Week 17: Vegan BBQ Addictions

I went to Home Depot for a wheelbarrow…I came home with a wheelbarrow and a grill and my meal planning was forever changed.  I bought my home, my first home, in November of 2010.  Generally speaking, rentals don’t allow grills; something about fire hazards and lack of space.   The first year in the house was a whirlwind of getting settled  recovering financially from the most expensive purchase of one’s life and just basically treading water in home/yard maintenance.  Year two, last year, was spent making changes that were identified as needs in year one.  Besides, what does a vegan need with a grill?!  I’ll put the grill second after the newly installed fence as best homeowner purchase.

That was the preamble to the warning that summer is going to be slow in the new recipe department as I have discovered the versatility of grilled vegetables.  In the past few weeks since buying the grill, I have had grilled zucchini, peppers, red onion and eggplant over brown rice, in pasta, in salad.  Last night was my personal favorite, grilled onions, peppers, and asparagus on a pizza…which I also grilled.  Some fresh tomato and basil with crushed red pepper and garlic made this even more awesome.

That said the cookbooks have been lonely.  Sticking with the challenge I cracked Happy Herbivore Abroad in search of a recipe.  I decided on Insalata Fantasia for lunches.  In case you cannot decipher the name it is a salad (so cleche, a vegan salad I know, but if the publisher is willing to call it a recipe so am I!).  Besides, this salad is a bit different than my typical lettuce, tomato, cucumber, hot banana pepper lunch.  It incorporates green  and black olives and radishes, which are ingredients I enjoy but do not typically think to use.  In addition to that it saved me some money this week; the cafeteria at work charges by weight for salad bar, which generally ends up costing $6-7 per day for a filling lunch that could be more cost effectively and tastefully prepared at home.

I didn’t stop there though.  I haven’t made a sweet treat in awhile and had apples that needed to be used, so I made Apple Crisp Muffins from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook.  These will definitely be made again.  In addition to fresh apples, this recipes includes whole wheat pastry flour, applesauce for moisture without fat, and sweeteners including maple syrup, brown sugar and raw sugar.  While the amount of sweetener is typical volume for a muffin recipe, I cut back the raw sugar and will probably eliminate it entirely next time around as I found them a bit sweet.  I tend to gravitate towards saltier treats myself so others would probably love them with the recipe as is.  I also topped with pecans and some grape nuts sprinkled for crunch, instead of the oats and brown sugar suggested.
Apple Crisp Muffins (HHC p 40)

I’m most excited for next week’s lunches.  Grilled zucchini, squash, eggplant, peppers, onions, and asparagus for wraps with hummus, tomato and spring mix salad greens.  It took some restraint not to make a wrap and eat it now!

Grilled Veg

New Recipes Made This Week: 2

New Recipe Tally 2013: 53

Week 16: Fast Food Vegan Style

This past week has been a blur.  One of the fur babies was in the hospital over last weekend and required medicine every six hours, which was luckily feasible with my 10 minute commute but it certainly felt like a lot of running around all week.  I didn’t have the time or energy to look through cookbooks, or go grocery shopping for that matter.

Happy Herbivore is usually my go-to for fast and simple with common ingredients.  Whenever Lindsay Nixon asks her Herbie fans what their favorite recipe is Cheater Pad Thai is generally the winner.   I love fresh vegetables in my Pad Thai so there is some pre-planning involved and time to slice/prepare (frozen just isn’t the same), so that was out for this week.  My friend Nikki at The Pink Ticket posted about one of her go-to’s this week, another Happy Herbivore recipe, Chickpea Tikka Masala from Everyday Happy Herbivore.  I’ve made this one many times as well, but the sauce calls for silken tofu, which is another ingredient that is not a staple for me and requires a trip to the store.

Assessing what I had on hand that could be easily thrown together I made my go-to favorite Happy Herbivore Chickpea Tacos.  While I’d agree with the majority vote that Cheater Pad Thai is the yummiest, it’s the chickpea tacos that I’ve made the most in the year plus that I’ve been plant based.  I usually make burritos (they hold more and aren’t as messy;) I cook rice with zest and juice of one lime added during cooking and assemble my burrito with additions of avocado, tomato, green onion, jalapeno and corn; top with some cilantro and you have a quick, easy and satisfying meal.  That said, four months in I very nearly missed a week since I’ve made these so many times I don’t even have to think while preparing.

Just today, I finally made it to the grocery store.  Taking inspiration from a beautiful pin I saw on Pinterest earlier in the week I had a basket full of fresh vegetables and made this Layered Ratatouille.  I didn’t follow the recipe precisely (what fun would that be).  I omitted the oil and substituted fresh basil for the thyme.  Not quite as pretty as the pinned recipe but beautiful nonetheless (and delicious).  I manage to keep my goal of at least one new recipe every week after all!

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What’s your go-to meal when life gets busy?

