Vegan Wing Night! | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Five

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Today I bring to you a celebration of a different sort. Not a soiree in honor of a holiday, a birthday, or any other calendar-specific date, but instead, a celebration of vegan food and the joy that is sharing it with friends.

I am beyond lucky to work with dozens of compassionate, kind vegans. No, not everyone at my organization is veg, but those of us who work there for the mission are almost invariably somewhere on the vegan-vegetarian spectrum. We also have a vegan food policy at work, so that everything people bring in to share should be animal product-free. As such, I’ve found myself in so many situations on the job where I feel like I need to pinch myself: Am I really getting served adorable vegan tarts at a work meeting?! Is a brand-new vegan food truck actually going to stop by the office every Wednesday during the summer?! Did that amazing vegan ice cream company truly just drop off dozens of pints for us to try?!

All real examples, and all amazing. But what’s also amazing is getting to hang out with all those compassionate vegans off the job. Many of our gatherings center around food, whether it’s a friend teaching a small group how to bake with a sourdough starter or Steven’s and my (dare I say it?) legendary vegan holiday parties. So it was not at all surprising to me when my coworker Kristen recently threw an all-vegan wing night at her house. And it was even less surprising when the invitees responded not just with a yes, but with the dish they’d bring to share.

So it was that on a Friday evening in September, I found myself stuffing my face with ALL THE THINGS. We had tortilla chips, lots of chopped veggies, an amaaazing cashew queso, that and ubiquitous classic sour cream-based onion dip, kale salad, potato salad, fruit, and strawberry shortcake for dessert (my contribution). I also stuffed my face with ALL THE WINGS. Kristen’s partner Stevie isn’t vegan himself, but he loves cooking up all sorts of vegan treats — including five (!) flavors of vegan wings. He served up:

  • Buffalo Italian
  • Bacon cheeseburger
  • Classic BBQ
  • Garlic parmesan
  • Old Bay (because, Maryland!)

For the base, Stevie used the best vegan wing out there: May Wah’s veg chicken legs. There’s a local guy who sells faux meats by the (very large) food-service-size package, but he’s only open to the public once a week. It’s not unusual for someone to make a pilgrimage to Terry’s, buy a pillow of drummies, and halve it with another vegan in the group. These soy-based drummies have a fantastic shredded texture and are not too heavy, so you can load up the sauce. (Honestly, I don’t think I ever really ate chicken wings before I went vegetarian, so I have no idea how the texture compares to “real” chicken.) They also have wooden sticks attached, which makes for much easier eating when you’ve got wing sauce dripping all over the place. (Just don’t think about the fact that the sticks are mimicking chicken leg bones. Grosssss.) 

I made sure to load up my plate with one of each flavor, along with some of the salads and a few crudites for crunchin’. (I’d done lots of snacking on the chips and dip before wing time.) All the wing flavors were drool-worthy, but the garlic parmesan won my heart (and tummy). Stevie used Earth Balance and Follow Your Heart’s vegan parm shreds to make a buttery, rich, cheesy, garlicky wing that was comfort food at its best. I need to get me a package of drummies to recreate this one! 

Needless to say, this group of hungry vegans devoured the wings and the accompanying sides and snacks. We rounded out the night with games galore: Connect Four, Jenga, Scattergories. I left around midnight, an unheard-of time for a Friday night. I’m usually exhausted on Fridays, preferring my nights out to take place on Saturday after I’ve recovered from the work week. But this late Friday was totally worth the tiredness. In fact, I’d say vegan wings are always worth it.

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Vegan Thanksgivings: A Retrospective | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Four

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Yes, we’re still a good two months out from (American) Thanksgiving, and no, I’m not planning for it yet. In fact, I think this year will be a relatively low-key holiday. We’re staying in Maryland and going to Steven’s mum’s and stepdad’s for dinner, and they are pretty good at providing animal-free alternatives (like butter-free mashed potatoes and a turkey-juice-free stuffing). I anticipate needing to bring a main, a side, and a dessert, and I’m totally OK with that approach.

