December 30, 2011

Corn Chowder

I adapted the corn chowder recipe from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook (by Marion Cunningham) to make it vegan.

Corn Chowder
  • two onions, diced (or one jumbo onion)
  • 3-4 minced cloves of garlic, optional
  • 8 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes (the extra large ones that each make 2 cups of broth)
  • 4 cups unsweetened milk (I have used Almond Breeze or soy milk)
  • 4 cups corn, either frozen or fresh
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, optional (I used Earth Balance, which made the soup rich and yummy)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Sautee the onions and garlic in a few tablespoons of oil (or water, if you're watching the fat) until transluscent and fragrant. Add the potatoes, bouillon, and 6 cups of water, bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the milk, corn, butter, salt (it's important to taste the soup before adding any salt, because it may already be salty enough between the bouillon and the butter) and pepper and simmer for 5 more minutes or so. Then, if you like a thicker soup (like I do), pull out 2 to 4 cups of the soup and blend it until smooth, then add back into the pot with the rest of the soup and stir until thoroughly combined. The soup is hearty and yummy (and omni-approved!) and is the soup equivalent of wrapping yourself in a blanket. It's even better served with bread, crackers, or croutons.

What food(s) do you make when you seek warmth or comfort?

Vegan on a Shoestring

December 28, 2011

Candy Cane Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels

I put parchment paper on a baking sheet. Then I put candy canes in a sandwich bag and crushed them with the bottom of a pint glass (classy!) and put them in a wide, shallow container. Then I melted some chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave. I coated each pretzel with chocolate, shook off the excess or wiped any drips with a spatula, then held it over the candy cane container where I liberally sprinkled the candy cane crumbs on, then laid it on the baking sheet. When the sheet was full, I put it in the fridge until the chocolate solidified, about 15 minutes. I repeated until I reached the desired amount of pretzels. One bag of chocolate chips was juuust enough to coat half a pound of pretzels (I was scraping the bowl of chocolate with a silicone spatula), and 9 crushed candy canes was enough to stick to the chocolate.

These might look really candy-caney, but they were not overly minty at all. The saltiness, sweetness and minty-ness were perfectly balanced.

What sweet treats do you enjoy this time of year?

Vegan on a Shoestring

November 10, 2011

Bean Sprout and Tofu Stir-Fry

In a hot pan with some oil, I stir-fried bean sprouts, sliced garlic, and fried tofu cubes (you can buy packages of them at Asian markets). About halfway through I added sesame oil and soy sauce. At the end I added chopped cilantro.

Do you prefer your bean sprouts cooked or raw? What dishes do you like them in?

Vegan on a Shoestring

November 7, 2011

Creamy Chive Mashed Cauliflower

A few years ago I made the non-vegan version of this dish and someone who hates cauliflower really liked it. It tastes like a sour cream and chive baked potato. The vegan version is omni-approved too.

Steam a head of cauliflower until tender, and mash with cream cheese (I used Tofutti "Better Than Cream Cheese") to desired richness (I used about 6 ounces for my taste), then add chives (I used 3 tablespoons of dried chives), garlic powder (I used about a teaspoon of it, just to add a little sumthin sumthin), salt and pepper to taste. I know it sounds weird that you only add cream cheese, but trust me, you've got to fight the urge to add Earth Balance or almond milk because they will not get absorbed and will just make your cauliflower watery and gross. Cream cheese only. I promise it works.

How do you like to make cauliflower?

Vegan on a Shoestring

November 4, 2011

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

On multigrain bread I put spicy mustard, a dash of garlic powder, the tiniest sprinkle of nutmeg, and a handful of cheese (part Daiya pepper jack and part Daiya mozzarella). I toasted the sandwich in a hot pan with olive oil, adding more oil to the pan when I flipped the sandwich to toast the other side (if you don't add more oil, the second side won't brown as well).

The texture of melted Daiya is awesome. You can see one small string in the back, but this picture doesn't do justice to the ooey-gooey stretchy melty goodness.

How do you like your grilled cheese sandwiches? What is your favorite cheese to use?

Vegan on a Shoestring

November 2, 2011

Indian Spiced Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Kheer is an Indian dessert. It's a creamy, soupy rice pudding and is supposed to be soupy, not thick like an American rice pudding. This recipe comes out soupy when served immediately, but when refrigerated it sets up like an American rice pudding. To keep it soupy even when chilled, you should omit the cornstarch and use only 1/2 cup of rice. This recipe makes more than 6 cups of cooked pudding and serves 6-8.

  • 8 cups almond milk (I used Almond Breeze vanilla almond milk. Yes, it's the entire half-gallon carton. No, it's not too much milk for the amount of rice. I promise.)
  • 1 cup long grain white rice (basmati rice would be more authentic)
  • 6 green cardamom pods, ground
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • Sweetener to taste: about 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4-1/2 cup agave nectar, or artificial sweetener. I wouldn't use maple syrup or honey, as they have strong flavors and it would affect the flavor of the dessert.
  • 3 Tablespoons raisins
  • 6 Tablespoons almonds and/or pistachios, sliced or chopped (I only had almonds on hand)
  • In a large pot stir together the almond milk, rice and cardamom and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the rice is cooked and the liquid has thickened and reduced almost to half (about 40 minutes to an hour). Stir frequently to avoid burning on the bottom of the pan and reduce "skin" formation of the milk (but don't worry, a little skin won't foil the recipe).
  • Spoon a ladle full of the reduced milk into a separate bowl and add the cornstarch. Stir well until smooth and thoroughly combined (no lumps!). Return this mixture to the pot and simmer a few more minutes.
  • Add the sweetener to taste, raisins, and nuts and cook a few more minutes.
You can serve the kheer warm or chilled. Here's what it looked like when warm and soupy:

What warm desserts do you like?

Vegan on a Shoestring

October 31, 2011

Chewy Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chip Bar

The result of my craving for something chewy and candy-bar-like that I could take on the go:

Chewy Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chip Bars (makes 2 bars)
  • 6 large dates (I used Medjool dates but if you're using smaller dates such as Deglet you would double the number)
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons shredded coconut
  • pinch of cinnamon and tiny dash of nutmeg, optional
  • 3 Tablespoons chocolate chips, mini ones are better if you can get them
In a food processor, chop the dates to fine pieces, at which point it'll be sticking together in lumps or on the sides of the bowl. (I don't have a food processor and was able to use my Magic Bullet for this but it took a lot of patience and shaking the contents around or scraping down the cup. I used the cross-blades.)

Add the almonds and process until combined and to desired consistency, then add coconut (and spices, if desired) and process for a couple of seconds until the coconut is chopped and not in large shreds anymore. Put the mixture in a bowl and add the chocolate chips, mixing with a spoon. Using your hands, or an oiled container, press the mixture firmly into bars or roll shapes. If using your hands, work quickly or the chocolate chips will melt.

Not the prettiest thing, but yummy just the same.

What on-the-go treats do you like?

