Thursday, March 31, 2011

Week 12: Project Food Budget

Week 12 of Reluctant Vegetarian's Project: Food Budget

Goal: $75
Actual: $115.04

$54.89 of this went to stocking up on staples from Trader Joe's. I've priced these items out at other places and, unless there's a crazy sale, have found they're cheapest at Trader Joe's:
  • olive oil (1 liter for $4.99)
  • vegan chocolate chips ($2.29)
  • frozen organic strawberries for smoothies ($1.99)
  • cocoa powder ($2.29)
  • organic maple syrup ($7.99)
  • lemons and limes ($.39 each)
  • bananas ($.19 each)
$60.15 went to these meals for the week:
As always I made my weekly batch of whole wheat bread.

Happy budgeting to my fellow food budgeters!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Baked Tofu, Kale & Brown Rice Bowl with Chickpea Gravy

This was another bowl idea from Appetite for Reduction: Gravy Bowl with basic baked tofu (it called for tempeh, but I substituted tofu), steamed kale, brown rice, and the Silky Chickpea Gravy.

First things first: this chickpea gravy is amazing. You blend chickpeas with onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil, thyme, and rubbed sage; vegetable broth mixed with arrowroot powder; and soy sauce. It's thick and gravy-y and savory and just really yummy. I could eat a whole recipe by the spoonful without much problem. I made the omnivore husband taste it too, and he thought it was pretty good. I'll definitely make this gravy again and smother it over everything. I found the recipe on this blog, so try it!
So what happens when you combine this wonderful gravy with rice, my favorite baked tofu, and steamed kale? You get an absolutely scrumptious, filling, healthy good that, a half-hour after dinner, I'm looking forward to having it for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lasagna with Roasted Cauliflower Ricotta & Spinach

I've had my eye on this tantalizing recipe from Appetite for Reduction since I first got the book. But because it's one of the most time intensive recipes, I didn't try it until this weekend.

There's a lot of prep. First (obviously) you roast the cauliflower. Then you mash it with a mixture of tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt and pepper.Next you make the sauce, which is really just adding fresh thyme, minced garlic, and salt to a can of crushed tomatoes.Then you chop up some spinach and start building the lasagna layers.I topped it with thinly sliced tomatoes and baked it for 40 minutes. sucked. Really. It figures that the most time intensive recipe I've made from AFR so far was so bad. I made myself eat two of the six slices before I threw the rest out. For me, wasting food is an ultimate sin, so you know this was pretty bad.

The description said it had "so much flavor your head might burst." Instead, my head deflated with the lack of flavor. I love all the ingredients, especially roasted cauliflower, but to me it tasted really bland. The only thing I could taste really strongly was the fresh thyme in the sauce.

How disappointing...especially after I gave AFR such a glowing review! Oh well...I'll overlook a few flubs in an otherwise great cookbook.

Has anyone else made this? Is it something I did wrong???

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pizza Hummus

This is a hummus variation from Appetite for Reduction. For the version I made yesterday, I used my oil-free modification of AFR's hummus and then added sundried tomatoes and fresh basil. I served it on warm-from-the-oven homemade whole-wheat bread.

YUM! This may be one of my all-time favorite hummus variations. It's different from any other hummus I've had, with a really good and unique pizza-like taste. My omnivore husband really liked it too.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cookbook Club: Appetite for Reduction Review

I reviewed this book as part of Cook Vegan Lover's Cookbook Club. In a nutshell, this is probably my all-time favorite cookbook. I felt like it was written just for me. I give it 10 out of 5 stars; it's really that fantastic. The breakdown...

