Did You Know?

Did you know??
Although using avocados and bananas are all the buzz now to get soft and shiny hair, all it will get you is a messy kitchen and bathroom. These products are great to help your hair for one day, but the proteins in them are way too big for your hair to absorb. And unless you are going to use them each day (yikes!), then you should head to a beauty supply store and check out some Vegan products that use "hydrolyzed" proteins - proteins from avocados and bananas that actually are small enough to help your hair.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Comforts: Vegan Fluffernutter Cupcake (Two Ways)

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Today I felt inspired to revisit this recipe. After a slow, wintry Sunday that turned towards a bad day, I needed a bit of sweet, sweet comfort food. I had just a bit of vegan fluff left (it's hot cocoa season up here, people!) and I wanted peanut butter badly. Andy made me think of a "fluffernutter" - for those of you not from New England, it's just a peanut butter and fluff sandwich, probably with your crust cut off, because gross, crust. This time, I left out the chocolate and went for straight unadorned fluff, but don't be alarmed; I drank chocolate almond milk on the side. And for Andy, who is less of a dessert person, I made a PB&J cupcake, which he devoured while screaming at the Patriots. Some of it is still in his beard, but don't tell him, you'll only hurt his feelings. ;)

3/4 c soymilk
2 tsps apple cider vinegar
1/2 c natural chunky peanut butter
1/3 c canola oil
2/3 c sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peanut butter extract
2 tsps ground flaxseed
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt



1/2 c Vegan fluff (or melted vegan marshmellows) Try Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme!
1/2 c confectionary sugar
1 tsp vanilla

ADD (if desired):
1/2 c of your favorite jelly (Raspberry is the best, though, of course)






Pictured: Pure, unadulterated, cocaine.

























Combine milk and apple cider vinegar, set aside for a minute to curdle. Mix in the sugar, peanut butter, oil, molasses, and extracts. Add in the flax seed.

Sift in the flour, baking soda and power, and salt. Stir to combine.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Once cooled, frost with fluff frosting. Swirl in jelly, if desired.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tuscan Rice and Bean Soup


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Ahh, diet.  Just that word strikes fear into the hearts of many. While it only means the food you consistently eat, we associate so many negative things with the word. The funny thing about diets (a word I hate to use because of the connotation of restricted eating/enjoyable eating) is that when you have a certain diet (like being vegan), cooking for other people becomes a whole lot harder.  And while we live nearly an hour away from our families, and they rarely make their way around to visiting us, every once and a while we have family come stop by. And even though it's pretty rare for it to happen, something we have learned to do is have a few recipes that we can make that aren't 'scary' vegan foods.  Soups are always at the top of that list because they're easy to make on the fly, you can pretty much throw anything in there, and for the most-part they are either red, white, or yellow--nothing too threatening. 

That said, soups are a great all-round meal as they are chock full of vegetables and all sorts of good stuff. And being December, soup is one of the most important meals for the winter.  It's cheap, warms you, and is easy to make in bulk to enjoy for a few days in a row.  Rice and bean soup, in particular, can be made in so many ways-- it's really up to you with what you want to do with it.  This rice and bean soup was made to use up some of the stuff in the fridge, so it's a little unique in terms of which vegetables and how much of each vegetable is included. In thinking of our Vegan on the Cheap model, a bean and rice soup is good because beans are cheap, rice is cheap, and the watery broth fills you up.  Now don't let that fool you-- this broth is tasty and filled with delicious vegetable flavor.

This past week, as we were looking through our bills, wondering where our money was going, I noticed we hadn't really gone grocery shopping this month all too much.  Now, that's pretty common for us during the summer, as we try to live off our homestead as much as possible, but for the winter, it's pretty rare.  Something we've done differently this year was growing kale and celery through the winter, which has made part of our grocery bill disappear, something which I'll go into detail in a later post about cold frame gardening.  Another change this year compared to last year, which I believe is having a huge influence on our grocery bill is that during the late summer and fall we began to freeze as many fruits and vegetables as we could fit, and we've been digging into those the past month or so (I'll make a point to come back to this post to link to these articles when they're done).  I've gotta say, I'm pretty excited with how well it has worked out, and I'm hoping that next year we can even expand how much we store and grow throughout the winter.  Does anyone have any good materials on winter gardening in cold weather climates?

Anyways, back to the soup.  You might be wondering what makes a soup 'Tuscan'.  Well, Tuscan soups were based on the availability of ingredients, often using leftover soups as the base.  The soups often were made by peasants or cowboys while traveling, as it allowed them to continually reuse what they had and to let nothing go to waste. And since we're using many of the ingredients which were included in traditional Tuscan soups, it seems apropos to name it the same.  After foraging through your cold frame for your veggies, a nice rice and bean soup like this will warm you right up!

