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!

Apple Strudel and Black-Eyed Peas

Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s now 2011? Crazy! The holidays were very relaxing for us, and were filled with lots of delicious vegan meals. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture them all on film, but I’ll do my best to give you a rundown of all the wonderful new recipes that we tried.

For some reason, I like to have a big Italian meal on Christmas Eve (I blame it on my mom’s Italian roots). This year, I decided to make a lasagna, along with a Caesar salad and warm, crusty bread. For the lasagna, I turned to Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s newest cookbook, Appetite for Reduction. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks. I’ll go into that a bit more a little later, but so far, every recipe that I’ve made from the book has been delicious!

The recipe, Lasagna with Roasted Cauliflower Ricotta & Spinach, was super-easy to make and packed with flavor thanks to the roasted cauliflower. My dad even finished off a big plate of the lasagna! To cut down on the cooking time, I opted to not boil the pasta. Instead, I layered the uncooked pasta noodles and added a little water right before baking. I also doubled the recipe so that there would be enough for everyone.

For the Caesar salad, I used Laura Ulm’s recipe from her book Vegan Yum Yum. The dressing for this salad is really what made the dish. It was incredible! (Well, the homemade sourdough croutons certainly didn’t hurt.) It consisted of almonds, miso, Dijon, vegan Worcestershire, and silken tofu among other ingredients. The croutons were also very easy to throw together and a must-have for the salad. Cubed sourdough bread was tossed with olive oil, Italian herbs, salt, and pepper, and then baked in the oven. I could easily eat this salad as a meal. So simple, but so delicious.

For dessert, I turned to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (another must-have book from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero) to make red velvet cupcakes. The Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes were incredibly moist. The Old-Fashioned Velvet Icing, though delicious, was a little runny for me, so next time, I think I’m going to make them with a cream cheese icing. Still, they were the perfect finish to our Christmas Eve meal.

For Christmas morning, I once again turned to Vegan Yum Yum to make an apple strudel. In case you didn’t know, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is vegan. Now, it’s also not very healthy, but hey, it was the holidays! The strudel recipe was ridiculously easy to make. It was simply a matter of slicing the apples, tossing them in cinnamon, sugar, and flour, and then rolling them in the puff pastry. I made the strudel the day before and put it back into the oven for a few minutes to warm it. A slice of the strudel and a cup of coffee were the perfect Christmas morning treat.

For the past couple of years, we’ve been making it a tradition to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day with the hope that they will bring us good luck for the year. This year was no exception and I once again turned to Appetite for Reduction to make these Hottie Blacked-Eyed Peas & Greens and Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples.

But before I go into how delicious both recipes are, I just have to profess my love for the cookbook. Yes, the recipes are low-fat, but you wouldn’t know it. The food is just so clean and simple and delicious, which is the way I like to cook. They also, for the most part, require very few ingredients (especially if you have a stocked pantry), making them incredibly budget-friendly. If you buy one cookbook this year, I highly recommend adding this one to your collection.

Anyway, back to the meal! The Hottie Black-Eyed Peas & Greens had so much flavor thanks to the onions, garlic, hot sauce, and liquid smoke. The recipe came together in no time at all while the sweet potatoes and apples steamed for the mash.

Though two separate recipes, I used Isa’s recommendation of making the Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples as a side for the Hottie Black-Eyed Peas. And, wow! The smokiness of the peas along with the sweet potatoes and apples made for a flavor-packed meal. And so healthy. And like the peas, once I finished cubing the potatoes and apples for steaming, the mash came together really quickly.

Well, that’s it. For now. I hope this rundown inspires you to try some new vegan recipes.