Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

If you haven't checked out The Vegan Lunchbox today, do it now. As usual, Jennifer doesn't disappoint. I confess, I've bought her cookbook. There was no way to read her blog day after day and not want to have a copy for myself!

James sent me a really neat recipe link for Sandie's Menu. I haven't tried the recipes yet but the they look really intriguing.

Yesterday's Autumn Harvest Stew was very good despite the accidental overdose of thyme. The shaker cap fell of my dried thyme and about 1/4 cup of it went in. I was able to fish a good portion of it out but there was clearly more than planned in there. The flavors blended together nicely and it reminded me of the vegetable strudel we had at a get together Sunday, minus the excess thyme of course.

The vegetable strudel was a medley of vegetables including portabello mushrooms, which add something special to any dish, in a light gravy wrapped in phylo dough (at least I suspect it was phylo dough.) It was very good. I always enjoy having a meal out that I would never have time to assemble at home.

I did end up buying the little bags of pretzels to give out, as well as candy. At least if we wind up with leftovers, I can use the pretzels in my kids lunchboxes, guilt free.

Tonight's dinner is a mystery! I'm just throwing some dried beans in the slow cooker and deciding what to do with them when I get home. I don't feel very creative this morning. I've also got a fridge full of produce and a CSA pickup tonight. Yikes, I need to get cooking! I'll let you know how the mystery turns out tomorrow.

Monday, October 30, 2006

No Tricks Just Frugal Treats

My schedule at work has definitely improved but not quite as much as I'd hoped. Oh well, such is the life of a manager. At least the gym doesn't have horrible hours overall or I'd be sunk.

One of the challenges I have at work is to constantly make my members feel special without spending too much money out of my own pocket or compromising my beliefs. I have to confess, I despise Halloween. I'm not sure if its the nutritionist, the vegan or the mother in me but I do hate Halloween. The whole thing seems like a shakedown to me.

That having been said, I'll be hitting the store tonight to grudgingly buy candy for neighborhood children, (although they have these little bags of pretzels that intrigue me). I've also heard of people giving out little toys, a la Oriental Trading Company, but that stuff can be such junk plus I never think of it soon enough to order. Never you fear, my kids do trick or treat. We have two 80's chicks, Batman and Harry Potter living at my house right now.

I wanted to do something special for the members of my gym as well. Lets face it, deep down we all want a treat, don't we? Snack foods after a workout seemed like a bad idea so I opted for an non-edible Halloween treat. I bought several boxes of votive candles in fall colors from the dollar store and put them in a large clear candy bowl with this poem:

Trick or Treat
Here's something that smells sweet
And you can't feel guilty
'Cause its nothing to eat!

I'll let you know on Wednesday what everyone thought of it.

For tonight's dinner I'll be trying Autumn Harvest Stew a recipe that Sally Parrot Ashbrook posted a few days back. I've also been making batch after batch of apple butter and freezing it. Unfortunately, my new job responsibilities coincided with canning season and I don't have the solid block of hours to dedicate to canning this fall.

Friday, October 27, 2006

News Flash

Jennifer over at The Vegan Lunchbox has just published her cookbook! She's currently offering free shipping, so for those of you who miss her daily lunches you might want to order one now.

Friday Freebies

I thought this was a fun idea so I'm doing it again. Enjoy!

Celestial Seasonings Tea Sample

Kashi Granola Bar

Organic Gardening Tips for the West Coast

Crocodile All-Natural Bug Discouragement by Dancing Roots

Kiss My Face Discount Link When you are done ordering, if you enter HOMEFRONT in the discount and promotion code box you'll get 20% off your order.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

CSA Decisions for 2007

There are so many decisions to make this time of year! Its time for us to sign up for next years shares at our CSA already. This year, we're thinking about joining a CSA in the Adirondacks for the summer and then joining our usual CSA for the fall. It won't necessarily save us money but it will save Jim some time, effort and aggravation next summer. In the long run it may save a bit of gas as well.

We've also discovered an interesting option to join a CSA for winter shares, which sounds very intriguing. Unfortunately, decisions on all of these things need to be made very soon or we will lose out on all of them. For those of you new to the CSA concept check out Local Harvest to learn more and to find a CSA near you.

