Friday, November 30, 2012

Orange Beet Salad

This is a nice, colorful salad for a festive meal, or simply for everyday, depending on your mood.

Since this blog has an emphasis on easy, quick & frugal vegan cooking, I'm giving the recipe with canned beets and oranges. But, if you prefer roasting your own beets and peeling & sectioning your own oranges - go for it! : )

Orange Beet Salad
Arrange in Bowl
Bed of Greens (a tender blend like Mixed Baby Greens is ideal)
1 (15oz) can Sliced Beets, drained
1 (11oz) can Mandarin Oranges, drained
A couple of handfuls broken Walnuts

Top Salad with Dressing:
Shake in jar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
A pinch or two of Paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Family Favorite Lentil Soup

Despite my lack of photographic skills, this soup is full of beautiful colors
Orange Carrots, Red tomatoes, Green Spinach - lovely to look at.
I created this Lentil Soup recipe more than 20 years ago. It has been a long standing family favorite with children and adults alike. Some of the kids who grew up eating it are now making it for their own kids.

It's simple to make, ultra-cheap, and packs in a huge amount of nutrition. And, kids in the family who dislike many of the ingredients love the soup! Go Figure!

My Lentil Soup
Doubles well, but needs very large pot

There are about 20 kinds of Lentils! This recipe uses the standard
Grocery Store lentil - sometimes called "Green Lentils" despite
the Brown color.
1 (12oz) bag mirepoix mix OR 1/2 c diced onion, 1/2 c sliced celery, 1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 spoon garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 1/2 cups sorted and  rinsed lentils (1 1# bag)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 package (10 to 12oz) frozen chopped spinach
Water to cover, plus some (to equal 4 quarts total soup)
1 tsp dry mustard*
1 tsp dry ginger (or fresh)*
1/2 T salt
Boil 45 minutes, till lentils are tender
OR, cook in slow cooker on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Freezes very well. This is a great recipe to double and freeze half for later.

Serving Ideas:
Serve in a Bowl with Crusty Bread and a Salad on the side. A few olives provide a nice contrast.
Serve Greek Style: Puree soup with an immersion blender, and serve with red wine vinegar
Dollar-Stretcher: Serve over Spaghetti or other pasta- offer toppings like chopped onions, tomatoes, olives, etc. This is a great variation for the second batch.
For Omnivores: May be served with shredded cheddar.

*In place of mustard & ginger, a seasoning like Mrs. Dash may be used

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cooking for the Single Vegan or other Special Diet

There are lots of single vegans out there - or people who for some other reason eat differently from their families. Some live alone, others live with omnivores who eat radically different meals (Perhaps one spouse enjoys fast food, while the other is eating Lenten meals).

Sometimes it seems like a big hassle to cook just for yourself. A lot of vegans fall into the hummus-bread-and-veggies-for-every-meal rut. And, that's IS a great meal - but you probably don't want it every lunch and every dinner for the next ten years!

And, sometimes looking at the task of preparing dinner when you're ravenous just makes you want to reach for the nearest bag of chips!

There are some cookbooks that specialize in recipes for just one person - but that really doesn't fit my style. You end up doing just as much work as if you were cooking for a large family, but only have one meal to show for it.

When I was single, I did bulk cooking for the freezer, which saved a lot of time and money, and ensured I had lunch to take to work in the daytime, and a meal to eat as soon as I walked in the door from work. No need to cook when starving after a long day's work!

What I did was this: I made standard recipes that were designed for 4 to 6 servings. As they finished cooking, I would eat one serving if I wanted - then would package the remaining servings in single-serving-size freezer containers, label them and pop them in the freezer.

Of course, no one wants to eat the same food every meal - so I would overlap cooking sessions (maybe making one dish on Saturday, and before those dishes were all consumed, another on Monday after dinner! Cooking after dinner is pretty enjoyable - you're not grumpy, tired from work and too hungry : ) As I added dishes to the freezer, I would end up with a selection of 6 or 7 different favorite dishes to choose from.

This method also works well if you have two people who aren't always hungry for the same thing the other one is eating every night.

This post is also being shared at Penny Pinching Party and Healthy Vegan Fridays 
and Living Big on Less Money

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Peas and Artichokes Yachni ( Arakas kai Anginares Yachni, Mpizelia Kai Anginares Yachni )

Here's another delicious and super quick and simple dish to make with that Yachni Sauce!

Peas and Artichokes Yachni
Combine in pot or Slow Cooker
2# of Green Peas
1 bag or can (about 10oz) of Artichoke Heart quarters
6 or 7 cups Yachni Sauce

Cook in slow cooker on high for 2 to 3 hours, or on stove top, simmer till peas begin to loose their bright green color (about 30 minutes)

Serve with Crusty Bread, Dips, Olives, & Salad.