Vegan on a Shoestring

October 29, 2011

Farm Sanctuary: New York City, Walk For Farm Animals

I went to the Walk For Farm Animals at Central Park last weekend. Since going Vegan, I haven't been to any veggie or animal rights events. Not only was this my first event as a Vegan, I was going alone, so I was really nervous. When I got to the event and tried to check in, I was told my name wasn't on the list. I thought, "This is a sign I'm not supposed to be here! I should just go home." But I was already there, and wanted to show my support. I wanted to be one more body in the crowd, one more person that a passerby would see walking for the lives of farm animals.

I really enjoyed the event. It was really motivating and empowering to be surrounded by so many like-minded people, all walking together for the same reason. Not everyone was vegan. Not everyone was even vegetarian. But there we all were, raising awareness for the same cause.

Are there any veggie or animal rights events are held in your area?

Vegan on a Shoestring

October 28, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

My cooking gas is back on!!!! For the last several weeks, I have been fantasizing about all the things I would do when my gas came back. Make cakes and cookies, roast lots of broccoli, make big pots of soup, kale chips... But today, for the first time since last winter, I saw brussels sprouts for a reasonable price, and I knew what I had to do. Roasted brussels sprouts!

Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite veggies to roast. They make my apartment smell like farts, but it's so worth it! They come out of the oven crispy on the outside, tender to the bite, brown and salty, and roasting brings out a nutty flavor and slight sweetness. There are a lot of recipes that combine roasted brussels sprouts with nuts (for example, hazelnuts or chestnuts) and it's no wonder that the two go so well together. Here is a basic recipe to roast brussels sprouts all by themselves. These are best served immediately. They're good as leftovers, but not quite the same because the crispiness gets lost.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Preheat oven to 450F.
  • Trim all the sprouts (remove brown ends of stems, and yellow leaves) and cut them in half lengthwise (so that each half has the stem intact).
  • In a bowl or a zipper bag, coat the sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread evenly on a single layer on a pan. (Or, if you're lazy like me, you could just spread them on a pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.)
  • Bake for about 30-35 minutes until well browned and tender to taste, turning them with a spatula at least every 10 minutes or so, so they brown evenly on both sides and don't stick to the pan.

What is your favorite way to cook brussels sprouts?
Do you like to dress up your brussels sprouts or just eat them as is?

Vegan on a shoestring

October 3, 2011

French Onion Dip

This weekend I was craving chips and french onion dip. Luckily for me, Tofutti's "Better Than Sour Cream" was on sale (2 for $4!) so I got to try vegan sour cream for the first time. Of course the first thing I had to do was taste it by itself, right out of the tub. It wasn't bad! I don't know if it could pass for dairy sour cream on an omni's palate, but I will definitely buy it again for myself should the mood strike to use it on a baked potato or something.

I used the whole container with a packet of Lipton's onion soup/dip mix. The mix calls for 16 ounces of sour cream but the Tofutti container is 12 ounces. I used the whole envelope anyway, figuring that the extra seasoning would cover any trace of "fakeness" of the sour cream. I let the dip chill for about half an hour before trying it.

The dip came out SO good. It was flavorful, creamy, and very thick. An omni was absolutely shocked and said that it would, and I quote, "definitely" pass for standard onion dip and that if I ever serve it at a party I should keep quiet and then shock everyone after they taste it. The only thing is that it came out slightly salty, so next time I will only use 3/4 of the onion packet, or use the whole packet add the extra 4 ounces of sour cream from a second tub of sour cream. I guess I should have been more confident about the Tofutti!

What is your favorite brand of vegan sour cream?
What kinds of chips and dips do you like?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 28, 2011

Almond Milk Taste Test

All the almond milks I tasted were unsweetened plain almond milk, except for Trader Joe's which was unsweetened vanilla (they didn't carry plain). Trader Joe's milk is not pictured because I tried it before starting this blog and never bought it again.

Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
I found Trader Joe's brand of almond milk in their refrigerated section in a half gallon carton that was cheaper than the brand names, so I got it. The flavor was okay. The texture was much thicker than I have ever had with any nondairy milk, but not creamy - it tasted artificially thick, almost slimy. I couldn't believe that a nut milk would produce such a weird texture, and upon checking the ingredients I was worried to see a lot of ingredients that I didn't recognize and looked like they came out of a chemistry book. The milk was white and somewhat transluscent like murky water, but I don't remember seeing any particles floating around.

Pacific Natural Foods Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk, organic
The milk came in a quart size asceptic box. The flavor was okay, but it tasted a little watered down. The texture was less slimy than the Trader Joe's, but still watery and not really much like a milk. It wasn't creamy and rich. If you look at the individual picture below, you can actually see particles suspended in the liquid. The milk was beige, with obvious particles, and slightly translucent, like murky water.
365 Whole Foods brand Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk, organic
I picked up the quart size asceptic box but the milk is also available in half-gallon refrigerated cartons. The flavor was similar to Pacific Natural Foods, that slightly watered-down almond flavor. The texture was a slight improvement over Pacific Natural Foods, but again if you look at the close-up picture you see particles suspended in the liquid. The milk was off-white/slightly beige, with small visible particles, and slightly translucent, like murky water.
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk
Like the 365 Whole Foods brand, this milk also comes in asceptic boxes and refrigerated cartons. I have tried both and they taste exactly the same, the only difference is that the refrigerated half-gallon carton is a better deal. The almond flavor is comparable to the other three brands above, but the texture is on a whole other level. The milk is smooth, creamy, and rich, like I expect a milk to be. The texture brings the almond flavor to a height beyond that of the other brands I tried. The smoothness and creaminess of the milk helps deliver the flavor nicely in your mouth. The milk was white and opaque with no particles.

Clockwise from top: 365 Whole Foods brand organic (top, center), Pacific Natural Foods organic (bottom right), Blue Diamond Almond Breeze (bottom left). Compare the colors:

Blue Diamond Almond Breeze:

365 Whole Foods (notice the suspended flecks):

Pacific Natural Foods (notice the greater amount of suspended particles):

My favorite out of all the brands is Almond Breeze. I have also tried their other flavors such as sweetened plain, sweetened and unsweetened vanilla, and sweetened and unsweetened chocolate, and they are all delicious.
What is your favorite almond milk or other plant-based milk? What are important elements of a milk to you?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 19, 2011

Figs in Almond Milk

Figs were on sale so I jumped on it. I haven't had figs in a year, so this was a real treat.

I cut the figs into bite-size pieces (fourths or sixths, depending on the size of the fig) and poured Almond Breeze plain almond milk over them. It was so yummy and satisfying. The almond milk brought out the flavor and sweetness in the figs.

What fruits do you love?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 16, 2011

Cold Green Soup

Spawned off of Dara Dubinet's "one true thing" soup:

Into my Magic Bullet blender, I pushed a couple handfuls of spinach, one peeled lime, several sprigs of fresh dill, several sprigs of cilantro, garlic powder, salt, and just enough water to get the blender going (I also had to shake it a bit to get it started). When blended, the cup had a lot more space because the spinach leaves had decreased in volume due to being blended, so I opened the cup and added more spinach. I kept doing this until, when blended, the mixture was thick and almost filled the cup (by the end I was able to put in several handfuls of spinach, it's amazing how small it all gets when blended!). At the end I added half an avocado and blended one more time until thick and creamy. I topped the soup with nutritional yeast and homemade lentil sprouts. It was delicious, thick, creamy, and filling.

