Change Is In the Air

Well hello there!

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since my last post. I know that I personally don’t enjoy reading blog posts where the author starts out with drawn out explanations and apologies for being away, but I do have some reasons for my long silence and I’d like to at least address them briefly.

My life has changed dramatically in the past few months since Baby H was born. I still love blogging and I definitely still love food, but both of those things have shifted way down on my list of daily priorities.

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I’ve been back at work for a little over a month now and am only just starting to get settled into some sort of a rhythm, albeit a hectic one. Each day, I get up, pack Baby H’s daycare bag, drop him off at daycare, sit in traffic on the way to work, work all day (as well as fitting in 3 pumping sessions), then leave work, sit in traffic on my way to pick up Baby H from daycare, and then go home and spend the rest of the evening trying to entertain him until bedtime, while simultaneously attempting to clean bottles and breast pump parts and get everything ready for the next day when I get to do it all over again.

It’s not just that I don’t have the time and energy to blog, but also that the subject matter I used to write about has become kind of inapplicable. I basically never cook anymore. If I have time to eat in the evening, I do, but it’s not like I’m whipping up any culinary marvels.

Case in point: last Tuesday, for Cinco de Mayo, I really wanted tacos. So, I made some. I made the easiest, most bare bones black bean tacos imaginable, using several premade ingredients (shells, seasoning, etc.).

All I did was saute some chopped onions and garlic, add a 15 oz. can of rinsed black beans, an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce, and half a packet of taco seasoning, and then I stirred in some chopped kale at the end.

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I did manage to pick out an amazing avocado for a topper!

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The tacos came out really tasty but, like, is that really something to blog about? I’m not sure anymore.

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It was the first time I had cooked anything since Baby H was 9 weeks old (he’s 17 weeks now). I couldn’t even get it together to bake a cake for his christening this past weekend. We ended up serving a storebought (non-vegan) cake instead.

So, this is the biggest thing that’s been keeping me away from blogging–this feeling that I no longer have anything worthwhile to share about vegan cooking and eating.

The point of this post is not to have a pity party however, but to give myself a chance to get back on track with blogging by allowing myself a bit more flexibility with the theme. It’s my blog after all! Going forward I will be focusing more on mindful eating and an overall healthy lifestyle, especially with an infant in tow, and my posts will reflect this.

I hope the content will still be interesting enough that those who have read this blog for a long time will want to stick around, but of course I’ll understand if some decide to move on.

Finally, I do intend to keep posting photos of delicious vegan food on social media, so if this is of interest to you, definitely follow me on Instagram! I’ll be posting lots of good stuff with the hastag #whatveganseat.

xoxo
A.Cook, still in the making

Curry Saves the Day

Whew–it’s been another whirlwind couple of weeks!  One week, poor Baby H was sick with an ear infection, followed by a big growth spurt, then the week after it was time for his two-month checkup (complete with his first round of shots).  He has grown so much already and is becoming more fun, alert, and engaging every day as he learns more and more about his world.  All I can really do is try to keep up!

It isn’t always easy to take good care of myself when it feels like all of my energy is being put toward this miraculous new person.  My diet has been far less than stellar and oftentimes I forget to eat at all.  And then there are other times when the little guy FINALLY falls asleep that I am racing to fit in at least 1 or 2 of the 68094887324 things on my to-do list.

Exhibit 1:
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This is my dining room table right now.  I’m trying to sort through Baby H’s clothes, putting away the stuff that doesn’t fit him anymore (there’s a lot of it!) and organizing the stuff that does so that it’s easier and quicker to get him dressed throughout the day (and yes, he goes through multiple outfit changes daily!).

Enter last night; around 6:00, baby boy went down for (what I thought was) his pre-bedtime nap and I figured I’d finally have the time to tackle some of the clothes sorting.  That was when I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything since about noon.  So the plan changes to: eat, then sort.

Fortunately, in the fridge I had a big batch of Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry (an all-time fave from Veganomicon) that I cooked up last week when my mom was here visiting and watching the baby.  I grabbed a baggie of brown rice that I had cooked and frozen when Baby H was about 3 weeks old and stuck it in the microwave to defrost for a few minutes.

Almost immediately the cries started from upstairs.  So I went up, picked up Baby H, and rocked him for about 10 minutes to get him to go back to sleep.  Meanwhile I could hear the stupid microwave beeping every 2 minutes downstairs to remind me that my rice was done.  All I could think was, “That had better not wake him up!”

Once Baby H was back down, I went back downstairs, added the curry to the defrosted rice, and began to  heat them up.  Once it was ready, I began to eat and even started drafting a blog post.  image (22)
Except that not five minutes later the crying started again (this time sounding pretty mad, actually).   I hurriedly shoveled the last few bites of curry into my mouth and went back upstairs to pick up Baby H again.

So, the clothes are still covering the dining room table.  But at least I had dinner!