Tip for Dining with Omnivores: This, like the Green Beans & Okra Yachni dishes, is not only a great vegan entree, but also a nice side-dish to go with a meat and potatoes meal.

Notice how much brighter green the peas are before cooking.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice

Several years ago I came across this great recipe - I think it was in Julie Sahni's Cookbook, but I'm not sure.

This recipe was inspired by that one, but is prepared quite differently.

Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice
Toss in Slow Cooker

3 cups Yachni Sauce
2 Tablespoons Fresh Minced Ginger
1 Tablespoon Fresh Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander Seed
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cardamom (generous)
Black pepper to taste
*Optional Heat of your choice - a little cayenne or a broken dried chili pepper
3 15 oz Cans drained Chickpeas (or equivalent home-cooked)

cook on High 3 to 4 hours (or on low 6-8 hours)

Serve over prepared Rice (preferably Basmati) or with Indian Flatbread (such as Naan  or Roti) if you prefer.

Serve with a Nice Salad & Sriracha or Hot Sauce of your choice.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Simple Vegan Pad Thai

Pad Thai has been one of my favorite dishes for years! But, when you buy Pad Thai in a restaurant, odds are that two things are happening 1) A LOT of oil is being used and 2) Fish Sauce is being added. Neither thought really thrills me or my arteries.

Here is my veganized, simplified, low fat, Americanized version. It has a lot of steps, but each step is simple.

Soak in warm water about 20 minutes (while preparing sauce, sauteing, etc), then drain:
1 pound thin, flat Asian-style rice noodles

This is the kind I usually buy.
 Just soak them in warm water while you're doing the other prep.

OPTIONAL STEP: - Grill 1 # tofu – set aside
To Prepare tofu, cut extra-firm (sometimes called Chinese Style)
Tofu in dice type cubes. Put it in a medium-hot skillet with 1 teaspoon oil
Toss from time to time, till all sides are light golden brown.

Prepare Sauce  - set aside

1/3 cup brown sugar, turbinado sugar, or white sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup lime juice (Lemon Juice may be substituted if you like)
(Optional: 2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter)

Prepare garnishes and set aside:
(this is the perfect task for that Salad Shooter
you got three Christmases ago!)

Shredded cabbage (or any similar veggie – napa cabbage, etc)
Julienned or shredded carrots
chopped or crushed peanuts
green onions (scallions), sliced
Optional Lime Wedges

If you're in a hurry - you can used bagged slaw, pre-shredded carrots & chopped peanuts from the grocery! 

Assemble dish as follows:
Soaked noodles at beginning of cooking - with sauce.

Saute in large skillet:

1/2 onion, diced
1 T garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
hot sauce to taste

Add  Sauce (above) & drained Noodles, and cook on high heat till sauce is mostly absorbed/thickened, but not all. Gradually Add  water as needed - 1/2 cup at a time- as cooking progresses (to finish noodle cooking). If noodles begin to get sticky during or after cooking, drizzle with a little cold water. Season to taste with:
Noodles as they finish cooking. The Spaghetti server is used to gently
lift and turn noodles as they cook - to avoid breakage & over stirring.

Sriracha or favorite hot sauce

Garnish each portion with above garnishes & serve immediately.

Do not double – too many noodles get gummy when stir frying. If a larger batch is needed, prepare second batch of noodles separately.

Tip for dining with Omnivores:
When topping Vegan portion with Tofu,
Omnivore's portion can be topped with
Diced Grilled Chicken or
Thawed, precooked Shrimp

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Twin Vegan Indian Recipes

Here's a nice way to make TWO Indian-inspired dishes without the work of two dishes. When you're done, you have an Indian-Style Rice Pilaf, and an Indian Dal which can be served together for a luxurious meal, or separately for two simple meals.

