Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I went to my dad's house this weekend, and he invited us to stay for dinner. He offered to make salmon, but while I haven't completely sworn off seafood, I prefer to avoid it most of the time, so I went to the store with him to see what looked good. After much searching through the store, I came up with the following easy and delicious meal.

Fake Crab and Veggie Stir-Fry
(I know, this isn't a great recipe name. Let me know if you have a better one.)

1 bag Rainbow Salad mix (shredded hearts of broccoli and cauliflower, shredded carrots and red cabbage)
1/2 bag angel hair shredded cabbage
1 pound AuraPro crab meat substitute
about 1/2 bottle Soy Vay Island Teriyaki sauce

It doesn't get much easier than this. I put this all in a big skillet, using a wooden spoon to break apart the fake crab. Then I simmered it, covered, for about 10 minutes, until it was all good and hot, and the veggies were tender, but not mushy. I made Minute Rice to go with, because that is the only kind of rice my parents had in their pantry, but I would usually use brown basmati rice.

This was so incredibly yummy, and healthy, and easy. The boy loved it, and the girl didn't hate it, although she wouldn't admit to any enthusiasm at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Following my plan

Well, not so much.

Actually, I didn't do too bad, I guess. Saturday night I had just what I posted, which isn't that shocking since it was in the oven while I composed my post. Sunday, I made cream of broccoli soup for lunch and put the leftovers in containers to take to work. But then I didn't feel like cooking ahead any more. For dinner that night, we had cheese pizza, made by the girl, and I ate a salad.

Monday, I ate tofurkey italian sausages, but Tuesday I didn't cook anything. I didn't get home from the Muny until after midnight on Monday, so I didn't get enough sleep that night. Then I worked late, and the kids didn't want to come home from grandma and grandpa's house, so I didn't get home until about 9PM. On top of that, I had to go to work early for a meeting on Wednesday, so I just threw together a salad and heated some frozen channa dal samosas and had those with mint chutney. Exhaustion and cooking don't mix.

Without even consulting my menu, though, I got back on track last night and had the seitan curry in a hurry. That was really yummy, although it was a little sweet. The recipe calls for either mango chutney or mincemeat, and I used the mincemeat in the hope that it would make it more acceptable to the girl. She still said it was too spicy, so next time I am using the chutney. The boy tried a raisin first and said he didn't like it, but I convinced him to try the seitan, and then he ate it all. He's a good little eater, and he likes spicier foods. The seitan was perfect in this recipe. One of these days I am going to have to make my own though--pre-made seitan is expensive!

Tonight we had Susan V's International Quinoa salad. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Of course, I am alone in that opinion, but I am hoping it will grow on them. It also seems like a wonderful recipe for a potluck; it makes a ton, and it's pretty. I will definitely keep this in mind next time I get invited to a family BBQ.

So, not too bad. We actually had the item on the night that I said we would 3 times, and ate two of the other meals I had planned, just on different nights. We only skipped one recipe, the ratatouille, and I am going to try to make that this weekend. I don't want to throw out all those veggies. I am glad I sat down to examine my plan here, because I had the impression that I hadn't followed it at all, but I actually did pretty well. I will have to keep this menu planning thing going.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cooking ahead

I had a couple of disturbing experiences with sweets this week. The first involved an enormous fruit smoothie at Maggie Moo’s, which seemed like a great idea when I first saw it. Real fruit, sorbet, fruit juice—and all low-fat. Unfortunately, it tasted like berry flavored sugar, mostly, and it was far too big. When the guy gave it to me, I reminded him that I ordered the regular, not the large, but he said that was the regular. Way, WAY too much. The second bad experience was with some baklava, which is not vegan, I know, but I just love it, and I almost never eat it, so I decided to indulge. Both times, all that sugar made me feel sick—a bit nauseated and a bit jumpy, like my body couldn’t handle all that sugar at once. Not good, since I had gestational diabetes with my youngest, and I really don’t ever want to go back to that. I had it bad, with sticks 4 times a day to test my sugar, and insulin injections three times a day. I hated every minute of it.

So, I decided that it is time to get even more serious about eating healthy. I am not doing so terrible, but my big downfall is eating out, especially during the summer. I try to make healthy choices when I eat at restaurants, but I can’t get as many fruits and veggies with my meal as I can at home, and restaurants almost always use a lot more fat to cook their food than I do. I was commenting about this to a friend not too long ago—I always lose weight when I do a lot of cooking at home, and it almost doesn’t matter what I cook. I say that because my highest-fat meals are still lower in fat and calories than a lot of the food you get out at restaurants (I don’t deep fry at all, for instance). But, despite lots of trying, I haven’t gotten completely back in the habit of cooking at home. I have a renewed determination now, though.