5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup diced tomatoes (or 1 12-oz. can)
1 cup uncooked rice
3/4 cup dried Great Northern beans (or 1 15-oz. can, drained and rinsed)
1 cup of celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

If using dried beans, soak overnight the day before.

In medium-sized pot, add olive oil and bring to medium heat.  Add garlic and onion, sauteing for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, celery, peppers, and carrots.  Stir occasionally for another 3-5 minutes.

Add broth, beans, and spices, and bring to a boil.

Add rice and reduce heat to simmer, allowing to cook for 60 to 90 minutes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oatmeal cookie dough green smoothie

Green Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

Making smoothies that taste like desserts is truly an art form.  Unfortunately, a lot of people like to say that they've got a recipe that tastes like a dessert, only to find that the only way I would make that connection is because of the name.  For example, I wanted to have an oatmeal cookie dough smoothie, so I checked Google to see what was out there, only to find out that the recipe that appeared to be quite popular (and whose creator will not be named) didn't taste anything like an oatmeal cookie.  After a few tries, I came up with this recipe, which I think is the closest to an oatmeal cookie that I've found as of yet.

First note regarding this smoothie:  make sure your blender can handle it.  Lots of frozen and hard ingredients.  We've got the ninja as our 'big' blender, and that thing is a monster.  The Ninja never has a problem breaking through ice, and it's actually a really easy blender to use because the engine is on the top piece.  It's surprisingly quiet too, which is great when I'm up at 5:45 in the morning and I'm trying to not be super noisy.  So, if you're in the market for a blender, there's a thumbs up from this corner!

Second:  This recipe makes a lot.  You could cut it in half, but it actually works out quite nicely because when we make a smoothie, we usually make it for two, and this will get you about 3-4 cups for each person, which is enough to really fill you up for a meal.

As for the book in the picture-- Memory Babe is an extremely in-depth critical piece of research on Kerouac's life and watches his writing develop as he deals with the trials of his sexuality, Oedipal complex, and his inability to find solace in his life as both the product of a working-class Canuck family & as a writer of scholarly circles.  It's fascinating to watch how he undulates between groups, and offers new insight into how he developed as a writer and as a human.  As a distant relative, I find this extremely interesting (and actually, in the beginning, the direct lineage to my family is even mentioned, which was kind of cool).  Compiled with the fact that I'm working on a book on Kerouac (I'd tell you more, but I can't until I have made some more headway in the project), and this book is the Bible for me right now.  If you're a fan of the Beats or of Kerouac, this is the best you'll find for a background, and a day-by-day in some instance, which is incredible that this could even happen.

1 cup water
1/2 cup oatmeal raw, not instant
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 1/2 cup kale
3 frozen bananas
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flax seed
6 ice cubes
2 tbsp cashews
1 tbsp peanuts

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Few Things on Working Out from the Laziest Creature in Our House

Pictured: Black Cat, being more physically active than me.


















Hey, friends. I've said this before, and before that, and probably before that, but I am a workout hating machine. Seriously. My mother instilled in me a great love of all things chocolate, and enjoying those chocolate things with many marathons of Law and Order, and so my free time is spent doing mostly that. I am many other things: a (sometimes pathetic) graduate student, a voracious reader, a painter and a poet, a junk food lover, a baker AND a candlestick maker, but one thing I am absolutely not is athletic. Some of it is leftover from my particularly bad case of mono (before that, I was a bit of a runner, but only barely. About 2 miles a day. And most of that was simply because I was competing with a friend) but a big part of it is just my personality.

And for fun, it drives Andy crazy. He is very active, and he loves being hot and moving around and all that craziness. He would weed our garden in the middle of July at noontime (whereas I would be drinking ice water in a cold bath with a book with coconut milk ice cream all over my face).

He made me start working out with him this past year. After swearing up and down that I would use it, we signed up for a gym right down the street from us. After about 2 months, I was already swearing at him and begging him not to make me go, because I am that lame. But, by month 4 or 5 (when it started getting nicer outside and we weren't wearing six jackets just to go down the street) I was feeling better. I could run again for the first time in years.

Then, he wanted to try P90X. I tried it, hated it, tried it again, hated it more, then tried it again, and then we settled into a routine with it. It was way harder than the gym, but it made my knees hurt less (old soccer injury, procured because I really stunk at soccer) and I got results way faster. Then, Andy got Insanity.

I thought I hated P90X, but what I felt for Shaun T bordered on criminally insane. Some of his routines made me cry from physical exhaustion and humiliation  But, I couldn't argue with my new, very strong muscles. I had to buy bigger pants solely to fit my giant quads into them (which, as a lady, is actually embarrassing).

