The Food and Budget Experiment

Hey there! Sorry for the lack of posts. I’ve been busy with the yoga training and practice, and my mind’s been all over the place as I’m trying to figure out the next phase. Lots of different, but exciting, things to think about, for sure.

meal planningMy husband and I have decided to try out a little food experiment this month. I’m not going to lie: We’ve been eating out quite a bit these past few months, which is both bad for your health and bad for your pocketbook. And not to come up with excuses, but a big part of it is that our schedules have been thrown out of whack between my trips to Cincinnati for yoga training, and our frequent trips to visit my husband’s mom, who is very sick.

So, in an effort to save money and to also reduce the amount of visits to the grocery store (I feel like we go a few times a week), we’re going to buy the bulk of our groceries once during the month and then hit the farmers’ market every Saturday for produce. I’m hoping that having more food on hand will keep us from grabbing Chinese takeout so often. We can stock up on things like tofu, almond milk,  and dried bulk goods such as beans, lentils, rice and so on. And then we can use the produce we find at the market to determine our menu for that week. I’m also hoping that having everything in front of us will make it easier to stretch the groceries out for even longer to save money.

The biggest challenge will be finding room for everything since we’re pretty tight on space. But I think we can make it work.

That being said, it’ll also be easier for me to post weekly meals plans on here, which I really want to get back to doing on a regular basis.

I hope you all are well! I’ll have a food post up soon.

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Vegan Thanksgiving 3.0: The Menu

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been excited for Thanksgiving for a few weeks now (I clearly need to find a hobby). But as excited as I’ve been, I’ve had a hard time getting my act together in terms of finalizing a menu and shopping for food. I think I’ve been too preoccupied by other cooking-related events leading up to Thanksgiving: We attended a Thanksgiving potluck with friends this past weekend, and I’ve got to make a couple of dishes for a meal my brother is hosting on Thanksgiving Day (this is why we’re pushing our vegan meal to Friday).

Last night, however, we finally made it to the grocery, list and menu in hand. After perusing the Web to find new recipes, I’ve decided to stick with what I know and have settled on a menu that is actually much simpler than what I’ve made in the past. I’m not making my Sweet Potato Balls since I made them for the potluck. In its place, I’m roasting butternut squash. And I’m using some help again for my stuffing. Overall, it’s going to be less fussy this year — I hope.

Here’s my finalized menu. I will post pictures and recipes (more detailed than last year) this weekend. I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving with lots of love and good food!

Dinner:

Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts
Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes (from “Vegan Soul Kitchen“)
Sage, Apple and Carrot Stuffing
Mushroom Gravy
Tofurky
Rolls
Cranberry Sauce (in a can, of course!)

Dessert:

Pumpkin Roll (from “Sweet Vegan“)

Vegan Weekly Roundup: Thanksgiving Ideas, Vegan Bacon and Quinoa Wraps

As we move closer and closer to Thanksgiving (it’s less than two weeks away!), I’m starting to get my lists together. Are you guys getting excited? I know I am. So far, I’m planning on sticking to the basics, much like I did last year, but I do want to tweak a few things for a little variation. I’ve been looking at recipes online, and found a few, along with a few other vegan-related items, that I think you’ll enjoy.

I’m making my Sweet Potato Balls for a Thanksgiving potluck between friends, so I don’t think I’m going to include them on my Thanksgiving Day menu this year. In its place, I’m going to make this Savory Vegan Butternut Squash Au Gratin W/Crispy Shallots.

Soy substitutes if you find yourself allergic to it or just wanting to reduce your consumption.

These quinoa wraps look healthy and delicious! (I think I may need to buy this cookbook to help with my never-ending lunch dilemma.)

Whoa. Vegan bacon from king oyster mushrooms.

I love reading about athletes who decide to go vegan — despite criticism from fellow athletes.

Instead of a pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake, I’m going to make a pumpkin roll this year.

No time for cooking a Thanksgiving feast? If you live in Chicago, the Chicago Diner offers a vegan Thanksgiving carryout menu.

And, finally, here’s some music from Ladyhawke to enjoy while you cook. Have a lovely weekend!

 

Menu for the Week: Kidney Bean Wraps and Panang Curry

This has been one of those weeks where we ran out of everything at once, so we had to keep our food budget cheap.

For breakfast, we both tend to like lighter meals, but if you’re looking for more protein, you might want to switch out the banana bread with a tofu scramble burrito or breakfast casserole.

Also, we actually had a couple of meals left over to make from last week, so I’ll be adding those in with the rest.

So, here’s what we decided to go with this week:

Breakfast:

Banana bread from “Veganomicon
Oatmeal and toast w/ pecans and maple syrup
Yogurt w/ Maple Almond Granola — from “Vegan Soul Kitchen

Lunch:

Kidney Bean and Avocado Wraps from “Big Vegan
Macaroni salad, adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Dinner:

Sweet Potato Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a salad
Panang Curry, adapted from this recipe

I hope you all are well and are enjoying  Vegan MoFo!

Menu for the Week: Pumpkin Muffins, Chickpea Salad and Sesame Tofu

Hello there! I hope you all are well. I’ve been in kind of a cooking rut the past few weeks, but the cooler temperatures are inspiring me to get back into the kitchen. Thank you for being patient with me.

I don’t have any food pics just yet, but I thought to get started I’d post my menu for this week with the hope that maybe it will help you plan yours. One day, when I win the lottery and don’t have to work, I’ll actually be able to put together full menus and grocery lists like I intended with this blog, but, for now, this will have to do.

