Friday, November 15, 2013

Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread With Chocolate Chips

My version of Post Punk Kitchen's banana bread. I love PPK--it's a treasure trove.

Chocolatey Banana Bread

1/4 c soy or almond milk
1 t vinegar
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/4 c cocoa powder
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c room-temp margarine or oil
2 t vanilla
handful of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 8 x 4 pan.

Mix almond milk and vinegar and set aside.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt. Divide this mixture in half. To one half, add the cocoa powder.

In a separate bowl, cream together sugars and margarine or oil. Add bananas and vanilla. Add milk and vinegar mixture. Now divide this in half, and add half of it to your cocoa/flour mixture.

Mix the other half into your plain flour mixture, then throw the chocolate chips in there and stir a couple more times.

Pour the plain batter in half the pan, lengthwise. It doesn't matter if it doesn't exactly stay in one half--it can be messy. Then pour the chocolate batter in the other half. Take a fork and zigzag it through to bring streaks of chocolate into the plain batter and vice versa. (This does not have to be done neatly. Really nothing in any of my recipes has to be done neatly.)

Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until knife in center comes out clean.

Inflorescence of Banana, Maria Sibylla Merian,  1710

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Senate Bean Soup

I'll just tell you up front: this recipe has Bacos in it. Bacos are vegan and I love them.

You don't have to use them; you can get a nice flavor from smoked paprika or liquid smoke instead. But I say, why pass up an excuse to buy Bacos?

So here's my version of senate bean soup.

Senate Bean Soup

1/2 onion chopped
3 T margarine or oil
pinch salt
2 c water or broth
handful parsley
2 cans navy or other white beans; or 3 c cooked white beans
3 garlic cloves sliced thin
(one rib celery chopped - optional)
(liquid smoke or smoked paprika - optional if using Bacos)
one lg or two small potatoes, baked or boiled (in other words, pre-cooked), and peeled and diced
salt or soy sauce or miso paste to taste
1 or 2 t red wine vinegar, or splash of red wine
black pepper
large handful of Bacos
dash of hot sauce if you like

Saute onion in margarine or oil with a pinch of salt, until translucent. Add water or broth, parsley, beans, garlic, celery, smoked paprika or liquid smoke, and potatoes. Simmer about 20 minutes or longer, until potatoes are very soft or break down completely. (Do not puree the soup with potatoes in a blender or food processor! Potatoes turn to glue if you do that.) Add salt/soy sauce/miso, red wine vinegar, pepper and Bacos and simmer a few more minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley.

The Public Soup Kitchen, Vincent Van Gogh, 1883

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Favorite Bread

My longtime favorite bread. Adapted (I think) from Laurel's Kitchen.

Favorite Bread

1 c rolled oats
2 c boiling water
1 t salt
1 pkg yeast, or 2t - 1T
1/3 c brown sugar or any sweetener-- agave, molasses, maple syrup, whatever
1/4 c oil
4 - 4.5 c flour (I usually use white whole wheat, but you can use all purpose, or bread flour, or whole wheat, or a mixture)

Mix oats, boiling water, salt, sweetener and oil in a huge bowl. Let stand until lukewarm--a temperature you could comfortably rest your hand in. This is important because if it's too hot, it will kill the yeast.

Mix in yeast and flour. When you can no longer mix with your spoon, use your hands to mix and knead. I do this in the bowl. To knead, slightly flatten the dough with the heel of your hand, fold in half, flatten again, then fold in half the other way (horizontally, then vertically, then horizontally, etc.) Do this for about five minutes until the dough feels nice and smooth.

Form it into a ball, put a clean dishtowel over the top of the bowl and set in a warm place to rise. If you're lucky enough to have a warm hearth, put it there. Or turn on the oven, heat it, then turn it off, put the bowl in, and leave the door slightly open. Make sure you can comfortably put your hand in there. It should be a cozy temperature.

Let rise for about an hour, until, when you press your finger in, the dough no longer springs back to shape. Oil a bread pan, or if you don't have one, use a baking sheet, a cast iron skillet, or whatever you have. Punch down the dough, make it into an oblong shape, tuck the ends under to make a smooth top, and put it in your pan. If you're not using a loaf pan you can make it into a ball and just set it in the middle of the pan or baking sheet. Put the towel over it and let it rise again for about half an hour till it no longer springs back.

Bake at around 400 degrees and start checking on it after about half an hour. It's done when it smells like fresh baked bread (to me, that's the best way to tell); when the top is golden brown; and when it sounds hollow when tapped (be sure to tap all around). Let the pan cool on a rack for a while and the loaf will come out more easily. The texture will be right for slicing when it's cool. If you try to slice it when it's hot, it will be very crumbly. Though it's worth it for the taste of bread straight from the oven.

May I Give This Ukranian Bread to All the People in This Big Wide World, Maria Primachenko, 1982

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Madame Benoît's Pea Soup

This recipe comes via my friend Elise, an amazing cook. It's a simple, brilliant soup. Serve with a hearty whole wheat bread for a nice meal.

Madame Benoît's Pea Soup 

1 lb dried green split peas

8 cups cold water
4 T oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp salt
bit of lemon zest
1 tsp dried savory

Wash peas. Let them sit in cold water for 12 hours. Heat your oil in a soup pot. Add onion, cook until transparent. Pour in the peas with their water.They will start creating big puffs of scum. Skim that off. Then add salt, zest and savory. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat. Cover and let simmer. Madame Benoît says two hours, until tender. Depending on your peas, it could need more. They will be soft when ready. For creaminess, sieve. If you have some left over, you will find that when you take it out of the fridge the next day it has thickened. Just add some water when reheating.

Note: I never soak the peas at all, and the soup always turns out fine.

Pink Note - Shelling Peas, James McNeill Whistler, 1884

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


I'm someone who likes sweet cornbread, and this is very sweet! This is just a simple recipe I make to serve with chili.


