Category Archives: Vegan

Weekly Eating – 1/7/19

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well I got to go mushroom foraging with my friend finally! I’ve been wanting to since last year, but finally we both had time, hunting season was over, and it had just rained, so I got to frolic in his acreage and benefit from his knowledge.

mushroom foraging with a friend

And what knowledge he has! This friend has been in the food business for decades, and foraging for many years. It was quite eye opening to have all the things pointed out, like light and tree types and ages and water and elevation. What kinds of things to look for at what time of the year.

mushroom foraging with a friend

And when we found a cache of oysters, what they should smell and look and feel like. We then compared them to two different books when we got back, just to be extra sure. If he says it won’t kill me, I’ll eat it.

homemade pierogi

I also made a big batch of pierogi because since I took them to a food swap last year people have been asking for them again. I did 3 types: mashed potato, sauerkraut, and applesauce; all the fillings were also homemade.

vegan lasagna

Oh, and totally nailed my first vegan lasagna! The boy even said the cashew-tofu “cheeze” tasted “ricotta-y” haha I followed this recipe pretty much to a T. Full disclosure: pretty sure the noodles were not vegan. But the “cheeze” and lentil “meat sauce” was delightful.

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie

Lunch – veggie burgers of the leftover curry mixed with leftover chili and oats and flax added as binder. I love veggie burgers for using up any leftover odds and ends. Topped with green sauce, hot sauce, and cashew cream.

veggie burger with cashew cream

Dinner – I made a mushroom deuxelle stuffing type thing, but added some pickled figs because why not. And a red beans and brown rice to go with this lovely foraged topping.

red beans and rice with mushroom deuxelle

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 1 blueberry organic yogurt

Lunch – leftover sweet potato fries  with avocado and BBQ jackfruit

leftover jackfruit and sweet potato fries

Snack – blueberries and walnuts

Dinner – leftover pumpkin gnocchi, and a salad

leftover pumpkin gnocchi

This was food swap night, and we had a ball at Durty Bull Brewing.

food swap goodies

Wednesday:

Breakfast – local chicken eggs on toast with vegan pepperjack cheese. I finally found some brands that taste like actual cheese, not chalky, and melt! It’s wonderful.

vegan pepperjack and egg sandwich

Lunch – veggie burger with vegan cheddar, sauerkraut, and avocado, and a big side salad with green goddess dressing.

veggie burger and salad

Snack – blueberries and almonds

Dinner – Annie’s organic shells and white cheddar mac, with a can of white beans, nutritional yeast, almond milk, garlic salt, and turmeric for color as the sauce!

beef mac

It looked convincingly like real mac n cheese. I had a pound of pastured beef from the Butcher Box thawed, and added it for a super healthy but hamburger helper like meal.

Thursday:

Breakfast – smoothie with bananas and coconut water, citrus fruits, frozen mango and peaches

Lunch – leftover red beans and rice and a salad

Snack – dried prunes and figs, and almonds

Dinner – Corn and potato chowder in the instant pot!

corn and potato chowder

I just put 5 potatoes, quartered, a tbsp veggie stock, 1/2 cup cashews and some water in for 15 minutes. When it was done I used the immersion blender to make it smooth and creamy. Then I added 2 more potatoes, diced, a can of corn, not drained, and some spices, and put it in for another 5 minutes. BOOM. Delicious.

Friday:

Breakfast – toast with 2 quail eggs and vegan pepperjack cheese

quail eggs and vegan cheese on toast

Lunch – went out with a friend to our favorite Chinese spot. They had a new tofu curry, so of course I had to try it! It was pretty good, though the tofu was a bit overcooked and chewy, the sauce was nice and had a slow burn to it. Great with the fried rice.

tofu curry

Snack – a banana in the morning, and chocolate cherry pecan mix on the way home! I just mixed a tbsp pecans, a tbsp dried cherries, and a tbsp chocolate chips in a small container.

chocolate cherry pecan trail mix

Dinner – sister in law is in town, and she is vegetarian. We took her out to Bull City Burger and Brewery, because I heard they have the Impossible Burger and I am dying to try it!

bcbb green monster

But, turns out, they got rid of it  🙁  Apparently, once you dig into the details of how it is made, it actually takes a lot more resources to make and transport that patty than they take to obtain locally raised pastured NC cows for their burgers and process them in-house. Which is actually a decision I can get behind. Hence me having the Green Monster instead.

The Weekend

While sis-in-law is in town, we are going to take her around Duke’s campus and downtown Durham, to show her all the things she might do and places she might live if she ends up being matched here. Since I am a tour guide on the side, this is right up my alley! And Durham has SO much to offer, it’s not hard to persuade people that living here is pretty cool.

Oh, and this weekend is Step 2 of my grand food experiment this year: home fermented soy sauce! I think this is a thing most people don’t want to know how it’s made… but I find it fascinating.

soy bean mold patties in brine

Basically you create a dough from cooked soy beans and flour. Then cut it into rounds, and let it grow mold, on purpose. After 12-14 days, you put the rounds into a brine, which only lets the right guys keep growing (hopefully). Between 6 months and 2 years later, you have a salty, complex and flavorful sauce!

 

Food Total: $129 + 29.98 + 15.66 + 41.17 = $215.81

Yikes.

That hurts a bit, totaling it all up. So, first there was the Butcher Box that I forgot to unsubscribe from, so another box came. The promo box that included 2 free pastured chickens was totally worth it, but this one not so much.