Today, I thought I’d look back at my vegan Thanksgivings of the past! Not all of them are documented, but like any good little vegan who always wants to talk about food, I *did* snap photos of most. :)

2009

My first vegan Thanksgiving! Silly newbie food blogger that I was, I have just a single ridiculous photo of my sister and I baking in my parents’ kitchen… and then a long, photo-less post about everything we ate. (Ignore the eggs in that photo; the pie I was making was vegan!) Reading through this post also reminded me of non-vegan Thanksgiving of yore, like when I was newly vegetarian but didn’t think to ask my family to make a gravy sans turkey fat! A gravy-less Thanksgiving is a sad Thanksgiving indeed.

2010

Aww, little Kelly celebrated Thanksgiving alone! This was my first year living in Madison, Wisconsin, where I moved from Rhode Island for my first post-college job. I can’t remember whether my roommate also stayed or whether she flew home to New York State. I (apparently) enjoyed a pretty simple dinner of tofu, salad and some last-minute mashed potatoes I whipped up when the craving struck. I also apparently spent the day knitting and watching movies. That… sounds like a pretty darn good Thanksgiving, actually!

2011 

This was a good one! Steven and I were newly dating, and we somehow managed to host my parents, my two siblings, and Steven’s mom in my Madison apartment. They flew in from all corners of the country, and we prepared a massive feast. Too massive a feast, one might suggest in retrospect. I made three main dishes (?!?), five sides, two toppings, and three desserts. The three desserts are obvious and necessary, but three mains and five sides?!? What were we thinking?! But this event was most memorable because it was the first time my parents and Steven’s mom met one another, and it was the first time I prepared a big, all-vegan meal for family. The day taught me an important lesson about letting go in the kitchen and letting people help! No good ever comes from being a kitchen martyr. (I’ll also #neverforget that I clogged the disposal with potato peels and then had to enlist the help of multiple family members to unclog it. Ooops.)

2012

Ahhh, yes. That time Steven and I said “nope!” to making food, flying home, or lifting a finger at all during Thanksgiving and instead went to a big ol’ three-course vegan dinner at the Green Owl, our favorite veg restaurant in Madison. I can’t believe this meal was just $30… midwest prices! (Although we DID get a very measly slice of cheesecake. I would have gladly paid more for a larger piece of dessert!)

2013

Our first Thanksgiving after moving to Maryland. I remember nothing about it and can find no photos. I think we drove to Rhode Island but I have no idea! I do, however, know that we visited Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary earlier in November for their annual “Thanksgiving with the Turkeys.” It was magical. Hundreds of vegans, vegetarians, and veg-sympathetic people converging on a farm animal sanctuary for a potluck dinner. There was so much food! We stuffed our faces then watched the main event: feeding the animals! The turkeys got showered with veggies and other delights, and then the pigs got piles of pumpkins. We had so much fun watching these sweet, smart animals going to town on a feast. It was a frigid day, but it was worth it. A powerful reminder of why I don’t eat animals!

2014

This was a tough one! We’d planned to drive up to RI, but our apartment flooded (!) just before the holiday and so we stayed put. This was also just a couple months after we’d adopted Luna, and we weren’t sure how she would do in a big family gathering. Plus, she was recovering from an abscessed tooth and was a bedraggled mess (you can see her cone o’ shame in the above photo). We got the all-clear to head back to the apartment just in time for a very last-minute dinner, which I think was just a Field Roast and a few quick sides. We were just thankful our apartment and Luna were both on the mend!

2015

We started the season with another trip to Poplar’s Thanksgiving event. I remember this one as being much warmer than our first visit, thankfully! It was almost overwhelmingly crowded. While my crowd-averse self did not care for the hordes, I also realize how amazing it is that hundreds of people would come to a very pro-vegan event like this! We followed up our Poplar trip with a drive up to Rhode Island, where we enjoyed massive quantities of vegan food. The day after Thanksgiving was unseasonably warm, and we decided to #optout of Black Friday shopping (not that I EVER partake) and went for a family walk by the shore. My favorite memory from that day? My sister zipping Luna up in her vest when Luna got tired of walking. I miss my pup so much.