1 c soy milk
1 T vinegar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 c corn meal
1 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 c margarine (or oil)
1/4 c brown sugar, for sweet cornbread; 1/2 c for cornbread that's basically cake

Heat oven to 400. Mix milk and vinegar and let stand while you do the rest. 

Mix dry ingredients. 

Melt margarine in a cast iron skillet if you have one, swirl it around to grease the whole pan, then pour into a bowl and add sugar. (If you don't have a skillet, just melt butter and add the sugar, and grease your baking pan separately.) 

Add milk mixture to margarine mixture and stir. Then add dry ingredients, mix, pour into greased skillet or pan, and bake for 20 minutes or half an hour, till the edges brown and pull away from the sides and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Remembrance of a Garden, Paul Klee, 1914

Monday, September 2, 2013

Taco Night!

This is hardly a recipe, but in keeping with this blog's aim to help new vegans and anyone looking for very easy meal ideas, I offer the latest kid-friendly family favorite:


package of taco shells (or if you want to make burritos instead, large flour tortillas)
a can or two of refried beans*
lettuce chopped small or shredded (I like Romano because it stays crispy)
hot sauce
a few tomatoes, chopped

*Instead of refried beans you can warm a couple of T olive oil, sautee some sliced garlic cloves in it, add a can or two of drained, rinsed beans, and cook for ten minutes or so.

guacamole or chopped avocado (sprinkled with lime juice and salt if you like)
cooked brown rice
cooked corn
chopped green onion
chopped green chile peppers
chopped bell pepper
sliced jalapenos
. . . and anything else you like

Set everything out on the table, and let everyone make tacos.

That's it!

Full Moon, Paul Klee, 1919

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Another from A Week of Meals for $29.78.

Starting in the 1920s, my Estonian grandmother was a follower of Swiss nutrition pioneer Dr. Maximillian Bircher-Benner, who invented this healthful cereal. It makes a good meal any time of day. If you've never had it before, try it. It will fill you right up and make you feel like going for a hike in the Alps.

There are many ways to make it. Here's the simplest, for when you're short on money or time or your cupboards aren't stocked:

Simplified Muesli

1.5 c raw oats
1 apple
1 c nondairy milk (soy, oat, coconut . . .)

(chopped nuts if you have them)

Chop apple into little cubes, and mix with oats and milk (and nuts). This is actually one of my favorite meals--yummy and satisfying.

If you have the following ingredients, add any or all of them:

Raisins or chopped dates or any other dried fruit (such as cranberries, currants . . . )
Any other fresh chopped fruit, or fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries . . . )
Seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax . . . 

Alps, Isaac Levitan, 1897

Oat Milk

The latest in the recipes from my post A Week of Meals for $29.78 is another handy one for when you're really very broke: DIY oat milk! So cheap, so easy.

Oat Milk recipe from veganlovlie

Gazelles Near the Tree, Martiros Saryan, 1907

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Very Simple Salsa

This is from the post A Week of Meals for $29.78, in which I used Corey Booker's food stamp budget to plan a week of meals that would have adequate calories, fruits and vegetables, and protein for a large, active man like Booker--and be vegan!

It was not easy, and would have been impossible without access to a computer and hours to calculate and plan. But I did it, and if you're ever in a budget crunch it can serve as a guide to a week of very inexpensive vegan meals.

Simple Salsa

1 minced hot green pepper, to taste

1 small clove garlic, minced (scant 1 t)
1 T chopped onion
2 t oil
1 t vinegar 
a couple of diced tomatoes, or 14 oz canned if necessary
salt to taste   

Strain the chopped tomatoes over a bowl to save the liquid. Put the drained tomatoes in a bowl, and mix in everything else. [If you have red wine vinegar, use that instead of plain.] Then add back some of the liquid until you get the consistency you like. Refrigerate before eating if possible. You can make it the night or morning before you eat it.

Southern Tunisian Gardens, Paul Klee, 1919

Monday, August 19, 2013

Persian Red Lentil Soup with Tomatoes

My version of a Persian red lentil soup.

The herbs and spices are basically all optional. If you have no spices, the soup will still be great with just the flavors of the onion, garlic, salt and lime. But fresh herbs, and especially dill (dried or fresh) are a nice touch.

3 T oil
1 chopped onion
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t coriander
3 cloves garlic sliced
1 heaping cup red lentils 
4 c broth
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 lime
1 T sumac
2 T dried dill
1/2 t tarragon
2 handfuls fresh parsley
and/or other fresh herbs to taste: tarragon, cilantro, basil, mint, dill, chives
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper

Warm the oil in a pan. Add turmeric and coriander and sautee a minute until fragrant. Add onion with a pinch of salt and cook till onion is soft. Add garlic and sautee for one minute. Add tomatoes, broth, red lentils, and 1/4 lime. (Just throw the chunk of lime in there with its skin--washed first)

Simmer 20 minutes or so till lentils are soft. Add sumac, dill, tarragon, and/or fresh herbs, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer a few more minutes. 

Flower Myth, Paul Klee, 1918

Rice and Beans

My version of rice and beans. It's so good and cheap and easy. I make it often.

Rice and Beans

Four cans of beans: black, pinto, red kidney, or a combination. Or half a pound of dry beans, cooked.
Olive oil (or whatever oil you have)
Chopped garlic: a whole head, or a few cloves, whatever you like
Cocoa powder, a dash or two

Optional: a quarter cup of red wine or beer, or a spoonful of red wine vinegar or other vinegar; a teeny bit of canned chipotles; Liquid Smoke or smoked paprika; chili powder or hot pepper or hot sauce; broth or a bouillon cube; whatever else you think would taste good

Toppings: chopped avocado with lemon juice and salt and/or crumbled corn chips. And/or salsa, hot sauce, chopped tomatoes, chopped green onions, cilantro, or whatever you like.

