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‘Groceries & Meal Planning’ Category

  1. I Know Your “Chicken”

    December 21, 2015 by admin

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    12341322_10208364235247228_2027019583423696611_nWinter is soup season, as much at the TR Home as anywhere.

    Chicken noodle soup is a classic that many people remember fondly from childhood, and treasure on a chilly day, or when they are a bit under the weather.

    But we’re a vegan/vegetarian house!  How can we have all the yummy of goodness of chicken noodle soup while staying within our dietary guidelines?

    Enter: “Chicky” Noodle Soup, a delicious version of the classic that can be made vegan or vegetarian while keeping all the yumminess you expect and remember.

    “Chicky” Noodle Soup

    Ingredients:

    1 Package Beyond Vegan Chicken Strips (or equivalent)

    2 Carrots

    2 Celery Stalks

    1 Onion

    2 Garlic Cloves

    4 -6 Cups Veggie Broth* (or Water)

    1 teaspoon Oregano

    1/2 teaspoon Rosemary

    Salt & Pepper to taste

    2 Cups Noodles**

    Process:

    1.  Partially defrost vegan chicken strips, enough so they can be diced.

    2.  Saute Onions, Garlic and Carrots in bottom of soup pot for six minutes or so.

    3.  Chop or grind rosemary in a spice grinder or with a mortal & pestle.  Add to sautéed vegetables.

    4.  Add diced vegan chicken.

    5.  Add broth or water and bring to a simmer.

    6.  Add noodles and cook 10 minutes until soft.

    7.  Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

    Enjoy!!

    Invite a friend over to share!

     *  Make your own veggie stock:  The next time you chop onions, peel carrots or use celery, take the peels and bits you don’t want (so long as they are not spoiled!) and boil in water for 45 minutes to an hour.  Things to include in your veggie broth: onions, carrots, celery, parsley.   Thing to avoid in your broth: potato peels, pepper innards, beets.   If you don;t have veggie broth, you can use a vegan vegetable bouillon, available in most groceries.

    **  What noodles to use:  For a more traditional ‘Chicky’ Noodle Soup, use egg noodles.  But these are not vegan.  If you like a vegan soup, we like to use bowtie pasta.  As it gets very cooked, the bowties partially unfold leaving large, flat noodles of deliciousness.


  2. Let The Sun Shine

    July 21, 2015 by admin

    IMG_3141Our new, sun-filled yard has allowed us to rediscover the joys of sun tea- and pass this pleasure on to our kiddos.

    Spending most of the day flooded in sunshine, our backyard is the perfect place for making sun tea!  You can make sun tea in any large glass jar- a throughly washed pickle or olive jar can work quite well.  But we picked up a sun tea jar at our favorite grocery for a few bucks – and it includes a dispenser tap at the bottom.  This way even our youngest can pour himself a glass of tea without difficulty.

    The recipe is simple: fill you jar with cold water and add a few bags of tea.  We use five with our approximately half-gallon jar.  Use more if you like a stronger tea.   You may find different tea flavors require different strengths to turn out the way you like.  Let the tea sit in a bright part of your yard for most of the day- the longer it sits there the stronger it gets.

    Tip:  If it gets too strong, you can water it down with water or ice cubes when you drink it.

    We keep our tea in the fridge and it cools down quickly to just the right temperature.  Add ice as desired.

    Our youngest loves watching the tea darken during the day, and particularly enjoys sampling the fruit flavored teas.  Try it out and find your favorite flavor!


  3. Come Kale Or High Water

    July 6, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1266We are always looking for ways to introduce nutritious snacking option to our kids.

    Kale chips are a low calorie, super easy, and very tasty choice that you can make at home in less than ½ hour.

    Pick up a good bunch of Kale from your local farmer’s market or favorite grocery store.  Wash the leaves and then dry all of them thoroughly.  Next, cut the leafy green away from the stalk.  But don’t just throw out those stalks!  You can save them for soup stock!  Or chop them down and saute them into your next stir fry.  Or feed them to bunnies!IMG_1263

    We hear kale is pretty easy to grow in your garden.  We haven’t tried that yet, but we’ll let you know when we do!

    Tip1: If you fold the kale along the stalk, you can easily cut straight down to separate both halves from the stem.

    Use your fingers to rip down the leafy parts into chip size pieces and put them into a large bowl.  Toss theKale with olive oil and coarse kosher sea salt and set aside.  Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil or parchment paper.

