Monthly Archives: April 2007

A new cookbook!

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I had been thinking about buying Vegan with a Vengeance for a while when I came across this post on Eat Air: A Vegan Food Log. The picture of Maple-Mustard Glazes Potatoes looked so good, it was the final impetus I needed to go order this cookbook. It wasn’t so much that I HAD to make that recipe, it was more that a critical mass of great recommendations had been reached that propelled me over the edge to make the purchase (not that it is that hard to convince me to buy a book!).

When the book arrived in the mail, it looked just as good as I thought it would. I love all the extra bits of information on how to host a public access tv show, or Food Not Bombs, or how to host a brunch café. I have actually found myself reading the book, rather than just paging through and glancing at recipe titles. Today, while riding the Metrolink home from work, I came across the Maple-Mustard Glazed Potatoes and String Beans recipe that had sent me to the online bookstore, and I realized that I had most of the ingredients for this recipe. Not only did I have fresh green beans and Yukon gold potatoes, I had beans and potatoes that needed to be used before they went bad! Talk about serendipity! I hate throwing fresh veggies away (although I am thinking this weekend we are definitely going to start our own fire escape composting bin; still, while composting food is better than throwing it in a landfill, eating it is better still). So, I was even more excited when I started actually assembling the recipe, and I realized that I didn’t have the yellow onions called for, but I did have a leek that would otherwise go to waste. Ah, it’s the little things in life that are exciting, isn’t it?

There are so many recipes in this book that I want to make. I just need to make a grocery list so that I can actually make the recipes, not necessarily food inspired by the recipes, like tonight’s creation (I didn’t have Dijon mustard, either, but stoneground seemed to work just fine). Not that there is anything wrong with changing a recipe—I firmly believe that recipes are guidelines, not laws—but it is nice to change things consciously, because I think I will like it better, rather than by necessity. On the other hand, there is nothing quite like the experience of realizing that you are out of a key ingredient midway through your meal preparation and still being able to produce a delicious dish.

Several things, again

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I have been so busy lately, I haven’t had time to post, but I have been thinking about things I want to post, so I am dumping it all here now, before I forget it.

Vegan Clothing

Near the end of last week I was talking to my next door neighbor, who also happens to be a vegetarian, about the process of going vegan. I was telling her that I am still struggling with vegan food although I am doing pretty well, but I am not even ready to address vegan clothing. And anyway, vegan clothing is all ugly or, if it is nice, way too expensive. Then, the next day, there was an article on my local paper’s site about environmentally friendly fashion that listed some more affordable and attractive options. I am still not convinced that I can go to vegan clothing entirely (for one thing, one of the materials highlighted in the article is merino wool, which I have mixed feelings about), but I am not so certain it would be impossible, either. There was even a fun article on recycling various materials to make jewelry. Then, I went to the Earth Day festival on Sunday (more on that below), and got the cutest blue bamboo top for only $32, which I thought was totally reasonable. I am wearing it today and it is so comfortable, and I really like the way it looks. So, I am thinking a bit more about this.

Earth Day Festival

I have never attended the Earth Day Festival here in St. Louis, but I will be going in the years to come. Despite coming home totally sunburned, I had a great time. I ate an AuraPro pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw on top from the chef for Terrene, recreating one of my favorite sandwiches, back in my meat eating days. I will definitely be visiting that restaurant sometime soon—not only do they have delicious vegetarian food, they use organic, sustainable food practices. As I mentioned above, I bought an awesome shirt. And, I found a local group that has vegetarian potlucks on a regular basis. I hate their website, but I like the idea of meeting other vegetarians in the area. I saw belly dancers, salsa dancers and some kind of stylized fighting dance that looked to be African, but I didn’t catch the group name, and I can’t find it on the festival webpage, but they were all very impressive.

What would you do to save the environment?

During the Earth Day buildup, my local paper’s website had a poll on actions to save the environment. I can’t link directly to it, since they have it as a popup, but I can tell you that I found it very annoying, because you had to pick one thing only. What a useless poll! If ever there was a question that begs to allow more than one choice, it is “What would you do to help keep the earth green?” Right after I saw that poll, I noticed this post from BlogHer on my Google sidebar webclips. Elisha Camahort proposes an Earth Day meme to show that you can do more than one thing, and I think it is a great idea. Here is my list of the top 5 things I do for the environment:

1. Moving toward a vegan lifestyle.
2. Recycle as much as possible.
3. Use compact fluorescent lights in my home.
4. Take public transportation to work and walk as many places as possible.
5. Bring reusable bags with me to the farmer’s market and store.

