Have I really only been doing this 8 days? It is not that vegan cooking every night is hard, it’s that making something consistently blog-worthy, like a real recipe is hard. Last night we had kids over after school, swim practice, and I was very tired from staying up too late the night before.
The kids wanted tacos, so it worked out perfectly. I had some shells I heated up in the oven, re-fried beans, lettuce, tomato, salsa and avocado. I also made a delicious taco meat out of ground up walnuts with just a few spices and soy sauce. Well, the kids wouldn’t try it- but trust me it is really good! You can serve it on the side. (-; I may try again with a tempeh version in the future. And Taco Tuesdays are the best- I think we will keep those in rotation since those are crazy days.
Walnut Taco Recipe (I would cut back on the soy sauce, it was a bit salty for my taste at least)
It would have been a perfect day to make a veggie burger for our neighborhood block party, but instead I made a lentil dal from Forks over Knives AND salad rolls.
Forks over Knives was one of the critical turning points in changing how I ate. There were two reasons: one was my daughter, and one was this film. After watching the film over three years ago, I decided to try a month eating vegan. Pretty powerful. And the strange thing is, the health reasons that started me down this path are not what keeps me on the path at all.
I’m strongly motivated not to eat meat mostly because of how it affects our planet and all who exist on it. Then knowing the suffering of the animals keeps me from being overwhelmed by the enormity of trying to affect climate change. Finally, I hope that our family will be healthier in the end for it. I do take iron and B12, and pay attention to balancing our diet, taking time to incorporate a wide variety of vegetables. A very small effort to make.
I made the lentil dal because it sounded good to me. And it tastes good to my husband and I, but honestly, the kids aren’t a big fan of it.
So, I thought I would attempt to make Vietnamese salad rolls. We have a store nearby, Bui’s Natural Tofu, that makes the best rolls and tofu. The kind I buy all the time to take to potlucks. Their lemongrass tofu is amazing, as well as the green onion tofu.
Making salad rolls was a bit more difficult than I thought because I had to bake some tofu, which required a marinade, and the peanut sauce for dipping (that part was pretty easy). I julienned some vegetables, and cooked some rice noodles. But, when I tried to assemble them, they just didn’t come together that well. I think I needed larger wraps for one thing. It wasn’t a total fail, and I want to try it again, but just not with that recipe.
If anyone has a good recipe for Asian salad rolls, please let me know!
We lucky Oregonians are fortunate enough to have Café Yumm as a local, regional restaurant chain. The menu’s main feature are bowls that start with rice and bean base, but are customizable. Their signature Yumm sauce is what puts the “yumm” into the name. We support them whenever we are traveling in one of their many locations, or happen to be getting lunch out in downtown Portland.
However, we also started making this a party dish at home with friends and family. It started as a way to make something that our family members who are not vegetarian would enjoy since the customizing part is quite fun. It also is easy to make. Steam a bunch or rice (we prefer brown), place this on the table with smaller bowls of individual bowls of toppings: chopped avocado and tomato, sliced black olives, beans, vegetables (steamed broccoli). You can optionally have faux meat, tempeh or tofu on the side.
We made this for my daughter’s birthday, and in addition to the delicious yumm sauce, I tried making little blocks of tempeh. They turned out really well! A bit more work, but very delicious. My kids LOVE tempeh, in fact even my dad liked tempeh. When prepared well, it has a bacon-like texture and savory umami flavor.
I ended up cutting the blocks of tempeh into 1/2 inch pieces and ended up with at least 32 pieces since I wanted as many as possible and marination to be better. The only other thing the recipe doesn’t mention, but is important, is to steam the tempeh first. I just stuck it in the steamer basket of the rice cooker for awhile (maybe 10 minutes). It allows the marinade to be better absorbed.
My mom made the Yumm sauce in advance, it works great in a vitamix. You can use it as a topping on other options like quinoa, or even a sandwich spread.
Another favorite from Engine 2, I have made this a couple times before and even my picky kid really loves it. It is a healthy meatloaf, that if you do it right, makes a most delicious sandwich. It has great texture and flavor.
