Monday, November 25, 2013

Doh! I forgot the cilantro...

It did not occur to me until just now (right before bed) that I forgot to add the cilantro to my burger tonight. Darn, 'cause I bet that would have been really, really good. The recipe calls for the cilantro to be mixed into the burger, but since cilantro tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it vegetable and everyone else in the fam is on the hate-it side, I leave cilantro out of everything and then just pile it on to my own portion. Ah well, the good news is that I have plenty of leftovers to eat for lunch tomorrow and this time I won't forget.

Somehow, I misread the recipe and thought each burger was supposed to have 1/4 c. of mix in it.  Instead, I should have used 1/2 c. So, the recipe that should have yielded 8 burgers made 16.  That's a lot of burgers.  I'll have try to freeze some... since, sadly, I think I'll be the only one eating these.

That being said, I consider this recipe a success.  They were much better than my previous burger attempt.  My son said "I'm not sure if I like these, so I'm going to have another one."  I think that was actually fair praise.  He won't usually eat anything with beans in it.  I ate two myself.  My husband and daughter just had one, but I think they finished it.  I ate mine smothered in homemade guacamole and a slab of pickle.  Everyone else added some cheese, ketchup and a bun.

Other good things: I got to expand my grain repertoire by using millet for the first time. (Tasted a lot like couscous to me.  I think millet is the main ingredient in some kinds of wild bird seed, but I decided not to mention that at the dinner table for fear of the flak I would receive.)  Also, my daughter discovered that roasted sweet potato skin is delicious.  After scooping out the potato for the burgers, we cut the skin into small pieces and ate it as a snack.  My daughter said it was just like sweet potato fries. Now, that, if nothing else, was a success.

This is the first recipe I've made from Cookie + Kate.  Looks like a lot of winners on that site. I shall return.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Modifications or Notes: 
Left out the cilantro and the cayenne pepper.  Used about half the chipotle powder since the kids don't like spicy.  Fried the patties in as little oil as possible.

Served with roasted acorn squash rings. Like this but using olive oil instead of butter and only about 1 T sugar.  And, to save it from being a masochistic dinner, I also served a pile of roasted potatoes cut like steak fries.

Kid-friendly: eh, so so. I think these would grow on them.
Kid-rating: 2
Husband-rating: 2
My rating: 3 - I would even serve it to vegetarian/vegan guests.
Ease of prep: Long.  Today, I made the beans, made the millet, roasted the squash. After that point it was fairly easy.  Would be a good make ahead recipe.  I could easily get it on the table after work if I just had to form the patties and cook them.
Cleanup: Medium 2 pots, mixing bowl, fry pan, cutting board, knife
Nutrition: B+ : rather starchy, but that's not necessarily bad.
Overall Rating: 3 - I will try again, and will try similar sweet potato/bean burger recipes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A vegan lasagna by any other name...

I tried calling it 'vegetables with pasta' when she asked me what was for dinner.
My daughter asked if I could put the vegetables on the side.
"No, it's more of a casserole", I said.
 My son said, "oh, it's a Lasagna".
I said, 'yeah, something like that'.
I didn't want to set expectations that it was the cheesy lasagna that Garfield and my family love. But, despite my careful wording, it still disappointed.

It looked lovely when I removed it from the oven. But, alas, that was the best of it. My daughter tried to pick all the vegetables out, actually scraping the noodles so she could eat them plain. My husband said it 'smelled like a 4 when it was cooking, but tastes like a 2.' They also disagreed on which parts they didn't like. My husband liked the sweet potatoes layer, my daughter the broccoli, my son the mushrooms - each of them didn't like the other parts.  I thought the spinach was too strong, which was surprising since spinach is usually pretty mild.   Interestingly enough, no one remarked on the tofu. So, it's not like I can just make it again and leave out the corn, or some other easy mod.

On the plus side, the dish includes an incredible variety and amount of vegetables, and the cashew topping was liked by everybody. My son did actually have a second helping. I served it with some grilled bread left over from lunch. Until I asked for ratings, no one complained.  They just ate the parts they liked and ate lots of bread dipped in extra sauce.

