Invisible Voices

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Tag Archives: veganmofo

The world of vegan food (and cookbook obsessions)

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In the 8 years I was vegetarian before going vegan, I mostly lived on pasta and jarred red sauce. Yup, I was one of those.

About a year before I went vegan I was visiting a friend in a town a couple hours away. I got there a bit early, and she was running a bit late, so I did one of my favorite things, and browsed through a bookstore to kill time. I was in school full time, which is another way of saying that I had almost no money at all. I certainly had no intention of making any purchases, and perhaps that was why I inexplicably (for me, at the time) found myself in the cookbook section. I didn’t own a single cookbook at the time, had never been interested in cooking anything other than cookies, and it had never occurred to me that a cookbook could be interesting and fun to read.


But somehow I was in the cookbook section, and I picked up a cookbook titled “Recipes From a Vegetarian Goddess”. I loved the way she described her recipes, and the fact that they were arranged in seasons. I bought the cookbook. I have never met anyone else who has this cookbook…aside from my mother, who eventually needed her own copy. When I showed my mom the cookbook, I’m glad she was sitting down, because I think she would have fallen over otherwise, at the shock of me buying a cookbook.

We made something from it that very night. In retrospect, I think my mom wanted to make sure that I actually made something from it. We had a good time, and it became a fairly regular thing for us to try a new recipe from my cookbook. My parents are omnis, but my dad eats whatever my mom puts in front of him, and my mom is happy to cook vegan food for me, though back then it was vegetarian.

This was an extremely valuable set of experiences, in retrospect. It taught me that cooking could be fun, and it also got me past any worries I might have otherwise had about not knowing how to do x, or what was meant by y. My mom is a great cook, and cooking with her meant that I had a cooking mentor.

When I went vegan I started looking for a cookbook that I would like as much as my first cookbook. I later realized that many of the recipes I liked so much from the vegetarian cookbook were actually vegan! That was a bonus. But my cookbook addiction had already begun, and continues to this day.

Because of the combination of circumstances, with my interest in cooking and in cookbooks so new for me at the time I went vegan, as well as the variety that is typically found in vegan cookbooks, going vegan opened up a huge new world of food for me. A lot of the list of new-to-me foods was made up of grains, and I think that’s really typical. In the Standard American Diet we eat pasta, we eat rice, and maybe maybe we eat polenta. Most people we talk to have no idea that there are grains like Millet, Amaranth and Quinoa. Blows my mind to think about now. Though of course I was exactly the same!

I’m the type to see food as fuel a good part of the time, and I’m the type who finds stress, especially emotional stress, to be a complete appetite killer. My sense of taste is hit or miss, and my sense of smell is more miss than hit. I’m definitely not a foodie, for those reasons, and likely more besides. But even that can’t stop me from feeling the wonder of vegan food, and of the incredible variety that became part of my life after going vegan.

And amazingly this is an extremely common experience. Even among foodies. Even authors of the cookbooks I have on my shelves say similar things! There is something about vegan food, it’s magical.

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Chili and Cornbread

veganmofo2009

I eat chili year round, but there is something extra special about a hearty spicy warming bowl of chili with cornbread on a nasty day in early fall. (Like today.) I’m not the only one who is feeling this way! One of my friends posted about her chili and cornbread yesterday, and it was one of those recipes that magically needed nothing I didn’t already have in my approaching-pathetic pantry, so tonight I followed her example!

I love chili and cornbread. In fact, it was my most commonly home-made meal when I purchased my first cookbook. I was vegetarian at the time. Only after I went vegan did I notice that my favorite vegetarian recipes were already vegan! It was a pivotal moment; up until then I was convinced that going vegan meant I was sacrificing tasty food for the sake of the animals. That misconception turned out to be a big joke (on me!) because it was only after I went vegan that I started exploring food for real. All the foods I’d never tried before going vegan, and which I now consider staples, would take up an entire page! Maybe that will be a later blog post…

I want to remind everyone that tomorrow is Blog Action Day.