Rice: I like brown, but you can use any kind

Saute the garlic in the oil for just a minute. Add beans and cocoa powder, and any optional ingredients, a little bit at a time, smelling and tasting as you go to see if you like it.

Serve over rice. Top with toppings. I like to have a bit of something fatty and salty on top, so I really like to use either salted avocado or crumbled tortilla chips, along with whichever  of the other toppings I have on hand.

A Near Distance, Perle Fine, 1961

Quinoa with Spiced Lentil Dal

A favorite from The New York Times.

As usual, I simplify this when I make it: I just use regular quinoa and regular lentils.

When approaching vegan cooking for the first time, people sometimes worry about having to hunt all over for unfamiliar and possibly expensive ingredients to make exotic dishes. I never do that. Lots of vegan recipes are simple and cheap to begin with, but if I come across one like this that calls for something unusual like red quinoa, I just ignore it and use the regular kind, and everything (almost) always turns out not only fine, but delicious.

Quinoa with Spiced Lentil Dal

One-Pot Curried Rotini with Currants, Peas and Red Peppers

This calls for a cup of peas, but as usual I would use a whole bag of frozen peas or even more, because I like to get all my vegetables for the meal into one dish. And it tastes good that way.

One-Pot Curried Rotini with Currants, Peas and Red Peppers

Coconut Red Lentils with Spinach and Cashews

I love this dish!

When I make this, I use a whole bag of frozen spinach (you could probably even use more), and a lot of cashews. I like to toast the nuts first in a dry skillet on the stovetop or in the oven, until they get fragrant and start to brown. You can serve the whole thing over brown rice.

All the ingredients for this are available in a regular grocery store. If you don't have something, like mustard seeds, you can just leave it out. Or if you don't have red lentils, it would be fine with ordinary lentils. 

Coconut Red Lentils with Spinach and Cashews

Kale and White Bean Stew

This has a lovely delicate flavor! I didn't even add white wine, and instead of sherry vinegar I used some cheap store-brand red wine vinegar, and it was still delicious. I can only imagine what it would have tasted like if I'd made it right. I doubled the beans for more protein.

Kale and White Bean Stew


Chili is an easy thing to make vegan, and so satisfying. This is the way I like to make it:


splash of olive oil
one chopped onion
chili powder, 1 T or to taste
cumin to taste
bell pepper, either a whole one chopped, or a couple of handfuls of frozen
minced garlic, as much as you like (a whole head is not too much for me)
tomatoes, boxed or canned-- I use a big 28-oz can of chopped tomatoes
vegetable broth or bouillon cube
1/2 pound dry beans, cooked; or four cans of beans: pinto, red kidney, black, or a mix (I like a mix)
half a bag of frozen corn, or to taste
1/4 cup of red wine, or 1 T of red wine vinegar or other vinegar
1 - 3 t cocoa powder
smoked paprika, and/or a little bit of canned chipotle (start with a teeny bit--it's hot!)

(Pretty much all of these ingredients are optional, except the beans, onion, corn and tomatoes.)

Possible toppings:
You can use some, all or none of these:
chopped avocado with salt and lemon (or lime! yum!)
crumbled tortilla chips
hot sauce
green onions
chopped tomato

Heat olive oil. Sautee onions until soft. Add chili powder and cumin. Stir until fragrant. Add bell pepper, cook a couple of min. Add garlic, cook a minute. Add everything else and cook as long as you like, at least until everything is heated through. I usually simmer about 20 minutes. If cooking for a long time, add the wine or vinegar in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

If you want to add a texture similar to crumbled meat, you can add a handful of bulgur wheat while it's cooking. This will take about 20 minutes to get cooked in the tomato sauce/broth. Or you can pour boiling water over it ahead of time, let it sit 20 min, then add to the chili. Bulgur wheat can often be found in the store near the other dry grains, like rice and barley.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pasta Topping

Toasted almonds, by themselves, make a nice topping for almost any pasta. You can use them anywhere you would Parmesan. (Don't expect them to taste like Parmesan. They're just good in their own way.)

To toast them just put them in a dry skillet, and put the skillet on the stove or in the oven at some kind of medium-ish heat. They're done when they start to smell good and turn a bit brown.

If you have more time, you can take those toasted almonds, and/or any other kind of nut, toasted or not, and put them in a blender with dry toast (or breadcrumbs) and a clove of garlic, and some salt. Grind it all up, then put a little oil in a pan and saute it for a few minutes. This makes a really yummy and addictive topping to sprinkle on pasta dishes. You can make a lot all at once and freeze it if you like.

Smokey Saucy Chickpeas with Spinach

This calls for one spice that might be considered unusual, smoked paprika. Around here you can get it at most grocery stores. It's worth buying if you can because it's so yummy in so many things (such as chili, rice and beans, etc.)

You could substitue a dash of Liquid Smoke, available in a lot of grocery stores in the sauce section (near the steak sauce, etc). It's also great in lots of dishes.

The recipe is from BEN & birdy

*Cheapness/easiness cheat: I used two bags of frozen spinach, which I always keep on hand; and store-brand red wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, and it still tasted great.

Smokey Saucy Chickpeas with Spinach

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Indonesian Tempeh

My cousin-in-law Ay Ling's Indonesian tempeh recipe.

 She is the most carnivorous person I know, but/and she eats this all the time. She writes, "While living in Indonesia, I loved it so much that I had it practically every day!  Never tire of it!" 

If you make it, you'll see why.

Indonesian Tempeh

several limes, or a bottle of lime juice

olive oil

Cut the tempeh into strips 1" wide and 1/4" thick, or even thinner. Lay in a flat-bottomed container such as a baking dish. (Non-reactive!) It's okay to stack the pieces. Squeeze limes until you have enough juice to completely cover them. One lime gives about 2 T juice.

Put in fridge and marinate 5 to 8 hours.

