Week 4: Spicy Foods for Chilly Days

It is apparently winter…while I was aware of this, Mother Nature felt it necessary to make a point this week and a great freeze descended upon us here on the East Coast.  The bitter cold made me want soup and since I had already decided to make Cheater Pad Thai from Happy Herbivore Abroad as part of my dinner plans I thought I’d stick with a Thai soup to carry the abroad theme through the week.

Lunch this week was Thai Noodle Soup from Happy Herbivore Abroad with a side of Spicy Peanut Kale salad from Kathy Patalsky’s blog.  The kale salad is not a new recipe to me but rather one I make all the time.  It is a great side dish and I’ve also doubled the sauce, added other vegetables and made it into a lo mein for a full meal.

There were a few mishaps in the kitchen this week but in the end the food was still delicious so the comedy was worth it.  First off, I had never worked with Asian vermicelli noodles, which are the noodle in the noodle soup.  I found them no problem in the International aisle of Wegmans.  If you’ve never used them either allow me to warn you they are very long noodles that when packaged (at least the package I bought) are wound around themselves making it near impossible to use a portion of the package.  After a bit of a battle resulting in some very fine shards of noodle landing everywhere in my kitchen, I ultimately managed to separate out what I needed for my recipe using scissors to cut the uncooked noodles.

Mishap number two was that both this and the Pad Thai recipe call for red chili sauce and I accidentally purchased red chili paste.  It wasn’t until the color of my soup seemed quite red compared to Lindsay’s picture in the book that I realized this.  For future reference I went to the New Herbies group on facebook for guidance and have received some great sauce recommendations.  In the end the soup was delicious, albeit very spicy (I think the chili paste is the culprit); with temperatures below freezing I didn’t mind the spice at all.

Thai Noodle Soup HHA p 29The Cheater Pad Thai was also a bit spicy but so good I’ll be making it again this week!  It’s a Happy Herbivore fan favorite and the sauce recipe can actually be found on Lindsay’s blog.  The full recipe is included in Happy Herbivore Abroad.  I added vegetables to mine  to make it a vegetable pad Thai.

Cheater Pad Thai HHA p178I rounded out my meals this week with some Indian inspired dishes.  An old favorite of mine, Chickpea Tikka Masala from Everyday Happy Herbivore served with a side of Potato Samosa-Stuffed Chard from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook.  The stuffed chard was a new recipe for me and paired well with the Coriander Chutney recommended by the authors.  I did miss the yummy fried dough of a simosa but these were still delicious and my omnivore coworkers enjoyed the extras!

Potato Simosa-Stuffed Chard FoK p200

New Recipes Made This Week: 4

New Recipe Tally 2013: 17


Week 3: Food Clemency

Last week New York Times writer Mark Bittman tweeted a link to an article stating that half of the world’s food supply is thrown away.  While I wasn’t surprised that substantial amounts of food are wasted, I was surprised by the degree.  Personally, I make a conscientious effort not to be wasteful but could certainly do better.  I had this article in mind as I was putting the remainder of last week’s Spicy Eggplant Peanut Soup in the freezer.  While I am very good at eating leftovers from the refrigerator, the freezer is more of a purgatory stop before the landfill.  So, as I was putting my soup to freeze I decided to take inventory and see if I could save anything from the trash heap.  It turns out I had some of my favorite plant based food leftover in the freezer!  Fat Free Vegan, Susan Voisin Beet Balls and Happy, Healthy, Life blogger Kathy Patalsky’s Sweet Potato Burgers.

As a result, Week 3 meal planning focused on using up what I had for lunches and dinners and this week’s new recipes are breakfasts and snacks.  I had beetball sandwiches for lunch with a small side salad.  This was the first time I’ve frozen beet balls and they defrosted really well.  I packed my lunch the night before and let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then just microwaved for 30 seconds before making my sandwich.  I then had sweet potato burgers for dinners.  I didn’t have enough for the week so rounded out the week with another favorite go to recipe, Happy Herbivore Lindsay Nixon’s Chickpea Tacos (which I make into burritos).

On to the new recipes!  A native New Yorker I love my bagels for breakfast but will do peanut butter and banana on an English Muffin when I’m trying to be good.  This week I searched through the cookbooks and decided on Forks Over Knives Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding and Everyday Happy Herbivore French Toast Muffins.  The Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding is delicious.  It has no sweeteners and relies on dates, apple, cinnamon and cloves for its’ wonderful flavor.

023I ended up bring the French Toast Muffins in for colleagues to try at work.  At first they were a little too sweet for my taste but I am not a big sweet eater.  I realized they reminded me of the Hostess Crumb Muffins I used to eat as a child.

026Of course by mid-week I was looking for a snack and regretted bringing the muffins to work.  Luckily, Everyday Happy Herbivore also had a recipe for a single, that’s right one, blueberry muffin and I had also found a small bag of blueberries buried in the freezer leftover from summer berry picking.  It was the perfect snack with tea and I now realize why Lindsay notes she developed the recipe so as not to eat the whole pan!

The final recipe of the week was hummus from Happy Herbivore Abroad.  Lindsay’s version cuts out the oil and replaces it with vegetable broth.  The texture is great, you don’t miss the oil at all; I added some roasted red peppers to mine.

024New Foods This Week: Dates, I think.  If I’ve had dates before I wasn’t aware of it; this was my first time using them in a recipe.

New Recipes Made This Week: 4

New Recipe Tally 2013: 13

Week 2: Eggplant Extravaganza

This past week was the first full week back at work and I am very grateful to have prepared all my meals over the weekend making the transition back just a little bit easier.  It also allowed me to stick with my resolution of not buying lunch at work and spending money on overpriced cafeteria food that is not remotely satisfying.

