Monday, September 19, 2011

Summer's end veggies

It's the end of summer, and our CSA box is inundating us with the end-of-summer veggies: tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers. These aren't my favourite vegetables - most of them have to be cooked, unlike the height of summer faves, cucumbers and lettuce, and I find them harder to digest than the fall harvest of greens and squash. I've been making a lot of ratatouille, (just kidding, go to this link) but I'm getting a little sick of it. Last night I made a variation that had the benefit of being easier, and using less dishes. Like the classic ratatouille, it tasted even better the next day.

Proven├žal Vegetable Gratin

1 medium eggplant
2 medium zucchini
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, tomato pieces, or canned tomatoes
6-8 garlic cloves
2 tbl olive oil
1-2 tbl Herbes de Provence*
Sea salt
1/2 cup raw milk cheddar (parmesan would be fine)

Thinly slice the eggplant and zucchini and layer in a baking dish. Distribute garlic cloves and tomatoes on top. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Herbes de Provence and a pinch of sea salt. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 1.5 hours (I err on the side of overcooking, especially with eggplant). Sprinkle with cheese and pop back in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Delicious cold the next day, reheats wonderfully.

*Herbes de Provence is a herb mixture typically containing savory, rosemary, basil, thyme and lavender. It's a great kitchen staple, but you could substitute a mixture of rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

random delicious

sometimes the best meals are also the weirdest:
today's fridge scrounge that i'm foodgasming over?
half a boiled sweet potato with a tablespoon of raw coconut oil and the red salt i just bought,
refried meatloaf with ginger and green onion, and chopped raw celery with rice wine vinegar... OMNOM.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rustic White Beans, Bulgur, tofurky and larabars

Back to cooking this week - I haven't baked anything yet, but I might tonight - some kind of not too sweet muffin that we can enjoy for snacks or even breakfast is on deck. The almond-quinoa ones were such a hit last week. Applesauce Oatbran muffins seem likely.

From vegan challenge
Monday night I cooked up the mess of cannellini beans I had been soaking, making Rustic White Beans with Leeks and Mushrooms from Veganomicon. I found them delicious, pairing them, as suggested, with Couscous with Tomatoes and Capers. I didn't have any couscous (as I annoyingly discovered as I started cooking), but I was able to sub in bulgur wheat, another quick cooking grain, which was fairly successful, if a tad chewy. This meal got a thumbs down from J. though. He's funny about texture sometimes, and like a lot of omnis, his chief complaint about veggie food is that it's 'mush'. This was a pretty mushy meal, but I'm fine with that. The flavour of the beans was wonderful (they were cooked with a bouquet garni, which I've never done before), and the beans made a silky sauce in themselves. Yum.

I bought some more quick cooking food during grocery shopping this week, so that if I got derailed from cooking for any reason, or just didn't feel like it, I'd still have what to eat. I bought some Tofurky brand Italian Sausage links, and they were yummy, especially split down the middle and panfried. And I know I'm the last person in the universe to discover Larabars, but I finally did. I feel silly paying $1.25 for dates and nuts smooshed together, and maybe I'll get around to making some, but in the meantime, they are an awesome and delicious whole food alternative to 'power bars.'

Tomorrow night I have a friend coming over for dinner, and Hot Sauce Marinated Tempeh and mashed potatoes with Corn and Jalapeno Gravy are on deck. That sounds like a spicy menu, so I may have to get some Purely Decadent Coconut Milk 'Ice Cream' to cool us off. Poor us.

In the non cooking front, I haven't really been feeling that great doing this. I am enjoying it, trying different things, cooking, etc., but I feel increasingly confirmed that veganism is not an ideal diet for me, at least from a health stand point. I feel pretty low energy, and managing my blood sugar without animal protein is a constant, pretty unwinnable battle. I have added in a supplement, Floradix, and a chinese herbal formula, to try to offset some of the symptoms I am having, so hopefully that will help. I do think that eliminating dairy has been very beneficial, and I think that's a change that will stick around. With occasional exceptions for artisanal cheeses and gelato. All things in moderation, including moderation. Am definitely looking forward to eating some fish and hardboiled eggs down the road.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Slight detour, and meal planning

Well, my vegan project took an unexpected sideline when I got what was either food poisoning or a really nasty reaction to day old mac and cheeze. we'll never know, but i spent 12 hours huddled in the bathroom reliving my vegan project a little more vividly than I wanted. SO had an upset stomach from day two of the mac and cheeze too, but he didn't eat the whole thing, stopping after two bites to switch to beef taquitos. smart man apparently. Anyway, I didn't eat anything Thursday until the evening when I was able to keep down some brown rice congee. It derailed my cooking, but not my enthusiasm (now that I am not green and shaking). I was worried at first that it might be a severe hypoglycemic reaction, but I am hoping that's not the case. Insulin resistance and needing to manage my blood sugar is why I stopped being a vegetarian in the first place back in 2000, after 7 or so years of vegetarianism. I'm feeling ok now, but if I get unexplained severe nausea again, I will derail the experiment and go back to eggs at least. In the meantime, back to the veganism!!