Start Dal:

Sort and rinse

3 cups Red Lentils (Masoor Dal)


8 cups water

Bring to a boil, cover & simmer till done - about 30 minutes

(If cooking Red Lentils in a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot, cook them 3 hours on High)

Then, puree with an immersion Blender

Start Rice:

While Dal is heating, Prepare two cups raw rice according to package directions. (Brown is great, but white is good too. Long Grain or Basmati here is better than Short grain). If you have 8 cups of leftover rice in the fridge or freezer, you can skip this step! (as I usually do)

Then, prepare your "Flavor Packet"

Saute in a skillet

(this can be done with a lot, little, or no oil, according to your preference. If you use frozen onions, the moisture in them will allow the other things to cook sufficiently without oil)

2 cups chopped onions

1 Tablespoon Garlic

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 Tablespoon fresh minced ginger (I use the jarred kind)

2 teaspoons whole cumin seed (if you prefer a milder Cumin taste, Substitute 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin instead of the Whole Cumin Seeds)

2 teaspoons whole mustard seed (black if you have it because it's prettier, but yellow will still taste good)

*Add heat of choice, if desired (cayenne, red chili, etc) - I cook for a little one, so I do Sriracha at the table rather than cooking hot spices into food, but have used other methods in the past.

Divide the Flavor Packet in half (you'll have about a cup to divide into two 1/2 cup portions)*

Finish the Dal:

Add one flavor packet to the Dal. Add Lemon juice & Garlic Salt to taste. I use from 1/4 cup to 3/4 cup lemon juice (I usually just pour instead of measuring, and our family LOVES lemon!), and garlic salt generously.

Dal may be served with Cilantro Garnish, and Sriracha or other hot sauce on the side.

Then, Finish the Rice:

Add the other Flavor packet to a medium hot skillet. Add the rice & stir.

Add in:

1 pound bag frozen Green Peas

1/3 cup Lemon Juice

1/3 Cup Soy Sauce

3 Tablespoons Dry Parsley (this is optional -for eye appeal more than for taste)

Stir, cooking till Peas are hot through. (If rice gets a little too dry, drizzle in a little boiling water to moisten)

To serve Rice

Place Rice Pilaf on a plate, and garnish with Roasted, Salted Cashews or Peanuts. A salad on the side is nice.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: A dollop of plain yogurt on top of the rice, or a Raita on the side is a nice touch. Tandoori Chicken also goes well.

Freezer instructions: Both of these meals freeze well. Do not add the nuts to the rice before freezing, or they will get stale/soggy (BTDT). If you have a small freezer, you can make the flavor packets in advance, and wait until you have 6 to 8 cups leftover rice to make the Pilaf in a flash. Likewise, the Dal can be made by simply boiling lentils & water & adding the flavor packet, lemon, & garlic salt.

*Many years ago, this Rice Pilaf was inspired by a John Robbins Recipe, and the Dal was inspired by an Indian Cookbook (I cannot recall which one). Over the years, I personalized them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet & Sour Sweet Potatoes

Perhaps you're not a fan of Candied Yams with Marshmallows. Or, maybe you ARE a fan, but are trying to eat healthier. Either way, this is a nice, slightly non-traditional way to prepare the very traditional Sweet Potatoes & Cranberries. This was inspired by a recipe I found many years ago in Food for Life by Dr. Neal Barnard. I have made it many times since, and varied it a little each time.

Sweet & Sour Sweet Potatoes
4 sweet potatoes, ½ ” cubes
1 large apple, diced
1 c raw cranberries
½ c raisins
Apple Juice concentrate, as needed, about ½ cup*

You have your choice of three preparation methods (I've done all three!)
Cover and bake in oiled dish 350 degrees F, 1 hour 15 minutes, till potatoes are tender, OR
Microwave till done, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally OR
Cook in Slow Cooker or Crock Pot for 2 hours, till potatoes are tender.
Some Broken Walnuts make a nice garnish, if you like.

*If the dish finishes, and the sweetness and moisture level are insufficient, a little more juice concentrate may be added at that point.

I'm clumsy, and Sweet Potatoes are hard - and harder to peel than white potatoes.
To make it easier, I cut the potato in half to keep it steady on the cutting board.

Then, I hold the potato ABOVE the knife, and slice downward around
The outside of the skin.
BTW - learned the hard way, the garbage disposal does NOT like Sweet Potato skins : (

Vegan Cranberry Magic Muffins from your own mix

You can stuff things beside veggies, ya know?

These muffins are magically stuffed with cranberry sauce, and covered with a nice streusel on top.

They're good for Thanksgiving Morning Breakfast, and also make a good use for leftover cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Streusel Muffins
Preheat oven to 400
Stir Together
2 cups Vegan Muffin Mix
1/2 cup applesauce*
1 cup water
Fill oiled muffin tins 3/4 full
 (in my tins, that's 1/3 cup batter per muffin)

On top of each muffin, drop
1 1/2 teaspoons whole-berry cranberry sauce
Then sprinkle Streusel over the top

*I seldom eat applesauce, so for baking, I find those little 1/2 cup (4oz) lunch packets are just perfect - that way I'm not wasting the rest of the jar.

