Vegan Diaries – Eat Deliciously with the Seasons

root veggies

I love restaurants that have a seasonal menu. That usually means they shop at local farms. It also tells me they put some thought into the menu.

I’ve applied that same way of thinking to my kitchen. The result? Eating seasonally is a great way to be healthy on a budget.

Let’s face it, buying tropical fruit in the middle of the winter is going to be expensive.

Instead, buy what’s local and fresh. Your food will taste better, cost less and help your local economy!!

At first it may take a litlle planning. But don’t get overwhelmed, your local farmers market is a great place to stock up each week (This also makes the planning easier- you have to cook what you get that week)

No green markets in the area? Many grocery stores also have a local produce section (even the big chains). This makes the process painless! Your family will also look forward to your favorite seasonal dishes!! Frozen seasonal veggies are also a great way to go. Frozen spinach, frozen kale and frozen squash are nice additions to your freezer. They cook fast and are flexible.

I’m a big fan of soups and stews when the temperatures drop. Huge. Ginormous. They are easy, flavorful and easy on the pockets.

Also I run a veggie into the ground, flipping the script as it were.

Roasted pumpkin, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pureé over pasta, pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin slices in a wrap…..You get the idea. And pumpkins last for-ev-ver…

sandlot-forever-o

Disparities in food wealth have always bothered me.

Green markets are the new train tracks. After spending just one week on a tight food budget, more than ever I know that taking about healthy accessible food is a service that we owe to each other.

So stay tuned for more recipes that are easy, cheap and delicious.

Namaste y’all.

This New York Times video with Michael Pollan is a great clip on staying healthy in the supermarket.

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Vegan Diaries- Building a Pantry

spices_lead

A delicious, nutritious meal is easy to prepare on the day you come home from the grocery store. But as the food dwindles, the urge to order take-out or grab unhealthy frozen pizza grows. Unplanned meals are a way of life. You may not have a personal chef, but with the right pantry you can have great meals that are good for you at a moment’s notice! Great recipes start with a few key ingredients that you can pick up weekly. The secret is adding those ingredients with items already on hand.

A well-stocked pantry isn’t only conducive to a slimmer waist, but it helps fatten the wallet. Over time having supplies becomes more cost-effective. Also, you aren’t racking up extra dollars in the grocery column of your budget!

Feeling a little anxious because your cabinets are bare? Stocking a pantry doesn’t have to done all at once. Make a plan. Give yourself 8-12 weeks to get your pantry in shape. You can spread out the shopping accordingly.

You’d be surprised at how little you need to spend on groceries!

I realized how big a role my pantry plays in my cooking since cutting down my food budget to $5 per day.

Particularly if you live in an area that doesn’t have a ton of markets, a pantry that is properly stocked with things you’ll actually use can

15 items that will get your pantry off to a great start:

  1. Olive oil makes the difference in a recipe as well as adding good fats and antioxidants in your diet
  2. Whole grain pastas have come a long way in the taste department and cook in minutes
  3. Stocks aren’t necessary as a group, but keep at least one on hand- (I LOVE Manischewitz vegetable broth)
  4. Brown rice or whatever healthy grain appeals to you  (barley, bulghur, couscous, quinoa)
  5. Beans, beans and more beans (I keep dried) chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, pinto and black eye peas are currently in mine. They are perfect for soups.
  6. Lettuce like spring greens are appealing because they stay fresh and make any salad a bit more special, but romaine works just as well. And I found some iceberg for .99. Go with what’s on sale and seasonal.
  7. Vinegar like balsamic can be used in everything from salad dressing to roasted veggies
  8. Dijon mustard can be used as part of a marinade or salad dressing in an instant
  9. 1 or two  seasonal vegetables that keep well (With fall coming on the east coast- it’s all about pumpkin and acorn squash baby- cheap and good.)
  10. Canned tomatoes can be used for sauces, on tortillas etc…
  11. Frozen spinach or kale can be added to rice and pasta for an easy meal
  12. Onions are a quick (and cheap) easy way to add flavor without a ton of calories
  13. Garlic that is fresh jazzes up any recipe from salad to fish to grilled veggies
  14. Dried spices like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, kosher salt and pepper are critical. You can also add cumin, cayenne and tarragon if the basics are reside in your spice cabinet. Shopping at ethnic grocery stores can help you find good quality spices at very reasonable prices. Buying spices whole also last longer and retain flavor.