We've participated in our local CSA for the past 5 years and I would highly recommend it to all my readers. For those of you who think you won't know what to do with all those unfamiliar veggies, there's no place like a CSA and no one better than a CSA member at share pick up time to help you figure that out. For those of you with kids, there is no greater way to motivate tentative taste buds than to let your kids be a part of harvesting at your local CSA.

My kids will eat it all from brussel sprouts to celeriac and everything you can imagine in between. I attribute this largely to our participation in the CSA and the weekly influx of all types of veggies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Vegan Swedish Meatball Experiment

Just when you think things are letting up they get a little more complicated again. I've been unbelievably busy this week because Jim is working nights. Fortunately, my work schedule has eased up a bit. I even had some time to experiment with a recipe last night, although having been through two blissful weeks of having food on hand in the freezer, it wasn't as thrilling as I thought it might be. I'm definitely bulk cooking this weekend.

I tinkered with a recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Grandma's Wartime Kitchen. I'm not certain why this recipe intrigued me so but I'd wanted to try it for a long time. 5 out of 6 family members really enjoyed this. The 6th family member was neither thrilled nor disgusted about it.

My only complaint with the recipe was I thought there should be more sauce. This problem could easily be solved by doubling the sauce portion of the recipe. Here's my recipe:

3 cups TVP
3 cups boiling water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs vegetable broth powder
1 cup bread crumbs
3 Tbs flaxseed meal whisked into 6 Tbs water

Grease a 9" x 12" pan and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a scoop to shape the mixture into about 24 balls and place them in the pan. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. They should be firm and a bit crispy on the outside. Remove from oven and let cool while you do the next step. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Combine the following in a small saucepan:
1 1/4 cup soymilk
2 Tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetable broth powder

Stir constantly over medium heat until thickened. Use a pancake turner to loosen the balls from the bottom of the pan and pour the sauce mixture over the top of the balls. Cover the pan with a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Barbara's Whole Wheat Bread is a Hit!

When Barbara mentioned that she had come up with a whole wheat bread recipe that had a soft crust I was intrigued. When she posted the recipe I had to try it and the results were just as she promised.

The bread has a fine texture, not as heavy as other home made whole wheat breads and it held together well. It is great in sandwiches, especially with peanut butter and jelly.

I used my bread bucket rather than an electric mixer but it was easy to mix. The only change I made was to substitute blackstrap molasses for honey. So go check out Barbara's recipe today.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Apple Butter Pancakes

All those apples we picked last weekend inpsired me to make some Overnight Crock Pot Apple Butter. I doubled the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg that I used last time and the results were delicious. I also pureed the cooked apples before turning the crock pot up to high since everyone prefers a smoother apple butter.

This morning I used some of that apple butter to make Apple Butter Pancakes. I was making a quick, before work breakfast for Jim so its a very small recipe but I don't see why you couldn't double, triple or even quadruple it.

Katie's Apple Butter Pancakes
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup flax seed meal
1/3 cup crushed walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp brown sugar

1 cup apple butter
enough plain soymilk to make it the right consistency

Cook on a hot griddle. If you went a little heavy on the soymilk, you might want to cover the pancakes while cooking to help avoid gooey middles.

We rarely use syrup on our pancakes. Instead we'll either eat them as is or top with apple butter or other fruit. In most cases, it doesn't even occur to my kids that they should ask for syrup with pancakes. I think this is one of the best things about a largely unprocessed, vegetarian diet. Your taste buds are more open to the nuances of the flavors of foods rather than the things we add to them, like syrup.

With obesity on the rise, the last thing we need to give our kids is more sugary (calorie laden) foods. To those of you new to a veg lifestyle or unprocessed foods, never fear, taste buds do change over time.

BTW, I've begun archiving my older posts by topic so keep an eye on the topic list on the left side of my blog. I've started at the oldest posts and will work my way forward but with 448 posts, this could take some time! Along the way I'm also adding in some links that were missing from the original posts. I was a little slow at learning how to add links. I hope this makes my blog more user friendly for everyone.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Freebies

I thought it might be fun to share some freebies with you all today.

Living Green Book - A Practical Guide To Simple Sustainability. Courtesy of Garden of Life.

