31 January 2013

Maggie's Garbanzo Pasta

I've been very lucky to have people in my life who love to cook, but more lucky that they've looked at the possibility of cooking vegan foods as a new challenge. For example, early on in my vegan days, my dad always seemed really proud when he could figure out how to make a traditional family dish vegan or when he could figure out a way to make something that would satisfy everyone in the family. Another example is my aunt, who also really likes to cook, and will regularly send me emails containing recipes, new ideas/products, or vegan-related questions. Also relatively early on in my vegan days, we were over at this aunt and uncle's house for dinner. My aunt asked questions about things I could eat and what I liked so that she could make foods for me. She ended up making a dish that I have since referred to as "garbanzo pasta." It was delicious, which surprised me because it included garbanzo beans (chickpeas).

Beans are a really important element of a well-balanced vegan diet. Over the past nearly twelve years (since I went vegan in March 2001), I've slowly learned to incorporate more beans into my diet. Beans are a wonderfully healthy and delicious food to eat, but they were never really something I ate frequently. However, knowing that beans are packed full of protein and fiber, I knew I had to eat more of them. Luckily, garbanzo beans are a great place to start. They have a slightly different texture than most other beans and they pair amazingly with so many foods. Even Shana says she likes them! To bring the story back around, I asked my aunt for the "garbanzo pasta" recipe, tweaked it to what is articulated below, and used it as a springboard to the realization that beans are awesome!


PS. This dish is SO good that when I made it before blogging about it, Shana and I ate all of it before I could even snap a picture (no joke; the one above was added later). So instead, here's the empty pot.
so good, so gone


27 January 2013

My Very Favorite Wild Rice

I've already told you how I "cheat" when I answer the question about my favorite food, so when I get called out for cheating, I'll answer the way I'm supposed to - with a single food. That single food is wild rice. While I love it enough to stick an uncooked grain in my mouth while I'm preparing other foods, what I really think about when I think "wild rice" is the dish below.
Seriously delicious
This wild rice is something my dad used to cook when I was little (but his included pork chops), so it has a long history in my life. Although it takes a bit of time (wild rice is a whole grain), it is amazingly delicious, is very easy, and freezes without the slightest ill-effects. Wild rice is grown primarily in the great lakes region of North America (notably the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, as well as the nearby parts of Canada). Because wild rice is time-intensive to harvest, it can be pricey if you're living out these primary harvesting zones. We stock up while in Minnesota (we came home with 10 pounds of rice our last trip). However, if you can find it for a reasonable price (it goes for about $4.99 a pound in MN), this dish is actually quite cheap per serving. Based on the ingredients I used (a pound of wild rice, organic celery, organic onion, and Better than Bullion "No Chicken" stock), I estimated just over 60 cents per 1 cup serving.  But honestly, the moral of the story is that you should eat it, because it's my favorite ever.

22 January 2013

Maggie's Lentil Soup

Like most of the Midwest, it was really cold here today. It didn't get quite as cold as it did in my home state of Minnesota, but it was still cold enough that many school districts delayed school by two hours. It was also cold enough that my walking buddy and I opted not to walk and carpooled instead (we walk to campus Tuesday and Thursday).

Anyway, since we knew it was going to be cold, that meant we planned for soup when doing our meal planning this week. We always toy with wild rice soup in the winter, but I really pushed for lentil soup. Shana wasn't certain, but then remembered that I changed the recipe that last time I made it and that she liked this version better. That the great thing about lentil soup though, it can be filled with nearly anything, take on multiple different flavor profiles, and will still be good for you! Every vegan cook should have a lentil soup they love. Lentils are a legume, which means they are a high-protein food, and they pair well with just about every soup veggie I can imagine. Plus, dried lentils are available at nearly any grocery store and do not require the soaking and long cooking times that many other legumes require. Just give them a quick once-over and rinse and they are ready to cook!



