Friday, January 31, 2014

January Favorites (Happy New Year!)

Apparently my mind gets blown by how fast time passes on a regular basis. Like, it's February tomorrow? Next week is my fourth week of classes? Where is this year going, already?? Anyways, this was a great month of food and it was hard for me to pick 10 recipes to share (as you can see, I added a couple more). For a couple of weeks, I stuck to the meal plan I made for the month. Then I got bored with it, and found myself actually spending more time re-adjusting my monthly plan than I did when I planned by the week. So, obviously, that monthly meal planning thing went out the window due to our erratic schedules etc. Starting next week, I will be blogging a little differently. I am going to start doing Friday posts with food links etc. and then one weekly post about food that I've made and other things in my life. So get excited!

1. Apple-Miso Tofu with Rice + Orange-Scented Broccoli
One thing I've really been enjoying lately is marinating tofu/tempeh and roasting it in the oven with other vegetables. It's so easy and always delicious. I've done this many times now, using different recipes, and they've never disappointed. Apples and miso may not sound like they go well together, but trust me. The soft sweet apples pair perfectly with salty miso and sweet mirin. The broccoli was also a delicious side to everything. Both recipes are from Appetite For Reduction but I found the tofu recipe online too//Rainy Day Veggies

2. Pasta Con Broccoli
This could be my new favorite pasta dish. Broccoli is cooked with a TON of garlic, plus white wine and vegetable stock, then tossed with pasta. I, of course, doused mine in nutritional yeast, which made it even tastier. I don't think I'll ever get tired of how amazing Isa's recipes are. This is also from Appetite for Reduction (see above), but I found this recipe online too//Food

3. Arroz Con Tempeh
I remember making arroz con pollo a few years ago in a Dutch oven, and I remember it being very flavorful and delicious. When I saw this arroz con tempeh in my new cookbook, I immediately had to make it. It completely exceeded my expectations and I couldn't believe how flavorful it was. I will definitely be making this again and again. Mike hates olives and I caught him eating a few from this dish! Plus it has a ton of vegetables in it, which is always a good thing! //One Dish Vegan

4. Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Do you have those long, awful days where you just want to fall over? That was me on my first day back to classes, which spanned 11 am - 630 pm with a doctors appointment squeezed in between. I kinda forced myself to put this soup in the slow cooker before I went to class, and I did not regret it. I was always intrigued by the idea of baked potato soup, but hooooly crap it's amazing. Don't skip the cashew cream, green onions or nutritional yeast toppings either//Fresh From the Vegan Slow-Cooker

5. Miso Sesame Winter Squash + Tofu
Here's another example of my new obsession with roasting/marinating, except this one doesn't have to marinate! This combination of citrus, miso, molasses, soy sauce, etc is so incredibly comforting. My squash wasn't quite 2 pounds, so I just made up the difference by using a whole package of tofu. I highly recommend serving this over quinoa with lemon wedges and sriracha!//101 Cookbooks

6. Brussels Sprouts Tacos + Guacamole + Fixins'
So Mike never gets food cravings, which is still kinda weird to me. So for our one year anniversary, I begged him to have a preference. Just this once. Just pick something you want for dinner! So he said: "Brussels sprouts." I ransacked my archives (aka 100+ paged recipe word doc) and pulled out 6 brussels recipes. He settled on this brussels sprouts taco recipe. I made a lazy version of it by making my own guacamole (I despise blender guacamole), using hard corn tortillas instead of pan frying soft ones, and using leftover homemade pintos. Let me just say, these were the best tacos I've had in a looong time. Oh my goodness. Just trust me. Don't skimp on the guac, chili lime Cholula, cilantro and green onions. It really makes it//See You in the Morning

7. Christmas Lima Stew
So it should be clear by now that I love beans. Like, I really really do and I don't care if it sounds weird. There's a bean club from Rancho Gordo that is pretty much a dream come true and I daydream about it often. Enough weird talk. This soup was incredible. My mom had us over for dinner and she made this with these beautiful purple Christmas lima beans. This soup has two whole heads of celery, a ton of olive oil, and it's garnished with lemon juice and black olives. Oh, and did I mention there are caraway seeds and celery salt involved? So yes. This is the soup of my dreams. Also, how pretty is mom's wedding china?//101 Cookbooks

8. TLAT (Tempeh Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato Sandwich)
This sandwich was a revelation. Seriously. I have very few words to say about it, except make it right now. The tempeh doesn't taste like real bacon, obviously, but it still makes a damn good sandwich. I highly recommend lettuce, tomato, avocado and vegan mayo. If you're feeling really fancy, use miso mayo. And serving it with homemade split pea soup wouldn't hurt either//Vegan Peace