But, the deal they are running now includes the normal box, plus $25 for 2 pounds of Alaskan wild caught salmon. If you use my affiliate link –> http://fbuy.me/lwpAj <– and sign up, we both get 2 pounds of wild salmon free! I would keep going for another box for that!

Second, the Produce Box, which this week included broccoli, winter strawberries, pears, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, and potatoes. And then a stop by the Co-op with sister-in-law just because she was curious and it turned into some bulk stock up shopping. Finally a quick trip to the regular grocery store because we were out of tissues, yogurt for the boy, and almond milk.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

Weekly Eating – New Year 2019

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, Happy New Year!

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I know we did, even if the driving sucks it is always worth it to see family.

skyline in virginia

We also went to Niagara Falls, which was the boy’s first time seeing them. He thought they were “pretty cool”.   🙂

Niagara Falls

It was amazing being off Monday and Tuesday, and a rough reality waking up at 6am again come Wednesday. But at least it was a short week! Back to the usual grind come next Monday.

Monday:

Breakfast – I honestly don’t remember… we probably just slept in since we had driven home from Ohio the day prior!

Lunch – Leftovers from Christmas week. We came home with like 4 different meals  🙂  Several were not vegan, but I do not waste food if at all possible, so we ate them up this week.

Dinner – mom sent us home with a bag full of leftover turkey and gravy, so I added frozen mixed veggies and flour, topped it all with biscuits, and called it a pot pie

leftover Christmas turkey pot pie

We watched Bird Box on Netflix and drank fizzy wine for the New Year, and went to bed like the old folks that we are haha

Tuesday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and almond milk

Lunch – cooked a batch of sorghum and made a “everything in the fridge” lentil curry to go with it in the instant pot. And I thawed the leftover injera from Dec to make it more fun to eat.

sorghum curry

Snack – banana bread a friend gave us for Christmas

Dinner – I made a batch of saffron rice and a crazy lazy version of Hoppin John with black eyed peas for the New Year. No greens though, so this year might be disastrous for our finances haha

new years hoppin john

Wednesday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and almond milk

Lunch – leftover half of a tofu sofritas burrito from Chipotle on the drive home

Snack – hummus & cucumber slices

hummus and cucumber

Dinner – we tried jackfruit for the first time. The internet says it is a vegan superfood, and they are right! It doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, but it shreds just like chicken or pork, and cooks into whatever you want.

canned jackfruit

I made some rolls to put it on, and added some shredded carrots and cooked beans for bulk, and we had bbq sandwiches with baked sweet potato fries.

jackfruit bbq sandwich

Thursday:

Breakfast – banana bread from a friend & coffee

banana bread

Lunch – leftover mushroom soup from Christmas with a big salad of spring mix, blueberries, dried apricots, and walnuts.

soup and salad

Y’all this mushroom soup recipe has been in my family for generations, and we all wait all year for it. Is it vegan? Hell naw. Cause heavy cream and butter are lyfe in Ohio. But am I gonna let it go to waste? Hell. to. the. no.

Dinner – Pumpkin gnocchi with pumpkin I froze earlier, and thawed pesto, topped with cashew cream and hot sauce

pumpkin gnocchi with pesto and cashew cream

Friday:

Breakfast – big smoothie of frozen mixed berries, amla powder, flax seed, and coconut water

Lunch – a big salad, and leftover eggplant parm with frozen mixed broccoli and cauliflower

eggplant parm and veggies

Snack – Hummus & cut up cucumber

Dinner – I forgot to add one exception to my Veganuary rules… sushi. Sushi, wine, and popcorn are my kryptonite. So when a friend invited us to an over-due AYCE sushi night, I wasn’t about to say “no, put a pin in that until February please”. I had the most plates. 😀

The Weekend

The weekend will include cleaning the house from the tornado it has become. We need to put away Christmas things and generally tidy up the clutter. Mari Kondo has a show on Netflix now, so that’s hopefully gonna motivate me to keep purging clutter. I officially accepted the Dragons on Fire’s challenge to de-clutter and get rid of 1000 items this year!

shoes

I’m off to a strong start, decluttering 11 items starting with hats and gloves on January 1st. Then I tackled shoes, purging a total of 15 pairs and keeping another 28 pairs. Pretty sure the boy has maybe 5… (2 tennis, 1 formal, 1 hiking/snow, 1 slippers).

It’s not fair, for girls we have so many different styles compared to dudes, and need all the styles in different colors too! (Flats, flip flops, running shoes, ankle boots, tall boots, heels, formal or casual, black and brown…) But it’s a start.

quail

I’m also oh so happy to have my covey back! I missed these girls over break, and the pure jolt of joy when I find an egg. They had a great time on my friend’s farm, though one met a tragic end… the flock also accidentally expanded. Someone left a box with several quail, and the two groups were combined.

The person watching them kept a few, but I ended up coming home with 11 rather than 9, of which 9 or 10 are girls! So I’m not mad, that means oodles of eggs come spring time.

Food Total: $66.95

No produce box, deliveries resume next week. I also forgot to cancel the Butcher Box subscription, so that charge will show up next week, oopsie… At least their meat ‘meets’ my strict criteria! So the boy will get one treat night next week.

By the way, the deal they are running now is $25 for Alaskan wild salmon. If you use my affiliate link –> http://fbuy.me/lwpAj <– and sign up, we both get 2 pounds of wild salmon free! I would keep going for another box for that!

