Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vegan on a Budget (Vegan Photo Album 4)

Living on a limited budget (I know it may not seem like it but I'm living on pennies, prayers, and air here, thank God for VISA and MasterCard), I have had to look at ways to cut back on my food and grocery spending. A portion of my budget is taking care of acupuncture, naturopathy, and herbal meds which I hope I can claim the receipts on next year's income tax. In addition to my decision to eat a plant-based, mostly organic diet, it ain't cheap!!! It was very refreshing to discover Vegan on the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies that Save You Time and Money by Robin Robertson. (Read my review here.) Robin has probably written more vegan cookbooks than anyone on this planet. You can visit her site here. I believe it did that (most of the time) and the meals were (mostly) tasty and inexpensive. (Please read my review of this book.) I must say that I have noticed a decrease in my grocery receipts over the last few weeks. I have also made some foods from other vegan cookbooks I have been using.

I noticed that the last Vegan Photo Album that I posted is pretty popular. I hope that this one (Vegan on a Budget) shows you even more how doable a vegan lifestyle is. Some people ask if I get enough protein or am missing out on anything. Hopefully after you see this album, you will put those doubts to rest.

I love posting my Vegan Photo Albums but they are very time consuming. This one has taken be about six hours in total. I have to figure out a more time-efficient way to do it. Trust me! I love cooking these foods and showing them off so it is a labour of love, no doubt.

Dan-Dan Style Linguine from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
Hot and spicy, peanuty and creamy are some of my favourite food words. This dish is made with tempeh and I believe that this was the first time that I cooked this nutritious fermented tofu treat. Tempeh has amazing health benefits. Because it is fermented, it contains the whole soy bean, retains its nutrition, and is probiotic (contains beneficial bacteria which restores the good balance of bacteria in your intestines). Plus it is easier to digest and is not estrogen-rich. Women with estrogen-sensitive breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer are advised to avoid or limit soy products. I think this is good advice. Being a vegan, I find it tricky to limit soy-product intake. It's everywhere! (Especially in meat replacement products.) According to Kris Carr in the Crazy Sexy Diet, there is tons of research that proclaims the benefits of soy products (few menopause symptoms, fewer cancers, less osteoporosis, stronger bones) too as well as some that announces some of its downfalls (thyroid complications, fewer sperm for men, increased prostate cancer risk). It is best to eat the non-processed stuff but again as a vegan it is harder to avoid this stuff (often contained in veggie dogs, ground beef substitutes, veggie burgers, etc.) I think the best thing is moderation. Dan-Dan, I learned, is a traditional spicy Szechuan noodle dish.

Tempeh that has just been boiled for 30 minutes, cooled, and then crumbled a bit.

The tempeh sizzles.

Creamy peanutty, spicy sauce! I got to get my "peanut fix" when I'm not working as a teacher since all of the schools in my province are "peanut-free zones", so my lunches cannot contain this stuff..

Ready for my fiancé and me. Topped with peanuts and green onions.

Very tasty and satisfying. We loved this dish.

Simply Simmered Seitan from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
This is my third attempt at making seitan and my second recipe for this treat. Seitan, pronounced say-tan or see-tin (I have not figured out how to pronounce this words as it tends to differ depending who you ask), is made from gluten flour (a protein that comes from wheat). It originated in Asia and consumed by Buddhist vegetarian monks. Seitan is an excellent source of protein, especially for those who have soy allergies or estrogen-sensitive conditions. Seitan is not so good if you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy. I have tasted good seitan and bad and I must say that this recipe falls in the former category. At first I was a little skeptical since the pieces tasted so salty, however I loved how it tasted amazing in the Savory Vegetable Cobbler, listed below. What makes the seitan so brown and salty? The soya sauce. I used tamari in this case.

Cooked in a broth of onions, garlic, and, you guessed it, soya sauce.

Looks like meatloaf...

Tastes like roast...

Texture like a softer version of a meatloaf.

