So I did an extra day of vegan-ism, unintentionally really. I had so many leftovers in my fridge to eat! My friend Jonill came over for dinner last night, because I had promised to make her veggie sushi after my first attempt last week. This time I did an avocado-cucumber roll and a tofu-carrot-grilled asparagus roll, both made with brown rice. I also made the veggie summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce that I made for Vegan Week day 2. I had some edamame in the freezer, and wanted to make some sort of edamame salad to round out the meal. Most of the recipes I saw involved corn, which is not what I was going for. I came across this recipe though, which was perfect. I had to go buy furikake (after looking up what it was first!) and I just used one large orange pepper instead of five small multicolored peppers – which would have made it look even more colorful than it did. I also sauteed the shiitakes briefly in sesame oil, because they didn’t taste that great after just soaking in water. Now to think of things to do with a giant container of furikake…
Day 4: Breakfast
I had been trying to make everything so far without turning on my oven, because it’s summer and I didn’t have air conditioning, and in a tiny studio apartment you’ll basically bake yourself to death using the oven. However, on Tuesday when the temperature outside hit 98 degrees and humid, and the temperature INSIDE my apartment hit 95 even with three fans going, I broke down and ran out to buy an AC. So now I can use the oven! Time to experiment with vegan muffins for breakfast. I chose an apple banana muffin recipe because the ingredients were super simple. Preheat the oven to 325 and lightly grease muffin pans. Combine 2 cups flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and mix (I also added a dash of nutmeg and cloves). In a separate bowl, mash two ripe bananas and combine with 1 1/2 cups of apple juice and a diced apple. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until blended. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 of the way and bake for about 35 minutes or until brown on top. They didn’t rise very much, but I think they were pretty good for being fat free AND vegan!
Day 4: Lunch
You can’t go vegan without trying to cook with tempeh and seitan, so today I went for a tempeh recipe: Tempeh “chicken” salad. When I got to the store, I realized there are many different flavors of tempeh – soy, flax, garden veggie, three grain, wild rice, or smoky strips (fakin’ bacon). I chose three grain; it sounded like the best option to me for fake chicken salad. I followed this recipe but used a little cilantro instead of parsley, added more celery, and reduced the amount of vegenaise. Served with baby arugula on a whole wheat pita. It was good, but didn’t taste a thing like chicken. Also, I would leave out the pickle next time.
Day 4: Dinner
It’s Thursday night Brooklyn Bridge Park free movie night (Ghostbusters!) so tonight’s dinner was a picnic with a group of six friends. My contribution was homemade hummus and pita chips and “tabouleh boats,” a quick appertizer idea I got from my friend Erika (it’s just boat-shaped endive leaves filled with tabouleh – a middle eastern salad of bulgur, parsley, tomato, onion, mint, lemon, and olive oil). I’ve made hummus before, but I wanted to see if there was a recipe that didn’t require tahini. It’s annoying having leftover tahini around, because the only thing I can think to do with it is, well, make more hummus. So of course, Heidi Swanson to the rescue – she has a recipe that uses ground toasted walnuts instead of tahini. Put 3/4 cup toasted walnuts (just toast chopped walnuts in a pan for a few minutes until they start to get that toasty smell) in a food processor and pulse it a few times. Add two cups of cooked drained garbanzo beans, a clove of garlic (or more if you like – I do!), 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Process until smooth and then add about 1/2 cup of hot water slowly until the hummus is creamy. Add more lemon and salt to taste. Serve with pita chips (I baked whole wheat pita in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 with olive oil, salt, and pepper) or veggies. Garnish with paprika, some extra garbanzo beans, a drizzle of olive oil, pine nuts, or any combination of those. I do think I like the taste of tahini hummus better, but the walnut version was cool to try.
Day 3: Breakfast
I needed something quick and easy today, as I was rushing to catch a train to the beach with my friend. I threw a banana, blueberries, and some almond milk with ice in a blender, and voila! Vegan smoothie. I’ve been wanting to recreate one of my favorite smoothies from a shop down the street – banana, almond milk, and spirulina, but I’ve been to three stores and can’t find spirulina powder anywhere. I’ll have to visit the health food store back in my old neighborhood, which has everything!
