Menu Planning Monday: Budget Cooking

budget2

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!

apples with clock

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

devilbread

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.

Books

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

D

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

GrilledCheese1

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!

Fiesta Mac2

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!

The Daily Dish: Autumn

Happy Autumn to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere!  Some of you are already experiencing the gorgeous Fall weather and beautiful turning of the leaves, maybe there’s a little chill in the air?  Here in Florida the changes are much more subtle and they don’t happen for a few more weeks.  That doesn’t stop us from indulging in everything the season has to offer, though!  All sorts of squash start filling the shelves and we jump on the pumpkin-spice craze despite the 80+ degree weather outside.

Autumn Trader Joe's

There was an ever-so-slight temperature change the other day, just a little breeze that gave us hope for cooler days ahead.  I took advantage of it and cooked up this Golden Glow-Stuffed Squash from Robin Robertson’s Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.  I used a Carnival Squash, stuffed with a combination of rice, carrots, onions & peppers and a medley of spices.  (The recipe isn’t published online but this is such a wonderful cookbook, you’ll want to buy it for yourself!)

squash

Golden-Glow Stuffed Squash

Cook’s Note: The only change I made was subbing vegetable broth for the olive oil.

Nutritional info (provided by Mastercook) per serving:  356 Calories; 3g Fat (6.3% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 76g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 57mg Sodium.

The Verdict: Delicious!  I loved how easy this recipe was, hardest part was actually cutting the squash in half. (Tip: microwave to soften first.)  Slow cooker recipes are my favorite, I use mine all year around.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did.

Well, I’m off to Trader Joe’s with my girls, hoping they have as big a display of Autumn loveliness as they did last year.

Have a wonderful day!

The Daily Dish: Ethics with a Side of Curry

ethics

When I created my first blog, the whole blogging thing was in its heyday.  People were jumping at the chance to publish their own sites, to put their thoughts/feelings/ideas out there for the masses!  Some were trained writers, but most of us were just your average Joe/Josephine puttering around on the internet, doing it for fun. That was me.  I was just winging it, learning as I went along, posting pics and telling stories, sharing anything and everything that interested me..including recipes.  Back then, there were no rules or even guidelines about what could, or should, be posted on one’s personal blog.  No one talked about copyright infringement.  We just posted what we wanted and it was all good.

Well, here I am eight years later and I’ve learned a thing or two.  I now know that it’s really not cool to post other people’s original content unless you have express permission.  You shouldn’t copy recipes, ver batim, from a cookbook, even if you give credit to the author.  And while it’s not technically illegal, it’s not nice or ethical to “adapt” someone else’s recipe and call it your own.  I have done both of these things in the past, out of pure ignorance, and I am sorry.  Though I’ve never been a big-wig blogger with tons of followers so I doubt I “cost” a cookbook author any money, it still wasn’t right.  Unfortunately, this is all-too common out there in blog-land and the internet in general, and it really infuriates me when I see it.  Some folks, like me, don’t know any better but others..well, let’s just say that professionals should act as such.  No one should be making money or gaining notoriety on someone else’s hard work.

So, you will rarely see an actual recipe on this blog. Unless it’s been passed down from my family or one I’ve tweaked, modified and/or have simply lost the original origin, I won’t be sharing.  I have the utmost respect for the authors who work tirelessly developing wonderful vegan dishes and I will show my appreciation and support by linking to his/her site where he/she has published the recipe or to a store where you can purchase the cookbook.  Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way..grin..how about we talk about food?!

Chip and I have a Friday night routine: happy hour at our favorite tavern, followed by take-out dinner on the way home. We often opt for Thai food as that’s my absolute favorite! I go for a spicy curry while Chip leans toward more milder fare. Well, this past Friday night I decided to save money and calories my making my own dinner. This  Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry recipe is from Chop Chop, a magazine geared toward cooking with children! As a result, it contained only a few ingredients, was very easy to prepare and mild in flavor, perfect for sharing with the spice-averse family members.

Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry ingredients

While the ingredients were simmering, I loaded my rice cooker and had brown rice cooking as well. I then portioned out our servings (taking a little taste, yum!) so that when we came home all I had to do was scoop, reheat and plate!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Curry

Cook’s Note: The only change I made was subbing vegetable broth for the vegetable oil.

Nutritional info (provided by Mastercook) per serving:  352 Calories; 9g Fat (21.7% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 58g Carbohydrate; 13g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 420mg Sodium.

The Verdict: Fantastic! I’d definitely give this one four stars! This wasn’t a complicated dish and though the flavors weren’t complex, it was a good solid curry that satisfied my craving.  This is an easily-adaptable recipe, some baked tofu would be a nice addition!

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did.

Have a wonderful day!

Menu Planning Monday: On the Road Again!

apples with clock

Good morning and Happy Menu Planning Monday! Once again, we’re packing up the motor home and headed back to the Gainesville area. It was such a treat to spend time with my daughters, I can’t wait to see them again!  I loved being able to kick back and share a relaxing lunch  at Kristyn’s house instead of a restaurant; there’s just nothing like a home-cooked meal! (In case you missed it, I posted pics of our feast on last week’s Wordless Wednesday post). So, I’m hoping to do the same this week, and in preparation I’ve chosen some recipes that travel well and which I know my daughters will enjoy.

We had a nice quiet weekend at home, so while Chip was plopped in front of the TV watching football, I did some advance cooking. I’ll be sharing the pics and reviews over the course of the week, hope you’ll stop back by because there are some real winners on this week’s menu!

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.  Sometimes the exact recipe I’m using is not published online so I will share a similar recipe.

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