19 January 2013

Vegan While Traveling

On Thursday afternoon I left Indiana to travel to New Orleans for the annual SPSP conference. I've gone every year since my second year of graduate school (which was the 5th SPSP, I think). The good news and bad news about the annual SPSP conference is that it changes location every year. That's good news because I get to see new cities every year. That's bad news because I have to figure out how to eat in new cities every year.

Traveling as a vegan is a lot easier than it used to be, but it still can take a bit of planning. Luckily SPSP provides lunch for me (and I request a vegan one), but breakfast and dinner and any other snacks are on my own. Plus, it's not just while at the conference when I have to figure out food, I have to get to and from the conference. That all adds up to a lot of planning to find food. While this may sound daunting, there are a lot of ways that you can make traveling as a vegan do-able, sometimes even easy!

Let's talk the en route part of traveling. One of the things I learned early on is that traveling with travel-friendly snacks is a must. Travel-friendly snacks are those that won't break easily, are small, and have decent nutritional value. My favorite things to bring as travel snacks are fruit leathers, nuts, vegan jerky, and/or peanut butter crackers (though those break more easily). All of these foods are healthy and aren't things like chips or candy. If you happen to forget to bring snacks, you can certainly find things to eat the airport. For example, every random news/magazine/snack shop will have bags of nuts. You may also be able to find a popcorn vendor, a bagel place, or a smoothie vendor.

However, before you travel, you should make your life easier by planning for when you are actually in your destination. I feel like this is an obvious step, but a simple google search of "vegan and [insert city here]" may find you something interesting. In larger cites, you may find a website specifically for veg*n food/stores in that city. For smaller places, you still may find a gem. But, I don't like to depend exclusively on that information. Instead, I make sure to check with two specific websites before I travel (and usually end up with a printed list of possibilities). My first go to is a website called vegguide, followed by happycow. Vegguide is more likely to be up-to-date, as they will continue to add places that are veg*n-friendly. In contrast, happycow recently decided to list list restaurants that are exclusively veg*n (though they are not removing old listings). Between these two cites, I can always find at least one place that will do for me and for others in my dining party. This trip I came prepared with a 6-page long print out and ended up having a wonderful meal at Carmo. If you're ever in New Orleans and want a delicious (!!!) veg*n meal, it's highly recommended!

13 January 2013

Guest Post: Matty McMatterson's Cheezy Kale Chips

This is a guest post by a wonderful friend of mine from grad school. Below is what he sent me about his recipe for v*gan kale chips. After this, it's all McMatterson talking. Thank you, Matty McMatterson!!

Out here in Sonoma County California, Kale Chips are a major fad. In fact, there is actually a kale chip section of the grocery store. The shelves are filled with products from companies with alluring names such as "Alive and Radiant," "Kaia," and "Rhythm Superfoods." Many of these do have a nice product, but the prices! Four to six dollars for two ounces of chips? One brand was eight dollars! For kale? No thank you.

Enter Cheezy kale chips. I found a recipe here and gave it a try.One drawback was the long cooking time (2 to 4 hours at 250 degrees). So I tried it at 300 degrees and they came out just fine. I also tweaked a few ingredients. This was well worth the effort! Delicious vegan cheeze chips at a fraction of the cost. Here is how to  make your own!

12 January 2013

Vegan Viands #4: Maggie's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Maybe you've made a New Year's resolution to eat fewer sweets. If you have, feel free to ignore this recipe. As for me, I generally don't make resolutions. In fact, I find it kind of odd that people use an arbitrary time marker (I mean, why didn't we match the calendar to end on the winter solstice or something?) to attempt to change themselves. Psychological research indicates that those sorts of change attempts do not often work. They can, but only when the new behavior patterns are consistent enough to create a new habit.

Anyway, since I don't make resolutions and because I have a killer sweet tooth, it should come as no surprise that I've got at least one go-to recipe for easy sweets. In fact, the chocolate chip cookie recipe below is one I've got memorized. It's based on the chocolate chip cookie that is on the back of a bag of Wegmans' chocolate chips, but that cookie was too crisp for me. I like my chocolate chip cookies to be soft and puffy. This recipe is pretty standard, but it makes cookies that everyone seems to love and that get all soft and chewy and gooey after a few seconds in the microwave.