Bonus points for:

dried fruits and nuts, firm tofu, tortillas

 

Are there pantry items you can’t live without? Please tell me in the comment section! I’m always looking for new additions!

Namaste y’all!

Vegan Diaries – 21 Meals, 35 Bucks (Days 6 and 7 and Recap)

Brussels sprouts with balsamic

This week didn’t turn out as I planned.

I wanted to repot that this was super easy and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be eating a yummy vegan life on the cheap.

It was hard. With my teaching schedule, practice, projects and the meager social life I try to have seamless transition aren’t the first words that jump out.

On Days 6 and 7 I grabbed a few apples for breakfast and lunch. I had soup on Day 6 and another hummus wrap on Day 7.

Dinners were easy and I think that was my biggest takeaway. Focus on one meal that will be the most satisfying. It doesn’t have to be the same meal, but one meal is the biggie nonetheless.

I’m an oatmeal girl when it gets cold so oatmeal that’s a no-brainer.

Other things that made me hmmm:

1. Beans. This is going to be another post. Dried beans are the way to go. Sure they take time to soak, but they are hella cheap. And frankly, my hummus is better with chick peas I’ve made myself. This is also due to Nadia Zerka’s recipe, but I can expand on that in the beans post. Back to my point, beans are a great way to get protein into a vegan diet. As I also read in a NYT food blog, they are back in fashion. Beans are the new black and all that.

2. Eating well on a budget is definitely possible, but it takes time. I’ve mentioned the pantry issue. My pantry is pretty well stocked. I’ve spices, grains and though I dumped a lot of condiments when I moved, I slowly building back my stash.

3. I’m also fortunate because I don’t live in a food desert. I have access to farmer’s markets and big grocery stores that have great prices on fresh food.

4. I enjoyed eating more and was more mindful because I knew it took time and thought to prepare something good in a budget.

Day 6

Breakfast

2 apples

Lunch

Dinner

Brussels sprouts roasted with balsamic over brown rice

This was very tasty. But I used balsamic, not on the list and from my pantry.

The recipe itself is super easy.

1. Toss Brussels sprouts in olive oil, chopped garlic, balsamic. Add salt and pepper.

2. Roast in a 425° oven for 25-30 minutes. Toss midway through cook time.

3. Serve over a bed of brown rice.

Day 7

Breakfast

Apples and hummus

Lunch

Leftovers from dinner.

Dinner

I skipped dinner which is a terrible idea, but by the end of the week I was low on groceries and wasn’t inspired to make anything. Next week I’m planning on making soup. This should take care of skipping dinner because nothing is handy.

So there you go. It was harder than I thought.

Stay tuned for week 2.

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – 21 Meals and 35 Bucks (Days 4 and 5)

photo-7

So not every meal was great. I think that I’m going to lean on my pantry more this week.

Concepts that seemed delicious in theory flopped in execution because they lacked some necessary items that weren’t on the list.

My plan on Day 5 was shredded Brussels sprouts with quinoa.

Because I skipped lunch, combining the two meals seemed smart.

I make a killer sweet potato pancake. Hey, with the sprouts, this was looking like it may be the best meal yet!

Wrong.

I didn’t use anything to bind the sweet potatoes so they because more of a hash. A tasty curry spiced hash, but not the delish latke I was anticipating.

All jokes aside, it’s opened my eyes to living on a tight food budget.

Someone mentioned that the meals seemed too small. I inadvertently lost a pound.

A strong pantry is important.

I smell another post.

Namaste y’all.

Day 4

Lunch

  • Soup

Dinner

  • White bean, Sweet Potato and Kale Stir-Fry

Day 5

Lunch

  • Sweet Potato

Dinner

  • Quinoa with shredded Brussels sprouts

Vegan Diaries – 21 Meals 35 Bucks (Days 2 and 3)

photo-5

The quality of food definitely matters.