Today I took this motivation and used it to do some menu-planning. I looked around online and in some of my cookbooks, and I came up with a great plan. I even made a grocery list. Unfortunately, I also bought a bunch of stuff that was not on the list, so I spent an arm and a leg! Oh well, I guess it is just motivation to stay out of those restaurants this week. As part of my strategy to make sure I don’t waste all this food I bought, I am going to cook up some food tomorrow to take me through the week.

First, I am going to make a batch of Cream of Broccoli soup from The Family Vegetarian Cookbook. That will be a perfect afternoon snack instead of heading to the coffee shop for a scone. I always want something real food like about 3:00, but it is hard to grab something easy and vegan near the office. I am also going to make a big batch of Susan V’s International Quinoa salad for dinner tomorrow night. That recipe makes 10 servings, so I should have plenty to take for lunches during the week. And I will roast the veggies for this fabulous-looking ratatouille, so that I can make it more quickly during the week.

I’d like to think that I am going to make more, but I think I am taking baby steps into this cooking ahead thing. Even having a couple of easy things to grab will make it easier to resist temptation as the week progresses. Here is my menu for the week:

Tonight: salad, black bean and soy cheese taquitos, salsa, baby bananas
Sunday: International Quinoa Salad, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, blueberries
Monday: I am going to the Muny with my mom, so I will just grab a Tofurkey Italian sausage that I left there from the boy’s birthday BBQ yesterday and whatever fruits and veggies she might have around
Tuesday: Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille, gnocchi, salad
Wednesday: Rachael Ray’s Curry in a Hurry, with seitan substituted for the chicken, mangoes, brown rice, some kind of veggie (maybe green beans to appease the kiddoes)
Thursday: Sloppy Joe pizza, steamed veggies, some kind of fruit

Friday the kids go back to their dad’s, so I imagine I will have easy stuff. I bought one of the new Amy’s pizzas—the spinach kind that is vegan. I can eat that for a few meals. But that is mostly a problem for next weekend. First I have to be good about following this one.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dinner, fast!

I haven’t been around much now that it is summer, but I haven’t forgotten my blog entirely. It’s just that summer is so much less structured, all my habits change. My children spend a lot of time with their dad (6 weeks, in 2 week chunks), and I am not home much during that time. It just gets so lonely here when they are gone. Why, yes, I do know that I am pathetic, why do you ask? ;-) The kids came back this weekend, though, so I have been cooking again. I am trying to cook up what I have in the house, both to use up stuff I don’t have room for in my storage-challenged new kitchen, and to save some money, so cooking is a bit of an adventure these days.

I came home from work today with no idea what to make for dinner, so I hit the cookbooks. Now, I love my Vegan With a Vengeance book, but at 6:30 this evening, every recipe I looked at needed an hour’s marinating, or 30 minutes on the stove followed by an hour in the oven, or 3 labor intensive components that had to be baked for 45 minutes after they were assembled. So, they obviously weren’t happening.

Next I turned to The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, by Nava Atlas. I’ve mentioned this cookbook before, but it’s been awhile since I looked at it, and I had forgotten just how wonderful it is. I quickly found a delicious recipe that I mostly had the ingredients to make, and I was able to throw together a good nutritious dinner while I chatted with a friend for about 20 minutes. The boy ate well, and the girl didn’t complain too much, which is a victory with her. Of course, I threatened her with dire punishments if she said anything bad about the food—she is always doing that, and then the boy has to say he doesn’t like it, just like his big sister. But, if I can get her to keep her opinions to herself, he almost always really likes what I make. I have to say, if you like good food that is not difficult to make and that appeals to a wide array of people, you need to buy this book.

Stewed Tofu with Corn and Tomatoes

1 pound firm tofu
2 Tbsp light olive oil
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (the original recipe called for fresh tomatoes, but I didn’t have any)
3 cups cooked corn (I did one can, drained, because that is what I had)
4 scallions, sliced
1 tsp paprika
Freshly gound pepper, to taste
Minced fresh parsley or cilantro for topping, optional (I used cilantro, yummy!)

Slice the tofu and press between paper towels or clean kitchen towels, then dice the slices into small cubes. Heat the oil in a wide-bottomed skillet until just hot, and gently fry the tofu, stirring, until the pieces are mostly golden. I added the scallions, giving everything a quick stir at this point, then added the tomatoes, corn and paprika, stirred everything together and ground some pepper on top, stirred again, and let it all simmer gently for about five minutes. Of course, you could add salt at this point, but I never cook with salt, so I didn’t. I ladled the stew into bowls and topped my portion with chopped cilantro and more freshly ground pepper, but neither of the kids wanted any cilantro. Very good and easy, we will definitely be having this again!