I Loved...
  • The recipes. Usually there will be many recipes in a cookbook that appeal to me, but many others that don't. Of the 125 recipes in this book, there are maybe 5 that I don't want to try.
  • The taste. Almost all of the 25 recipes I tried were delicious; others were just good. There were only two I didn't like.
  • The low fat. All of the recipes were between 200 and 400 calories a serving. Because I'm maintaining a large weight loss, this was really important to me. (My biggest criticism of Veganomicon was that the recipes were definitely not low fat!)
  • The nutrition combinations. Perhaps what I liked most was that this cookbook taught me how to easily combine veggies, protein, and whole grains to make a complete, filling, satisfying meal, which is a key to weight loss and maintenance, as I explain here. I loved both the recipes that did this and the ideas for building bowls, sandwiches, and salads.
  • The nutrition information. I'm maintaining my weight on WeightWatchers so continue to use their PointsPlus value system. It was really easy to calculate the Points of foods with the provided nutrition information.
  • Ideas for other combinations. I really loved the sections on bowls and sandwiches, because although the cookbook contained 125 recipes, the options for new meals based on Isa's ideas are endless.
  • The breakdown of sections. I loved how this book was broken down into salads, sides, veggies, beans, tofu & tempeh, pasta, soups, and curries, chili & stews. That's pretty much exactly how I think of meals, so the breakdown was intuitive.
  • The lack of desserts. If there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that full-fat desserts are worth it. Low-fat desserts just don't taste as good and, on WeightWatchers, are only 1 or 2 points less than their full-fat cousins. I'd rather use the extra points to have a better dessert. I love that Isa didn't even go there in AFR.
  • The time. I really, really loved how little time most of the recipes took. That was my other criticism of Veganomicon--that I'd spend all day one one dish. Most of these recipes were really easy to prepare on weeknights after work.
  • The helpful intros, notes, and tips. The book is filled with helpful nuggets of wisdom. I loved that Isa would advise not to cook a dish to bring to a potluck but to make if you wanted to throw something quickly together. And notes like "the dressing may seem thin at first but thickens as it chills" were good guidelines to let me know my recipes were turning out right.
  • The tone. As with Veganomicon, I loved the humor and wit and often laughed aloud.
I Didn't Love...
There's not much I didn't love. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that some of the nutrition information was missing, but I found it on Isa's website.

Who I Think Would Love This Book Too...
Everyone with an interest in eating healthy, good, filling meals. You don't have to be watching your weight to love this book. I think omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike would like the creative combinations of ingredients, the range of types of cuisines, the cooking techniques, and the ideas for building healthy meals. My omnivore husband doesn't like anything that tastes like diet food, and he liked nearly everything he tried from this book.

Review of Recipes I tried
Other Reviews
  • The layout. I said how I liked the breakdown of sections and the notes and tips. I also like the breakdown telling how much active versus total time each recipe took.
  • Aesthetics. I would have liked to see more food pictures, but the ones that were included were helpful. And I loved the font for the recipe titles and the cover art.
  • Ingredients. All of the recipes I tried called for basic ingredients I could easily find.
The Final Word
I will use Appetite for Reduction for life. Even though the official review is over, I'm still planning on trying so many more recipes and making most of my meals from this cookbook. I love that the recipes are easy, quick, delicious, filling, and helping me maintain my weight while being completely satisfied. LOVE this cookbook. Thanks, Isa! If you're playing an AFR sequel, I'll be the first person to buy it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lessons from Week 1 Personal Training & 21 Benefits of Exercise

I'm no newbie to exercise. For the majority of the past 12 years, I've woken up before the crack of dawn and exercised before work. But in all that time exercise always meant cardio.

Just last year I started to really get into strength training. It completely changed my body shape, enabling me to drop five pants sizes even though I only lost about 33 pounds. The general rule is you drop one size for every 10 pounds you lose; that I was able to lose so many sizes is a clear indication of the benefits of strength training. Muscle takes up less room in your body than fat, so as I replaced fat with muscle, my body changed. See the link below for a really excellent article on other great benefits of exercise.