Thanks, curry.
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Easy Weeknight Meal: Potato Mash Bowls

Now that it’s December, this baby thing is suddenly starting to feel really, really real. With my due date less than 5 weeks away, I’m experiencing a real struggle between my insane, compulsive desire to get everything ready on one hand, and various aches, pains, and (at times overwhelming) exhaustion on the other.

I haven’t been doing a whole lot of what I would consider to be “real” cooking, but I have been making strides toward my goal of cleaning out our freezer, fridge, and pantry to clear out some stuff that’s been hanging around a bit too long, and make room for some easy, convenient items and pre-prepared meals that H and I can turn to in the first few weeks after Baby H comes home.

One thing that has been really working for me as a dinner option has been what I call Potato Mash Bowls, and it’s really as simple as baking a potato in the microwave, mashing it up, and putting some veggies and protein on top. These bowls are really quick to prepare, easy to adapt to whatever ingredients (or leftovers) you have lying around that need using, and importantly are really, really tasty and satisfying to eat.

The base:
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Here, I mashed up the potato with some Earth Balance and Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning.

Then, I added steamed broccoli (from the freezer!) and black beans:
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I also did one topped with veggie chili (also from the freezer! I feel so accomplished!) and a heap of nutritional yeast:
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I love these bowls!!

I will have more freezer meals to share with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any ideas you have for stuff I can make and freeze to have on hand when baby comes home. I am thinking about chili and soups, but would love suggestions for more casserole-type entrees if anyone has any. Thanks in advance 🙂

I Love Tofurky

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!  I certainly did, although I definitely ate too much.  Somehow before tucking in I forgot about the limited space available in my abdomen (what with the 5-6 lb. human residing in there), and paid the price with a pretty uncomfortable evening thereafter, but it was so worth it.

One of the things I of course overstuffed myself with was my favorite staple–the Tofurky roast!–that I bring along to Thanksgiving every year.
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I know the word “Tofurky” has become kind of infamous and is maybe a bit of a joke to non-vegans.  It is kind of a silly name, I guess, and it’s kind of misleading because Tofurky isn’t actually a tofu turkey (it’s actually made of a blend of tofu, gluten, and canola oil).  But I really, really love it. Especially with all the caramelized roasted veggies around it–ahh, so good!

It’s obviously not exactly a health food, but it is absolutely delicious and I look forward to enjoying it on this special occasion each year.  For me, Thanksgiving isn’t the same without it anymore.  And, because of the availability of options like this, a meatless Thanksgiving is not only possible, but is truly enjoyable.  That’s definitely something to be thankful for!
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And now I’m off to make myself a Thanksgiving sandwich with leftover Tofurky for lunch 🙂

P.S. – After reading over the post and realizing that it sounds a bit like an ad or review (haha!), I just thought I’d clarify that I’m not being paid to advertise Tofurky or anything.  I just really like it and wrote the post while I was getting psyched up for my lunch.

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Has fall weather hit you yet?  It has certainly come to us.
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A few weeks ago I bought the most beautiful head of orange cauliflower at the farmer’s market and had one of those moments where I was so excited to eat it that I didn’t know where to start.

Of course, I was 25 weeks along at that point and the “experts” say that at 25 weeks a developing baby is roughly the size of cauliflower, so obviously the first thing to do was to take a belly comparison pic.
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Don’t mind the frumpy PJ’s…it’s getting harder and harder to find comfy clothing!

But after that there were actual choices to be made.  Finally, in the interest of simplicity and seasonally-appropriate fare, I settled on a hearty soup.
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This soup is rich and filling with a deep, savory flavor that will warm you from the inside out!

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4
Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (about 4-5 cups)
5 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 small (or 1 large) russet potato, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 turmeric
4 cups vegetable broth (or reconstituted bouillon)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 cup nutritional yeast (optional but highly recommended!)
Couple dashes cayenne (optional)

1. The roasting: Preheat the oven to 425.  Place cauliflower and garlic cloves on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring or flipping at least once about halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and nicely browned.  Take out of the oven and let cool slightly, then remove the garlic cloves and set aside.  Also set aside about a cup of cauliflower.

2. Warm some oil (or a thin layer of water) in a stockpot over medium-high heat and saute onion until tender and beginning to turn translucent.

3. Add potatoes, cumin, and turmeric, stir to combine, and cook 1 minute.

4. Add broth and bay leaf, stir, and bring the mixture to a boil.

5. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork.

6. Add cauliflower and garlic, stir to combine, and simmer another 5 minutes.

7. REMOVE THE BAY LEAF, then puree, either in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor.

8.  Stir in the reserved cauliflower florets, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast and cayenne if using.  Taste and adjust spices as necessary.  Enjoy!

This soup doesn’t take long to pull together, but if you are really short on time, you could consider skipping the roasting step. The flavor will be a little less deep, but the soup will still come out delicious. For the unroasted version, peel and finely chop the garlic and saute it along with the onion in step 2.  In step 3, add the cauliflower along with the potato and simmer both in the vegetable broth (steps 4 and 5) until tender.  Once tender, use a strainer to remove some of the florets to set aside, if desired.  Then blend and season as indicated in steps 7 and 8.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

BOWLS! by Becky Striepe – Review and Recipe for Chai Spice Oatmeal

Hi there!