Andy found Hip Hop Abs about a month into our Insanity adventure. I watched one of the on a day off, and laughed out loud at how ridiculous it was. The next day, though, I was tired from our routine, my thighs ached, and I was running a bit late (I work out before I go to work). So I settled on the Hip Hop Abs workout, because it is less intensive and shorter.

I loved it. It didn't make me feel as exhausted as P90X or Insanity did, and I could moved afterwards. I even did a bit more working out once I was finished with it. It's a great program to wake up to, and besides the totally awkward and strange pelvic thrusting slash crabbing (seriously, do this workout ALONE), it's really effective. After a while, you could actually see my abs muscles (which, as a junk food person, has never ever been the case). And, while that was great, I wasn't a total wash for the rest of the day, either. I had energy. I took the stairs at work! It was crazy.

The best part was, I didn't want to bargain with myself. When we'd do the 40-60 minute workouts, my sneaky food-loving brain would be all "Hey Ashley, you worked out really really hard today. You earned that cake, girl!" and I'd end up ruining any headway I'd made. But with Hip Hop Abs, I couldn't bargain that much. It was only a 20 minute workout, after all. I'd have to take the stairs to help compensate for the brevity  I couldn't afford to eat that cake. I'd have time after my workout to make a green smoothie, instead of toasting a bagel or eating a pound of corn flakes.

And so I was much healthier and much better off doing this strange and awkward 20 minute work out than I ever was doing the more serious stuff. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Under $2 'Green' Shampoo Challenge; Buy This, Not That -- Green Edition

You've gotten your holiday shopping done, right?  So if you're anything like me, that means you're probably pretty poor for the next few weeks.  What can I say, I like making people happy.  
 This blog post was created because of the lack of clear information available for people wanting to buy green products (whether in terms of being chemical free, not tested on animals, or local made (i.e. made in USA) which would eliminate carbon footprint) but didn't want to spend top dollar on brands like seventh generation or any other expensive brand touted for being green or earth-friendly.  While there's nothing wrong with asking more money for providing this service, it obviously comes at a premium to the consumer.  Whether or not this is ethical is another discussion, one which I may or may not attempt to challenge in the future.
For the purpose of this blog, my intent is to shed light on brands that are not traditionally recognized for their 'green' intentions, but nonetheless offer an opportunity to buy a product that is aligned with your personal views. 
Some might ask, why not look at websites run by groups such as PETA, or other Vegan-associated or eco-friendly associations?  Well, anyone that is familiar with these websites knows that they can be quite daunting, and tend to marginalize store-brands, and even often-times name the subsidiary companies without ever speaking of the numerous brands that fall under their umbrella (i.e. Herbal Essences is not listed on many of these websites because they are owned by Proctor and Gamble, which IS listed-- but unless you know that Herbal Essences is owned by Proctor and Gamble, this information is useless).  Some people might suggest that people check the back of bottles or products to check which corporation owns each product and just remember those lists of the few major corporations, but that can be daunting, and often companies attempt to abdicate their conglomoration-ism (maybe a word?  no?) by listing the company under another subsidiary of theirs.
In short, it is not easy, and often times people want to just say "I want a product that doesn't test on animals-- if it is not eco-friendly, I'll at least feel better knowing it wasn't tested on animals (or vice-versa), how do I find this without having to dig through layers of information on companies and multi-national corporations?"  While it would be great if we could all buy local products that were earth-friendly and animal-friendly, a form of conscious capitalism (or another alternative-- you choose which you'd like to see) hasn't been formed yet to allow these to be feasible options for a majority of society.  When this becomes a communal pejorative, then this website will no longer need to exist.  Until then, this is a means to have access to the information you need to make informed decisions on which products are the best for your personal ethical concerns.
Our first post for Buy This, Not That -- Green Edition will focus on what I find to be a rather surprising, yet comforting fact.  Those of us on a budget tend to find things such as soap, shampoos and conditioners to be a rather bane part of our existence, and search for the cheapest product to get the job done.  What I'm talking about here is the battle for the 'under $2' shampoo and conditioners.  Can there be such a thing as a green $1-2 shampoo or conditioner?  Sure!  Let's take a look at what's out on the market.

First up:


White Rain

White Rain, a subsidiary of Unilever, commonly offers their shampoos and conditioners at (comparatively) rock bottom prices in relation to other brands.  Nearly every major chain carries their products and they often sell between 79 cents and $1.99, depending where you shop.  The product is distributed by Huish Inc., out of Utah, which doesn't test on their own products (and of course, is made in the USA, which gives this product a smaller carbon footprint).  Unilever, however, has been recognized for testing on animals, but has recently offered a product line called "naturals", which offers shampoos and conditioners infused with flowers and other essences.  While this offers a slightly more natural alternative for your mane, it offers very little in terms of actually moving away from a chemical-laden product.