Now I'm at the point--for the first time in my adult life!--that losing weight is no longer my goal. Instead, I want to maintain while continuing to work on firming and toning. I had no idea how much exercise I needed to do--how much cardio, how much strength training, and how much rest--so I'm participating in a program through work where I can work with a personal trainer for free for a month. One week in, here's what I've learned.
  1. Over training is bad. In our first assessment session, Tom, a student graduating from Pitt's exercise science program and my personal trainer for a month, told me that I could be over training. He said only trainers, professional athletes, and people training for an endurance event like a marathon should be exercising as much as I'd been to maintain weight (150 minutes of high-intensity cardio, 160 minutes of low to moderate intensity walking, and 150 minutes of strength training a week). He thought I could see the results I wanted and maintain my weight while reducing my exercise time, so this is one of our goals.
  2. Yoga is good. Tom encouraged me to try yoga because it would work my body differently than what I was used to. I'd always previously thought of yoga as glorified stretching and, sweating it out on the elliptical, snubbed the people who sat on mats working on their breathing. Unfortunately, the first class I took reinforced that idea; it mainly focused on relaxing and stretching, and afterward I felt I'd wasted an hour better spent doing cardio. But on Tom's advice, I tried another class. It was tough! And the next day, my muscles were sore! Tom was right--it worked different muscles in my body. And...I liked it! I've done it a few times since and plan to continue doing it.
  3. Trying new things is key. I told Tom that I didn't like running. Our very first session, he had me jogging in between strength training sets. He also introduced me to the weight room. Last year I saw huge results with my own equipment at home--dumbbells, resistance bands, stability, medicine, and Bosu balls, step, and bar--but then I stopped progressing. Tom pointed out that introducing your body to new exercises is key to progression. And, he pointed out, that's especially true for lower body. You can do squats until the cows come home, but adding more weight is important to progression, and it's difficult to do that without weight machines.
My body has been sore pretty much we started personal training; I can't remember the last time I was ever sore! I've also loved the new exercises--weight machines, yoga, and even adding jogging sprints to my walks. Clearly something is working.

Power Surge: The Hidden Benefits of Exercise
I really love this article from Fitness Magazine. It summarizes many studies that show the instant, post-workout, and long-term benefits of exercise. Below is a sample. Read the full article.

As You Work Out...
Your lungs are getting stronger. When you do cardio, your brain sends signals to them to help you breathe faster and deeper, delivering extra oxygen to your muscles.

Within One Hour of Exercise...
You're protecting yourself against colds, flu, you name it. Exercise elevates your level of immunoglobulins, which are proteins that help bolster your immune system and ward off infection. "Every sweat session you do can help strengthen your immune function for about 24 hours," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.

Within One Day of Exercise...
You're adding lean muscle. If you did a strength-training routine, your muscles are now starting to rebuild themselves and repair the microscopic tears that come with lifting weights, says Paul Gordon, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Physical Activity at the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor. Preliminary research shows that women respond to and recover from resistance training faster than men.

Within One Week of Regular Exercise...
Your risk of diabetes goes down. The more you work out, the greater your sensitivity to insulin. That, in turn, lowers your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Within One Month of Regular Exercise...
You're blasting belly fat. After four weeks of regular workouts, your body is ditching flab and gaining muscle. Overweight people who took part in a four-week program of moderate aerobic exercise in an Australian study reduced ab fat by 12 percent.

Within One Year of Regular Exercise...
You've cut your cancer risk. In a study of more than 14,800 women, those who had the highest levels of aerobic fitness were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than those who were sedentary. Women considered moderately fit had about a 33 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Exercise may also help protect against endometrial, lung, and ovarian cancer, researchers say.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Creamy Mushroom Fettucine

If you love mushrooms, you'll love this dish. It's all creamy, mushroomy goodness. And so quick and easy to make!

The recipe starts with sauteeing five minced cloves of garlic in a little olive oil, then adding sliced mushrooms with salt, pepper, and thyme. After the shrooms cook down a little, you add some white wine and let everything cook together.The secret to this recipe (don't tell Isa I told you!) is storebought vegan creamy portobello mushroom soup mixed with some cornstarch.When you add it to the mushrooms and let it cook, it forms a luxuriously rich and creamy sauce.
At this point I tasted it and fell in love. But the recipe wasn't done. The last addition was two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. I doubted this and, in the minute or so before the timer rang, ran through my head why Isa would possibly want to add the vinegar. To give the earthy flavor a bright note? To give the sauce more complexity? When the timer rang, I told myself, "Don't doubt Isa! How often is she wrong?"

So I added the balsamic vinegar...and guess what? I think I was right! I didn't like the final sauce as much as the pre-vinegared sauce. The final sauce tasted really good, but I could taste the vinegar as a separate flavor, and I think the sauce would have been better without it. Next time, I'll omit.
I topped it with sliced green onions, and a hearty, yummy dinner was ready in under 30 minutes. And I marked my calendar that I think my way would have been better than Isa's!

