Vegan food experiments

There are several reasons why I love vegan cooking, but there are also several reasons why I won’t go vegan.

Why I love vegan cooking:

  1. It’s simple.
  2. When done correctly, it usually features fresh, whole foods.
  3. Gaz Oakley, the avant garde vegan. Look him up on YouTube.
  4. It’s a great way to empty the fridge.
  5. It’s healthy.
  6. It reduces the impact of seasonal allergies by lowering the body’s production of phlegm.

Why I won’t go vegan:

  1. I have a high metabolism and I require an unusual blend of macros higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates than a lot of my peers. To reach those macro goals via veganism requires a large amount of food.
  2. I can’t drink my coffee black.

I was vegetarian for eight years, which ended when I was diagnosed was gestational diabetes at the beginning of my second trimester of pregnancy. I remained primarily vegetarian until my daughter was about 18 months old. At that point, I started craving bacon cheeseburgers even though I hadn’t eaten red meat in a decade and I hated bacon.

Why I went vegetarian:

  1. I hate touching meat.
  2. I hate modern factory farming practices (luckily I live in the middle of some great family farms and can buy milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, honey and meat from them if I want to be ethical).
  3. It’s so healthy, when you’re not living on refined white carbohydrates— which I was.

Why I stopped being vegetarian:

  1. The teenager is a huge carnivore. As a preschooler she told my mom she had to go shoot a bear so she could eat the ham out of him.
  2. A French cookbook. A friend brought me a cookbook in French, from France. I had to cook the recipes.
  3. The onset of anemia, which is when I started craving bacon cheeseburgers.

Today I experimented with some vegan cooking. Do not try this at home until you read this whole post.

Pumpkin Tacos

A few weeks ago, I made vegan tacos with sweet potato in the filling. They were so good! (Recipe here) So I wondered if pumpkin tacos would be similar. The answer is NO!

I heated some corn tortillas— 3 — because you know what’s worse than a vegan pumpkin taco, three vegan pumpkin tacos. It reminded me of the vegan hot dog recipe that recommended steaming and sautéing a whole carrot and placing it in a bun and eating it like a hot dog.

Don’t do it.

Then I filled each tortilla with some canned pumpkin, organic black beans from the Grocery Outlet, and lots of lettuce that I got on clearance for 50 cents at Lidl, 10 days ago.

And I sprinkled each with fresh lime juice.

I ate them. But never again.

My second vegan experiment today involved making my own creamy, tangy hot sauce.

Now this, my lovelies, I encourage you to try.

Vegan black bean hot sauce—
upper left, 11 o’clock

Vegan Black Bean Citrus Hot Sauce

In the Nutri Ninja (or high powered blender or smoothie mixer) combine:

  • Hot peppers to taste— mine were from my mother’s garden and may have included habanero. I used about the equivalent of one cup.
  • 1/2 can organic black beans, rinsed—mine came from the Grocery Outlet
  • About 1/2 clove diced garlic
  • Juice of one small lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • A few tablespoons water
  • Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil—I like the cold-pressed imported from Lebanon that I buy at Forks Mediterranean Deli

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Nala approved, she kept sticking her head in the dirty Ninja cup.

Flecks of hot sauce on the bird

Realities of lemons and tandem bikes

Yes, I know the title is nonsense— but the world has turned a tad upside down as the world tends to do as having billions of people and billions of animals on a planet will erupt into some unexpected situations from time to time.

The teenager loves to eat lemons. I love to cook with lemons. For a while, especially when I first discovered Gaz Oakley the Avant Garde Vegan (Check him out on YouTube—amazing falafel, his own recipe for peri-peri sauce) I always kept fresh lemons in the house.

That was also about the time I would have lemon water first thing in the morning. The juice of half a lemon with tap water.

I did that again this morning. First time in probably a year. Or more.

Today was also the first time in a week I haven’t gained weight. The first month of this pandemic, I was eating better but stopped because… Easter… or so I claim. I am a jelly bean addict and once I start eating the jelly beans I launch onto a sugar and caffeine roller coaster.

This was breakfast. Not ALL of them.

So maybe this post should be called “bad habits.” I originally lost about 5 pounds due to stress in the beginning of the pandemic, but between beer, pizza, Easter candy, homemade cookies and triple jalapeño bacon cheeseburgers from Wendy’s they have found their way back.

