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.

Advertisements

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.


Getting to Know Our Grains: Quinoa

Red Quinoa

Cooked Red Quinoa

I made my Southwest Black Bean and Corn Quinoa for Easter this past weekend and the one question I got asked over and over again was, “What is Quinoa?” It made me realize that even though I eat it quite often, even I don’t really know much about what exactly quinoa is. So I decided to do a little research and I thought this would be a good place to share my findings.

At the most basic level, quinoa is grain-like, though not truly a grain. Quinoa is actually a chenopod, which is more closely related to species such as beets and spinach than to cereal family grains. Quinoa has been around for thousands of years, originating in South America and it grows best in somewhat cooler climates.

Incas referred to quinoa as “the mother of all grains” and it was a major staple in the Indian diet. It was such a central part of their diets because Quinoa contains many of the nutrients that are essential to good health. Quinoa contains high percentages of protein (12%-18%) and has a balanced set of amino acids. In addition, quinoa is gluten-free so it’s a great grain for those with allergies.

There are several types of quinoa, including the most prevalent cream-colored quinoa as well as red and black quinoa. In my experience, the red quinoa is a bit smaller and a little crunchier in texture than the cream-colored quinoa. If you have a gluten allergy, you can also find quinoa flour and other quinoa products that make a great replacement for traditional wheat flour.

You can find quinoa in the whole foods or heath foods section of your local grocery store and although it can be fairly expensive, it is definitely worth having around the house for various recipes.


Review: Cheese Substitutes

Even though I am not a vegan, I am lactose intolerant, so I’ve been trying out some different types of cheese substitutes so that I can still enjoy the cheese flavor and texture without getting sick. I’ve tried a few different types of “cheese” including rice cheese and veggie (soy) cheese. Here are a few of the ones I’ve tried with some pros and cons.

Cheddar Flavored Rice Cheese Slices – This rice cheese has a great cheddar taste that works great in hot and cold sandwiches. The cheese has a texture that is a little more grainy than milk-based cheeses, however it does melt well if you are craving a grilled cheese. One word of caution is that this cheese does not taste particularly good on its own, but if you are avoiding soy and dairy, it’s a great substitute. This cheese is also low -cal at only 40 calories per slice.

Smoked Provolone Flavored Veggie Cheese Slices – This cheese is made from soy and it has a much creamier texture than the rice cheese. The flavor is a bit stronger than the rice cheese, but the soy cheese has a smoother texture. This cheese melts well and it tastes great on sandwiches. It also goes great with tofurky and other veggie sandwich slices.

Pepper  Jack and Cheddar Flavored Veggie Cheese Shreds – I had this veggie cheese on some tacos and it was the perfect complement to the taco seasonings. This cheese melts really well and it has great flavor that rivals some of the pepper jack milk-based cheeses I’ve had. These shreds are perfect for pizzas and other places where you need a little melted cheese.

All of these cheese substitutes are made by Galaxy Nutritional Foods. I live in an area where vegetarian and vegan options are just beginning to become more prevalent, however, in bigger markets you may be able to find other brands. These cheese substitutes are not as cheap as some milk-based cheeses, and the rice cheese is even higher priced than the soy-based cheeses. However, if you’re a vegan or lactose intolerant, these cheeses provide a great alternative that doesn’t make you sacrifice taste. These are just a few of the options out there, so feel free to leave comments about some that you’ve tried!


Tempeh

Last weekend I was in the Twin Cities and I stopped by a Trader Joe’s for the first time. My mom had told me lots of great things about it and I was not disappointed. Trader Joe’s had some great deals and they have a ton of options, especially for vegetarians and vegans. I came across some tempeh, which is something I’d seen in my vegan cookbook but had never seen in the store.

Intrigued, I bought an 8 oz package (for under $3) and I am excited to try out a recipe with it. I am making some marinated, grilled tempeh for dinner tonight, and if they recipe turns out I will definitely post it here. So, in the meantime if you have been looking for some more vegetarian/vegan options, check out Trader Joe’s for some not-so-common grocery store foods at super low prices.


Good Choices for Quick Meals

I love cooking and coming up with new recipes, but just like most of the people in the world, I have a busy lifestyle. Sometimes all I need is a quick option for dinner, but it’s not as easy for a vegetarian to whip up a quick meal as it is for an omnivore. When I was eating meat I could simply throw some chicken in a pan or a steak on the grill, but I’ve found that protein options aren’t as cut and dry for me now.

Lately I’ve been shopping for quick and easy vegetarian meals/proteins and here I will list a few of my favorites:

Quorn Chik’ N Cutlets – I reviewed this product at length in a previous post, but basically you should just know that they are a quick and delicious chicken substitute.

Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burgers – Morningstar Farms makes a variety of different frozen black bean and veggie burgers that are tasty, low-cal, and quick. The best part about these burgers is that you can throw them on a grill during the summer for a vegetarian-friendly grill-out.

Morningstar Farms Bacon – This bacon substitute is quick and easy and it makes a great breakfast protein. You can also chop this bacon up and throw it in a variety of other dishes. Although this “bacon” doesn’t really resemble any bacon that I’ve ever seen, it definitely has the taste and (almost) the texture of the real thing.

Dominex Eggplant Cutlets – These eggplant cutlets caught my eye in the store the other day. These are frozen eggplant cutlets that are coated in breadcrumbs, making them perfect for eggplant Parmesan. You can pair these cutlets with just about anything, which is perfect for quick dinners.

I will continue to post some of my favorite easy meals as I come across them, but these foods are a great place to start if you are looking for quick and easy vegetarian meal options.


Quorn Chick’ N Cutlets

Last night I had to run to the store after a long night of work because I’ve yet to make it out “big” grocery shopping since I got back from Oklahoma. I had lots of side dish materials in my pantry, however, I had no protein and I didn’t feel much like making a batch of black bean burgers or chickpea cutlets (both my go-to proteins for dinner).

Since I tested my soy allergy a few weeks ago with the tofu experiment and came out unscathed, I figured I was ok to buy some frozen veggie burgers. When I got to the small frozen natural foods section, I looked around a bit to see what my burger options were. What I saw instead was a box that said “Chick’ N Cutlets” and then just below that “Meatless and Soy-Free”.

“Well then what are they made of?” I said out loud to myself.

The answer: fungus. I know it sounds gross, but these “chicken” cutlets are made of mycoprotein, which is derived from fungi. Although the thought of eating fungus may not be the most appetizing idea, these cutlets are delicious. I seasoned them lightly with some lemon pepper seasoning and the finished product had the texture and taste of a chicken breast. When I think of meatless food I generally only think of things made of soy or rice, so this was a great discovery for me.

Quorn also has several other chicken-like products available as well as a Turk’ y Roast, which they say can be sliced for sandwiches or used as the centerpiece for a holiday meal. The other nice thing about their products is that they are fairly low-cal. The naked Chik ‘N cutlets are only 80 calories each, although the more exotic Gruyère Chik’ N cutlet is around 260 calories.

You can check out all of their products here and they also have a store locator so you can find a store near you that carries their products. If you are able to find any of their products, I highly recommend giving them a try. The naked cutlets will make a great substitute in many chicken-centered recipes. The only downside to these products is that they are a little on the expensive side; the naked cutlets were $4.49 for 4.