Do you enjoy soup in the summer? What types do you like?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 14, 2011

Beets and Beans Salad

(Still no cooking gas!!)

Easy salad, comes together in 10 minutes or less. The hardest part is grating the carrots and beetroot, which took me all of 5 minutes. Just combine the following ingredients in a big bowl:
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • one beet root, shredded (tip: if you got the beets with their greens attached, leave a couple inches of stem on the root when you cut away the greens, so you have something to hold on to when you grate the root)
  • 2 cups beans (I used white great northern beans)
  • small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar, or you can use white or brown sugar but you'd probably have to let the salad rest before serving
  • salt to taste
Beet root with stems attached as a handle for grating:

Final product:

What are some of your favorite cold salads?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 12, 2011

Vegan Bacon, Goodness Gracious!

I always see Lightlife's Smart Bacon at Whole Foods but have refrained from buying it.

(Picture from

I don't know why I've been putting it off. Maybe it was the price, or maybe it was the fear of being sorely let down. In the meantime, since becoming vegan I have made tempeh bacon a couple of times. It came out good enough to hit the smoky-salty spot, but was no contender for the "real" thing, especially in terms of texture.

Last weekend, I finally gave in and tried the packaged stuff (encouraged, of course, by a $1 coupon on the Lightlife website). When I first opened the package, I was disappointed. The bacon looked, smelled, and felt really fake. The instructions say to lightly spray a pan with oil/cooking spray and fry the strips for only a few minutes, flipping halfway through. But I am a maaajor crunchophile. My bacon always needed to be crunchy, and by that I mean that it had to crumble to pieces when crushed in my hand. Some people would have called that "burned" but I called it "perfect." So with these Lightlife strips, I fried the crap out of them, in a few tablespoons of olive oil. I fried them for about 10 minutes, at least. After a couple of minutes, they curl up all crazy and you think they're going to stay like that, but when you flip them and they start to warm up on the other side and you coax them a little with the spatula, they flatten right back out again. This is what they looked like when they were almost finished cooking:

By the time I took them out of the pan, they had shrunk (like real bacon) and when I picked them up on the spatula, the half of the strip that extended over the edge did not flop and hang, it stayed straight and solid, nice and crunchy looking. And then I tasted it.

Oh. Em. Gee.

It was so good that I actually started laughing when I tried it. It tastes just like the bacon I remember, smoky and salty. The texture was slightly tougher than animal bacon because it is leaner. I think the texture is very similar to a turkey bacon.

This bacon is also omni-approved. The response was something like, "I can tell it's not the real thing, but it's really close."

I made a BLT, putting it on whole grain bread with Vegenaise, tomato, and lettuce. It was absolutely sinful. And then I enjoyed the rest of the strips all by themselves. Yeah, I'm a beast.

With these veggie bacon strips available, I am sure that I will never miss animal bacon ever again. The Lightlife bacon strips are WELL worth the splurge.

Do you ever treat yourself to veggie meats? What is your favorite?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 6, 2011

Quick Gazpacho

I filled my Magic Bullet blender to the top with heirloom grape tomatoes, added a few sprigs of cilantro, juice of one lemon, a dash of salt, and just enough water to get the blending going. I poured the cold soup into a bowl and topped with nutritional yeast.

It doesn't look red like a gazpacho should, because half of the tomatoes were yellow.

Do you like any chilled soups? What kinds?

Vegan on a Shoestring

September 2, 2011

Kale and White Beans

This dish is protein packed, nutritious, and tastes sooo good! The broth reminded me of white clam sauce. This dish would be even better if garnished with fresh parsley.

If you can, try to cook the beans from scratch. A pound of great northern beans cost me $1.59 and made me about 5 cans' worth of cooked beans.

Kale and White Beans

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bunches kale, leaves only, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used vermouth)
  • 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup warm water (I used a large Knorr vegetable bouillon cube), or 1 cup broth
  • 3 cups cooked white beans
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste (I didn't end up having to add salt because the bouillon was salty enough)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • In a large pot on medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic for just a minute or two until fragrant and the onion is just beginning to get translucent.
  • Add the chopped kale, wine, and broth. Cover the pot and cook until the kale becomes tender, about 10-15 minutes. Stir about halfway through.
  • Add the beans, butter, basil/parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir, cover again and cook until the beans are warmed through, a few minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, add lemon juice, stir thoroughly, and serve.

What's your favorite combination of beans and greens?

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 29, 2011

Iron, and Spinach Salad

I have an appointment to donate blood platelets this weekend. I've donated blood numerous times but one time I tried to donate platelets and my iron wasn't high enough, so I had to give regular blood instead. The NY Blood Center sent me an e-mail last week offering a $25 gift certificate for a platelet donation, so I want to make sure my iron is good and high this time so I can give the platelets and treat myself to something nice. In order to increase my blood iron, I've been putting a lot of effort into eating more beans and leafy greens.

Here is a spinach salad with heirloom grape tomatoes, avocado, dill, cilantro, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Vitamin C (which is in the tomatoes and lemon juice) are supposed to help the iron get absorbed.

I hope all of this works. But if not, at least I've found some tasty ways to eat healthier!

Have you ever had to increase your blood iron? What works for you?

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 27, 2011

Farm Sanctuary - Walk for Farm Animals

I am participating in Farm Sanctuary's "Walk for Farm Animals" this fall. Please support the life-saving protection of abused farm animals by donating on my page. All donations go directly to Farm Sanctuary. It only takes pennies a day to keep an animal safe and happy, so whether you are able to donate $1, $10, $20, or more, an animal at the sanctuary will feel your generosity every new peaceful day he/she lives.

If you donate $10 by midnight on Friday 9/2 I'll hand-draw you a 4x6 picture of your favorite animal. I'm no artist, but I promise to imbue the drawing with love and good wishes! When you make your donation, please let your e-mail address be visible to me, and I will e-mail you and ask for your mailing address and an animal of your choice.

Don't have any cash to donate? Take one day next week and skip the take-out for lunch. Make a PB& J instead, take the $5-$10 you saved, and donate it. I have lots of other money-saving tips on my donation page. 

I also want to stress this: I strongly believe that no matter what lifestyle you're currently choosing to live, donating to Farm Sanctuary (or any other animal welfare organization) does not make you a hypocrite. I don't care if you eat meat and cheese every day, supporting the cause is a generous gesture and a big help to protect animals. You would be raising awareness and actively doing something to help, and that is more than other people will do.

Thank you for your generosity.

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 26, 2011

Lettuce Rollups with Hummus

My gas is still off. I hope I don't get a Con-Ed bill this month because this is ridiculous. The super gave me an electric hot plate but it takes foreeever to heat things up. I've been eating a lot of salads, smoothies, and fruits.