Savory Vegetable Cobbler in 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
This dish was ama-zing!!! It made an ample 6 servings and I unfortunately had just 2. (I took them in containers on my writing retreat. Even microwaved two days later, this was amazing stuff.) This dish is a great example of veganizing a classic comfort food! Great for cold winter evenings except I had it in the summer. Much like a veggie pot pie. The seitan was slightly salty (adding a bit to the salt quotient in this dish) but not over powering. The herbs and spices were savoury and mild kind of French tasting with marjoram, sage, and thyme. I used spelt flour for the sauce and topping. This was so tasty I need to have my girl friends over to have some.

A great way to hide celery (not my favourite vegetable but so good for you) by stirring it in with some veggies.

Adding the secret sauce (actually, it's some sort of gravy). It is browned with soya sauce. I used tamari.

I tried to spread the topping out as much as I could. The recipe said I was allowed to cheat so you can see the stuff below peaking through. The topping is not symmetrical and does not go right to sides but it bakes up nice.

The crust is f&*(^# awesome!!!

A yummy balanced meal with some steamed kale and cherry tomatoes on the side.

Quick Lo Mein from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
This was a fairly simple and straightforward meal to prepare. The recipe said I could use ramen noodles (the cheap noodles that come in packs) but they tend to be higher in sodium, low in nutrition, and I will never forget the lady who worked at the dollar store who said she used to feed them to her cat. Instead, I chose whole grain spaghetti which is more power-packed.

Tasty noodly goodness.

Stovetop Cheezee Mac from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
Bleck! Oops, did I say that out loud. The idea of easy cheesy macaroni a la vegan sounded wonderful, yet my fiancé and I could not but get through all of the servings. He barely finished one, I had three since I hate to throw food away but in the end I did throw it away. :-( The first mistake, I made this macaroni using Le Creuset cookware. Given to us as a gift from a garage sale (in mint condition!!!), Le Creuset is made from iron and heats up super-fast. It's enamel coating is not non-stick (which I keep forgetting). This mean that the pasta and sauces stuck to the bottom too quick for me to keep up. Another problem, the recipe said that the sauce should thicken so while I waited longer to see that my beautiful cheezee sauce was burning a little bit. And even I took out the very few burnt bits, there was this burnt taste to the whole dish. Finally, this dish lacked salt which made the "cheeze" unconvincing and unsatisfying.

Started off well. The macaroni looks good.

The cheeze sauce is smooth and creamy.

Green peas added.

This is about when it started to go wrong (and taste burnt).

Oh it looks so good. Sigh! Too bad it tastes like crap.

Coconut Curry Rice from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
I love the combination of coconut with rice. What a lovely invention!!! This was a satisfying meal!

I soaked the raw chick peas for two days. Yes! Two days!!! I don't know if you already know this but let me tell you what happens to chick peas after soaking for two days. First, it smells and second, it sprouts and third, it gets mucus-y (or sappy, depends on your perceptions). Even though I placed these soaked peas in the refrigerator after day one and I had a piece of seaweed soaking with them (the seaweed breaks up the sugars that cause gas), I found I had to rinse, rinse, rinse that stinky smell out. It never completely left until I boiled those suckers with more seaweed. And yes, you can eat sprouted chick peas.

A yummy savoury masterpiece. Curry makes anything taste good.

Tropical Betty from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
This dish could be called something I can't name here. It is sooooo good. Once I learned that I could put both the ripening bananas from on top of my refrigerator and the ripe mango my father gave me, along with pineapple and more coconut goodness, all in the same dish, I knew I had a winner on my hands. Warning: Ladies, if you feed this to your partner be prepared for them to grant you any wish you request. (Okay, maybe not any wish but I tried.) This is a refreshingly sweet tropical treat. The crust is a combo of shredded coconut, bread crumbs, sugar, almond milk, and butter. So good, I ate it raw too.

Yummy tropical filling.

The crust that tastes good raw and cooked.

Topped with some Vanilla Island coconut ice cream from Coconut Bliss.

Penne-Wise Peanutty Pasta from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
This peanutty pasta survived the LeCreuset trip. Perhaps, I kept a sharper eye. The result was a very tasty, slightly sweet meal that was filling and satisfying.

