Making the Jump

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’ve only become very serious about being vegetarian since the beginning of this year. And while that is nearly 6 months now, it’s still not really that long in the grand scheme of things. Even before I became a total vegetarian I was eating less and less meat, but actually consciously thinking about what I was eating didn’t happen on a serious level until this past January.

While I stopped eating meat and dairy entirely (meat was a personal choice, dairy was out of medical necessity), I was still consuming eggs, yogurt, sour cream, and other animal products such as casein, a milk protein used in many lactose-free soy cheeses/products. I did make an effort to buy cage-free eggs and other organic items, but I didn’t stop to think about where those items were actually coming from.

A few weeks ago I was in Barnes and Noble and I came across a book called Eating Animals. The book looked very interesting and like it was a lot of research, which is something I enjoy reading. The main goal of the book is not necessarily to convert people to vegetarianism or veganism, but to educate them on where their food is coming from. Fifteen pages in, I decided it was time to make the jump to veganism. The longer I am a vegetarian, the more I see how wrong it is what we do to animals just so we can eat – especially when there are so many cruelty-free choices out there.

Chalk it up to my revived love of cooking and experimentation in the kitchen or my goal to eat healthier, but whether it’s that or my always-present-never-quite-surfaced moral objection to animal cruelty, I believe that the vegan lifestyle is the way I need to be living in order to match my inside with my outside. While I will begin this process gradually, I plan to be completely vegan by the end of June. I do not believe in wasting food, therefore I will finish the animal products that I have in my pantry/refrigerator, however, I will not be eating any of these things when I go out to eat nor will I eat them if I don’t have to.

Because I am beginning on another lifestyle change, I will be starting a new blog called The Unintentional Vegan. I will let everyone know when the blog is up and running, but that being said, I will not post on here much more. I have a few recipes that I will share, however once the new blog is up this one will no longer be updated. If you been reading, thank you, and I hope you continue to follow me on my journey to a new, healthier, happier me.

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Eating Healthy Won’t Break the Bank

Over the last few weeks I’ve heard the same complaint from many people I’ve talked to about my diet choices: “But it’s so expensive to eat healthy!” This is a very common belief and is one reason that many people never end up changing their eating habits. But in my opinion, this is just another excuse that people have for staying the course when it comes to their meal choices.

I’ve been working on my budget lately, simply trying to see where my money goes, and I thought it would tie in nicely to this complaint that people. So, for the month of June I’m going to track all of my grocery spending, everything from big trips to the grocery store to smaller, specialty store trips (and the occasional trip to Kwik Trip to get bananas). I’m also going to track which groceries I use in which recipes and provide calorie counts for each of them.

I hope that this transparent view of my grocery shopping and cooking will help others realize that eating healthy or changing your eating habits completely doesn’t have to break the bank – and in many cases it can even help you save money (not only on groceries but on trips to the doctor, etc…).

I will be back later this week with a recipe for eggplant “tacos” on chapati bread, but in the mean time start thinking about how much you spend on groceries and what exactly you are getting for your money.


Curry Hummus

I’ve been on a bit of a curry kick lately and I couldn’t think of a better way to incorporate curry into my everyday dining than with hummus. This hummus turned out great, with just enough kick from the cayenne and a hint of spice from the ginger. I’ve enjoyed it with veggies, crackers, and breads – it seems to go with just about anything you have in the pantry! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Ingredients: Curry Hummus

1 15 oz can of Chickpeas, drained, reserve liquid

2 tbsp Minced Garlic

2 tsp Curry Powder

1 tsp Ground Coriander

1 tsp Minced Ginger

1 tsp Ground Cayenne

Pinch of Salt

Olive Oil

Directions:

1) Place all ingredients, except the Olive Oil, and the bean liquid in a food processor. Begin the blend the ingredients, being sure to shake the processor a bit to get the ingredients down into the blade.

2) Slowly begin adding Olive Oil to the food processor and continuing blending and adding Olive Oil until you reach your desired consistency (I used about 2 tbsp – add more for a smoother consistency, less for a chunkier one).

3) Refrigerate and enjoy!

Yields approximately 16 oz of hummus.


Vinaigrette – An Olive Oil Haven

Vinaigrette

5006 Xerxes Ave South

Minneapolis, MN 55410

Hours: Mon-Sat 11am – 7pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm

After some plans fell through this past weekend, I found myself all dressed up (at the crack of dawn) with nowhere to go. On a whim we decided to go to the  Twin Cities to do some shopping and to grab some vegan pizza at Pizza Luce. Little did I know the gem that awaited me in Vinaigrette – full of things I never knew I needed.

Vinaigrette

One of the struggles many people have with becoming vegetarian or vegan is that they believe the food is bland or boring. One way to spice up vegetarian dishes is through spices and flavored oils, and Vinaigrette’s oils are nothing short of spectacular.

The store itself is nestled in a seemingly quite neighborhood in Minneapolis and if you weren’t looking for it you’d never even notice it was there. Luckily, my parents were with us and they had been to this gem once before. When we walked into the store we were greeted by a very friendly staff and rows of fresh balsamic vinegars and olive oils ready for tasting.

From Egyptian Olive Oil to 18 year Aged Balsamic Vinegar, this store has everything you need to spice up even the dullest of pasta dishes. All of the products are available to try and the employees are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the products. You can choose from three different sizes of bottles, all the way up to 750ml, and the prices are very reasonable. I went with a 147ml bottle of the Truffle EVOO and a 375ml bottle of Italian Herb EVOO and I only paid about $23 total.

