Vegan MoFo Day 2014, Day 15: Zesty “Ranch”, no wait! Green Goddess?

15 Sep

I miss ranch dressing. I really miss ranch dressing.  Last week I decided to remedy this with a homemade, plant-strong version.

It all began with a hankering for broccoli dipped in ranch dressing.  Honestly, my love of sauces and condiments is a bit of an issue…

I dumped a container of soft silken tofu in the NutriBullet, followed by some mustard, lots of minced garlic, onion powder, crushed dill, juice of half a lemon, and white balsamic vinegar.  I kept adjusting the amounts of this and that until I got it where I wanted.  Sorry, no measurements.  Ordinarily I would have used apple cider vinegar, but I seem to be out.  White balsamic gave it nice zing!

I got the broccoli out of the fridge, loaded up my lunch-bag and headed to work.  Much to my dismay, I realized about lunch time that the broccoli did not make it into my bag.  I loaded up my potato, greens, and tomato instead.  The dressing was pretty good.  More Green Goddess than ranch, but creamy, and handled the hankering.

Two days later I decided I wanted another potato that way.  I loaded her up, put on the dressing, took a bite…ZING!  Apparently it became ZING-ier in the fridge over a couple days.  What’s a girl to do?  Add sriracha, of course!  I also noticed the color became more green.  Perhaps the dill?  Hmmmm…

Lesson learned, not all my experiments turn out amazing.  Note to self: follow the silly recipe next time!

Photo Sep 08, 7 58 54 PM

Vegan MoFo 2014, Day 14: Other Pantry Items…

14 Sep

A week ago I talked about my pantry.  In all honesty, my pantry is a cupboard and a bit of counter space.  How I long for a REAL pantry one day!  My friend The Plant Based Nurse suggested a video tour.  It would be about 1 second long.  I will spare you for now :-)

That said, I realize I left a few things off my list…

Mustard – yellow, spicy brown, and dijon.  Each has it’s place.  I like yellow on potatoes.  I thank my friend at A Ladybug In the Kitchen for that tip!

Ketchup – I prefer to use sugar free.  Not always easy to find.  I do keep a bottle on hand,  and I use it sparingly.

Liquid Smoke – it can be controversial, but a few drops can make such a difference in what I’m cooking!  I’ve honestly never read the ingredients nor the nutritional information.  I just use a little when I have a meat hankering.

Butter Extract – this is a new one for me.  I’ve actually not used it yet, as I just received it.  Yes, I had to order it because I could not find it locally.  I am planning mashed potatoes this week…

Tea – what?  That’s a beverage!  Yes, but it has become a daily thing, and thus, belongs in my pantry.  I was never a big coffee drinker, so I didn’t have the transition from that as so many of my friends have had.  I have been drinking a lot of tea.  I recently switched over to a totally herbal minty blend.  I miss the black tea, especially my Earl Grey.  For breast health reasons, I need to cut out all the caffeine.  So far, so good.

That pretty much rounds out my pantry.  On a side note, my Penzeys order arrived!  I need to bust open the box and marvel at all the spicy goodness.  This week, there is cooking that needs to be done!

 

Vegan MoFo 2014, Day 9: Vinegar!

9 Sep

The last category that is in my plant-strong pantry is vinegar. All types. It’s really quite simple.

I “Heart” Vinegar

Apple cider, red and white wine, and…balsamic! Oh my goodness, balsamic!!!

I always had a bottle of generic balsamic in my cupboard. I rarely used it. It wasn’t until I decided to kick my root beet and grape soda habit that I discovered how amazing balsamics can be.

Huh? Balsamic vinegar cured my soda addiction?

YES!!!

Someone suggested I add balsamic vinegar to my sparkling water. That sounded insane to me, but I tried it. A teaspoon to about 12 ounces of sparkling water. It was good! Every time I wanted a soda, I had a “shrug”. Within a week, all I wanted were shrugs. Within three months, I was drinking plain sparkling water. Who knew?

I branched out. I visited the local oil and vinegar store. Friends, perplexed at my new beverage, have me flavored Balsamics for my birthday.

