Lunch: Tomato Soup and Chickpea of the Sea Salad

Tomato Soup and Chickpea Salad

Neither the soup nor the salad you see here are new recipes; I’ve blogged about them before. But this is kind of where we are right now with our food: sticking to tried-and-true favorites for the sake of saving both time and money. We’re trying our best to get our food budget down as much as possible so that we can reach specific goals we’ve planned for this year. We’ve stumbled a few times, but we’re getting there, slowly but surely. And hey, I got to try out my new (old) soup and sandwich set. I’m just amazed at how much smaller the portions were 50+ years ago. I have coffee mugs larger than the soup bowl.

I hope 2013 is going well for you so far!

Greek Chili Served Over Linguine

Greek Chili

I love the “5 Ingredients” feature in “Vegetarian Times.” It features dishes that each only contain five ingredients. And in the most recent issue, the 5-ingredient theme centered around chili. We tried the Smoky Chipotle-Kidney Bean Chili last week and it was pretty good. I could see building on it with more flavor when I make it again, but it’s perfect if you’re looking for a healthy, budget-friendly recipe.

This week, we decided to make the Greek-Style Chili. It’s basically chickpeas, diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, a pinch of cayenne, fresh spinach leaves and crumbled feta. (I couldn’t find vegan feta, so I just crumbled Daiya on top. Not really the same, flavor-wise, but it was still good.) The recipe says you can serve it over spaghetti, linguine or rice. As you can see, we decided to go with the linguine. The final result wasn’t what I typically think of as chili; I couldn’t imagine eating it by itself without more seasoning. But combined with the pasta, it was a light and easy weeknight dish that I would definitely make again.

My Favorite Winter Soup: French Lentil with Tarragon and Thyme (and a Side of Cornbread)

French Lentil Soup

Of all the recipes I’ve made from “Veganomicon” (and there are still a ton that I haven’t made), I’ve probably made this French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme the most. (You can find the recipe here.) The soup comes together really quickly; just chop the onion and carrots and throw it all into a pot to simmer. I like to serve mine with crumbled cornbread on top, making it a hearty and filling meal for a cold winter day.

Enjoy!

Vegan Round-up: Burritos, Meal Planning and Smoked Buns

Caffe LatteI haven’t exactly been living up to my New Year’s resolution of blogging more, have I? Excuses, I have them. But you don’t want to hear those. I hope the New Year is treating you well. Here are a few things I found on the Web to send you off into the weekend. I hope all is well!

I’m making these delicious-looking burritos for our lunches next week.

Where did Vegan Yum Yum go?

I’m curious about Luminous Vegans’ experience with Well Vegan, a vegan meal-planning site. (I still want to make this site more about meal-planning.)

The New York Times has some great recipes if your New Year’s resolution was to go vegan.

Smoked Tofu Buns? Um, yes, please.

Here’s another new vegan cookbook I’d like to add to my collection. Too many to choose from nowadays!

Have you heard? David Bowie is putting out a new album! Here’s the first single (hopefully it won’t get taken down):

Have a great weekend!

New Year’s Resolutions, Vegan-Style

New Year's Resolutions

I can’t believe 2012 is almost over. Time truly does go by so quickly. I always look to the New Year with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I realize that January 1st is just another day on a calendar, but I like the feeling of starting fresh with a new focus. The worrier in me, however, is nervous of what the new year might bring — a mindset that I’m hoping to channel into something positive next year.

I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of making New Year’s resolutions, but I actually enjoy making them. I like reflecting on the past year and what I would like to see happen in the next. And as a compulsive list maker, jotting down my goals helps me focus on the things I find important; otherwise, the thoughts just swim around in my head and never come to fruition.

2013 is going to be a big year for us. We’re taking a dream trip to London in February (!), I’m hoping to become a certified yoga instructor, and all the while saving up to buy a house by the end of summer/early fall. It’s all very good things, but it’s going to require a lot of discipline, especially with our budget.

This being a food blog, I thought I’d share my food-related goals for 2013. I may not fulfill all of them, but that’s ok. Sharing them with the public is certainly motivation for following through with each one.

So, in no particular order, below are my 2013 food-related goals:

Eat less refined foods, such as white flour, white rice and pasta. I want to switch out white flour in our baked goods with more wholesome replacements.

Keep fake meat products to a minimum. I look at fake or faux meat products as junk food. We are pretty good about not eating them on a regular basis, but I’d still like to lessen our intake even more and truly focus on 100-percent, plant-based meals.

Stick to a food budget. As I mentioned above, the coming year is going to be an expensive one, which means we have to be stricter with our food budget. While we’re really good about always going to the grocery with a list, we’re not very good about establishing a set amount before we make the list. We can’t be at the mercy of our grocery list. So, expect a lot of food-budget-related posts next year.

Blog more. I know. I say this all the time, but while I have my good moments, I’m bad about staying regular with my posts.

Take better food pictures. My little 10-year-old point-and-shoot camera isn’t cutting it anymore. I’d like to upgrade to an SLR camera, but it may have to wait until we find room in the budget.

I hope that 2012 was a good one for you and that 2013 is even better!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you had a nice, relaxing day yesterday. I think this Christmas might go down as one of the laziest for us. We went out with my family on Christmas Eve for bowling and dinner, followed by gifts. That left Christmas day for just the two of us. My husband and I typically do a movie and Chinese food out, but this year we stayed home and watched “Indiana Jones” movies (my gift to him) all day in our pajamas and ordered Chinese takeout. It was fabulous.

