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 http://welovesubway.com). 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 http://shopandsupportaspca.com/. 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

July 9, 2011

Seafood (Or, Sea Animals)

When people find out I don't eat meat, they sometimes say something like this: "You don't even eat fish? Not even shellfish? They don't feel anything!"

My family frequents a beach and discovered clams there one day last summer. They went nuts and clammed like crazy. It was fun for everyone and also produced a large, fresh, free dinner. They went back almost every week that summer, and still go back sometimes. I did my fair share of clamming too. I even bought a shucking knife because I wanted to eat clams on the half shell. I actually sat on the beach with live clams in my hands, working very hard to drive their shells open so I could eat them.

And that's exactly my point, and the reason why I choose not to eat sea animals: that I had to work so freakin hard to open every clam shell. Every clam I met was fighting for its life. I had plucked it from its home and then I was invading its body. It knew, and it was literally holding on for dear life.

Like the clam, I am a living animal who's aware of my surroundings and has a strong desire to continue living. My personal worst fear is war. That I will be snatched from my home, taken somewhere, and be mercilessly used or killed. That I will be treated as a faceless, nameless, soulless being who needs to suffer, or be used for sport or pleasure, or just be gotten rid of. I would want to not be touched against my will or be injured, but most of all, I would just want a chance to live. Please, just let me live.

I don't want to submit anyone to my worst nightmare. Not even a clam.

How do people respond to your food choices? How do you explain your food choices?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 8, 2011

Almost Instant Noodle Soup

Instant noodle soup is really convenient. All you need is hot water. But since you have to boil the water anyway, why not toss in some veggies and protein while it boils? It'll make the soup healthier, heartier, and prettier. It might also relieve any guilt for all the sodium in the noodle seasoning.

The idea was taken from my teenage cousin who makes instant noodle soup and adds whatever vegetables he wants from the fridge, and an egg. He once made it for my boyfriend and I (mine was eggless) and it was one of the best noodle soups we'd ever had.

I put water in a pot to boil. Meanwhile, I cut up some mushrooms and bok choy and added them to the water along with some fried tofu cubes and peanuts (not pictured). When it all came to a boil I let it keep going for a few minutes. In a big bowl I put the instant noodle and its seasoning, as well as some bean sprouts and cilantro. I poured the boiled mixture over everything in the big bowl.

That thing was huge. I got about halfway before giving up and putting it in the fridge.

A lot of instant noodle soups have meat or fish in them. Top Ramen's "Oriental" flavor is vegan. If you have access to an Asian market, there is a much wider variety of vegan noodles (spicy, kimchi flavor, seaweed, etc). Read labels carefully. I saw a "mushroom" flavor and got all excited, but it contained seafood.

Do you eat instant noodles? What veggies would you deck them out with?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 7, 2011

Bananas Behaving Badly

I melted about a half cup of chocolate chips in the microwave (who'd have thunk it, but Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips is the cheapest dairy-free chocolate I've found, at $3.50-$4 per 12-oz bag). I peeled two bananas, coated them with the melted chocolate, and pressed some dried shredded coconut and walnut pieces onto them. I placed the bedazzled bananas on plastic wrap (you could also use parchment paper) and froze them for 4 hours so the banana got frozen and creamy.

I encourage you to naughtify the bananas with whatever toppings you want: sprinkles, any type of nuts, sunflower seeds, caramel.

Coating the bananas was messy (there was a lot of finger-licking) but the end result was worth it. Maybe next time I will use skewers or popsicle sticks. Or, I could try not being such a beast and only coat one side of the banana's length (unlikely).

What is your favorite fruit to dress up? What do you do with it?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 6, 2011

Cheap Chia Seeds in NYC

Chia? As in, "Ch-ch-ch-chia"? Yup, that's exactly what I'm talking about. Chia seeds, like flax seeds, are high in protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber. Unlike flax, you don't need to grind chia in order to digest it and reap the benefits. I never substitute chia for flax because flax is a lot cheaper, but there is one thing chia does that flax won't do:

You can make a pudding out of chia seeds which is kind of like tapioca pudding. It's tasty, filling, nutritious, and easy to make.

Lazy Pudding:
  • 4 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 cup of milk. The chia seeds don't have much flavor, so you will want to choose a milk that tastes really good on its own. (My favorite is almond milk.)
  • Sweetener of your choice (I've been using maple syrup).
Stir well so all the seeds are wet, and let thicken for at least a half hour stirring every 10 minutes (the longer, the better, and overnight will give you the thickest result). Add sweetener to taste.

