End of 2013~And it’s a wrap! (or maybe a bowl)

Lots to say because I kept putting off making a blog post–for too long I’d say!

Veg Cookbook Club-It’s been a great year to participate, again. I cooked at least one recipe from these 2013 books (remember, you don’t have to buy them all–that would be a fortune and take up a whole lot of space!)…I cooked from Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr and Chad Sarno, How it All Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer , Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Meatless from the kitchens of Martha Stewart, and Isa Does It, also by Isa Chandra. Some I was able to get from the library, and a few I ordered after using the library copy. Britt and the other members usually help you find the recipes that are online in the authors’ blogs and social media, which is nice if you can’t get the book or aren’t sure about buying it without seeing it. Here are my favorites that I have gone back to…

  • Sautéed Chard from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Everyone I have cooked it for is a fan. Now I think that’s pretty good for non-vegetarians and non-vegans. Ha! They’re eating nutritional yeast in this recipe and loving it.

sauteed chard from Crazy Sexy Kitchen

  • Chickpea Nibbles from How it all Vegan, an easy but so tasty roasted chickpea recipe (although my oven required much less cooking time than hers)…and I know I will get back to the applesauce muffins and some of the other desserts because they’re easy and very good.

chickpea nibbles from How it all Vegan

  • Basic Scrambled Tofu in Vegan Brunch. I’ve yet to try the variations because the basic version is flavorful and filling. Vegan Brunch is very “steady” in its successful recipes. I also liked the pumpkin French toast, pancakes, roasted potatoes, home fries etc. I know I’ll get back to the scone recipe too, which I just tried for the first time this month as VegCookBook Club is cooking from all the 2013 books.
  • My recipe of the year goes to: Pad Thai from Isa Does It. Pad Thai has been a favorite food of mine since I was in my early 20’s. But I hadn’t had any in the 4 years I had been vegetarian. The traditional recipe has fish sauce. Love, love this, and the bonus is that Isa taught me how to make amazing tofu in a cast iron skillet, after all my tofu tribulations…I’ve now made 12 items from this book and feel like I’m just getting started. Love it!

pad thai from Isa Does It

As a follow-up, I wanted to show you my Tofurky Roast from Thanksgiving. We really liked it. I ended up fixing it just for my immediate family. I would certainly have to have gravy, and my usual tons of cranberry sauce. My first attempt at the silky chickpea gravy from Appetite for Reduction (another Isa Chandra Moskowitz book) was delicious. I’ll use that recipe again and again in the future. I cooked the roast exactly as they suggested, with veggies and basting with a simple baste. The “line” on the roast in the picture is from cutting the casing around the roast open. The second picture was later in the day when it was dark, so it’s not the best.

Tofurky roast with veggies

tofurky roast with silky chickpea gravy from Vegan with a Vengeance

Finally, here are my time saving techniques/props/devices I really put into play this year for more veg cooking:

my counter

I agonized over spending on a Vitamix. I had several useless blenders over the years that could not handle anything. No regrets on buying this. I got the basic 5200 at Costco at a better price than anywhere else.  It has been awesome for making creamy sauces. I’ve made many already from Isa Does It, subbing in sunflower seeds for cashews, and they all comes out beautifully. Of course it makes great smoothies (you can’t even detect a piece of kale or spinach in there), hummus, and salad dressing. Really it makes all my sauces so good!

The Zojirushi rice cooker next to the Vitamix is great for cooking oats (including steel-cut), each morning with the timer, lentils to use in recipes,  and various types of rice. It can cook any grain, but I haven’t tried much variety. Apparently it has smart technology that helps it find the perfect cooking time/moisture levels and adjusts to water temperature, etc. For me, the timer is the best part. Setting the rice on a timer eliminates a step at dinner time and the bowl is super easy to clean out. I’ve used the quick cook rice setting for white rice many times–works in about 30 minutes with no “work” as you focus on the other cooking. I love how it cooks brown rice too–short grain seems to come out better– without any effort. It is helpful to know that this is a true Japanese product and the instructions aren’t the best. I learned a lot by reading comments on Amazon and other internet sources.

The third time-saver is my jar of measuring spoons, 2 complete sets. I finally figured out that when you detach them from the ring,  you end up making less mess as you try to use the same set for wet and dry ingredients. And having two sets means less cleaning along the way. Pretty basic, right?