I took romaine leaves and topped them with hummus, sprouts, and a beautiful heirloom tomato. The tomato was $3.99 per pound so for the huge tomato it was about $3-4 but it was so worth the splurge. It was the most flavorful, sweet tomato I'd ever had. Heirloom tomatoes and heirloom grape tomatoes have been on sale every week at Whole Foods so I've been indulging. They are so tasty and make my meals a lot more special. 

Do you ever use dips on lettuce instead of bread, or on sliced veggies instead of chips? What is your favorite combination? 

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 22, 2011

Jerk Tempeh Spread/Salad/Filling

This idea was spawned from a previous super yummy tempeh sandwich I made. I wanted something spicy and different, a sandwich that took me on a little vacation.

Jerk Tempeh Spread/Salad/Filling
  • 4 ounces (half a package) tempeh, steamed (or, microwaved in a bowl of water for a few minutes) 
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I used original Vegenaise)
  • 2 teaspoons jerk seasoning, or to taste (I used Grace brand hot seasoning, from the jar)
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce (you can use Annie's brand)
  • salt to taste (I didn't add any because the jerk and worcestershire were salty enough)
Combine all the ingredients and mash together until well-combined and has a consistency like tuna or chicken salad.

I used the spread on multigrain bread with avocado, green tomato, and chopped onion. It was good the first time, but much much better the second time after the spread had been chilling overnight and the flavors had developed.

What kind of flavors do you like in a sandwich? Smoky, spicy, sour, salty, sweet...?

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 19, 2011

Vegan Cheese Showdown

In my omni days (and much more so during my attempts as a vegetarian) I was a big cheese-eater. Deli slices, blues, bries, hard cheeses, even the stinky washed name it, I loved it. There are many vegan cheeses on the market and most of them are priced comparably to conventional cheeses (but are just as high in fat, so beware!), but what of their taste? Here are the results of my quest for good cheese.

FYH Mozzarella style cheese, cold and by itself, has a mild flavor and tastes like oil or vegan butter. The texture is oily, softer than mozzarella, and of course it isn't stringy like its namesake, but it's sliceable. When I used it on a pizza, it melted and bubbled like conventional cheese and it looked nice. Upon eating it, the first thing I noticed was that the melted cheese left a film on the roof of my mouth. The second thing I noticed was that my pizza tasted like I had topped it with a sturdier, melty version of Earth Balance. Overall, FYH Mozzarella was a decent solution to a craving for melty, creamy cheese, but I never bought it again. (Tip: this cheese takes a while to melt and can burn all of a sudden, so you have to keep an eye on it.)

Sheese Smoked Cheddar style cheese, cold and by itself, had a weird aftertaste that was so hard for me to get past that I didn't even try to eat it melted. The Bute Islands website touts it as a cheese that can be enjoyed alone, but I couldn't. The texture of the cheese was almost spot-on for a hard cheese such as cheddar. But the me it tasted like chemicals or something and just tasted really artificial. Maybe I need to try other flavors. Has anyone else tried Sheese? What did you think?

Daiya cheddar style shreds, cold and by itself, has a similar taste to the Follow Your Heart cheese, that vegan butter flavor, but leans more toward a mild cheese. I've also tried the Pepper Jack flavor and it also has the vegan butter flavor underlying the peppers. Daiya is supposed to melt and stretch like conventional cheese, and it really does. I've used it in grilled cheese sandwiches with great success, flavor-wise and texture-wise. On pizza it has a slight vegan butter flavor but the texture is much better than FYH. I used the Pepper Jack flavor in a vegan quiche and it was omni-approved by someone who is a major meat/cheese-alternative-phobe. (Tip: this cheese also takes a while to melt and can burn all of a sudden, so you have to keep an eye on it.)

Several months before I became vegan, I tried Dr. Cow Aged Tree Nut Cheese at an academic gathering because it was brought by a vegan student. As an omni I was really surprised by the cheese and liked it very much. The cheese definitely left an impression on me and planted a little seed: "If stuff like this exists, I guess it can't be so bad to be vegan!" I sought out Dr. Cow and bought it at least a few times before even becoming vegan. The Aged Tree Nut cheese comes in several varieties, most of which I have tried. All the aged cheeses have a texture almost as firm as cheddar so you can slice it when it's cold, but unlike cheddar you can spread it at room temperature. All the varieties have the same base flavor: a rich, barely nutty flavor with the tang of an actual aged cheese (which is because it actually is aged). Dr. Cow aged tree nut cheeses are definitely cheeses that stand on their own two feet and can be enjoyed alone, with wine, on plain crackers, or with fruits or nuts. I have never tried this cheese melted and suppose that it's really meant to be eaten alone, not melted into other foods, and I doubt that it melts like a conventional cheese anyway. The only downside about this cheese is the price. A very small 2.3 ounce wheel (about 2 inches in diameter and 2 inches high) goes for about $8.50, so this cheese is a really big splurge at about 6-8 times the unit price of the other vegan cheeses. This is a special occasion cheese for me. I tried to make this cheese at home and totally failed, but I'm not giving up. Stay tuned for posts on homemade nut cheeses.

Verdict: My favorite vegan cheese to eat on its own is Dr. Cow Aged Tree Nut Cheese (which is not only vegan, but raw), and my favorite vegan cheese for cooking is Daiya.

Here is the last Dr. Cow aged tree nut cheese I had. It was the blue algae flavor (hence the color).

Have you tried any storebought vegan cheese? What did you think of it?

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 16, 2011

Spicy Tempeh, Another Way

I took my leftover spicy tempeh filling and used it in a sandwich with shredded carrots, diced celery, and sliced avocado on multigrain bread. It was so yummy and satisfying and I would almost say it was better this way than in the sushi roll!

What leftovers do you throw into sandwiches?

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 11, 2011

Lunch in a Flash

I made lunch this morning before running out the door: between two slices of nutty multigrain bread I spread two tablespoons of peanut butter and laid down 3 leaves of romaine lettuce. Fast, yummy, and minimal clean-up.

Do you have any lunches that you throw together in a flash?

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 5, 2011


I love sushi. It's nice to look at, it tastes good, and it involves nutritious sea vegetables (iodine, anyone?). Unfortunately, it's also really pricy.

The first time I ever made sushi on my own, I was shocked at how little food actually went into making each maki roll (a sheet of nori, a handful of rice, and some thin strips of fillings). I regretted that I had ever paid $3.50 and up for each roll. I was also surprised at how easy it was to make and swore to never to buy sushi again.

I use Alton Brown's sushi rice recipe. It is important to stick with the short grain rice (also called sushi rice). Be careful not to get short-grain sweet rice by mistake (like I once did). I have tried substituting the sushi rice with medium-grain white rice and with long-grain brown rice, and both came out terribly. For the rice, you've got to stick with short-grain. There is also short-grain brown rice but I haven't tried it yet.

You will need one bamboo mat to roll the sushi. You can get one for $2-3 at an Asian market, or online for a couple dollars more. You will need to wrap the mat in plastic wrap so food doesn't get all up in the mat.

For my sushi today I made a spicy tempeh filling, inspired by The Post Punk Kitchen's recipe.