I mentioned it a few weeks ago, but I have heard hardly anyone talking about it, and it seems a shame that there might not be many vegans speaking up this year. A couple exceptions: nothoney and stephanie. This year it is a topic custom made for vegans: Climate Change. And I saw a post from a week or so ago that makes it clear they are very interested to hear what food bloggers have to say. Of course they specifically mentioned the Slow Food people, so Vegans really need to represent. And with all the great info out there, from FARM, from the UN, others besides, it is easy for vegan food bloggers to represent. Sign up for BAD, and do your normal VeganMoFo blog post, with a paragraph about Climate Change. I think it will speak for itself. Or go all out and research and write up a storm. I just want there to be a lot of vegans, and especially vegan food bloggers writing for BAD!

To-Go Ware

veganmofo2009

Since most of my daily food intake happens at work, carrying my food on my bike has required some creative solutions. I’m trying to get away from disposable things, plastic things, but glass is too heavy and too breakable to be an ideal solution for me. Enter To-Go Ware. Though one coworker commented that it looked like a surgical kit of some sort, they’re nifty little stackable metal containers, durable, but still lightweight.

Of course they are metal, and that means no microwaving them. I asked some advice of the women working at the cute little socially conscious eco-store where I got them, and they had some solutions for me. First was to have a microwavable plate that I’d leave at work. The contents of the container could be transferred to the plate and heated up. That would work! But even easier, if there is a toaster in the office kitchen, use the toaster to heat up the contents. I also have cloth napkins on hand, because I don’t want to grab the metal to-go container after it’s been in the toaster a while.

The toaster takes more time to heat things, but I don’t mind.

My next challenge is to get in the habit of taking an emtpy to-go container with me when I go to restaurants. I rarely sit in, mostly order food to go. This results in containers. Some of them are reusable, and that’s what I’d used up until recently to bring my food to work, but some of them are not at all reusable. In either case, it is earth-expensive stuff that I can change my habits to avoid, without having to give up my occasional restaurant meal altogether.

Being environmentally conscious goes hand in hand with my veganism. It is part of what motivates me to bike commute…that is, it is primarily what motivated me to start bike commuting. The fact that I love the bike commuting is what makes it easy to continue. Of course it also means I eat a lot more.

Today it was leftover Dal Makhni from Vegan Yum Yum’s cookbook. A coworker was rinsing her dishes in the break room when I took my food out of the toaster today, and it must have smelled good, because I was afraid she was going to steal my lunch!

black bean and tomato chili

A different cookbook, at last!

Tonight I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of time cooking dinner (I’m through the southern bowl already, and that’s one of the biggest gripes about all this biking I’m doing – I’m going through food way too fast!), and I’d been eying a recipe in “The Garden of Vegan” for a while. I noticed the cook time on it was only 15 minutes, with very little other associated recipe time – some chopping, some sauteeing, but this was definitely a 30 minute recipe. Yay!

I ended up doubling the recipe, because it called for one 15oz can of crushed tomatoes. And naturally I had only the giant size can of crushed tomatoes. Fire-roasted, as it happens, and which I would definitely recommend using.

I had just one big can of black beans, so to double the recipe I did half black beans and half pinto beans.

Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. And I had it with the leftover (carob!) molasses cornbread that I made to go with the southern bowl.

It is a recipe that makes me happy. Comfort food, with just a tad of … something … smokiness, maybe, from the fire-roasted tomatoes? I’m not sure exactly, but it is a really good recipe for me. And a great weekday recipe for those days when you just don’t have that much time and you want something easy and tasty and filling and satisfying.

it is also versatile, which is always a plus!

Speaking of Sarah Kramer, she’s going to be in DC this coming Monday, November 3rd. It is a COK benefit at a place I’d never heard of before (Science Club near Dupont Circle), but which apparently is now offering vegan options. Or will be, after November 3.

I can’t believe the veganmofo has come to an end! I think I accomplished the official challenge, and I certainly learned that blogging about food isn’t especially easy! Or it wasn’t for me. It did get me in the habit of posting more often, which I’d been hoping it would do. We’ll see how well I can do from here on out!

protein power muffins

Recently I posted about a recipe I’d seen posted that got me all excited.

Protein Power Muffins.

I made them last night, and they are fantastic. I had a couple this morning after my ride, and I was good to go until lunch, something that I hadn’t been able to accomplish recently – either I’ve been hungrier, or haven’t been hitting the mark in recovery food.

These muffins apparently do the trick.