Week 11: Project Food Budget

Week 11 of Reluctant Vegetarian's Project: Food Budget

Goal: $75
Actual: $78.80

Yay for this week, but I'm running out of some staples. I expect to be over budget next week. This week's budget went to:
Hello to the other food budgeters!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baked Tofu, Spinach & Brown Rice Bowl with Miso-Green Onion Dressing

I've been wanting to try the Appetite for Reduction Miso-Green Onion Salad Dressing, but I don't like sushi and didn't want to make the suggested sushi-like salad featured with the dressing. So I made the dressing by itself, which was as simple as pureeing these ingredients in a blender.I had it over simple salads of spinach, romaine, and spring mix greens, and it was great. The miso flavor really stands out but I couldn't taste the green onions too much; I think I'll use more next time. The dressing was so flavorful; it was wonderful paired with plain greens.

I wanted to use it in another dish, so last night I quickly put together the marinade for the Appetite for Reduction Basic Baked Tofu and let it marinate until I got home from work today.I said before how much I love this, but here it is again: I love this baked tofu! I preheated the oven as soon as I walked in the house and in a half-hour had perfectly baked, wonderful tasting, chewy tofu that, again, was hard for me to not devour right off the baking sheet.

I cut up the tofu, heated some brown rice I cooked last night, steamed some spinach, and combined it all in a bowl with the Miso-Green Onion Dressing.The dressing and baked tofu flavors didn't go together as nicely as I thought they would--each has such a distinctive flavor that they clashed a little. Lesson learned: pair this dressing with very simple flavors, liked simple salads or steamed veggies.

Still, I enjoyed it. For lunch tomorrow I might put the dressing over the rice and spinach and eat the tofu separately.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Sweet & Salty Maple Baby Carrots

With reluctance I tried the Sweet & Salty Maple Baby Carrots from Appetite for Reduction. I'm not a big carrot fan to begin with, and with only three ingredients (carrots, maple syrup, and sea salt), how good could this be? But I had carrots left over from the Arabian Lentil & Rice Soup, so I tried it. Imagine my dismay when this came out of the oven:Um, looks like plain carrots.

My first bite was a wonderful surprise. Sweet? Yep. Salty? Yes. Good? Yes!

I've had variations of maple syrup glazed carrots before, but in this recipe everything's roasted, so the sweet and salty flavors are baked into the carrots. Appetite for Reduction is proving time and again how simple, healthy meals can taste so good.

Appetite for Reduction: Arabian Lentil & Rice Soup

Don't be fooled by the boring looks of this soup--it's bursting with flavor! The smoky cumin is wonderfully enhanced by lemon zest and juice. Red lentils and brown basmati rice combine to make it almost creamy (so substituting another type of lentil probably won't get the same great results).

The prep work for this dish is minimal--about 10 or 15 minutes--followed by a fairly long cooking time, so it's done in about an hour. I made it last night and ate it for lunch today, which I think is the way to go so the flavors really have time to mesh. Omnivore husband tried it and liked it too. Try it for yourself--someone posted the recipe here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Orange-Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

This weekend I made Orange-Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies from Veganomicon to take with me to visit my family. The recipe is a variation on the Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookies, which sound good, but I'm a sucker for anything orange.

The cookies were super chewy and moist inside and a little crispy outside, so the texture was perfect. The first bite is a wonderful taste sensation of orange and chocolate, with the chocolate chips adding even more chocolate goodness. I thought the orange flavor faded a bit after the first bite, but everyone else who tried one thought the amount of orange flavor was just right. Still, I might add a tiny bit more orange zest next time I make them.
I reviewed Veganomicon for Cook Vegan Lover's Cookbook Club (read all the participants' reviews here) and really loved it. I think it's especially good for omnivores who want to try out vegan cooking because most recipes use basic ingredients, and most of the recipes are fabulous. Read my complete review here. I've never posted a Veganomicon recipe before, but, ethically, I think posting one or two to show how great the recipes are is OK. Personally, I would be much more likely to buy a cookbook if I tried out some recipes first. OK, end of disclaimer. Here's the recipe! If you want to try the Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut or White Chocolate Chip-Cherry-Chocolate variations, check out the book!
Orange-Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 36-40 cookies (depending on how big you make them)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground flaxseeds (recipe says you can omit them if you don't have them, but the cookies will be less chewy)
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or use cooking spray).
  2. Sift all dry ingredients into a large bowl, and mix with a fork to combine.
  3. Add the sugar and canola oil into another large bowl, and stir with a fork until combined. Add the soy milk, vanilla and almond extracts, flaxseed, and orange zest. Mix well with a fork.
  4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in three batches, stirring with a fork to combine after each addition. If it gets too dry (mine didn't), use your hands. Once all the ingredients are combined, fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. If your dough is wet (mine was), use a tablespoon to drop it onto the baking sheets, leaving one inch between each cookie because they'll spread. The original recipe said the dough would be stiff; if yours is, roll the dough into a one-inch ball, then flatten into a cookie and place on the cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then move them to a wire rack to cook completely.