My balsamic vinegar staples include those infused with fig, blackberry and ginger, dark chocolate, espresso, Serrano and honey, white, and aged. I can not live without them.

I still add them to water when I want a sweet drink. I use them in salad dressings, AS salad dressing, on veggies, in my pots of beans, pretty much with nearly everything.

I use the Alessi brand (available in stores, as well as from Amazin and Vitacost) as well as a local brands from specialty shops. In my area we have Joe and Sons where I get most of my fabulous infused flavors. I am also partial to the Olive the Above Espresso from a little shop in Beaufort South Carolina. That one was a gift, and I’m almost out! Note to self, contact my friend in Beaufort….

…I have not yet mail ordered vinegar, but with all the flavors in the universe, I am sure I will! I enjoy mixing the dark chocolate and espresso in my sparkling water on a Sunday morning. Who needs fancy coffee?

Vegan MoFo 2014, Day 8: My Plant-Strong Pantry

8 Sep

Yesterday we talked spices. Amazing, yummy spices! Today is about my pantry.

I am a lazy cook. I do not like mess, I do not like fuss, and I don’t want to be in the kitchen any longer than necessary. I especially do not like anything that makes my hands icky. I also want easy, accessible ingredients. I keep very specific pantry staples on hand that allow me to whip up fast, easy, no fuss meals:

Spice World Minced Garlic – the most used item in my kitchen! Yes, I use garlic in a squeeze bottle. The one I get is just garlic, no oil. I go through a bottle about every six weeks. No peeling, no mincing, no garlic fingers!

Lemon and Lime Juice – I prefer to use fresh, but in a pinch, I keep a bottle on hand. The rule is it MUST be 100% real juice, such as Santa Cruz Organics Lemon Juice nothing fake or from concentrate allowed.

Garlic Powder – because sometimes powder works better! I use Badia brand.

Onion Powder – I really despise onions. I can pick them out of anything. One bite into an onion, no matter how well cooked, ruins the meal for me. I do however like the flavor in certain dishes. Again, I use Badia.

Garlic Chives – I have these growing outside my back door. I love the savory flavor! These make another nice onion substitute.

Basil – also growing on the back porch, nothing beats fresh basil. Nothing.

Oregano – another home grown herb that is so much better than from the spice aisle!

Cuban Oregano – this is a potent little plant that is almost a succulent, also growing out back. It is really good added to pasta or sauce.

Pure Maple Syrup – the only sweetener I use. A small bottle lasts me quite a while, as I only use it a teaspoon or so at a time. It is rare that I sweeten something. The last bottle lasted me a year!

Nutritional Yeast – folks either love it or hate it. I love it. I use it mostly for gravy.

Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta – the only pasta I use. It tasted like the white pasta that I live, but it’s healthy!

Canned Beans – garbanzo, black bean, pinto, kidney, cannellini, I keep a few cans of each on hand. I prefer the Whole Foods 365 brand, no salt added. They are a good price, and they are in the process of converting to non-BPA cans. Plus, the liquid that you drain off before rinsing the beans is watery! It’s not all thick and gooey.

Diced Tomatoes – I spend a little more on these depending in what is available. They must be no salt added, and BPA free cans are a bonus. I usually have on hand Glen Muir, 365 Brand, or Hunts.

Rice – mostly brown, sometimes black or another amazing whole-grain, unprocessed rice from the bulk bins.

French Lentils – not only are they tasty, they are French! I first bought them for the name (I don’t know if they are really French), and still buy them because they cook fast and are yummy. I always get these from the bulk bins.

Pacific Simply Stock, NSA – I spent a little more, but always have this on hand. I like the 8 ounce container because I often cook small amounts. Sometimes I might do one container and a cup of water, but I cook most everything in this.

Penzeys Florida Seasoned Pepper – my go-to pepper. I live it. I use it almost daily. I keep a container in my lunch bag. Love, love, LOVE!

Ninja Squirrel Sriracha – a Whole Foods exclusive, and soooo worth a trip! I used to use Rooster Sauce, but now stock up on this. It has an amazingly clean taste. The ingredient list is short, and even my friend from Dallas who loves all things hot loves this sauce! Here is a link to an interview with Derek Sarno about his amazing sriracha.

