Jan. 5th, 2009 | 10:24 pm
Those of you who follow me on Twitter are probable already aware of the fact that Greg and I have a couple of new additions to the family. For those of you who aren't aware, I thought I'd tell you about them and share some photos.
It's kind of off-topic, I suppose, but as a vegan and a former euthanasia technician at a local shelter, I feel very strongly about pet overpopulation and companion animal adoption. Only one of our pets is a non-rescue (one of our cats was a gift to me from an ex). I volunteer at Spay Neuter Kansas City, and Greg's family works closely with the local greyhound rescue group. So, while this post isn't *technically* about veganism (or on-the-cheapness), I think it fits in.
Now that I've over-justified my deviation from vegan stuff, meet Zatara and Zatanna!
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Snugglz... we haz dem!"][/caption]
Zatara is the kitten on the left, and Zatanna is on the right. They're male and female, respectively, and named after comic book characters from the DC Universe. (Yes, we are nerds. We're aware, and we're damn proud of it.)
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Zatanna and Zatara snuggled up in the bathroom sink with Clark."][/caption]
We adopted them from Spay Neuer Kansas City right after Thanksgiving, and they are fitting in beautifully with the other animals. Their mom was brought in through the organization's Pet Outreach program to be spayed, and they were relinquished to the group. I saw them on the website and fell in love with them.
Zatara is usually the quieter of the two, while Zatanna tends to be more inquisitive and not quite such a snuggler, but they both get into their share of mischeif. I made spaghetti with veatballs a few nights ago and came into the kitchen to find them gnawing on both the faux-meat AND the leftover pasta. Fortunately, they make up for the headaches by doing adorable things and being irresistably cuddly.
If you're thinking about getting a new pet, I strongly urge you to check out your local shelters and rescue organizations. The pets there are usually much cheaper than buying from a pet store or breeder, and they're often already spayed or neutered and current on vaccinations, so I guess that's where today's money saving tip comes in. :)
The best part about adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue, though, is knowing that you're saving a life. You definitely cannot put a price on that.
Dec. 29th, 2008 | 05:37 pm
You know, it's amazing what you can do when you have the proper equipment. Remember my recent lament about how I couldn't get any of my cookies to turn out? Well, I foolishly offered to make cookies for my friend Jennifer's Christmas party, so I figured I'd better invest in some decent cookie sheets and cooling racks to save myself the embarassment of showing up with burnt baked goods. I ended up picking up a couple of AirBake sheets at Target for under $10 each, and they seemed to work much better. Which is good, because I was about to give up on cookies forever after the last time.
For the gingerbread cookies, I used a recipe from PPK. I didn't want to scare everyone with too muh molasses, so I did 1/8 C molasses and 1/8 cup maple syrup instead of a full quarter cup of molasses, which turned out very, very well. My only complaint is that they were a little on the soft side and stuck together pretty badly during packing, so I may need to leave them in longer next time. Unfortunately, I didn't snap any photos of the finished and decorated cookies, but you can see the unbaked cookies here. (And Bill giving the cookie sheet some bunny ears. Oh yeah, we're mature.) For decorations, I just used a simple powdered sugar and soymilk mixture, and then added cinnamon candies, sprinkles, and dark chocolate chunks.
You'll notice that the cookies are the same shape as my sugar cookies. I looked all over town for a gingerbread man and woman, and nobody had them this year! You disappoint me, Kansas City retail locations.
For these beauties, I used the Perfect Vegan Sugar Cookie recipe from JohnAndKristie.com. I've no idea where they got the recipe from, but it was delicious. About half the cookies, including the ones in the photo, got just a weeeee bit too crispy, so I got smart and started pulling them a couple of minutes early, which made a world of difference. (See, I can be taught!) They came out crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, with a nice texture and flavor. And the frosting was just plain awesome!