Visiting a Goat and Baby Chicks

As a kid I dreamed of the day I could have whatever and however many pets as I wanted. That day hasn't come yet--the husband, the city, and the cats (who want the house to themselves) have limited my pets.

So I'm still dreaming, but now my dream is to have enough land to have a mini-sanctuary for goats, pigs, and chickens--while still living in the city. I love animals, but I really can't imagine moving out of the city; I just love living in Pittsburgh too much. And not being able to walk to most places and instead having to get into my car and drive everywhere would really drive me nuts!

So, for now, I can get my farm animal fix by visiting my cousin who, with his wife and their little girl, have 15 pets: 6 dogs, 6 baby chicks they just got, a guinea pig, a cat, and a goat named Chuck.

Isn't Chuck handsome? He has a little white heart on his forehead! He's friendly and playful but has some bad habits, like jumping and head butting. Luckily, he understands "no." My cousin plans on getting a pygmy goat this year as a friend for him. Until I have my own goat, I'm happy I get to visit Chuck!
Here are four of the baby chicks. They're all so pretty and so content to just sit in your hand and peep. The pale yellow was my favorite.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interview with Happy Herbivore Cookbook Author Lindsay Nixon

In January I bought The Happy Herbivore Cookbook after trying many recipes from the Happy Herbivore blog (I still make the smoothies nearly daily--try the Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie!). The recipes are all low-fat or fat-free and focus on healthy ingredients (for example, no white flour or refined sugar is used). I've loved so many of the recipes, and, as a bonus, all of them use simple ingredients and are quick and easy to make. Lindsay Nixon, author of the cookbook and blog who I met at a book signing, took a few minutes to answer some questions about her first cookbook, a second one she's working on, and vegan cooking in general. And she shares a recipe too!Biography
Lindsay S. Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. Lindsay's recipes have been featured in Vegetarian Times, Women's Health Magazine and on The Huffington Post. Lindsay is also a consulting chef at La Samanna, a luxury resort and four-star restaurant in the French West Indies. You can learn more about Lindsay and sample some of her recipes at

What's your favorite recipe from the first Happy Herbivore cookbook?

I have a lot of favorites that I circle between. Up until yesterday I was a glutton for the nacho cheese sauce, but I made the nutty spread this morning and am back to worshiping it. A few weeks ago I'd have said cornbread, or queso, or the portobello steaks. There are a lot that I'm crazy for.

Your cookbook was a huge success and quickly sold out. Did that surprise you?

Yeah, it really did. Obviously, I was hoping that it would do well, but I never expected it to sell out! Or sell out as fast as it did. It sucks that we're out of books -- but it's a good problem to have and more are on their way.

Do you think part of that is an indication that more people are open to eating vegan, more people are vegan, or more people want to eat low-fat and fat-free healthy meals?

The Herbies (my fans) deserve a lot of credit because its been a lot of word-of-mouth--people telling their friends about the book, blogging and tweeting about it. Though, if I'm being totally honest, I also have to give a nod to Oprah. The day my book released was the day of her vegan episode (purely coincidence), and by sheer luck, Amazon also bundled my cookbook with Veganist for a few hours, which gave me some incidental sales. (I sold double that week compared to other weeks). I also think veganism is a hot topic right now, and people are generally trying to eat healthier. Of course when I wrote the book a year ago I had no idea this would be the climate, but I feel very lucky and very fortunate.

What's the most popular recipe on the Happy Herbivore blog?