Free Greenies for your four legged friend

CD Environmental Risks and Breast Cancer from Vassar College in partnership with the Center for Environmental Oncology of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Free wildlife calendar

On the food front, I tinkered with the Butternut Lasagna recipe from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook and came up with a delicious pasta dish, mainly because I wanted to make pasta for dinner but I had no tomato sauce. Here's what I did:

Put a pot of water up to boil for the pasta. While you are waiting for it to boil put the following in a blender or food processor:

3 cups cooked winter squash
3/4 cup plain soymilk
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Once this mixture is smooth, pour it into a pot and cook over low heat, stirring frequently. In a microwave safe bowl combine:

2 packages of aeseptic pack silken tofu
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs cider vinegar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Mash this together with a fork and microwave about 3 minutes (time will vary based on the age and power of your microwave.) By now the water should be boiling, so toss in the pasta. While you're waiting for the pasta to cook, heat a cast iron frying pan on medium heat and add 1 cup chopped walnuts. Stir this constantly until the walnuts are beginning to brown.

Once cooked, drain the pasta and toss in the walnuts. Serve by placing pasta on the dish first. Top with a generous portion of the winter squash mixture. Place a dollop or two of the tofu mixture on top of the winter squash mixture and enjoy.

This looks pretty and tastes amazing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

One More Time in the Slow Cooker

Today should be the last of the truly, hellishly overscheduled days for quite a while. Today's fun events include a days worth of training for my job followed by a 30 minute window to pick up my daughters and rush them to their physical appointments. The joke, of course, is that I'll be rushing to get there on time knowing that I'll be sitting and waiting for quite a while once I get there. I'm planning to bring a cross stitch to work on while I wait. It makes the time pass.

I can't bear the thought of another crock pot meal tonight (I want some tender crisp veggies for a change!) so I will only cook black beans and barley in the slow cooker today. They will be ready for me to toss into a black bean, barley, chopped vegetable and vinagrette medley I've been concocting in my head. If it turns out well, I'll share the recipe.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Scheduling Insanity

Did you ever notice that right before your schedule eases up it has to get super crazy? Mine is no exception. Through a rare stroke of scheduling brilliance, I'm slated to work at the gym until 5pm and then do a fitness program at the Girl Scout Council, across town, from 5:30pm - 7:30pm. The only good news is the Girl Scout Council is 2 minutes from my house. Its another, slow cooker night.

For tonight, I'll be making a lentil & rice casserole inspired by the one in Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy. I usually make this in the oven but it will work just as well in the slow cooker, although since I am using the slow cooker, I will use barley instead of rice. I prefer French lentils to regular lentils because they have less of a sandy texture and they maintain their shape through cooking. The original recipe doesn't call for vegetables, except onions, to be added. I always add in whatever I have on hand; root vegetables work very well. I skip the cheese that the original recipe calls for.

Click here to see my review of Jonni's book.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Money vs. Time

I guess for me it all comes down to quality of life. Right now, despite the extra money I've been making working extra hours, my lack of time at home is affecting the quality of all of our lives. There are tell tale signs everywhere. (The mountain of laundry is just the first clue.) Getting dinner on the table each night has been a real challenge as well. The slow cooker has been a life saver during this time and tonight I'll be relying on it again.

Since our CSA pickup is tonight, I'll be using the last of the veggies left over from last weeks pickup. That means the primary vegetable will be winter squash, although I do have a bit of daikon as well.

I'll start by tossing a bit of scallions and collard stems (already chopped and frozen from earlier in the season) into the slow cooker. Next, I'll add some of the winter squash that I cooked over the weekend. I might puree it if it seems too stringy (or I could wait and puree the whole thing after its cooked). Finally, I'll be adding dried split peas, water, some thyme and some vegetable broth powder. I'll set the whole thing cooking on high for now, because crunchy split peas are a bummer. When my daughters get home from school, I'll have them turn it down to low. (Another option is to boil the water before adding it to the slow cooker and cook the whole day on low.)

I accidentally forgot to call my daughter to put the slow cooker on low. As a result, there was no need to puree anything because both the split peas and the squash had gotten so soft. Simply stirring before serving was enough. I have to say the flavor of the squash really lent itself to the split pea soup. It was a big hit.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Frugal Family Day

Yesterday we had a frugal family day. We headed over to High Falls for a trip to Mr Apples Low Spray Orchard, the kitschiest apple orchard you over did see. The apples were delicious, the people were friendly and the prices were reasonable.