So, long story short (I could go on all day about this amazing oasis), if you are in Minneapolis and want a delicious and easy way to liven up your next meal, check out Vinaigrette.


Pan-Fried Tofu

I had some tofu in the fridge that was about to expire and I wanted to do something quick and easy with it. This super-simple recipe is perfect as a protein on your plate with some veggies and a starch or it can be stored and used for sandwiches – along with numerous other recipes. Even though you don’t have to sprinkle on the nutritional yeast before frying, I think you’ll enjoy the crunch you get from it. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 package Extra Firm Tofu

2 tbsp Soy Sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acid

2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

1 tsp Ground Cayenne

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Paprika

Nutritional Yeast for added crunch

Oil for frying

Directions:

1) Combine all marinade ingredients into a large plastic storage bag with a zipper. Cut the tofu lengthwise into approximately eight 1/4″ thick slices. Put slices of tofu into marinade and be sure each piece is coated. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to overnight.

2) Put about 1/4″ of oil (can be vegetable, canola, olive oil, etc) in the bottom of a large frying pan. Warm on medium heat until oil pops when water is sprinkled on it.

3) Take the tofu out of the marinade and sprinkle each side with nutritional yeast. When the oil is hot enough, place four pieces of tofu in the pan at a time. Cook approximately 10 minutes on each side. You can use your judgement here as to the crispiness that you’d like – cook longer for a crispier texture. Repeat with the remaining four slices.

Makes 4 servings. Approximately 120 calories per serving.


I Love Facon

One of the (very) few things I’ve missed since becoming a vegetarian is bacon. Of course it is, that’s what all vegetarians say they miss. And why wouldn’t we? Bacon makes everything better. Whether it’s the crunch, the saltiness, just the flavor itself, bacon adds something to a dish that just always seems to take it to the next level of yumminess.

When I realized I no longer had a soy allergy, I headed right for my grocery store’s freezer section and picked up some Morningstar Farms soy ‘bacon’. While it looked nothing like bacon, it definitely tasted just like bacon, and so I made due with that for Sunday morning breakfast and other bacon emergencies. But unlike bacon, the soy bacon had no natural juices so I couldn’t really use it in recipes and get the same effect as real bacon.

Tempeh Bacon

Image from the Lunch Box Bunch.

As I searched the net for another bacon substitute, I stumbled upon a recipe for tempeh ‘bacon’. I’ve talked at length on this blog about how much I love tempeh, but I’d really only cooked it one way: on the grill. After looking at a few recipes for this concoction, I decided to combine the recipes together to create my own facon.

The result was beyond words. The tempeh bacon was crispy and crunch just like bacon and it even looked a bit like bacon. Also

, since you have to marinate the tempeh you get a lot of juices out of it when you cook it, meaning you can use it in whatever recipe you’d like as a bacon substitute while still get the same consistency you would from real bacon.

So, if you’ve been craving bacon but the store-bought ‘bacon’ just doesn’t cut it, just do a search for ‘tempeh bacon recipe’ and put together your own version of facon. You won’t be disappointed!


Vegan Almond Feta ‘Cheese’

This recipe is very wait-time intensive, but is very easy and doesn’t take too much actual time to prepare. Be sure to start this recipe at least 2 days before you want to enjoy it. This recipe is adapted from one that was originally published in Vegetarian Times. This is a great substitute for feta cheese and is totally worth the wait time. You can add this cheese to black bean tacos, sandwiches, and pastas for a little extra tang and texture. If you want something smooth and spreadable just skip the baking step. Unbaked this cheese can also be a substitute for ricotta in lasagna and other stuffed pastas.

Ingredients:

1 cup Whole Blanched Almonds

1/4 cup Lemon Juice

3 tbsp Olive Oil

1 1/4 tsp Salt

1/2 tbsp Ground Thyme

1/2 tbsp Dill Weed

Directions:

1) If your almonds aren’t blanched you will want to start by bringing a saucepan filled about halfway with water to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add your almonds. Let them soak for about a minute and then drain them. Let the almonds cool. The skins should now be loose on the almond so you can use your fingers to squeeze the almond out of the skin. Repeat this process with all of your almonds.

2) Place the almonds in a bowl and cover with about 3 inches of cold water. Let the almonds soak for about 24 hours. Drain the liquid and rinse under cold water.

Crumbled Vegan Almond Feta Cheese

3) Puree the almonds along with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor for about 6-10 minutes or until the mixture is very smooth and creamy.

4) Place a large strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with a triple layer of cheesecloth. Pour the almond mixture into the cheesecloth and then bring the corners and sides of cheesecloth together and twist around the cheese to remove excess moisture. The ball of cheese should be about the size of an orange when you are done squeezing out the liquid. Discard the excess liquid. Please note that this process does take a bit of time but it’s worth it to get all of the moisture out that you can.

5) Secure the cheesecloth around the cheese with cooking twine or a rubber band and chill overnight or for at least 12 hours.

6) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Unwrap the cheese and form into a 6 inch disc that’s about 1/2 – 3/4 inch thick. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top of the disc is firm. Cool and then you can either leave it in the disc form or you can crumble the cheese and put in a container to chill. It will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!