Monday Menu Planning: Autumn Pantry Challenge!

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I don’t know about you guys, but this year is really flying by for me! I can’t believe it’s mid-October, seems like just yesterday that I was sitting on the beach soaking up the summer sunshine! Now, even in Florida, it’s windy and the leaves are falling off our northern trees. They look so funny, little naked branches in between the green palms!

Along with cravings for warm comfort food, Autumn also brings a tightening of the budget around here. I’m looking at the calendar and counting down ’til Christmas (9 weeks, 4 days), starting to think about the expense that goes along with all of that Yuletide joy! I’m sure many of you are feeling the pinch as well, maybe still recovering from back-to-school expenses and/or saving for holiday travel. With that in mind, I’m going to be cooking more from my pantry and freezer over the next few weeks, relying on what I have on hand and supplementing with whatever fresh produce is available and on sale. I know that most folks do this sort of challenge in the summer, but I’m suggesting a Fall version. Not only will we put aside a little money, but we’ll be making room for those inevitable holiday goodies!

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I have two pantries, the everyday one shown above along with another in my laundry room. I also have a large stand-up freezer in the garage in addition to the refrigerator version. All of these are chock-full of odds & ends – veggies, beans, grains & canned tomatoes. It’s time to bring all of these ingredients together for some yummy meals!

This week is a hodgepodge of recipes, a little of this & that. We have some traditional southern fare mixed in with international dishes, a little culinary trip around the world! I hope that by the end of the week my pantry and freezer will be as empty as my wallet is full!

How about you? What’s cookin’ at your house this week? Would you like to take the pantry challenge with me?

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet 90% of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. At the moment I am also following the Maximum Weight Loss Diet by John McDougall, M.D.

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

The Daily Dish: Beef(less) Stew for Sunday Supper

I’m originally a Midwestern girl, born in Ohio but relocated to Florida when I was just a tot. My mother grew up in the hills of West Virginia, the daughter of a coal miner and a homemaker who struggled to clothe and feed five children on meager income, making a home in the “sticks,” as Mom called it. She called herself a hillbilly, and was proud of it, so I carry on that pride. Grandma was famous for saying, “We may be poor but we’re clean;” she kept her tiny rental house spic & span and was known for being a phenomenal cook. She was able to whip up a meal with whatever scraps of food were on hand, nobody ever went hungry at her table. In fact, my bio dad claims it was Grandma’s cooking that won him over, falling in love with her cooking before he did my gorgeous mama!

Grandma & Grandpa Smith, late 1960’s
Mom, before Me
Grandma & Me, 1967

My mother was not a particularly adventurous cook, better known for her baked goods than anything else, but we had a homecooked dinner on the table every night, even though she worked a full time job outside the home. It was the 70’s, so meat was the center piece of the meal. I know the menus well; when I turned old enough (about 12 or so) I took over the nightly cooking, giving mom a much-needed break. Baked chicken. Baked pork chops. Tuna casserole. On the weekends, there was grilled steak and the dreaded Sunday Pot Roast. Oh, how I hated that roast! I’d push the pieces around on my plate, trying to hide them under a pile of mashed potatoes, but Mom always caught me. She didn’t make me clean my plate, but I at least had to force down a couple of bites. I swear, that plate of beef is the reason I became a vegetarian! But, I digress.

Me & Mom, 1972

When the weather turned chilly (by Florida standards, this means below 75 degrees!) Mom would make a big pot of chili or beef stew and we’d “eat off” that all weekend long. Ooh, there was nothing like taking a slab of white bread and dunking it into a bowl of chili or stew! Simple comfort food, that’s a Midwestern diet.

Mom continued making her “famous” beef stew for many years; all of my girls have fond memories of sitting around Grandma’s table with a loaf of bread and a big bowl of soup. Even as vegetarians, they would pick out the pieces of beef and just eat the veggies, not willing to give up that taste and experience!

