Tag Archives: frugal vegan

I love my freezer (and typing, it seems!).

Phew, it’s been a crazy few weeks. I went on a cruise holiday, then developed both a sinus infection and a chest infection at the same damn time within a few days of getting home, which totally wiped me out for a fortnight. I’ve been back at work since last week, and figured an update was necessary.

So, cruise ships then. They are to vegans as garlic and crosses are to vampires. While there is an entire lack of photographic evidence, it’s entirely possible to eat well and be vegan on a cruise, despite their “catering for vegetarians, but not vegans”.

While I may have had a both a good choice of cruise company (Royal Caribbean) and a little repetition in my meals, I ate like a king while on board and was not once made to feel like an awkward guest.

Breakfast:

We went buffet style every morning. My plate largely involved a trip to the huge fruit salad bar, plus fried potatoes and mushrooms from the grill, then a sweep over to the bread baskets for fresh rolls and margarine. No soy milk, unfortunately, so orange juice and herbal tea for me.

Lunch:

When on board, we went back to the buffet for lunch, and I had loads of options. Huge salad bar, including multiple kinds of salad leaves, lots of different vegetables and awesome toppings like sunflower seeds and walnuts and dried fruits, with an assortment of dressings – though I stuck with my “boring” favourite of balsamic vinegar for the most part. I usually went with a vaguely small portion of pasta and tomato sauce of the day after that, often with some sauerkraut on the side as they had dishes of it for hot dog toppings and I took advantage of it being accidentally vegan! I could have asked for a pizza to be made up without cheese, but I didn’t bother as I couldn’t have eaten a whole one by myself!

Dinner:

Formal dining room for dinner, except one night when we hit up Johnny Rockets upstairs and I got to have my first vegan boca burger, which was good, but not as good as my usual Fry’s burger. Still, I’m glad I have now tried one and can move on with my life (unlike my obsession with getting my mitts on some Veganaise and Justin’s PB cups). Service in the formal dining room was amaaaazing. There was always a vegan starter and the mains included a vegetarian special which changed each evening, and was pretty much all vegan without the condiments. I had homemade soy meatballs in lentil chilli, tacos (minus the sour cream), an amazing spinach salad…if by some chance the main veggie option wasn’t vegan, their “classic” menu always had a pasta dish with tomato sauce. The only thing lacking was dessert, which was very heavy on the dairy and eggs. I asked on my first night if they had anything vegan and they made me up a fabulous fruit platter, which I had most nights.

Downsides….you’d want to like veggies and fruit, as you’ll eat a lot of them. Probably for the best though – I didn’t put on any weight during my trip, which is possibly a record for me.

Repetition does happen, especially on the pasta front, but I ate really well for the week. I’d really have liked a non-fruit dessert on even one evening (that wasn’t just cookies in my bunk that I brought on board myself). If you can do strawberries, and you can do strawberry souffle, then you can dunk a few in some dark chocolate without too much hassle.

Whole grains. With the exception of the (non-vegan) soda-type bread, there were none. Pasta was white, bread was white, rice was white. I’m used to brown rice and pasta and not much white bread these days, so my stomach got a little unhappy towards the end of the week.

If you’re not ok with filling your salad plate within ten feet of cheese pizza or a carvery station, then this might not be for you. Personally, meat doesn’t make me feel ill (with the exception of really disgusting things like veal or foie gras) so I can just look past it and get to the good stuff.

Another note – it’s best to avoid looking at other people’s plates. The sheer gluttony is astounding. I’m not talking about a second slice of pizza here…I’m talking about people eating 3 double cheeseburgers with sides for lunch, then getting seconds. Yes, it’s personal choice, but I just don’t get it….eating oneself to death just seems like an awful waste.

 

The day after getting home, some vegetable-and-bean overload was required, along with some cake, in as short and low effort a manner as possible 🙂

2013-10-08 18.06.49Giant cauliflower from the organic farm down the road. Best bargain I’ve ever had!

Apply rice of choice to rice cooker, or to pot.

2013-10-08 18.41.37

 

Chop (some!) cauli into small, bite sized florets (makes for fast cooking!) and sprinkle with salt, turmeric and whole cumin seed and dribble over a little olive oil, if that’s your thing. Stick in oven.

2013-09-25 20.05.28

 

Take that tub of leftover chana masala out of the freezer, run under the cold tap….

2013-09-25 20.06.09

 

 

…then upend into saucepan over the lowest heat possible. Once it begins to loosen up, have at it with a butter knife to break it into smaller chunks. Once it has defrosted, turn up the heat and warm through, watching for rogue ice cubes.

Stick all of the above unceremoniously on plate, with some chutney if you have it, wish that the lighting was better, then shrug and devour.