2 Tablespoons Brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Vegan Muffin Mix
2 Tablespoons Chopped Walnuts

Put 1 1/2 teaspoons cranberry sauce on top, and the put some streusel right over that

Bake 400 degrees for about 35 minutes, till golden brown. Allow to sit about 5 minutes, and carefully remove from tins (because of the filling, these can break a little more easily than regular muffins)

The Cranberry sauce "magically" stuffs the muffin, while the streusel "magically" stays on top! : )

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cauliflower & Capers

Here's another nice side-dish for Thanksgiving dinner. The cauliflower is usually at a good price around Thanksgiving, and the tart edge of this dish provides a nice counterpoint to comfort foods like stuffing.

This is a nice make-ahead dish as it can be served at any temperature (cold, room temperature, or warm) and it keeps pretty well.

This was inspired by a recipe by cookbook author Donna Klein, but has gone through several changes since I first used it.

Cauliflower & Capers

Trim (cut off leaves, stem & dark spots), and cut in bite size pieces:
2 heads of cauliflower
Steam the cauliflower to your desired level of tenderness - 5 to 10 minutes usually.
You can either use the microwave method featured yesterday, with a little water in the bowl, or use a steaming basket in a pot with a lid, and about 3/4 cup of water at the bottom.
Put the cauliflower in a dish and sprinkle over the top
1/3 cup caper buds
1 Tablespoon Veggie Bouillon Powder*
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic
1 Tablespoon Dry Basil
2 Tablespoons Caper brine
A dash of pepper
Toss, and put in fridge or serve!

*If you only have bouillon cubes, a cube may be dissolved in a tiny bit of boiling water before adding to vegetables.

To steam cauliflower or other veggies in a pot, put a metal steamer basket
inside the pot, add the veggies, pour about 3/4 cup water over the top.

Cover pot with a lid, and bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
Most veggies finish in 5 to 10 minutes - check them every few minutes, being careful
not to burn yourself with steam when lifting the lid. A little more water may need to be added
after 5 minutes, so pot does not boil dry and scorch.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Green Beans Almondine

This is an ultra-simple, yet luxurious recipe to serve at Thanksgiving or any other special meal. Chefs often use "browned butter" in recipes to give a richer, more complex buttery taste. But, of course, vegans don't use browned butter. Do we?

Well, I recently discovered that vegan buttery spreads (not the low fat varieties) may be browned with the same great results. (I tried both Earth Balance Original and Earth Balance Soy-Free, and it is my feeling that the Earth Balance Original works a little better, but they both work. In these pics I am using the soy-free).

Stir almonds constantly while toasting over medium heat,
until fragrant. If you stop to take a picture, one or two might burn ; )

Green Beans Almondine

Toast in dry skillet:
Slivered Almonds (unless you have some all ready in the freezer)
1 package frozen Green Beans, Any style
Meanwhile, Brown
1-2 Tablespoons Vegan Buttery Spread
Add & saute very briefly
Steamed Green Beans
Toasted Almonds
Generous Salt

Serve & Enjoy!

Vegetables may be steamed in the microwave in a microwave-safe serving bowl
following directions on vegetable package. This saves a dish at washing-up time
and can compensate for not having a steamer basket in your kitchen.

Place a microwave safe plate over the serving bowl for the perfect steamer.

As buttery spread melts, it will bubble and loose its extra liquid.

When Buttery Spread is done bubbling and gets a golden to dark brown color,
it is ready for the veggies to be added.
This is VERY hot, despite the fact it is no longer "boiling."
Variation: If you're a fan of Brussels Sprouts, use this same method to cook them, substituting FRESH steamed Brussels Sprouts in place of Green Beans and Pecans in place of Almonds. I suspect other vegetables, like Cauliflower, might also lend themselves to this method.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vegan Banana Walnut Muffins from Your Own Mix

For a Saturday Morning Treat, try making your own Banana Walnut Muffins.

If you made the mix for Mini Pumpkin Muffins, you're ready to go.

Here's all you need to do:

Banana Muffins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Oil muffin tin (if desired, sprinkle each cup with cinnamon sugar)
Combine all in one bowl
1 ripe banana, mashed with fork
2 Cups Vegan Muffin Mix
1 Cup water
Chopped Walnuts (a nice handful)
Stir, and fill muffin tins to 3/4 full (if desired, sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar)
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, till golden brown, and they spring back to the touch
This recipe made 9 muffins in my muffin tin - using about 1/3 cup batter per muffin.