Sneaking in the veggies.

Indian-Spiced Lentil Ragu from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson

This was such a tasty treat. I loved to eat this ragu just like this by the spoonful. Forget the rice. I think it's the spinach that has the satisfying flavour. The texture is really creamy and mild.

Didn't really like the rice so much. I haven't had too much luck with cooking brown basmati rice lately. Maybe it's that darned Le Creuset pot.

Rice Pudding from recipe on the Internet

Lucky to find such a great recipe like this on the internet. A great way to use up an overexcess of too moist brown basmati that was cooked in Le Creuset cookware. I think this is the recipe I used. I don't remember there are so many recipes on the internet. It was so sweet and tasty and reminded me of the Indian desserts I love so much except without the dairy. Yes, those are raisins.

Tofu Fried Rice from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson

Black Beans with Sofrito over Rice from 'The Tropical Vegan Kitchen' by Donna Klein
This recipe had to be completed in two parts. First, the sofrito I learned is a tomatoey/peppery sauce which sauce that is takes its own share of seasonings. Next, it is added to the black bean preparation. It tasted okay. Nothing too exciting or amazing. Maybe it needed some hot sauce.

Again, crappy rice.

Island Casserole from 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
Yummy yummy yummy! This is like Tropical Betty in a meal form. Just like the dessert, it has pineapple and coconut goodness, except it has rice... cooked in coconut milk! Oh, heaven! This dish was very tasty. I used soaked red beans which needed to be cooked extra, extra long to get them to that nice soft creamy texture. (I almost got there.) The rice was a little more al dente (slightly crispy) than I'm used to but it totally worked for this dish since it was baked in the oven. We really liked this one.

Deconstructed Enchilada Bake in 'Vegan on the Cheap' by Robin Robertson
This dish was pretty tasty but it seemed a little like it was missing. Maybe it was just me but my fiancé particularly enjoyed it but I don't know. I used Daiya cheddar-style cheese which I like but it didn't quite give me the taste I was looking for in this dish. It was filling and yummy. I think I know what this dish needs? Some refried and mashed pinto beans along with avocado as well as wheat tortillas instead of corn. I will try it again.

Chipotle sauce and corn tortillas

Bajan Macaroni Pie with Tofu Cheddar in Caribbean Vegan by Taymar Mason
As I have said so many times in this blog, Taymar Mason is amazing with her recipes and quickly is becoming a household name. Now, this is real vegan cheese. How did she know? How did she come up with this recipe? Maybe it's that biochemistry background, I don't know but there is no dairy in this stuff and yet it does not lack flavour. I am sure to fool many a carnivore with this creation. Spicy like fire, yet so flavourful and good you beg for more (although you can almost feel the blisters forming in your mouth, I know, I'm quite graphic and exaggerating.) Thank you for bringing a comfort food favourite to life with some Caribbean flare. I also big-up Taymar for adding this recipe for time-deprived folks since it requires less time than many of her other recipes. What's the secret?

First, add the tofu cheddar.

Next, the roux which is a fancy French word for creamy sauce (I think).

Looks good?

Now you stir it up

And bake it. The macaroni comes out a little al dente but so yummy.

So tasty and did not last long in our household.

Samosa Pie from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson
I get sentimental when I see these photos since they were the first recipe from this book I made. I felt a little dooped learning that I had to make the Double Pie Crust which added double the time. Nevertheless, I was rewarded with an amazingly yummy "open face" pie. My crust is a little imperfect but hey! It tasted amazing and it is Indian food which I love. Well, not exactly. I mean I am sure that Robin Robertson did not go to India to get this recipe but she did improvise on a snack favourite.

This recipe bucked tradition by cooking the vegetables in the oil beforethe spices. Indian traditional cooking requires you to cook the spices first then add the other stuff.

I used all the Double Pie Crust recipe. I don't know how I could have made the crust for the samosa pie without using all of the Double Pie Crust recipe which was supposed to make two separate crusts. Oh well, more to enjoy!

My little slice of samosa pie. Sorry about the yellow appearance. I needed to adjust some feature on my camera but you get the general idea.

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