Final Grade:

Animal Friendly:  D+
Carbon Friendly: B+
Environmentally Friendly: C
Price and Availability:  A


V05


V05, owned by Alberto-Culver, has for a long time offered a great product made in the USA without testing on animals.  Usually you can find V05 at nearly every major store and it can usually be found for between 85 cents and $1.75.  In 2010, Unilever purchased the company, and as of August of last year (2011), Unilever sold Alberto-Culver to Brynwood Partners.  Brynwood Partners's activity in cosmetics (and their interest in becoming cruelty-free by 2013) gives hope again for the product, but doesn't negate the fact that they are still actively testing on animals.  Manufacturing this product in the USA gives it a thumbs up on its carbon footprint, but we'll see where this product goes in the future.

Final Grade:


Animal Friendly:  C-
Carbon Friendly: B+
Environmentally Friendly: C+
Price and Availability:  A


Suave


Suave, based out of Chicago, IL. is another product owned by Unilever, which means it is tested on animals.  Again, this product can be found between 79 cents and $1.79.  Much like their partner White Rain, they offer a 'naturals' line which offers flower and other natural extracts to provide vitamins and other natural essences.  Again, much like White Rain, this 'naturals' product doesn't really make it much more environmentally friendly. Second this product is made in the United States, which is great for its carbon footprint.  If you haven't noticed, companies like Unilever own the market, and often times you'll never know (many of these brands do not list that they are owned by this company, but will list another mediary name which is not recognized by most of society).

Final Grade:

Animal Friendly:  D+
Carbon Friendly: B+
Environmentally Friendly: C+
Price and Availability:  A


Lucky & Herbal Nature by Delta Brands


Lucky & Herbal Nature, unlike the products listed above, are not owned by Unilever.  Instead,they are  owned by Delta Brands.  Again, unlike the products listed above, Delta Brands absolutely refuses to test on animals and is dedicated to providing eco-friendly packaging (albeit, almost all shampoos are now sold in recyclable plastic containers).  Delta has been GMP approved, although that may be due to the fact that the product is made in Europe, which is not great for its carbon footprint, but better than Asia.  However, Herbal Nature is actually made in the USA, which is great.  Delta does not try or pretend to try to be natural, but the list of ingredients appears to be much shorter than other similarly priced products.  I haven't seen their shampoos and conditioners in too too many stores, but it's not overly hard to find and often sells for around a dollar.

Final Grade:

Animal Friendly:  B+
Carbon Friendly: C+ Lucky, B+ Herbal Nature
Environmentally Friendly: B
Price and Availability:  B+

Conclusion:

It seems that Herbal Nature offers the best shampoo and conditioner for the price range of around one to two dollars, which offers an economical way to shop with your ethics in tact!  Lucky comes up as a close second, so it appears Delta is doing a great job of being economical and green!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vegan on the Cheap #2

Happy 12/12/12!

The poor vegan's bible, as I dub these posts, are crucial for the financially-challenged.  There's nothing wrong with being financially challenged; I work for a non-profit and teach in an alternative night school, so I'm quite intimate with the cash-strapped lifestyle.  The important part is to recognize what you can and cannot afford.  What's more important, however, is to be able to look at long-term costs.  I'll explain.

You're poor and shopping at the local low-cost market.  You see the cheap olive oil, priced at only $3 for a half liter-- you say, hey, how can I go wrong with that price?  Well, that's $6 a liter.  Not too bad.  However, there's another container of olive oil and it's huge-- 5 liters!  But, it's the good stuff-- extra-virgin cold pressed.  Liquid gold.  And at $19 bucks, it better be-- that's a lot of freakin' money!  But is it really?  At the price of the cheap stuff, $6/liter, 5 liters of the cheap stuff would cost $30-- more than the good, expensive brand!  While it hurts your wallet at the moment, you're actually saving money by buying the better brand because of the bulk amount you're buying.  That's right, you're saving money AND eating healthier!

You might think, well, that's money I need to spend somewhere else.  And it can be tough when almost every penny is being counted and spent on essentials, but that's why I introduced Vegan On the Cheap #1 first-- learn how to curb your basic spending habits in terms of food before buying larger quantities.  That new money to spend gives you leverage!  And if I'm starting to sound like that intro to finance class you took in college, well, it should.

Of course, some things aren't really influenced by bulk.  Our health foods store sells nuts, berries, and grains by the pound, so even if we buy bigger items, it doesn't really make a difference.  But it does make it so you don't have to go out and spend gas/bus fare so frequently.  And some places have a 'charge' on the containers they include.

For example, a grocery store down the street from us buys 50 gallon drums of olive oil.  You can fill up a container the provide, with the initial costs of the small container being $5 (2 liter) and the large container being $10 (5 liter).  To fill up the small container costs $10, and the large container is $20.  First fill-up for the small container is $15, and the large container is $30.  While the $30 up front is daunting, you're getting more than double the amount of oil already, and will continue to save money with each filling.