One change I made was that I didn’t have hemp seeds. Sheryl had suggested sunflower seeds, which sounded like a good idea to me, except that I didn’t realize I was out of sunflower seeds until it was too late. So I just dumped in some shredded unsweetened coconut, which seemed to work out great.

And I love coconut, so it is all good.

The other change was to use white whole wheat flour instead of the “all purpose flour”. I didn’t think there would be a change in intended texture, and I wanted these suckers as healthy as possible, for something with a mess of chocolate chips.

The one thing I want to change is the use of sugar. There isn’t a ton in these, but there is some, and they end up quite sweet, so I figure the sugar can go, replaced with something else perhaps.

The muffins end up with a great texture, and are quite moist. I love that they have quinoa in them! Though that tripped me up, time-wise, because I had forgotten that I needed to have some cooked quinoa for the recipe. Just a little extra time, which wasn’t a big deal overall.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and I’ll likely end up tweaking them a bit just for fun. Maybe someday I’ll get my hands on some hemp seeds too. The U.S. gov’t is sure to figure out some day that you can’t get high from hemp seeds!

southern bowl and (carob!) molasses cornbread

Tonight was another “Get It Ripe” night, and it actually surpassed the other recipes I’ve made from this cookbook. I swear, I do use other cookbooks, it is just that I tend to get into the habit of using one for a while, and then I eventually switch to another….last month it was “Eat, Drink and Be Vegan,” so there you go. VeganMoFo just happened to fall in my “Get It Ripe” month!

I actually picked out the recipe for “Southern Bowl: Chipotle black-eyed peas, mashed sweet potatoes, and collard greens” primarily because it incorporated greens into the recipe, and Jae herself had reminded me last week to make sure I eat greens with dinner.

Getting my greens is definitely a weakness of mine, and though I bought some greens (in addition to the collards for the southern bowl recipe), and had every intention of steaming some each night with dinner (and adding lemon juice and herbamare, as suggested by Stephanie, a great suggestion as it turned out!), I lasted just one night before forgetting again.

Best intentions and all that.

So the meal that incorporates the greens is definitely a safer bet for me! Plus it sounded delicious.

And it helpfully suggested making the molasses cornbread to go with it, and hey! I’d been looking for a recipe to use my carob molasses in, so it all came together.

I only wish I’d made this on the weekend, because it took me 90 minutes from start to finish, which is a big chunk of a weeknight evening. I am slow, so take that time with a grain of salt.

It was all quite easy, and the timing (started the beans, then did the cornbread, then did the mashed potatoes, and then the collards) worked out perfectly, so that everything was ready at the right time through no talent of my own.

And the taste? Fantastic. Each part of the southern bowl would taste well enough on its own, but the combination of all the flavors and textures practically made me swoon. Or would have if I was southern, rather than just living in the not-so-deep south!

The cornbread came out wonderfully as well – firm and moist, slightly sweet, and slightly different thanks to the molasses. I will make it someday with blackstrap molasses to see whether the carob made a difference. This cornbread went straight to my “favorite cornbread” ranking!

This meal also converted me to black-eyed peas. Not that I had anything against them before, but this was the first time I’d made them from the dried peas. I get frustrated cooking beans because it always seems to take about five times as long as everyone says it will. These babies, though? 40 minutes and they were well and truly done. Granted, I had soaked them overnight, as recommended, but that never helped me with other beans.

And so, black-eyed peas have become my new favorite bean to cook. Or are they peas? What is the difference, I wonder?

if you had carob molasses…

A while ago (years, likely) I was in a middle eastern grocery store, looking for something specific. I can no longer remember what!

I browsed around the grocery store, feeling like I’d been handed an unexpected gift. I think that’s when I realized that I love grocery stores. Not the big box grocery stores, but the little ones…the health food stores, natural markets, co-ops, specialty stores, the little mom and pop places that have an odd assortment of exactly what their customers want, regardless whether it makes sense to a regional manager of a big box store.

These places are filled with hidden treasures and adventures. (No surprise there, since I didn’t really start cooking until I went vegan, so most everything has at some point felt like an adventure!) I’ve ended up bringing home so many things that I haven’t a clue what to do with but couldn’t resist trying!