 

 

 

Day 2

Breakfast

  • Apples and hummus

Lunch

  • Soup and a half serving of the kale with chickpeas

Dinner

  • Salad with sautéed green beans and quinoa

I seasoned the green beans with a splash of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and rosemary. This was DELISH and be in regular rotation. Fresh green beans would be very tasty, but the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s worked and are just what you need to cook dinner in a flash. All told this took under 20 minutes. At 1.11 per serving you can’t beat it.

 

Day 3

Breakfast

  • Banana

Lunch

  • Soup with leftover green beans and quinoa

Dinner

  • Burrito with groundless beef, greens, black beans and quinoa (leftover from day 2)

photo-6

 

Stay tuned for Days 4 and 5 as well as a end of week recap.

 

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – 21 meals 35 bucks

21 meals 35 bucks

Post by Oneika’s Yoga Life.

So, Eat Well on the Cheap was a great post what wasn’t well thought out.

I decided to go back to the drawing board.

7 days. 21 meals. 5 bucks a day.

Grand plans of menu planning danced in my head- but here in reality I ended up at Trader Joe’s. In actuality, this is a better plan because I want to see how reasonable it is to eat well with a few bucks.

My cash went further than I thought it would at Trader Joe’s.

I spent $25 there. I need some tortillas (1.89), beans (1.49 for two bags) and Thai basil (1.50 for 1 giant bunch)  from my favorite Asian grocery store.

That leaves me with $3. I’m going to save that to see if some veggies jump out at me at the farmer’s market this week.

Here’s what I scored:

  • bag of Gala apples
  • 4 bananas – biggest steal at .19 ea
  • bag of Brussels sprouts
  • frozen green beans
  • 2 large onions
  • bag of greens for salad
  • Carrot Ginger Soup (4 servings) This was $2.79 and I figure an easy lunch.
  • Groundless Beef
  • 2 large sweet potatoes

I did already have quinoa, brown rice and a bag of chick peas.

Here’s the menu for tomorrow.

Day 1

Breakfast

  • Banana
  • Apple

Lunch

  • Hummus sandwich

(Hummus, handful of greens, onions, oil, lemon juice and spices)

  • Apple

Dinner

photo-4

  • Stir Fry- brown rice, kale, onions and chick peas

This recipe is super easy.

  1. Sauté onions and minced garlic for 5 minutes
  2. Add the brown rice and kale and chick peas
  3. Sauté for five minutes add a few splashes of water. I probably would have added some lemon juice, but they weren’t in the purchased items list.
  4. I did add salt and pepper. Hot pepper flakes would be nice too if you have them in your pantry.
  5. The leftovers will be great in a wrap!

Almost 9 months ago, I watched Vegucated and decided to give a vegan lifestyle a go. Since then I’ve adopted completely vegetarian, and mostly vegan way of life. I do confess to eating artisan cheese once in awhile. I also indulge in honey.

Overall, it’s been a game changer- I feel great. My skin looks great and I’ve reduced my carbon footprint- which in turn is good for you.

Alas, I still have people saying, “But I can’t eat healthy without spending lots of money…” and “Eating healthy and cheap doesn’t taste good.”

Right. I’m calling bullshit. So for the next two weeks I’m going to eat for less than $5 a day. I’m doing two weeks because anyone can suck up a week. I’m not doing a month because that too will get boring (not for me, for you my friends).

I’ll include recipes that aren’t complicated, but they will all be tasty (at least I hope, when they aren’t, I’ll share that too).

And here we go.

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – Pizza Treats

I feel like the toughest part of a diet that is 80% plant based is creating tasty snacks or appetizers. Let’s face it, there’s only so much crudite a person can eat. I mean how many carrots sticks and cucumber slices can you serve before getting an eye roll (my everlasting love of cucumbers not withstanding).

People operate with the best of intentions, right? That extends to healthy eating. If options were out there, we would snatch them up like a lion chasing its prey.

Well Simba, the search is over. Mama’s got a little something I think you’ll enjoy!

These treats are great for movie night or a slumber party. They’re gluten-free low and fat and really delicious. And at 21 calories each you’re not breaking the calorie bank. The only thing you’ll likely need to buy is cauliflower so on top of all that, it’s economical too!!!

I know the good times are rollin’.

Let’s get down.