Returning to an old favorite

This weekend when I went to the Farmer’s Market, I bought a huge head of cabbage. I love cabbage, but I particularly had in mind this dish that is kind of like a loose, messy cabbage roll. I used to make this a lot during my last time as a vegetarian, but I haven’t made it in years before last night. I don’t know why, it is delicious and healthy. Normally I would mix the mashed potatoes in with the whole mess, but I kept them separate this time for the benefit of my children. Also, I didn’t even think to check the ingredients on the tomato soup until I was getting ready to type this up, so I have no idea if they are vegan. I hope so, but if not, I know I can get the Imagine soup for next time.

Cabbage Stew

½ large head of cabbage
1 large or 2 medium leeks
1 red bell pepper
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can condensed tomato soup
freshly ground pepper
garlic powder

Slice the cabbage and add to a large soup pot. Add about 4 cups of water and bring to a boil; reduce hit and simmer with a lid on the pot while you continue to chop veggies. Chop the leek and wash thoroughly in a bowl of water, draining several times to get all the dirt from in between the layers; push the slices apart to make sure they get clean all the way through. Add drained leeks to the soup pot. Chop the bell pepper and add that to the pot, too. Cover and let this all hang out for ten or fifteen minutes or so, until the cabbage is tender (I didn’t use the timer, I cleared off the table and looked at the mail and other stuff like that). Drain the veggies in a colander, but don’t worry too much about getting it all dry. I dumped it, gave it a couple of quick shakes and put it back in the pot. Turn the stove back on and add the stewed tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes up a bit (and incidentally, some of the big slices of cabbage); add the tomato soup and mix well. Grind in some pepper and add the garlic powder to taste. We like garlic a lot, so I added quite a bit, but I didn’t measure, so I am not sure how much. Put the lid back on and simmer for 10-15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Somewhere in the midst of all this, I washed, peeled and chunked 5 or 6 small Yukon gold potatoes, boiled them until they were soft and mashed them with a little bit of Earth Balance margarine and plain rice milk. I had the stew over the potatoes, and it was almost like stuffed cabbage rolls with mashed potatoes, except without the ground beef.

Smoothies!

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When my smoothie maker broke a few months ago, I was really bummed out. We had been having fruit smoothies almost every morning and I hated that our routine was going to be disrupted. Part of the reason I was so disappointed was that suspected that what was going to happen was what actually did happen. First, it took a while for me to get to the store (and to remember that I needed a new blender at the same time that I was in the store). Then, some clutter took over the spot where the smoothie maker used to sit, so I didn’t even get the new blender out of the box for a long time.

Last night, though, while I was at the grocery store, I found myself remembering all of the bananas that I threw in the freezer because they were turning brown, and missing my morning smoothies. So, I stocked up on orange juice and frozen fruit, and this morning, we all had Very Cherry Berry Smoothies. I forgot what a great start to the day a good smoothie makes! Again, my recipe is not really exact, but here it is anyway.

Fruit Smoothies (for the three of us)

1 ½ – 2 cups orange juice
2 bananas, fresh or frozen
2 cups frozen fruit (my favorites are berries, peaches or mangoes)
1 – 2 tsp vanilla

Pour the juice in the blender, add the bananas and fruit. Push the fruit down into the juice; it should stick up over the top a bit, but not a lot. Splash the vanilla on top, and blend until smooth and creamy. Fresh fruit is good, too, but frozen makes it seem almost like soft-serve ice cream, especially with the peaches for some reason. I love the vanilla in this!

The kiddoes love these, too, and I love seeing them start the day off with such a healthy boost. I feel better, too. I know that returning to this morning habit will make us all feel even better the more we do it.

CORN

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I throw away too many vegetables. I tend to buy a lot of vegetables, because I love them, and I love how I feel when I get plenty of veggies in my diet. But as the week progresses, I find myself grabbing whatever is easiest, which is often not my veggies. Tonight, I decided that I needed to do something to reverse the trend. Thus, Clean Out the Refrigerator Night. This is actually a recipe I like to make often, but it is an adaptable recipe, depending on what I have to use up.