It's always changing--for the longest time it was the Chickpea Tacos and then the Red Lentil Dal. And then the Black Bean Brownies took over by storm and reigned king for a long time, but lately the Carrot Cake Cupcakes and Chocolate Zucchini Muffins seem to be steeling the show.

Which Happy Herbivore recipe would you recommend to omnivores new (and perhaps hesitant) to vegan eating?

I always suggest starting with an inherently vegan for newcomers dish--like a stir-fry, instead of something that emulates meat or cheese. I have an "omni-friendly" icon in the cookbook that's helpful, but I find the nachos and portobello steaks are popular with skeptics.

Which Happy Herbivore recipe would you recommend to anyone who wants a healthy, balanced meal but doesn't like cooking and has little time?

Teriyaki Chickpeas, which are both on the blog and in the book. 5 minutes and you're fed.

You're working on a second cookbook now. What are you most excited about for this next cookbook, and what can readers expect?

I'm exploring a lot of new cuisines with this new book. I had a lot of "American" food in the last one with a touch of Indian and Ethiopian thrown in, but in this book, so far, I have Cajun, Moroccan, Caribbean, lots of Mexican, more Indian, more American too, but I'm really trying to bring in a lot of variety and give it a worldly flair.

I'm still hashing out my exact vision with the book, I'm only 60 recipes in, but I like where it's going.

What's the most important cooking skill or technique you've learned?

Hold the blade, not the handle, on a chef's knife.

What's your all-time favorite vegan dish?
Mashed potatoes with gravy. LOTS of gravy.

Is there any non-vegan food that you miss eating and can't find a good substitute for?

I've yet to find something that there isn't a suitable substitute for, either made commercially or something I can recreate myself. Vegan substitutes have really come a long way in recent years and I think we're in for some really exciting products in the coming years.

I've been fortunate that I've never had cravings, or nostalgia, for foods I've given up (mind over matter).

Are there any other vegan chefs and/or cookbooks that inspire you?

I'm friends with Alicia Simpson and Mark Reinfeld. I wouldn't say they inspire me, necessarily, but I certainly have a lot of respect for them and love their cookbooks.

Jaime Oliver is probably the one chef I'm inspired by, even though he's an omnivore. I like his "let me show you how to make fresh healthy meals" attitude. He's all about being healthy and that's so refreshing. Most chefs (vegan or otherwise) tend to focus purely on the flavor, with little regard for overall nutrition. Take Paula Deen, for example, I'm sure her food is tasty, but everything has a stick of butter in it.

Many of us vegans face difficult situations at holidays and other functions when our families and friends make meat- and dairy-heavy meals. Do you also face that, and what advice can you give to us?

I'm very lucky that my family and friends are very supportive and enjoy (or are at least open to trying) vegan food, so there is always plenty of it, even if [my husband] Scott and I are the only vegans. It wasn't always that way, but over the years we've found compromise. This summer, for example, my cousin realized she could make her famous pineapple dessert vegan by using margarine instead of butter, and she did it, knowing I'd be in attendance. I felt really loved and appreciated.

Thanks, Lindsay, and thanks for sharing this recipe!
Black Bean Burgers (makes 3) - I love a good and quick meal, and this burger fits the bill perfectly.
  • 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 c fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
  • whole-wheat breadcrumbs or instant oats
  • whole-wheat buns
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper and set aside. Pulse beans in a food processor until mashed well or alternatively, mash with a fork. Transfer to a mixing bowl and combine with cilantro and spices. Add breadcrumbs or oats as necessary until the mixture can be handled and isn't terribly sticky, about 1/4 c. If after 1/4 c. it's still too sticky, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes. Shape mixture into 3 patties. Lightly spray with cooking spray (optional) and bake 7 minutes. Flip and re-spray (optional) and bake another 7 to 10 minutes until thoroughly warm and crisp on the outside. Serve immediately. Because there is no oil, these patties dry out if you let them sit.

No Love for Loving Hut Pittsburgh

I was excited to hear that a Loving Hut opened in Pittsburgh. I'd heard from other vegans that it was really good, but with its touchy-feely name and all-vegan menu, I knew my omnivore husband would be reluctant to go.

I give him credit for agreeing to go last night. Unfortunately it was one of the worst restaurant experiences we've ever had, and neither of us will ever go again.