09 January 2013

The Best Vegan Chili Ever

When I was a little kid (4 years old or so) I had a traumatic experience with chili. Let's just say that humans, like most animals, develop pretty strong long-term associations when food is associated with illness. Thus, it was a long (long!) time before I decided that I wanted to eat chili. In fact, I think it was only about 5-6 years ago when some cooking chili smelled good to me. At that point, I decided to try to make some, but since I'd gone more than 20 years without eating it, I had no idea what was supposed to go into it or what it was supposed to taste like.

That's when I realized that chili is one of the most subjective dishes around. There are seemingly endless variations on what to include (although, according to Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, real chili doesn't include beans). So I decided to make something that was delicious. I failed. After trying a few recipes by others, I finally stumbled on one that was good! Although it wasn't quite what I wanted, I knew it just needed a bit of tinkering to be exactly what I wanted it to be. In my opinion, there are two keys to this recipe. The first is that you saute the spices early on in the recipe; that deepens and rounds out their flavors. The second is the inclusion of bulgur wheat. The texture of the bulgur is very reminiscent of finely ground meat, so it gives the whole dish a very satisfying mouth feel. Keep in mind that this is a THICK chili, so I've got a note below about how to thin it out.


05 January 2013

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Tonight Shana and I are watching the Vikes/Pack wild card postseason game. Although tonight's dinner wasn't the original plan, it was a perfect football watching dinner. What's a perfect football watching dinner? Anything you don't have to think too much about and that also tastes good with beer*. Since it's hard to order a vegan pizza around here, we had sloppy joes and onion rings (and eggplant). 

Clearly I eat mine open-faced. 
While it's possible - and tasty - to make things like sloppy joes and tacos with lentils, we generally don't do so because of the convenience of faux burger crumbles. There are many varieties available, though my favorite is Smart Ground. I think they have the most neutral taste and the texture is very realistic, based on reviews from my omnivore friends.

This sloppy joe recipe has a pretty classic flavor profile for sloppy joes, but it is incredibly simple and easy. You only need one pot, most of the ingredients are those you probably already have in your kitchen, and you can make in about 20 minutes tops.

03 January 2013

Herb-Crusted Tofu and Mushroom Gravy

Happy New Year, my few loyal readers! We had a lovely holiday season and I certainly hope you all did as well! We're now back home and preparing for the spring semester (which starts Monday for Shana and Jan 16th for me). Although it's likely you've been doing so already, why not try to incorporate more meatless meals into your routine. One or two nights a week is totally do-able and I know where you can get some awesome recipes. ;)

I mentioned a while back that when Shana and I do our weekly meal plan, we sit down with our list of dinners we like. Normally, this list is all we need to make our weekly meal plan, but every once in a while, nothing on our meal plan looks appealing to me. I suppose that's why I have a decent number of cookbooks and why I have stacks of recipes ripped out of Vegetarian Times Magazine (and a few from random other places as well). This week (and next, but don't tell Shana), I decided we should do something new since I'm home and the semester hasn't started. I went through my stacks, pulled out a few things that sounded interesting, presented them to Shana, and a new recipe was picked.

We were both a little nervous about this one, as it was stretching our food boundaries a bit. Here's a little secret: I'm vegan but I'm not really a fan of mushrooms. It's unusual, I know. I mean, the taste is fine. But the texture... I just don't know. Shana feels the same, only more strongly than I do. However, I'd always liked portobello mushrooms; Shana, not so much. While in Minnesota, a friend brought over salad to share for a dinner and it had baby portobellos on it. Shana was, somehow, convinced to try one, and liked it! This new development, in combination with the fact that we both feel like we should be eating mushrooms, sparked this recipe attempt. I was skeptical while looking at the ingredients, but it turned out to be delicious!

Seriously amazing