So, the recipe online has one major difference from the one in my book. They revised it to be more plant-based by using lentils instead of the fake ground beef meat the book version uses. Well, I made it the book way, but I am sure it is just as delicious with lentils. Especially if you cook those lentils in vegetable broth.
Besides using that package of “meat” crumbles and I recommend Smart Ground Original from Lightlife, I also left out the onion powder, sage, thyme and all spices simply because I didn’t have them on hand. It was still really good, but I think that would have made it way better. If you want to make sure it doesn’t fall apart, mash up the tofu and make sure it has enough liquid.
We had it with some potato salad that a friend brought us, and it was delicious!
One of the easiest, fastest kid meals to make is homemade mac n’ cheese. I have it down to a one pot process, adding in frozen vegetables with the noodles at the end, and everyone is happy. I’ve made it using vegan butter and soy milk, but still using some cheddar cheese. This is one of those dishes on all the vegan menus that everyone tries to recreate.
This version got rave reviews, and gave me a way to incorporate the butternut squash we had on hand. I followed the recipe closely except I didn’t have onion and garlic powder, and used soy milk instead of almond milk.
The cheese sauce was delicious, and I think I could eat that part all alone. The butternut squash was delicious, and everything would have been great except I over-cooked the macaroni noodles a bit. It still worked, but just got a little congealed.
Results: the adults and one kid loved it. The picky eater would not try it. Maybe it was the smell of nutritional yeast that alerted her, but she knew there were secret ingredients in that sauce and she refused to try it. Despite the fact that her favorite thing to order at one of her preferred restaurants, Paradox Café, is their fake bacon garlic Mac n Cheese. Although that item did apparently win a Vegan Iron Chef competition, all I can say is holy garlic!
I think this one is a keeper despite being much harder than my usual method, it was also healthier and tastier.
We always order a stir fried rice when we get Thai food. Traditionally, it uses fish sauce, and egg. I’ve played around in the past with making my own version, but decided to use a recipe this time.
I’m not going to lie- it took me a lot longer. The tofu was the best part, baked and then marinated, and then stir fried. Surprisingly, there were no fats or oils used in this recipe.
You may be wondering why I don’t post photos with these. Well, reason number one is that I am not great at photographing food. Reason number 2 is that my food does not always look that great. I’ll work on this, but until then, click on the link below and you can see the very appealing photos with the recipe.
Shortcut used on this recipe: Frozen mixed vegetables instead of fresh. Family’s impressions: Overall, they really liked it. My daughter was quite pleased there were no onions. I think I might try it again, this time without burning some of the tofu in the pan.
I got this recipe from Minimalist Baker, who promises “simple, delicious recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare”. Somehow this took me an hour, two pots, a bowl and a cookie sheet. I do love her concept, photos and recipes, so I will try to step things up on my end.
Have you heard about the Engine 2 diet? It was created by Rip Esselstyn, a NY firefighter, professional tri-athlete, with a family tree of renowned physicians including his father, grandfather and great grandfather. Check out his website for his story and recipes.
I was interested in trying their version of enchiladas, especially since it is similar to the way I make my enchiladas. None of that tedious rolling corn tortillas (and having them crack open), I layer corn tortillas with enchilada sauce, beans, potatoes and spinach.
Matt’s version uses hash browns which I found intriguing. However, in the end I used tater tots which we had on hand, baked them and ripped them apart so they would be like hash browns. I believe those tater tots are the only oil in the recipe. No one missed the cheese. I did substitute a can of black beans for the mushrooms since I had just used mushrooms the day before, that added some protein as well.
I thought it turned out pretty good, except the can of sauce I used was a bit thin. If you make it, use as much sauce as they ask. This one was pretty popular with the family, we’ll make it again.
Our whole family loves Indian food. I’ve been working on making more Indian recipes since there are many naturally vegan and vegetarian dishes.
My repertoire for now includes palak paneer (with tofu instead of paneer), aloo gobi and chana masala. I love how the palak used a huge amount of spinach.
I looked up a substitute for butter chicken on one of my favorite vegan Indian websites HolyCowVegan.net
I’ve made some really delicous food from her recipes and they are not overly complicated. Although in general, Indian food is a little intensive with all the chopping and amount of spices. Once you get all the spices you are set.