Okay, okay; you get it.  Buying in bulk can save lots of money, but don't always assume that buying in bulk is automatically cheaper.  What else can I do?  There's got to be other things that can help.  Well, you're right.

Another HUGE thing to keep in mind is buying premade foods.  Say it with me: Make Food at Home.  Make. Food. At. Home.  Make-food-at-home.  Let's look at the easy example; pizza dough.  Water, flour, salt and yeast.  A jar of yeast, enough to make 100 pizzas, costs about $3.  Your water is practically free.  A couple cups of flour-- ballpark is around $.30.  A tablespoon or two of oil-- you can even use vegetable oil, which typically is less than half the cost of olive oil; even going with our $3 half-liter of olive oil, a tablespoon is roughly $.05.  A dash of sugar and salt, being generous and giving them $.05 cents total, means it costs about $.43 to make pizza dough.  And that's an expensive home-made pizza dough.  Those pizza shells at the grocery store are at least $2.50 each, and your home-made dough will taste 5x better.  And at $2 saved a pop, you can enjoy that pizza knowing you've saved boatloads of cash for good sauce and other toppings.

Hopefully this helps you a bit if you're struggling to find ways to afford the vegan lifestyle.  Keep checking for Vegan on the Cheap, a/k/a The Poor Vegan's Bible #3!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pepitas

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So you think that those pumpkins you bought for fall would be just tossed out in the garbage?  Not in this house!  Ashley merrily grabbed the pumpkins, pureed the guts, and fleshed out the seeds, knowing that I love munching on seeds.  Pumpkin seeds are great because they are packed with zinc, which is a crucial vitamin in a healthy diet, and one that can be accessed fairly easy in pumpkin seeds.  However, unlike sunflower seeds, the shells for pumpkin seeds are more easily broken down in your mouth and more digestible.  While the shells don't have any zinc, the endosperm envelope does, and it would be tricky to eat one without the other.  That said, it's easier to eat the shell.

Pumpkin seeds also are packed with various forms of vitamin E, so while they're not chock-full with high levels of E, the different varieties more than make up for it (and they're finding more varieties as of this writing!).  Bottom line:  Pumpkin seeds are fantastic for you.

Anyways, so Ashley stored a bunch of these after making some pumpkin puree so that I could roast some seeds for a snack.  We made a batch when we had pureed the first pumpkin a week earlier, and she begrudgingly tried them to find out that she in fact did like them-- and you will too!


3 cups of Pumpkin seeds ( at least that's the qty we got from our pumpkin)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. Garam Masala
1/4 tsp. red chilli powder
1.2 tsp. garlic powder
salt to taste

Get a pot of water to a boil.  While water is heating, try to remove as much pumpkin pulp as possible.  If you can't get it all off, don't worry, after boiling it should be a bit easier.  Add seeds and allow to boil for ten minutes.

Preheat the oven at 250 degrees.

Drain seeds and get rid of all the pumpkin membrane.  Dry seeds with a towel and place in a bowl.

In another bowl, add the spices, mixing thoroughly.  Add seeds and make sure to cover seeds with spice mix.

On a baking plate, add parchment paper and spray/spread vegetable oil.

Bake for 1/2 hour, flip seeds, and bake for another 15 minutes.  Sample some, and if they are not crunchy, continue to bake them another 5 minutes.

Homemade pumpkin seeds, while delicious, do not store very well.  Keeping these in an airtight container is the best way to store them, and keeping the container in the fridge will give you the maximum time to eat the seeds.  Even like this, seeds will only last 3-5 days, so make sure you don't make too many seeds.  And if you do make too many, share them with your friends!  Let us know what different spice mixes you try with your pepitas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Chicken" Seitan Pot Pie

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Sorry for the quick photo - we were much too hungry to wait. I will make it again and replace!
















The holidays make me crave simpler times. Sometimes, all I want for Christmas is to sit at the dinner table and eat whatever my family is eating. But with two brothers who are avid meat-lovers, sometimes the mocking never ceases, while I eat a pile of corn and a roll or two. Any other meal, holiday, or season, it's not a big deal, but come December, it makes me feel a little left-out.

Not that I would ever eat meat (and I am generally criticised for apologizing to the turkey). But every once in a while, a delicious gravy or a heavenly pot pie sounds amazing.

Well, fortunately for me, and I guess turkeys everywhere, I was flipping through a cookbook and stumbled across a simple seitan recipe. I've made it before, but I guess the timing was off. Anyway, I started thinking. Why not make a "chicken" seitan, and use the leftover broth for the gravy?? And then make that into a pot pie?? And so I did, because I am a genius and Andy is really, really lucky.