2016 

We again drove up to Rhode Island to celebrate. These days, holidays in Rhode Island are spectacular since my mostly vegan family members contribute all sorts of delicious veg dishes. My planner of a mother comes up with a list in advance, but it usually has a few blank spots: “Ian: ???” Although my brother doesn’t always make it back to RI for Thanksgiving (nor do I, for that matter), when he does, he’ll whip something up nearly at the last minute. That usually involves a quick run to the grocery store the day before. I say “quick,” but if you’ve ever hit up an American grocery store just before Thanksgiving, you know that it is never quick. I refuse to make those ingredient runs and always provide a list of what I need ahead of time! This year we had a Field Roast and plenty of sides, along with some beautiful sweet treats.

The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion

2017

Steven and I hosted at our place; it was our first time hosting at our new(ish) house. Steven’s mom and stepdad came and seemed to enjoy all the food. I cooked almost exclusively from Isa’s Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook and had sooo many leftovers… which is always a good thing! We tried a veg roast from Trader Joe’s and it was not bad at all. Other highlights included creamy whipped potatoes, green bean casserole, and an orange-y cranberry sauce.

So, there we go. Nine years of vegan Thanksgivings, all of them special in their own way. And all of them delicious.

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Cakes for a Thirtieth Birthday | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Three

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

On a rainy, chilly autumn Sunday, who’s thinking about celebrations?! Not me. So let’s go back a month or so to mid-August, when we celebrated Steven’s 30th birthday.

First, we celebrated his actual birthday with gifts and cake (and a homemade birthday card, per our tradition). When Steven requested a chocolate and raspberry cake, I knew exactly which one to make: the Raspberry Blackout Cake from Vegan with a VengeanceTwo layers of rich chocolate cake are sandwiched with raspberry jam and ganache, then topped with even more rich, fudgy ganache. Plus, you bake jam right into the cakes for added sweet berry deliciousness. I love this cake and I was glad for the chance to make it again. My presentation may not be impressive, but the flavor certainly was! (Steven’s mom also treated us to brunch at Barking Mad that weekend, which was lovely.)

The festivities continued a couple weeks later with birthday bowling! It was a semi-surprise; I didn’t tell Steven the exact nature of our “fun birthday activity” until we were on the way there, although he did know we were going to be celebrating with friends. I booked two lanes for two hours, and we had a super-fun time bowling with a small group. Afterward, we headed home, where my dear friends Sara and Sabrina had secretly festooned the house with all sorts of decorations, childhood photos of Steven (!), and a hilarious Office-themed sign (above). I’d purchased a vegan ice cream cake from Roots market, our local natural foods/veg-friendly grocer, which everyone enjoyed. (I failed to photograph it, but it was pretty!) We had a wonderful night.

Our final celebration took place earlier this month. We were in Rhode Island to celebrate a million different birthdays: my aunt’s 70th, my grandma’s 85th, and my cousin’s 21st. So my parents figured, why not celebrate Steven’s 30th as well?! We picked up burritos and brought them to a local craft brewery, where we played arcade games and drank beers with family (and one of my very best friends, who was able to stop by for a little while). Then, the next evening, my sister served up a homemade vegan ice cream cake! She used crushed Oreos between layers of soy- and coconut-based ice creams, then topped the whole thing with a layer of So Delicious’ CocoWhip. It was heavenly. And it was better than the store-bought cake I’d served at his actual birthday party! I need to steal my sister’s technique.

All in all, we had three celebrations for Steven’s 30th. One per decade! Good thing he’s worth all the fuss. ;)

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Resources for Being Vegan on a Budget | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Two

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

And just like that, we’re on the last day of budget week! I’ve had fun perusing the internet to find the best budget-friendly vegan recipes and resources, so I thought I’d share them — and offer some tips of my own. Please share your best tips, tricks, and resources here too!