Veggies and Couscous

5-6 cups of veggies, whatever you have (tonight I used mushrooms, red and yellow bell peppers, a leek, broccoli and cauliflower, 1 yellow tomato and 1 red tomato)
16 ounce container Imagine Organic Creamy broccoli soup
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil

I sautéed the mushrooms, bell peppers and the leek in a bit of water until they started to soften, then added the broccoli and cauliflower, put a lid on the skillet, and let that all steam for a bit. When the broccoli and cauliflower started to soften, I added the soup, chopped the tomatoes, and ground some pepper on top. The lid went back on top, and I let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Then I picked some fresh basil from the pot in my window and stirred that in.

I served over tri-color couscous, and we had steamed carrots and mandarin oranges on the side. I feel so healthy!

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Reading No Impact Man has really made me aware of how much stuff we throw away. It doesn’t help that we are working on massively decluttering the apartment. We recycle, but I really would like to do more reusing.

However, it takes so much time to reuse! We have been doing pretty good with bringing our lunches, and the Laptop Lunchboxes are so much better than the sandwich baggies I used to send with the girl that she would throw away every day. But, washing those extra dishes every night takes so much more time. And, if I can whine just a bit more, my kitchen sink is just that much too short, so that my back hurts when I stand there to do dishes, stooping just a bit. I don’t even notice I am doing it until my back starts to hurt.

I really don’t mind the extra dishes that much, though. It’s the thought of how many more dishes and how much more prep work I would have if we reused more that really gets to me. So, I feel a bit guilty as I put the empty glass mango sauce jar in the trash, but not guilty enough to seriously think about making my own mango or apple sauce at home in my own reusable jars. Do you know how long that takes?!?!?

Maybe someday I’ll get there, but for now, I am just going to focus on the benefits of not using sandwich baggies. And I will go put my paper bags from Trader Joe’s by the door so I don’t forget to take them with me tomorrow to the store. Baby steps before running, right?

Not Really a Recipe

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I love Trader Joe’s! Also, World Market. They make my life easier without making me feel like I am sacrificing healthy eating. Here is my Thai green curry recipe (more directions for assembly, really) using the shortcuts I found at those stores.

Bombay Saffron Rice

2 cups brown basmati rice
4 cups water
2 heaping teaspoons Bombay Saffron Rice Spice (from World Market)

Mix this all together, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until done, about 15-20 minutes.

Thai Green Curry Veggies and Tofu

about 10 ounces firm tofu
1-2 tsp sesame oil
1 package stir-fry veggies from Trader Joe’s (includes broccoli, bamboo shoots, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby corn, baby carrots, and maybe something else I am forgetting)
1 jar Thai green curry sauce from Trader Joe’s

Press some of the water out of the tofu and cut into smaller rectangles (about 1 inch x 1/2 inch x 1/4 inch, or whatever size looks good to you). Heat the oil in a skillet and add the tofu pieces. Turn heat to medium and gently fry until tofu is golden; add veggies. I didn’t want to add more oil here, so I added about 1/4 cup of water and put a lid on the skillet, and let the veggies cook for 5-10 minutes. Then I poured some of the water off and added the green curry sauce. I put the lid back on and let that simmer another ten minutes or so to meld the flavors and continue cooking the veggies.

This was really good. I need to make a mental note that the girl prefers the green curry sauce that I have gotten at World Market, but overall, the kids ate pretty well. They really like the Bombay Saffron rice, much to my surprise (especially in the girl’s case; the boy loves rice almost any way). Fortunately, Trader Joe’s and World Market are just a few doors apart in my local shopping area. We will definitely do this again, because it was quick and easy. I was even able to finish up some dishes and make some extra, plain rice so that I could try a banana rice pudding recipe later while this cooked. I love quick meals!

Progress

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I have been continuing to plug away at eating the lower calorie foods and working out, and I am finally seeing some results! I have lost about 4 pounds, and my stomach, while not getting smaller, is at least getting less firm. I figure this means I am losing some of the visceral fat that is so bad for you. This is the kind of fat that makes you an apple shape, which is the worrisome one from a health standpoint (I am not very fond of it from an appearance standpoint either, but that is another issue). This isn’t a huge difference, but it is a difference in the right direction, so I am encouraged.

