Vegan Potluck

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I love potlucks because I get to try lots of new things. I mentioned on Monday a recent potluck that was southern themed. It was super yummy and this was my first plate. These are all the yummy things on the plate, and all vegan!

Pulled tempe sandwich

Texas caviar and corn chips

Slaw

BBQ tofu

Greens

Macaroni and cheese

I highly recommend finding or organizing a potluck in your community. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and try new foods. Check out meetup.com, Google for a vegan blog in your town, and ask the waitstaff at your local vegan or vegetarian hangouts. There may already be a vegan potluck in your near future!

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Southern Greens

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The theme of a recent potluck was southern cooking, so I cooked up a mess of greens. It was the perfect side dish.

What you will need:

6 cups of chopped greens, I used collard, mustard, and turnip

1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 tsp coconut oil

Pepper to taste

In a large skillet, add coconut oil, onion, and greens. Cook over medium high heat until the greens reach the texture you enjoy. Less time for crispy greens and more time for softer greens. Turn off heat and stir in some pepper. I used about an 1/8th of a teaspoon. Move to a serving bowl and enjoy!

Vegcoach

Vegcoach

There is a new job title in Italy; Vegcoach. This person does many of the things I offer, with one addition. Vegcoaches work with aspiring vegetarians and vegans to help outline easy ways to change one’s diet. They keep a balanced approach to eating in mind and even go to the grocery store with clients to help them learn to shop. I certainly know how reading lots of labels can be daunting, especially when first learning which ingredients to avoid.

In my classes I have walked through ingredients and labels, but maybe my next class needs to go on an old fashioned field trip. Sounds like fun! One-on-one coaching is certainly a possibility too.

Grilled Cheese

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Grilled cheese sandwiches were something I missed more many years. Only recently have there been vegan cheeses I enjoyed enough to cook with. Now I enjoy them when I don’t have time to cook a more elaborate meal. The key to a great grilled cheese sandwich is to not rely on the cheese for flavor. Also, cook on a pan with a lid.

What you will need:

2 slices of yummy bread, can use gluten free bread

Vegan cheese you enjoy

Baby spinach

Thinly sliced mushrooms

Thinly sliced ripe tomato

Vegan margarine

Place a frying pan over medium heat and let preheat. Lay your two slices of bread open and spread margarine evenly over both slices. On one slice only, add a layer of vegan cheese, spinach, mushroom, and tomato. Close your sandwich with the other slice of bread, margarine side in the sandwich. If you really like vegan cheese, add another small layer of cheese over the tomato before closing the sandwich. You should be looking at a side of the bread that does not have any margarine spread on it. Go ahead and spread margarine on that side too. Carefully turn the sandwich over and set into preheated pan, margarine side down. Now spread margarine on the final side of bread that has no margarine on it. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 3 minutes. Using a spatula, check the side that is cooking. If brown and crispy, move the sandwich to your plate and let sit a moment. If not ready, keep cooking that same side until it reaches the brownness you enjoy. After a moment of cooling on your plate, use your hands to hold the sandwich together and carefully turn and place back in the pan to cook the other side. Smash slowly with your spatula before replacing the lid to cook another 3 minutes or until the second side reaches the brownness you enjoy. Yum!

Tips for Eating Out

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Eating vegan in many restaurants can be challenging. But, there are a few things you can do to make the experience easier.

  1. If you know where you are going, look up the menu ahead of time online and call with any questions. This way you know exactly what you want when you arrive.
  2. When making a reservation, make sure the restaurant will cater to a vegan and in the reservation have it note a vegan will be at the meal. This way the chef can plan ahead.
  3. Keep a list of local places available in your mind that are vegan friendly for when someone asks, “where would you like to go?”
  4. Ask the waitstaff at the restaurant about items on the menu. For example, don’t assume a veggie burger is vegan.
  5. If asking the waitstaff at the table seems awkward, excuse yourself for the bathroom as soon as you sit and then find your server away from the table or talk to the bartender.
  6. If you land at a place unprepared and it seems there is nothing on the menu you can eat, look at the ingredients of other dishes and see if you can fashion something together. For example, lots of places have veggies and rice, they just might not have them together as a meal. If you share what you are trying to do with the waitstaff, they will often get the chef to make you something special from things they already have. They do this in hopes for a bigger tip, so please give a little more when seeking a little help.

Waffles

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Looks enticing, right? Weekends often offer a little more time to cook and I can long for brunch. Waffles with a green smoothie always hit the spot!

What you will need, in addition to a waffle iron:

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour

3/4 cup unbleached flour

2 TBS sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 sea salt

2 TBS canola oil

1/2 cup almond milk or soy milk

1/2 cup cold water

Start heating your waffle iron right away so it is nice and hot when you are ready. Strain all the dry ingredients together and stir. Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients. Stir just until mixed, but still lumpy. Like pancakes, the batter should be lumpy. Every waffle iron is different and has different specifications for cooking. Make sure you are following your waffle iron needs. For mine, I scoop 1/2 a cup of batter into each half of the iron and cook for six minutes. The directions say seven minutes, but I find the waffles to be too crunchy after seven minutes. Again, yours may make bigger or smaller waffles and need a different amount of time to cook. Enjoy!

Go Picnic

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If you have a hectic life, Go Picnic should be part of it. A healthy meal in a box and no refrigeration needed. I keep one stashed at my desk for days I just can’t get away and they are perfect for any meal on the go when I don’t have time to make a sandwich. I know, who doesn’t have time to make a sandwich? Me.

There are several vegan and gluten free options. The almond butter, hummus, and sun butter are my favorite and higher in protein than some of the others so they keep me full longer. I opened the hummus box and laid out each piece of it in the photo.

In addition to having fun eating these, there is a Sudoku puzzle in the box. The makers have thought about each piece of their meal experience. Only once have I had the time to work on the puzzle. Which is too bad because I really like Sudoku puzzles.

I originally found these at a grocery store in the next town over. Now I order them from Amazon and have access to all the vegan options.

Sweet Potato Stew

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We actually got more snow last week, so I am encouraged to post another crock pot creation. Again, my crock pot is very large and the recipe should be halved for most normal sized crock pots. What you will need:

1 cup uncooked brown rice

2 cans kidney beans, undrained

1 onion

1 bunch red chard, chopped

3 medium sweet potatoes

2 not-chick’e bouillon cubes

1 no salt added vegetable bouillon cube

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

9 cups water

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours. Stir before serving. It’s delicious!

 

Community Supported Agriculture

DeanAtBlackSheep

Farming in the United States is very different today compared to what my grandparents experienced. Industrial farming and refrigeration have fundamentally changed what we eat, how we eat, and, for many, our relationship with food. Small local farms are not what they used to be and in order to survive have developed several techniques to get their product out to desiring customers. One way is through Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs. A local farm, or co-op of local farms, asks community members to pay ahead for their harvest and in return provide a weekly share of the harvest. It helps farms stay financially afloat and ensures the harvest goes to people who want it and will eat it.

I truly love being part of a local CSA. Not only do I feel like I am contributing to my community in a meaningful way, but I am getting the best quality local and seasonal vegetables and fruits. They taste fantastic and were picked only a day or two before I get to eat them. Yum! Most CSAs practice organic farming, seed saving, grow heirloom varieties, and grow produce indigenous to the area, in addition to popular produce.

Different CSAs do different things. The photo above is me helping out on the small farm that was my CSA last summer. The farmers felt their customers should understand what farming was like and asked that everyone contribute at least 10 hours to the farm over the summer. Some CSAs will actually trade farm work for produce.

You can learn more and find a local CSA here. I highly recommend joining one.