New Recipes Made This Week: 1

New Recipe Tally 2013: 51

Week 15: Feeding Omnivores and Thai Delights

Spring seems to be getting the best of me but I’ve managed to stick to the challenge!  This past week I had work done on the house and since I recently started a new job and could not take off work my parents were gracious enough to come and stay with me while the contractor completed the job.  Not wanting to test a new recipe on others without first giving it my own stamp of approval, I decided to go with something I was certain they would like and made Eggplant Rollatini from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.

My parents are very much creatures of habit but were good sports and loved the new to them dish!.  My mother is gluten intolerant and the millet stuffing of the rollatini was her first try of millet, which is another gluten free grain.

That said the challenge is new recipes so time to move on…This week I made Quick and Easy Thai Vegetable Stew from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook for my lunches.  The dish was very quick and easy so no complaints there.  The sauce of coconut milk, Thai chili paste, ginger and cilantro really give authentic flavors and make this a very satisfying lunch on the go.

I was more organized than usual last weekend and made my grains on Saturday (brown rice for lunches and the millet for the rollatini) so I could prep a little faster on Sunday.  This means no pretty plated picture, but the more realistic assembly line.

Thai Veg Stew (FoK)

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New Recipes Made This Week: 1

New Recipe Tally 2013: 50

Week 14: Family Gatherings and Holiday Traditions

Last weekend I went to my parents’ home for Easter.  When I think back on my life and which memories symbolize the comfort of family I always end up at my Grandmother’s (Mom-Mom’s) dining room table.  So many of our memories, traditions and emotions are inherently linked to food.  Weddings, baptisms, funerals and everything in between meant family gatherings around a meal, and never ending snacking at that dining room table.

So every holiday since becoming plant based has begged the question, “what are you going to eat”.  This was my second Easter plant based but I missed Easter last year because I had just returned from a business trip to Japan.  In theory, last Easter should have meant the end of my “sacrifice” since I had become vegan for Lent.  It didn’t work out that way because I realized it wasn’t a sacrifice at all and I was enjoying my new found lifestyle changes and seeing the benefits of them.

This year I decided to make some kind of loaf to supplement the already veg sides.  Since I’d already made Dreena Burton’s No-Fu Loaf I went with the Happy Herbivore Hippie Loaf.  I made the recipe in mini-loaf pans rather than one large pan so it would be faster to re-heat once I got to my parents house.  This recipe will definitely be made again.  I am normally a bit on the fence when it comes to quinoa for textural reasons but it bakes into a great consistency in this recipe.  I also added a squirt of sriracha since I prefer a bit of spice to the sweetness of ketchup (I still used the ketchup as called for but added the sriracha in addition to).

Happy Herbivore Hippie Loaf

Even Dad gave it a taste and said he liked it.  Unfortunately my gluten intolerant brother and mother could not taste.  A word of warning not all tamari is gluten free.  I didn’t realize this until I was double checking all labels and saw my tamari has a “touch of wheat” for flavor.

Only one new recipe this week.  Losing Sunday to the holiday and yard work on Saturday left me with little weekend meal prep time so my weeknights were quick  fixes that weren’t formal recipes (and luckily I had some hippie loaf leftover too!).

New Recipes Made This Week: 1

New Recipe Tally 2013: 49

Week 13: New Recipes for New Beginnings

I started my new job this week; the first change in five years.  It was a good week and somewhat quiet due to holiday.  Nonetheless, cooking was a bit on the back burner (pun fully intended, ha) while I got settled in my new schedule.

As a going away present, a co-worker/friend gave me a couple of new cookbooks!  Of course I had to dive right in and give a new recipe a try.  The Candle Cafe Cookbook had a recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, which seemed just right for this time of year.  The only matzo ball soup I’ve ever made was of the add water and stir Manischewitz variety and this recipe went so far as to make the broth from scratch.  This was also my first homemade vegetable broth, it smelled amazing while it was cooking.

Candle Cafe Broth

The broth called for some lemon juice and zest, which I found overpowering when I first tasted it immediately after cooking.  However, the flavors developed overnight and the soup was well-balanced and much better reheated.

CC Matzo Ball Soup (p56)

With lunch taken care of, I had dinners to plan.  I had intended to make a Forks Over Knives curried chickpeas recipe but had excess broth from the soup left and thought the lemon undertones would go well with Happy Herbivore Abroad Lemon-Balsamic Chickpeas.  I cooked my brown rice in the the leftover vegetable broth and made the chickpeas as written, but added some tomatoes in the end for color.  I served over some fresh spinach.   A very satisfying unplanned dinner.

HHA Lemon-Balsamic Chickpeas

Finally, though I don’t often eat meat substitutes I felt like having Lifelife Vegan Italian Sausages  this week and decided to serve Andrea’s Salt and Vinegar Potatoes from Happy Herbivore Abroad on the side.  I can’t believe I’ve never thought of cooking the potatoes in vinegar! It gave the potatoes a great tang and was an excellent alternative to your standard french fries.

HHA Salt and Vinegar potatoes

New Recipes Made This Week: 3

New Recipe Tally 2013: 48