Yesterday was date night at my house, and I had a very mild mannered lunch, both in respect to my still slightly tender stomach and my anticipation of a big yummy dinner. I had red quinoa (leftover from my muffins, which have continued to be eaten with delight), with mixed frozen veg, a vegan griller from morningstar, and some cilantro pesto i still had kicking around. A freezer bento lunch. But dinner... we headed to one of my fave restaurants, vegan or no, Pure Luck, a vegan pub. (I had wanted to go to the new LA location of BabyCakesNYC, a vegan cupcakery, but I think no one told them about LA geography, bc they are downtown on Spring St. Just too much driving, even for supposedly awesome vegan cupcakes. Maybe next weekend). I had blackberry cider, hubby had a dark ale from eagle rock brewery (all their beers are vegan, not being a beer drinker, i didn't know that this can't be said about all beers), and we started with their incredible dill pickle chips with bbq sauce. These are cornmeal breaded dill pickle slices, deep fried and served with homemade bbq dipping sauce. For main I had what I always have there, a pulled 'pork' sandwich on ciabatta. They make their fake meat from jack fruit, which is the awesomest, yummiest, most digestible meat alternative ever. The sandwich kicks butt. I got the spinach salad, which was a bit grotty actually, but mainly served to keep me from getting, and eating, sweet potato fries, which would have really done in my still slightly tender tummy. J had a jack fruit burrito with vegan caesar (cashew based dressing - i can only eat cashews in tiny quantities, so i declined, but he loved it).

We toddled out, very contented, I got a giant black tea with soymilk at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, because then we went to a midnight showing of Conan the Barbarian at the Regency Fairfax. Not especially vegan activity, but definitely awesomest date night in a while. :)

J woke me at 9:30 am bc he was going to finally try one of LAist's 'recession obsessions' the 2.39$ bfast specials at Tokyo 77 cafe in Culver City. I was too incapacitated by tiredness to resist, so I went with him. I brought a little container of soymilk, thank god, so I was able to have coffee. The only vegan breakfast I could assemble was white toast with margarine and a side of tomato slices. I came home and had a tablespoon of peanut butter. I'll go back there when the month is over, because it's a Japanese diner, and I love rice for breakfast.

After I finish drinking more coffee here, I'll haul out Veganomicon and do my week's meal planning before we go grocery shopping. Need to get a few more 'ready to eat' things, and make sure that J has stuff he can take for lunch. If I don't cook or he doesn't like it, he tends to eat out, which is expensive and unhealthy.

Ok. Sipping some more coffee and soymilk.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mac and Chickpeas, muffins, and too much food

Ok, no pics yet for this entry - taking and uploading pics is always a hassle for me - I don't know how the 'snap everything i eat' bloggers do it. Currently my camera has a 'memory card error' so I have to have my techy SO take a look at it anyway. So, on to the food - I'll throw in some Creative Commons images.

I had a lot of chickpeas (image from wikimedia) in the fridge (that was the bean I soaked, and I didn't feel like freezing the leftovers yet - I love chickpeas), so was delighted that the Mac Daddy recipe from Veganomicon has a 'chickpea' variation, where you use smushed chickpeas instead of tofu as the creamy protein. I was dying to make mac and cheez. I love creamy, gooey pasta as much as the next girl, but basically never eat it bc it is a calorie and fat nightmare - I don't like any of the low fat variants I've tried, but making it the 'right' way will totally make me sick from all the dairy fat. I used to make a creamy noodle thing with tahini, but had basically just put mac and cheese in the 'things I don't eat' category. Then I remembered vegan cheeze sauce... with nutritional yeast!!

I had just enough nutritional yeast to make a half recipe of Mac Daddy, perfect from J and I. I made it with brown rice penne from TJs, with smushed chickpeas and chopped spinach tossed in, so it was a complete meal: whole grain, protein, greens, and cheezy goodness. J loved it too! I wasn't sure, given the strong yeast flavour, but he did. To me it tastes kindof like the cheese packets inside Kraft Dinner. Yum.

As I was lovingly flipping through Veganomicon, I decided to dabble into the baked good section. The almond quinoa muffins caught my eye, and I whipped up a batch in true June Cleaver on the commune style. It was my first foray into eggless baking, and they were DELICIOUS. Binding provided by ground flaxseed in soymilk, batter made of flour, almond meal, with cooked quinoa and dried cranberries folded in. Sweetened with maple syrup. They are tender, wholesome and flavourful, with a lovely texture from the quinoa. I'm about to have one for my morning snack.

A side effect of all this cooking is that we have too much food! I have to resist the urge to cook tonight so I can eat some leftovers. I subdivided our tempeh shepherds pie, freezing the tempeh filling for later and will eat (some) of the mashed taters with a chickpea cutlet and spinach salad tonight for dinner.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Chickpea Soba Noodle Soup and snacks

I am not the kind of person who usually goes for fusion cuisine - so this combination of chickpeas with soba noodles and western and asian flavours was a stretch for me, but one I am really glad I made. The miso and the chickpeas and the starch from the noodles combined to make a velvety broth with a rich, comforting flavour - almost a gravy. this one's a keeper.