Drain the tempeh and pat it dry with paper towels or dish towels. Sprinkle salt on both sides.

Put a good layer of oil in a frying pan, just a bit more than half the thickness of the tempeh. (So if your tempeh is 1/4", oil is a little more than 1/8" deep.) Heat over medium high. 

Fry tempeh on both sides until golden. Drain on paper towels or brown paper bags. 

Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew

As usual, I simplified this recipe when I made it. It takes a long time to cut up a squash! (At least for me.) You can just throw in another big sweet potato instead. Or buy pre-cut squash. I used two cans of chick peas to up the protein; canned chopped tomatoes instead of whole; and as I didn't have a Spanish onion I used a regular yellow onion instead (but less of it, as the flavor is much stronger).

You can serve this over couscous. Yum!

Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew

Cashew and Green Bean Pasta

Here's something simple and kid friendly. 

Earth Balance is the best vegan margarine, or Organic Smart Balance. You can't always find those at an ordinary grocery store; you might have to go to a place like Whole Foods. Either way, they're pretty expensive. If you don't have margarine, use oil instead.

Cashew and Green Bean Pasta

3/4 c cashews

6 T margarine or oil
1  to 4 10-oz bags frozen green beans
3/4 - 1 lb pasta (rotini is nice)
(parsley, optional)

Toast cashews in a dry skillet until they get fragrant and start to brown. (Or don't if you're short on time.) Combine with margarine or oil in food processor or blender. 
Steam green beans. Cook pasta. Add a little pasta water to thin the cashew sauce. 
Mix all together. (Add optional parsley.) Add salt and especially pepper to taste.

Chickpea Pasta with Almonds

This recipe is from Real Simple. It calls for Parmesan, but you can leave that out.

I would get raw slivered almonds instead of roasted, and toast them myself in a dry skillet until they're fragrant and start to brown. That would help make up for the missing flavor of the cheese.

Although toasted almonds don't taste anything like Parmesan, they make a nice topping for any pasta.

I think vegan recipes are better if I just let them be what they are. Fake meat, fake cheese, fake alfredo sauce, fake tuna salad--all those things are fine in their way (though if you get them pre-made they're always expensive--which, I think, is why many people worry it's expensive to be vegan). But of course they don't taste like the originals, and you'll always come away thinking the non-vegan versions are better--because that's what the food is supposed to to taste like. Cheese is supposed to taste like cheese, not like fake cheese!

But if I enjoy things for what they are, and accept that it's fine for them to be different, I'm free to notice whether they're actually good. So toasted almonds are not in any way fake Parmesan; they're toasted almonds. And they're delicious.

Chickpea Pasta with Almonds

Chana Saag

My version of the classic Indian dish.

Chana Saag

3 T oil

1 t cinnamon
1 t cardamom
1 t coriander
1/2 t chili powder
1 chopped onion
1 t salt
5 cloves minced garlic
1 T grated ginger (powdered would be fine)
1/2 t turmeric
2 packages frozen chopped spinach
1 box chopped tomatoes (Pomi brand) or 1 15-oz can
1 or 2 cans chickpeas

Heat oil, add spices, stir a few seconds until fragrant. Add onion and

salt, cook till soft. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, cook a couple
minutes till fragrant. Add turmeric, tomatoes, spinach, chickpeas;
cook until spinach is cooked.  Serve over rice.

Cashew Curry

love the cooking blog 101 Cookbooks. The recipes are deceptively simple. They often feature only a handful of unexceptional sounding ingredients, that, when combined, somehow create magic. That's my kind of recipe!

Many also have a very short cooking time, like this one, which stays on the stove a total of four minutes after you've brought it to a boil. 

Cashew Curry

Mark Bittman's Nut Burgers

The best burgers! Mark Bittman has a lot of great vegan and vegetarian recipes. You can find lots of them in The New York Times, and he's written many cookbooks.

The recipe calls for an egg, but you can just leave it out. The burgers might be a bit more crumbly, but they're still great. Or use a vegan substitute such as soy flour or tapioca flour. (Here are some common egg substitutes.)

Mark Bittman's Nut Burgers

Butter Bean Burgers

These are nice. They're not hamburgers. If you give one to a meat eater and say, "Here, have this fake hamburger," you will face disappointment. The person will think, "On the scale of 'hamburgerness,' these don't measure up at all."

Well, no! On a scale of hamburgerness, the hamburger is always going to win. This is something different. It would be nice in a sandwich. You could add red onion and tomato and veggie mayo.

(Vegenaise is my favorite veggie mayo. But it's very expensive. You can make a decent version at home; it's pretty easy. My advice for this mayo recipe: use sugar instead of maple syrup!)

For something vegan that tastes more hamburger-like, I like Gardein burgers (in the frozen section, near the other organic things and/or veggie "meats" like Morningstar). They're expensive, but good. Boca vegan burgers are also pretty good.

But if you just want a tasty, healthy sandwich, try these. From happyveganface!

Butter Bean Burgers

Easy Tofu and Green Pea Curry

A while ago I posted a link to a recipe similar to this. The way I make it is different enough, though, that I'm going to post my own version instead. This is very quick to make. No garlic or onions to chop!

Easy Tofu and Green Pea Curry

14-oz package firm or extra firm tofu
2 T canola oil
1 t cumin
1 - 2 inch piece fresh ginger, sliced thin (or 2 t powdered ginger)
1 t salt, or to taste
dash or two of cayenne pepper
2 t curry powder
1 t turmeric
28 oz can chopped tomatoes (or equivalent Pomi brand boxed tomatoes, or 3 c fresh)
1 lb frozen peas

If you have time, freeze tofu in its package the night before, then put in fridge in the morning to thaw.

Press the water out of the tofu. Slice into cubes.