Day 3: Lunch
I wanted to throw together something simple, cool, and refreshing for the beach today. And every time I opened my fridge, that last chunk of farmer’s market sourdough (already used in Monday’s portobello sandwich and yesterday’s french toast) stared me in the face. It’s fairly stale by now, but I hate wasting things so I found a way to use it. Panzanella salad is popular in the summer in Florence and other parts of central Italy. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. I’d seen a few recipes online, but I decided to just go with what was in my fridge. I chopped up the last of the bread into bite size pieces, and added chopped cucumber, sweet vidalia onion, vine tomatoes, a few kalamata olives, and a large handful of fresh basil. I dressed it with olive oil, a mixture of balsamic and red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and salt and pepper. My friend and I ate it at the beach with a pile of fresh mango, cherries, and grapes. Tastewise, the panzanella was good, but I think I should have toasted the bread first – it needed a little less stale and a little more crunch.
Day 3: Dinner
Dinner was lunch… in a blender. Ok, let me explain. I was saying earlier that all this cooking has been fun, but I have so many leftovers. My friend Molly (who is an amazing professional chef) suggested that I throw the panzanella salad into a food processor and add a few ingredients to make it gazpacho. So that’s exactly what I did. It occurred to me that it would be sort of an Italian flavored gazpacho, given the bread and basil, but I made it work. I dumped all the leftover panzanella in the Cuisinart and added one more tomato, some tomato juice, a scallion, two large handfuls of cilantro, two jalapenos I found in the bottom veggie drawer, a dash of cumin and worcestershire sauce, and the juice from half a lime. I ate my gazpacho with a nice slice of avocado and some of last night’s leftover soba noodles and summer rolls. Hey, while I’m mixing Italian and Spanish in one soup, I might as well throw in Asian on the side!
Frequently when I cook, I am addressing some sort of challenge. One challenge that I am presented with weekly is “What’s for lunch this week?”
I work in the kind of neighborhood that in the food and nutrition world lately has been termed a “food desert” – high poverty areas with little or no access to fresh or healthy foods. My lunch options include a White Castle drive through, KFC, or a Chinese buffet of dubious cleanliness. So, for the past four years I have been bringing my lunch to work with me. Every. Single. Day. The good news is that it saves me lots of money, not to mention hidden calories. I used to work in an affluent neighborhood and the temptation to eat lunch at restaurants multiple times a week left me with too little cash and a little too much padding on the hips. The challenge is making daily lunches that are pocket-friendly, healthy, easy to transport in a container in a bike backpack, and varied enough to not make me sick of it.
This week I made chicken salad. Now, this is not your ordinary chicken salad, because those who know me know that I hate mayonnaise. Detest it. Can’t look at it. Something about the way it jiggles, the pale yellowish color (homemade mayo is even more vile in my book), and the thought and faint smell of congealed eggs sends me running. However, a little less than a year ago my boyfriend discovered a nearby sandwich & smoothie shop, Healthy Nibbles, that made a chicken salad wrap with Vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise made from vegetable oil). Not only did it not disgust me, but I love it so much that it’s the only wrap I ever order there anymore. And this is my homemade version of it, to be eaten this week for lunch with a slice of hearty rye sunflower seed bread, slices of English seedless cucumber, and mixed greens.
1 lb boneless skinless organic chicken breast
2 celery stalks, diced
1/4 large onion, finely diced
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbps Vegenaise
Fresh ground peppercorns
Season the chicken breasts with a light sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Pan-grill them with a dash of cooking oil, being careful not to let them brown and form hard crispy edges. Chop into very small pieces and refrigerate to cool. Dice celery and onion and add, with dried cranberries, to chopped chicken when cool. Stir in Vegenaise (they make a few different kinds – I used reduced fat Flaxseed & Olive Oil) and add spices to taste. This version used dried basil, but fresh would probably work as well. You could also add chopped walnuts, or a splash of fresh lemon juice if desired.