Now that mom is gone, and I’m a vegan, I have been searching for the closest facsimile to Mom’s. Dad has passed along the original “recipe,” of course, but I’ve never been able to replicate it. I pretty much gave up, thinking we’d all have to settle for a stew-less life, and then this happened..

My daughter Kristyn alerted me to this recipe, and therefore the blog where it’s posted. I must’ve been living under a rock, how is it that I’m just now discovering the Shannons? I love all things vintage and have actually modernized a few retro recipes on my other blog, but these folks took it to a whole new level, tackling the sacred Betty Crocker! A noble effort, with wonderful results!

This version is not quite the same as Mom’s; hers wasn’t as savory/spicy as the Shannon’s, but it’s close enough. I think that Mom were here she’d give it her seal of approval.

Beefless Stew

I made a couple of changes using what I had on hand; I substituted a bag of frozen mixed vegetables for the peas, and also left out the olive oil. I would definitely not prepare this without the creole seasoning as it adds a very nice punch without being too spicy. At the risk of sounding sexist, I must tell you that this is a very “man-friendly” recipe, a hearty dish that is sure to please even the biggest appetite! It’s a favorite of my omnivore hunny who swears that had I not told him, he wouldn’t know it was vegan.

Again, you can find the recipe over at the Shannon’s blog, along with some other wonderful dishes!

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet 90% of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. This recipe does contain a meat substitute and since I limit my amount of processed foods we make this one of those occasional indulgences.

Have a wonderful day!

P.S. This is a re-post from my other blog, with a couple of updates/revisions.


The Daily Dish: Rainy Day Chili

2013 Asheville NC

Asheville, North Carolina ~ October 2013

It doesn’t have to be rainy to enjoy this dish, it just seems that I crave chili when it’s dreary outside, or when I’m feeling a bit under the weather and want something warm & familiar. It’s so nice to curl up on the couch with a favorite tv show, book or movie, and a big bowl of cozy comfort food! Or maybe you want to grab a cup and gobble it up while enjoying the gorgeous autumn weather.

Rainy Day Chili

I’ve been making this “recipe” for many years now, and despite it’s simplicity it always gets rave reviews.  I basically toss a couple cans of drained, rinsed beans (kidney, chili, black bean, whatever you like) and a couple cans of diced tomatoes (Ro*tel brand if you want a little extra kick) into my Crock-pot along with a chopped onion and a packet of chili seasoning. If I’m cooking for non-vegans who prefer a meatier chili, I’ll add some veggie crumbles. Turn on low to cook all day, or high for a few hours, or if you’re in a big hurry you can cook it on the stovetop for an hour or so. Like lots of veggies? Chop up some green peppers, mushrooms, etc. and toss them in. Corn? Sure, add a can or bag of frozen. Want to make your own chili seasoning? Even better! This recipe really is infallible! I usually top with a dollop of vegan sour cream and soy cheese, maybe some scallions if I have them.  Chip is a big fan of oyster crackers so he often adds those as well.

To round out the meal, I will either serve over brown rice or just with some bread or cornbread on the side, as you can see in this pic from my old blog.

Rainy Day Chili2

What about you? Do you have some favorite recipes that you turn to when you’re craving comfort food?

Have a wonderful day!

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet most of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. At the moment I am also following the Maximum Weight Loss Diet by John McDougall, M.D.

Menu Planning Monday: Soup’s On!

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The temperature is blessedly cool today, at least by Florida standards, and it’s supposed to stay mild throughout the week. So, you know what that meals: more soups & stews! I’m also making a couple of “man-friendly” meals using a little bit of faux meat because though Chip never complains, I know he gets tired of beans day after day. I’ll make adjustments to my portions to keep them MWL-compliant or I’ll allow myself a “cheat meal.”

What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods? Are you filling up on tummy-warming soups as well?

Have a wonderful day!

P.S. For more menu plans, please visit The Organizing Junkie!

Menu Planning Monday: Budget Cooking

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Like most folks, I’m always looking to save a buck. There are some expenses I have no control over (gas and the mortgage come to mind), but I do have some say about what is spent at the grocery store! Some weeks the budget is tight and I need to find ways to cut back, other weeks I just would rather put my dollars elsewhere.  Either way, I hate wasting money and I hate wasting food, so this is why I plan my menu and stick to it!