I'm not a big fan of having to actually put *work* into frosting things, and this is really just a glaze-type icing. So we just dipped the cookies in, let the excess drip off, and laid them out to dry. It couldn't have been easier! Once the cookies dry, the icing is bright, shiny, and hard enough to stack the cookies without damaging the finished look, but the frosting is still soft when you bite into them, and it has a lovely almond-y flavor that goes really well with the mildly sweet cookies.
Overall, my holiday baking extravaganza was really successful!
Maybe I don't suck as badly as I think I do.
Link | Leave a comment | Share
Dec. 23rd, 2008 | 06:37 pm
I feel like I've realy been neglecting the blog lately, and I apologize for that.
Unfortunately, I haven't really got time to do a real post today, so I'm going to appease you with promises of later posts: Christmas cookies, yummy vegan hot chocolate, a recipe for some seriously delicious roasted root vegetables and vegan meatballs, and photos of the kittens we recently adopted.
I'll be back after Christmas with the posts I mentioned above, as well as an ETA on the VotC Podcast. For now, I leave you with this adorable and rather touching photo from KCzarzasty on Flickr:
Dec. 16th, 2008 | 11:42 am
For someone like me (and by that, I mean people who suck at baking), bread is a very scary thing. Thankfully, I have friends who actually like to cook, and who are good at it, to help me with frightening stuff like this.
My grandmother has a fantastic bread recipe which I had been wanting to try for some time, so Bill and Josh and I went to visit with our friend Jennifer, who is a baker extraordinaire. She's so into baking, as a matter of fact, that she has her own grain mill! I was pretty much fascinated by this thing, which we used to mill some whole wheat grain into flour for our bread. I'd love to be able to do something like this myself, but I don't bake enough to justify purchasing a mill. I'll just mooch off hers.
Grandma's bread is really easy to veganize, since the only non-vegan ingredient is a single egg. We just swapped it out for Ener-G egg replacer, which turned out fine. Here's the recipe, for those of you who are interested in trying it yourself:
- Warm water
- Lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 t instant potatoes
- 3 packages of yeast
- 1/2 C sugar
- 3 t salt
- 1 egg's worth of Ener-G egg replacer (follow directions on box)
- 1/3 cup vegan shortening (we used non-hydrolized)
- 8-10 C flour
- Dissolve instant potatoes in 1/2 C warm water. Then, add an additional 1 1/2 C warm water, making a total of 2 cups.
- Dissolve yeast in 1/4 C lukewarm water, adding the packages one at a time. Make sure the water is just warm to the touch- you don't want it too hot, or it will kill the yeast. After it's dissolved, add 3/4 C more lukewarm water, for a total of 1 cup.
- In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, salt, egg replacer, and shortening. Add in the potato and yeast water mixtures, and mix together.
- Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing gently, until you can no longer stir the dough. Remove the dough from the bowl and turn onto a floured surface to knead. Continue adding flour as you knead until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.
- Place the flour into a large, greased mixing bowl. Turn the dough over so that it gets lightly coated with oil on all sides. Cover with a damp cloth and allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the dough into loaf pans (this recipe makes enough for 3 loaves), and allow the bread to rise a little above the top of the pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then cool on a rack.
The bread turned out very tasty, although not at all the way my grandma's tasted. I think this has a lot to do with the flour we used. My grandma always just uses the plain old all-purpose stuff, whereas the stuff we used at Jenn's was whole-grain and freshly ground. I'm not complaining, though! I think the whole wheat gave the bread a lot more flavor, and I know it was definitely a lot healthier.
Could have been better: The bread didn't rise as much as it should have the second time, which is my fault. Bill and Josh and I had to leave Jenn's place before we could bake it, so we tossed it in the car and headed to my house for dinner. I think the cold car ride might have killed the yeast, or at the very least made them hibernate. As a result, the bread wasn't quite as fluffy and light as it should have been. I also think I may have left it in a smidge too long, because the crust seemed a little too dark.
Could have been worse: The flavor was great, in my opinion. I love whole grain breads, so the taste difference was a plus, as far as I'm concerned.
Not a bad recipe over all, although I think I'll probably reserve this for special occasions. I don't know if I could handle doing this regularly enough to make all my own bread. In fact, I know I couldn't. I don't like baking nearly enough.