    Tip2: We put a coat of olive oil on our tinfoil.

    Distribute the Kale in an even layer on the cookie sheet.  Cook at 350degrees for 10 minutes.  Rotate your tray and perhaps flip your kale.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until you’ve got your desired crispness.

    Enjoy!


  4. Mac & Cheese: Variations

    April 15, 2015 by admin

    IMG_3001 Our TR family loves comfort food!  Our feel-good dishes bring a satisfying end to a hard day or a work great as for rainy day pick-me-up.

    One of our longtime favorites is Macaroni & Cheese.  Everyone in our family can dig deep into a piping hot casserole of cheesy noodles any day of the week.

    We long ago perfected a satisfying, quick and easy homemade mac&cheese.  It tastes fantastic and goes together in just a few minutes.

    TRMom’s recent shift to a vegan diet may seem like it spelled the end of mac&cheese night, but it did not.  We just reworked the recipe a bit and use two separate casserole dishes.  We can easily make two versions of mac&cheese: the traditional favorite and a vegan version that TRMom adores.

    First up, the Vegetarian Version:

    Ingredients:

    1/2 Pound dry macaroni pasta

    1/3 Cup Cream Cheese

    3 T Butter

    1/2 to 3/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar

    Salt & Pepper to Taste

    1/4 Cup Bread Crumbs

    Process:

    1.  Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add dry pasta and boil for ten minutes.

    2.  Drain pasta and return to the same still-hot pot.

    3.  Mix in Butter and Cream Cheese, and stir until fully melted.

    4.  Mix in shredded cheddar and stir thoroughly.

    5.  Transfer to an oiled casserole dish.

    6.  Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, and bake at 350 for fifteen minutes.IMG_3002

     

    The Vegan Version:

    Ingredients:

    1/2 Pound dry macaroni pasta

    3 T Earth Balance

    1/2 Cup Teese

    Salt & Pepper to Taste

    1/4 Cup Bread Crumbs

    Process:

    1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add dry pasta and boil for ten minutes.

    2. Drain pasta and return to the same still-hot pot.

    3. Mix in Earth Balance and stir until fully melted.

    4. Mix in Teese and stir thoroughly.

    5. Transfer to an oiled casserole dish.

    6. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, and bake at 350 for fifteen minutes.

    We usually make a much smaller portion of vegan mac&cheese, since it is for one serving.  You can scale down or up as necessary to feed your hungry crew.


  5. Healthful Eating

    March 13, 2015 by admin

    In a recent issue of New Scientist, we read an article about eating that echoed points we’ve made ourselves: if you want you and your family to eat healthy food, have healthy food around you.  Now our point is backed up by Science!

    NEw ScientistThe article, “Easy as Pie” summarized some research by pychologist Brian Wansink.  Dr. Wansink put a lot of study into what people do that helps them eat healthier meals. Even if we don’t always do these things ourselves, it all made perfect sense.

    Although we don’t obsess about portion sizes and such at our house, we do try to encourage healthy eating habits. Too much snacking and too big portions can really add up. Spoiler Alert! We’re not twenty any more, so those extra bits tend to stick with us a bit more easily than they did when we were young’uns.

    Some of the research really triggered our interests in psychology:

    • Plates.  We love our Fiesta plates.  But did you know which color plate you use might affect how much you put on it.  It depends on the food and the plate.  If you have high contrast between your plate color and the food, you’ll take less.  So use light colored plates for dark meals, and dark plates for light colored foods.  It will help resolve any issue with too large portions.
    • Where you serve from makes a difference too.  If you keep your dinner serving dishes on the side-boy or on the stove, you’ll take less than if you pass the food at the table.  Also, smaller serving spoons helps you take a smaller portion.  This could come in handy, if you have unexpected guests and need to stretch a meal.
    • The food that’s in sight is the food you’re more likely to eat- a point we’ve raised in past posts. So fruit on the table becomes a snack, chips stashed in the cupboard- maybe less so. Salad greens that are out at dinner are more likely to be eaten. Sugar on the counter is more likely to go into your coffee than sugar stored out of view.
    • If over pouring alcohol is a concern for you, consider buying taller, skinnier glassware.  Even pro bartenders over-pour when given short, wide glasses of the same volume as tall skinny ones.  The bartenders will do this even after you point out their over pouring.  So if you want to keep the drinks light, use taller glasses.

    These little tips won’t instantly turn us all into svelte gods and goddesses, but paying some attention to where and how food is served and stored in your home might help you stick to whatever healthy eating goals you want to reach.