I knew snacks might be a challenge for me this month, as that is where I eat a lot of dairy and eggs. I've been eating fruit with nuts - this afternoon i had thawed frozen strawberries with toasted almonds. Pretty damn delish. For morning snack I ended up with a surprise - leftover cauliflower and cilantro sauce from my boss's catered bday party this weekend - which was all veggie, done by the talented Meg at Large Marge Sustainables. I brought home every scrap of the cauliflower and sauce and we had it tonight with the much hyped Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon - worth the hype I might add. Hubby proclaimed: "this, I like." The feedback we all want from our culinary adventures, no? The recipe is mushed chickpeas with wheat gluten and breadcrumbs. I subbed in matzo meal, because that's what I had. The vital wheat gluten is an awesome ingredient, I will make more of their 'meat-alikes' like bean balls, and of course, actual seitan (simmered wheat gluten). Incidentally, I brought home 4 of Meg's Scharffen Berger Chocolate/Pomegranate mini bday cupcakes, and they were divine. This weekend I think I might delve into the vegan baking section of the book...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

January is the right time for... going vegan!!

January is a great time to start new things. I don't believe in going bonkers with resolutions and what not, but it is time when our whole culture turns over the clocks to a new year, and the energy of newness is floating around. Hitching a ride on that energy can be effective. This year I am undertaking a fun personal challenge for the month of January: veganism!! I was a vegetarian for 10 years, but never eschewed all animal products before, even for a limited amount of time. I've been avoiding dairy for a few months since I was sick in the fall, and feeling well.

I have a few other reasons for trying this out though. Number one is for fun! I enjoy a challenge, especially a culinary one, and have been feeling bored with my regular foods lately. One of my 'resolutions' for 2010 is to cook more from recipes, challenging myself to eat more interesting and complex recipes. To that end I bought Veganomicon, the massive vegan cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I've been cooking recipes from it already (probably inspired a bit by watching Julie and Julia on the plane too. Kirsten and Isa Chandra and Terry Hope doesn't have the same ring though).

The other reason is frugality - the title of this blog is the Frugal Omnivore after all. I've been finding the omnivore part rather pricey though! Our first grocery shop of the new regime, even with a bare pantry after two weeks away, my partner and I spent only 66$. We'd like to take our weekly grocery budget from 100$ to 75$ for the two of us. After the experiment is over, I want to be stricter about buying animal products that fit my political and health values: grass fed meat and dairy, local, etc. and in small quanities. I expect it will be easier after having gone without completely for a month.

Anyway, on to the food! I am going to document my project here, and try to illustrate with pics as much as I can - that's what I like in food blogs! I won't put the whole recipe unless it's one I invented myself, as I really do want to encourage peeps to plunk down some money for Veganomicon and support the authors. Please be patient with my pics - I am trying to learn to take better ones, but especially at this time of year taking them in natural light is hard (and I am usually hungry when taking them!).

For NYE, I made Vegan Shepherdess Pie. I love shepherds pie, as it looks impressive, but is easy. This one had a tempeh and veggie filling, with a rich mushroom gravy. The topping is mashed
yukon gold taters. I dialed down the fat content a bit, but a nice thing about vegan food is the basics are so low fat that there's lots of room for yummy fatty additions, like the Earth Balance I put in the mash.

It was really yummy, my slightly
suspicious of the veganism project partner ate it up happily, and I have lots of leftovers. Just what I like. The flavours and textures in the filling were really rich and complex, and reminded me why I want to try more recipes. You add a gravy of veggie broth and flour to the filling, something I never would have whipped up on my own.

I soaked some black eyed peas NYE, and put them in my crockpot overnight. This is the best way to cook beans, and I have been cooking up bunches and freezing them, which beats the snot out of canned beans, which I'd like to reduce my reliance on, both for fiscal reasons, and apparently the cans are lined with estrogen disrupting plastics. yuk. New years day I made Hoppin John, a good luck dish from the american south that I make every year. The recipe is mine, so here it is:

Hoppin John:
1 lb black eyed peas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender (8 hours on low in crockpot).
1 large onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 28 oz tin of tomatoes, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
several large handfuls sliced mixed greens (chard, kale, turnip)
olive oil

Saute the onions in oil until tender, add garlic and thyme, cook 1 min or so until garlic is fragrant. Add beans, tomatoes, liquid smoke. Stir, add greens, letting them cook down for a few minutes, adding 1/4 cup or more of water if needed - it will make a saucier dish. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, very good with hotsauce! You can serve it over rice, I just had it with ezekiel bread with tartex (a delish vegan pate I imported from Canada - can't buy it here.)

Today I am going to attempt seitan, and make some hummus or bean spread for snacks during the week. If the seitan doesn't eat me alive, I'll post pics and report!