But look— I got a salad

It’s been rough. More pressure than ever at work. A good friend walked away coldly without even saying goodbye. A work colleague who often made me smile left unexpectedly. Medical bills still coming in.

But in the end, I still feel inside these struggles help us grow and bring us to the next level— as another work colleague likes to say— we don’t age, we gain experience like in a video game. So I’m less than a month away from my 45th Level with the teenager two months away from Level 16 and a drivers license.

Designated Driver AND babysitter, mom friends out there!!!!

Yesterday was a sunny day amidst a forecast of rain. Last week the teenager did not complete her three weekly gym assignments and she told her teacher in her log that she “got lazy” and he wrote back that sometimes he gets lazy, too. This is a great lesson for our (older) kids in communication and work ethic. Those of you with younger kids, God Bless You and Keep You.

I would be screaming every day if the teenager were, say, six. Our brains are wired too differently.

But back to gym. We got out the tandem bike. (Yes, we have a bicycle built for two— it was a gift.) I wanted the teen to “win” gym this week. And she should get extra credit for captaining a bike with her mom, who has cerebral palsy and no real balance skills.

Then her dad came over and brought his famous hot buffalo chicken dip for dinner, at the teen’s request, and included beer for us grown-ups. And he even got on the bike! (He doesn’t ride bikes.)

I excused myself to work on some more chapters of Bill’s novel Debauchery (and reached the first sex scene— those characters are so in love it hurts). Please don’t be scared by the violence and BDSM in this novel/series. The real theme here is the beauty of acceptance no matter who you are.

And the first of several pet related packages came. So here is a Petco unboxing and some animal videos:

Petco unboxing
Nala eating pretzels with the teen

Let’s see what adventures today brings! Stay well, friends! Let’s crush this day!

A new Target run?

8 a.m. Originally my friend Nancy and I planned to go to the Grocery Outlet. Nancy is blind and likes to shop with me because of my love of food, how frugal I am and my eye for weird stuff.

I start looking at my list, and at my emails, and I realize for much of my list I can shop at Target. I worked at Target up until the middle of last year so I know Super Bowl weekend is a big grocery sale weekend. The things you learn working almost 9 years at the Bullseye.

It also looks like with the switch from Simply Balanced to Good and Gather, corporate strategy has moved into trendier products. Like vegan, Gluten free and other high-end groceries.

Our local Target is very middle of the road. I wonder how many of these products won’t be available because we aren’t a community high enough on the socio-economic scale.

10 a.m. Picking up Nancy. It’s always better to get in and out of Target before noon on weekends.

10:10 a.m. Arrive at Target and start to see old work friends. Wendy, my trainer from cash office, and Courtney, who used to supervise me in the front end, both meet Nan. And Nan almost shakes hands with a box instead of Courtney.

In their defense, Courtney was holding a box and a Frappuccino so she was too slow maneuvering.

We treated ourselves to a drink at Starbucks, made by my soon to be ex-husband’s niece, who is a dental hygienist on weekdays.

10:30 a.m. Shopping begins. I was hoping for some clearance hosiery, no luck. There were some beautiful clearance boots (and I am rapidly running out of shoes) but nothing under a size 11.

Run into several former colleagues who want to say hi and help Nan look for a can opener. There are five to choose from but we still can’t find the right one.

Run into a colleague from my current job.

Ran into the widower of one of my Target colleague whom I worked with very closely in food service. She died of cancer two years ago.

Discover my favorite deodorant is up to $8 and they changed the formula so my rose and vanilla is now rose and black pepper.

11 a.m. We finally hit the “Market” section, which is what Target calls grocery. There’s a lot of hit or miss. Avocados are an amazing value at 79 cents each, but the avocados themselves are lackluster. Most of the produce seems beyond it’s prime.

That’s a big problem with groceries at Target. Fresh produce isn’t culled regularly and the non perishables are often way out of date. I’ve found items on the shelves that the use by date is more than a year out of date. So you really have to check everything.

I know for a fact that the employees try, but the more Target increases wages, the more each employee needs to do. Retail survives by keeping employees at part-time hours so they don’t have to offer benefits and then they schedule at ridiculously low levels so it’s a challenge to keep the store properly manned. This isn’t just a Target problem. It’s the whole corporate/consumerism system.

People want cheap stuff with no concern for quality, its longevity, how it was produced, impact on the environment or the community, or whether or not they need it.

But that’s another tangent entirely.

