Tag Archives: recipes

Adventures In Vegan Baking

I absolutely love the holiday season because, for me, I use it as a time to intentionally slow down, reflect, be grateful for my non-material possessions like my relationships, and allow myself to engage in activities that make me feel joyful. And, baking is one of those activities, particularly taking the time to create new recipes and try other recipes that I have collected over the year. Trying new recipes can also be a bit of a budget buster. New recipes do not always go as planned and there is always the possibility of wasting ingredients. And, for me, I usually cook for 2 and living wholly means that I cannot regularly indulge in consuming dozens of cookies. So, the holiday season is a great time to bake because I allow myself a to loosen my food budget a bit (I think of it as giving myself a present) for baking supplies and, since for the times that my recipes come out tasting great, I can give away the baked goods as presents (while I allow myself to eat one or two). But, one of the things I do to be a bit more healthy and budget friendly is that I bake Vegan. Even though I am a Vegetarian, in my experience, baking Vegan is a fun and easy way to make my own new recipes (though writing down exactly what I do along the way to replicate it later is a bit harder). Vegan baking allows for more creativity because you never have to worry about getting sick from certain under cooked ingredients like eggs.

One of the first original Vegan cookies that I made was when I was planning a care package for my Grandma. My Grandma recently moved half way across country and it was her birthday. Her favorite dessert is key lime pie so I wanted to create a recipe that would be a Vegan inspiration from this dessert. It also had to ship well. So, I came up with the idea of making Vegan lemon lime cookies that were also low-glycemic, gluten free, and relatively high in protein. I added a bit of coconut milk to make it creamier and pistachios to add a bit of crunch similar to a graham cracker crust.
Well, the flavor was all there and they looked beautiful before I put them in…

BUT, it was like the Goldilocks tale. And, this is often my problem with creating recipes for baked goods. In the tale, all the beds looked the same to her until she laid down on each one: “this one is too hard”or “this one is too soft.” And, in this scenario, each time, the cookies would turn out either too dry or too soft (sometimes even burnt).

Baking Disasters

Oops… 😦

But, eventually, just at the time I was going to give up. They turned out “just right.”

Lemon Lime Vegan Cookies

Lemon Lime Vegan Cookies

Since I kept adding different amounts of ingredients until I got the perfect consistency, I do not know the exact recipe. One of these days though, I will come back to it so that I can publish the recipe. In the meantime, I am looking forward to lots of creative baking this holiday season. And, now that I have done it for a while, I make less mistakes.

If you want to try your skills in the kitchen but do not know how well your recipes will turn out, I encourage you to try Vegan too.

Eat The Rainbow: Food Budget Challenge Week 4

So, this was Week 4 of my Food Budget Challenge, a month long challenge to eat healthy while on a budget. I was hoping to come out with some big celebratory post but we did not make my goal. However, while my family surpassed our budget limit of $497.30 for the month based on the average two person household on a Low-Cost Plan as according to the USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food Report for August 2014, we have become a lot more conscientious about our food choices. Even though we did not make our goal, mainly due to the pitfalls of eating out Week 2, I am confident moving forward that we will be able to stick well within the Low-Cost Plan and, hopefully as we continue to learn through our successes and failures, to eventually get our own food costs to be within the Thrifty Plan of $390. But, for the months of November and December, since this is such a plentiful food based time of year for many Americans including my family, I will be focusing on eating healthy (not over indulging) while on a Low-Cost Plan. In the new year, I will get more thrifty. But, I will continue to provide tips and tricks about eating healthy while on a budget. So, for this week:

#1: Eat the rainbow

It is important to get a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Each has different important nutrients that you should try to get into your daily diet. An easy way to remember is by “eating the rainbow,” eating fruits and vegetables by color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and indigo/violet (purple). You can easily attain this while on a budget. Here is how to plan your weekly shopping list and weekly meal plan:

1. While going through ads or using the apps that I have suggested in previous posts, look for the weekly deals on fruits and vegetables keeping in mind the rainbow of colors. These are usually fruits and vegetables that are in season. For example:

Red: tomatoes, raspberries, red apples, beets
Orange: carrots, oranges, pumpkin, sweet potatoes
Yellow/White: bananas, garbanzo beans
Green: broccoli, leafy greens, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, avocado
Blue/Purple: blueberries, eggplant, grapes, cabbage