Meats $7.08 Dairy $7.06 Staples $24.17 Fruit/Veg $25.55
vegan burgers x2 kinds 7.08 flavored Greek 1.58 org salsa mild med 3.78 org avocados 4 x3 10.47
plain Greek yogurt 32oz 3.49 coconut water can x2 1.96 frozen berries x2 3.84
organic hummus 1.99 1.99 coconut water box x2 4.98 sweet potatoes x2 bags 3.38
hot sauce 1.49 bananas 11 1.39
organic seed bread x2 7.98 blueberries 1.99
wraps x2 3.98 big box spring mix 3.49
seedless cucumber 0.99

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

Veganuary: What is it, should I try it?

 

So, if you recall, one of my main health goals for 2019 is to do a Veganuary: one month of eating vegan (with a few caveats). This will  definitely also help kickstart my goal to follow Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen checklist of healthy foods you should eat every day.

Dr McGregor Daily Dozen

I’ll be drawing inspiration from their website’s many free monthly vegan meal plans, and will try to use their free downloadable template too. (But I’ll probably end up just writing in meals on the whiteboard like I usually do).

Curious to know more? Read on…

What is Veganuary?

Veganuary actually started in 2014 in the UK as a nonprofit. It has since grown by leaps and bounds every year, with more than 250,000 people in 193 countries signing up for 2019.

From their own site: “Veganuary is dedicated to changing public attitudes, while providing all the information and practical support required to make the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible.”

So, before you start rolling your eyes and saying “I’d DIE without cheese!”, just realize it doesn’t mean you have to never eat those things you love ever again.

Just try one day, one week, without it.

Try ONE plant-based meat or cheese alternative. Try one meatless meal, there are plenty out there. I bet you eat some already without realizing it. Veggie lasagna, a million kinds of soups, salads, curries, tacos, pasta, all kinds of ethnic foods like Ethiopian and dal.

I bet you can make it one week. And then keep going, for one month.

Why should I try vegan for a month?

There are a ton of different reasons why people try or choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. If any of the below things are of concern to you, then give it a go.

Health -it is no secret by now that vegetarian and vegan diets are crazy good for your heart and your health and lowering your cancer risk. I don’t want to belabour the point too much, but whole grains, legumes, and veggies are f*@%ing good for you. Eat them.

Nutrition – today’s industrial, monocropped, chemicalized, carbohydrate-and-corn based “foods” are basically leading to a double pronged epidemic of obesity and malnutrition. Think about how crazy and confusing that is. Meanwhile, plants are jam-packed with the fiber, vitamins, and minerals your body is so desperately craving, which it uses to maintain blood pressure, rebuild cell walls and proteins, and keep your guts working normally.

Environment – if you think about what it takes to raise an animal to slaughter weight, you realize all the resources that go into it. Tons of food, perhaps literally, that had to be watered and fertilized and processed and trucked to where the animals live. Water, for them. Probably some amount of antibiotics or medications. Several months or possibly years of feed and care.

Then they must be transported to wherever they will be processed, be processed so they use electricity and manpower and machinery, then be packaged up and transported to the store, and finally be transported to your home. So each 1 pound of pork or chicken or beef costs gallons of water and oil and feed. Meanwhile, one pound of raw barley, oats, tomato, beans, or zucchini also takes water and oil, but far far less. A diet heavier in plant products than animal products is easier on the planet with very few exceptions.

Money – any diet can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be, depending on how much self control you have at the grocery store and how good your home cooking skills are. Unfortunately, due to demand, it is ususally cheaper to prepare convenience foods with animals, like a $12 salad versus a $8 burger. But it is always cheaper to cook at home, and better for you too. Want to know more about just how you could save nearly $200 a year by trying vegetarian? Read here, here, here, here, and here.

Animals – the industrial scale food production system is horrific. Just watch any documentary like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, etc. or do some basic internet search. Beaks and teeth and tails cut off, animals crammed into living spaces just inches larger than they are, constant streams of antibiotics and growth hormones just to keep them alive and increase profit per pound, substandard and contaminated feed. Opt out of the industrial system at the very least, and if you eat animals, choose ones that were raised the way nature intended, out in the open on fields of grasses and bugs. Find a Farmers Market near you, there will definitely be people there you can ask.

tomatoes cucumbers and peppers

How do you Veganuary?

One of the New Years’ Goals this year is for the boy and I to do a one month Veganuary. I foresee this not being too tough a challenge, as we already eat a large volume and variety of plant based foods. This will be harder on the boy, without turkey burritos, but I will try my darnedest to make him enjoy it with creative cooking!

We do have some specific caveats to our Veganuary, which is more like a “healthy-foods-only-anuary”, but that’s not as catchy.

  • Animal foods we raise are okay. My quail eggs specifically.
  • Animal foods that meet very strict criteria are okay: basically free range and/or mostly pastured, no added hormones or antibiotics or other non-medically-required chemicals. I.e. the dozen free range chicken eggs a friend gave to us for Christmas.
  • No wasted food. If someone gives us a consumable gift, that can’t be preserved, we will eat it. Like a delicious banana bread loaf.
  • The boy will keep using plain Greek yogurt on burritos and such. Because I don’t want this month to be torture.
  • I will eat honey, dates, and things made with yeast. Because that definition of vegan is too strict for me. I’m in it for the health of it.