We’ve had some additional expenses lately, making this a “need to cut back” kinda week. Since I keep a well-stocked pantry, the basics on hand, it’s pretty easy to put together a budget-friendly meal plan with just some beans, veggies and a couple cans of tomatoes. Armed with my shopping list, reusable bags and handy-dandy assistant, I headed to the store this morning.

A disclaimer: I am aware of the political and social issues regarding Wal-mart and consider myself a conscious shopper. I prefer to buy local and give my money to companies that I deem worthy. However, I find that Wal-Mart’s prices are consistently low and they are readily accessible to most Americans. So, when money is tight and/or we are traveling in an area where shopping options are limited, I do what I need to do to feed my family. I imagine I’m not alone in this.

10.04.15 Shopping

I bought all of the ingredients needed for the recipes below, along with coffee creamer, Chip’s sandwich buns and wine because no matter how tight money is, there are priorities! *wink* Not shown is a big bag of potatoes, some pet supplies and a sweet treat for the hunny. I minused out those non-food items in the receipt below..

10.04.15 Shopping Receipt

Do you see that? I spent under $50 for delicious, flavorful plant-based meals made of up regular ingredients that can be found in any grocery store and can be prepared quickly using basic cooking skills. Each recipe serves 6 to 8, a total of 32 servings! This would easily feed a family of four for a week, assuming you’d have leftovers for dinner two nights and a couple of lunches as well! You could not get one restaurant meal for that amount! Since there are only two of us, I’ll be freezing some portions and bringing a couple over to my daughters.

Without further ado, here’s my weekly plan. Since the weather has turned gorgeously cool for most of us, these soups and stews are perfect Autumn fare! Though I’m avoiding bread at the moment, a nice loaf of whole wheat or some cornbread would pair nicely with any of these!

What’s everyone else cooking this week?

Have a wonderful day!

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet 90% of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. At the moment I am also following the Maximum Weight Loss Diet by John McDougall, M.D.

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

Menu Planning Monday, Maximum Weight Loss Style!

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As I wrote earlier, I’ve decided to give myself a little challenge.  From now until Halloween I’m going to follow Dr. McDougall’s Maximum Weight Loss Diet, so this week’s recipes are all MWL-compliant or easily modified.  As usual, if the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth.

We’ll be on the road again this week so the dishes are also travel-friendly and easy to reheat.  I’m going to avoid dining out as much as possible, knowing that it’s much easier to control what I eat when I make it myself.  Besides, I generally enjoy my own cooking!  I’m also using my slow cooker a couple of times and the recipes are perfect for chilly Autumn weather, even though we’ve yet to experience any!  I’ll just have to crank down the air conditioner and pretend.

challengeThis week’s plan:

Have a wonderful day!

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

The Daily Dish: Bread is the Devil

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I have a confession:  after yesterday’s biscuit nirvana, I didn’t feel well.  Even though the meal was vegan and lowfat and technically “healthy,” it wasn’t good for me.  You see, white flour and I don’t get along.   We have a long history, a complicated relationship full of temptation, indulgence and inevitable guilt.  I can’t just have one bite, or one biscuit..one slice of Italian bread, one cup of pasta.  One leads to two which leads to an empty bread basket and a giant tummy ache.  I have tried & tried over the years to break up with Mr. White Flour, knowing that we are not good for each other, but somehow he pulls me back in.

So, I did some deep thinking and some soul searching.  Though I know lots of people can, and do, enjoy pastas and breads on a plant-based diet, I’m simply not one of them.  Maybe someday I can tip my toe in, perhaps flirt with whole grain varieties and my beloved Ezekiel bread, but for now I’m going cold turkey.  I’m leaving you,  Mr. Dough Boy.  Cute as you are, we are simply not right for each other.  Please don’t tempt me any longer, don’t invade my dreams with fluffy biscuits and crunchy French bread.  Just leave me alone, ok?  Because there’s a new guy in town, and he is named John McDougall, MD.  He’s taking me on a date, promises me a good time without tummy aches, guilt and remorse.  This new adventure is one I’ve been on before, and it was good.  I lost weight, I had more energy, I was content.  I was healthy, in body and mind.  He even has a side kick, Dr. Neal Barnard, and they are going to help me reach my goals, for once and for all.