Spicy Tempeh Sushi (makes 4 rolls)
  • 4 ounces tempeh (half a package), steamed. (Or, in my case, microwaved in a bowl of water for a few minutes because my building's gas is still off.)
  • 2 Tablespoons mayo (I used original Vegenaise)
  • chili sauce to taste (I used 3 teaspoons of Sriracha)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 cups prepared sushi rice, a la Alton Brown
  • 4 sheets nori (unless you absolutely must have your nori raw or organic, I strongly suggest you get it from an Asian market where it is much much cheaper)
  • desired veggies, chopped finely or cut into long, thin strips
  • Mash the tempeh, mayo, chili sauce and sesame oil together until well combined and resembles tuna salad.
  • Take a nori sheet and lay it on your plastic-wrap-covered bamboo mat, shiny side down.
  • Spread a thin layer of sushi rice over the lower 3/4 of the sheet, leaving some nori exposed on the upper edge which you should wet lightly with your fingers so the roll seals properly (like an envelope). You will need about a cup of rice. The rice will be sticky so you'll need to work with wet hands and keep wetting them as needed.
  • In the center of the rice, lay strips of your ingredients.
  • Using the bamboo mat, fold the lower part of the roll over to tightly enclose the rice and fillings then finish rolling, up to the wet seal. It's really hard to explain and I don't know if I did it justice, so here is a link to a video.
I made one roll with the spicy tempeh (upper line) with shredded carrots and diced celery (lower line) with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over all.

The other roll had the spicy tempeh (upper line) with avocado (lower line) with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over all.

Yummy with pickled ginger on the side.

I get tempeh for $1.69 at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. A $1.69 block of tempeh is enough to make 8 rolls, which would feed 3-4 people. So that's only like $5-7, tops, (including the other ingredients) to feed sushi to a few people (but much cheaper if you avoid pricier fillings like avocado and tempeh). Nuts, I tell you!

Do you like sushi? What are some of your favorite fillings?

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 4, 2011

Easy Microwave Besan Ladoo

Indian sweets are the bane of my vegan existence. While they are extremely rich and decadent, they are mostly based on cow's milk or ghee. I have just veganized a favorite of mine: besan ladoo. The ladoos came out very flavorful and decadent.

The easiness and speed of this recipe is purely circumstantial. I decided to roast the besan in the microwave because the gas in my building was shut off and I was beasting too badly to wait it out.

Besan Ladoo

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (I used original Earth Balance)
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour (besan)
  • 2/3 cup sugar, regular or powdered
  • 1/3 cup almonds or pistachios, sliced or coarsely ground to preference
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (about 4-5 pods)
  • Combine butter and chickpea flour in a large microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for 5-8 minutes. Every minute, remove from microwave and stir. Stop microwaving when the flour darkens in color to an amber/reddish brown and smells roasted and fragrant, about 5-8 minutes depending on microwave strength. (If you taste a tiny lump and it tastes kind of acrid or sour, it's still raw. I know this because after 5 minutes it smelled super fragrant and I thought it was done but when I tasted it it tasted nasty, but after 2 more minutes or so, roasted loveliness!)
  • Add sugar, nuts and cardamom and combine thoroughly. Let sit to cool until still warm but not too hot to handle, about 10 minutes.
  • Put 2-3 Tablespoons into the palm of your hand and press tightly, into a ball shape. The texture will be crumbly - you won't be able to roll it between your palms like fudge, you will have to press it tightly and round it out by pressing with your fingertips. If the texture is so dry that it won't even be pressed together, add more melted butter a little at a time until it can be pressed. When you squeeze it with your hand, it should be able to stick together in a lump.
I got 14 ping-pong sized ladoo out of this recipe. Much cheaper and more convenient than buying it at an Indian sweet shop. For the sake of my waistline, I hope I can refrain from making this regularly.

Have you ever made candy/sweets using the microwave? 

Vegan on a Shoestring

August 2, 2011

Cooking Comfort Zone

I've always loved Indian food. It's full of interesting, complex, rich flavor and it's so filling and satisfying. While I'm great at eating and enjoying Indian food, I don't have a good track record at making Indian food. I don't know if it was me or the recipes I used, but I always turned out flavorless or strange-tasting dishes. After several failed attempts I resigned myself to buying Indian food if I wanted it. Indian food became a weak spot for me because it was something I loved so much but I had come to the conclusion that I could never make it for myself. It was far outside of my cooking comfort zone. Even since becoming vegan and cooking so many new foods, it still hadn't occurred to me to try again.

I started craving Indian food a couple of weeks ago. I bought a big load of samosas one day and worked on them for a couple of days. Then I bought some curry for lunch another day, and again a couple of days later. Then I was like, "Why don't I try to make this again?" 

Since finding Manjula's Kitchen and making her recipes, I definitely feel more competent at it. I have made several Indian dishes during the past week or two, with great success. Not only have my curries come out very tasty, they have not been difficult to make. I am on a serious Indian kick right now, spurred by cravings for it, and maintained by finally being able to produce it at home.

Of all the positive effects of veganism, I'm currently very grateful for opening myself up to experimenting more in the kitchen. I used to have a repertoire of recipes and cooking techniques to which I clung firmly. Since becoming vegan I appreciate food a lot more and trust it a lot more, and that has led me to push my old limits on what I'm willing to try. I make new foods all the time now. With every new dish I make, I am not only reaching outside of my cooking comfort zone, I am expanding it. It's good for me because I get to try new things and keep learning, and it's good for my loved ones because they also get to reap the pleasures and benefits of new, yummy, cholesterol-free, animal-free foods.

Do you have a cooking comfort zone? What dishes or cuisines are difficult for you to make?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 30, 2011

Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes (Aloo Gobi)

I made aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes) and it came out really good, flavorful and spicy. It's a drier dish, not saucy.

The recipe called for mango powder, which I didn't have, and I didn't substitute with anything because I wasn't in the mood for a sour dimension of flavor. Google search results indicate that I could have substituted with lime or lemon juice, or tamarind (which is yet another thing I don't have).

I substituted Jamaican hot pepper (scotch bonnet) for the green chillies and chopped them up finely since they're so hot. Also, as in a prior homemade Indian meal, I used garlic and onion powders to substitute for the asafetida.

Cauliflower and potatoes both have mild flavors. How do you dress them up when you're in the mood for something different?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 29, 2011

Indian Chickpeas (Chana Masala)

I made chana masala (chickpeas) and it came out reeeally good. It is a flavorful, spicy dish with a saucy curry. I didn't have a lot of the ingredients on hand, so here are my substitutions:

  • asafetida: garlic and onion powders, as in my last homemade Indian meal
  • gram flour (chickpea flour, or besan): whole wheat flour, which thickened up the curry just as nicely and didn't affect the flavor of the dish. White flour would work well too. 
  • green chillies: Jamaican hot pepper (scotch bonnet)
  • red chili powder (not to be confused with the Mexican-style chili powder you would find in most supermarkets; it is the powder of red chili pepper): cayenne

What bean/legume dishes do you like when you need a protein fix?
Do you prefer to eat saucy curry with rice, or with naan?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 28, 2011

Watermelon Rind Uses

Watermelon is my favorite fruit, and luckily for me it's in season right now which means it's highly available, fresh, sweet, and usually pretty cheap.