Where to find cheap vegan recipes

I hope these resources are helpful, and I hope you’ll share your own favorites with me!

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31p Vegan Moussaka from Cooking on a Bootstrap | VeganMoFo Day Twenty-One

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

I didn’t actually intend for all the non-original recipes I made this week to come from Cooking on a Bootstrap, but here we are on Thursday and, yes, I’m making another one. Or to be more accurate, Steven is making another one. Made another one. Feeling the beginning of dinner burnout (not to mention knowing I’d be tired from a particularly busy day at work getting our next issue of the magazine off to the printer), I asked him if he could take the lead on dinner last night. He agreed. I sent a couple recipe options, all of them featuring eggplants (aubergines to you Brits!) because I had bought two at the farmers market last weekend and wanted to use them before they went squishy. Steven’s choice: the vegan moussaka from Cooking on a Bootstrap.

My experience with moussaka is limited. When we lived in Wisconsin, our favorite co-op frequently featured a vegan moussaka at the hot bar. It was rich and creamy and filling and a total comfort food. But I don’t think I’ve ever made it myself, nor had I tried a dairy-based version before going vegan. So I was pretty pleased when Steven chose this recipe. It seems that my streak of not having to make moussaka (but still getting to enjoy it!) continues!

Alas, my dream of another uber-creamy moussaka would remain just that: a dream. The recipe simply didn’t yield enough white sauce to cover the lentil and eggplant filling; the sauce got absorbed into the filling and had entirely disappeared by the time we sat down to eat. The scant sauce also meant that there wasn’t enough left to cover the top layer of eggplant slices; they remained just a tad dry up until the point of serving, when I mixed them in with the filling. Perhaps our robust American eggplants were too large compared to daintier British aubergines, and that discrepancy upset the filling-to-sauce ratio? It’s possible. Perhaps offering a weight measurement for the aubergines would help. (Steven also notes that the recipe didn’t specify which size casserole dish to use or when to add the mustard.)

All that said, this was not by any means an unsatisfying dish. But moussaka it was not. Better to call it a lentil and eggplant bake, then, and enjoy it as such.

Crisper Drawer Risotto | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

Risotto might not be top of mind when you think of budget meals, but hear me out. What better way to glam up the floppy carrots, wilty greens, and otherwise less-than-perfect produce languishing in your crisper drawer than by throwing it all in a pot of creamy, rich rice, a dish that’s more than the sum of its parts? Sure, you could make a stew or a soup or a chili, but risotto is just a little fancier, a little more elevated.

In my kitchen sink, crisper drawer, leftover-friendly risotto, I used carrots, okra, and kale that were past their prime. I chopped them all up small and cooked my rice in vegetable broth, adding vegan butter towards the end for extra richness, then topped my dish with roasted Brussels sprouts for added texture, nutrition, and deliciousness. A squeeze of lemon brought it all together, adding a little acidic punch to the savory dish.

I’ve provided a recipe below, but you can use it as a template for any ingredients that would otherwise go to waste (and waste your money). Peas, broccoli, carrots, squash… anything and everything can find a home in risotto with a little creativity. I left my flavors pretty basic, but you can fancy up your DIY risotto by cooking the rice in tomato sauce thinned with water, adding a splash of white wine, stirring in a couple cloves of roasted garlic, topping it with vegan parmesan, etc. Be creative and have fun! (And check out the recipe notes below for a few more suggestions.)

Risotto is NOT as intimidating a dish as many folks make it out to be, and it’s just about guaranteed to taste good no matter what you throw in it. (Just be sure to cook those grains until they’re soft.) And if arborio rice is not in the budget, try it with any short-grain rice: They are a fine stand-in for arborio if you cook ‘em low and slow with lots of liquid.