For the seitan:

Come off it, you've made seitan before! Right? Okay, well, it's actually really simple. Basically, seitan is a wheat gluten dough that is cooked in broth to flavour it. It takes a while, but is all around a decent faux meat in the end. If you aren't a faux meat person, you could just make the gravy and forgo the seitan part, but I think it's worth it.

Well, if you really haven't made it before...here it is!

You can use any pie dough for the crust, including some store bought brands (I think Pillsbury is vegan). Or you could make your own:

1 1/2 c flour
1/4 c vegan shortening
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsps ice cold water

All of the ingredients should be chilled. Cut the shortening into the flour until is all small crumbles, the size of peas or so. add the salt, and then add the ice water in tbsps, until the dough is formed. Separate the dough into two balls, then wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate your dough for about 45 minutes, and then when it's ready, roll it out!

--

Okay, so now your broth is cooled down, and your seitan should be resting. Chop it up into bite sized pieces, and add it back into the broth.

To the broth, add 3-5 tbsps of corn starch (the amount depends on how much it has cooked down, etc) until it resembles a thick gravy. Add in your desired vegetables, fresh or frozen: I used baby carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, and corn. You can add in potatoes, too, if you like, but you should have them boiled and all cooked before you add them to the gravy, so do that separately first. Then, cook them in the gravy until everything is nice and warm.

Roll our your dough and place the bottom crust in the pan. Cook it alone for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until the edges are a bit browned. Then, add in your gravy with vegetables, place on your top crust, and brush it with a bit of olive oil (and add a few air holes by poking through the crust with a knife).

Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chicken Style Seitan

Ahh, The Seitan Verses















When we first went vegan, we were skeptical of seitan. I, for one, was much happier buying Gardein faux meats and pretending seitan didn't exist, until I realised that most of the faux meats I was buying were essentially seitan! And whether you pronounce it "satan" or "sey-taan" or even "see-tin", this recipe is pretty much to die for if you are looking for a quick chicken substitute. My tastebuds were on the market for a good chicken-y potpie a few weeks ago, and this definitely filled the void.

Broth:

2 1/2 cups water
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp tumeric
3 tbsps canola oil
1 tsp lemon juice

Whisk in all ingredients in order into a large saucepan. Heat on medium for about 10 minutes and then turn heat to low once it starts to boil.

While your broth is cooking, make the seitan cutlets:

1/2 c vital wheat gluten (available at your local health food store)
1/4 c chickpea flour
1/2 c water
3 tbsps cooked broth (above)

Combine the wheat gluten and chickpea flour in a large bowl. Add in the water and broth, and knead dough with your hand until set. Then separate into four or five cutlets, and add to the broth.

Cover the pot and simmer for about 35-40 minutes on low heat, until cutlets are firm.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Vegan on the Cheap

I remember when we were in college and I had friends that would always say "yeah, I'd love to give to stop eating meat, you know, it's so bad for the environment and it's bad for our bodies, but I live on campus and I've got no money; I can barely afford what I DO buy, how am I going to be able to afford to make salads and buy vegetarian alternative stuff for sandwiches?"  Well with that attitude, you won't.  It's actually pretty fairly easy to eat vegan cheaply, it's just a matter of knowing which types of foods you should be buying instead of those veggie meats and such.  Of course, as a newly borne vegan/vegetarian, it's particularly hard not to rely on those replacement foods, but if you're truly motivated to do so, you definitely can.  Whenever my friends did bring this up, I would recommend to them to start with 1 meal a day, then two, and then a few days at a time to try eating more than just one meal that they've figured out for a lunch or a dinner.  Once it's not scary, it's relatively easy, the key is to not begin eating vegan or vegetarian just by simply substituting veggie alternatives for meats; doing this doesn't develop any new habits and their new expensive habit is not a long-term solution to being a healthy vegetarian.

There are tons of books that cover basic skills that every vegan or vegetarian should know; how to soak beans; how to make bread; what are tempeh, tofu, and seitan; how to cook with TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein; what are the different types of rice; how to eat seasonally; you know, the basics.  And you can find plenty of books regarding simple vegan meals that will taste delicious and you won't even realize they're vegan.  This is all good and well, but life doesn't let these things happen easily.  Either you're living in a dorm where you can't really cook, or you can't afford a blender, or you don't have cabinets in your kitchen to store stuff so you can't stock up on basics because you live in a ghetto apartment, or you simply work so much that the only way you could prepare meals would be to cut into time spent sleeping.  These are all examples that we've had to live through since being vegan, so I personally can attest to the struggles of these situations. 

What I'm trying to do here is not tell you how to live given your circumstances, but rather give information that you can use for when you are in these circumstances; when you are poor and working around the clock and can't really cook that often, it's so challenging to try to meet your health concerns, your ethical concerns, and still not look too weird at work when you show up with your lunch from home while the meat-eaters in the office look at you like you've got three heads.  With that said, There are a few things that work fairly well, and it's very simple to eat vegan on the cheap.