First, the service was awful. We'd just spent hours shopping for stuff for a home renovation project--flooring, cabinets, etc., so we were starving and thirsty. It took 15 or 20 minutes before anyone even came over to our table, and then another 10 minutes to get our drinks. Our food took forever too. The waitress apologized for the long wait and said dessert was on the house, but I couldn't decipher the bill so wasn't sure if that was true.

Second, the menu was almost entirely focused on fake meat. There were only a few things on the menu that didn't have fake meat--a salad and a panini sandwich with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes that I knew I could easily make at home. Ugh. I don't like fake meat--if I wanted to still eat meat, I wouldn't be a vegan. And it's processed and unhealthy. Yuck! Given my reaction, I felt for my husband, who really struggled to find something he wanted to try (he was hoping for, well, some type of vegetable dish--crazy, huh?).

Third, the quality of the food was poor. I had the Jumbo Drumsticks as an appetizer, made with mushrooms, tofu and soy ham. When I bit into one, there was a whole green onion in the middle of it--what the...? I pulled it out and ate the rest, which had very little taste and pretty much just tasted like fried, breaded something, in not a good way.I ordered the BBQ Noodles because it was something I knew I'd never make for myself, and my husband ordered the veggie burger. The BBQ Noodles had BBQ-flavored fake meat over a giant bowl of rice noodles with a little shredded lettuce on top. The few slices of BBQ fake meat were kinda gross and just didn't taste good. The sauce was so minimal that it wasn't nearly enough to cover all the noodles, so most of the meal was plain noodles with shredded lettuce. The crispy rolls it was served with were good--but they had soy ham in them. I've never heard of a spring roll with ham in it--why do they have to put fake meat in everything???

My husband's veggie burger was drowning in sauce, to the point that he took two bites and then couldn't even hold it anymore because the bun was covered in sauce. So all he ate were the french fries, which he said was soggy.We had the Pandam Cake for dessert. It was good, but not fantastic. It was dry and didn't have too much flavor--it really just tasted sweet.

Thanks to this awful experience, my husband will likely never agree to go to a vegan restaurant again. I have to agree that it was awful, and I wouldn't go again either. I hate to think that omnivores interested in vegan cuisine would try this restaurant and think all vegan food is unhealthy, processed fake meat dishes that aren't very good. In my opinion, Loving Hut not only doesn't help the vegan cause, but hurts it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Unfried Fried Rice & Hoison Mustard Tofu

My cooked brown basmati rice was begging to be used before it went bad. Appetite for Reduction to the rescue! Because the rice was already cooked, the Unfried Fried Rice took five whole minutes to make. It's simple--the rice is sauteed in a little sesame oil with minced shallot, garlic, fresh ginger, and soy sauce--but really delicious. I added steamed broccoli to it, tossed it with sliced green onions, and served it with the Appetite for Reduction Hoison Mustard Tofu, which is probably my all-time favorite tofu dish. Wonderful!

My husband omnivore-ized this dish by mixing in some grilled shrimp in a separate pan. He really liked it too.

Really Good Reduced-Fat Hummus (Really!)

If you're looking for a fantastic hummus to impress your party guests, check out the recipe I posted here. If you, like me, have been searching for a really good reduced-fat version of hummus, read on.

I've tried Veganomicon's reduced-fat Cauliflower Hummus and Appetite for Reduction's reduced-fat hummus. I liked them, but there was something I couldn't put my finger on that I wasn't crazy about. When I went to make a variation of Appetite for Reduction's hummus this week, I realized what it was: oil. With so few ingredients in hummus, all the flavors really stand out, and I don't like the taste of oil in hummus. But, I do like the taste of tahini.

So I started out making Appetite for Reduction's Shabby Sheik Hummus but modified it to eliminate the oil and to include just a small amount of tahini, which gives enough flavor without too much fat. Note that the addition of the spices is the Shabby Sheik variation and can be left out for plain hummus.

