Monday, July 28, 2008

Chili Dogs!!

So Jon and I were watching PBS the other night and there was a food show that happened to be all about chili dogs. Having just worked all day and gone running, we were looking for a protein extravaganza and, thank you WFYI, we were inspired. I hope you will be, too.

What you need:
1. Veggie dogs. We prefer brats because they're bigger and can hold more of the good stuff.
2. Buns. The bread kind. Whatever you prefer will work.
3. 1 can of chili hot beans.
4. 1 package Lightlife Smart Ground (regular style)
5. Ingredients to make the nutritional yeast "cheese" sauce (explained in the post below)-this is optional.
6. Hot sauce, red pepper, salt-to taste

How to:
1. Prepare your veggie dogs however you might normally prepare hot dogs. We are lucky enough to be the proud owners of a George Foreman grill. You can boil them or brown them in a frying pan. Your call.
2. In a large sauce pan, add chili hot beans (keep the sauce in the can to add to the mixture), smart ground, and hot sauce, salt, and red pepper to taste. Make this as spicy as you want. Start out with a little spice and keep adding until you're satisfied.
3. In another smaller sauce pan, prepare nutritional yeast cheese sauce. Steps are spelled out in the post below.
4. When everything is warmed and thickened to your liking, follow the natural progression and slap all that good stuff on a bun.

I prefer to put so much chili and cheese sauce on the hot dog that not only can you not see it, you have the eat the whole thing with a fork. This meal is immensely satisfying and filling. Good enough to take to the ballpark.

Cajun Baked Tofu and Mac and "Cheese"

This is super easy and can be done fairly quickly. I'll do the recipe in 2 parts so you can distinguish what you need for what.

Cajun Baked Tofu

1. 1 block extra firm water-packed tofu
2. 1/2 cup of flour
3. 1 cup Cajun style fish breading (This is REALLY spicy, so if you don't want to feel the burn, so to speak, use less breading or more flour)
4. Spices: garlic powder, crushed red pepper, black pepper-to taste. These really just accent the rest of the breading, so use them as you see fit.

How to:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.Drain and cut tofu into 4 blocks.
3. Coat tofu slices with breading mixture.
4. Lay on greased cookie sheet or aluminum foil.
5. Bake. Check at 10 minutes for desired crispy-ness. We baked this for about 20 min altogether, checking every 5.
6. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before eating. Side with your favorite BBQ sauce.

Now for the Mac and "Cheese"

1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 and 3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
A pinch of turmeric
1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
1/2 box of macaroni
2 cups frozen broccoli (optional)

How to:
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and put in pasta.
2. In separate sauce pan, heat margarine until liquid.
3. Add flour to margarine and stir.
4. Add water
5. Add garlic powder, salt, soy sauce, and turmeric and stir.
6. Keep stirring until sauce begins to thicken.
7. Add nutritional yeast and continue stirring.
8. When macaroni is cooked al dente, place broccoli in water. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until broccoli is hot. Strain pasta and broccoli. Place back in pot.
9. Add nutritional yeast "cheese" sauce on top of pasta and stir. Viola!

This is an excellent "down home" meal that can satisfy your cravings for a southern-style meal. Makes the hot weather even hotter!

I have several meal ideas that I need to put up here. I promise (!) I'll do it tonight.

Upcoming meals include:

Red Chili Ravioli
Chili "Dogs"
Cajun baked tofu with Mac and "Cheese"

(Can you tell we've been feeling spicy lately?)

Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lentil and Potato Soup

Whoa! Where has the time gone since my last post? I probably lost track because I haven't had to cook much this week due to me eating my delicious lentil soup leftovers. It's been nice. Here's what happened:

1 bag dry lentils (whatever color you want)
1 bag frozen Vegetable Soup Mix vegetables
About 5 or 6 small red potatoes
1/2 red onion
3 tbsp minced garlic
2 cans vegetable broth
Nutritional Yeast (optional)
Cooking spray or olive oil to coat pot

How to:
1. In soup pot, sautee garlic and onion. While they are cooking, chop potatoes.
2. Add frozen vegetables.
3. Add potatoes.
4. Add lentils
5. Add vegetable broth
6. Add water so that all the vegetables are covered.
7. Let boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour (the longer you let it cook, the more flavorful it will be).
8. While soup is simmering, add spices (oregano, salt, pepper, season salt, nutritional yeast). Taste, spice again. I never measure spice, I just start out low and keep adding. It works, believe me.
9. Let simmer longer.
10. Eat.