The "perfect" baking banana is like this one- spotty brown, but not
mush when you pick them up. Very mushy ones tend to have a bitter edge.
Variation: If you prefer not to eat nuts, you may omit them, or use another add-in such as raisins or chopped dates.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rosemary (or Oregano) Roast Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

Notice how the potatoes have yummy browned bits and a golden hue
when done.
This is one of my go-to side dishes year round, and it seems no matter how much I make I always wish I had made more. People seem to just love it. It's a perfect choice for a Thanksgiving dinner side if you want potatoes, but want to avoid the cream and butter often associated with mashed potatoes.

Besides being fit for a Thanksgiving meal, this is a good choice to turn on before Church to serve guests for Sunday Dinner.
Rosemary (or Oregano) Potatoes
Use 2 to 4 pounds* of Red or Gold Potatoes** - enough to fill your slow cooker 1/2 to 3/4 full
Wash potatoes
Cut them in 1" to 2" pieces and drop them in the crock (for tangerine sized potatoes, you'll want to quarter them)
Drizzle with 1 to 2 teaspoons Olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh Garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried rosemary  (or Oregano)***
Toss with a large spoon to coat potatoes with seasonings
Turn on high and cook 3 to 4 hours (I prefer 4)

*Seasoning amounts listed are for 2 pounds of potatoes. On occasions when you're using more for a larger crowd, increase seasoning amounts appropriately. I often fill my slow cooker till potatoes are 1" from the top rim.

**Edited to add: Some time after making this post, I tried this recipe with Russet Potatoes (which tend to be much less expensive than Red or Gold). They turned out great! : )

*** A nice variation on this recipe can be made using Oregano in place of the Rosemary


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Low Fat, Vegan Stuffing

The finished stuffing in the Slow Cooker
I grew up with a Mom who hated stuffing. Which meant that for me, it was a special treat to be anticipated at friends' houses & restaurants only. Then, someone broke it to me that it was one of the highest fat foods on the planet. Then I became vegetarian.

After that, I didn't get much stuffing : (

But last year, I saw an online post for a vegan stuffing, and I got inspired. (I think it was on fatfree vegan, but I cannot recall for sure). In any case, I didn't have enough distressed bread on hand to make it from scratch.

So, I looked at the back of the stuffing package, and combined it with the online recipe, and hit the jackpot! This one is easy, low fat, and vegan! It can be made in the slow cooker or in the oven. And, there's a do-ahead option for minimal last-minute fussing.

Here it is:
Sauteing veggies
Low fat, Vegan Stuffing
Saute in dry skillet (a little oil may be used if you like, but its not necessary)***
1 cup onion
1 cup celery
1 ½ cups fresh mushrooms (about 8-10 oz pkg, sliced)
OR 2 4oz cans mushrooms, drained
1/3 cup minced parsley

mix veggies into a 12 to 16 oz pkg of vegan herb seasoned stuffing mix (I've had good experience with Pepperidge Farm & Store Brand both - but discovered I don't like the cubed kind)
Stir in
Ready to bake
2 cups boiling water combined with*
1 large bouillon cube (or 1 Tablespoon Veggie Bouillon powder)
Then add
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted **

Pour in greased 3 qt casserole, bake, uncovered 350 deg, 30 min (That's what I did last year)
OR Pour into an oiled Slow Cooker or Crock Pot and cook on high 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (That's what I did today)
*This recipe makes a very dry stuffing. If you like a moister stuffing, add more water here, or at serving time, a little boiling water may be drizzled into mixture until it's just to your liking.
**If you like toasted slivered almonds, you can cook a bunch all at once. I did, because I hope to feature Green Beans Almondine soon.

***If you want a more stress-free cooking day, these veggies may be cooked ahead and refrigerated or frozen. On cooking day, thaw them and combine them with the other ingredients & cook for a super-quick Side-Dish.

Neat Vegan Thanksgiving Idea - another stuffed veggie!

If you're having an all-vegan Thanksgiving gathering, or if you just don't want the Turkey to be your centerpiece this year, here's a great idea for an edible, seasonal Thanksgiving Entree Centerpiece.

Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe - Scroll all the way down.

I have made this dish more than once (though I don't plan to make it this year). The stuffing recipe itself could use some tweaking - you could substitute any favorite grain-based stuffing (quinoa, rice, teff, bulgur, etc). And, I would  serve a nice sauce on the side to flavour the pumpkin flesh - cranberry, maple syrup, peanut sauce, the recommended blend of soy sauce & lemon juice with a little ginger added - whatever.

Advent Begins Today!

For those of us who are Greek Orthodox Christians, the Nativity Fast - also known as Advent - begins today.

Wishing all who observe this fast strength for the Spiritual battle.