Heat oil in pan. Add cumin, ginger, salt, cayenne, curry powder and turmeric, and saute for half a minute, until fragrant. Add tofu and brown it. (Or don't brown, if you don't have time.) Add tomatoes and cook a few minutes. Taste to see if you want more spices. Add peas and cook a few minutes more. Serve over rice.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tofu in Thai Curry Sauce

This doesn't qualify as super, super cheap because you have to use a whole can of coconut milk and up to a whole jar of Thai curry paste. But it's good and easy.

Tofu in Thai Curry Sauce

1 can coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
From 2 T to one whole 4-oz jar Thai curry paste, either red or green
1/2 to 1 T brown sugar 
2 lbs frozen (or not) mixed vegetables, such as stir-fry vegetables or California mix
1 14-oz package tofu, cubed
2 T soy sauce, or to taste
black pepper to taste

Put coconut milk in a pan with sliced garlic and bring to a boil. Add brown sugar and then 2 T curry paste, and keep adding more till it's as hot as you like. Then cook the vegetables in the coconut milk, or steam and then add to the pan. When the vegetables are nearly done, add the tofu and cook a few more minutes. Add soy sauce and black pepper. Serve over rice.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Mujadara is an ancient Middle Eastern dish, which some say is the biblical "mess of pottage" for which Esau sold his birthright. If you eat it, you'll see why. It is really, really good.

This is a very simple version I used to make all the time. I've lost the cookbook I originally got it from, but I found the recipe (the exact one I used to use) online, attributed to David Rosengarten.


 1 cup green or brown lentils (French lentils make this extra good)
 1 quart cold water
 3 large white onions, sliced into thin half moons
 1/2 cup olive oil
 1/2 cup basmati or jasmine rice
 1 tsp. salt
 1 tsp. allspice

Put the lentils and water in a pot, bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, loosely covered, for 25 minutes or so.

Cook the onions in the oil in a skillet or wide shallow pan until they're soft, five or ten minutes. Then take 1.5 cups of onions out with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Cook the rest until they're caramelized--brown and slightly crisp. This can take a while. The original recipe said something like ten minutes, but in my experience it can take twenty or more. Once they start to brown, watch them closely! If you see one or two blackened bits, take them out quickly, or they'll taste burnt. Set them to drain on paper towels or brown paper bags.

When the lentils have simmered about 25 minutes and are still a bit undercooked, drain them over a big bowl to catch the cooking liquid. Reserve 1.5 cups of it. If there's not enough, make up the difference with water.

Put the lentils and 1.5 cups of liquid back into the pan, add the 1.5 cups softened onions, along with rice, salt and allspice. Bring back to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook loosely covered until the rice is done, 20 minutes. Top with the caramelized onions.

Note: To make this with brown rice, put the uncooked rice in the pot at the same time as the lentils.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pasta With Cauliflower

From Mark Bittman! He has so many good and simple recipes. It calls for a cup of bread crumbs; sometimes I replace half of that with very finely chopped walnuts. (Put them in the blender.)

Pasta With Cauliflower

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spinach and Nut Sauce for Pasta

Fast and easy, with ingredients you're likely to have in the house.

(If you don't keep frozen spinach on hand, start doing it! Along with a couple bags each of frozen broccoli, green beans and peas. No need to worry about them going bad before you get around to using them.)

Spinach and Nut Sauce for Pasta

2 10-oz bags frozen spinach (or a big bag of fresh spinach)
1 cup walnuts, cashews, or pine nuts
1/4 c olive oil (canola will work too)
1 or 2 cloves garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 t salt
pepper to taste

Steam the spinach until just cooked. (If it's not frozen, you can even use it raw.) 

Put everything in a food processor or blender, along with 1/4 c of the water the pasta cooked in. Puree.

Serve over 1 lb whole wheat pasta.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sweet Spicy Stir Fry with Tofu and Cashews

This is delicious and loaded with vegetables. The ones I list are just suggestions. You can use any, fresh or frozen, you like. Snow peas, canned baby corn, cauliflower, mung bean sprouts, bok choy would all be great.

Or to make it easier, just use 4 lbs frozen broccoli and nothing else. Or 4 lbs frozen mixed stir-fry vegetables.

Sweet Spicy Stir Fry with Tofu and Cashews

14 oz extra-firm tofu -- ideally frozen, then thawed
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 T olive or canola oil
1/2 c raw cashews
2 T soy sauce
2 T siracha hot sauce (or other hot sauce to taste)
1 T sugar (brown sugar, raw sugar, agave would all work)
3/4 T vinegar

vegetables (use these or 2 lbs of whatever you like)
1 lbs frozen broccoli
1/2 lb frozen green beans
1/4 lb frozen sliced bell pepper, or one fresh pepper sliced
1/4 lb fresh or frozen baby carrots
1/4 thinly sliced red onion

If you have time, put your tofu package in the freezer the night before, then take it out in the morning to thaw by dinnertime. That will change the texture and make it much easier to work with. (I do this for all tofu recipes.) 

Take tofu out of package, put on a plate, put another plate on top, and weigh the top with a couple heavy cans, or whatever you have. Let sit for 10 min to squeeze the water out. 

If the vegetables are frozen, defrost or very lightly steam them.

Meanwhile, put cashews in a skillet and put on the stove on medium heat. When they smell nice and start to brown, watch them closely and stir to let the other sides brown. Take out of the pan and set aside.

Lightly oil the skillet. Brown the tofu, turning to brown a few sides. This takes a while but is worth it. If you don't have time, though, just skip. Take tofu out of pan and set aside.

Pour the rest of the oil in the skillet, warm it, sautee the garlic in it. Raise the heat a bit, add the vegetables (and the tofu if you haven't browned it), and sautee until just done.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix soy sauce, hot sauce, sugar and vinegar.