I didn’t find many new products nor did I find some of the sale items I had wanted.

Noon Nan and I head to the front end.

I bought $100 in groceries and earned a $10 gift card, but I also didn’t appropriately load the $20 in gift cards I already had.

Highlights of my purchases:

  • The $7 giant tub of peanut butter pretzels. It was on sale and it’s the perfect pre-workout snack. Listen to me, I’m under some delusion that I will be going to the gym.
  • Doritos. The ultimate stress food. I shouldn’t even buy them but $2 a bag.
  • An $8 pork loin for $3. Expiring. But I can toss it in the crockpot for dinner tomorrow.
  • Turkey Perky jerky. On Target Circle for 30 percent off. Going in my desk drawer at work for those days where workload means lunch doesn’t happen until 2 or 3.
  • Waterloo sparkling water. $3 for eight cans. I got it as a treat. I wanted to try the watermelon flavor.
  • A giant bottle of white vinegar for $2.29. I use it instead of fabric softener. Cheaper, less chemical-y and less slimy that traditional fabric softener.
  • I got some canned carrots and peas. I don’t normally do canned veggies but if I want to make a shepherd or cottage pie, they will be perfect.
  • Cafe Mosaica and Traditional Medicinals Nighty Nite Valerian. My favorite coffee and my favorite pre-bedtime tea. Both on sale.
  • Smoked Paprika. $3.39 for the tiny spice bottle. Another splurge. But it’s amazing. It’s Gaz Oakley’s favorite spice and he has me hooked. If you haven’t looked up Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube, do it. His recipes are usually easy and delicious. Regardless of your dietary preferences.
  • Another splurge (which I ate for lunch): Birds Eye shaved Brussel sprouts. $3.19 a bag which is supposed to be two servings. But I sprinkled some imitation bacon bits on top and ate them for lunch with a side of Doritos.

  • Caulipower Pizza was on Target Circle for 20% off. They are normally $7 but with the discount and the sale price it was $5. Nan has wanted to try them so I will make it for her when she comes over for dinner Monday. I love them, but I’m not paying $7.
  • And ice cream. I promised the teenager malted milk shakes this weekend so I bought a pint of vanilla bean ice cream for $1.79. They have some very odd flavors in the full size containers, including my old favorite Unicorn and the new Mermaid. But I had to buy Rainbow because it has strawberry rhubarb swirl. And there is a Breakfast Cereal variety with, no lie, cinnamon toast flavored ice cream.

Fire Up the Ninja

While I was recovering from my minor winter ailment, somehow I stumbled upon Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube. I’m not even sure how or why, but something mesmerized me.

I spent eight years as a vegetarian before my daughter was born and went vegan for six months back in my twenties. I never was a big fan of meat and I hated touching it. I also disapproved of factory farming practices and the use of hormones and antibiotics in our meat. Basically, I never had a problem with eating meat, but I did have a problem with the big business of food production and the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the standard American diet.

When my daughter was young, I made 90% of her baby food, most of our bread products and bought a lot of our food from local farms. Not the Farmer’s Market but the actual farms. I also gardened and preserved our food in the almost-lost art of canning.

As life got busier, I lost some of my good food habits. And I burned out a few food processors making homemade nut butters, blending dates for use in snacks and grinding my own flours. Oh and I made ridiculous amounts of hummus.

Something about Gaz and the way his cooking style incorporated the types of foods I like had me hooked. It was his high protein meal prep that truly mesmerized me and made me want to eat it all. I needed to cook again. Really cook.

And he did the things I used to do when I destroyed my blender.

So what did HE use?

A Ninja.

I read all the comments on his videos about the blender system and its comparison to a Vitamix. Now frankly, I don’t want a Vitamix. It’s a blender. I have a nice Black and Decker blender with a glass pitcher that suits me. I need a food processor.

Then I saw it at Target. The Ninja Professional. $199.

I wanted it so bad. So I made a Facebook comment. Suddenly, my family is offering to buy me a Ninja.

I had no choice.

I bought a Ninja. And started cooking again.

I have cooked for four days straight. My husband teases that I can’t make a meal without firing up the Ninja.

I am in love.

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Gaz’s Sriracha Meatballs and my spinach yogurt sauce

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Gaz’s Sriracha Meatball Mix

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Salad in the Ninja

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Breakfast smoothie

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Gaz’s Falafel, Hummus & Flatbreads

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Hummus Mix