  6. Seitan

    March 2, 2015 by admin

    Seitan is a versatile and delicious complement to many vegetarian and vegan dishes- especially meals that play off traditional meat-based recipes.  In many areas, seitan is readily available in supermarkets and co-ops.  But it is also fun and easy to make on your own.

    An extra advantage of making your own seitan is that you can add your own flavor accents to the basic recipe and make it into whatever you want it to become.  But before we get into all the many variants you can try, let’s tackle the basic seitan recipe.seitan_spongy_400

    There are two main ways to prepare seitan: boiling and baking.   We’ve had great fun with both techniques, but this recipe will be boiled.  Boiling the seitan gives you two chances to enhance the flavors of your seitan: once when you make the dough, and then again when you boil it.

    Making seitan is a lot like making bread.  You’ll add water and other ingredients to flour, knead it and shape it, and cook it.  Unlike most breads there is no yeast, baking soda or other leavenings.  Also, unlike most breads we will cook it by boiling.   Seitan takes about 10 minutes or less to put together and boils for about forty-five minutes, so the whole process can be done in an hour.

    Tip:  Depending on what you plan to do with it, you should probably make your seitan in advance, maybe even a day ahead.  Slicing chunks of boiling hot seitan is not easy (or particularly safe).

    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/4 cups Gluten Flour
    • 2 t Fine diced garlic or garlic powder
    • 2 T soy sauce
    • 1 Cup Water
    • 10 cups water
    • 3 T Soy Sauce
    • 1 T Vegan Boullion

    Process:

    1. Mix flour, garlic, soy sauce and 1 cup water in a bowl.  Knead two or three minutes into a dough.
    2. Shape into a ball.  Try to make it as smooth as possible so it holds together in the water.
    3. Bring 10 cups water, 3 T soy sauce and boullion to a boil.
    4. Put the ball of dough in the boiling water and simmer for 45 minutes.

    Tip2:  Gluten Flour, or Vital Wheat gluten is more expensive than All Purpose flour, but you get a lot of seitan out of each batch, so it will last a long time.  It is available at most grocery stores and food co-ops.  Bob’s Red Mill is one brand that is available in many places.

    When forming your dough (Step 1 above) you can add flavors to suit your needs.  Making a mexican dish?  Add mole sauce or chili powder right into the seitan.  Making Italian food?  Add some oregano.  Do you want your seitan to sub for chicken?  Add some vegan “chicken” flavoring to the mix.  The sky’s the limit- be creative!

    One add in that works for all versions is Nutritional Yeast.  This inactive yeast enhances the flavors of many vegan and vegetarian foods. If you can, replace 1/4 cup of flour with Nutritional Yeast- you’ll like the results.


  7. Stir Fry With Seitan

    January 30, 2015 by admin

    We recently added this dish to our rotation.  It is simple and delicious- two qualities that are right on target for how we like to cook.

    We were inspired to create this dish upon reading about a beef-based version in a British cooking magazine.  We thought to switch out the beef for vegan seitan and go from there.  Seitan is a wheat-based meat substitute.  It’s easy to make at home, or you can buy it at most supermarkets (we like Upton’s).  A few other changes to the original British recipe and we ended up with a family favorite- no leftovers from this one, we’re pleased to say.15-Uptons-Naturals-Traditional

    Ingredients:

    • 1 T Oil
    • One 12 oz. Package of Seitan
    • 2-3 T Black Bean Sauce
    • 1 T Soy Sauce
    • 1 T Corn Starch
    • 1 Green Pepper, cut into thin strips
    • Scallions for Garnish

    Process:

    1. Slice the seitan into thin strips. (Some brands/batches of seitan slice better than others.  Don’t panic if your’s crumbles more than it slices.)
    2. Heat the seitan in the oil in a large skillet or wok.
    3. Add the Green Peppers, and sauté 3-5 minutes.
    4. Add the Black Bean sauce and simmer 2-3 minutes.
    5. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce and corn starch together.
    6. Pour the starch into the pan and mix.  Cook through until sauce thickens.
    7. Serve over brown rice and garnish with scallions.

    Tip: This whole dish goes together in about ten minutes, so make sure you cook the rice first!


  8. Cheeze Please!

    January 21, 2015 by admin

    img_0004_thumb TRMom made a conscious choice to move from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet.  A vegetarian since her early teen years, there came a point when not eating meat was more of a habit than a decision given much thought.  But her move to veganism was a researched effort towards better health and animal welfare.