Mix cashews, tofu, vegetables and sauce. Serve over brown rice.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Week of Vegan Meals for $29.78

This experiment was inspired by NJ State Senator Corey Booker's pledge to live on food stamps for a week in 2013. He was a vegetarian then, not yet vegan. (But he is vegan now!) I decided to write up a vegan food stamp menu of my own.

Here's what I learned: It's incredibly hard. It took me many hours on the computer juggling costs and calories to come up with this menu. (How likely is it that, say, a single mom on food stamps has easy access to a computer, and half a day of free time to plan her shopping down to the penny like I did?)

The reason this was hard wasn't because it's vegan. High protein, nutritious foods like dried chick peas, lentils and pasta are extremely cheap. It was hard because it's hard to live on $30 a week.

Not to mention that for your budget to work, you have transportation to a store, a working stove, pots and pans, time to cook, etc etc.—all things that, like a computer, you wouldn't necessarily have if you had little enough money that you were on food stamps.

But this experiment did show that cheap, healthy vegan eating is very achievable. If you're fortunate enough to have the basics in your kitchen (stove, pans, knives, etc.) and are not constrained by this exact budget, you can change, upgrade and add to this menu as you like, and still wind up with a week of good food for not  much money.

Here's what I did:

The menu includes mostly things that I'd cook in a normal week, but it's a bit more repetitive, and I've simplified the seasonings since there's no money for spices. The budget accounts for every single ingredient that's called for, even salt, because I figured if you're living hand-to-mouth, you could well be starting with a bare cupboard.

I used my local grocery store's prices (via their "shop online" feature), since, if you're on a tiny budget, you'd probably have to shop at stores close to you-- you wouldn't necessarily be able to travel to find the best prices.

My grocery bill came to $29.74.

[I've put optional ingredients in brackets so that if you do happen to have them, you can add them.]

I aimed for what a large, active man would need in a day: between 2,500 and 3,000 calories; 5 servings of fruit or veg; and 72 grams of protein.I came in at 3,098 calories a day if you count all the groceries and divide by 7, so there wasn't much problem getting the daily meals to between 2.5 and 3K. I hit the fruit/veg target, and came in quite a bit over on the protein: 114 g/ day—once again demonstrating what most vegans know: that a balanced vegan diet is naturally rich in protein.

In practice, you'll lose some calories and protein when you use about 1/3 of the oats to make oat milk; and there will be 1/4 c rice left. Other than that, the menu uses almost everything up. But of course you don't have to eat everything.

It's bare bones, for sure. You have to make your own bread and your own oat milk. You have to cook big batches of things and eat them at more than one meal. And every ingredient is the cheapest brand available.

All in all, though, I think it's a pretty good menu. Nutritious, satisfying, and protein-rich vegan meals for very little money. 

Shopping list

Note: I did leave off vitamin B-12, the one supplement you need as a vegan. At under 2 cents a dose it could be made to fit, but I wasn't able to fit the cheapest bottle, at $1.97, into this one-week budget. If you truly had nothing in your kitchen and had to live from week to week, you would have to sacrifice something the first week to get the vitamins--but then they'd last for over three months.

16 oz white vinegar: $0.89 / 0 cal / 0 protein / 

20 oz frozen broccoli: $1.99 / 210 calories / 7 g protein / 7 servings fruit/veg
20 oz froz spinach: $1.99 / 210 cal / 14 g protein / 7 servings fruit/veg
1 pkg yeast: $0.67 / -- / -- 
26 oz salt: $0.69 / -- / -- 
2 lb white flour $1.19  / 3,000 cal / 90 g protein **SEE NOTE
2x 8.5 oz soybean and olive oil: $2.78 / 3,936 cal / 0 g protein
1 lb green split peas: $0.99 / 1,100 cal / 110 g protein
1 lb dry lentils: $1.59 / 980 cal / 112 g protein
28 oz chopped tomatos: $0.80 / 175 cal / 7 g protein / 7 servings fruit/veg
1 lb whole wheat pasta: $1.25 / 1080 cal / 42 g protein
1 lb dry chick peas: $1.49 / 1,100 cal / 80 g protein
42 oz rolled oats: $2.99 / 4,500 cal / 150 g protein
1 lb dry black beans: $1.49 / 840 cal / 108 g protein
2 lbs brown rice: $1.39 / 3,300 cal / 66 g protein
1 bunch kale: $0.99 / 160 cal / 12 g protein / 4 servings fruit/veg (who knew kale had so much protein??)
small long hot green pepper $0.25
small piece ginger: $0.30 / -- / --
2 heads garlic: $0.69 / 110 cal / --
3 lbs onions (probably 6 onions): $2.49 / 360 cal / --
3 lb bag apples (about 12 small apples): $1.99 / 600 cal/ 0 g protein / 12 servings fruit/veg
1 lemon $0.33 / -- / --

TOTAL: $29.74 /  21,688 cal / 798 g protein / 37 servings fruit/veg
DAILY BREAKDOWN: 3,098 cal / 114 g protein / 5.25 servings fruit/veg

**NOTE about the flour: I couldn't afford whole wheat in this budget, as the cheapest amount I could get at my store was $2.49 for 5 lb--actually cheaper per pound than what I did choose, but it would have meant either paying for calories I wouldn't be using--which I couldn't afford--or eating all of it, which loaded the menu with bread. But obviously, if you could manage to get whole wheat somehow, that would be preferable. 



Every day:

Breakfast: muesli with homemade oat milk 

Lunch: pasta alla ceci (pasta with chick peas) with 1/2 apple on side; split pea soup with toast

Snacks: toast, 1/2 c hummus


You can mix these up, making your 2 or 3 portions at once, and freezing what you don't need right away:

2 days: mujadarah, broccoli soup
2 days: chana saag with flatbread
3 days: beans and rice topped with salsa, steamed kale on the side


Recipes with Calorie and Protein Breakdown


Oat Milk

There will be 4.5 cups of oats left after the other recipes, which can make 9 quarts of oat milk if you want that much. You'll only need about seven cups for your breakfasts.

oat milk recipe

(If you don't have a strainer or cheesecloth, you can strain it through a dishtowel. If you don't have a blender, you can finely chop the oats and then pulverize them in a bowl--not ideal, but it would work.)

