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.

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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