My other modification is to cook your own chickpeas and use the reserved cooking liquid in place of oil to make it creamy. I noted here how that's the secret to really fantastic hummus. In a pinch you could use canned, but it won't taste as good. It's easy to cook your own, and you'll save money too. Read more: How and Why to Cook Your Own Chickpeas.Really Good Reduced-Fat Hummus
Makes 8 1/4-cup servings
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon tahini (more if you like tahini, but of course the more you add, the more fat will be in it)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more if you want it really spicy)
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons chickpea cooking liquid
  1. Pulse the chickpeas and garlic cloves in a food processor until no chickpeas remain.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the chickpea cooking liquid, tahini, and lemon juice and puree for a minute or two, scraping down the sides of the food processor so you get everything.
  3. Add all the spices and 1 more tablespoon of the chickpea cooking liquid. Process until smooth, adding additional tablespoons of chickpea cooking liquid until it is as creamy as you'd like.
  4. Taste for salt and lemon juice and add more if you want. Keeps in the fridge for about five days.
WeightWatchers PointsPlus Values: 2 (regular hummus is 4)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Week 10: Project Food Budget

Week 10 of Reluctant Vegetarian's Project: Food Budget

Goal: $75 (reduced from $100 starting this week)
Actual: $55.62

I'm on a roll! Budget was spent on
I continue to use the lessons I've learned from this project to keep my spending down. But I think the most significant change is baking my bread each week. It not only saves me $16.34, but it's fresh and delicious and healthy and ridiculously easy to make (with only five ingredients), as I point out here.

How did everyone else participating do this week?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Ye'abesha Gomen (Ethiopian Collards)

For all you nutrition-loving folks, here's an interesting note from Appetite for Reduction: 1 cup of collards has the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of 2% cow's milk but has way more fiber (7 grams versus 0 in milk) and less saturated fat (0 grams versus 3 in milk). Clearly, collards are better! ;-)

Veganonicon started my love affair with collards, but this recipe for Ethiopian-style stewed and sauteed collards, Ye'abesha Gomen, made me fall in love all over again. How can something that tastes so good be so good for you? That's the magic of Appetite for Reduction!

This recipe starts out by stewing chopped collards in vegetable broth for a half-hour until they're nice and tender. Then you saute onion, garlic, fresh ginger, and red pepper flakes in a little bit of olive oil, then add the collards and cook everything for a few minutes. I loved it. My omnivore husband grudgingly tried it and even more grudgingly admitted it was "not bad," which, translated to my love of food, really means "very good!"

5 Ingredients & 5 Minutes to Homemade Bread

I haven't bought bread in nine weeks. Instead I make Mark Bittman's delicious and super-easy no-knead whole-wheat bread from The Food Matters Cook Book every week. I shared the recipe here and calculated that I save $16.34 by making it here. But what I haven't said is how ridiculously easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.

There are five ingredients: whole-wheat flour, instant yeast, salt, water, and olive oil.It takes about five minutes of active time to make. You dump the dry ingredients in a big bowl, add about two cups of water, and mix it until a wet batter with the consistency of pancake batter forms.Next you put plastic wrap over the bowl and let it sit for a minimum of 12 hours but as long as 24 hours. It's easy to incorporate this into my week. Every Friday night, whether I'm staying in or going out for a night on the town (which usually means my husband and I going to Target), I always mix up the dough. The next morning, the dough has puffed up with little bubbles in it.Next I get the loaf pan ready. It's really important to coat it with cooking spray and add one tablespoon of olive oil, coating the entire pan really well. I tried to make it lower fat by using less oil, and the bread stuck to the pan and ripped apart when I pried it out. Then I coat a spatula with cooking spray, transfer the dough to a loaf pan, and gently press the dough into the pan.Next I add one more tablespoon of olive oil to the top and spread it around with the spatula until the top is completely coated with oil.
Then I stick it in a warm place (I heat my oven to warm and then turn it off) and let it rise for one hour. The dough will rise to the top of the pan or just slightly above.The last step is to bake it in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. It's always done perfectly in that time. Then, I just flip it upside down so it slides out and let it cool on a wire rack.The inside is chewy and hearty, and the outside is crunchy. It's perfect. The taste is rich and full of flavor. It's truly the best testing whole-wheat bread I've ever had, though that could be because it's fresh and homemade. It's also very filling. Many mornings I have a toasted slice with peanut butter and jelly plus a soymilk-flax seed-fruit smoothie, and it keeps me full until lunch. It freezes well too--neither texture nor taste suffer.

If you want fresh, homemade, delicious, easy-to-make, healthy bread every week, I highly recommend this recipe!