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Ahimsa

Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World

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vegetarian

Feeling Fall, Kimchi rice, and Brussels Sprouts

It’s fall here in Asheville, and I couldn’t be happier. I spend the whole year looking forward to October/November. I start surrounding myself with oranges and reds, cooking with cinnamon and nutmeg, and eating every imaginable pumpkin-flavored food. 

A couple days ago I purchased my first table. Buying furniture makes me feel like such an adult. I love it. To celebrate, I put together a beautiful fall-inspired centerpiece.

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Later that night, I cooked a delicious dinner for a date, although I was having such a good time I forgot to take a picture. I made pumpkin risotto (which I plan on making again next week, and I will definitely share the recipe), which I served inside of a roasted pie pumpkin and topped with a few thin strips of romano cheese. I served a Caesar salad alongside of it, and for dessert served up some pumpkin cheesecake from Trader Joe’s. 

Tonight was a more subtly awesome dinner. I bought some Kimchi rice from Trader Joe’s, and then made miso-roasted Brussels sprouts to go with it, along with a (rather ugly) fried egg. I added sliced red bell pepper to the Brussels sprouts, which was a great addition. The whole meal was really fancy, and much healthier than takeout. 

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My goal for this coming week is to be mindful of portion control. It’s my largest nutritional problem. Even healthy meals can become unhealthy when you eat too much of it at once. Wish me luck!

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Saag Paneer and Roasted Chickpeas

Today is the first lazy day at home I’ve had in a while, so I decided to take the time to make a delicious lunch. I had some tofu and frozen spinach, so Saag Paneer seemed an obvious choice. I used the recipe from the Elizavegan blog, and it turned out great, despite my not having basic spices like turmeric and coriander (although now I have an excuse to go grocery shopping tomorrow). It was so creamy and flavorful, and filled the house with the aromatic scent of an Indian kitchen. This recipe makes so much food; I’ll be able to eat off this for a couple of days.

Saag paneer is also known as palak paneer, and is a traditional dish of India and Pakistan. Saag simply refers to greens, although spinach seems to be the most popular choice. Next time I make this dish, I’m going to try using kale. Although paneer is cheese, firm tofu makes a great substitution.  This dish is typically eaten with roti or rice, but I chose to serve it with quinoa, mainly for its health benefits (protein, calcium, iron, and fiber, to name just a few) and because I’d been craving it lately.

If you search the internet, you’ll find thousands of slightly different variations of this dish, including hundreds of specifically vegan recipes. I’m sure many of them are delicious, but I do recommend the Elizavegan recipe, mainly because the curry and nutritional yeast-crusted fried tofu is a delicious addition and goes so well with the spinach and coconut milk.

I also made one of my favorite snacks: roasted chickpeas. I like my snacks to be savory and salty rather than sweet, and chickpeas are much healthier than the potato chips or bread I would otherwise reach for. Versatility is the best part of snacking on roasted chickpeas – you can literally season them in hundreds of different ways. The recipe I’m sharing for you today is my favorite.

Savory Mushroomy Chickpea Snacks

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp mushroom seasoning (I used Lunds & Byerlys, which I couldn’t find online, but FungusAmongUs is great too)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (Truffle salt would be great here
1 tsp white truffle oil, plus more to finish

Preheat oven to 425. Line a pizza pan or baking dish with parchment.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss until the chickpeas are coated thoroughly. Spread in a single layer on the parchment. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

When chickpeas are nice and golden, and slightly crisp, remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. Add truffle oil to taste.

And try not to eat them all at once! 😉

Other than cooking, today has been  a very calm day. My boyfriend has recently gotten me into video games and lent me his PSP to play Final Fantasy Tactics, so my goal for today is to play games and eat delicious food. Sounds like a great time, right?

My Gas Station Thanksgiving

I volunteered to work on Thanksgiving, not only to let my co-workers have the day off to be with their families if they wanted, but because I wanted to get paid time-and-a-half. (Hell yeah!) I’ve been working so much that I haven’t had time to do much, including grocery shopping. I have literally been eating rice or oatmeal for lunch for days because I don’t feel like walking to the grocery store. Last night it dawned on me that everything would be closed today, so I stopped at a gas station on my way home from work out of desperation. I ended up with a couple packages of ramen noodles, a box of elbow macaroni, a can of Manwich Sauce, and a bottle of wine.