Today I am super-excited to share with you my thoughts on BOWLS!, a brand new cookbook by my friend Becky Striepe.

You may already be familiar with Becky’s amazing blog, Glue and Glitter, where she shares mouthwatering recipes, beautiful crafts, and lots of tips and tricks for living a simple, green, vegan lifestyle.  Becky is also the author of 40 Days of Green Smoothies.

In this new book, we are promised a collection of “mix-and-match recipes to fill your favorite vessel,” and BOWLS! certainly delivers!
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BOWLS! starts out with a genius, yet foolproof, formula for constructing the perfect meal: a bottom layer (consisting of potatoes, grain, pasta, or salad greens) + a middle layer (of raw or cooked veggies) + a top layer of protein, and then an optional “tippy-top” layer of add-ons and sauces.

From there, you get a chapter full of Breakfast and Brunch bowls (such as Chai Spice Oatmeal [get the recipe below!] and Cheesy Stovetop Grits).  Next are Lunch and Supper bowls (like the Roasted Veggie Bowl with Tahini-Miso Sauce and Peanut Butter Tofu Bowl), followed by Soups & Stews (including such gems as Creamy Curried Tomato Soup and Green Lentil & Potato Stew).

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Sort of Cheesy Broccoli Bowl (so scrumptious!)

After that, there is an entire section devoted to Sauces and another to various Layers.  The Layers section is particularly invaluable, because it not only contains recipes for toppings that can be used in multiple way (such as Vegan Bacon and Perfect Mashed Potatoes), but also instructions on Basic Grain Cooking and Cooking Dried Beans.

I love this, because not only does BOWLS! give you a bunch of great recipes as a starting point, but it also arms you with everything you need to be able to mix and match components to create your own bowl of vegan goodness at a moment’s notice.

Becky’s friendly, approachable style shines through in every page of BOWLS! This book is a treasure trove of quick, simple-to-prepare yet insanely tasty recipes and meal components that you can and will use over and over again.  The bold, colorful photos only add to its appeal.  I’ll also add that it displays absolutely gorgeously on a tablet.

Becky has generously offered to share a recipe from BOWLS! with you all today.  I’ve chosen the Chai Spice Oatmeal, a recipe I’ve made probably about a dozen times since receiving the book for review, because it is so incredibly delicious, without being too sweet, and perfect for fall of course!

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Chai Spice Oatmeal
reprinted with permission from BOWLS! by Becky Striepe, copyright 2014 by Cattington, Inc.

Ingredients for 1 serving
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water or almond milk
1 small handful dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

2. Alternate cooking instructions: Combine all of your ingredients in a very large bowl with high sides.  Microwave for 2 1/2 minutes, stir, and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

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Dry ingredients, measured ahead to be microwaved at work–how’s that for convenient?

BOWLS! is available in print or as an ebook.  Details on how to order BOWLS! can be found at the bottom of this post.

Do yourself a favor and snag a copy today!

Simply Perfect Weeknight Dinner: Vegan Tacos!

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In many ways, tacos embody the concept of Simply Perfect.  They are cheap, extremely easy to prepare and assemble, a great vehicle for leftovers, and endlessly customizable.

In short, a taco dinner makes a perfect weeknight dinner!

The only *musts* are a filling and some shells.  After that, you can get creative with the rest of the fillings!  Vegan cheese shreds (if that’s your thing), fresh tomato, salsa, lettuce, guacamole or diced avocado…you name it.

Shells
Because I almost always set up a “taco bar” when we have parties, I am a frequent purchaser of those taco kits you can buy in the supermarket.  This means that H and I usually have leftover taco shells (both hard and soft) and seasoning packets in our kitchen.

If you are not a taco kit hoarder like me, though, you can buy individual boxes of taco shells at the store (I used these beautiful non-GMO Garden of Eatin’ shells in the tacos pictured below), or you can just use soft corn tortillas (I like the ones from Trader Joe’s).

Filling
I have two favorite go-to fillings, both of which are extremely easy and delicious.

The first one uses Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef crumbles (in either the original “Beefy” or the “Feisty” flavor…both work great in this).  To make this filling, I lightly saute some finely chopped red onion and red bell pepper.  Once they are softened, I add the frozen crumbles and cook everything together until warmed through.  Lastly, I stir in about 1/3 of a packet of taco seasoning.
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If you do not have pre-made taco seasoning, you can easily make your own by combining some salt, chili powder, cumin, and oregano (and anything else that tastes yummy to you!).  Have fun with it!

The second filling uses ultra-cheap and readily available black beans. I simply rinse a can of beans, then add it to a pan with a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce and some taco seasoning, and cook it until warm.
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I LOVE these taco beans and the leftovers never last long.

Once your filling is ready, you can stuff tacos and eat them neatly as shown above, or you can break up the shells and serve yourself a big ol’ taco mess like I did here:
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It isn’t pretty but man did it taste good.

Either way, they’re super-fun to eat!