Crisper Drawer Risotto with Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 6-8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 – 2 cups chopped veggies (I used carrots, okra, and kale)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Optional topping:

  • 1 pint Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (cut into sixths if the sprouts are particularly large)
  • 1 tablespoon olive  oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 415˚F and start heating about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat
  2. Toss trimmed and quartered Brussels sprouts with a little oil, salt, and pepper, then tip onto baking sheet. (I don’t usually line my sheet; the oil prevents sticking and I actually like the near-burnt bits on my sprouts!) Place in preheated oven and set timer for 15 minutes.
  3. When the oil in the pot is just shimmering, add the chopped vegetables and cook for a couple minutes, then add the sliced garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, just until the garlic begins to turn golden.
  4. Add the rice and stir so that the rice is coated with the oil, veggie, and garlic mixture. Add a cup of the vegetable broth and stir to combine.
  5. Over the next 20-30 minutes, keep checking the rice and adding more broth as it starts to get soaked up. Give the rice a good stir every couple minutes, but don’t feel like you need to stand over the pot the entire time. You might not use all the broth, and that’s okay.
  6. After the sprouts have roasted for about 15 minutes, use a spatula to flip most of them over. Roast for another 10-15 minutes until they’re as crispy as you’d like them. Turn off the heat and leave them in the oven. (If they’re too blackened, remove from oven and set aside.)
    Bonus! If the leaves of your sprouts start to burn in the oven, just scoop them out with your spatula and give yourself a little mid-cooking treat. They are like crispy little sprout chips.
  7. Taste the risotto as the rice begins to soften to test whether it’s done. Towards the end of the cooking process, add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and any additional spices you want to try. Turn off the heat and stir in the vegan butter (if using).
  8. Drizzle with lemon juice, top with roasted Brussels sprouts, and serve right away.
Notes:
  • Use whatever veggies you have available. They likely won’t add a ton of flavor but will provide fiber and nutrients while bulking up the rice.
  • Increase the garlic to as many cloves as you’d like, or substitute with diced shallots or onions. Do try to use at least one allium, though!
  • If you want to cut down on the veggie broth (or don’t want to make too much and waste it), you can use hot water and just add a bouillon cube to the risotto to taste.
  • Feel free to swap out the crispy roasted Brussels sprouts for another roasted veggie (like broccoli) or something crunchy (like toasted nuts). You don’t absolutely have to use a crunchy, crispy topper, but I think it provides a really nice textural counterpoint.
  • The lemon juice at the end is non-negotiable! :)

Check out my Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts for another take on risotto, and share your favorite risotto recipe with me!

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Vegan risotto made with leftover veggies from your crisper drawer // govegga.com

48p Tin Bolognese from Cooking on a Bootstrap | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Nineteen

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

If rice and beans is the number-one quintessential cheap dish, pasta must come in a close second. Yes, you can fancy it up with creamy vodka sauce or garlic butter or garlic alfredo sauce, but even a classic, simple, cheap tomato-based red sauce poured atop your favorite noodles can’t fail to satisfy.

One step up from a classic red sauce? A lentil-based bolognese, with mushrooms, red wine, and lots of garlic for added flavor. Another recipe from Cooking on a Bootstrap, this so-called Tin Bolognese relies on tinned (canned if you’re in the U.S.!) mushrooms and lentils and comes together at just 48p a serving. I used fresh mushrooms, bulk lentils cooked from dry, and garlic from the garden, rendering it a Not-So-Tin Bolognese. Jack uses stuffing crumbs for a little bulk and flavor; I opted for panko because that’s what I had in the pantry.

Not terribly photogenic (especially at 6 p.m. when the light is failing and I’m trying to take a photo through a north-facing window), but I assure you it was tasty! Thanks to the lentils and my use of whole wheat noodles, the protein content was more than respectable (I estimate ~30g per serving, with just over two servings total), making this a filling and wholesome meal. Pasta does it again.

9p Bean Burgers from Cooking on a Bootstrap | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Eighteen

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

I’m not sure how or when I first became familiar with Jack Monroe and her Cooking on a Bootstrap blog, but it was definitely within the last year. I appreciate Jack’s no-nonsense yet empathetic approach to budget cooking… and I especially appreciate that she’s now vegan and has a plethora of super-cheap veg recipes!