Dec. 12th, 2008 | 04:16 pm
For the most part, I'm not a huge fan of the holidays. Call me a Scrooge if you will, but I get sick of the commercialization of Christmas and all the stress associated with this time of year. Our local radio stations started playing Christmas music the day after Halloween this year. Seriously, if I hear Madonna singing "Santa Baby" one more time, I'm going to go on a homicidal spree.
One thing I do like about the hoiday season, though, is the food. Some of the best food comes out around the holidays, and egg nog was always a particular favorite of mine, back when I still ate egg and dairy products. I tried soy nog several years ago, and I actually liked it better than the real stuff, but I had my doubts that I'd be able to find it anywhere but Whole Foods in Kansas City.
Imagine my joy, then, when our local grocery store started to stock Silk brand Soy Nog! I literally clapped and skipped over to the dairy case, and then held the carton like a baby, stroking it and cooing as we walked to the checkout. (True story. Just ask Greg. I think he sometimes regrets going out in public with me, but these are the sacrifices we make for love.)
This is easily my favorite Silk product. It tastes almost exactly like real egg nog, but it has a fraction of the fat and nearly three times the nutritional value! It's definitely not as thick as the real thing, but I consider that a plus, since I'm not a fan of super-thick liquids. As an added bonus, it makes an AWESOME nog latte, if you pour some into your favorite coffee. The only knock against it is the price, which is usually around $3 per quart here. Definitely waaaay more than I would normally spend on soymilk.
But hey, it's the holidays. It's my Christmas present to me.
As an aside, Silk also makes a Pumpkin Spice soymilk, which I decided to try, as well. It's pretty good, but after Thanksgiving, I'm kind of out of pumpkin-mode. If you like pumpkin pie, though, you'd probably love it!
Link | Leave a comment | Share
Dec. 9th, 2008 | 12:27 am
Okay, not really. But if I was going to leave Greg for a grain product, I'd definitely pick this. It's my new obsession. I've eaten it three times now in four days.
Polenta is essentially a coarsely-ground cornmeal. It's typically boiled and either made into mush or a thick loaf-like molded dish. It's been around for centuries as a peasant food, particularly popular in Northern Italy, but recently it's gained a lot of attention in the culinary community and has become pretty common on menus in even the nicest restaurants around the US.
Prepared polenta is pretty pricey, but the uncooked stuff can be had for much less. I bought a fairly large bag of it at Wild Oats for around $4, and it's lasted me about two months so far. Of course, if I keep going the way I have been this week, I'll need to buy it more often.
It's very similar to corn grits, which is a popular breakfast dish in the southern states, and it makes for a great hot cereal. My favorite way to prepare it, however, is called polenta fritatta, or crostini di polenta. It's super easy to make, although it's time consuming.
You just boil 3 cups of vegetable broth, then slowly add in a cup of polenta. Stir this constantly as it simmers for about 25-30 minutes, until the mixture becomes very thick. Stir in spices at this point, if you want. I like to add garlic and Italian seasoning to mine, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Next, spoon this into a greased loaf pan or bowl and let it cool. (I usually pop mine into the fridge for about 20 minutes.) Once cooled, the polenta should hold it's shape when inverted. Cut it into slices and pan-fry in olive oil until the outside is golden brown and crispy. Top with your favorite marinara sauce.
This makes plenty for two people, and I usually have leftovers. It would be a great dish to serve with some salad and steamed veggies on the side, so it's not just all carbs.
Anyone else have any stellar polenta recipes?
Link | Leave a comment | Share
Dec. 1st, 2008 | 01:20 pm
One of the things I've been wanting to try since going vegan is a meatless meatloaf. Even though I was never a big fan of meat before going veg, meatloaf was one of the exceptions to the rule. My mom makes a killer meatloaf (no pun intended), and I'd been kind of craving it for awhile. So I fired up the ol' Google and found a really easy-looking recipe at Fatfree Vegan.
