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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A Few Not-So-Showstopping Sweets | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Twenty-Six

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Four: Entertaining
Showstopper dessert: Something that would earn a handshake from Paul Hollywood!

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever made anything truly, showstoppingly, spectacular. (And given my current malaise when it comes to cooking, I’m not about to do so any time soon.) The most visually impressive dessert I’ve ever attempted was a five-layer cake for Steven’s and my five-year anniversary in 2016, but the results were… less than perfect, at least visually speaking.

Our five-layer cake was Neapolitan inspired, with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry layers sandwiched between vanilla buttercream. It was massive! It was delicious! It was… kinda plain? My cake-decorating skills are not exactly finely honed, so that vanilla frosting quickly became quite crumb-laden. I think I foisted the task onto Steven and refused to take part after I realized it wasn’t going to come out perfectly. (That’s why you can see him in the bottom left photo, earbuds in place, frosting away while I snap pics.) Not the end of the world, but not the visually stunning cake of my dreams. Oh well — looks, as they say, aren’t everything.

Lego cupcakesA slightly more appealing dessert presentation: these Lego cupcakes I made for my dad’s 60th birthday a few years ago. Dad’s Lego-themed party obviously needed appropriately matching sweets, and these did the trick! Simple chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, dressed up with Lego-inspired wrappers, vanilla buttercream, and candy Lego bricks. Not terribly fancy, but perfectly befitting of his Lego theme.

…and that’s it. That is the full extent of my showstopping. Paul Hollywood would definitely NOT give me a handshake for either of these desserts (though I might merit a Fielding fondle).