And that’s pretty much it! If it is made from or literally is a plant, we will eat it. We are trying to check all the boxes on the Daily Dozen by starting with a smoothie containing frozen berries, flax, and amla powder, with occasional banana or other fruit or almond milk or chia seeds tossed in. Lunch and dinner will be leftovers or a rotation of meals I know we like and new ones we will try together.

Is it too late to start?

No way! Just because it is no longer January 1, you can still start wherever you are.

You don’t even have to commit to a full month if you don’t want to.

Try vegan for one week maybe. Or go all in and do 6 months, it is up to you and your family. But I highly recommend giving it a shot, at least once. Worst case you end up finding new foods you might not have known about before.

Best case?

You feel better than you have in years, you get off all long-term medications, your skin clears up and is radiant, your hair and nails are shiny and strong, and you are as regular as a clock.

What do you have to lose?

 

 

What do you say? Would you try eating more plants?

Weekly Eating – 8/20/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Over the weekend, I spent some time pulling out diseased squash vines and clearing a corner of the garden. Since there is now space, I also started a big batch of fall seeds!

budget epicurean fall planting seedlings

My library is amazing and has a free seed service, where you can take home up to 4 kinds a few times a year. You can also save seeds and bring them in to share with your fellow Durhamites. I started the 4 from the library and a few from home too, so hopefully I will have beets, turnips, kale, collards, swiss chard, and/or onions in a few weeks.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie with peaches, bananas, frozen blueberries and flax & amla powder

Lunch – leftover veggie burger + portobello wrapped up in a whole grain wrap with roasted red pepper hummus and sliced veggies

Dinner – This AMAZING egg roll in a bowl from Don’t Waste the Crumbs: https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2018/03/egg-roll-bowl/

budget epicurean egg roll in a bowl

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I diced up a potato, some mini peppers, grape tomatoes, and sweet potato leaves and cooked them in a frying pan with a lid on for about 15 minutes for a delicious and filling breakfast hash.

budget epicurean breakfast hash

Lunch – Well… I brought leftover egg roll in a bowl. But I forgot that Tuesday is now my busiest day, and I rarely am at my desk between 10 and 2 anymore. So I was starving, and couldn’t wait long enough, and succumbed to Starbucks (the closest semi-healthy option).

budget epicurean emergency starbucks lunch

I felt so much guilt for the $8.50 spent, as well as the plastic container. I’m hoping this makes me remember next week to pack a lunch that can be portable at room temp. I intend to re-use the package at least a few times.

Snack – hummus and veggies

Dinner – I diced up oodles of veggies: squash, zucchini, bell peppers, white corn, and red onion, and mixed it with 1 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of water. Then I baked it at 350 for about an hour, stirring once. The result was an amazing summer one pan dinner.

budget epicurean quinoa summer veggie casserole

I also had another big batch of leftover old bread slices and ends, so while the oven was on anyways I roasted the bread too, and then pulsed it in my food processor to make bread crumbs. Waste not want not right?

Wednesday:

Breakfast – homemade bread with peanut butter and fruit

budget epicurean toast and fruit

Lunch – leftover egg roll in a bowl with rice. I also had my reuseable water cup with straw, real fork from home, and used a hankie as a napkin. Was pretty pleased with myself.

budget epicurean leftovers waste free lunch

Snack – peaches, apples, and pear slices

Dinner – Erin’s amazing Turkish red lentil stew! I thought I over-did it on the cinnamon, as it smelled pretty strong, but the flavor was great!

budget epicurean red lentil soup

Then that night I had a great food debate on Twitter, which all started with popcorn. Of course I ended up making a big bowl.

budget epicurean stovetop popcorn

Thursday:

Breakfast – my tropical granola with almond milk

budget epicurean granola and milk

Lunch – leftover summer veggies and quinoa casserole and a big green salad

Dinner – Thursday night $3 co-op dinner! Some friends and I are making a tradition of it. Can you tell which is the beef hot dog and which is the vegan one? In my opinion they tasted pretty much the same!

budget epicurean co-op dinner hot dogs

We also went to one of the final home games of the Durham Bulls season, and a great time was had by all. Even though we got shut down pretty hard… at least the weather was GORGEOUS.

Friday:

Breakfast – I chopped up a potato, a handful of green beans, some tiny peppers, and an heirloom tomato and tossed it all in a pan with 1/2 cup lentils and 1 cup water. I let that simmer for 30 minutes while I made coffee and fed the dogs and got dressed, and then enjoyed my hot and tasty breakfast.

budget epicurean lentils for breakfast

Yes, lentils for breakfast. Try it sometime, you might be surprised.

Lunch – leftover African peanut stew that I made over the weekend with a giant rainbow of free produce from a friends’ parents.

budgetepicurean african stew

Snack – hummus & veggies

Dinner – leftover eggroll in a bowl

 

The Weekend

This will be a half and half weekend. Saturday is chillax and no stress day, I can be productive or choose not to be. And Sunday I am hosting another tea party!

 

Food Total: $55.49 + 74.05 = $129.54

This week’s delivery box price was a bit steeper than usual because in addition to my usual box I also invested in 10 pounds of ‘seconds’; peaches that were slightly bruised or discolored, to process into frozen, canned, and jam.

budget epicurean produce box

And then I spent a hefty sum at the co-op on Thursday, for a few reasons. One, we are nearly out of maple syrup. And I learned that real maple syrup is HELLA expensive. Like $20 a bottle. But. HFCS is no longer allowed in the house, and therefore this is the only option. Hopefully this will last a good long time.