2013-10-08 19.48.36

Remember that your cat missed you too as he purrs like a steam engine.

2013-10-08 14.09.20

Then have some cake and tea on the sofa…

2013-10-20 13.05.00

…before cursing when you remember both the giant pile of washing and the  block of tofu in a tub of water in the fridge that you meant to chuck out before you left and will now be demanding voting rights. (It’s Isa’s pumpkin muffin from VWAV, turned into a cupcake, with cream cheese frosting).

Nothing’s ever perfect!

 

Weekend washout.

This weekend was going to involve lots of foodie indulgence and a great post about cooking vegan food for Sunday lunch with my omni parents, and I’d then blog about how they loved it. It’s been a bit of a washout though, to be honest, culminating in my being woken up at 6am with a migraine so bad I thought my eye was going to pop. HusBeast is also fighting off a horrible cold, so lots of garlic, ginger and chilli is on the menu.

The sum total of my cooking since Friday night, then, has been this.

 

before

Two pizza bases from the freezer, topped with garlic spread and copious amounts of Vegusto No-Muh melty. I adore this cheese. It melts beautifully and tastes squidgy and cheesy. Even omniHusband likes it, which is saying a lot.

The pizza bases were made in the breadmaker a couple of weeks ago. One lot of dough makes four one person sized thin based pizzas. I part bake them in a superhot oven, allow to cool on a rack, then bag and freeze. When I want pizza during the week then, it’s just a matter of taking out a couple of bases, smearing with tomato sauce and slapping on a few toppings. Proper dinner assembled and in my gob in under 30 minutes, including oven pre-heating time. Perfect for work nights, as we generally don’t get home until at least 7pm.

after

Yum!

I probably should have helped to balance this out by having it with a salad, but no. I scoffed it, then followed it up with a bowl of chocolate Swedish Glace. I regret nothing.

Time for an episode of Fringe and some well deserved sleep.

 

Pantry pasta sauce

I’m a big fan of making everything food-wise from scratch as far as possible. My mother is regularly over-awed by this, but really, there’s not much to it once you get a bit of practice in. Multitasking is also a good skill.

This pasta sauce is not my most used recipe, but it is really useful. It involves nothing more than ingredients from the pantry, which makes it very handy in the few days before payday, or when getting home from a few days away to an empty fridge and an emptier belly. It’s quick as well. Put on a pot of water to boil, get your dried pasta of choice out of the press along with a few other ingredients – including two of my five favourites from yesterday’s post.

First, some herbs and spices.

pantryplate

Moving anti-clockwise from the yellow pile…

One teaspoon marigold boullion powder

One teaspoon dried garlic granules

Half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

One teaspoon granulated sugar (this is just supermarket golden granulated, and is unrefined so no bone char)

One teaspoon dried onion granules

(middle) One teaspoon dried oregano.

If you’re using the low salt version of the boullion, I’d also add a pinch of salt.

potty

Take a tin of chopped tomatoes and pour into a saucepan. Swish a couple of tablespoons of water around in the can to get the last of the tomatoey goodness out. Add all of the seasonings above.

The sugar is a trick of my grandmothers, and is a great idea for any recipe involving tinned tomatoes, as it helps neutralise any over acidity or metallic aftertaste, as well as bringing out the flavour of the tomatoes.

Give everything a stir (it will look rather unattractive) then turn on the heat. Bring the heat up until the first couple of bubbles pop on the surface, then lower the flame. Tomatoes are much better off at a low simmer – bringing them to the boil does not-very-nice things to the taste of the final sauce. Give it another stir; the seasonings should all be melting in nicely.

After five minutes, your pot of water should be at a rolling boil. Add salt and your pasta.

About 3 minutes before the pasta is cooked (check packet directions), turn off the heat under the sauce, give a final stir and break out the stick blender.

blend

Give it a quick whoosh (“whoosh” being a technical term, of course), leaving chunks if that’s your bag. Don’t be tempted to use the highest setting. Hot tomato sauce can spatter a lot, and that stuff will burn your skin and stain your clothing. Stir well and then taste. Adjust seasoning, then clap a lid on it to keep warm.

Drain pasta, apply sauce, nom.

saucy

This is my finished sauce, which is cooling down in a very unsexy lock n lock tub, and will be turned into part of a lasagne for tomorrow night. If just pouring over pasta, I’d say this is enough sauce for 3-4 people, unless you like your pasta swimming in sauce.

Homemade dinner on the table in under 20 minutes, under two euro. Take that, Jamie!

Five things.

Mondays are hard. Doubly so when Autumn weather has decided to arrive with a vengence and the mornings are much darker than they were just a month ago. It makes me crave comfort food and gives me the desire to keep a full pantry for the cold weather ahead.