The recipe is here on the Engine 2 Diet blog.
Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna

Modifications or Notes: 
I had only a few modifications.  Left out the bell peppers. Used regular lasagna noodles (not whole wheat), used homemade sauce (not jarred), left off the extra roma tomatoes off the top.  Also, cooked it for 45 minutes covered at 400 degrees on convect, then took it out after 8 minutes uncovered because the cashews were already brown.  The bottom had burnt a bit too - unfortunately my daughter got that piece.  It might have been different if I used a jarred sauce - it probably would have had more salt - which might have appealed to some.  However, no body asked for additional salt so I'm not sure that was it.

Kid-friendly: no
Kid-rating: 2
Husband-rating: 2 - would almost have been a 3 without the strong spinach
My rating: 3
Ease of prep: Long - not hard, but it took me at least an hour before it went in the oven.
Cleanup: Long
Nutrition: A : tons of veggies; lots of variety
Overall Rating: 2 - I will try varying the recipe.  I'm sure I will post about other lasagnas soon enough.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

'Egyptian' Salad

Here's another recipe from Ambitious Kitchen that I really, really like.  To be honest, I'll have to make it again with Monique's combination of veggies and quinoa because that sounds even better than what I mixed up, but I had to make due with what I had at the time.

The kids really enjoyed the peanuty sauce, and I threw in vegetables they tend to like so it was really a success for us.  I served it with a side of roasted cauliflower. My daughter ate half the head of cauliflower while my son and I chowed on the salad.  The peanut ginger sauce is similar to a sauce I make when we eat tofu spring rolls.  Put that sauce on anything and my family will call it delicious.

My son suggested we call this an 'Egyptian' salad, which would be a double pun on the Farro (not Pharaoh). He asked that I make it again, and suggested we could even make it for company. Sounds good to me.

I've come to realize that the kids are more willing to eat vegan if pasta or potatoes, or in this case, wheat, are a main part of the dish. Of course, this should not be a surprise to me as those are classically kid-friendly foods.  Although I'd rather eat less starch, I can do that at breakfast and lunch when I'm on my own and save the starches for dinner.  Dr. McDougall's book, The Starch Solution, says that you should build all your meals around starches, so, maybe all those starches are not so bad, even though Dr. Fuhrman does not agree.  Anyways, we're making progress here, as a big part of the battle is getting the kids interested in the food.

The recipe is here on AmbitiousKitchen's blog.
Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing

Modifications or Notes:  I had to heavily modify the recipe because I didn't have many of the items.  I used farro instead of quinoa. In the dressing, I left out the olive oil to reduce the fat.  I added cashews, cucumbers, celery, carrots, baby corn and some white beans. I left out the red pepper, cabbage and cilantro because I didn't have any (and the kids don't like peppers and cilantro).  If you like cilantro, that would be awesome.  I ate mine over a huge handful of raw spinach. If I'd had cilantro, I would have sprinkled a bunch over the top.

Kid-friendly: yes
Kid-rating: 4
Ease of prep: Easy.
Cleanup: Moderate: blender, cutting board, knife, peeler, measuring spoons and cups, saucepan, collander.
Nutrition: B : unprocessed.  Quinoa and the veggies in the original recipe have a better nutritional profile than the farro and what I used. Rather heavy on the nuts, too.
Overall Rating: 4 - company-worthy, will definitely make again and will vary the add-ins.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Improvising on a theme

I've started a new page to keep track of the smoothies I drink the morning.  Smoothie drinking has become part of my morning routine.  Get my son out of the house to the bus, walk my daughter to school, go for a run with the dog, come home and concoct a smoothie.  The smoothies are different everyday since I don't follow any recipes and just throw in what I have on hand.

For some of these improvisations, I scrape the bottom of the glass to get every last bit.  Some, I choke down and consider it a lesson learned.

You can find the page from the menu bar under 'Smoothie Improvisations'.  Today's drink is here. Yeah, today's effort was not such a good start to the blog, nor to my morning, but tomorrow, we try again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mookies? Cuffins?