But what to do with the rind? While it might feel like the rind is useless and doesn't seem like a lot to throw away anyway compared to all that red flesh, the rind is actually several pounds worth, and you can actually use it!

I juiced the rind of half a watermelon and got a whole liter of juice. That means if you juiced the rind of one watermelon, you'd have a whopping half gallon of light, refreshing juice. To make it sweeter, you can save some of the red flesh to add to the juice, or add some apple.

My grandmother used to make a stir-fry out of watermelon rinds. You remove the tough outer skin from the rind, cut the rind into smaller pieces, and stir-fry with or without other veggies/proteins. It tastes like a cucumber stir-fry, so yummy.

How do you like to eat watermelon?
Do you do anything with the rind?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 27, 2011

Yogi Walnut Spice Crunch Cereal

One morning, wanting to buy something inexpensive for lunch because I hadn't prepared anything at home, I thought to get Whole Soy & Co. soy yogurt which was on sale for $.80 per cup. Wanting something hearty to top my yogurt, I grudgingly turned to granola. Granola is a huge ripoff (I will post about this another day) so it pained my frugal heart to look at that shelf.

And then I saw Yogi Walnut Spice Crunch. At about $5 for the 12-oz box, it was almost a steal as far as granola goes, so I got it. Of course when lunch time came and I took a closer look at the box, I saw that the Walnut Spice Crunch was actually a cereal and not a granola, which explained the price.

Much to my surprise and delight, the Walnut Spice Crunch turned out to look and taste a lot like granola - a really yummy granola. It was crunchy. It was nutty. It was hearty. It was SO delicious. It tasted like chai.

What is your favorite cereal/granola?
What do you like to put on your yogurt?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 26, 2011

Indian Cabbage With Peas, Red Lentil Dal, Spiced Rice

I made cabbage with peasred lentil dal (masoor dal), and spiced rice. The cabbage with peas came out great (next time I will use less salt, just my personal preference). The recipe called for asofetida, which I don't have, so I substituted with a dash each of garlic powder and onion powder. I also didn't have green chilies so my cabbage did not come out spicy-hot. The red lentil dal was creamy and mild and complemented the cabbage dish very nicely. The recipe calls for red lentils but mine were split red lentils, so they only took about 15 minutes to cook and not 40. For the spiced rice I made white rice as usual (with regular long grain rice because I didn't have basmati) but I spiced it with cumin seeds, cardamom, and bay leaf. I would have liked to add cloves but didn't have any. Next time I will toast the spices in oil prior to adding the rice.

Spiced Rice
Prepare long-grain or basmati rice as directed on the rice package. Prior to boiling the rice or turning the rice cooker on, add the spices and mix into the rice and water. For every cup of white rice you use, add:
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
3 pods of green cardamom
two bay leaves
dash of salt

Do you like Indian food? What kind of curries do you like?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 25, 2011

Peach Crisp

Almonds took this peach crisp to another level. Next time, I think I will use fresh ginger instead of powder.

  • 5 peaches
  • juice of 1 lemon (1 1/2-2 Tablespoons juice)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • dash of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
Slice the peaches, add lemon juice and toss to coat, add tablespoon of sugar and toss to coat. Place in oiled baking dish (mine is 9x9).

Stir oats, sugar, spices and salt until well combined. Drizzle oil into the dry ingredients while stirring, until the mix is crumbly, and set aside. 

Grind the almonds coarsely and stir into the crumble mixture. If you don't have a food processor or mortar and pestle you could put the almonds in a sandwich bag and smash them with something hard like a big stone or the bottom of a pan. I used my handy dandy Magic Bullet (short bullet with cross-blade - pulse, shake, pulse).

Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the peaches and bake at 400F until the peaches are soft and the  topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Do you prefer your fresh peaches crisp and tart, or juicy and sweet?
What do you call this kind of recipe, a "crisp" or a "crumble?" Do you think there's a difference, or are the names interchangeable? I feel like a crisp has more of a crunchy granola type of topping, while a crumble has more of a coffee-cake, floury topping. What do you think?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 24, 2011

Egg-Free Quiche (or, Tofu Pie)

I made my first vegan quiche and it came out great! I kept putting this off because I thought there was no way I could make a decent quiche without eggs, but now I see the light and I'm definitely going to make this again.

I also want to add that this quiche is omni-approved, the omni in question being a major tofu-phobe.

  • 2 1/2 cups of cooked veggies and/or meats (I used 1 1/2 cups of chopped kale, 1/2 cup diced onion and 1/2 cup crumbled Lightlife Gimme Lean sausage which is omni-approved)
  • 9-inch pie crust (I used a store-bought spelt crust)
  • 1 cup cheese (I used Daiya pepper jack style)
  • 1 lb tofu
  • 3 Tablespoons oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2-1 tsp turmeric (optional, for color)*
Cook the veggies and/or meats and set aside.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly on the bottom of the pie crust and set aside.

Blend the tofu and all remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy (it may require shaking the blender or scraping the sides down). Put into a large bowl, add the veggies/meats and stir until thoroughly combined.

Pour the filling into the crust (on top of the cheese layer) and smooth the top with a spatula or create a design. (The top of the filling will not flatten itself out as it cooks, so however you leave it is exactly how it will bake up.) Don't worry if the pie looks a little over-stuffed - the filling will not expand and spill over during baking, it will go down.

Bake at 350F until filling is set and top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Garnish with paprika.

*Keep in mind that however the filling looks while you're mixing it, it will come out at least twice as yellow after baking. I used one teaspoon of turmeric and the pie looked kind of nuclear with my kitchen light on. I would suggest using 1/2 or 3/4 of a teaspoon if you want it paler.

Looking nice in daylight:

Don't turn the light on! VEGAN QUICHE SMASH!

What savory pies do you enjoy?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 23, 2011

Chinese Broccoli, Tofu and Mushroom Stir-Fry

It's really, really hot outside. If I'm going to cook, it has to be fast. Time for some stir-fry action.

2 Tablespoons canola oil
4 cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped (depending on your preference)
1 large bunch of Chinese broccoli (about 2 lbs), cut into inch-long pieces
6 mushrooms, sliced (I used these Chinese mushrooms that smell like dirty feet, but they taste good. They are pictured in my recipe for Almost Instant Noodle Soup.)
1 package fried tofu cubes, cut into bite-size pieces (also pictured in the recipe for Almost Instant Noodle Soup)
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2-3 Tablespoons of soy sauce, to taste
2-3 stalks of chopped fresh cilantro, to taste

Heat the oil on high heat. Add the garlic, cut-up Chinese broccoli, and sliced mushrooms. The pan should sizzle and steam a lot. Stir while it begins to cook, then cover and cook about 7 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Add the tofu, drizzle the sesame oil and soy sauce over everything, stir to combine, cover and cook another 5 minutes or until the Chinese broccoli can be pierced with a fork. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

What veggies do you like in your stir-fry?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 22, 2011

Spa Salad

I had portobello mushrooms and didn't want to heat up my apartment by cooking, so I decided to pull a raw food trick and marinate them, which sweats them down to a cooked texture. I also had kale on hand so I pulled another raw food trick and massaged it, which helps it relax and soften a little and not be as crisp and tough. Due to the mushroom-sweating (reminiscent of a sauna, since it has to marinate) and the kale-massaging, I present to you: Spa Salad, a vegetable-pampering experience in the name of staying cool.