Although I don’t have any of Jack’s cookbooks, her website has a generous recipe archive — including a vegan section. I knew I’d tap into that archive during budget week, and when Jack posted her Carrot, Cumin, and Kidney Bean Burger recipe last week, I knew which dish to try first! Jack describes this recipe as the one that brought her to national attention in Britain. And it’s easy to see why: With smart purchases, you can make four bean burgers for just 9p a serving. That is undeniably cheap for any recipe, vegan or not! (Note that I didn’t calculate the actual cost of my burgers when I made them, but I’m pretty confident it was more than 9p/12 cents.)

When I sent Steven to the grocery store on Sunday to pick up ingredients for the week, I initially asked him to grab some burger buns. But then I changed my mind. Why not make them myself?! I’ve been blabbering on about homemade bread, and homemade buns are the next logical step. In fact, I’d argue that they’re even easier than bread. Just don’t do what I did a few years ago and decide to make pretzel buns as your first foray into bun-making. It was a big pain in the butt and NOT worth the hassle. I was smarter this time, opting for a much simpler recipe. I omitted the poppy seeds and the “egg” wash, and I was thrilled at how easily it all came together! (Using my KitchenAid dough hook definitely saved time.) There’s one hourlong rise, then you shape the dough into balls, let them rise again briefly, and bake them for just 15-18 minutes. Then you pull a beautiful batch of buns — all puffy and golden brown on top — from the oven and feel like a real domestic genius.

Although my buns were not exactly uniform in size, they were still light, fluffy, and really quite tasty. Plus, they’re far less expensive than buying ready-made bun and they don’t come wrapped in plastic.

But back to the reason I made those buns in the first place: bean burgers! So, how did they turn out? Well, for 9p, you could do a whole lot worse. The flavor is pretty much what you’d expect for such a short ingredient list, and they are quite squishy (as is the wont of these old-school bean burgers). But for a basic, cheap, quick burger you can customize with your own spices or additional ingredients, it’s a solid recipe. We topped ours with homemade Big Mac sauce and some halved cherry tomatoes from the garden. Served alongside simple roasted potatoes, this was a filling and cheap dinner.

What’s your go-to cheap meal?

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DIY Vegan Mixes to Keep on Hand | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Seventeen

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

Yesterday I got onto my [cruelty-free and vegan] soap box to talk about the privilege inherent in calling a vegan diet inexpensive. I certainly think it’s possible for many people to be vegan on a budget, and there are plenty of cookbooks and blogs that share inexpensive vegan recipes. In fact, I’ll be sharing a list of those resources later this week. But today, let’s talk about one tool you can keep in your pantry to save both time and money: DIY mixes!

Perhaps unsurprisingly — given how often I’ve blogged about this book in the past — Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry is my go-to source for mixes to make at home and keep on hand. My favorite is the classic biscuit and pancake mix (p. 158), a mix of flour, ground flax, sugar, salt, and baking powder that you can use for simple baked goods like waffles, pancakes, and biscuits. It’s super easy to mix up a big batch so you’re always ready to whip up waffles on a whim!

I only tried the well-crafted macaroni and cheese mix (p. 151) for the first time this summer, and I’ll admit that it wasn’t exactly love at first bite. The mix relies on ground cashew, nutritional yeast, and other spices, which you then cook up with some non-dairy milk for a ridiculously fast mac and cheese. The first time I tried it, I was disappointed: The sauce wasn’t creamy at all, and it was pretty bland. But that’s easily fixed: Now, when I make up the sauce, I reduce the amount of milk, add in a couple tablespoons of Earth Balance, and add a little more seasoning to taste.

Another great (print) resource for DIY mixes is Joni Marie Newman’s Vegan Food Gifts. I recipe tested for this book a million years ago, and I love its whole concept and aesthetic. While some of the recipes are intended to be made and gifted as a finished produce (chocolate bark, mini quick breads, granola, etc.), the book also includes plenty of DIY-style, just-add-water mixes: cheesy potato soup, cranberry muffins, pancakes, red beans and rice… there are tons!