You can flavor the pudding with any spices and toppings you want. Here are some ways I've made it:
  • Dash of cinnamon, dash of nutmeg, little splash of vanilla extract.
  • Dash of cardamom, sprinkle of crushed almonds or pistachios, little splash of vanilla extract. Tastes like kheer (Indian rice pudding). I think a tiny splash of rosewater would be nice in it too.
  • Sliced fresh strawberries.

Chia pudding travels well. Just throw the ingredients into a jar (gee I really have a thing for glass jars, don't I?), shake, and go on your way, shaking it a couple more times before eating. The pudding will set by the time you get wherever you're going. For breakfast, you can stir it up the night before and when you wake up the pudding will be set very thick.

You can get cheap chia seeds in NYC, at Perelandra (175 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights), which has organic chia seeds in the bulk section for about $6.50/lb (which is almost half the price than packaged ones in any store or online). A little goes a very long way. One pound of chia will make about 15 one-cup servings of chia pudding.

Have you ever used chia seeds? What do you do with them?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 5, 2011

Asian Markets

Expanding your palate beyond continental American food helps to ensure that you will be able to maintain a vegan diet. Asian cuisines tend to be particularly vegan-friendly. American supermarkets sometimes have an "international" section with exotic sauces and ingredients, but the prices are very high. I make special trips to go to Asian supermarkets, to get ingredients on the cheap.

Here are some foods that can be found for much cheaper (up to about 75% less) in an Asian supermarket:
Tofu (and bean curd in various other forms), soy milk, soy sauce, sesame oil, sauces, nori sheets, rices, noodles, and fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs (including exotic ones like bean sprouts, bok choy, mushrooms, lotus root, lychee, ginger). One caveat is that you will probably not find anything organic. I think I may have seen organic tofu once, but that was it.

Tips for shopping in an Asian market:
  • When buying packaged foods, check all labels carefully. Stir-fry sauce might contain oyster flavoring, or Thai curry paste might contain shrimp. Also, watch out for an ingredient named "bonito" which is fish.
  • You might want to avoid walking by the fish and meat areas. Unlike American markets, a lot of whole animal bodies (cooked, raw, and still alive) may be in plain sight.

Places to shop in NYC:

Chinatown (4, 5, 6, N, R, Q, J, Z trains to Canal Street) - Several stores within a 5 block radius of the trains, along Canal Street.
Flushing (7 train to Main Street) - Several stores within a 4 block radius of the train, both along Main Street as well as on the side streets.
Elmhurst (M, R trains to Elmhurst Avenue) - Several stores within 5 blocks of the train. Two are on 45th Avenue (across the street from the park) and there are more up Broadway toward the hospital.

Do you shop at international markets? What foods do you buy?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 3, 2011

Indoor "Pests"

One day in my office a coworker was chatting with my officemate and me through the doorway, and he spotted a centipede fluttering swiftly across the floor. We all looked at each other in fear, and my coworker asked what he should do and whether we wanted the bug to be killed or not. It really struck me that he asked, that he considered that my officemate or I might want the centipede to be left alone.

I have to admit that when I see bugs indoors (especially fast-moving ones like centipedes or cockroaches) I am still in the habit of immediately moving to kill them. My automatic thought is, "I don't want that tickly/itchy feeling from knowing that there is something running loose in here. This thing needs to go, STAT." Every time I see an insect it's an opportunity to change my behavior. My goal is to use catch-and-release more frequently, and without discrimination of bug size or speed. I will reach for a piece of paper, not to kill, but to ferry the bug over to a door or window so it can go outside.

One day my sister called me, freaking out because a mousetrap at her boyfriend's house had caught something. The mouse was crying out and writhing around on the glue, and my sister was scared to deal with it. Like her, I don't think I could bear to throw a live rodent out like garbage or kill it myself. The mouse was just trying to survive and live its life, and I don't think I'm entitled to to disrupt that. A life is a life is a life, right?

But why don't I instinctively treat insects with the same respect? Is it because insects don't physically resemble the furry animals I love? Is it because I think of insects as being less "like me" because they are not warm-blooded and I can't look them in the eye? What do you think?

How do you relate to indoor "pests"? How do you treat them?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 2, 2011

DIY Sprouting: How

I consider myself to be a resourceful person. One time at a street fair I bought a mini sweet potato pie and forgot to ask for a fork so I took a plastic straw, bent it in half, and used it as chopsticks. To me, that was instant MacGyver status.

But when I first read about sprouting it seemed intimidating. Any food preparation involving more than one day is very scary to me (I'm recalling numerous failed, very stinky attempts at Ethiopian teff injera). Another thing that halted me was that I would need to buy sprouting containers, these glass jars with special mesh lids.