This recipe was not too difficult, and I followed it exactly except I used red pepper instead of green and did not get fenugreek leaves. My cashew paste went a bit awry, turning into more of a chopped cashew since I did not have a good way to grind it. It was still tasty!
It went over pretty well with the family- the kid who doesn’t like mushrooms and onions devoured it. It had just a slightly bitter taste to me, but I think making the cashew into a paste would have helped that. We’ll definitely try more from Holy Cow Vegan.
While we definitely support completely vegan places (I have written about them here), there are times when we need to go to a specific location and want to also support those who offer good veg options!
It has been so great to see fast food restaurants like Chipotle doing so well, with their healthier menu, and vegetarian/vegan options. They are always full. Something about their cilantro lime rice, and salsa is just SO good. I usually go for a vegan bowl and they give you (A LOT of) free guacamole. The sofritas is a great option for those who like the taste of meat- it is a tasty spiced tofu.
Café Yumm is another example of a great business model. They are expanding like crazy, and even have one drive-thru in Salem. All their locations are in Oregon, except one in Seattle by Pike Place. If you haven’t tried it, they make a pretty delicious tempeh skewer.
Another favorite place to eat is Laughing Planet. I believe they are currently only in Oregon, but am sure they will expand, or have similar places follow their model. They give you a possibility to substitute tofu or tempeh I believe on their special items that have meat. Their vegetarian meals are truly delicious. One of my favorites is the Cuban bowl. Fresh smoothies and juices round out their menu- and vegan cookies.
Those are my top three choices. If we have to do a really fast drive thru, the only option I will consider is Burgerville. They at least have a veggie burger option, although it leaves something to be desired. There are seasonal vegetables, and it is local. They are a step in the right direction.
Hopefully, Amy’s Drive-Thru which just opened in California will be a huge success and open in all the States. With items such as Vegan Mac n Cheese, vegan pizza, veggie bowls and burritos, this is a game changer!
I’m adding in one newcomer, that is all vegan. I am SO excited about Next Level Burger, opening in Portland soon. Their Bend, OR location must be doing really well. I will have a separate post about them once I get to try it out. This can show how plant-based food can be mainstream and delicious. I want to try every thing on their menu!
As for the older Fast Food chains, I don’t give them much hope in this changing market of people wanting healthier options, and more visibility and awareness of their participation in factory farm’s pollution and cruelty.
McDonalds has been steadily losing money, which will surely be the trend for a lot of the fast food chains as awareness grows about factory farming and the ingredients.
I recently went to Jack in the Box for the first time in many years. We were with friends, late at night headed to Seattle, and that was what we went with. I was shocked to find that all of their salads contained meat. When I asked if my daughter could get a taco without meat, I was told that wasn’t possible, it was already in it. Seriously? It can’t be more cost-effective to include an ingredient than leave it out. But, when you are talking about pre-packaged convenience, they go for what they think people want. I will NEVER go there again, just because they offer zero choices. Add to that list- Arby’s and countless others I am sure.
With all these large chain fast food restaurants, people don’t want to know how the nuggets are made. Pink slime, meat glue, no thanks!
Even if it costs a bit more, I hope you’ll try these places and support them in making a difference. That will encourage the others to change their practices if they want to survive.
Hopefully I made it on to the blogroll. For those who are new, check out the “why?” section and last post. We’re renting a big house for a last gasp summer vacation with good friends, in Walla Walla, Wa. We’ve all known each other for 15 years-25 years! This is a somewhat central place to meet for all us. And bonus for the wine tasting that abounds in this area. I mentioned that I work with wineries and got some excellent industry discounts.
This first post is not the typical type of post. My goal had been to start my veggie graphics in August and work heated up. I’ve made progress with my website and know what is holding me back.
As far as veg content for this post… Walla Walls has a vegan restaurant called Garden Cafe that looked amazing. We had smoothies there but when we returned they were closed for Sunday and Labor Day.
Trying to find places to eat that work for our paleo diet friends as well as us is challenging. This last night we all cooked our own things and people shared. My biggest challenge is making appealing food. Or even cooking at all. Look forward to getting new recipes so I can start off the school year with some new ideas.