I LOVE making soups. They are perfect for just throwing whatever in a pot and making it taste good. Again, this recipe has tons of room for flexibility. Adding different veggies or spices can make this a completely different soup. AND the best part is that this makes A TON. About 8 large servings, so approximately enough to get 8 people full one night or get two people full several times over the course of a week.

Oh, and did you know. . .you can freeze soups? Just put them in a ziplock bag and stuff them in the freezer. So, if you're a single person, you can make this for yourself and keep some in the freezer.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Salad Shmalad

Who says a salad can't be filling? The salad I made tonight was incredibly tasty and again, had ingredients that cost less than $10. Made enough for me and Jon (the boyfriend) to eat a lot of, and still have leftovers for me to take for lunch tomorrow.

Here's what we did:

1. Baby Greens Salad Mix (About $3 at Kroger. I bought the organic kind but you can go cheaper)
2. Can of garbanzo beans (About $0.78)
3. Can of sweet yellow corn (About $0.50)
4. 1 raw tomato (About $0.75)
5. 1/4 raw onion (price unknown, I just had it at home)
6. Lightlife Chikin Strips (About $3, again you can go cheaper but still get protein by using some pan fried tofu or nuts)
7. Salad dressing. (We used what was already in the fridge)
8. Spices

How to:

1. Strain and rinse corn and garbanzo beans.
2. Chop tomato and onion
3. In a frying pan, lightly spray with cooking oil. Brown chikin strips while seasoning with whatever you want (we used black pepper, Grill Time chicken seasoning, red pepper, and salt).
4. Combine everything over greens and toss. Add dressing at your own discretion.

Duh that's how you make a salad.

But my point in posting this is as follows:

This salad was REALLY filling. A salad doesn't just need to be vegetables. Put your protein in there with it and get it all done in one dish. I'm tired of the whimpy vegan salad that you can hardly get to stay on a fork much less stay in your stomach for longer than 2 minutes. This salad leaves nothing to be desired. Finish off with some slices of whatever fruit you've got handy (mmm. . .doesn't watermelon sounds good?) and you've got yourself a gourmet meal straight from mother earth's kitchen!

Eating Vegan for Cheap 101

I think there are some important aspects to eating vegan cheaply that would be good to cover before this blog goes along much further. They are as follows:

1. Portion Control.
This goes for people who are vegan or not. What most American's don't realize, or don't care to realize, is that the amount of food we eat daily is usually WAY more that we need. A healthy portion of spaghetti should be a little larger than a tennis ball. Your average spaghetti dinner is usually 2-3 times that size. Vegans are no exception to this. In fact, a lot of vegans think that because we cut out stuff that is high in fat and cholesterol, that we have free reign to finish and entire box of pasta by ourselves. The truth is, we don't need to eat more to get our vitamins and nurtrients, we need to eat better.
But you might be thinking. . .'If I wanted a lecture I'd go to health class'. Ok, ok, so here's my point with all of this: When you eat smaller portions, not only do you eat smarter, your food lasts longer.

2. Use what you already have to guide what you should buy
Before you go grocery shopping, take a good look at what you've already got. Have an unused bag of lentils and some minced garlic? Buy an onion, some frozen or canned vegetables, a few potatoes, and some veggie broth and you've got yourself the makings of some delicious lentil soup that has the potential to last for days.

3. Plan your meals
This kind of goes along with the last one. Before you go grocery shopping, plan out what you would like to eat that week, over the next few days, whatever. This will keep you from overbuying, impulse buying, and also will keep you from having to take multiple trips to the store for one meal.

4. Stock up on fruits and veggies
Really this should be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised by the number of vegans I've met that have a strange avoidance of raw fruits and vegetables. Buying lots of veggies is especially helpful in the summer and fall when lots of stuff is in season (meaning: inexpensive). I'm constantly eating fruit because it's healthy, filling, and usually not too bad on the wallet (depending on what you get).
Better yet, plant a garden! I haven't done this yet in my adult years (except for a small selection of herbs) but I fully plan on it next year. What's better than free food right in your back yard!? And the wonderful thing about summertime vegetable excess is that blanching and freezing or canning vegetables is relatively easy and can take you well into the winter months.

5. Don't be afraid to have a freezer full of food
If something is on sale and is able to be frozen, buy it. It will already be there when you want to use it later and you get more at a lower price. I am all about bargain hunting when it comes to groceries. Things that I regularly keep in my freezer: frozen veggies and fruit(cheap as hell and always there when you need them), tofu (water packed!), bread, and veggie burgers. In fact, tofu actually can have a better texture and absorb flavoring better if it has been frozen. So buy in bulk!