Two weeks in to 2013 and this little cooking project I have come to realize that Vegetarian cookbooks do not have a lot of pictures; I imagine it’s cost prohibitive.  I’ve also realized that the old adage, you eat with your eyes first, is absolutely true.  I find myself missing all those gorgeous pictures.  So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this weeks main course, Eggplant Rollatini, pick was one of the recipes that had a featured picture in Forks Over Knives.  I also wanted to make a soup for lunches.  After perusing all my cookbooks, I kept going back to the Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Soup in Veganomicon.

The Eggplant Rolatini was absolutely delicious.  I actually ate every last bit of it throughout the week, which is rare for me there is usually one sad portion that I just can’t bring myself to finish.  Instead of the typical cheese filled dish, this version is stuffed with seasoned millet (my new favorite grain) and spinach.   I topped it off with the Forks Over Knives Tomato Sauce, adding some crushed red pepper to the sauce for some spice.

Forks Over Knives Eggplant Rollatini and Tomato Sauce

Lunch was great too, though I need to start halving recipes because half of it is in the freezer.  The soup has a tomato base; the spicy comes from the addition of a chili pepper and the peanut from adding peanut butter after it’s finished.  I am a big texture person when it comes to my food and am not a big fan of stewed eggplant so I blended the soup to make a lovely, creamy soup sans any cream.  I was worried the peanut butter would be overpowering and though it is the first thing you notice, as you continue to eat the subtle spice and tomato flavors all come together for a warm, complex soup. Since I blended the soup and left it somewhat thick I think the leftovers could also be turned into a full meal by adding some chickpeas and serving over rice as a saucy dish with Thai flavors.

Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Soup

There were no new foods this week but a great week of new recipes for sure.
New Recipes Made This Week: 3

New Recipe Tally 2013: 9

Week 1: Lucky Dinners and New Plant Based Foods

The New Year falling mid-week through me off a bit but it was good to ease into the work week and have a weekend approach quickly.  Week 1 of my Vegetarian Recipe Challenge (I need a name for this project of mine but am horrible at titles) was a great success.  Being off work for the holiday last week, and with all the motivations of new year and fresh starts, I may have gone a bit overboard (and still have leftovers to prove it!).  Instead of one new recipe from one of my cookbooks I made two full main courses that encompassed six recipes from two cookbooks.  It was not as complicated as it sounds but now that I’m back to work it will likely scale back a bit.  As an added bonus these meals happened to involve a lot of new foods for me and I’ve found some new staples.

The first meal was chosen because I saw a lot of my favorite plant based bloggers posting black eyed pea recipes.  Being a Yankee myself, New Years Day was typically pork and sauerkraut (which I didn’t like even when I did eat meat).  Some research found that black eyed peas and collard greens are thought to bring good luck for a prosperous new year.  Searching through my cookbooks The Happy Herbivore had the perfect meal for a prosperous new year.

Recipes Made (4):  Creole Black-Eyed Peas; Creole Roasted Red Pepper Sauce; Spicy Greens; Cornbread
New Foods Tried (2): Black-Eyed Peas; Collard Greens


All of the recipes will be tried again.  I added some store bought vegan chorizo to the greens and would have preferred them without.  The Roasted Red Pepper Sauce will be very versatile and I think I’ll spice it up next time I make it.

The next meal I chose to make was Millet Stuffed Chard Rolls with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce [Recipes (2)] from Forks Over Knives.  Millet and Swiss Chard were both new foods for me, bringing the new food count up to 4 for the week.  The Forks Over Knives Red Pepper Sauce had Tofu in it to make it a bit creamier compared to the Happy Herbivore version.  I actually preferred the Happy Herbivore recipe and after the first night ate the stuffed greens without sauce they were so good; millet is a new favorite grain.  I ate these for dinner with balsamic Brussels sprouts on the side.

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Now to get ready for week 2’s Eggplant Extravaganza!

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2013!  Of course it is that time of year when we all starting resolving to be healthier, exercise more. and eat better after gorging ourselves on cookies and alcohol through the holidays.  Like most people the New Year for me is a time to reflect on the good and bad of the previous year and hope for a better next year.  We all just want to be better versions of ourselves and I am no different.

We also generally fully expect to fail at our attempts to be better versions of ourselves and by the time Lent rolled around last year I realized my attempts at eating well had already been pretty dismal.  So this non-practicing Catholic took the Lenten season as an opportunity to re-start and I gave up meat for Lent.  It was not an ethical or environmental decision but an attempt to force myself to pay more attention to the food I ate and plan out my meals better.  I blogged about the decision as well in an entry called The Vegetarian Experiment.  What I didn’t anticipate was that after the 40 days came and went I had so much more energy, and was so thoroughly enjoying new foods and recipes that I would continue to live vegetarian.

I want to keep it going this year and continue to try new foods and recipes along the way.  My wonderfully supportive family gave me some awesome Christmas presents of much needed kitchen items and cookbooks.  Seeing as I’ve been off work this week I’ve had plenty of time to get an early start and so far I’ve busted out my new immersion blender and made two soups from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook, the curried Squash and Apple soup (sans apple since I didn’t have any on hand) and the Lotsa Vegetable Chowder.

With new tools in hand and New Year motivation at its peak I’ve decided the best way to be successful and consistent  is to set specific goals.  This year’s Vegetarian Experiment will be a Julie & Julia  inspired cooking project.  However, instead of cooking my way through one single cookbook, I intend to cook at least one new recipe a week from any of them.  The goal is simple, and exactly what the original intent of becoming vegetarian was: to live healthier through eating better, try new foods and recipes, and do more of what I love most…COOK!  Check back for weekly updates, now back to my lucky New Year dinner  preparations.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Dr. Ann Wigmore