Two, I did not realize spirulina is FORTY TWO DOLLARS PER POUND. Yeah I got like an ounce, but that cost near $20. Ugh. But it was already in my own glass jar and weighed and I wasn’t about to go put it back on the shelf… so I sucked it up. Better make some damn good smoothies is all I’m saying…

I also caved when I saw this amazing steel straw and straw cleaning brush on sale this week. It was cheaper here than on Amazon, plus now there’s no shipping or packaging, and my co-op benefits a little. I have tons of heavy duty straws but no cleaners, so this is great. Now the ones that are questionable from dried on smoothie gunk can be squeaky clean again!

budget epicurean steel straw

 

Lessons Learned

Bulk, package-free shopping is addictive! I had so much fun last time that I found myself getting some things that were not on my list, just because I had already tare-d jars just waiting to be filled. Hoarding habits die hard folks.

Also, always get wide-mouth if you have the choice. SO much easier to fill. And finally, almonds are heavy and come out really fast! I accidentally overflowed my jar, and had to pull out and extra container to put the handful that spilled into. Because I ain’t wasting $10/lb almonds y’all.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

 

Minestrone soup is one of my favorite soups out there. Not only is it packed with veggies, it is also super easy to adapt to whatever odds and ends you have in your refrigerator, and is very filling.

Many soups leave you ravenous a few hours later, but with all the lovely fiber and nutrients from the veggies, and extra staying power from beans and noodles, this hot and hearty soup keeps your tummy from growling all day long.

You can thicken it up easily by pureeing half the beans, or using mashed potatoes rather than chunks of potatoes. Or you can thin it out by doubling up on the stock, adding extra water before serving, or adding extra tomato juice.

I’ve written before how easy it is to make minestrone in ten minutes, but sometimes you want deeper flavors. That is where the slow cooker comes in.

slow cooker minestrone soup

The slow cooker is a great option because you can just “dump and go”, then come home to a delicious smelling house and a hot and ready meal. It’s also great because, unlike a boiling pot on the stove, you don’t need to constantly watch and stir. The soup won’t burn or stick to the bottom, and there’s no risk of boiling over.

And a programmable slow cooker is the best option yet, that way there is no risk of over-cooking it either! But don’t worry, if you don’t have the kind with a timer it will still work just fine.

Leave it on longer, on low rather than high, for the lowest risk of burning or over cooking. You can add the pasta noodles at the beginning, if you want a truly one-step meal and don’t mind soft pasta. If you want “al dente” slightly harder pasta, it’s best to boil it separately and add just before serving.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Ingredients:

  • ~1 cup fresh, canned, or frozen green beans
  • ~1.5 cups cooked pinto beans (or any bean you prefer)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, small dice
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can tomatoes (whole, stewed, diced, etc)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen spinach
  • Either: 1 cup mashed potatoes or 2-3 small potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups broth, stock, or water
  • 1/2 pound pasta noodles, any shape you like

slow cooker minestrone soup

Step 1: Dice up your veggies, by hand or in a food processor.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Step 2: In slow cooker, combine all ingredients (except noodles, if you are cooking them just before serving). Cook on low 6-10 hours, or on high 3-4 hours.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Step 3: When you’re ready for dinner, just boil your pasta according to the directions. I prefer shapes, such as elbow macaroni, shells, or bowties, but any noodle works. Drain, mix in the noodles, and serve!

soup, salad, and smoothie

This soup is hearty enough to be a meal on its own, but it also pairs well with salads, or a nice thick garlic bread for dipping. It is super healthy, vegetarian but meat eaters will also love it, and quite cheap! Especially if you have a garden to get some of the vegetables.

You can easily change it up, for example if you hate green beans but have some fresh zucchini, go right ahead and swap. Bell peppers go great here, and you can use fresh diced tomato or canned or even juice. Or forget the tomato altogether and just use broth, you’re in charge!

BE’s Black Bean Burgers

 

A new favorite one pan dinner — asparagus and black bean burgers!

🍔 Black beans are SUPER healthy; they have tons of fiber and protein to fill you up, folate, potassium, and vitamin B6, and eating lots of legumes 🥜 can decrease your cholesterol and blood pressure as well as lower your risk of heart disease 💓 and cancer! Plus this burger is damn delicious. I call that a win-win.

BE Black Bean Burger

Burger recipe:

  • 1 can black beans drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (can use lentils or mushrooms instead)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup breadcrumbs (can use whole oats here instead)
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil (or vegetable or coconut)
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs – parsley, cilantro, chives
  • Spices to taste – I used dried onion, garlic salt, cayenne, & ~2 tbsp McCormick steak spice mix

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse. Add a bit more breadcrumbs for drier texture, olive oil a few drops at a time to make it more moist.

Step 2: Shape into 4 large patties (they will not shrink when cooked as meat patties do) and place on oven safe pan with your choice of veggies drizzled with olive oil. Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, zucchini, beets, green beans, all good choices.

BE Black Bean Burger

Step 3: Roast at 350 , covered in foil, for 20 minutes. Uncover and roast another 20 minutes. Flip patties and roast a final 5-10 minutes, until veggies are tender. Patties should be slightly crispy on the outside.

Top as desired. I suggest fresh lettuce & tomato, whole grain mustard, and purple sauerkraut!

BE Black Bean Burger

Simple Chickpea Salad

 

Do you struggle with what to bring for lunch to work, or to eat at home, or to send with the kiddos?