So, my thanksgiving lunch:

Macaroni noodles with doctored-up Manwich sauce. I sauteed some onion and garlic, and added cumin and Adobo seasoning. I also added some Mexican-style hot sauce. Not at all Thanksgiving-y, but it was edible. Poverty diet prevails!

I also made Chocolate Covered Katie‘s No-Bake Coconut Crack Bars. I was searching through a bunch of recipes I’ve been saving, and realized I had all the ingredients. I love coconut, and these were delicious. I ended up with eight bite-sized bars, and I ate two for my lunch dessert. I love Katie’s recipes, mainly because they’re healthier than your typical desserts, but also because her recipes aren’t overly sweet.

What are you eating today?

Gluten-Free Pizza, & How to Make Balsamic Glaze

I’ve long been interested in gluten-free cooking, but gluten-free baking almost scares me. I don’t want to have to run out and buy a bunch of crazy bean or nut flours, new starches, etc. When I move back to Asheville I’ll stock up on all of those things if I find them cheap at Amazing Savings, but for now I want to keep my gluten-free cooking simple.

When I saw this recipe for a chickpea flour based gluten-free crust from Meghan Telpner, I got excited. I love the flavor of chickpea flour, so it’s the one non-all-purpose flour I buy regularly. Although the dough seemed way too wet after mixing the ingredients, after baking it transformed into an awesomely crispy thin pizza crust. And the best part was that there is absolutely no rising time! I made the entire pizza in half an hour. As I continue to eat healthier and consume less wheat and sugar, this will undoubtedly be my go-to pizza crust.

I topped the pizza with homemade pesto (fresh basil, chives, spinach, cashews, oil, salt, garlic, and lemon), sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, and balsamic glaze. I love balsamic glaze on pizza, and I know a lot of other people do too. I’ve been out with so many people who get super excited when a pizza place offers it. Luckily, it’s super easy to make.

Balsamic Glaze

1 cup balsamic vinegar

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. The liquid will reduce in volume and become syrupy. You’ll end up with 1/4 cup or so.

That’s it! Now you can make it at home and drizzle it over everything like I do. 🙂 It keeps for a ridiculously long time in the fridge, but I usually finish it off fairly quickly because it tastes so damn good.

Seitan Piccata

When my 2+ year relationship ended a couple of months ago and I was forced to get used to single life again, I realized that I had acquired the bad habit of spoiling other people while forgetting to treat myself. I would cook lavish meals for my ex and I to share, but whenever I had to feed only myself, I would basically eat whatever shitty food I could whip up quickly. I would put so much effort into impressing or taking care of people I loved, but I never gave myself a second thought. I have no qualms about admitting that I come first these days – I think it’s incredibly important to be mindful of your own happiness before you even consider trying to make someone else happy.

An example of this newfound wisdom of mine is the seitan piccata I made for dinner last night. In the old days I would have saved this fancy dish for a date night or for feeding friends, but treating myself with this delicious dinner for one lifted my mood and satisfied me to my core. The recipe is from Veganomicon, and although not at all difficult to make, it is time-consuming, especially if you don’t have any seitan already made.

Piccata is basically just a way of preparing a protein by lightly breading and frying it, and then topping it with a sauce of lemon, fat (traditionally butter, but in this case extra virgin olive oil), and parsley. Since Isa and Terry are kitchen geniuses, they added wonderfully salty capers and kalamata olives to the recipe.

Although mashed potatoes as the base of this dish sounded delish, I had no potatoes on hand. Instead, I made creamy polenta seasoned lightly with garlic salt and olive oil. The green beans were frozen, thawed and boiled. Like I mentioned above, it’s actually a really easy recipe to make, there’s just a lot to do at the same time (unless you have time to make some of the components ahead of time).

I really enjoyed this piccata. The combination of flavors and textures were really satisfying, and it was also very filling. Cooking something fancy for myself turned a casual Tuesday night dinner into something special.

What are your favorite ways to treat yourself?

My Favorite Breakfast for Lunch

SURPRISE! Ahimsa is alive and kicking again!

After a tough weekend at work, I let myself sleep in this morning. So I had a nice big breakfast… for lunch. My favorite breakfast in the world is something savory, filling, and versatile – tofu scramble and tempeh bacon.

The tempeh bacon is from Vegan Brunch, but if you don’t have that cookbook (and, let’s be honest, you should. It’s incredible.), recipes abound on the internet. Just like anything else, the longer you let it marinate, the better it’s going to taste.