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For the next month I’m challenging myself to a whole foods, plant-based, no oil, no processed foods way of eating,  ala The Maximum Weight Loss Diet.  I’ll be using all of the MWL-compliant recipes I can find, along with some from Dr. Barnard and colleagues.  I’m going to follow the program as closely as I can, but I’m admitting right now that I will likely have an occasional glass of wine, and my morning coffee is not negotiable.  Progress, not perfection, as they say.

I hope you’ll follow along with me, would love the support and camaraderie! I’ll pop in later with my weekly menu, am going to pore over a few cookbooks and websites for a little while.

Have a wonderful day!

Note: My daughter Kristyn designed the dough boy devil graphic years ago, isn’t he adorable?!

The Daily Dish: Biscuits on My Mind

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This morning I woke up craving biscuits, which is a problem because 1) most ready-made biscuits are not vegan and 2) I don’t know how to make them myself.  Over the years I have tried & tried, recipe after recipe, method after method, yet I have never been able to master the art.  Those innocent little balls of dough refuse to rise the way they’re supposed to, or they get brown on the bottom while the inside is still mushy.  I finally gave, threw my flour-covered hands in the air and admitted defeat! It wasn’t pretty, and I hated knowing that I was bested by the dough but I had no choice.

So, I’ve lived a biscuit-free life since going vegan.  It’s not been easy, ignoring the call of the dough boy.  Occasionally we’d drive by McDonald’s and I’d get a whiff of them baking, that heavenly smell wafting through the air..sigh…was I meant to live out the rest of my life this way?  What a cruel fate!  Wait, what is that?  Browsing through the McDougall Friends board, what is that I saw?  Fluffy Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits? Could it be? Should I try to make them and risk failure once again?  I decided to sleep on it, to see if I woke up brave enough to give it another go.  I did.

This morning, armed with a big mug of coffee and my trusty rolling pin, I got down to business.  I followed the recipe exactly, and while they were baking I decided to mix up a batch of gravy as well, thinking that even failed biscuits could be hidden in a sea of gravy.  Well, guess what?  They were wonderful!  Ok, not perfect, a little chewy and dense but that’s because I overworked the dough a tiny bit and I know that biscuits enjoy a light touch.  But seriously, they were yummy!  Ta-da! I heard trumpets sounding and my grandma in heaven clapping because I have finally learned the most basic skill of any good country cook.  It was a proud moment. The gravy was amazing as well, would definitely recommend both of these recipes!

Biscuits

We are off to (hopefully) view the eclipse and the big Super Moon over the ocean, seems a lovely way to end the weekend.

Have a nice evening!

The Daily Dish: Cheese

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If you ask a vegan what was the hardest part of going plant based, what he/she found the most difficult to give up, 90% of them will answer the same way: Cheese.  We love it.  We crave it.  I daresay, we are addicted to it.  And there are scientific reasons for that, something called casomorphins.  Dr. Neal Barnard of PCRM explains it much better than I can in this Youtube video, take a look/listen when you have time.

There’s lots more info out there if you’re interested, but suffice it to say: we humans have a soft spot for cheese, and though we know the reasons for avoiding and would never go back to consuming it, most vegans miss it.  To fill this void, there are many veg-friendly substitutes for the stuff, but most of it is highly processed and not very good for us.  Those of us who follow a whole-foods-plant-based-no-oil diet tend to eschew it completely, having learned that it’s better to live without it. I agree, for the most part.  I’m not perfect and I’m not a purist, so there are times when I give in to the craving, when I want something ooey and gooey and warm and comforting and nothing does that better than cheese.  Many of the substitutions out there just don’t cut it for me, I don’t like the texture or the aftertaste, something is always just a little bit “off.”  However, I found one product that meets my standards, that is so close to the real deal that I have to double-check the ingredients to assure myself that it’s not dairy: Chao.  Made by the Field Roast company, these slices are the bomb!  They make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich or, my favorite, a “toasted cheese,” basically toasted Ezekiel bread with a smear of Veganaise, slice or two of Chao, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. Yum! I am really glad that the one distributor in my area prices them so high that I can’t afford to indulge very often, because otherwise I could get into a lot of trouble.