These are my (current!) five can’t-live-without pantry items.

5 things

I store the vast majority of my pantry goods in these glass preserving jars. I can see what everything is at a glance, things stay fresh and bug free even in the middle of summer, it helps hugely in controlling cross contamination issues with gluten (a friend who eats with us regularly is bigtime coeliac), I don’t have bags of things spilling all over my shelves and they look pretty as hell to boot.

The first big jar on the left is brown rice. Sometimes it’s long grain, sometimes basmati. We eat quite a bit of rice, particularly when cooking for crowds as it’s pretty cheap as well as being nutritious and filling. I also really like the nutty taste of the brown rice, though we still use white for sushi. Cooking brown rice is also easy breezy when you have a rice cooker.

Middle jar is bread flour. This stuff is from Dove’s Farm and makes exceedingly tasty bread. I saved up for a breadmaker a couple of years ago (more on that in another post) and it has paid for itself five times over. I bake all of our bread and also make pizza dough from this flour.

Jar on the right is partly filled with chickpeas and fingerprints. Oops. These are my go-to bean and I have come to adore them. Hummus, curry, chilli…the list is endless. We probably eat something involving chickpeas four or five days a week.

In front on the left, canned tomatoes. I get these by the slab from the CoOp and they work out under a euro a can, even though they’re organic and fairtrade. Suma is also a cooperative wholesaler, which is fantastic. These are the nicest tinned tomatoes I’ve found. Thick, delicious juice and loads of tomato chunks. I’ve had one can too many with a few pasty looking pieces floating around in a can of watery juice. No thanks. Since I swapped to these I’m getting through half as much tomato puree, and they’re as cheap as supermarket brands.

Finally there’s my giant tub of Marigold boullion powder. They have a range of powders, including low salt, and they’re all vegan. This stuff tastes amazing and is really easy to use. It’s the nearest thing to fresh, homemade veggie stock that I’ve found. The powder form is also very handy for recipes where you don’t want to add a litre of stock and then have to reduce your sauce down. You can also use tiny amounts where you wouldn’t break off a quarter of a veggie stock cube, for example.

These items are always in my pantry and at least one of them is included in the vast majority of our meals.

That said, I have a huge pantry. Part of my challenge this month is to buy as little as possible in the line of groceries, outside of perishables. I might even do a tour once I get it slightly more under control!

Anyone else have pantry items that they couldn’t live without?

The morning after.

So I’m on attempt three with this post. WordPress does not like “The morning after” either, it seems.

Last night, being Friday, was our usual Friday night gaming session, which has been running for about five years now. People drop over around seven, I feed everyone, then we play some game or other – rpgs or board games mostly, but also card games and other bits and pieces. It’s really good fun and rounds off the week nicely. There are usually six of us, which is also a great number for most games.

While there may be six people, I generally cook for ten as at least half the group seem to have hollow legs. There’s one vegan, me, two will-eat-anything omnis (including HusBeast), one more fussy omni (I think this is the only time in the week he really eats veggies that aren’t on a pizza), one high level coeliac and one allergic-to-dairy-and-eggs. Simple vegan, analog-free food is the easiest and tastiest for all.

pots

A huge pot of chana masala bubbling away on the hob, and a pan of coconut toasting. Off to the right is my beloved rice cooker. When it finishes I fluff the rice up and just before serving mix through the coconut. Deeee-licious.

To go with this I make my carrot salad. The recipe may seem a little slapdash, but it’s really a “to taste” recipe. To make it, you’ll need

Carrots. I advise organic – it’s well worth it here. I used 500g for six people.

Fresh ginger root – big-thumb sized piece.

Sliced almonds – a good handful. Don’t go overboard though. They should be tasty surprises among the carrots, not the dominating taste.

Fresh coriander

Fresh red chilli

1 lemon

First off, toast the almonds in a hot, dry frying pan. Keep an eye on them though as they really can go from pale and boring to burnt and unuseable in a few seconds.

prep for salad

 

Chop the lemon in half for juicing (this one was about the size of a big lime) and peel the ginger root. Grate the carrots. I’d recommend breaking out the food processor if one’s available. If not, use the most coarse side of your grater and grate directly into the serving bowl to preserve the carrotty juices. Once that’s done, deal with the chilli.

If you’re a little wary of spice, use a big chilli as they tend to be much milder – some of the tiny ones would blow your head off! This recipe doesn’t use the chilli for heat either, just flavour, so take the chilli, chop off the stem, split it lengthways and then peel out the membrane and seeds. I’d advise doing this directly over the bin/compost bag, especially if there are little people or furbabies at home as it stops bits going astray in between chopping board and bin. Slice the chilli very finely.

lemonfaced

Grate the ginger directly onto the carrot in the serving bowl, again to preserve any juice that will try to escape. I use a microplane for this as it makes short work of any stringy bits. Move the grater around as you go. It makes mixing easier later.

microplane

Squeeze the lemon all over, sprinkle the chilli on and then ignore for ten minutes while you get on with some stirring. Don’t be tempted to add salt!