Hope you're able to find some helpful recipes here in the coming weeks.

(The beautiful Icon on the right was found from a public domain Internet source - unfortunately I cannot remember which site I found it on. I liked that it was a rather typical Icon of the Nativity which depicted all the major elements of  the Christmas story - and the caption at the top was in English.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Help! A Vegan is coming to Thanksgiving Dinner!

My daughter took this photo - she's better at it than I am! : )
If you're an omnivore hosting Thanksgiving Dinner - finding out you have a vegan guest can be a cause for panic. It doesn't need to be! Here are a few helpful hints that might make the entire ordeal, um, I mean holiday - less stressful.

First, most vegans are decent, kind human beings who don't want to cause you stress on a day when you're already stressed out. We don't want you to make an entire separate "special" meal just for us. We don't want you to have to go out to shop for weird vegans-only sorts of food - you know, like Tempeh, Tofu, Seitan & Fake Turkeys (in fact, some of us don't like that special, vegans-only food any more than you do!). Most of us aren't prima donnas who want your holiday to revolve around us. And, many of us would rather fade into the woodwork and not have all your guests' attention focused on us and what we're eating or not eating.

Like you, when we think of Thanksgiving, we think of family, friends, love, and special desserts. But perhaps unlike you - turkey isn't part of our image of the perfect holiday.

So, what should you prepare when hosting a vegan?

A vegan is someone who does not eat ANY animal products. This includes: meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, dairy, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, butter, and such animal derived ingredients as glycerine, gelatine or (often, but not always) honey.

If the vegan offers to bring a dish to share - accept enthusiastically! If you already declined the offer - call them and accept enthusiastically! Many of us not only enjoy cooking, but like sharing food we like, and also we feel a little more secure knowing that if someone completely misunderstood the word "vegan" we still won't starve : )

I don't know a single vegan who isn't delighted with a plate of "side dishes" with no entree on their plate. Don't feel like you need to provide an entree for your vegan guest.

Try to offer at least three or four things that can be eaten by your guest - then make everything else however you usually make it. The vegan's dishes don't have to be fancy, or weird. In fact, it is better if they are not. Something like bread, salad, vegetable and sweet potato is lovely!  When he or she arrives, discreetly pull them aside and tell them which foods are and aren't within their dietary preferences. "The stuffing has turkey broth in it, but I made the mashed potatoes with Vegan Margarine and Soymilk."

Which brings me to my next point - look over your menu and see where you can easily and unobtrusively veganize a dish that won't even be noticed by your other guests. And, you know what your family notices and doesn't.

Here are several suggestions, one or two of which may work for you in your situation:

  • Make whole foods available where possible. Something like a plain baked white or sweet potato, boiled peas, salad, bread and fruit is a satisfying, pretty trouble free vegan meal for any day. And, most of your other guests can enjoy the same things.

  • Consider using a vegan margarine like Earth Balance Original or Soy-Free in place of butter in vegetables and desserts. Look for the word "vegan" on the label - as some of this brand's products have fish oil. Be aware that some vegans are vegan for health reasons, and also avoid any added fat or oil - so

  • For those who don't eat oil or margarine, Pull out some of the veggies before adding butter. This is also a good way to accomodate other guests for whom real butter is a must at the holidays.

  • Consider using a non-dairy milk (like soy or almond) in recipes like mashed potatoes place of dairy milk.

  • Try using veggie broth in place of chicken, turkey or beef broth for things like stuffing & potatoes.

  • If your sweet potato casserole is one with marshmallows (marshmallows are NOT vegan, unless you buy a special kind like Dandies -which are GREAT, but a little pricey) , then put a few in a marshmallow-free dish.

  • If that's not possible, put a plain sweet potato or white potato on the rack in the oven to bake - unadulterated.

  • Be aware that Gelatin desserts and salads are not vegan  -they're not even vegetarian. (I have had a couple of times in my life when that was offered to me as the ONLY vegan option in a restaurant or large dinner- when it's not even close : (  Gelatin is made from boiled animal bones and hooves - much like that gel-layer that settles to the bottom of your turkey roasting pan)

  • Serve Salad dressings  on the side (some, like Caesar's or Ranch, aren't vegetarian). Likewise, toppings like bacon-bits, cheese, and parmesan croutons can go in little dishes on the side. This will also be a help to any guests with dairy allergies, gluten allergies or other special diets.

  • To keep the traditional theme, consider serving Succotash (Lima Beans & Corn) or Squash. Both of these dishes were probably served at the first Thanksgiving, and are easy to fix.