Before leaving the house we packed a cooler with sandwiches and water for everyone. Once at the orchard we ate a ton of apples while we picked a ton more. It was so nice to be in a place where the apples weren't perfect looking (although they were perfect tasting!) but people shared our desire to be as organic as possible in their growing techniques.

Afterwards we walked along a trail that follows the old canal system and stumbled upon an antique sale. After perusing the antiques we headed into The New York Store , a local coffee shop which was very veg friendly. We left with coffee and kettle corn.

Even though they were low spray, they cost less than the traditional orchard we'd been going to for years. The kids had a great time tromping through the orchard. High Falls itself was a neat little town.

I'm delighted to report that my hours at work will be going back to normal next week and as a result my postings will be more regular as well.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Seitan in the Slow Cooker

I upgraded to Blogger Beta yesterday and so far so good. Its going to take me quite a bit of time to organize my posts by topic but I'll try to do a few each day. Keep an eye on the Label list right above the archives.

Courtney asked how I cook seitan in the slow cooker. The short answer is, never from scratch. I've tried over and over again to make it from scratch in the slow cooker using Robin Robertson's recipes in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker and I always end up with a rubbery mass. I don't know if its her recipe or if seitan from scratch just doesn't lend itself to the slow cooker experience. I may try the slow cooker again but using Isa's recipe this time.

Instead, I prefer to make seitan on the stove, let it cool (it makes the seitan firmer) and then cube it or slice it to use in the slow cooker. So when I made my concoction of seitan, quartered potatoes, cubed pumpkin and kale the other day, the seitan was already cooked. In fact, it was frozen (in its broth) and so was the cubed pumpkin. Both were cooked during my bulk cooking extravaganza.

I placed both the frozen pumpkin and the seitan into the slow cooker first and then filled in the spaces around them with the potatoes and kale. I added just enough water to cover the bottom of the slow cooker to prevent scorching while the broth was beginning to defrost. I placed the lid on and set the slow cooker on low for the day.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What Can You Do With Seitan?

Johanna wanted to know more about how I use seitan. It seems to me that you first have to find a good recipe for the seitan itself before you worry about how to use it. Isa Chandra Moskowitz provided that recipe in her awesome cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance. Luckily, she also posts it on her website. Honestly, if you use her recipe as a starting point, you can't go wrong.

Once the seitan has been cooked and cooled I use it in much the same way I use tofu. It works wonderfully in the Veggie Bacon Recipe, although mariniating it first is a must. This weekend we tried it as an addition to our potato scramble with very good results as well. Its great pan fried in barbeque sauce or other sauce (Like Isa's Jerk sauce.) You can also slice it thinly and use it in sandwiches with mustard. Truth be told, my daughters will both eat it right out of the cooking broth with no additional seasoning.

I'd like to try it simmered in tomato sauce as a meatball replacement but I haven't tried it yet. If anyone has, please share your results.

On another note, I've discovered that the search my blog archives function is not working as well as I'd hoped. If this blog is to be a really useful resource, I'm going to need to add an topic index. My quick perusal of blogger.com leads me to believe I need to upgrade to blogger Beta to do this. Life is currently too busy for me to give this my full attention but know that changes are on the horizon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More Crockpot Cooking

Yesterday's crockpot concoction of seitan (with broth), quartered potatoes, cubed pumpkin and kale was so delicious that I decided to do a variation on it again.

Last night I put chickpeas in the slow cooker. In the morning I drained them and added the last of the broth from the seitan, chopped stems from collards and sliced fennel. I let this cook all day on low. Right before serving I added some uncooked whole wheat couscous to absorb some of the excess liquid. It was really delicious as well. I really like the flavor the fennel added.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

If I Were a Window, I'd Want to Be Dressed!

Despite my best intentions, a quirky laptop prevented me from posting this weekend. Sorry to everyone who checked in hoping for something new. We snuck away for a beautiful fall foliage weekend in the Adirondacks. It was also an opportunity to close things down there for the winter since the night time temperature was getting down into the 30's regularly. We spent a lot of time and energy snugging up last year at both places but it seems there's always more to be done.