Trying to incorporate more healthy food into your diet, like plant based recipes and legumes?

Need a new flavor combo after years of tuna salad sandwiches and chicken salad sandwiches?

Tired of spending $6 or more on lunch every day?

Have I got the solution for you!

Meet the magical, miracle, chickpea salad.

I cannot believe I went 3 decades without knowing what chickpea salad is, or ever eating it! This stuff is so delicious! It is:

  • salty
  • crunchy
  • creamy but with a bit of texture
  • filling – no more 3pm tummy grumbles
  • super simple to make
  • cheap af
  • ridiculously healthy for you
  • everything I’m looking for in a brown bag lunch

The cheapest option is to buy dried chickpeas and cook them yourself. Just put 1/2 pound in a bowl and cover with water. (LOTS of water, these babies plump up like nobody’s business).

After 6-8-12 hours, drain and either simmer on the stove for 4 hours or so, or put in a crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

That’s it! Then you can store them in the fridge or freezer for whatever and whenever.

You can also totally use cans, no judgment here. Not everyone has time for that, or remembers to soak the night before, or has space on the counter or a crock pot in your house. Just drain and rinse.

However you do it, just get yourself about a cup of chickpeas, and get ready to make some magic happen.

chickpea salad sandwich ingredients

This simple base recipe makes enough for 2 good sized sandwiches or wraps, but I recommend double or tripling! And below I’ll add some ideas on how to further customize it to whatever flavor combo you’re feeling.

Ingredients:

  • 1 heaping cup cooked chickpeas, or 1/2 can drained
  • 1 small-medium pickle, chopped (or 1 tbsp relish)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced small
  • 1 tbsp mustard of your choice
  • Optional: 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • Optional: Green onion or celery, diced

Step 1: Soak your beans ~8 hours and cook until soft, or open and drain the can. Put about 1 heaping cup in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher. You want it mostly crushed but with some small pieces left for texture.

chickpea salad mixing

Step 2: Add your other fillings, and mix well.

Layer on bread, in a wrap, or on top of a mixed greens salad. Put inside or on top of biscuit mix and make puffs. I haven’t tried it yet with pasta to see if it can sub as tuna noodle salad, but if you have please report back!

 

If you want it extra salty:

  • Add 1 tbsp capers
  • Layer on seaweed (nori) sheets between the salad and the bread
  • Sprinkle with sea salt or garlic salt
  • Add a tbsp powdered kelp

If you want it extra crunchy:

  • Add a few tbsp chopped cucumber
  • Add a few tbsp sliced radish
  • Add a few tbsp diced celery ribs
  • Sprinkle in some slivered almonds or walnuts

If you want it to be creamier:

  • Add 1-2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • Add 1-2 tbsp thick coconut milk cream (the top part when you open a can of cold coconut milk)
  • Add 1-2 tbsp cashew cream

If you want it a little bit spicy:

  • Add chopped jalapeno or green chilies
  • Drizzle on a tsp or 2 of hot sauce
  • Sprinkle a little cayenne on top
  • Add a tbsp horseradish or wasabi

Best Ever Sweet Potato Biscuits (And They’re Vegan!)

 

Sweet potatoes are a beloved vegetable here in the South, where they star in everything from sweet potato pie to sweet potato fries. They are in the same family as morning glories, and grow best in warm climates. They are only distantly related to the white baking potato. They are also distinct from the species Dioscorea which is a genuine yam (source).

Sweet potatoes have been named the most efficient staple food to produce, yielding the most nutrition per acre of land (source). They provide simple starches (carbohydrates) as all root crops do, but they also are rich in dietary fiber, of which nearly 95% of Americans do not eat enough! (source 1 and source 2)

Dietary fiber is so important for gut health, lowering your risk of colon cancers, and maintaining a healthy weight. Fiber helps you feel full, decreases risk of diverticulitis and IBS, helps stabilize blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol levels. The American Dietetic Association recommends 20-35 grams per day, but the majority of people don’t even come close to that. And a truly healthy diet would actually be more like 70-90 grams per day!

The good news is, adding more plant foods into foods you already eat is a super simple way to increase your fiber intake painlessly. Adding sweet potatoes into delicious, flaky biscuits sneaks all kinds of fiber, vitamins, and beta carotene into your breakfast or dinner side dish, and brings a fun vibrant orange color to the table.

Baking your own biscuits may seem scary, but the process is very simple. It does take some time, about 3 hours total start to finish, which makes it a good weekend or day off project. But you can scale up to make a huge batch, and freeze the extras! It would be a great way to introduce kids to the kitchen as well.

Based loosely on this recipe (doubled) from Genius Kitchen. Makes approximately 22 biscuits.

This recipe is designed to be vegan, but you can easily use dairy milk, and/or butter instead of coconut oil, if that’s what you have.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups baked mashed sweet potato (about 2 medium sized sweet potatoes)
  • 2/3 cup soymilk or almond milk
  • 2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 8 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2ish tsp salt

peeled microwaved sweet potato

Step 1: Either roast your sweet potatoes at 350 for 45 minutes wrapped in foil, or microwave for 10-12 minutes wrapped in a wet paper towel. The skin should peel right off, leaving you with soft, cooked sweet potato flesh.

mashed sweet potato and soymilk

Step 2: In a bowl, combine the mashed sweet potato, the milk, and the apple cider vinegar. Mix together to combine.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 3: In a different bowl, mix your dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, baking powder.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 4: Add the coconut oil, a little colder than room temperature. Use a fork, mixer, or potato masher to mix the coconut oil into the dry ingredients.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

You should end up with a crumb-like texture.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 5: Add the wet potato mash into the dry ingredients, and mix just well enough to combine. You don’t want to over-mix. Refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 6: Spread flour over a solid surface, this is where you will roll and cut your dough. Take it out of the refrigerator, and cut it into four equally sized pieces.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Step 7: Press the dough flat with your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. They puff up a little while baking, but not much. Then use a glass or cookie cutter to cut the dough into rounds.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

You can re-roll the dough and cut it again up to about 3 times. Then it becomes harder to work with.