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to find a store that carried TVP granules, so we decided to improvise. Here's the recipe we used instead:
- 1 tube Smart Ground (ground beef style)
- ½ C ketchup
- 2 T tamari (or soy sauce)
- 1 C bread crumbs
- 1/4 C ground flaxseed
- 1 T of nutritional yeast
- 1 t each garlic granules, onion powder, oregano and basil
- Splash of veggie broth, as needed
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
- Pack mixture into a 9 x 5 loaf pan or a glass casserole. You can also form it into a loaf by hand and bake it on a baking sheet, if you don't have a pan. Bake 40-45 minutes.
If you want, you can brush on a glaze or a topping about 10-15 minutes before pulling it out of the oven. Greg mixed some ketchup and brown sugar together and brushed that on, which was okay but a little too sweet. Barbecue sauce or a steak sauce would probably be really tasty!
Here's a photo of the finished product, which we devoured with baked potatoes, corn, and green beans:
Could have been better: I would definitely make the topping less sweet and more savory.
Could have been worse: My only complaint is the topping, really. The flavor and texture were great, and we had enough for leftovers the next day!
Cost-wise, this meal was really cheap. The flax seed was around $1.50 per pound, and the Smart Ground was less than $4. We had the rest of it lying around, and we didn't use much of anything else, so we got away with this for less than ten dollars.
Nov. 27th, 2008 | 11:15 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Cinnamon, a turkey housed at Farm Sanctuary in New York"][/caption]
I was checking my RSS feeds today, like I do every morning, when I came across a great article on National Public Radio's blog about vegans and Thanksgiving.They interviewed Wayne Pacelle, the president of HSUS, about why "Turkey Day" hits a nerve for vegans more than other holidays. Here's what he had to say:
"I don't think there's any other American holiday that is quite so associated with killing an animal for the table. It's usually a whole turkey. If you're eating beef, you're not kind of eating the whole cow. So there is something about this holiday that puts us maybe a little bit more in touch with this being an actual animal."
The article goes on to talk about how more and more Americans are moving away from eating as much meat, and many who still choose to eat meat are seeking out better sources that treat the animals humanely and refrain from using chemicals and hormones.
It's not a worldwide vegan revolution, but it's a step in the right direction.
It also mentions Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, and their Adopt a Turkey Program, which allows you to sponsor a turkey at their sanctuary or put your money toward their program to educate consumers about their options for a cruelty-free Thanksgiving.
For the full article and the audio version of the story, click here.
Greg and I are finishing cooking up our meatless feast as we speak, which includes a Tofurkey, roasted veggies, garlic and sour cream mashed potatoes made with Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream, apple-cranberry-potato pierogies, and a vegan pumpkin pie. (Photos to come later!)
I hope all of you have a great holiday, if you're celebrating, and enjoy good food and time with your families.
Nov. 24th, 2008 | 03:22 pm
I'm SUPER sorry that I fail so badly at replying to comments on here. I try to keep up on it as best as I can, but between running the actual Vegan on the Cheap site, plus work and my other blogs and life in general, sometimes I'm sloooow.
Please know that I greatly appreciate all of your comments and love to hear feedback!
Also, if you all don't mind, I'd like to cross-post comments from here to the actual blog, so that other people can read what you have to say. If you'd rather I not post them there, or if you want me to use an anonymous name or whatever, please let me know! I won't link back to your journal or LJ profile unless you want me to.
Thanks to everyone for reading!
Also, if any of you would like to read my personal LJ, it's at fresh_paint . It's locked, but if you comment to the intro post and introduce yourself, I'll be glad to add you. :)
Link | Leave a comment | Share
Nov. 23rd, 2008 | 09:34 pm
You know, it never ceases to amaze me how much hostility there is between vegans/vegetarians and the meat-eating sector of the world. I've seen it at demonstrations, at the dinner table, on forums and blogs on the internet, and even in weird places like the grocery store. And I'm not trying to pin all the blame on the omnis, either. It seems like it's equally strong on both sides of the aisle.
I just don't understand why.