Every vegan has their preferred method and recipe for their favorite tofu scramble. My technique involves a tip I learned from, again, Vegan Brunch. It involves using a wet seasoning mix – spices and dried herbs mixed with water – and adding it to the tofu after it is browned in oil. I was in the mood for a few kalamata olives, so I decided to mix up an Italian-style herb mix (sage, basil, thyme, garlic, and salt). Of course, I also added the expected turmeric for color, black salt for the “egginess,” and nutritional yeast for the super-awesome vegan points. I finished it with fresh chopped parsley.

I love dry tofu scrambles. When I first went vegan, my scrambles were always wet, with a bit of liquid oozing out. Gross. It’s really important to press the tofu as much as time allows, and to cook the rest of the water out.

Tofu scrambles are an easy, cheap, and fast meal solution. Most importantly, a scramble is completely open to customization. There is no end to the combinations of veggies and spices you can add. You could get fancy and finish it with white truffle oil; you could add Mexican spices, salsa, and guacamole; it’s great in a burrito or on a breakfast pizza; or heck, put it in stromboli.

So guys – what are your favorite tofu scramble variations?

(psst – don’t forget to like Ahimsa on Facebook!)

Wingbean

For folks living in Asheville, NC, an exciting new food option has been created. Wingbean, a vegan food delivery company, will deliver delicious vegan meals to your door.

For $70, you can order “3 entrees, 4 side dishes, a large soup, and a small dessert” (from their website), which will certainly help busy people eat healthy, organic food without the stress of cooking it yourself. Meals are delivered on Mondays right to your door.

Chick Pea of the Sea

There’s a different menu for every new week, so you’ll never have to face eating the same thing over and over.  There are also gluten-free options available. The dishes are beautiful, and I’m sure all of them are incredibly delicious. I’ve had plenty of food prepared by Pamela, and I’ve never been disappointed.

Portobello Steak with Tapenade and Roasted Red Pepper "Cream" Sauce

This would be a fantastic option for people who are too busy too cook, for people who just hate to cook or don’t know how, or people who don’t have access to a kitchen (like students), but who still want to be able to enjoy home-cooked food. Wingbean’s owners, Scott and Pamela, are both gracious, friendly people, so customer service is always going to be great.

Mini BBQ Tofu

To read more about Wingbean, and their services (and to place an order, which you should), take a look at their website and Facebook page, the links to which are below. Their menu for next week looks delicious. 🙂

Wingbean
Facebook 
This week’s menu 

(And thanks for Pamela for permission to share some pictures here!!)

 

 

Stupid Beer

I have a fun, exciting story to share. Are you ready?

My boyfriend is awesome, and as a result I like to do nice things for him. Usually, that means cooking for him. So I came up with an idea for a pizza and cupcake date. I’ve been wanting to try a beer crust pizza for a while, so I used a recipe from cute and delicious. Honestly, it didn’t taste very different, so in the future I’ll probably save the beer for drinking.

Here’s the story: I didn’t have beer, so I went to Ingles this morning to pick up some, along with the other ingredients I needed. Everything was fine until I was waiting to get on the bus afterward to head home. I had the six-pack of beer in my backpack, when I felt something wet. I took it off and opened it up, only to find that one of the cans had exploded. To make things better, when I grabbed it, I got sprayed in the face by beer. So, I threw the offending can into the bushes (I know, littering is bad) and called my boyfriend whose house was only a mile away. He gave me permission to break into his house and find a new bag. I ended up missing the bus by, oh, five minutes, and had to wait another half hour for it to come by again. But on the plus side, I got to play with this awesome gal:

I smelled like beer the entire way home. Oh well.

Back to the pizza. The beer crust wasn’t the only new thing I tried. I also made some vegan pepperoni out of beets. I was skeptical until I tried one. So delicious.

I was surprised the BF like them since he hates fennel, one of the ingredients. For some reason, that fact never crossed my mind while I was making them. I suddenly thought about it while he was eating, but when I asked him about it he said he liked it. Whew.

Now it’s off to do the dishes from last night and get started on lunch. I can’t decide whether I want carrot soup or miso soup, but I’m definitely making some garlicky kale.

A couple of restaurant meals

I’ve written before about how much I adore Rosetta’s, and luckily it’s the sort of place where vegetarians and even omnivores can enjoy a nice meal. Friday my boyfriend and I had lunch there, and decided on basically the two most unhealthy items on their menu, the chili cheese fries with vegan queso and the tempalo wings.