 9. Black-Eyed Pea + Kale Curry with Potatoes
This could be my new favorite winter curry. Black-eyed peas, kale, potatoes, perfectly sauteed thin red onions and two sliced jalapenos. The base is simpler than most curry recipes, but it creates a subtle flavor profile for the vegetables to really shine. We had it with avocado mango salsa on top (as the recipe suggests) on the first night, and that created a very interesting addition to the curry! But it's amazing on its own too. I wanted to use collards but mine were sad looking, but kale was and always is a tasty substitute//The PPK

10. Banana Snacking Cake
We FINALLY had a snow day. I seriously think we get one a year. Whenever it snows, I have to bake something. Even if I have real life stuff to do (i.e. homework). I had some bananas I needed to use up, so I settled on this snacking cake. This cake was so easy to make, delicious, and moist. You cover the cake for an hour, which helps the cake absorb more moisture. This is definitely one of the most moist GF cakes I've made. And it's perfect for snacking, obviously, and isn't laden with vegan butter or a ton of sugar. I'm also proud to say I made homemade brown sugar for this cake and I'm almost convinced it made it taste better. For conversions, I used: 1/4 C sorghum flour, 1/4 C tapioca starch + 1 tsp xanthan gum in place of the 1/2 C spelt flour. It really doesn't need the frosting, but I'm sure it would be amazing with it!//Sprouted Kitchen

11. Buffalo Chickpea Burgers 
I've realized that vegan burgers are awesome. They're quick to prepare, filling, and they're basically hands-free. I've had my eyes on these for a while now and finally made them. You guys, they have four ingredients. That's crazy. I made a double batch so that we could have extras and I'm glad I did because they're AMAZING. The buffalo sauce is seriously the only spice you need, but of course I added more on top. They take about 5 minutes to prep, chill for 20, then they bake for 30. I highly highly recommend them. You can also freeze the leftovers, which is awesome! I topped ours with vegan mayo, hot sauce, and green pepper (red onion is also good) then wrapped in lettuce//Fo Reals Life

12. Broiled Grapefruit Oatmeal
Finding a new favorite food blog sometimes feels like finding a new really good friend who just gets you on so many levels. Right now, that blog is Oatgasm. I saw this recipe on Foodgawker and was intrigued, so I clicked on the link to see the name of her blog. Then I scrolled through the entire blog. By the end of it, I was drooling and my eyes were wide. Also, the author is only 15 years old, which is mind boggling. Her writing and recipe creativity exceeds anything I could pull out of my head at that age. So expect to see more recipes from her because I plan on making pretty much all of them. Oh and this grapefruit broiled oatmeal is incredible. I felt like a Queen eating it at my sad little desk this morning, but it will seriously keep you full and make you feel super cool for broiling your oatmeal (and eating warm grapefruit)//Oatgasm

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to Meal Plan

Since I've been living in my apartment, I've taught myself to meal plan. It blows my mind that people can spontaneously plan dinner the same day they cook it. I am one of those people who has to know what they're doing in advance, or it drives me crazy. I guess you could say I'm a little type-A about being organized. Meal planning has become something I really enjoy now, and I think some of you will too! Meal planning is great for students, or just anyone who is busy and wants a more slightly structured meal schedule. 

So what decides what I eat and when? 

  1. What season is it?
I try to only use local, seasonal produce when possible. For example, I don't eat zucchini in winter because it's not the appropriate season for it; so I will eat winter squashes instead. This helps me decide what recipes I can use, depending on what month it is. Some sites, like naturally ella, focus heavily on seasonal produce and recipes. Seasons also decide what type of dishes I'm cooking. Since it's winter, I'm doing mostly warm dishes, with a few salads every now and then. In the summer, I do pretty much the opposite.
  1. What day of the week is it?
During the school year, I obviously have more time to cook on the weekends. But during the school year, it's somewhat of a struggle. During the week, I choose quick, easy meals or things that can be made in the slow-cooker. On the weekend, I can choose more slightly involved recipes since I'm not on campus all day. I also like to spend extra time in the kitchen on weekends to distract myself from school. 
  1. How late do I have class?
This semester, I have class until 630 two nights a week, which is very late for me. I kind of panicked at first, but found a way around it: slow-cookers! I have two: a big one and a little 1.5 qt one, that's perfect for breakfast. Luckily I do have about 4 hours in between classes on these days, but I don't have to worry at all with a slow-cooker. So I plan on using slow-cooker recipes on these days in order to have dinner done when I get home. Alternatively, if you have class late, you can cook something in that 4 hour time slot in between classes, and just reheat it later.
  1. What am I in the mood for?
I don't get too many food cravings, but when I do, I have to cook it. When Mike is away on business, I tend to cook nutritional yeast heavy dishes or dishes packed with mushrooms, since he doesn't eat either of them. There are so many dishes that I cook at certain times of the year, so that is another factor to consider. Also be sure to include ingredients that need to be used up soon, like vegetables or pantry items that are expiring soon!
  1. What's my budget?
If you are on a tight budget, this should be one of your main things to consider when meal planning. Are you sticking to a food budget for each month? Do you want to go from spending $200 a month, to less, for example? Pick recipes with minimal ingredients, use dried beans, make vegetable broth from scratch, etc. Pinching pennies is easier than you think! 