There is a fine line between a 'good recipe' and 'binge inducing'.  I want to find recipes that I enjoy, but not too much.  For me, one of the keys to weight control is not to eat food that I like too much.  I think that's why vegan works for me.  Most of the foods that I really love, like cheese (glorious cheese) are way to easy for me to eat too much.  I'm not sure if the milk fat causes the binges and the cravings, or if its just a food that I find delicious and will eat even if I am not hungry because it just tastes so good.  Dr. Greger says that fatty foods have been proven to be addictive.  Dr. Fuhrman says it causes toxic hunger.  I've noticed the same thing with salt. I eat one salty food, then I want to balance it with a sweet one, then another salty one... vicious cycle.  It really is better if I just avoid it all together.

So, then I found these cookies.  I've already eaten 3 tonight, so I'm concerned they might be 'binge inducing'.  However, my 8 year old daughter has also eaten 2, asked if she could have some for breakfast and requested that I make more, so from the kid-friendly-vegan perspective, it's a winner.  It's also a super easy recipe that I could see making in many different variations.

I did not call these a 'cookie' when introducing them to my daughter, fearing that she'd expect something buttery, crunchy and super sweet. So instead I eloquently said, "Hey, do you want to try one of these ... uh... small muffiny-things?"  She bounced over and took one, then came back for another. Fantastic.

I've got to start a blog, I thought.  This is good information I should share. I can create a site that lists good vegan cookie recipes and rates them for taste, kid-friendliness and ease in the kitchen. ... and so this blog was born.

The recipe is here on AmbitiousKitchen's blog.
2-Ingredient Healthy Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies {with Add-ins!}

Modifications or Notes:  It's a pretty extensible recipe.  Basically I ground Old Fashioned Oats in my food processor, added bananas and pulsed until the bananas were all mixed with the oats.  Then, I transferred it all to a bowl and mixed in some white chocolate chips by hand. (Sadly, I realized later the chips were not vegan... but I'm sure you could find some vegan chips).  Then I used my cookie scoop to scoop out 16 cookies and plopped them on my silpat mat.  I convection baked them at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

The cookies did not flatten out or change shape one bit, though they did get a nice a nice toasty color.  They looked a bit like coconut macaroons.  We've decided to call them 'muffin balls'.

Update Nov 24, 2013 - Made these again with 'green top' bananas.  They were much harder to mix in with the food processor, made a stiffer dough and I didn't think they were as good.  Definitely better to use riper bananas.

Kid-friendly: yes
Kid-rating: 4
Ease of prep: Super easy.
Cleanup: Easy: food processor, cookie scoop, silpat. silicone scraper. measuring cup.
Nutrition: C : very unprocessed, however, oats aren't that high on the nutrient-dense meter. The chips really lower the rating to 'cookie' status.
Overall Rating: 4 - company-worthy, will definitely make again and will vary the add-ins.

Long time reader, first time blogger...

I've been eating vegan nutritarian food since Sept 20, 2013.  'Nutritarian' is a word coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman to describe the type of veganism that is not just the avoidance of animal products, but the deliberate effort to eat only the most nutrient dense foods.

My family (husband & 2 kids (8, 12)) are not thrilled by my change in lifestyle, but are coming along for the ride, since the alternative is cooking for themselves, and apparently even vegan food is better than that!  However, I don't try to make masochistic meals, since I don't like my kale salad with a side of whine. I always try to include at least one item that is familiar and basic. I'm constantly on the lookout for recipes my family will eat and actually enjoy.  If that nutrient dense food stays on the plate instead of being eaten, it was not worth the effort.

As a new vegan, the internet has been a great source of recipes and inspiration to me. I've found some real winners that everyone loves, and some recipes that just didn't work for us.  However, there are so many blogs, books, websites it is hard to remember where I found each recipe.  I've got a bulletin board on Pinterest, but I need more organization. I need a systematic approach.  Through this blog I'll review and catalog the best vegan recipes and resources on the web - for my use, and yours!

I'm going to organize my recipes into categories- hopefully to find the best vegan burger, best vegan chili, best vegan lentil soup, etc...

Not sure why I'm a little nervous, but I am.
But, Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
What do I have to lose?
Just do my best.
Here goes nothing.

Press Publish.