6. Keep the following staples around if you can: beans or lentils, onions, garlic, whole wheat bread, firm tofu, an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies, crushed red pepper, nutritional yeast, other spices rice, soymilk, some kind of pasta, and margarine/vegetable oil. You can make about 10 different meals out of these ingredients. If you're strapped for ideas but home and hungry, try throwing them together in whatever combo sounds good. It probably will be.

These are the guidelines that I use when I shop and cook, and it does me pretty well. Of course, these aren't set in stone but I think they're pretty wise nonetheless.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summertime Pasta and Black Bean Salad

Mmmm. . .last night's dinner was delicious! Inspiring! Easy! Completely thrown together! Here's what we did:

1. Pasta. We used rigatoni, you can use any other kind you want or have handy. About 1/2 a box small will do you for 2 people.
2. Frozen chopped broccoli, 1 12-oz pack.
3. 1 can black beans
4. 1 half red onion
5. About 2 tablespoons minced garlic (This comes in big jars, lasts forever, and goes well in about anything. Invest in some.)
6. 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast
7. Salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper to taste.

How to:
1. Boil water. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
2. Sautee onion and garlic until onion is soft.
3. Add broccoli to onion and garlic.
4. When broccoli is cooked (i.e. no longer frozen and actually hot), add black beans. Cook beans for a few minutes, but stop before they get too mushy.
5. Drain pasta, add pasta to vegetable mix once beans have been cooked.
6. Add nutritional yeast and other assorted spices. Taste. Spice more. Repeat as needed.

As you can see, this pasta was super easy and really filling. It works as an entree or a side dish and saves well for leftovers the next day.

Also, there's tons of room for creativity. Have a can of sweet corn? Add it! Have half a tomato? Add it! Don't like broccoli? Drop it! Do whatever. You know what you like.

We ate this last night with some pan-fried spicy breaded tofu and bbq sauce, which will have to wait for another day.

I hope to maybe take some pictures and make this a Real Food Blog. Until then, use your imagination!

An Introduction

The idea for this blog came about as a result of an awesome dinner my boyfriend and I pulled out of nowhere last night. We were hungry, tired, and most of all, we don't have much money. So when Dinner Time rolled around, we didn't want to go hike up to the grocery store and spend money on more food items when we were convinced that we could make something good using the random ingredients we had at home. And we did make something good. In fact it was downright delicious. And so I thought. . .

"You know? Vegan cookbooks always use these fancy shmancy ingredients that you never have at home when you're really hungry and just want to make something now. I should start a blog about doing just that."

Well here it is.

This blog is going to be dedicated to good, tested, vegans meals, snacks, and desserts that are 100% fancy-pants-ingredient free. You will never have to run over to Whole Foods for a teaspoon of arrowroot powder, organic dried mango, pickled cactus or whatever else you can't find at your local corporate/traditional grocery store (with maybe the exception of nutritional yeast and soy products that the grocery store may or may not carry). All you foodies may be asking yourself. . .


Well, for several reasons.

1. I want to effectively demonstrate that vegan food can be healthy, inexpensive, and accessible. The nearest health food store to me is almost 30 minutes from my home. Therefore, I depend on traditional grocery stores (namely Kroger) for the foods that I eat. Not only by shopping there do I spend less money on food, but I also save on gas and lessen the amount that I use my car. I don't get to eat organic foods all the time, but neither do most of the people in my neighborhood.

2. And on that note. . .I want to demonstrate that veganism can work for anyone, privileged or not. It's hard for me to justify spending $5 on a kiwi at a health food store while the families in my working class neighborhood spend $5 to feed a family of four for a day. When people ask me whether or not my diet is expensive I can tell them, no, I shop where they shop and spend (similarly) what they spend on food. I want to be an attainable role-model, which includes living life on a humble budget (which also sadly means no organic dried mangoes on my salads).

3. Many of the cookbooks I have call for these ingredients that, unless I want to be a super sleuth, I can't find anywhere. While these ingredients may be accessible to someone on a coast, or in a larger city, Indianapolis isn't necessarily vegan friendly. Vegans don't starve here, but it's also not at easy as it is in other places. I want to make the recipes in this blog work for people who don't live in a major city but still want to eat vegan.

4. Lastly, returning to point 2, I live my life on a humble budget because I have little choice to do otherwise. Spending $20 for an ingredient to make 1 meal isn't a viable option for everyday living. The dinner my boyfriend and I made last night had ingredients that, altogether, cost less than $10 and made enough for me to have the leftovers for lunch today. I'm looking to assist other vegans that live on a tight budget but still want to eat delicious and healthy foods.

I hope this blog is somewhat useful. Please contact me with any questions or comments you may have. I'm eager to read them.

Here's to your health and satisfied hunger!