Both were obviously delicious. I got both myself and boyfriend hooked on the tempalo wings a few months ago after ordering them for the first time. Absolutely perfect. Plus, it was a gorgeous day, and the atmosphere at Rosetta’s just makes any day better.

I don’t like eating out very often, mainly because I love to cook so much, but on occasion it’s nice to go out and have someone cook delicious food for you. One such day was a week ago when I was exhausted. The bf lives close to a wonderful Thai restaurant (which happens to be the very first place we went out together) that is just lovely. It’s curious that we’ve only been there twice considering its close proximity to his house and our love for Thai food. Last week when we were there I ordered the red curry with tofu.

It was delicious, plus the meal itself was gorgeous! I really feel like I should work on my presentation when it comes to serving meals because good food deserves to look as lovely as it tastes.

Mac n’ (Wayfare) Cheese, Burritos

I’ve been eating a lot of vegan cheese lately. I can’t stop. I loved cheese in my pre-vegan days, and when I find a vegan version I’m happy with (because we all know it isn’t exactly the same – and perhaps never will be) I eat it on almost everything. I promised reviews of the Wayfare We Can’t Say It’s Cheese, so here’s the very first.

The first thing I would make was obvious – macaroni and cheese. Any vegan cheese should be able to pass this test. I used the cheddar dip (rather than the cheddar spread which has a much thicker consistency), and stirred it into the cooked noodles.

Unfortunately I wasn’t super impressed. (Also, terribly sorry about the picture. I’m getting mighty tired of relying on my cell phone for this.) Maybe I didn’t use enough  cheese, because it was a little dry/not flavorful. On hindsight,  I probably should have added a Tbs or two of Earth Balance, but I felt like it probably didn’t need it.

Today for lunch I tried again, this time with EB, a little miso, and more cheese. It was definitely better, but I’ll stick to making VeganDad’s mac n’ cheese in the future.

Last night for dinner I decided to use the Mexi-cheddar flavor and make burritos. I even made my own tortillas! I had no idea they were so simple. Plus it’s so much cheaper since there’s only three ingredients – water, flour, and salt. I used the recipe from Bunny Junk.

I spread the Mexi-cheddar variety over the tortilla, with a chickpea-cumin-chili powder filling, some red pepper, and avocado. I wasn’t too fond of this particular flavor on its own, but it was good rolled up in a burrito.

So far, my opinion of Wayfare’s cheese products are pretty positive. Compared to the vegan cheese alternatives on the market right now, these are rather close to being the best, especially the hickory flavor, which I’ve been eating off my finger every time I walk through the kitchen.

Mexican Inspired Pizza

As readers of Ahimsa already know, my boyfriend and I are huge pizza lovers. We have it for dinner at least once a week.

Sometime last week, we were discussing pizza (I wonder how many other couples discuss food like we do on such a regular basis) and I mentioned that I would like to make a pizza where refried beans were the base rather than the standard tomato sauce. He seemed interested, and on Saturday night we made a Mexican inspired pizza.

We used a pre-made crust because it was 9:30 at night when we finally decided we were hungry. At that point, no one wants to wait an hour for dough to rise. For the refried bean base, we mixed half a can of fat-free refried beans with about half a cup of beer. Word to the wise: next time you cook refried beans, mix it with a cheap beer. I’d never done this before meeting my boyfriend, and it gives an extra-yummy dimension to the beans. Trust us.

Lately, I cannot eat a pizza without pineapple. So our “Mexican” toppings were pineapple, yellow corn, pico de gallo, garlic, and avocado. I’ve never baked avocado, so I was eager to see how it did in the oven. Thankfully, roasted avocado is rather good. The entire pizza was tasty, in fact. My boyfriend was worried that baking the beans would produce a crusty topping, but because it was only in the oven for about ten minutes, it wasn’t a problem.

Has anyone else ever tried a Mexican-themed pizza? What toppings did you use?

A Few Reviews

Great news!! I got my tax return and it was a little bit more than it’s been the last few years. As soon as I saw it had been put in my bank account this morning, I ran down to Greenlife Grocery. Not for a shopping spree (which I’m sure will come later), but just to grab a few items and look for one in particular – Amy’s new vegan Mac n Cheese. To my disappointment, however, they didn’t carry it.