Just before serving, chop the coriander and sprinkle on.

ready to mix

I love the colours!

Add the almonds and then stick your hands in and mix away, trying to get as even a blend as possible. By this point, you’ll have become painfully aware of any papercuts you may have. It’s worth it, I promise.

tahdah

Taah daah! From scratch toasted coconut rice, chana masala and carrot salad. Dee-licious.

This salad is really versatile, which is one of the things I love about it. If I’m making a very mild curry I might up the chilli or coriander. If I’m making something with lots of coconut milk that’s really creamy, I’ll add a little more lemon as a foil for the fat. It goes very nicely with almost all curries or Indian dishes and if there are leftovers they’re great in a wrap or pitta with hummus and a few raisins!

No leftovers today though…time for a rummage in the presses!

VeganMoFo Day 3: Time for some shopping.

So today I spent my lunch break picking up some groceries, and thought I’d share a couple of my favourite places for vegan yumminess. I live in the dreaded commuter belt, so I take advantage of working in the city centre for getting hold of things that my local supermarket just doesn’t get the turnover to keep in stock, or just wouldn’t get in.

First up is the Asia Market. I adore this place.

2013-09-03 12.34.45

From the outside, it doesn’t look like there’s much going on. If you look in the window as you go by, you’ll see a room with posters on the wall and a small table. I walked past it for years, not realising you have to go down the back and turn the corner to enter the cave o’ wonders.

2013-09-03 12.35.49

A small but well stocked fruit and veg section, with all sorts of hard to get bits and pieces. Today they had two watermelons about the size of a football for the princely sum of five euro. Tomorrow they’ll have fresh okra – it really does vary from day to day.

I know that a lot of people are confused or intimidated by these markets, but the trick is just to dive in and look around. The staff are generally more than happy to help with translations on anything that doesn’t have an English sign or sticker, and here they’ll even offer help with recipes.

2013-09-03 12.42.19

There are also a huge amount of vegan friendly options – some will be labelled vegetarian, some might even be labelled pork flavour, as I found out recently with some accidently vegan noodles! This mock chicken is really versatile. Doesn’t look great straight out of the can, but roast or fry it and it crisps up nicely for adding to all sorts of dishes. It’s basically seitan – wheat gluten – with seasonings.

2013-09-03 12.40.48

This curry sauce is marked as vegetarian – or containing no meat – but is accidently vegan too, and is the same curry sauce used for katsu curry in places like Wagamama. I also use it on occasion as a curry dip for chips, as most chip shop curry sauce contains dairy or meat stock.

2013-09-03 12.51.37

These noodles on the top shelf are not marked as vegan or vegetarian, but are again, accidently vegan. These are hot and sour soup flavour, and while they’re very much in the junk food category (mostly due to the salt content) I like to keep one at work for days when I have to work through lunch, or I’ve done something silly like forgetting my lunch and wallet at the same time. With all of these flavoured noodles, when looking through ingredients for the usual suspects, keep an eye out for the word “flake” as it usually refers to bonito, which is made from fish. So far I’ve had best luck with the pork, mi goreng or wonton flavour noodles in terms of getting vegan options. Seafood ones are the least vegan friendly flavour I’ve found, and generally contain dried shrimp, cuttlefish, anchovy or flake.

The Asia market is also the holy grail of soy foods, though I didn’t get a snap of this. No tempeh today –  it’s generally in on Thursday and gone before the weekend. Lots of different kinds of tofu, including sheets and puffs. Just watch out for the “special” tofu in the little tubes – it tends to be enriched with egg.

The real joy of the market is the bulk aisle. I get my rice from here about three times a year in 10kg bags – works out cheaper than the value rice at the supermarket. This is also the best place to get herbs and spices of all kinds.

2013-09-03 12.47.35

This photo shows less than half of the spice aisle. Small bags are generally 50g in weight, and most on these shelves are 100g or thereabouts. If you’re really a fan of something though, you can get bags of over a kilo of just about anything! I can’t recommend enough taking some time in a place like this if you’re remotely into cooking with herbs and spices or exotic flavourings. They also have an incredible range of curry pastes, beans, pulses and whatnot. What I’d pay in the supermarket for a 30g packet of coriander seed for example, will usually get me the 100g bag here. Yellow curry paste is a quarter the price and twice as fresh.

My camera’s being uncooperative this evening, so no picture of my haul or my lovely Pad Thai with crispy tofu, but let me assure you that it was delicious 🙂