I was determined to get the sprouting done without the expensive hardware. Call me stubborn persistent, but I figure that one (or 3) failed attempts at anything is better than not trying at all. And it worked!


  • large glass jar (I used a 32-oz pickle jar)
  • piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the top of the jar, with an extra inch for good measure. Cheesecloth costs a couple of dollars and is washable and reusable.
  • rubber band
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils

1. At night, put lentils in the jar and cover with clean water up to an inch or two above the lentils, to give room for when they swell. Let soak overnight.
2. The next morning (day 1), rinse and drain the lentils. Cover the top of the jar with the cheesecloth and secure with rubber band. Reminds me of a keffiyeh.

(These are already sprouted.)

4. Shake the jar gently, to distribute the lentils evenly along the length of the jar. Rest the jar on a tilt so leftover water can drain throughout the day. You can rest it on a dish rack, or as I did, on a rolled-up towel (this is after they had already sprouted):

5. That night, rinse and drain the lentils, and tilt the jar again.
6. The next morning (day 2), rinse and drain the lentils, and tilt the jar again. You might begin to notice some tails. You can eat them as is, or you can keep rinsing and draining them twice a day for up to a few more days until the tails grow to desired length. Taste them at various points and see what tail length you prefer. After a few days when the tails are about an inch long, they will sprout cute little green leaves. The sprouts keep well in the refrigerator for up to several days.
7. Along the process, many lentils will shed their skins. When it comes time for you to eat the sprouts, it's up to you whether you want to eat the skins. If you don't want them, drop the sprouts into a large bowl of water and stir with your hand. The skins will float to the surface of the water and you can remove them.

I also tried to sprout chickpeas (in a clear plastic container) and raw pumpkin seeds (in a glass jar) but they did not sprout and just ended up smelly and slimy. Do you have any ideas what went wrong there?

Sprouts go for about $3 for a little package that only weighs a few ounces. I only used about a half cup of lentils ($.50 worth, maybe?), and the sprouts filled up the quart-size jar. You would make out like a bandit by doing it yourself.

So remember to save your glass jars, because they might come in handy one day.

Have you ever experimented with sprouting? How did it go?

Vegan on a Shoestring

DIY Sprouting: Why

My apartment is tiny, it has southern exposure (sunlight all day), and its windows are all on the same side of the building (no cross-ventilation). All these features combine to make a hellishly hot summer, made even more oppressive when I use the stove.

Being vegan, beans and legumes are an important source of protein for me, but as far as I know you're not supposed to eat them raw (please let me know if this is not the case). What's a way to eat yummy beans and legumes, without having to use the stove to cook them? Eating bean sprouts!

Bean sprouts are purported to be easier to digest than standard whole cooked beans. They are also a quick and tasty source of protein. You can toss them into salads, sandwiches, and wraps, or make a quick stirfry out of them.

Bean sprouts cost almost $3 for a little package that only weighs half a pound. If you're able to get to an Asian market you can get them for about a dollar a pound. But what if you're not near an Asian market? What's a small-budget vegan to do? Why, make your own, of course! Here are some reasons for making your own sprouts:

  • You'll save serious money
  • It's like a science experiment, except you get to eat it afterwards
  • If you have a brown thumb, sprouting will make you feel more competent (I have to admit that even cactuses die under my care)
  • You can be proud that you produced fresh, nourishing food in your own home
  • You can spare your loved ones from the aftermath of normal bean-eating

I can't think of any reasons not to make your own sprouts. So, let's go!

To be continued...

Do you grow plants, with or without outdoor space?

Vegan on a Shoestring

July 1, 2011

Cold Treats

It's hot outside. I want comfort. Something cold and sweet (and creamy would be a bonus). My local supermarket has one kind of vegan ice cream: So Delicious brand ice cream sandwiches, which cost almost $7 for a box of only 6 sandwiches. In the summer, how can a vegan satisfy a sweet tooth and not break the bank?

1. Haagen Dazs has amazing sorbets. Stick with fruit flavors and avoid the chocolate flavor which contains egg whites.
2. Edy's frozen fruit pops. I would really like to try the coconut but it contains milk.
3. Frozen bananas. When frozen, bananas become creamy. One day, I am going to cut bananas into chunks, coat them in melted chocolate and other fixins, and freeze. I smell a future post on this.
4. Frozen mangoes. I got a great deal (about $2.50) on a 24-oz bag of frozen mangoes at Trader Joe's. Let them thaw for a few minutes before digging in.

How do you handle a summertime sweet tooth?

Vegan on a Shoestring