Step 8: Bake on a foil-lined pan or glass pan at 425 for 8-10 minutes, until they begin to brown on the top. I rotated the pans between the top and bottom rack at 5 minutes.

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Let cool on a wire rack, or just tear into them with your bare hands!

Best ever sweet potato biscuits

Delicious with jelly, butter, or honey, or just plain right out of the oven. They are just a tiny bit sweet on their own, and can easily compliment savory meals like chili as well.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Eating – 3/5/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well, we picked a great weekend for a dinner party! Harris Teeter was having a 10% off all wine sale, and I also got a coupon for $20 off an order of $100 or more. Without the booze for the party, I would not have hit that $100. Yes, I know, it is justifying spending I didn’t necessarily have to make. But between the sale and the coupon, the alcohol was basically half price!

the Budget Epicurean weekly eating

The party was on March 3rd, so I had a “3” theme. I made three dips: buffalo chicken, beet hummus, and vegan spinach artichoke dip, along with a nice antipasto platter. I had homemade pickles, bacon jam, olives, nuts, figs, dates, and prunes.

antipasto platter

Then I had three different types of pasta (one of which was tri-color) and three sauces: marinara, pesto, and alfredo. That way people could mix and match with whatever they wanted; alfredo plus pesto was a popular combo.

three types of pasta

And for dessert, triple chocolate brownies with chunks of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate sauce drizzle, and a Tres Leches cake! It was totally awesome and delicious. We had a great time chatting, and playing games late into the night.

tres leches cake

I paid for it on Sunday though! Good thing it’s supposed to be a day of rest, because I didn’t leave bed all day.

Monday:

Breakfast – Oatmeal with golden raisins & craisins. I don’t know if this is a different type of oatmeal, but the individual oats keep their shape and don’t stick together well. Even after multiple rounds of microwaving. I like my oatmeal to be more mashed-together like, so I was pretty unhappy with it. But I ate it anyways. I’ll have to try it as overnight oats and see if that goes better.

raisin oatmeal

Lunch – Leftover pasta, made new by adding some veggies and shrimp from the freezer, with a lemon garlic sauce.

veggie pasta with lemon butter

Dinner – Spinach Artichoke Melts + Tomato Soup. I had a ton of spinach artichoke dip left from the weekend, and read that one way to use it is to put it into a grilled cheese… well, hell yeah!

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

It turns out whoever wrote that is a flipping genius, and these sammies were hands down AHmazing. Not sure I can have a “plain” grilled cheese ever again…

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

Snack – a chocolate peanut butter granola bar in the car on the way home. Good thing I put one in the pocket of every coat…

choc peanut butter granola bar

*Soaked beans overnight in the crock pot for tomorrow’s chili

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Uh, so, I’m usually pretty behind the times with food trends. I’ve heard of “sweet potato toast” for years, where you thinly slice a sweet potato and just toast it like in a toaster. So I decided to try that. One of the slices ended up kind of charred on the end, and the other was evidently so thick that even putting it through the toaster four times, it was still crunchy… so I microwaved it for 2 minutes and that did the trick.

sweet potato "toast"

Once softened, it was pretty dang tasty. I spread a smashed avocado with lemon on one for the bougie-est toast ever, and then I had some more cooked white beans, so I figured, what the hell why not. DUDE. Why did no one ever tell me that white beans and sweet potato is a DELICIOUS combo?? With a squirt of lemon, sprinkle of salt, I was in heaven. New favorite.

sweet potato "toast"

Lunch – I had bits of random veggies all over the fridge, and a batch of cooked rice, so naturally I whipped up a super quick stir fry. The boy was funny, he goes “awww I got all excited because it smelled really good, but then I look and it’s just vegetables”  😛

veggie stir fry

Dinner – Slow Cooker 5 Bean Chili. We stirred in a few spoonfuls of spinach artichoke dip too, just for funzies, and it was pretty ok. Not a thing I’d be sad about not having, but it used up more dip, so, win.

5 bean chili with spin artichoke dip

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Pineapple Kiwi Green Smoothie! with a pear tossed in because it was bordering on spoiled.

kiwi pineapple smoothie

Lunch – Leftover white bean soup and a big salad. I also used the lemon tahini yogurt dip from last week’s Turkish koftes as dressing

white bean soup and salad

Snack – Beet hummus with cut veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Bowtie pasta with meatballs, of course. We had a LOT of pasta in the fridge…

bowties and turkey meatballs

Evening snack – herbal tea and a Stroopwaffel!