First Rule:  Don't buy brand names without coupons or sales.  Period, end of story.  There's no need for it, especially when you're poor.  If there is a great sale or something, stock up! 

Second Rule:  Always scan the clearance section for dried goods, canned goods, and produce that's getting close to expiration.  There will always be good deals here, and some grocery stores will bag a few bad fruits with a bunch of good stuff for a couple bucks just so they don't have to fill up their dumpsters.  They're practically paying you to throw the bad vegetables in your compost pile.

Third Rule:  Buy seasonal.  This can be tough during the winter, which brings me to rule #4.

Fourth Rule:  Store excess produce in the freezer when appropriate.  Berries, fruits, and some vegetables store well in the freezer.  If you can, or feel comfortable canning, go for it, although start-up costs can be a big dis-concerning.

Fifth Rule:  If you have room for a plant or garden, use it.  If you don't enjoy gardening and are looking at it from a practical perspective, choose the most expensive vegetables that you enjoy and grow those.  For most people, that means tomatoes.

Sixth Rule: Waste nothing.

Pretty straight-forward, right?  It's not complicated, it's just whether or not you can train yourself to not jump at the first delicious expensive thing that catches your eye.  Once you've trained yourself for those six rules, pay attention to the big ten foods you should be looking at to keep your bills down.

#1:  Dried beans.  Pound for pound, dried beans are the cheapest source of protein in the world.  Not only this, they will store for literally years without preservatives, so they are healthy and easy to work with.  Soak them overnight or boil them for a few hours (if you're crunched for time as well as cash, fill up a bowl of water and add a cup-- they'll swell to over double in size) and you can add them to your dinner.  You'll have to try out the beans after they've been soaked to make sure they've softened completely because the longer they've been dry, the longer it takes for them to soften, so you may need to soak a few days or boil as well as soak, which can been time consuming.  Soaked beans also are typically a bit harder than canned, and are often surprisingly different tasting than their canned cousins, which shouldn't be too surprising but should be slightly horrifying, since all they've added is preservatives.  Try out different beans, you may find that some beans you enjoy dried moreso than others.

#2: Rice.  Rice is a great way to create a base for just about any meal-- you can use rice with beans, with sauces, with fake meats and in soups.  Quick, filling and very easy to make, rice is cheap, reliable, stores well, and doesn't require a genius to make it. 

#3 Pasta.  Almost every vegetarian I know was always known as a 'pastafarian' by their family for only eating pasta when they saw them eating for the first time as a vegetarian.  Why?  Because if your family isn't vegetarian and they're not going to cook vegetarian, there aren't many options if they visit home.  They choose pasta because it's quick, filling, can be manipulated by its shape, grain, and sauce, and it's something they already know how to cook.  Added to that fact that it's cheap, and it should be no surprise that pasta works as a great base ingredient for vegetarians that are poor.  Another awesome fact that makes pasta even better is the fact that it's also high in protein (typically 6 grams per serving).  While many people shudder at the mention of pasta, thank you no-carb mentality, it's not the evil that many want you to believe-- civilizations have thrived on those grains for thousands of years!

#4 Dried lentils.  Similar to beans-- buy dried (although lentils are much less commonly found canned-- probably because they're not a popular American food) and soak-- although lentils soak much more quickly than beans.  You can use lentils almost the same exact way you'd use beans-- in fact, they are from the same family of plants!  They store for long periods of time, are incredibly cheap, are high in protein, and cook easily.

#5 Ramen.  Yes.  The dreaded Ramen.  Not incredibly good for you (although not as horrible as many tend to believe), but quick, incredibly cheap, and extremely portable.  The reason I bring in Ramen is because if you're as poor as I was, Ramen is necessary.  What's important to note is that the brand you buy does matter.  Of the two big American brands (Top Ramen and Maruchan), the only one that is veggie-friendly is Top Ramen's Oriental style noodles.  Typically sold for around 5/$1, you can't really complain when your lunch cost you $0.20.  Just don't make it a habitual thing-- once you've got a few more pennies, dish it out for something a little better.  We're fortunate that we live in an Asian neighborhood, and we have an Asian supermarket which carries a ton of brands that all have different varieties, qualities, and prices which help mix things up if you want something a little healthier but enjoy the portability of Ramen.  To return to the healthiness of Ramen, while it's been crowned the king of college foods from dorm to dorm across the globe, Ramen is simply two things; noodles and spice.  Don't forget that.  Vegetable broth, some spices for the unique flavoring of your soup, and noodles.  That's it.  Most brands don't include Monosodium Glutimate (MSG); your biggest concern should simply be the amount of sodium in these meals, which your body will forgive you for if you're eating more fresh (unpreserved) foods during the rest of the day.