Since I had planned on having that for lunch, I had to think of something else. I decided I wanted a fresh salad with some kind of pasta. I made a quick spaghetti, just enough for one serving. The sauce I used was Newman’s Own Sockarooni sauce, which is my favorite spaghetti sauce. It’s chunky with tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms, and it has a deliciousness to it I haven’t found elsewhere.

The salad was simple: baby spinach, carrot, celery, red onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, salt and pepper. While I was at the store I stared at the multitude of dressings for at least ten minutes before I finally settled on Drew’s Goddess Dressing. I knew I would like it – Goddess dressing is my favorite, although it’s not exactly good for you.

As a snack, and because I wanted to try something new, I picked up a small bag of sweet potato tortilla chips from Food Should Taste Good. I loved the ingredient list I saw upon picking them up: just corn, oil, sweet potato, corn bran, evaporated cane juice, and sea salt. It bothers me to eat junk food because there’s usually a super long list of mystery ingredients and chemical that have no place in your body.

I was a wee bit disappointed, however. They just weren’t flavorful enough. I suspect they would be great dipped in hummus though, because the crunch was perfect.

So that’s what I had for lunch. I also have a stir-fry to share because I don’t think it needs its own post. I made it for lunch for my boyfriend the weekend before last, and both of us thought it was delicious.

The stir-fry was sliced red and yellow bell peppers, broccoli, extra-firm tofu, turmeric, cayenne, mushrooms, onions, and soy sauce served over saffron rice.

There’s the food. Hopefully it’ll get more interesting around here now that I have money to spend on food again. I was getting mighty tired of peanut butter ramen noodles.

Oops – Something went wrong with the pie crust

In the past when I’ve written about problems I’ve had with recipes, I’ve been lucky enough to receive helpful comments about what might have gone wrong. That’s pretty much what I’m looking for with this post.

Friday night my boyfriend and I couldn’t figure out what we wanted to eat. Finally he decided he wanted a pot pie, and I thought it might be fun to make one since I’ve never done it before.

For the filling we just went with really simple, basic ingredients we already had. We chopped up some baby red potatoes and organic carrots, and tossed in some thawed peas and corn. We used Vegan Brunch‘s Mushroom Gravy (with only 1 Tbs of flour so it would be thinner), and the pie crust from January 2010’s Vegetarian Times recipe for Indian Samosa Casserole.

I had made the samosa casserole a little over a month ago, and the crust was easy and nicely flaky. You can’t get more basic – just equal parts all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flour, salt, oil and water. I had zero trouble the first time I made it, but this time it wouldn’t hold together at all. I thought I did everything in exactly the same way. The only difference I could think of was that maybe the whole wheat pastry flour was too cold. I had decided to store it in the refrigerator while I was away for winter break.

Piecing the crust together

We ended up having to take little bits of it and piecing it together over the vegetables. It almost seemed like it was too wet, but I think I used less water than the first time I made it.

It ended up tasting fine, but I wish I knew what went wrong so I can avoid the trouble in the future.

Baltimore Schools: Meatless Mondays

Schools in Baltimore are about to have more compassionate Mondays. Baltimore City schools are joining the Meatless Monday program, the first school system in the country to do so on a regular basis. Every Monday the school system will serve it’s 80,000 students a vegetarian meal (sadly the program isn’t vegan-food inclusive, though introducing vegetarian food is a start in the right direction).

It is important for all school systems to incorporate vegetarian and vegan options in their cafeterias on a regular basis, not just one day per week. While I think it’s great that Baltimore is trying out the Meatless Monday program, I think back to my own school days and remember how hard it was to be a vegetarian at my high school.

I stopped eating meat in the tenth grade. Not vegan yet – I still ate plenty of dairy. I went to a decent-sized high school, and the cafeteria was always super crowded – to the point where standing in line meant you only got 10 out of 30 minutes to actually eat. The meals were horrendous. Before I became a vegetarian, my typical school lunches would consist of a half-cooked chicken sandwich, a slice of greasy pizza, or a huge-ass chocolate chip cookie. By not eating meat, I was reduced to the cookie, or french fries, or canned vegetables left on a heating plate. We didn’t have a salad bar, no vegetarian option (such as a veggie burger) was ever offered, and the school officials couldn’t care less what we ate.

Needless to say, being a student at my high school meant not eating healthy during the day. I’ve gotten a little off-topic I guess, but I just feel it’s really important to feed our nation’s children a nutritious, healthy meal at least once a day. And adding more vegetarian and vegan options to the menu is a great place to start.

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