  • Instead of simmering all the green beans or other veggies in fatback, serve them with optional real-bacon crumbles on the side (none of your omnivore guests will mind THAT substitution, I'll bet!)

  • Don't seat your vegan guest right by the turkey. Some vegans really miss meat (if they have had to quit eating it for their heart health or to reverse diabetes), others find it yucky - either way, sitting by it won't make their feast more pleasant.

  • A plate of hummus, veggies & pita chips on the appetizer table is an easy dish that will feed nearly any vegan with no hassles and on short notice. And, if that's all your vegan guest eats, he or she will probably still be happy and well fed.

  • If you do try to make a special dish just for your vegan guest be aware that omnivores almost always love vegan food, and they will have some, too. If you prepare just enough for the vegan, the vegan may not get any of it!

So, what IS a good vegan meal? This is a good guide to a full day's nutrition - if you follow this guideline, you'll be sure you're feeding your guest super-well.

But, most importantly - remember that the Thanksgiving holiday is about giving thanks to God and about  people, not about food. Personally, if I have good friends invite me for bread and water - I'll still have a great time! Of course, if there's some great coffee, and a nice glass of port, and a bit of vegan chocolate,  that's even better ; )

Over the next few days, I will try to feature a few great vegan Thanksgiving dishes : )

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The simplest of salads

Try this sometime (if you haven't already) - go into any all-American restaurant and tell them you're eating a vegan diet today. Ask what they have that you can eat.

There's a 90% chance that the very well-intentioned response will be, "We have salad." With a generous, delighted smile of a server who honestly thinks that's all a vegan could ever possibly want to eat.

I could understand that if I was 98-pounds-soaking-wet. But really - I don't live on salads!

All too often, to add insult to injury, I find that the so-called "salads" on the menu are covered in strips of meat, cheese and egg : (

Well, as I like to joke - Just because I eat a vegan diet, does not mean I'm a bunny!

Like many Midwesterners, I think of a green, leafy salad as a side-dish, not a meal.

And, I seldom want one of those fashionable salads with a sugary sweet dressing, a slick of oil poured across the top, or with fruit syrup flavors. Just a nice, healthy, refreshing accompaniment to my main dish.

So, with that in mind, here's how I've been eating my every day side-salads lately:

Super Simple Salad
A bed of Greens (Sliced Romaine Hearts or Mixed Baby Greens are my favorites)
Diced Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and/or Bell Peppers
Some nice Green, Kalamata, or Oil-cured Olives
1 to 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice drizzled over the top
A generous sprinkle of Garlic Salt
Oregano sprinkled over the top

It's a lovely-tasting, every day sort of salad. No sugar, no oil, no fruit, no meat. Just nice, delicious salad : )

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fresh, Homemade Bread - Every Day!

A homemade loaf from my oven, baked by this method
.A few years back, I stumbled upon a GREAT bread cookbook, and a great blog to go with it. Being a frugal person, I checked the book out from the library the first time I used it. It was so amazing that I have since bought SEVERAL copies of it, and I regularly visit the authors' blog.

Really, once you have tried their the method - which they share on their Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day website - a few times, you might do what I did - donate your bread machine!

Personally, I'm not sure why other bread-book authors are out there. These guys have done it!

These recipes allow me to have homemade yeast bread on the table at virtually every meal, with almost no work. Boule, Foccacia, Naan, Pita, Pizza - it's all fresh from MY kitchen. And, it costs about 40cents/pound : )

I have control over all the ingredients - nothing yucky in my bread that I don't want there!

And, they have great recipes for Gluten Free Bread & Pizza Crusts, Whole Wheat Bread (I frequently make that one, too) and lots of other yummy stuff. Like Cinnamon Rolls : )

I use a slightly different baking method. The authors of the book & website allow their bread to rise on a board, then transfer it onto a preheated pizza stone. I prefer to use a perforated, non-stick pizza pan for rising & baking - no preheating of the pan is necessary, and there's no risk of a clumsy cook dumping a loaf of dough on the bottom of the oven ; ) Best of all, it still turns out a delicious, artisan loaf.

The perfect container to mix and store the dough? A brand new plastic shoe box from the Dollar Store! 

Check out their blog - and seriously consider buying one or more of their books!

Here's the link to their wonderful recipe & method:

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day 

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New Links Tab

Check out the new Links Tab - it will feature various things I find interesting - some cooking-related, some not.

My Goddaughter has started a new Etsy shop. She is an apparel design student, and is starting a line of things she has made. Check it out!

I'm also featuring some friends' blogs on various topics.

More to be added as we go.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saving Money on Spices

Saving Money on Spices
Vegan eating is probably the cheapest AND healthiest way to eat.