So how do you meal plan?

What You Need:

  1. Sources: cookbooks, blogs, family recipes, or just make recipes up!
  2. Calendar/Schedule: factor in your school/work schedule, appointments, vacations, etc.
  3. Budget: calculate your budget for the month
  4. Shopping List: make a shopping list (note: I don't shop at one place because they don't tend to have the best prices on everything. I make separate lists for different stores or the farmer's market)
  5. Food Goals to Initiate (optional): are you trying to eat more greens? eat less meat (ex: meatless mondays)? try a new food a week? factor this into your meal plan, and any other food goals you set for yourself
How to Start: 

  1. Length: decide how much time you are planning: a month, a week, etc. 
  2. Calendar: either write out on paper or type up the days of the week. I split my shopping lists by week so my perishables don't go bad. Note any nights that you are working/going to class late, appointments, travel, or any nights that you don't have a lot of time
  3. Choose sources: what are you cooking from? what looks most interesting to you from these sources? how long does the recipe take? is it very difficult? will other people I live with like it? remember these factors when choosing sources for recipes.
  4. Select recipes: choose recipes accordingly for each day. I only plan dinners, because we have always have leftovers the next day and breakfasts vary for us. Feel free to plan all three meals, however! I also like to split ingredients up so we aren't having beans 4 nights a week, or tofu for two days straight.
  5. Make your list: for each month, I have been making a dry ingredient list, which allows me to stock up on non-perishables without doing it every week. That way, we only have to buy perishables (separate list) for each week. This saves money and time, overall. Remember that dried beans and bulk grains will save you money! Canning your own diced tomatoes, making homemade broth, and other frequently used items are also great ways to save.
  6. Make a prep sheet (optional): now that you've made your lists, feel free to go one step further: make a prep sheet for each week. For example: since I am cooking dried beans, I note how much of each bean I need to cook for the week, and freeze the leftovers. Anything else I can do in advance I try to do on the weekend before. This will you save you so much time during the actual week ahead! See my last post about food goals where I talk about dried beans. Put them in the slow-cooker on saturday while you're out, and they're done when you get home! It's that easy. Make this list for anything you can prep in advance: dressings, purees, beans, even grains!

I hope this helps you all meal plan! I can't tell you how much better it's made my cooking schedule in general. Please feel free to leave any additional questions in the comments!

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 Food Goals

I guess I really should have posted this two days ago, but I've been so caught up in traveling and accepting the fact that classes start soon, that I haven't had a second to set goals. After some thought, and discussion with Mike, here are some food-related goals I will try to implement this year: 

1. Cooking only dried beans 
I have been so bad about doing this. I have pounds and pounds in my pantry, but I never cook them. It's usually a "I don't have time thing", which is silly because in reality, this is easier and cheaper. Here's the breakdown: 
-1 can (15 oz) of beans are typically anywhere between $0.89-$2 depending on where you get them. Sodium can be sky-high and no-salt beans are usually a little more expensive. These take no time to cook, BUT:
-1 pound of organic dried beans can cost anywhere between $2-$4 depending on where you get them. NO sodium, unless you add them to your cooking water. You can even add seaweed (kombu) or a bay leaf to make them more digestible. You soak them for 8-12 hours (aka before you go to bed), so that's like 1 minute prep. Then drain, rinse, put them in a pot with fresh water and cook for up to 2 hours. In those 2 hours, you can do homework, check your email, hell you could even shower! Or you can cook them between 5-7 hours in a slow-cooker while you're gone. 
But what am I going to do with the leftover beans? 
That's the awesome thing. You freeze them so you always have some on hand! So dried beans are just a win-win situation.