I couldn't find out exactly how much protein and how many calories are in the milk vs what's in the pulp left behind, but I'm estimating 25 calories / cup, with negligible protein.

Simplified Muesli

1.5 c raw oats
1 apple
1 c oat milk

Chop apple into little cubes, and mix with oats and milk. This is actually one of my favorite meals--yummy and satisfying. [Great with chopped almonds sprinkled on top if you have them.] 

525 cals / 15 g protein / 1 serving fruit/veg


Pasta Alla Ceci

1 lb pasta

1/2 c oil
3 cloves garlic
1 t salt
1.5 c cooked chick peas 

Cook the pasta, reserving 1/4 c cooking water. Mince garlic, and mix with olive oil and salt in a pan. [If you happen to have red pepper flakes, add a couple pinches now.] Heat gently for a few minutes. Add reserved pasta water and chick peas. Heat through. Toss with pasta.
Freeze whatever you won't eat in the next couple of days.

7 servings at a little over 1 cup of cooked pasta each: 400 cal and 7 g protein per meal

+ 25 cal per 1/2 apple

Madame Benoît's Pea Soup 

from Elise

1 lb dried green split peas

8 cups cold water
4 T oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp salt
bit of lemon zest
[1 tsp dried savory if you have it]

Wash peas. Let them sit in cold water for 12 hours. Heat your oil in a soup pot. Add onion, cook until transparent. Pour in the peas with their water.They will start creating big puffs of scum. Skim that off. Then add salt, zest [and savory]. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat. Cover and let simmer. Madame Benoît says two hours, until tender. Depending on your peas, it could need more. They will be soft when ready. For creaminess, sieve. If you have some left over, you will find that when you take it out of the fridge the next day it has thickened. Just add some water when reheating.

1652 cals and 110 protein / 7 = 236 cals and 16 g protein per meal / 1/2 serving fruit/veg


Multiply this bread recipe by 2. Mix it all up, let it rise, and if you like divide into 7 very small loaves. Eat one the first day, and freeze 6. 

Eat one per day: half with your pea soup and half for snacks with your hummus.

340 cal/ 10 g protein per day


Toast with hummus -- 1/2 c hummus/day (1/2 c hummus = 180 cal / 8 g protein)

Tahnini-less budget hummus

Left over from dinner recipes you have:

3/4 c dry lentils (1.5 c cooked) = 210 cals / 24 g protein

1 c cooked chickpeas = 16 g protein / 220 cals
1/2 c dry beans (1 c cooked) = 140 cals / 18 g protein

So make 3 batches of hummus:

1 - 1.5 c chick peas, lentils or beans
1 T lemon juice
(add 1/2 T vinegar if you want more tartness)
2 T oil
1 clove garlic
1 t salt

Puree in blender; or else mince garlic, mash beans well, and mix everything together.

[And of course, if you're lucky enough to have tahini in your cupboard, you can make regular hummus by adding 1 T tahini before mixing.]

all hummus together = 1308 cals and 58 g protein / 7 = 186 cals and 8 g protein/day

Daily breakfast, lunch and snack total: 1706 cal, 56 g protein and 1.5 serving fruit/veg 


Budget Mujadarah

1.5 c lentils 
6 T oil 
2 t salt
3/4 c brown rice 
3 chopped onions 

Put brown rice in a pan with 1.5 c cold water, bring to a boil, then turn down heat, cover, and simmer on lowest for 45 minutes. (Or, if you've already cooked and frozen the rice, take it out of the freezer to defrost.) 

Put the lentils in 4 cups cold water, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer on low for 25 minutes (or more, depending on your lentils.) 

Put onions in a pan with the oil and salt. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Take out half and add to the cooking lentils. [If you happen to have allspice, add 1 t at this point.]

Continue cooking the others until they start to get brown and crispy, at least 10 more minutes. 

When the lentils and rice are done, mix them together with any oil left in the onion pan. Top with crispy onions.

T= 1785  / 892/meal and  57 g protein total = 28.5 g protein/meal

Two servings: 892 calories and 28.5 g protein / serving


Steam the broccoli until it's bright green. Then either eat it like that, or put it in a blender with 1/2 c water and 1 t salt, and blend and blend, until completely smooth. Add more water a little at a time, until you get a nice thick soup consistency. [If you have pepper, add some.] It's so simple, but it's actually a great soup, one I eat all the time. Works with cauliflower too. 

Two servings; 52 cal, 3.5 g protein and 3.5 serving fruit/veg per meal

On Mujadarah days, the whole-day calorie total is 2836, protein total is 98 g and fruit/veg total is 5 servings

Chana saag

Use recipe on this blog, but omit spices and increase oil to 4 T. The onion, garlic, ginger and salt will still give it a nice flavor. For the chickpeas, use 1/2 of your 1-lb bag, cooked (should be about 2.5 cups). 

Serve with flatbread made from the remaining flour: 3 x 100-cal flatbread per meal (that 300 cal of flatbread has 9 g protein)

Chana saag has 1398 cals, 43.5 g protein and 7 servings of fruit/veg  /  2 meals = 698 cal, 18 g protein and 3.5 servings fruit/veg per meal


1 1/2 c flour

1/2 c water 
1 T oil (optional)
3/4 t salt. 

Mix together, knead until smooth. Make into 6 balls. Let rest, covered with a dish towel, for an hour. Roll out each ball into a circle, making it very thin (half as thick as a pancake). Put a dry skillet over medium heat. 

You don't have to use oil in your skillet (many recipes say not to), but if you haven't added any to your dough you can use that in your pan instead, if you like. 

Cook each dough circle a few minutes on each side until done.  