Hummus – sometimes homemade, sometimes store bought, always oil-free.

Mrs Dash Seasoning Blends – the Table Blend and Garrlic and Herb are my go-to blends. I even keep some at work!

Moro-Nu Silken Tofu – I use this sparingly, but always have at least one soft and one extra firm in the cabinet. The soft works great for homemade mayo, “ranch” dressing, and sriracha aioli.

Fresh tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, and kale, along with both red and orange bell peppers round out my pantry.

A girl can make an awesome meal with a few of the above listed ingredients, or fill in with most anything else to make something really amazing!

Vegan MoFo 2014, Day 7: My Favorite Spices!

7 Sep

Spices.  The backbone of the Whole Foods Plant Based kitchen.  Without them, everything just tastes like…well, rather bland (in my humble opinion.) While many people like the natural flavors of fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, I really only like fruit on it’s own.  Everything else needs to be spiced up.

I have had the incredible pleasure of being introduced to Penzeys a year or two ago.  Every spice I have tried is, hands down, the BEST I’ve ever had!  Well, except for one (which I think I’ve just not used properly yet.)

This is a good time to note that I in no way am receiving anything from Penzeys except for the amazing spices that I ordered and paid for!

While there is a store about an hour away from me, I choose to use their mail order service instead.  I fear that I can not afford to step foot in the actual brick and mortar store.  I can’t imagine how heavenly it would smell!  I can barely escape the oil and vinegar store I go to with my paycheck in check!  Me in a spice store, oh my!

What I like about Penzeys is that I can get a lot for my money, and they offer free shipping at $30.  Totally awesome!  Today’s order:

Penzeys Order

Previously, I had ordered the following:

Penzeys Order2

Before Penzeys, my cupboard consisted of Mrs Dash, garlic and onion powder.  I tend to “try out” spices from the bulk bins, and then order what I really like.

The best part is that Penzeys has a whole line of salt-free blends.  Perfect for the WHPB person who avoids salt!  So many spice blends we purchase contain salt, and we aren’t even aware.  Salt makes things “taste good”, and makes us want more.  Penzeys manages to make their blends taste like the HAVE salt, without actually adding it.

My favorite spices that I’ve purchased in the past are Florida Seasoned Pepper (you can see I just ordered a larger one), Arizona Dreaming (any time I want a tex-mex kind of flavor), Mural of Flavor, and the Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon.

Seriously, that cinnamon?  I’ve NEVER had cinnamon that tastes like that!  Remember when we were kids and grandma or mom would make us cinnamon toast with sugar and cinnemon?  Well, you do not need the sugar with the Vietnamese Extra Fancy!  Makes me want a slice of that now, or maybe the raisin bread my Nana used to get for me…but I digress.

My experience is that spices make or break a dish in the Whole Foods Plant Based world.  Before I learned this, I was really displeased with my dishes.  Now, I spice them up!

Do not fear the spices, they are your friends!

Vegan MoFo Day 6: Plant-Strong Sweat!

6 Sep

Let’s talk plant-strong sweat. Ya, you heard me right. Why in the world do I want to talk sweat? Well, you see, I had a revelation the other day…

…Each time I walk, I finish, well, sweaty. I don’t perspire. I do not have lady-like beads of droplets. I SWEAT. Buckets. Unprecedented, crazy volumes of sweat.

By the time I begin peeling off the exercise gear, everything is usually drenched in sweat. Socks, under things, shorts, top, knee brace, headband. My knee brace and my bulletproof bra do not breath. They are usually outright drenched. Yuck.

I keep my shoes and extra socks in my car. This eliminates the “I forgot my stuff” excuse to skip walking. A few days ago I opened the box I keep my shoes in and realized…they don’t smell. Then I thought about the test of my clothes.

Nothing smells. I mean NOTHING ever smells!

It took me a bit to realize, when I am plant-strong, I don’t have stinky sweat. My shoes smell like…shoes. Every bit of clothing, no stinky smell. The things that don’t breath? Not stinky. What????

Plant-strong sweat. What a bonus to have here, this time of year, in Florida. Pretty doggone amazing.