Anyway, here are my planned meals for the next week and I plan on taking pics of each to post on here soon:

Breakfast:

Pumpkin Bran Muffins — from “Vegan Brunch
Oatmeal and toast w/ pecans and maple syrup
Yogurt w/ Maple Almond Granola — from “Vegan Soul Kitchen

Lunch:

Chickpea salad sandwiches w/ tortilla chips — my own recipe, which I’ll post soon
Split Pea and Apple Soup w/ cheese and crackers — from “The Vegan Slow Cooker

Dinner:

Sesame-Crusted Tofu  w/ Lemongrass-Orange Reduction, served w/ brown rice, edamame and gyoza — from October Vegetarian Times
Chickpea Tomato Soup w/ grilled cheese and pickles — from “Vegan Yum Yum” (She’s back, by the way!!)
Tempeh Helper w/ salad — from “Appetite for Reduction

Detox Diet

I’m sure you can see, from the lack of food posts, that I haven’t been in the kitchen this week. I seem to have lost my cooking mojo and my diet has suffered because of it. My meals have consisted of lots of frozen foods and meals that haven’t been well planned. And, I’m not afraid to admit, I also gave in to non-vegan foods while at work because someone treated me to lunch (being vegan in the workplace is a whole other topic I’d like to discuss in a future post).

Anyway, long story short, physically I feel like crap.

Now, I don’t believe in those fad detox diets that require nothing but liquids, but I do think it’s a good idea to clean up and re-evaluate your diet on occasion. So, during my next grocery trip, I’m stocking up on lots of fresh fruits and veggies. No fake meats or even tofu. I’m sticking to grains, lentils and beans for my protein. I also want to eliminate white flour this week to see if that makes me feel better. And green tea. Lots of green tea.

Do you have any detox foods that you like to eat when you’re feeling a bit blah?

The Traveling Vegan

As I’m sure you all know, maintaining a vegan diet can be quite a challenge when on a road trip and while staying in another city — especially if that city doesn’t have ready access to the ingredients you’re used to using. Thankfully, though, with a little planning (and a large cooler), you don’t have to sacrifice your diet to stay full while away from home.

My husband and I went on a small road trip this past weekend. The trip itself wasn’t that long, but we were going to be gone for two nights. We had access to a kitchen, but I really didn’t want to dirty up more dishes than necessary. We also didn’t want to spend the money on meals that were elaborate. Thankfully, with the help of some prepared foods, we were able eat fairly healthfully and cheaply. While not exactly enlightening, I thought I’d share a few tips and meal ideas that we used for eating vegan on the road:

Breakfast: Homemade muffins or banana bread are perfect because they travel well and last a while. If you don’t have the extra time to bake, bagels or cereal are a great standby.

Lunch: Again, homemade is always better, but canned soups, along with Daiya cheese, crackers and sliced fruit are always a good way to go. If you need to eat while on the road, pasta salad, tabouli and hummus, or chickpea salad sandwiches are great options.

Dinner: Casseroles that you make ahead of time are my favorite because all you have to do is heat it up when you get to your destination. Lasagna works in the same way. But if you do have to cook, basic spaghetti is quick and can easily be rounded out by mixed salad greens and freezer rolls. Veggie burgers and oven fries work well here, too.

Snacks: Cliff bars, nuts, dried fruit, bananas, homemade cookies — all pack well and will last from the beginning of the trip to the end.

The one thing we’re bad about doing is not planning for the trip back. This happened when we took a road trip to Florida last fall. That’s when we usually hit up Taco Bell for a Fresco Bean Burrito or a Seven Layer without cheese or sour cream. It’s not great for you, but it’s vegan.

What meals to you like to take with you on the road? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Pantry Playlist: David Bowie — Starman

Well, I’m finally starting to feel a bit better, though my sense of smell is still a bit off. At my worst, I couldn’t even smell apple cider vinegar that was held up to my nose. It was very weird.

Anyway,  in an effort to get back into the swing of things, I thought I’d post a video that always helps to get me in the mood for cooking.

I hope you all are doing well. I will have some new posts, including a new meal plan, up soon.

Split Pea and Lentil Soup

So this might not be the prettiest dish, but it sure was tasty. The recipe can be found in “The Vegan Slow Cooker,” and it’s another dinner item I have featured in my latest meal plan. Split peas and lentils combine in a wonderful broth. Baby spinach is added at the end for added texture and flavor. The only thing I would change is the amount of salt. I used Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base, which is pretty salty on its own, so you really don’t need to season it with more salt, at least in my opinion. Still, it was so nice to come home to this wonderfully hearty and nutritious soup on a rainy spring day. A side of homemade cornbread goes great with it.

Recipe: Sausage, Peppers and Polenta

This dish is so easy to put together, which is why it makes a great weekday meal. It’s one of the dinner items I have listed on my meal plan.

First, slice one large yellow onion into medium-size pieces. Saute the sliced onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until it turns translucent. Then add two sliced red peppers and cook until just tender (by then the onions will have caramelized a bit). While the peppers and onions are cooking, slice the Field Roast Italian Sausage links into bite-size pieces (or you can even leave them whole if you prefer). Throw the sausage on top of the peppers and onions when they’re almost done cooking and cover with a lid to steam. Just a couple of minutes is all you need. Serve over the polenta.

For the polenta, I adapted a savory polenta recipe that I found online to make it vegan:

Savory Polenta

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 quart chicken-flavored bouillon
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons Earth Balance
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Daiya Cheddar Shreds (this is optional — I had some on hand that needed to be used)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.

Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken bouillon, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper, and Daiya if you have it.

I served mine as is, but if you prefer a firm polenta, pour it into a 9-by-13-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Once set, turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and saute in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, or grill.

Enjoy!