600 cals (+123 if oil is used) and 18 g protein/ 2 = 300 cal and 9 g protein/ meal

If you have time, here's a slightly more involved recipe for flatbread, using the same ingredients.

Daily total on chana saag days: 2704 cal, 83 g protein and 5 servings fruit/veg

Budget beans and rice

3/4 lb dry beans, cooked = about 3 3/4 c 
1.5 c dry rice, cooked = about 3 c 
6 T oil
half a head of garlic--about 5 cloves (5 t chopped)
1 T vinegar

Mince garlic and put in a pan with the 4 T oil. [Add red pepper if you have any.] Heat gently for a min. Add beans, and cook on med-low about 10 minutes, till hot. [If you happen to have cocoa powder, add some.] Salt to taste, add vinegar, and cook 10 minutes more. Serve over rice with salsa on top.

Beans and rice: 2268 cals and 45 g protein /3 = 756 cals and 15 g protein/ meal

Budget salsa

1 minced hot green pepper, to taste

1 small clove garlic, minced (scant 1 t)
1 T chopped onion
2 t oil
1 t vinegar 
half a 28-oz can tomatoes
salt to taste   

Strain the chopped tomatoes over a bowl to save the liquid. Put the drained tomatoes in a bowl, and mix in everything else. [If you have red wine vinegar, use that instead of plain.] Then add back some of the liquid until you get the consistency you like.

Salsa: about 90 cals, 3.5 g protein and 7 servings fruit/veg  / 3 = 30 cals, 1 g protein and 

2 1/3 servings fruit/veg  / meal

Elise's kale 

(Other greens can be cooked this way, too!) Remove kale from thick stems. Put a splash of water into a large skillet. Add a big pinch of salt [or a splash of tamari if you have some] and a grated clove of garlic. Add kale. Bring the water to boiling, turn down to a simmer, and cover. Check every couple of minutes and remove when kale is wilted and tender. 

If you like, you can add some chopped onion sauteed with oil and salt, as you will have about one leftover onion and a couple of tablespoons of oil.

160 cal, 12 g protein and 4 servings fruit/veg  /  3 = 53 cal, 4 g protein and 1 1/3 servings fruit/veg /  meal

Daily total on beans and rice days: 2545 cals, 76 g protein and 5 servings of fruit/veg


How to get it all done

Shop on Saturday and plan to spend Sunday cooking.

On Saturday night, set the split peas, chick peas and black beans to soak.

Mix up your bread dough and set it in a warm place to rise overnight.

Put the onions in the fridge, which will make them easier on your eyes when you chop them tomorrow.

On Sunday, divide the dough into 7 loaves and make the bread. When it's cool, wrap and freeze 6 of the loaves.

Make the flatbread. Freeze it.

Cook up all the rice, chick peas, beans and 3/4 c of the lentils. This will take up your whole stove for a while but otherwise is easy, since all you have to do is put them to simmer on the stove for the recommended time.  

When that's done, rinse a couple of pots and make the mujadarah and the pasta alla ceci, and the pea soup. Freeze whatever you won't eat in the next day or two. 

Make the three kinds of hummus. Freeze whatever you won't eat in the next day or two. (Or make them fresh when you need them--it's fast.)

After cooking, chop the rest of the onions, using a food processor if you have one (if your eyes can stand doing them all at once--hard even with a food processor!) Put in the freezer.

Chop the rest of the garlic and freeze. 

Freeze what's left of the rice, cooked beans and cooked chick peas.

Or if you like, you can make the chana saag and the rice and beans ahead of time, too, and freeze them.


That's it! Nothing luxurious about this meal plan, but it will get you through a cold winter week.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Vegan Enchiladas

Something else I want to try this week! From Josh Smith:

I made these the other day by combining a few recipes I found online.  If you need a hearty dose of Mexican food, these things are amazing.  You can double the recipe too because they are really good on day 2.  I'm only cooking for 2 here, so the regular recipe gave me plenty for leftovers. 

Vegan Enchiladas
Serves 6

6 Flour Tortillas (Wheat or white, whatever you prefer)
2 Cloves garlic minced
1 Jar of Enchilada Sauce (I've made my own, but it's quicker with the jar).
1 Can Black beans (Drained and rinsed)
1 Small can of corn
1 package sliced mushrooms
1 Green Pepper diced
1 medium Onion Diced
1 Small green zucchini 
1/2 cup fresh cilantro and more for serving. 
Olive Oil for sauteing the veg  
1 bottle of beer
2 jalepenos removed from canned green chilies in the Mexican isle at store chopped.  If you want less spice just add 1. 
1/2 pack of taco seasoning.  (I think Ortega is free of Hydro oils and MSG). 

Optional add ons: Black olives
                           Vegan Cheese
                           Green Salsa for Serving
                           Fresh tomatoes
                           Vegan Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 350.  

Add olive oil to bottom of a pan and put at medium heat.  Once oil is heated, add onions.  Saute until fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add mushroom and toss around until coated with oil.  Fry until mushrooms begin releasing liquid.  I usually put the heat a little higher at this point to get a nice crust on the onions and mushrooms.  Reduce head back to medium and add green pepper.  Continuing tossing veg until some of the green begins leaving green peppers. Add Zucchini.  Toss to coat with oil. Add 1/2 cup beer (then consume the rest : ).  Add 1/2 packet of taco seasoning (You can add more if you wish too, but note that it can get very salty quickly). Add jalepenos, garlic, corn and black beans and 1/2 cup fresh cilantro.   Lower heat and stir, then simmer for approx 5 min.  

Grease casserole dish with olive oil or desired oil.  Spoon mixture into tortillas and put in dish seam side down. Pour whole jar of enchilada sauce over enchiladas and smooth with spoon to coat them.  You can add vegan cheese if you wish. Bake for 25-35 minutes until sauce turns a little darker.