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 2 c cauliflower
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 c Tofutti Better Than Ricotta (I actually can’t believe how good this is…)
  • 1 T oregano (I went very heavy with the spices, you can adjust but I feel the spices give it that pizza taste)
  • 1T red pepper flakes
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 oz Vegan Parmesan shredded
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Non-stick spray for muffin tin (or muffin wrappers)
  • Pasta sauce or pizza sauce for dipping

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. In the food processor, chop the cauliflower and garlic until it’s the consistency of rice
  3. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or pot
  4. Saute the cauliflower and add the spices
  5. Cook for 4-5 minutes
  6. Transfer mixture to bowl
  7. Fold in ricotta
  8. Chill mixture in frig for 1 hour
  9. Use muffin wrappers in tin
  10. Mixture should be packed down into tin so they don’t fall apart
  11. Cook for 30-40 minutes (check at 25 minutes)
  12. Cauliflower should be brown and crispy
  13. Make sure muffin tin cools or appetizers will break apart
  14. Serve with pizza sauce!

These much more decadent than they should!

Namaste y’all!!

Vegan Diaries- Ratatouille

inspired recipes, vegan, meatless monday, middle eastern eggplant, grilling, stews,

 

 

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Stult’s Farm in Plainsboro, NJ. New Jersey is the Garden State!

 

My trip to Stult’s farm in Plainsboro, NJ was fruitful indeed. This family owned farm has been around since 1912 and they only sell what they grow. In addition, there are a ton of items you can pick yourself. Strawberry picking as a kid seemed like such an adventure!

 

I bought:

  • Middle Eastern zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes (Jersey tomatoes are THE BEST)
  • Basil
  • Corn

 

My haul in tow, I got home and looked at my goodies and decided to pass on my orginal plan and go with making Ratatouille instead!!!

 

Oh the deliciousness that awaits!  Ratatouille originated in Nice, France. It comes from the verb ‘toiller’ which means to toss. It started out as a peasant dish made by farmers in the summer. True Ratatouille only had tomatoes, zucchini, green and red bell peppers, onions and garlic. A bit later eggplant was added in.

 

I like the rustic aspect of this dish mostly because it means that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. At least that’s how I interpret ‘rustic’. This dish does take some work, but boy is it worth it. It’s perfect for a casual dinner with friends or a Sunday meal. The leftovers make an easy Meatless Monday lunch!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 summer squash or zucchini
  • 3 tomatoes roughly diced and seeded
  • 2 peppers roughly chopped (I used red and yellow)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 3 springs fresh oregano removed from stem and chopped
  • 1 c mushrooms roughly chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/4 red wine
  • 3/4 c vegetable broth or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preparation
 
  1. Cut the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise sprinkle with salt/pepper and grill 4-5 minutes per side
  2. Simultaneously, in a large dutch oven saute onions, peppers, garlic, oregano, mushrooms and corn
  3. Turn down the heat on dutch oven when the onions become translucent
  4. Roughly chop the eggplant and zucchini and add to mixture in dutch oven
  5. Add tomatoes, broth and wine.
  6. Simmer for 15-20 minutes
  7. Garnish with fresh basil
Serve hot!
 
You can serve over quinoa, rice or couscous. A crusty 7 grain bread would also be lip smackingly perfect.

 

 

inspired recipes, vegan, meatless monday, middle eastern eggplant, grilling, stews,
This is before liquid and tomatoes were added. I know, someone needs to bust out the bigger dutch oven.

 

Enjoy… And for a little dinner music I included Kool & the Gang’s Summer Madness…

 

Be cool Jack.

 

Namaste y’all.

Vegan Diaries – The Big Salad

photo the recklesschef.com

Episode 88 of Seinfeld was a monumental day for salad everywhere. Hearing George Castanza shriek about Ellaine having to have the ‘biiiiig salad’, we all started to give salad a second look. It used to be just an afterthought to be ignored on a plate but I’m convinced Episode 88 gave salad the limelight it deserves!!!

And as long as you don’t go mad with the dressing, salads are great for you. My favorite salad is actually pretty spartan- cucumbers, lettuce, Meyer lemon juice, light tasting olive oil, flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper.

I eat my salad alone. Sometimes I have my salad as a sandwich- sometimes I

meatless monday, black women yoga, summer salads

What’s your favorite salad?

Namaste y’all!