What were your top recipes or cookbooks of the year?

I wish you the best holiday season, and see you next year!

 

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Recent Discoveries and Strategies

Finally, a really free Saturday. It’s early afternoon and I’m still in pajama pants. I even threw caution to the wind and paid the paper girl in wild hair and full pajamas!  I just wanted to say hi, hope you are having a good weekend, and spread some veggie cheer and ideas.

1. Today I cooked the basic tofu scramble from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. She has it on her blog here. Wow, I found this recipe was way better than I expected. Tofu and I have a contentious relationship, to say the least. The only change I made was to reduce the cumin-I used 1 and 1/2 tsp instead of the 2 teaspoons. I’ve just learned that sometimes her recipes overwhelm me with too much cumin. Seriously, if you have been afraid to try a tofu scramble, this is delicious. Sorry, forgot to take a picture. Here’s a picture of the book I seem to be obsessed with.

2. A friend who is a vegetarian and works full-time gave me this suggestion: She buys a case of black beans and a case of canned corn at Costco. She mixes a can of corn and a can of black beans in a storage container and then makes things from it all week. I tried this (I bought the beans but used my frozen corn instead-I cooked it slightly). During the week, I added it to lentil enchiladas for two meals. Later in the week,  I pulled out Veganomicon (also by Isa Chandra Moskowitz) and found the essential ingredients of a vinaigrette-equal amounts red wine vinegar and oil, salt and pepper-and poured it over the mix. I added in lots of fresh cilantro and LOVE it. I made a light but satisfying dinner last night when I got home late.

3. I fixed this Gardein brand Mandarin Orange Crispy “Chik’n” for myself one night after work after everyone else had already eaten (I work long days, but only 2 days per week). Plant-based and very very tasty.

4. Meal Planning. This structure has helped me to make one list and one shopping trip per week usually (as long as I use the planning system, ha ha). I didn’t want to blog about it until I used it over a decent period of time. I have a history of meal planning failure, or should we call it opportunities for growth… I have used this system for most of the weeks since the new year began. I plan at least three cooked dinners, usually including one or two new recipes,  and try to make enough for leftovers. I might cook something simple for my lunches at work or home. “Other” is usually a dessert or just something fun I want to try if time permits.  I make a thorough shopping list and then make one big trip to the grocery for the week. I adapted mine from a similar sheet used by Diana at Veggie Next Door blog, who is obviously much more structured than me. Here is mine…created with the table function in Word.

meal plan chart

What have you been cooking? Whether you are a full-time vegetarian or not, I’m curious what you think of Gardein products if you have tried them…Let me know!

More Cooking from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Here are the other recipes I tried from Isa’s cookbook, as I cooked along with the VegCookbook Club. Moving onto a new cookbook in April.

Basic Scrambled Tempeh-I should have actually read the little box on the page that suggested steaming the tempeh before making the recipe to reduce bitterness. It was a little too savory for me, but I’m pretty sure it will be fine with the steaming and maybe a little  mustard dressing as a sauce/dip. Greens for brunch are a grand idea.

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins-Very good. Love the lemon flavor that comes through from fresh lemon juice and zest.

Roasted Butternut Squash-Of course I loved it. Approximately 50% of all posts I’ve ever done involve squash in some way or other. Apparently I was too busy eating to take a picture.

Roasted Potatoes-The basic version was delicious. I couldn’t stop tasting my way through a large cookie sheet, almost.

The Perfect Pancakes I made a few weeks back in my first post on this book were, well, perfect. I still plan on the pumpkin pancakes as soon as I can. I ate too many of the muffins and potatoes last weekend and couldn’t bear the thought of pancakes. Hmmm, maybe I can’t count as a real brunch aficionado.

Basic Scrambled Tempeh from Vegan Brunch poppyseed muffins from Vegan Brunch roasted potatoes from Vegan Brunch

 

I loved this cookbook and will be obtaining my own soon. I am really lucky to be able to borrow books like this from my library as I try them out.

I appreciate Isa’s sentence at the end of the introduction: “Nothing is as delicious as a day off, good music playing, warm food for your belly, and the knowledge that you did it all without harming any of our fluffy friends.” Yes.

Have a wonderful weekend and may it include a nice brunch!