I recognize that touting these mixes as money-saving options and then saying you need to buy a cookbook to get the recipes is a little counter-productive! The good news: You can find plenty of similar mixes online. Here is a non-exhaustive list.

  • Vegan mac and cheese powder (mix). This DIY mix from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken is both nut-free and uses pretty standard pantry ingredients! (I bet you could leave out the lemon pepper with no ill effects.)
  • DIY spice blends. Rather than shelling out on small pre-made spice blends, make your own! The cheapest place I’ve found to buy spices (i.e. the individual ingredients for these blends) is at my local Asian market, but your mileage may vary.
  • DIY vegan hot chocolate mix. This recipe from The Full Helping uses either regular cocoa powder or cacao powder. While I have no desire for summer to end, I must admit I’m looking forward to hot chocolate weather…
  • Classic pancake and biscuit mix. Well, hey — here’s Miyoko’s recipe, shared on Vegan Yack Attack with permission from the publisher! You’re in luck! :)
  • DIY popcorn seasonings. Rather than splash out for an overpriced plastic bag of flavored vegan popcorn, why not pop your own kernels and top them with a homemade seasoning blend?! The list I’ve linked to here has plenty of options. I keep jars of homemade Dorito-flavored seasoning and sour cream and onion seasoning in the pantry.

What other DIY mixes do you like?

Homemade Vegan Bread | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Sixteen

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

Welcome to week three of VeganMoFo 2018! As you can see, this week’s prompt aims to demonstrate that veganism is affordable. I promise I’ll get to that, but first, time to put on my Debbie Downer hat!

Here’s the thing. I often cringe when the response to “But being vegan is expensive” is a quick, reflexive “No, it’s not!” Because sometimes… it is. Sometimes those of us who are financially comfortable might forget the challenges faced by folks on a very strict budget. We might play at budgeting (“I did a budget week and only spent $25 on food, go me!”), doing it out of curiosity or to prove a point, but if we have a financial cushion that means we don’t have to spend $25 on food for our family, I don’t think we can truly understand what it’s like to worry about every penny every day of every week of every month of every year.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Yes, you can buy bulk rice and beans and lentils and frozen veggies and eat perfectly fine, perfectly healthy vegan meals without breaking the bank, but what if you live in a food desert and don’t have a car and you literally can’t buy bulk rice and beans at the shops near you? What if they only sell one brand of canned beans, but it’s more expensive than a same-size can of ready-made meat chili or stew? And what if — heaven forbid — you actually want to eat MORE than rice and beans? Vegan convenience foods and snacks are not cheap, at least not in the U.S., and they’re not available at, say, your corner bodega.

It’s disingenuous to say that everybody can eat vegan on the cheap and still enjoy a plentiful, varied, healthy mix of meals. Some people certainly can. But not everyone. So please take my budget week recommendations with that in mind. If you want to incorporate more vegan foods into your diet but are constrained by your location, your schedule, or what’s in your wallet, please just do the best you can. Eating a little less meat or dairy or eggs is better than giving up on veg eating entirely. Thank you for trying. <3

Okay, removing my Debbie Downer hat now! So, what to expect this week? Tips for saving money on a vegan diet, along with a look at vegan items that can be expensive but don’t have to be… if you make them yourself or are a savvy shopper. First up: BREAD!

Oh, bread. I’ve yet to meet anyone who wouldn’t devour a slice of steaming homemade bread and feel like that’s the best thing they’ll eat all day. Yet poor maligned bread gets blamed for all sorts of health issues, its carby goodness cast aside during the diet fad du jour. Wheat gets a bad rap, gluten gets a bad rap, and meanwhile I firmly believe that bread is one of life’s simplest, most delicious pleasures.

I grew up on whole-wheat sandwich bread. None of that white stuff, despite my brother swearing it made the best grilled cheese based on what his friend’s mom made at her house. That habit has always stuck with me. And as an adult, I started trying breads other than the simple soft sandwich loaf I was used to eating. A garlicky ciabatta from the to-go grill at college, a loaf of sharp sourdough from the co-op when I lived in Madison… I’ll try it all.