3 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon of maple syrup
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3 large portobello mushroom caps, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 cups kale (leaves only, no stems), chopped into big-mouth-bite-size pieces
1/2 white onion, sliced thinly

Stir together all the liquid ingredients and the sesame seeds. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir to coat thoroughly.
Massage the kale for about 10 minutes until the volume decreases and the leaves soften. Every couple of minutes while you massage the kale, stir the mushrooms.
Add the sliced onion to the mushrooms and stir to coat thoroughly, then add the kale and stir thoroughly. Several hours later, stir again and serve.

I enjoyed my Spa Salad with some leftover brown rice that I microwaved.

What is your favorite portobello mushroom dish?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 21, 2011

Protein Powder Taste Test: Soy vs. Rice

I always add protein powder to my smoothies and oatmeal. It adds a shot of nutrition, as well as creaminess and flavor.

I used to use a whey protein powder, but when I became vegan I switched to soy since the whey protein comes from cow milk. I got the Whole Foods brand vanilla flavor soy protein powder because it was the cheapest non-dairy protein powder I could find. Looking online, I found Nutribiotic Rice Protein Powder, Rice protein is supposedly more absorbable by your body than soy protein. At around the same unit price per pound as the Whole Foods soy protein, I decided to give it a try.

Both protein powders have the same taste and mouthfeel in my smoothie. I was surprised because I thought the rice protein would have a milder flavor, but they're really about the same. I wouldn't be able to tell them apart if you gave me a blind taste test.

Do you use protein powder? What is your favorite?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 20, 2011

Blueberry Apple Crisp

I had blueberries to get rid of, but not enough to make an all-blueberry dish. Behold, a recipe I made based on this fruit crumble idea.

Blueberry Apple Crisp

In a greased 9x9 dish, toss the following until coated:
  • one pint package of blueberries 
  • two small apples or one large apple, chopped (I didn't peel mine, to keep the pectin and nutrients)
  • juice of half a lemon (1 1/2 Tablespoons)
Add the following to the fruit and toss again until coated:
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar 
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
In a separate bowl, combine:
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used brown). This is very little sugar for the whole dish, and will make it just sweet enough to bring out the flavors of the fruit and the topping. Add more sugar to taste.
  • 1/2 cup raw nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 2 dashes of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
Drizzle canola oil (it took me about 6 Tablespoons) into the dry mixture while stirring, and combine until crumbly. Distribute the mixture evenly on top of the fruit and bake at 400F until the fruit is bubbly and the crumble topping is brown and crisp (about 45 minutes).

How do you like to use extra blueberries?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 19, 2011

Easy Homemade Salad Dressing

I don't buy salad dressing anymore. All the creamy ones I used to enjoy at my local supermarket contain milk, and all the vinaigrettes are a rip-off considering the largest part of the dressing is just water and sugar. I make my own, using whatever I have on hand. It only takes a minute to make and is so tasty and much more natural than the sugar-laden stuff in a bottle.

  • Equal parts oil (I use olive oil) and apple cider vinegar. If you only have white distilled vinegar on hand, do two parts oil to one part vinegar.
  • Whatever seasonings you have on hand that you are in the mood for. I usually use dried basil, garlic powder, salt.
  • I usually add some kelp granules (for iodine) and ground flax (for omega-3). I can't really taste them in the dressing so it's a great way for me to sneak the extra nutrients. The ground flax also thickens the dressing a little so it coats the salad more nicely.
I put all the ingredients in a jar and shake it up. Voila, instant homemade dressing.

What's your favorite salad dressing (whether store-bought or home-made)?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 18, 2011


I decided to buy myself a juicer this year, using gift money I received for my birthday. After a lot of research online, I decided on the Breville Compact Juicer which had glowing reviews as high as the Omega brand masticating juicers but only costs about $100, compared to about $300 for an Omega. The Breville takes about 5 minutes to hand-wash, and it cleans easily except for the spinning mesh part which requires thorough scrubbing with a brush. Here is a video with details about the juicer.

This is a juice I recently made - cucumber, celery, carrot:

The thing with juicers is that you are left with pulp. I think that throwing out the pulp is a waste of perfectly good fiber and whatever nutrients didn't make it to your juice. Alicia Silverstone recently blogged about saving veggie scraps in the freezer so you can make your own broth. I had heard about this before but it just seemed so annoying at the time. Like, every time I cut an end off something I have to put it away? What a drag.

Now that I have a juicer, I have loads of scraps and I hate to see them go to waste. So now I have a ziploc bag in the freezer that I am dedicating to veggie scraps. When I have juice pulp or I'm cutting veggies, I can just open the freezer, open the zip bag, and put the scraps in. When I have enough to make a broth, I'll let you know how it comes out.

Do you like fruit or veggie juices? What is your favorite?
Do you save your veggie scraps? What do you do with them?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 17, 2011


Since becoming vegan 6 months ago in January, one thing I have noticed is that I have really cut down on caffeine. Being a full-time student in a doctoral program and working 30-35 hours a week between my job and my fellowship, I am suuuper freakin busy when school is in session. I am out of the house all day every day, and then with whatever time is left over I am supposed to study, take care of myself (food, grooming, laundry), and periodically let my friends and family know I'm still alive.

I used to run on coffee. I used to drink it just to get through each day. However in my spring semester (February through May) which was my first semester as a vegan, I only drank coffee on very long days when I hadn't had enough sleep. During the two weeks of taking final exams and finishing final papers (3-hour naps in lieu of full nights of sleep), I only had coffee less than a handful of times. After my last final exam, I stopped drinking coffee. Being able to lay off the caffeine has made me feel better, function better, and spend a lot less money.

And then I had coffee for the first time in a month.

On the July 4th weekend I was with friends who drink coffee regularly. We took a little trip to Dunkin Donuts, where I ordered a large iced coffee (black, of course), not because I was tired after having only a few hours of sleep but because I missed the taste and because it was hot outside. I should have listened to my body and not ordered such a big coffee but I was thirsty as hell and the medium iced coffee just looked so...small. That night, I woke up at 5 in the morning, restless with achy/twitching arms and shoulders, and couldn't fall back to sleep for two hours.

The next morning we took another trip to Dunkin Donuts. I decided to order an iced tea instead of coffee. Since there was a promotion that any size is $.99 (and because it was still really hot outside), of course I ordered the large iced tea. That night, I again woke up at 5 in the morning with the achy/twitching arms.

Then came the paranoid thoughts that I could possibly have a neurological disorder, or "restless arm syndrome" (Is that even a real disease? How would I live that down?).

