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!

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