2. Plan your daily intake incorporating these fruits and vegetables

Breakfast: vegan protein shake with berries and banana
Snack: apple with almond butter
Lunch: vegetable soup or salad
Snack: baby carrots with hummus
Dinner: 1-2 green side dish (broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts)
Snack: 1/2 c. frozen grapes

An easy way to accomplish this is by making a vegetable soup, stew, or chili that incorporates all of the colors that you can eat all week:

Eat the Rainbow Vegetarian Chili

Eat The Rainbow Vegetarian Chili

Red: kidney beans, tomatoes
Orange: butternut squash, carrots
Yellow: onion, pineapple, mushrooms
Green: spinach
Blue/Purple: black beans

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 medium onion
2 cans kidney beans
2 can black beans
1 can mushrooms
1/2 cup pineapple
3 tbs tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups spinach
3 cups vegetable broth
4 tbs coconut oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chipotle or chili powder
2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbs coconut sugar

Directions: 

1. In a large pot, sauté onions on medium-high heat in 2 tbs coconut oil until translucent, about 7 minutes
2. Stir butternut squash and carrots, stirring and cooking for 3-4 minutes
3. Stir in spices (cumin, chipotle/chili powder, salt, pepper, and coconut sugar)
4. Stir in beans, mushrooms, broth, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and pineapple
5. Once at a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the carrots and butternut squash can be easily pierced with a fork
6. Stir in spinach and continue to cook the chili on a simmer for 5 minutes
7. Taste for spice level, if too spicy, add in 2 tbs coconut oil and cook for 3 minutes. If not spicy enough, add in more cumin and chili/chipotle powder.

Enjoy!!!

This will easily count as at least 2-3 servings of vegetables per bowl, but, remember to still get enough fruits and vegetables in other meals throughout the day.

Tips: You can experiment with the formula but make sure to get all of the colors covered. For example, you could use 3 sweet potatoes instead 1 butternut squash or any hearty leafy green like Swiss chard or kale.

#2: “Whatever You Do, Don’t Throw That Away!” – Jeff Yeager

So, you have cut up your butternut squash and now you have a bunch of seeds leftover. As Jeff Yeager, known as the “Ultimate Cheapskate” and one of my favorite people to seek budget advice from would say, “whatever you do, don’t throw that away!”

Butternut Squash Seeds

 

Instead, clean and rinse the seeds. Lay them out on a clean cloth or paper towel in a single layer and set aside to dry. Once they are dry, toss them in a tsp or so of oil and a pinch of salt (or whatever spices you would like). Finally, bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. They are edible just like pumpkin seeds.

Then, once you are full on chili and squash seeds, I highly recommend that you go check out Jeff Yeager’s YouTube Channel: The Cheap Life. I am far from mastering a budget lifestyle but I draw on him for inspiration. He has mastered living a thrifty (cheapskate as he calls it), happy, and healthy lifestyle. His videos are produced by AARP but his videos are awesome for all ages. He gives great advice with a sense of humor and lots of personality.

Preview: No Electricity Required Hummus 

Next week, I will be sharing another recipe video. I just did not have it quite completed for this week. This video will cover a great way I discovered to make smooth hummus without a food processor or blender, no electricity at all so it would be excellent for camping or on the go. Hummus is another one of those foods that I love but have been unable to eat for a long time due to my garlic intolerance so I can never find it at stores or eat it at restaurants. And, I cannot make it at home because I lack a high-speed blender/food processor. Lumpy hummus is not delicious, there is definitely something about texture when it comes to hummus. So, when I basically stumbled my way into creating this awesome recipe, I could not wait to share.