2. Buying frequently used items in bulk
I can't tell you how much it irks me when I have to go out for just one thing. I hate it because it's such a waste. Here's how to prevent that: about 85% of the recipes I make always have onions. So I bought this bag of about 12 onions for $1.77, which is insanely cheap. I also bought a 5lb bag of potatoes for $4. I use potatoes to add bulk to dishes, soups, baked potatoes, home fries or mashed potatoes. You can always have a meal with potatoes in your pantry. This also includes dried beans and grains for me. I always have: lentils (green, black, and red), dried pintos, dried chickpeas, dried black beans, etc. you get the idea. I also have quinoa, brown rice, basmati and jasmine rice too. These will all last for quite a while in the pantry. If you really want to win, cook up some batches of rice and beans and freeze them for months for easy meals! 

 3. Cook from my cookbooks every week and choose recipes wisely
Alright y'all, if I haven't made this clear already, cooking during the school year is almost always a nightmare for me. Especially now, with 15 credit hours and being on campus til' 6:30 PM two nights a week, I am panicking. But I'm trying not to. Here's how:
-Reminding myself that food should never be a stressful situation for me, which is why I never eat out unless its an emergency
-Keeping a stocked pantry of vegan/gluten-free emergency meals (just in case)
-This year, I'm planning my meals one month at a time to reduce school time stress. I picked meals that work with my schedule, choosing slow-cooker recipes for the days I'm on campus late so that Mike can go home and turn it off, and voila! Dinner is done
-Keeping in mind that I should look forward to cooking because it's a chance for me to not have to read/speak/write in French or read/write something about english literature (which is almost always a blessing)

4. Do dishes everyday (no matter what)
This is a big one for me. I keep telling myself if I do a little bit everyday, they won't pile up (which is common sense, I know). But I get lazy and debate between doing homework or dishes and deciding which one is more important, which usually ends up in me watching Archer to try and calm down. So this year, I vow to keep my kitchen and sink (and hell, my entire apartment) neat and tidy. Again, a great way to shut my brain off from school, which I very rarely can do. 

5. Try making homemade sauces instead of store-bought
 It's silly how expensive salsa, pasta sauce and pizza sauce are. Mike and I talk all the time about it. I wish I could stay home and just pickle, preserve and make all kinds of sauces with an overflowing freezer of them. However...if I choose one little project a month to do, then it will add up. Here is homemade pizza sauce from Vegan with Vengeance, which was amazing by the way. I'm going to freeze it in muffin tins, then pop it in a freezer safe bag. Some other things I would like to make are: ginger beer concentrate, pasta sauce, jam, pumpkin/butternut puree, and salsa. Harissa and sriracha would also be fun to make! 

6. Explore new gluten-free grains
I get so stuck on my usual rice and quinoa bandwagon that I forget about the ridiculous amount of GF grains: millet, amaranth, red rice, black rice, green rice! I mean, the possibilities are endless. I get dizzy standing in the bulk aisles of Deep Roots or Whole Foods just looking at all the options. But I always opt for the easy quinoa or rice, that both cook in my handy-dandy little rice cooker. Oh and I highly recommend a rice cooker, if you don't have one! I use to burn rice all the time, and this totally prevents that! You can also leave cooked grains in there for up to 4 hours plugged in and it switches to "warm" automatically. It's amazing. 

7. Drink plenty of water daily
This is probably my biggest problem, and it makes me feel pretty stupid. I mean, who doesn't drink enough water? With some quick research, however, I found that 75% of Americans are perpetually dehydrated. Well, damn. I don't feel so bad. But with someone who has chronic digestive issues, I need a lot of water. Being dehydrated only makes my digestion problems worse, but drinking lots of water makes me feel better. It can also give you more energy and a sense of clear-headedness. It's been said that sometimes when people are tired or hungry, or even have a headache, they are really just dehydrated. I suffered from serious spontaneous nausea for months last year, that didn't make sense to me. I increased my water intake significantly, and it went away. I bought this very helpful app, because I am mostly just forgetful about drinking water, called "Water your body". It has reminders for how much water you need to be drinking. Above, it calculates the amount needed based on exercise and body weight. 

8. Shop smartly and locally (when possible)
One thing we are trying this month is to only get produce from the farmer's market and dry items from Trader Joe's, because they are the cheapest place around us. I'm now trying to make lists by the month, which I divide into: farmer's market (by week), TJ's (by month), and miscellaneous (by week) which is for items we cannot get at the market/TJs. I am hoping this will not only prove to be cost effective, but stress reducing as well. I also really love going to the farmers market and supporting them, although I wish the ones near us were a little better with variety. We went to the market a couple of months ago, spent $25, and ate off of that produce for 2-3 weeks. It only makes sense to shop there, plus its local, which is always awesome.