While the only thing I can think of that would have caused restlessness is the caffeine, it's really hard for me to believe. I did not feel extra energetic from the drinks, so I don't understand how they would wake me up in the middle of the night. Regardless, from now on I am going to listen to my body and keep away from the caffeinated stuff unless I feel tired.

Are you sensitive to caffeine? Have your caffeine habits ever changed?
Do you ever experience restlessness at night? How do you handle it?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 16, 2011

Yogurt Taste Test: Soy vs. Coconut

A review of three yogurts

  • Wholesoy & Co. soy yogurt has the same consistency as a low-fat or fat-free dairy yogurt. It is semi-thick and creamy (not as thick as regular fat yogurt). 
  • Trader Joe's soy yogurt has the same consistency as Wholesoy.
  • So Delicious coconut yogurt is very thick, kind of custard-like, but not creamy - almost gelatinous - and left a weird film on my tongue.
  • Wholesoy & Co. flavored soy yogurts are tasty and tangy. Wholesoy & Co. unsweetened plain soy yogurt was nasty and kind of tasted like pee, I had to top it with granola and really choke it down to finish it. 
  • Trader Joe's flavored soy yogurt is equally as tasty and tangy as Wholesoy but has a slight cardboard aftertaste. I have not seen a plain soy yogurt by Trader Joe's.
  • So Delicious coconut yogurt has a very mild flavor, almost flavorless. It is not tangy at all, which I find strange for a yogurt.
I was really disappointed with the So Delicious coconut yogurt. It had little flavor and a gross mouthfeel. The only edge it had was its appearance, with a nice white color, while both of the soy yogurts had a greyish tint.

Verdict: My favorite of the three yogurts is Wholesoy & Co. soy yogurts (but only the flavored ones), with Trader Joe's behind by only a hair. Wholesoy & Co. goes for about $1.30 per 6-oz cup and Trader Joe's goes for about $1 per 6-oz cup so I would just go for the Trader Joe's, unless the Wholesoy were on sale for a low price. 

What is your favorite yogurt?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 15, 2011


Most croutons contain cheese. I was able to find vegan croutons at Whole Foods but they were double the price I used to pay for my non-vegan croutons.

The other day at BJ's I found this 2-lb mamma-jamma of Fresh Gourmet Seasoned Organic Croutons which happens to be vegan. It cost around $6, which is about the same unit price per pound as the cheap croutons I used to buy. They happen to be organic, which is a nice bonus. They also happen to be very yummy. They're seasoned well and aren't overly salty. They're large, restaurant-style croutons.

Here is my first salad with croutons, since going vegan. It had romaine ($1.50 for a HUGE head from Morgiewicz Produce at the farmer's market), yellow zucchini ($1.50/lb, also from Morgiewicz), cherry tomatoes, croutons, and my quick/easy homemade dressing (I'll do a post on it).

How do you get an extra crunch fix in your salads?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 14, 2011

Subway Avocado

When I go to Subway I get the Veggie Delite sandwich because it is the only vegan sandwich on the menu (if you want to ask for more vegan choices, go to A footlong Delite usually fits the bill when I'm starving at lunch, but it does not hold me over to finish my long days. When Subway announced that they were going to offer avocado, I got really excited. A fresh, healthy fat would make the sandwich a lot heartier.

I finally got the Veggie Delite for lunch yesterday, with avocado. But it was disappointing for me. It was only a little smear of mashed avocado, which was hard to detect among all the veggies. What ruffled my feathers even more was that adding the two tablespoons worth of avocado cost me an extra $1. Nevermore! A dollar is a lot for two dabs of avocado. Since I didn't get any meat, couldn't they just add it, on the house? Get with the program, Subway. Chipotle does it!

Was it just me, or is the Subway avocado really worth all the hype?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 13, 2011

If You Shop Online

If you shop online, please visit Through that website, you can shop at hundreds of major retailers (including JC Penney, Gap, Best Buy, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Victoria's Secret) and by shopping through that site a percentage of your purchase is donated to ASPCA.

Do you know of any other similar programs which provide donations to animal welfare organizations?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 12, 2011

Banana Bread

After making the naughtified bananas last week I had 4 bananas that were overripe and about to go bad. I made this recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen, with some substitutions: 4 bananas instead of 3 (because I didn't want to waste the last one and figured it would make the cake denser and more moist than intended, which I like), using whole wheat flour, and using a 9x9 glass pan instead of a loaf pan. It came out really good. Personally I don't like it too sweet so I will only use half the sugar next time (and still use the 4 bananas).

How do you use overripe bananas?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 11, 2011

Peanut Butter

I love peanut butter, but PB by itself on a sandwich by itself can be boring, and PB&Js are a little sweet. Here are some ways I use PB when I'm hungry and want something savory and interesting:
  • With kale, on a sandwich. It also tastes really good if you add a slab of plain tofu, but if you're wrapping the sandwich to go then press some water out of the tofu or you'll have a soggy sandwich.
  • Spread on nori, with sprouts and other veggies (carrot, cucumber).
  • In a dressing on salad or cabbage slaw. I mix the PB with a little vinegar (rice wine vinegar would be appropriate, but regular distilled white will do the trick), a little sesame oil, garlic powder, ginger powder, paprika or cayenne, and salt. If it's too thick you can add water. If the flavor is too strong you can add water, then add corn starch (a teeny bit at a time) to thicken.
What are some ways you use PB?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 10, 2011

Aloe Juice

A friend gave me an aloe plant as a gift, knowing I have a brown thumb but assuring me that the plant is hardy. He told me, "If you kill this plant, you're hopeless."

The poor thing hasn't been doing well under my care. I harvested a leaf the other day, not because it was big and ready for the taking, but because it had a rotting spot at its base and was doomed.

If you've ever looked up how to make aloe juice, most sources on the internet reccommend blending it with orange juice. They say that the aloe tastes "bitter" by itself, so it needs to be mixed with something sweet. Of course, I had to taste the gel straight up and see for myself.

Bitter? It tastes like a dirty armpit. No exaggeration. And then I left the cut leaf sitting on the edge of my kitchen sink while I went to research uses for it, and when I came back the whole sink area smelled like an armpit. You've got to fillet the aloe quickly and use it immediately. You wash the leaf, trim the thorns and the green skin, and you'll be left with a clear fillet of aloe gel which is very slimy. You've got to rinse the fillet thoroughly before you add it to anything you drink, because the slime supposedly gives you the runs.

I blended the gel into prune juice because it was the only juice I had. It's a weird juice for me to have on hand because 1) since becoming vegan I poo like clockwork and 2) because I usually never have any juice on hand. (I've been on painkillers for the past few weeks due to an injury. The painkillers constipated me so I got the prune juice over the weekend and stopped taking the pills. Voila, problem solved, but I still had some prune juice left over.) When I blended the aloe into the juice I couldn't taste the aloe at all, even when I chewed the occasional unblended piece.

Aloe juice: a tasty solution to a dying aloe plant.   :(

What do you use aloe for?

Vegan on a Shoestring