 

Flexibility: Food Budget Challenge, Week 3

So, last week was the third week in my food budget challenge. I only had $40 left to spend for the two remaining weeks, week 3 and week 4. This challenge has proven much more difficult than my optimism led me to believe week 1 but I have learned some critical lessons, from my costly mistakes to my many successes, which I will definitely take with me to do better in the upcoming months. It takes a while to build consistency with any habit so I am still content in the fact that I am moving in the right direction. I hope that you have used some of the advice that I have shared and I plan to continue to share any tips and tricks that I discover on my own journey towards eating healthy on a budget. This week, I learned:

#1: Be creative with what you already have

My long time impulse for making food is to come up with ideas for what I want to make, figure out what I have already, and then go out and purchase the ingredients I need. Since I wanted to stay within my budget of $40 for two weeks, I resisted this urge. Instead, I took an inventory of all my food and planned a menu for the week of breakfasts, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks based on the food that I already had. This did not mean that I could not be adventurous with my cooking but that I had to be even more creative by trying to make the new recipes fit the ingredients that I had. For example, I wanted cookies for dessert since we no longer had any store bought desserts. So, I found some almond flour that we had stored away in the back of a cabinet, hidden by the food that we rotate out more often. On the back, there was this delightfully easy vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe. I did not have a lot of the ingredients listed but I got creative by substituting with ingredients that I did have.

Butter Pecan Cookies (Vegan and Gluten Free)
Adapted from Elana’s Pantry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe 

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups blanched almond flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp Himalayan sea salt
2 tbs. Butter Pecan Maple Syrup (plus extra for cross hatch on top of cookie)
1 tbs. coconut sugar (plus extra for cross hatch on top of cookie)
½ cup canned sweet potato puree (unsweetened) 
½ cup coconut oil

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix all dry ingredients together
3. If coconut oil is solid, heat coconut oil either on the stove or microwave. I did 15-20 seconds in my microwave. Mix remaining liquid ingredients into the coconut oil.
4. Combine liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the dough into 1” diameter balls.
6. Dip a fork into some maple syrup and make cross hatches on the top of the cookies.
7. Sprinkle a tiny bit of coconut sugar on top of the cookies.
8. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Butter Pecan Vegan Gluten-Free Cookies

These cookies are not super sweet but they are great if you want to feel a little indulgent without feeling guilty. You can always add a little bit more coconut sugar or butter pecan maple syrup if you want it a little sweeter. You may be able to get a similar taste with traditional maple syrup but adding in chopped pecans. They have a great dose of protein from the almond flour and sweet potatoes. You can also freeze the dough. Since I was only sharing this with one other person, I split the dough in half. It thawed really nicely on the counter for a couple hours before I made the second batch.

#2: Do not just look at price when looking for the lowest cost

It is more than just price that must be factored in when considering buying an item. It is important to shop for items that will give you the highest caloric and nutrient bang for your buck.

For example, I had a choice between Luke’s Cheddar Clouds versus Beanitos (bean tortilla chips). Now, both are made from a minimal list of really high quality ingredients but one also acts as a serving of vegetables. If I eat the Luke’s Cheddar Puffs, I also have to eat an additional serving of vegetables. With the Beanitos, I get a delicious snack and a serving of vegetables. They both have the same calorie content and are roughly the same price but the additional price for another vegetable plus the convenience of not having to figure out another vegetable to eat makes the Beanitos a wiser monetary and healthy snack choice.

#3: Counting calories

So, I am going really strong with my trick of breaking up large bulk items into individual bags to save money and calories (plus, it makes it so much easier to have a grab and go snack), but now, I am having the opposite problem. Sometimes now, I find that I am eating too few calories a day. When I was eating out almost daily, I knew that there were a lot of calories in these meals. The nature of eating out generally, even if it is healthy, is that these meals are high in calories. So, as a Vegetarian now eating at home, I find that many of my meals are much lower in calories. It is important for our bodies to function properly that we get enough calories into them. As someone who has dieted, I have found that my best range is 1500-1800 calories per day but a couple of days I did not make it to my minimum. So, I have been employing a technique that I have used in the past in order to meet my daily caloric intake without going over, in addition to meal planning: a food journal. A food journal is a daily diary of the foods you eat and their calorie content. At the end of the day, you total the amount to see if you have hit your target. Many people use this technique for weight loss. It is a great way to maintain your own accountability. In addition to counting calories, I like to use my food journal to keep track of the amount of water I drink throughout the day as well as the number of fruits and vegetables I have consumed because these are the areas that I find that I do not always get enough of throughout the day. You can include anything you want to keep track of in your journal.

Have you ever kept a food journal? Did it help you to meet your goal?

I hope you enjoy reading this week’s blog post and that both my successes and failures have guided you on your journey to getting healthy while trying to maintain a budget. As always, I love to hear from my readers so feel free to leave a comment below.