#6 Cabbage.  This one shouldn't be a surprise.  Cabbage can be cooked in almost any way, and if you're not a fan of cabbage, maybe you're a fan of brussel sprouts?  If that's the case, just cook cabbage the way you cook your brussel sprouts-- they're almost the same thing!  Personally, the only way I can eat cabbage is in soups, unless it's red cabbage (salads) or bok choy (stir fry).  Unlike most vegetables, cabbage is almost never influenced by seasonal prices, which makes it a great ingredient if you can stomach it.

#7 Corn.  Corn during the summer is a god-send.  Sometimes sold at 10/$1, how can you beat those kinds of deals?  Freeze up as much as you can and stuff your face with the rest.  Steam it, bake it, grill it, blend it, add it to soups-- your options are practically endless.  Much like most vegetables, buying seasonal is the only way it's cheap, and corn probably fluctuates more than any other fruit or vegetable in price.

#8 Potatoes.  Seems like the Irish were onto something.  Potatoes are almost always cheap, can be stored for a fairly long amount of time, and much like all the other foods listed can be put in almost anything.  Soups, mashed, baked, grilled, and plenty of other ways can work to make the potato the centerpiece or peripheral part of your scrumptious meal.  The best thing about potatoes?  They're nutritional powerhouses, with almost every vitamin you need (not to mention phyto-nutrients, which is for another discussion), barring B-12.  Sweet potatoes are actually usually cheaper than regular potatoes, and offer a nice break in your potato consumption.

#9 Apples. Although seasonally apples are incredibly cheap, as long as you stay away from expensive supermarkets, they can run under a buck a pound, which is probably at any given point the cheapest any fruit will be that doesn't lose much of its weight from its shell (i.e. bananas).  Full of good vitamins and natural sugars, apples shelf extremely well for a fruit (especially in the fridge), and if prepared correctly, can be stored in the freezer for a long period of time as well.

#10 Carrots.  The orange carrot is cheap, versatile, and is full of great vitamins and nutrients.  With a price that doesn't really fluctuate and an incredible shelf life, carrots are a great thing to keep in the house.  Carrots work in salads, soups, can be grilled, roasted, and pretty much cooked any way you want to cook them.  A solid choice to keep in the fridge for any of your meal decisions.

So now you look at this website and say, okay, so what kind of meal do I make out of beans, rice, pasta, lentils, Ramen, cabbage, corn, potatoes, apples, and carrots?  That's not your goal here, your goal is to learn to use these as core ingredients (or, in Ramen's case, a meal or side dish) for your cooking.  When lettuce is on sale, you can make a salad with carrots, apples, and cabbage.  Broccoli is on sale?  You can make pasta with beans & broccoli, or soup with broccoli, potatoes, carrots, lentils, and cabbage.  See how it works?  By using these as 'core' food, you can build hundreds of meals without breaking the bank!  Now, we hope you find this helpful, and if you've ever got questions we're here!  Let us know if this helps, or if you found a way to have a cheap vegan diet!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Roasted Balsamic Red Salad Pizza

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Every once and a while, the traditional red sauce, cheeze (of whichever variety you choose), and garlic pizza simply doesn't hit the spot.  It's not that it's not delicious (because it is), but you want something more.  And not just adding onions, or peppers, or mushrooms, but reconstructing what a pizza can be.  Enter artisan pizzas.  While artisan pizzas are almost always thin crust, it would go against everything that I believe in to make a thin crust pizza.  That's where this recipe comes in. 

Inspired by a restaurant down the street from our home, this pizza is a perfect mix of the delicious, fresh flavors of a salad with the crunchy, garlic-y profile of thick crust pizza.  One Sunday afternoon, we were considering ordering pizza from a delicious Vegan pizza place that delivers, but after going back and forth on the options they offered, we decided nothing in particular appealed to us, even though we wanted pizza.  Our solution?  Take the parts of the pizzas we both wanted and put them together.  Genius!

1 pizza dough, homemade or other.
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 peperoncino pepper, diced
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tsp basil, dried
1 cup red lettuce, roughly shredded

Prep pizza dough as needed.

Prep all the vegetables and place in small bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the vegetables, coating everything evenly.

Place bowl in refrigerator and allow vegetables to marinate for at least a half an hour.

Preheat the oven at 375 and stretch out the dough if necessary.  Using a brush, spread the olive oil and vinegar mixture over the dough.  Add all of the vegetables to the pizza, except the lettuce.

Drain remaining mixture over the pizza, and keep the lettuce wrapped up.

Leave pizza in oven for 15-20 minutes or until beginning to brown.  At this point, add the lettuce and allow the pizza to cook for 3-5 minutes.

Enjoy!