The carob molasses is one of those things. I’ve had people tell me to just use it the way I would regular molasses, but I keep thinking there must be some kind of recipe somewhere where this mysterious carob molasses would be the key that brings all the flavors together. Or something.

It is about time I give it a try. I just wish I had a clue what to do with it!

Anyone use it before?

the recipe I’ve been waiting for…

I seem to always be on a quest for something easy to bring to work for my post-ride food. Breakfast-ish, is how I think of it, because I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater, and while I’m sometimes hungry when I get to work, I mostly eat upon arrival because my ride home is easier if I’ve helped the muscles recover upon ending my first ride.

I’ve talked about the Supercharge Me! cookies from Dreena Burton’s “Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan”, and I know I’ve spread the supercharge me love to a couple friends, at least. It is hard to find the kind of recipes I want, it seems, so other than variations on those cookies, and some breakfast grains, I’ve been at a loss.

VeganDad has helped me out with his recent post, a recipe for Protein Power Muffins. Which isn’t to say he had a clue who I am or that I was patiently waiting for someone to post a recipe that I’d pounce on, but he nevertheless posted exactly the kind of recipe I was indeed waiting to pounce on.

I have to get a couple ingredients at the store, and I’m not even sure I will be able to find hemp nuts, but I do plan on making these this weekend. I am just too excited about them to wait until after I’ve made them to post about them!

social food

The CEO of the company I work for asked me and another employee to come to a lunch meeting to talk to the new VP of something or other about the projects we’re working on. A lunch meeting.

I was immediately annoyed. Why does it always have to revolve around food? Someone’s birthday? Bring cake and ice cream! I’m not as lucky as my friend Kate, the cake and ice cream will never be vegan at work.

I figured I’d just bring my own lunch, because as nice as the thought is that he’d buy us lunch to make up for the fact that we had to meet and talk about work during our lunch, I just wasn’t interested in going through some crap about lunch. I need to eat, I need the fuel, I don’t really care if my CEO buys me a salad or a bag of peanuts or something. I need to eat some real fuel to power my commute home. I now eat at least as much as men twice my size.

So it was a mix of annoyance and dread that I felt at the mention of this work lunch. It is my typical reaction anytime someone brings up food. Unless it is a vegan function, like the gigantic vegan potluck at Poplar Spring every year. With like 300 people…300 vegan dishes. It’s something to experience!

But when my CEO sent a link to the restaurant he was going to order from, it was a Thai restaurant with a very nice vegetarian section. I went with my favorite safe dish. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was – something I could simply order, something I already knew I would like because I adore Thai food, and I get this particular dish a lot. It was the least amount of fuss ever for a team lunch, and gee, all that had to happen was for the CEO to make a thoughtful choice about the type of restaurant. It could have been luck. He knows I’m vegan, though, so it might have been purposeful and thoughtful.

It was good. Not as good as at my favorite Thai restaurant (in my neighborhood), but it was good. And filling. I ate the whole thing.

Food is such a bittersweet thing, now, in social situations.

I would be so much happier if we could break this connection, and socialize at social functions, instead of eating at social functions.

Eating is for meal times. That’s serious business for me.

Greens

Jae Steel, author of “Get it Ripe”, commented on my post from yesterday asking whether I’d had any greens with my meal. And I hadn’t, of course!

That’s one of my biggest weaknesses, when it comes to my “eating fitness”. I don’t dislike greens, I just somehow rarely eat them. And steaming broccoli or spinach or kale couldn’t be easier or require less prep work unless I played the part of a baby bird and sat with my mouth open for someone else to put the steamed greens into. Which would be pretty cool, now that I think about it, but a wee bit outside the realm of possible!

So Jae’s nudge was a great reminder. Eating greens is a habit I simply must create. It needs to be a daily thing.

I’ll start next week, though, since I don’t think I’ll have time to get to the store before the weekend, and the farmers market is on Sunday. I can start planning now! Not that it takes much to plan for steaming greens!

This does mean I’m going to have to start going to the store more than once every 3 weeks though. That’s okay – I need to start making that trip on my bike, and I can’t carry 3 weeks worth of food on my bike! Well, I maybe could, but it would be a slow ride home.

Anyone have any favorite recipes, hints or tips? Anything you’ve done that facilitated a daily green habit?