Plant-strong sweat. Pretty cool.

Yesterday I spent 90 minutes in the kitchen creating my Asian Salad masterpiece. An hour and a half!

That’s like three days in the kitchen for a girl like me!

Let’s face it, I don’t like working with more than a handful of ingredients or spending more than half an hour on a meal. It’s not that I can’t cook. I can. I do it very well. I simply do not enjoy it. I also find it challenging to cook for one. Cookbooks, recipes, and food packages are built for four or more servings. Have it mentioned I have an aversion to leftovers?

Example, there are many things I don’t make because they call for a bit of non-dairy milk and I have to buy a whole carton. I can’t use a whole carton of non-dairy milk before it goes bad. It’s near impossible to find 8 ounce containers. See what I mean?

It has to be simple. I doubt I will make that salad again. I didn’t care for the carrots or beets (but I ate them!). I will however, use most of the components in other things. And that dressing? Oh ya, I’ll be making more of THAT! I could drink that. But I won’t. Honest, I won’t…

Vegan MoFo 2014, Day 4: Ginger and Beets and Carrots, Oh My!

4 Sep

I am not a big fan of many vegetables. Onions, zucchini, any squash that is not acorn or butternut, turnips, beets, celery, Brussels sprouts, carrots, dandelion greens, mustard greens, cauliflower, leeks…and more. I tend to buy the same things over and over.

I accepted a challenge to create something using carrots, ginger, and beets. First I had to purchase some ingredients. I had to ask the produce clerk where beets were located. I was surprised how small they were. I was also surprised that bunches of carrots and beets were so…small. Not very many!

Photo Sep 01, 7 57 30 PMThe first thing I did was go shopping for ingredients:  broccoli carrots, beets, an apple, asparagus.  I could work with those.

Then I began plotting and planning.  I found a spiralizer in my kitchen.  When did I buy that?  Turns out it’s a rather fancy one, with three blades, and suction cups on the feet.  In fact, it’s THIS ONE!  Holy cow, did I spend that much?  I bet I bought this about eight or ten years ago…I should use it more often.

I learned a few things.  Soba noodles with turn to mush if you forget about them.  I used rice instead.

This is the first time I’ve ever purchased beets.  Quite messy business, beets.  At one point I saw a bloody handprint on the kitchen wall.  Immediate horror, followed by “I better wash that off before it stains!” Once I had it cleaned up, I realized I should have taken a photo.  My white cat was very interested in the spiralizer.  Have you ever tried to keep a curious cat off the counter?  Why she is not pink is beyond me.  Beet juice splatters when spiralizing!

This was an awful lot of work for a meal.  I have leftovers for salad tomorrow, maybe Saturday.

Asian Salad
Makes enough for two or three big bowls

Salad Ingredients:

3 beets
5 carrots
1 gala apple
1 seedless cucumber
1/2 bag of ready to steam broccoli
1 bag ready to steam asparagus tips
the beet greens from the beets
1/2 cup of cooked brown rice, soba noodles, or rice noodles (I used chilled)
Minced Garlic
Penzeys Mural of Life

Dressing Ingredients

3 tbs low sodium tamari
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
3 tbs minced ginger
juice from 1/2 a lime

Salad Instructions:

  1. Smear a little minced garlic and sprinkle Penzey’s Mural of Life on the carrots and two beets.  Allow time for them to cool a bit.
  2. Roast in the oven for 1 hour, or until done (the carrots will finish before the beets.)  A parchment paper lined pan worked great!
  3. Chop the broccoli into small pieces.
  4. Steam the broccoli and asparagus until al dente
  5. Spiralize the cucumber, apple, and beet.  Do the beet last, it’s messy!
  6. Strip the beet greens from their stem.
  7. Chop the beet greens into bite size pieces.
  8. Slice the carrots and beets
  9. Get out your favorite salad bowl, put your starch on the bottom, and layer the rest in.  Top with dressing (I used half of what I made, instructions below.)

Dressing Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a small bowl with a lid.
  2. Shake until well blended.
  3. Adjust as needed.

Photo Sep 04, 2 54 41 PM

 

 

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