Chao

Of course, you can also make your own as Miyoko Schinner has done in her popular book, Artisan Vegan Cheese, but I have yet to try it.

So, bottom line: I avoid cheesy-type meals most of the time but when the craving hits hard and I decide to indulge, I go for it in a big way.  This past week I did so with this Chili Fiesta Mac ‘n Cheese recipe by Vegan Yack Attack.

Fiesta Mac

Cook’s Note: As usual, I eliminated the coconut oil and used vegetable broth for sauteeing. I figured there was quite enough fat in this dish, no need to add more.

Approximately 4 large Servings – Nutritional info (provided by Mastercook) per serving:   569 Calories; 21g Fat (32.4% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 83g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1069mg Sodium

The Verdict:  Follow Your Heart shreds are good on tacos, but I have never tried to melt them.  I had misgivings, but wanted to follow the recipe as written, so I did just that.  Once again, there was a strange aftertaste, and though it was okay, I wouldn’t use this product again for mac ‘n cheese.  The chili, however, was delicious! I doled out portions for my kids and advised them to use a box of Earth Balance as a base instead. As for myself, this is way too high in fat & calories, yikes!  I decided to have just the chili served over rice, with a little avocado on top, and enjoyed that much more!

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Look at the difference in nutrition: Per Serving: 259 Calories; 2g Fat (6.6% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 316mg Sodium.  And that is why I don’t suggest eating cheese on a regular basis!  For a healthier version of Chili Mac, I recommend FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s wonderful recipe. 

Today I’ll be making a Chipotle Corn Chowder, can’t wait to try it!

Have a wonderful day!

The Daily Dish: Italian Noodle Soup

Italian Noodle Soup

As I mentioned, I did some batch cooking over the weekend and one of the dishes I prepared was this Italian Noodle Soup.  The recipe reminded me of a family favorite I made often when my children were small, Tortellini Soup.  It consisted of a bag of frozen tortellini, frozen spinach, broth and some spices.  It was delicious and so easy, I could throw it together with a baby balanced on one hip and a toddler at my feet!  Of course, this was before we went vegan and since I’ve yet to discover a good veg-friendly tortellini, I had to find a substitute.

This recipe from Your Cup of Cake is just as easy to prepare and if topped with some dairy-free Parmesan, I get the same cheesy flavor as the original we knew and loved!  It was so good that I packed up the leftovers and brought them to my daughter’s house where we feasted once again!

09.22 Lunch

Along with a (vegan) Antipasto, kale salad and garlic bread, this was a wonderful meal, made even better by the company I got to share it with.

Cook’s Note: I used about 2 cups more vegetable broth than suggested as the finished product was a little too thick for my taste. I threw in a chopped zucchini that I had on hand for more veggie goodness! I sprinkled dairy-free Parmesan on top of each bowl before serving. This made a generous amount of soup, at least 8 servings, especially if you accompany it with salad and bread as we did. I’d probably use a different kind of pasta next time as the long noodles made it a bit sloppy (but fun!) to eat.

Approximately 8 Servings – Nutritional info (provided by Mastercook) per serving:  224 Calories; 1g Fat (5.3% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1071mg Sodium.

The Verdict: Delicious! So simple to make and the mild flavors make it perfect for children.

Today I’ll say a reluctant goodbye to my girls as we load up the car and head back home.  I’ll be leaving containers of food in my wake, though, some of Mom’s cooking to tide them over til the next visit!

Have a wonderful day!