 

So it seems only natural that I’d start making it myself. Since last March, when a sweet friend hosted a sourdough workshop at her house and thoughtfully gifted us starters, I don’t think I’ve purchased a single loaf of bread. It’s a tradition to name your starter (and to pre-name it when you give it away), and my friend named mine Mary Berry. Mary’s got pride of place on my counter or in my fridge at all times!

(Yes, I know Paul Hollywood is the bread enthusiast, but let’s be real… I’d rather have Mary Berry in my home than Paul. Also, I’ve taken to calling my starter “Frankenberry” because she was almost dead at one point, and I revived her by adding some of these dried sourdough starter shards Steven had given me a few years ago. So now she’s a Frankenstein’s monster of two separate sourdough strains, plus whatever wild yeasts are floating around my own kitchen!)

Anyway, six months later, my sourdough breads are still not perfect. Some loaves are faultless, with a soft-yet-not-doughy interior, a beautifully crisp outer crust, and a lovely dark sheen. Others don’t rise well or are a little stodgy or, on one terrible occasion, are denser than a stack of bricks. Many factors can affect sourdough, but rarely do they create truly inedible loaves (brick aside).

And you know what? With a no-knead recipe (see below), they are really, really quick to prepare. You mix up the ingredients on day one, leave them to rise for a certain amount of time, give the dough a fold and a short second rise the next day, and bake them to bread-y perfection. There’s very little hands-on time required, although you do need to plan in advance. (There are plenty of similar recipes for regular yeast (not sourdough) breads, too!)

Homemade bread is cheap, too. Water is inexpensive, salt is cheap, and you can buy generic store-brand flour for not too much dough, if you’ll pardon the pun. And if you use a sourdough starter, you don’t even have to pay for yeast!

The downside, of course, is that homemade bread doesn’t last as long as most store-bought breads… both because it gets gobbled up by hungry carbophiles and because it contains no preservatives. But rarely in the past half year have I had a loaf go truly stale or moldy, and if it does get hard, you can just make your own breadcrumbs!

Have I sold you on homemade bread yet?! If so, here are tips and recipes.

  • This overnight no-knead sourdough recipe from Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe is one of my staples, although I usually halve it. I keep a scrap of paper with the measurements tucked behind a cookbook on my kitchen counter for easy baking!
  • For a no-knead, non-sourdough bread, try this recipe. You can halve it or follow the instructions so you have enough dough for two loaves.
  • Prefer cup measurements to weight? Try this no-knead sourdough loaf. (Fun fact: Kristie’s sourdough starter is my starter’s grandmother!)
  • King Arthur flour has a trove of resources and recipes for both sourdough and traditional breads, along with this guide for maintaining a sourdough starter. Honestly, I am pretty lazy with Mary Berry and she’s doing just fine!
  • Vaishali has some great bread recipes AND some fun ideas for using a sourdough starter (think pancakes, pretzels, and more). I made her sourdough challah once (see photo above) and it was perfection.
  • I invested in a Dutch oven soon after getting my starter and I haven’t looked back. You can absolutely make bread without one, but to get a perfect crust, a Dutch oven is invaluable. I have this one from Lodge and I love it.
  • I recently stumbled on this quick bread recipe that breaks all the rules: YOU MICROWAVE THE DOUGH. You only let it rise for 20 minutes total. It’s insanity. But it works. (Photo below!) The texture and overall appearance are both different from that of a traditional loaf, but you know what? It’s a totally decent bread! The crumb is very soft, with none of the  big whopping holes people love in their artisanal breads, but for something you can whip up in an hour, I think it’s great. No shame in the speedy bread game.

No matter what kind of loaf you attempt, don’t be afraid of breadmaking! Experiment, have fun, and remember that even if your loaf isn’t perfect, it will almost never be entirely inedible. And it’ll make your house smell amazing while it’s baking.

What’s your favorite bread recipe, sourdough or otherwise?

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