This year, we decided to keep gifts to a minimum because we’re taking a big trip in February and need to keep a strict budget, but my husband still came up with a great gift for me. I’ve had my eye on this vintage soup and sandwich dish set for about a year now. I was so excited to see it when I ripped open the wrapping paper. I can’t wait to serve up a warm cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on it.

Vintage Soup and Sandwich Dish Set

I hope you all are well. I’m very fortunate to be off the next few days, so I plan on cooking up some new recipes. I’ll post soon.

Please Stand By and a Little Holiday Music While You’re Waiting

Hey there! I apologize for the lack of posts. The holidays are keeping me busy and I haven’t had a lot of time for cooking and blogging about it. However, I am off all next week and one of my goals is to try a few new recipes. I will definitely post on them as soon as I can. I hope you all are well and are having a wonderful holiday season. Here’s a little Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass to put you in the holiday mood:

Recipe: Balsamic Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese

Balsamic Brussels Sprout Grilled Cheese

Brussels sprouts seem to be the “it” vegetable, and for good reason. Gone are the days of mushy, bland, boiled Brussels, and in are the delicious, caramelized versions that your mom certainly didn’t make. And as much as I love just tossing them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then baking, it’s nice to come across a recipe that takes them to whole different level. Such is the case with the Balsamic Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese on How Sweet It Is. I knew as soon as I saw the pictures that I had to try to make a vegan version, which wasn’t that difficult to do.

For my version, I used a regular French-style baguette, which worked out great, but the next time I make it (and there will be a next time because the sandwiches were so delicious!), I do want to use a multigrain bread as in the original recipe. Because I did use a baguette, I put the slices until the broiler as open-faced sandwiches to help melt the cheese. For the cheese, I used Daiya Mozzarella Shreds because I happened to have some on hand, but there is a Havarti-style wedge that would work as well.

The balsamic reduction really makes the sandwich, adding a nice sweet and tangy touch to the Brussels. (And if you have any extra left over, it’s wonderful drizzled over strawberries or a seasonal fruit.)

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts Grilled Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound brussels sprouts, stems removed and chopped or shredded
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
4 oz. Daiya Mozzarella Shreds
1 French baguette, sliced into four equal parts and sliced long

Directions

To make the balsamic reduction, add 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. The fumes from this will be pretty strong, so you might want to open a window or turn on a fan, and, whatever you do, don’t stand directly over it. After about 8 to 10 minutes of whisking, the vinegar should have reduced to about half the amount and should coat the back of spoon. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet oven medium heat and add olive oil. Toss in the shredded Brussels sprouts, garlic, and salt and pepper. Cook down for about 5 minutes or until golden and wilted. Set aside.

Turn on the broiler. Place your baguette slices on a baking sheet or a cast iron skillet, sliced sides up. Top with the Brussels sprouts and drizzle with the vinegar reduction.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts Open Faced

Top with the Daiya shreds and place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes and check constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Press the slices together to form a sandwiches. It’s a bit messy, but so, so good.

Enjoy!

Sunday Brunch: Crockpot Hashbrown Casserole, Whole Wheat Biscuits and White Bean Gravy

Sunday Brunch

More often than not, I end up making pancakes on the weekend, not that there is anything wrong with that. But we were both craving something a bit more savory on Sunday. I’ve made this wonderful Weekend Tofu and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole from “The Vegan Slow Cooker” before. (Though the book has tons of great recipes, it’s worth buying just for the casserole.) I’ve also made these Herbed Whole Wheat Drop Biscuits from “Vegan Brunch” before, too.

My usual go-to gravy is a simple white gravy, but it’s not exactly healthy. So as I was looking through “Vegan Brunch,” I decided to try out her Navy Bean Gravy, but I substituted cannellini beans for the navy beans. And, wow, I think this might be my new go-to gravy. The picture you see above was taken the day after I made the gravy, so it had thickened considerably, but right off the stovetop it was a wonderfully creamy brown gravy that worked really well with the herb biscuits. And while it still has white flour in it, the beans add more nutritional value than a typical white or brown gravy.

Yes, It’s Vegan: Pillsbury Artisan Pizza Crust

Veggie PIzza

A couple of months ago, we were invited over to our friends’ house for dinner. They made these wonderful little vegan pizzas on a thin, whole-wheat crust. I thought for sure that the crust was homemade, but I was surprised to learn that it was actually Pillsbury’s Artisan Pizza Crust.

Now, flash forward to this past weekend and we finally remembered to pick some up from the grocery to make at home. Our friends had divided the dough into smaller pizzas, which made for a thinner, crispier crust. We decided to just leave the crust as-is, which made for a thicker, chewier crust. We topped ours with a simple tomato sauce, Daiya Mozzarella Cheese, green olives, cremini muchrooms, onion and mixed greens.

The final result was way better and way cheaper than any kind of vegan pizza we could get around town (sadly, Louisville has a lack of vegan pizza options unless you want to just get it without cheese). And it took about 20 minutes total to make, which is less time than it would take to pick up a pizza or have it delivered. I still love to make homemade pizza dough, but this is a great option if you don’t have the time to spend waiting for the dough to rise.