We turned our attention to a large window over the kitchen sink that just has a swag over it. Down came the swag and up went a quickie curtain made out of a fleece blanket. We took another fleece blanket and thumbtacked it to the wall behind our regular curtains to cover another large window. (The curtains on this window didn't lend themselves to being lined with fleece permanently.) In the girls room, we slid a blanket between the window and the curtain rod and just folded it over the top of the rod. Finally there was the obligatory plasticing of our bedroom window.

Now some of these fixes are only practical because we don't live there full time. Thumbtacked blankets and blankets resting over curtain rods wouldn't last long in a house with four kids everyday. Clearly I would need to do something more permanent as mentioned in the link above. Whatever your method of choice, its time to get those windows covered to avoid heat loss.

BTW, lining the curtains at home, although time consuming, was a very worthwhile task. The only flaw I can see is the potential for moisture to develop between the curtain and the window. However, this is easily eliminated by opening the curtain daily when the sun is shining in.

I'm tossing the last of the seitan into the slow cooker along with potatoes and kale for tonight's dinner. The week looks pretty busy but I'm anxious to check out the bread recipe that Barbara posted on her blog Frugal Portland Living. Its whole wheat and sounds divine.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Links for Some Veg-Related Freebies

I recently got an email from vegsantabarbara.com with these links for free vegetarian and vegan information, recipes, and other free stuff. I've cut and pasted in the body of the email below. I've visited most but not all of these sites.

Free easy vegetarin and vegan recipes, tips on how to go vegan, health info you need to know and more.

Lots and lots of recipes, and more.

Learn more about how a plant-based diet benefits not only your health and the animals, but also workers, the environment and the entire planet.


Here are some more places online where you can order FREE vegetarian recipes, magazines and more:

FREE DVD with music videos and interviews from vegan bands, free stickers and more:

FREE CD-R of "Meet your Meat" Video:

FREE PETA Kids magazine subscription:

FREE Animal Comic books:

FREE Vegetarian Bumper Sticker:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Applying Frugality

I work for a non-profit and I just took over as manager of our women's gym. The challenge is to promote the gym and increase membership with an advertising budget of zero. The frugal skills I use at home have been coming in handy at work these last few weeks. Here are a few examples:

Recycling: An event was planned but rained out leaving the gym with a huge amount of those Nike like backpacks stuffed with granola bars, water bottles and frisbees. They had the name of the event on them so they weren't really useful for future events. I brought a bunch over to the women's gym to use as giveaways when people sign up for our goal challenge program.

Stretching resources: We wanted to offer group cycling classes but there were only 10 cycles and they were at the main building. I reviewed class sign in sheets and discovered that the most cycles used at any one time was 6. As a result we were able to get 4 cycles at the women's gym and our program kicks off today!

Using What You Have on Hand: We got permission from the mall management to post fliers in the entranceway. I needed a flier and I needed it ASAP. I discovered a stash of old fliers that weren't worded the way I would have but would certainly get the job done. I got some breathing room and the fliers got out quickly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Red Lentil Spread - Quick Change

In keeping with my bulk cooking trend, I made a quadruple batch of Russell's TVP this weekend. I also made a double batch of the Red Lentil Spread. Here's a different way to use the Red Lentil Spread that uses some of that TVP.

Cook about 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat couscous and spread it in a greased 9"x13" pan. Spread a layer of Russell's TVP over it and top with the Red Lentil Spread. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve with steamed greens or better yet, layer the greens into the pan before baking. This was just delicious.

Tonight we'll be having the last of the meals I made last weekend, White Beans with Tomatoes, although I think I can get two nights out of it. I just need to think up a creative way to use it the second night.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Delightful Little Sandwich Spread

No time for a long post this morning, so I'll leave you with a little recipe I concocted this weekend.

Red Lentil Spread
1 cups dried red lentils
2-3 cups broth (I used leftover broth from making seitan last week.)

Cook until the red lentils are mush. Put into food processor and add:
1 large tomato
1 clove garlic
1 large roasted red pepper

Process until smooth. Serve on toasted bread or rolls. YUM!