But, many vegan dishes are seasoned with spices that are not cheap at the grocery store. So, some people find themselves cooking a dish with ingredients that cost $2 or $3 to feed the whole family - and then seasoning that dish with spices that cost $8 a jar! What a budget-buster!

There are some great ways to get your spices inexpensively, so that your whole budget makes sense. Here are a few of my favorite ways:

1) Check your local dollar store for spices at $1/jar. Usually these spices are only those that are very commonly used, but once in a while, I find some great more offbeat spices there, too.

2) Go to the ethnic market. I usually can find 1/4 pound to 1/2 pound bags of spices at ethnic markets which cost MUCH less than those little one-ounce bottles at the grocery.

3) Hit the health-food store. Many health food stores sell bulk spices that they measure into little bags. Often, these spices cost from 50cents to $2/ounce. If you already have an empty spice-jar, why pay the equivalent of $6 for the one from the grocery store?

4) Go to your favorite spot for big purchases - like a warehouse club, or (my preference) the No-Membership fee GFS store. Often they have huge containers of spices for the same price as those tiny bottles.

I've read all those articles that say you have to buy your spices in tiny bottles and use them within some ridiculously short period of time or they'll lose potency. But, I've NEVER had a spice lose potency (except for those that were SEVERAL YEARS old) - and I've kept them a lot longer than they recommend. Most of them don't have a "best by" date or date of manufacture - so you don't even know how long they've been in a warehouse before you got them. In my opinion, the little-tiny-bottle-you-have-to-use-in-x-months should be recognized as the marketing ploy it is. Don't hesitate to buy the big one when the price is right.

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Vegan Pancake Mix Recipe

Saturday Mornings are a great time for pancakes! And, with an all-in-one mix in your pantry, it's easy to just add water or non-dairy milk, stir, and go.

Stuffedveggies Pancake & Waffle Mix

Mix in a labeled container. This recipe may be doubled if you have a larger family, or like to have pancakes often.

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (also known as Graham flour) OR White Whole Wheat Flour*
1-3 tablespoons sugar (white, or raw/turbinado sugar)
1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, or cornstarch (acts as vegan egg-substitute for dry mixes)
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

*Note Edited in December 2014: For a long time, I only made this with Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, but then recently I couldn't get to my favorite specialty shop, and was forced to try subbing the White Whole Wheat Flour. To my delight, it worked as well or better than the Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. This is great because White Whole Wheat - while still 100% whole grain, is easier to find and cheaper! : ) Edited October 2019: Today I ran out of Whole Wheat flour, and used All Purpose (White) Flour. It worked just fine. So, if White is your preference, feel free to substitute

To make:
use ½ cup mix and ½ cup water or non-dairy milk

Pancake mix should be pourable - not too thick

We like blueberries in our pancakes - they can be added in while they're still frozen, if they're not in season.

Prepare on a nonstick skillet. Oil may be used for crispy edges, but also can be omitted if you prefer.

Turn the pancakes when there are bubbles covering the top, and the edges start to dry a bit.

We make these animal pancakes. They're supposed to be piggies, but this one looks more cow-like. Oops.

Lovely, golden brown pancakes.

Nutrition information as calculated on
If recipe is made with White Whole Wheat Flour, 3 TablespoonsSplenda that measures like sugar,
and Tapioca Starch options
1/6 of this recipe - or about 1/2 cup of mix calculates as follows:
Nutrition Facts
6 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  • Calories 205.5
  • Total Fat 1.0 g
  • Saturated Fat 0.0 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  • Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  • Sodium 697.0 mg
  • Potassium 0.8 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 39.6 g
  • Dietary Fiber 6.0 g
  • Sugars 1.5 g
  • Protein 8.0 g
  • I calculate this to be 6 WW Freestyle Points on
  • ***************************************************************************************
The same calculation, using 3 Tablespoons of sugar is:
Nutrition Facts
6 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  • Calories 229.5
  • Total Fat 1.0 g
  • Saturated Fat 0.0 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  • Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  • Sodium 697.0 mg
  • Potassium 0.8 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 44.4 g
  • Dietary Fiber 6.0 g
  • Sugars 6.3 g
  • Protein 8.0 g
I calculate this to be 7 WW Freestyle Points on

Here are some great additional ways to use this mix:

      Banana Bread Waffles
      Blueberry Pancakes
      Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

      Grilled Banana Pancakes

      Strawberry Pancakes

      Pumpkin Spice Waffles

      Toaster Waffles, Vegan, Whole Wheat, No Oil
      Zucchini Bread Waffles

This is being shared on Food On Friday