    The problem was that TRMom LOVED cheese.  Gouda and a very sharp aged cheddar were among her favorites.  Pizza dripping with cheese and simple cheese & crackers were often repeated meals or snacks.  There wasn’t much that didn’t benefit from a topping of cheese, in TRMom’s opinion.

    Why bother embracing veganism when you love cheese?

    Well, there is a lot of debate about the health benefits of a diet that includes dairy products.  And TRMom has always had a complicated relationship with dairy.  She can’t drink milk or eat certain things like frozen custard without dire tummy reactions.  But giving up cheese was less about health and more about animal rights.  It just felt like the right thing to do.

    And bonus!  We found some fantastic vegan cheese products.IMG_9576

    The current TR household favorites are Daiya shreds (the cheddar are Bluey’s fav) and Teese Cheddar Cheese sauce.  Daiya is great to top a pizza, on tacos or to add to a vegan burger.  Teese is a fantastic addition to vegan nachos or elbow macaroni!  Both products deliver on taste and texture. (Daiya also makes a frozen pizza that we haven’t tried yet- we’ll give you a review of that later!)

    It is obvious you aren’t eating dairy cheese when you indulge in the vegan alternatives.  But for TRMom, that’s a-ok.  She hasn’t missed dairy quite as much thanks to these great options.


  9. 21st Century Vegan

    December 29, 2014 by admin

    76230_v-gothlettr_mthWe’re sure that a few of you remember what it was like to be a vegetarian in the 80s.  It was a rather unfamiliar lifestyle choice for most people.  You were lucky to find anything veggie friendly on a menu.  And when you would inquire of a restaurant if something like the soup was vegetarian, the response was typically, “Yup.  We just use chicken stock.”  Your friends would tell you to just pick around the meat on a salad or topping on a pizza.  It was a hard road back then.

    Vegetarianism is more mainstream now, but TRMom finds that veganism today is a somewhat similar experience to being a vegetarian in the 80s.  No, it isn’t quite as bad as most people have at least exposure to the vegan concept.  But restaurant choices are still rather limited.  Even though most food establishments now offer a veggie burger, it tends to be vegetarian and not vegan.   You have to be diligent in your questions to waitstaff, “Are there eggs or milk in that dish?”  Many servers simply think that vegetarians and vegans are the same thing.  But with increased awareness of food allergies, most servers are accustomed to being asked very specific questions about ingredients- don’t be too timid to voice your concerns!colorful-swiss-chard-stalks-2_thumb

    And friends aren’t as understanding of veganism.  The meat eaters will humor a vegetarian.  But they think vegans are starving themselves or making unhealthy choices.  Even the vegetarians sometimes poke fun, “What’s the harm in a little cheese?” It is a flashback to the 80s.

    We’re confident that with time, veganism will become as mainstay as vegetarianism.  There are even some restaurants, like our local Green Owl (full disclosure: TRDad works at the Owl) that cater to vegans!  Progress has been made, but it is certainly interesting to travel this new path.


  10. Holy Mole!

    November 20, 2014 by admin

    IMG_2505We only just started making this Mexican staple, but we are so glad we did!

    We use this sauce almost everyday to bring a bit of zing to all sorts of dishes.  We mix it in with pizza toppings, add it onto nacho platters, and mix it into other dishes like beans and rice.  And yes, it makes a great addition to chili as well.

    The whole recipe goes together in about twenty minutes and will keep for several weekends in your fridge.

    Here’s our version of this classic sauce, based around Guajilla peppers, which are easily found in grocery stores in our area:

    Ingredients:

    1 t Cumin Seeds

    1 t Coriander Seeds

    2 Guajilla Peppers, Dried

    2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped

    1 Cup Onion, Chopped

    2 Tomatoes, Peeled and Diced

    2 t Salt

    2 T Sugar

    2 T Oil

    1/4 Cup Water

    1/4 t Cayenne Pepper

    Process:

    1.  Toast the cumin and coriander in a dry pan for a minute or two.

    2.  Remove the stems from the dried guajillas and place in a spice grinder (we use an old coffee grinder for this purpose) along with the toasted seeds.

    3.  Pulse the onions, garlic, dried peppers and seeds, tomatoes and all other remaining ingredients in a food processor.

    4.  Add a bit more water if you’d like the sauce to be smoother.

    Enjoy!  Let us know how you use your mole!