter right now.  So, no more Target runs for fun, no more eating at restaurants, no more Sunday afternoon mall visits.  We are hunkering down in our 700 square feet of apartment, with our vegan cheese, and getting out of debt!  Who’s with us?!

Zach here,

Passionate and dramatic are regularly confused for the other.