The kiddoes continued bringing their lunch all through last week. The boy and I even had a conversation about how he feels loved when he is eating the lunch that I made for him. The girl was less enthusiastic about bringing her lunch on chicken nugget day, but agreed to try the Quorn chicken nuggets next Tuesday, apparently forgetting that she has done that before and liked it. Even though this is adding a lot of time to my evening and morning routines, I am liking it. I like that the kids are eating more vegetarian foods when they would be eating meat if I didn’t send something, and I like the environmental benefits of using the reusable lunch containers.

I have been pretty good about bringing my lunch, too. I actually brought something 4 days last week, although I did end up going out on Tuesday with a friend because it was his birthday. I ordered a veggie burger, and decided to get the yammy potato salad instead of the fries to try to be healthier; it wasn’t until after I got it that I realized potato salad is made with mayonnaise and often has extra bits of hard-boiled egg in it. I mean, I knew that, but I didn’t think about it. Still, it wasn’t a lot. Next time I will do the vegetarian chili or just go with the fried potatoes. It’s not like I do it every day. Although the food at the place we went to eat is generally filled with meat, it is nice to see that there are some vegetarian options. My salad and leftover gnocchi with marinara sauce and peas did not go to waste that day, since it was a late day for training, so I ate it for dinner.

All in all, this has been a good week in our vegetarian journey. I lost some weight, in a healthy way, the kids are eating a lot less meat, and we are all getting into the groove of bringing a healthy lunch from home rather than relying on what we can find at school, work and daycare. We are getting used to the new routines with a lot more cooking at home, and even coming to like it. Monday, as we sat around the dinner table eating gnocchi and asparagus, the boy beamed at his sister and me and said, “You know what, guys? I really love you guys!” If that isn’t motivation to sit around the table together, I don’t know what is.

A Recipe and Some Lunches

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Coconut Curried Vegetable Stew

2 onions, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp veg oil
4 medium potatoes, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
½ head of cauliflower, chopped
2 cups frozen cut green beans, thawed
1-2 tsps fresh ginger, to taste
2-3 tsps good quality curry powder, to taste
½ tsp turmeric
1 15 ounce can light coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil until golden. Add the potatoes and carrots, plus two cups of water. I needed to add just a bit more to come close to the top of the veggies, about half a cup. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, cover and cook until veggies are half-cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Add the cauliflower, green beans, ginger, curry powder and turmeric. I did not have any cauliflower, so I used frozen broccoli, which was very good. Continue simmering, covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 10-15 minutes more. Mash some of the potatoes against the edge of the pot to thicken the stew, and add the coconut milk. The cookbook recommended letting the stew stand for an hour to meld flavors, but I didn’t have time for that. It also recommended salting at this point, but I don’t cook with salt, so I skipped it. Add the peas and heat thoroughly, then serve.

Oh my goodness, this was so yummy! The kids were not as impressed, but I think they’ll come around, given repeated exposure. And they will get repeated exposure, because I just loved this.

Lunches

I ordered two Laptop Lunchboxes last week after seeing them used so well on the Vegan Lunch Box. Originally I had only planned to order one for the girl, but the boy wanted one, too, so I went ahead and got two. They arrived today.

The girl was so excited that she decided she wanted to take her lunch even though tomorrow is chicken nugget day in the school cafeteria. I have to admit, I am pretty excited about her lunch—it’s really healthy, and for her, it’s got a lot of variety. I took a whole wheat tortilla and spread it with Tofutti cream cheese (I know, that isn’t the greatest, but I am so happy it is non-dairy, I am overlooking the fact that it isn’t perfect) and rolled it up and sliced it. On the side, she has mango sauce, dried apricots, sugar snap peas and sunflower seeds. It’s not anywhere near gourmet, but it is healthy and she’ll eat it.

Of course, since I was making the girl lunch, and he had a new lunch box, too, the boy wanted me to make a lunch for him as well. I tried to talk him out of it, since his daycare provides lunch, but he was adamant. So, he is having a whole wheat tortilla with cream cheese, too, plus some sugar snap peas, sunflower seeds, and a medley of dried fruits (apricots, raspberry-flavored cranberries, cherry raisins, and papaya). I should be glad he is eating veg, too, but instead I am overwhelmed with the thought of making three lunches every night. Bad mommy. I guess I will adjust, though.