First of all, I have to wonder what it is about the fact that I don't eat or wear animal products that omnis find so offensive. In my opinion, there's no call for hating on vegans and vegetarians because of their lifestyle choice, whatever your feelings on the matter may be. It's not like I'm doing anything that directly inhibits your ability to have a cheeseburger, you know?
To me, veganism is just another lifestyle choice, no different than Kosher, or only eating locally farmed and organic foods. Of course, it covers more than just what we eat, but it's the same principal. We have strong feelings about a cause and have changed our habits to match those convictions.
Some of the weirdest and most hateful comments have been thrown at me because of my feelings about animals and the veg lifestyle. I've had my intelligence questioned on more than one occasion. I've been accused of caring more about animals than I do about humans. I've been called the b-word and the c-word, in conjunction with some other unsavory words. All just because I choose not to use animals in any way.
Someone in my own family actually even told me that it's "not Christian" of me to be a vegetarian, because the Bible tells us to eat meat. I'm not a horribly religious person, so it didn't hurt my feelings all that much, but still. (By the way, if someone can find me the verse where God says that Christians absolutely have to eat meat, I'll give you a dollar.)
One of the worst holiday experiences I've ever had came on Thanksgiving a few years ago, when I had dinner with the family of an ex-boyfriend, who was an omni. I brought my Tofurkey and all my yummy vegan sides, and was digging into my food when my ex's uncle started to lay in on me about the food, insulting my views and insinuating I was some kind of unwashed hippie loser. I was flabbergasted at his disrespectful comments, and everyone seemed too shocked to say anything. My ex's youngest brother, who was a good friend of mine, finally told his uncle to shut up, but I never liked the guy much after that, and dinner was totally awkward from that point on.
Another thing that always ticks me off to no end is the constant little "friendly" digs I get from my friends and family. People think it's hilarious to tell me how delicious they think steak is, how much they love to wear fur/leather/whatever, and make other snide remarks about animal issues that they know upset me, however much I try not to show it. It's not funny the first time, and it's certainly not funny the eighty-seventh time. And following it up with "Just kidding!" doesn't make it any less aggravating.
Like I said, though, things are just as bad coming from the veg faction. I've seen vegans attack omnis for their views, too, and it's no less unacceptable to me.
I'm certainly not saying that you shouldn't talk to people about your choices and why you're vegan, but there's a respectful way to approach it.
For one, I never, ever, ever talk about the horrors of meat and dairy while people are eating. Ruining someone's dinner will generally do little more than make them angry and upset, and a lot less likely to listen to what you have to say. Even if someone point-blank asks me about animal slaughter, I tell them I'll talk to them about it after the meal, if they're really interested. Remember, you don't want your omni friends chowing down on veal in front of you and telling you how delicious their plate of tortured baby cow is, so do unto others and all that.
Secondly, I usually wait until someone asks about my views before I start spewing my opinions on the subject. I'm very open about the fact that I'm a vegan and proud of it, but I'm not going to lay into someone for their leather boots or their bottle of JLO perfume without any pretext. (Actually, I take that back... I'd probably rag them about the JLO perfume, but that has little to do with the Jennifer Lopez/fur/animal-testing factor and much more to do with the fact that they actually bought JLO perfume.)
This agressive approach to veganism is actually why I have such a huge problem with the way PeTA operates. They hand gory literature to children, objectify women, and give thousands of dollars to defend arsonists and vandals who go to extremes to promote animal rights.
This isn't to say I'm against promoting the animal rights movement. I've been an animal rights activist for years, but my approach has always been one of peaceful education. If you can catch someone's attention with a clever but fairly inoffensive shirt or sign at a demonstration and back up your opinion with intelligent reasoning and hard facts, you're way more likely to change minds than you are with aggression and belligerence.
The bottom line here is that there isn't any need for all the hostility between omnis and vegans. It's entirely possible for us to peacefully co-exist without all the insults and the anger. And the truth is that social change and improved conditions for animals won't happen without all of our support.
Put the gloves away and quit drinking the haterade, people.
That goes for all of you.