Thursday:

Breakfast – Peaches & Cream Smoothie

peaches and cream smoothie

Lunch – Pasta with meatballs, a salad, with roasted sweet and hot Brussels sprouts

pasta and brussels sprouts

Dinner – Roasted beet & sweet potato veggie burgers. I used cooked brown rice and breadcrumbs as the binders, and tossed in the little bit of cooked white beans left along with the roasted beets and sweet potato. These were softer than the last batch but I liked the flavor better. Still working on the exact right blend.

beet veggie burgers

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana walnut bread

banana bread

Lunch – Vurgers on rice cakes w hot sauce and lettuce

beet veggie burgers on rice cakes

Snack – Beet hummus & veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Pizzas! Pork and pineapple for the boy and a veggie for me using the last of the artichoke dip and some peppers and olives

spinach artichoke pizza and hawaiian pizza

The Weekend

Saturday is a lazy day for me, but the poor boy has to work the weekend. A big project launched this week, and he is ”on call” for fixing all the things. So I’ll be cleaning the house, lots of grocery shopping, and prepping for Sunday.

Sunday I’m having a tea party!! If you know me on Twitter you’re probably already aware, I am simply bursting with excitement! I adore parties, and tea, and tiny sweet and savory snacks. I’m super pumped to have a half dozen lovely ladies over in our Sunday best to sip oodles of tea, use terrible fake British accents, and talk about life. Hopefully it will be an absolute blast and become a regular thing.

mountain of tea
Uh, yea, that is all actually tea or tea related items. Bags, loose leaf, herbal, matcha… a French press, honey of different flavors, cups with built in spoons, and more…

And guys, I realized, I have a serious tea problem… I’ve always loved tea and everyone knows it, so between being unable to stop myself around new flavors and gifts from family and friends, I have amassed a formidable collection. The newest addition, of which I am most proud, is this gorgeous porcelain cup and saucer:

yellow gold rose tea cup

I was at the thrift store, and sifting through the housewares section (honestly, in search of a tiered serving tray for this party, which I sadly did not find). The cup jumped out at me with its’ royal pattern and those big yellow roses just immediately made me think of Beauty and the Beast. I had to have it.

I carried the cup around the store another 2 aisles, hoping to find a saucer that looked at least okay with it, but it was coming home with me regardless.

And then, when I was about ready to give up and leave with my few gems, I saw on a lower shelf THE MATCHING SAUCER! It was clearly meant to be. The universe wanted me to have this set. And for only $1.48 total, how could I say no?!?

yellow gold rose tea cup

Food Total: $75.52

Man I’m excited about this week, pretty much nailed it! Even with the impulse purchases and tons of produce we came in at our $75 goal. I’ve also decided that alcohol gets its own category now, so the booze we got for our dinner party was not included here.

Dairy $21.72 Staples $28.38 Fruit/Veg $22.63
Greek yogurts 10 8 Pretzel crisps 2 bags 5 Fresh beets 3 2.99
2lb sharp cheddar cheese 7.99 Canned tomatoes 12 5.64 Bag spinach 2.49
Dozen lg eggs 0.77 Canned garbanzo beans 2 1.54 Fresh stir fry veggies 1.5
Cream cheese 2 2.38 Brownie mix 1.69 Stir fry veggies frozen 1.98
Evaporated milk 0.59 Yellow cake mix 1.49 3lb clementines 2.99
Sweet condensed milk 1.99 Crackers 2 kinds 5 Bananas 8 2.12
Northern beans 2 cans 1.54 Frozen spinach big bag 2.99
Stroopwaffel 8 3.49 Bag spring mix 1.99
Pasta sauce 2 2.5 Cucumber 0.59
3color bowtie pasta 0.49 Basil plant 2.99

Lessons Learned

I did totally give in to temptation at the store when I saw a whole shelf full of Stroopwaffles! I held a box in my hand, then put it back, almost walked away… picked it back up… and then put it in the cart. At least I checked the “per unit” prices, and though the bag full of tiny waffles was close, the not-individually-packaged box of 8 was the best deal, so that is the one I chose.

shelf full of stroopwaffels

Part of me wants to add breakfasts into the meal plan. But then the other part of me knows it is currently the least predictable part of my day. Some mornings a smoothie sounds amazing, other mornings toast is the only acceptable answer. And more and more frequently lately nothing at all sounds good, so I just open the fridge and force something in my face because I can’t in good conscience not eat breakfast at all… c’est la vie, we all go through seasons of eating.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

So we all know that Green Smoothies are all the rage in nutrition circles, and it is even expanding to the general population. And for good reason! Greens are easily one of the top healthiest, most nutritious food groups on the planet. They are great for your bones, brain, heart, gut, blood, hair, skin… etc.

But it seems like kind of a lot to eat four to six cups of leafy greens every single day. Like, a girl can only have so many salads.

But, it is super easy to drink a cup of greens every day!

Enter the green drink. Just tossing a handful of spinach into a smoothie instantly elevates it from ‘laziest breakfast ever’ to ‘I’m a nutritional goddess’.

rainbow of smoothies

In keeping with my Rainbow of Smoothie series, I had to come up with a green smoothie that really knocked it out of the park. With a little experimentation, I finally hit upon what is now my absolute new favorite green drink!

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 peeled kiwi fruits
  • 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water or milk
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 banana

Kiwi Pineapple Green Smoothie

Put all ingredients into blender, and blend until smooth!

The kiwi and pineapple make this drink super tropical and tangy, I totally love it. If you don’t have coconut milk or water, you can use any type of plant milk, or plain old water to make it the right texture.

You can also add a handful of ice cubes for a slushier smoothie.

 

Want to enjoy the whole Rainbow? Check out all the colors: