Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Consolidating My Assets

Or is that my ass?

Either way, after much consideration, I've decided to merge the Half-Assed Vegan Blog into Babble 'n Blog, my main personal blog, which has been around since 2006.

I'll still be writing about food choices and cooking healthy plant-based dishes on occasion, but I don't feel I've been doing it often enough to justify a separate blog. It's all about good time management. And merging two parts of my life into one clean space.

My favorite food blog links will also be migrating to Babble 'n Blog, so you can go there if you want to check one of those links for ideas.

I want to thank those of you who have supported this blog, and I hope the few of you who haven't visited Babble 'n Blog will do so. I talk about everything there - writing, social issues, my life and goals - usually posting at least once a week.

Best,
Sue Ann

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Bacon Made Me Do It

I have a confession. Lately I've been craving bacon in a bad way. Yeah, bacon. Craving it like a crack head.

Remember, I'm only a half-assed vegan, and I've had bacon and other meats, but only sporadically while eating out. I haven't cooked meat in my home in almost two years.

There is nothing healthy about bacon, not even in our wildest dreams. The only good thing about bacon is its taste, which ROCKS! So I bought some precooked bacon and heated it up in the microwave last night. It was pretty damn good!

 Now to the fun part. Although, filling my stomach with processed animal protein filled with nitrates and fat was pretty fun too, even if my body was going all WTF!!! and protested in ways you don't want to know about.

Trust me.

But the real fun part of my bacon debauchery was watching B, my 16 year old cat. I don't recall ever giving her bacon before, but last night she sat vigil in the kitchen like a furry Buddha while I nuked it. Then she followed me and my dinner into the living room and started begging as if pleading for amnesty in a kill shelter. She got some. She gobbled it down, then begged for more.

 B is not happy that she lives in a home where meat is no longer cooked and consumed. Although she begs for it, she turns her nose up at tofu, seitan, and beans. She does love peanut butter, however. Once in a while I'll bring home a piece of cooked chicken and chop it up for her. B LOVES her chicken.  But this bacon was new and exciting and she twitched all over at the scent of it cooking.

Could you deny this face?
Are we no longer half-assed vegans, Mom?
Huh? Huh?
Tell me that's true.
Tell me you came to your senses and we're going back to burgers, chicken and pork chops. Pleeezzzz!!!

Sorry, B. The bacon episode was just one of those temporary stops along the way to seeking good health. Kind of like pulling off the highway to view a quirky and often horrifying roadside attraction. This house returns to a  No Meat/No Dairy Zone immediately.

Tonight for dinner I'll be making Sweet PotatoCoconut Curry Soup from my favorite food blog Minimalist Baker.

Poor B. Something tells me she's not going to be happy with tonight's menu. Guess she'll just have to eat her very expensive top-of-the-line kibble and be happy with it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

WINNER, WINNER, TOFU DINNER

I have many friends who, at the mere mention of tofu, roll their eyes and/or make gagging reflex noises.

Kind of how I feel about okra, unless it's hidden in gumbo.

I believe that most people who say they hate tofu have simply not had it prepared properly.

Even before I started eating as a half-assed vegan, I liked tofu. I'd only had it in Asian food, but I did like it. Now I cook it all kinds of ways and really have come to love it. Along with different beans, it's my favorite protein.

Tofu is the chicken of the non-meat proteins, meaning you can do almost ANYTHING with it, and like a sponge it absorbs any seasonings or flavors you add to it. It can be fried, baked, sauteed, or served right out of the package. Put it in a food processor with seasonings and toss it in a skillet with some tasty veggies and it will rival scrambled eggs. It can even be made into a ricotta cheese substitute for veggie lasagna or whirred in a blender to make a lovely sauce for pasta.

Bonus: It's packed with protein, low in calories, and inexpensive.

There is simply no limit to what you can do with it if you know what you're doing.

My tofu press. Fast, easy and inexpensive.
Tofu comes in all kinds of ways: soft, firm, extra firm, silken, plain pre-baked and seasoned pre-baked, just to name a few. If you buy tofu packed in water, it's best if you press it before using. It will help it absorb marinades and seasonings.  To press, simply remove from the package and drain it. Wrap it in a tea towel and put it between two plates with a heavy object on top and let it sit for about 30 min. OR you can do what I do and buy a tofu-press. Pressing this way takes about 10 minutes.

Once it's pressed, it can be easily cut into slices, cubes, triangles or even baked whole.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes. Come on, give them a try. You know you should:

I LOVE chicken salad with cranberries and almonds. I now make tofu salad with cranberries and almonds and love it just as much. It can be served as a sandwich or over mixed greens. To cut back on the mayo, I use a little almond milk to make it wetter without adding more fat. Here is the recipe I use. I make it with both seasoned and unseasoned pre-baked tofu, but if you used the unseasoned, you need to adjust your seasonings.

I was a little skeptical of baking an entire block of tofu, but Vegan Dad has a tofu roast that is simple and fills the house with the wonderful aroma of cloves. It reminded me of how the house smelled when my mother would bake a ham. Once roasted, the tofu can be served hot like a roast or sliced to make sandwiches.  I may make this for Thanksgiving this year and serve it with yams, as I would a ham.

And who doesn't love cheese spread on crackers or celery? Right? Well, guess what? Tofu makes a kick-ass "cheese spread." Yeah, you read that right!  I've even spread it on bread, added sliced tomatoes and grilled it. YUMMY! Here's the recipe. Note: I don't grate the tofu, but whir it in the food processor then add other ingredients.

One of my favorite things to do with tofu is simply to saute up marinated cubes of it with different sauces and add steamed veggies and sometimes rice. A few of my favorite marinades/sauces are:

Sweet, Sticky & Spicy Tofu
Stupidly East Peanut Noodles (note, I use this sauce on sauteed tofu, as well as noodles)
Citrus Roasted Tofu (note, I half the marmalade because it's so sweet and add more carrots)

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bake
Just last night I made Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bake using a tofu ricotta that you would swear was real ricotta. This is from Minimalist Baker, my absolute fav vegan recipe blog. It was wonderful and made tons, which I like for leftovers and lunches.

Finally, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Panda Express's Orange Chicken. (Who doesn't, right?). I recently came across a recipe for Orange Ginger Tofu from the It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken blog, another favorite vegan blog. I'm going to try it out this week.

When I do make it, I'll post a pic on my Facebook page. Come visit!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Crazy for Cauliflower

Cauliflower has never been a favorite vegetable of mine. I don't dislike it, but I don't love it like I do zucchini, mushrooms, butternut squash, spinach, green beans, corn, peas, etc.  But since I've turned into a half-assed vegan, I love me this crazy cruciferous veggie.

Why? Because you can do so much with it. You can bake, roast, saute, steam, puree, mash, rice, and stir fry it, or even eat it raw. You can even make "buffalo wings" from it! Its mild flavor easily adapts to whatever spices you put with it, so the world is yours to play with.

It comes in a variety of types and colors and is very very very good for you. I usually go for the boring white variety because it's cheap and easy to find. See chart at the end of this blog for the nutritional benefits, and while you're there notice how low the calories are and that it even contains protein.

Cauliflower is a darling of plant-based eating because of all the things you can do with it, but it has a special place in my heart because of something you might not have known about this bumpy brain-looking veggie.  

As I've stated before on this blog, I'm not supposed to eat dairy products. One of the comfort foods I miss is creamed ANYTHING. Cream-based pasta sauces like Alfredo, creamed soups, creamed veggies. Anything with a cream base and I'm so there. 

In plant-based cooking there is this amazing thing called cashew cream. It's a concoction of raw cashews that have been soaked several hours, drained, and thrown into a blender along with a plant milk or vegetable broth and pureed along with seasonings until it's a "cream" that will make you swoon. I've used it many times in vegan stroganoffs, creamed spinach, as a "cheese" sauce for vegan lasagna and many other pasta dishes. It simply ROCKS. But although cashews are good for you, they are high in oil and calories, something my overweight body certainly doesn't need.

Enter cauliflower.

Cauliflower can be steamed or roasted, thrown into a blender with plant milk (I use unsweetened, unflavored almond milk), and whirred into a "cream."  Betcha didn't know that. 

I LOVE MUSHROOM SOUP. Always have, and I don't mean the gummy stuff that comes out of a can, but the good stuff from restaurants. Traditionally it's made with cream (duh) and super high in calories. Last week I made a vegan version of mushroom soup with a cauliflower base and almost died with tasty happiness. 

With still a half head of cauliflower left, I then made a creamy spinach pasta dish and once again celebrated the joys of cauliflower cream.

Some rockin' cauliflower recipes:

This is the recipe I used for the mushroom soup, except that I used 2 cups of almond milk and 2 cups of mushrooms.  It's quick, easy and so good I'm going to make another pot this weekend.

Here's the recipe for the creamy spinach pasta.  I used whole grain penne and added extra milk. I also added more chopped spinach at the end, along with some sauteed mushrooms. Tip: I found this kind of dry. Next time (and there will be a next time since it was SO GOOD), I will not bake it. After I added the sauce, it was creamy. Baking it dried it out.  Leftovers freeze well.

Another favorite recipe of mine is this cauliflower and chickpea curry. I make this quite often and leftovers freeze beautifully. Pssst, I add raisins and peas to it.

Chef Chloe Coscarelli's Kate Middleton's Pasta Alfredo. Ignore the stupid cutesy name. This is super yummy and leftovers freeze very well. I also add peas to it. What's Alfredo without peas!  In fact, I love Chef Chloe's Vegan Italian Cookbook!

Cauliflower Picatta.  I haven't made this yet, but it's on my must try list, but it looks yummy. 

Downside of Cauliflower. Yes, like all good things, this veggie does have a downside, at least for me. It gives me horrible gas. The kind you don't want to have in public and that even the cats at home object to. I simply take an over-the-counter gas remedy when I eat it. Easy peasy.

If I see you at the market, you'd better have a head of cauliflower in your basket!






Sunday, July 26, 2015

Scared Straight!

I've been under a lot of stress for the past several months. I had surgery, broke out in horrible hives, met book deadlines, and my brother passed away. During that time, I fell off the healthy eating wagon. And I didn't fall off with a thud, but with a CRASH, and then the healthy eating wagon moved on and I was picked up by the garbage food express.

Off and on I returned to eating dairy (a no-no for me), fast food, sugary food, fried food, too much food. Get the picture?

Then I got back on the healthy eating bandwagon and did well for awhile, then CRASH, I regressed back into a lot of my old bad eating habits.

I'm still not eating much meat, but more than I was, but that's not the issue. The problem is, I've been eating a lot of fast food, usually hitting the burger and taco joints on the way home after work, even though I had healthy food at home.

Why?

Because at the end of the day I'm tired and want convenience. But the bigger reason is that I'm lazy. I admit it. It's convenient and less time consuming to point my car toward a drive-thru, order food, and pay very little money for it. Let's face it, fast food is usually much cheaper than healthy food.

And what's wrong with that picture? Huh?

So after eating fairly healthy for quite awhile, how is my body taking the burgers, tacos, fried food, cookies, cake, and chips (vegan or not)?

Not well. Not well at all.

A health group I belong to online often has monthly challenges. In July part of our challenge was educational. We had to watch or read something educational about health. I decided to watch documentaries, but instead of one, I've done three so far, including Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock, which I highly recommend.

Okay, I get that no one is going to eat as much McDonald's (or any fast food) as Spurlock did in such a short time, but I have to admit, after just sucking it down several times a week for two weeks, I had a lot of the same symptoms Spurlock experienced. I became bloated, lethargic, irritable, depressed for no reason, and my acid reflux returned, along with my eczema and acne.  Not to mention, I gained back the few pounds I'd lost.

In a very short time, my body cried foul by displaying all kinds of symptoms of ill health.

Makes you think, doesn't it? It certainly did me.

I'm back to healthy eating again and my body is slowly getting back its energy. I won't say I'll never stray, but I will say that I'll think a lot longer about it before I do, and maybe that little bit more thought and time will be enough to change the direction of my car and head home to my healthy fridge.

BTW, the other documentaries I watched in July were Hungry for Change and Vegucated, both very worthwhile and informative.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Come In Out of The Cold

This past week someone at work alerted me to a big sale on Lean Cuisines at the market. The information stopped me in my tracks as I struggled to remember the last time I purchased a frozen entree.  By my calculation it had to be at least a year and a half, maybe almost two years ago.

WOW!

I used to live on those things at lunch time at the office. I'd buy ten to twenty at a time and take four to five into work at the beginning of each week. USED TO is the operative phrase.

I confess that I'm not a true vegan - hence the term half-assed vegan. I do eat meat on occasion when I'm out at events or special occasions.  A little over a week ago my brother passed away and in his honor I decided to have one of his favorite meals from our childhood. My choices were fried Spam, fried bologna, or hot dogs. (Great choices, huh? But that's how we ate as kids and my brother loved all three of those items.) I ate two hot dogs, but not slathered with ketchup as he would have. I must admit, they were mighty tasty going down, but not so great a hour later when I was hit with heartburn.

But I digress...

As I said, I'm not a true vegan, but I do try to eat a mostly plant based, clean diet. Eating clean generally means no processed foods or foods with chemicals or other additives.  Most of the time I am very successful with this and now find processed foods too salty, fatty, or just plain yucky.

So back to frozen meals...

Yes, they are cheaper for the most part, especially when you consider the cost of eating lunch out. But they are also filed with sodium, fats and additives. All the good stuff has been beaten out them. I'm not even sure I could tolerate the taste any more. I did try some vegan frozen meals when I first started this journey, but didn't find them any better and they really weren't very satisfying.

So what's a working girl to do?

Almost every weekend I make several vegan dishes and freeze portions of them in single serve containers. At the beginning of the week, I load a couple into a lunch bag, along with some fruit, and take them to work to heat up in the microwave for lunch. Sometimes I make cold salad type dishes and take that for a few lunches.

A few times a month we have department meetings which include lunch. Because of my dairy issues, I often can't each much of what is provided, so I simply heat up my lunch and take it to the conference room for the meeting. If I don't want what I've brought or forget my lunch, I go to the cafe in the ground floor of our office building and hit the salad bar. It's all good! And I feel great eating this way.

Tied of the same old frozen meals? Try packing your own frozen dinners or cold dishes. They're fresher, taste better, and are much better for you. And certainly not as expensive as eating out every day for lunch. And while it does take a little extra time planning and cooking, in the end you'll enjoy it more than a frozen mystery meat salt bomb and your body will thank you for it.

Trust me on this...





Friday, March 27, 2015

But It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken


Once you start eating vegetarian or vegan, or some form of either of those, you will find a whole lot of recipes and processed foods that claim to taste like the favorite foods you've given up.

Dem bitches lie!

I've tried quite a few "mac 'n cheese" vegan recipes and NOT ONE of them really tastes like my formerly beloved mac 'n cheese. Nor does any vegan cheese, sour cream, or cream cheese taste like the real dairy stuff. Almost every vegan sausage, roast and bacon I've tried also has a funny after taste.

That's reality. Get used to it. Or do what I do and don't depend on that processed  fake crap.

One of the main tricks to successfully
eating vegetarian/vegan is
managing your expectations.

If you expect Chef Chloe's meatball sliders (which are super good, BTW) to taste like your favorite heavy meatball sandwich, you will be disappointed. But they do taste GREAT! Trust me. They are made with brown rice and mushrooms and I make them and freeze them often. And her eggplant parmesan from her latest cookbook, IMHO, tastes BETTER than the traditional because it's not caked with grease. Chef Chloe uses this amazing "mozzarella" sauce in the dish that can be used on tons of other stuff and will satisfy your craving for creamy cheesy goodness.

There are a lot of plant-based recipes out there that are based on favorite meat-centered or diary-centered recipes that are DELISH! And you will find yourself loving them if you don't expect them to taste EXACTLY like the original food they were inspired by. Instead, let them stand on their own, as an independent recipe and food, and you will have an easier row to hoe as you seek a healthier lifestyle.

This last weekend I made for the 3nd time, Minimalist's Baker's kale and spinach dip. I love this dish!!! It's "cheesy" and rich and oh so healthy. And it even tastes a lot like the crowd pleasing and very fattening spinach and artichoke dish found at many parties. Its creamy base is a cashew cream that, like the "mozzarella" sauce, can be used in a lot of different recipes. The kale/spinach dip also uses vegan parmesan cheese, which I like better than the real stuff.  I don't make this recipe as a dip, but use it as a side dish by reducing the amount of cashew cream and adding lots of sliced mushrooms. I've even spread it on toast as a sandwich filling!

I must confess, Minimalist Baker is my FAVORITE spot for vegan recipes.

Now doesn't that look good?
Another favorite dish of mine is beef stroganoff, but alas, no more. In her cookbook Isa Does It, Isa Chandra Moskowitz presents a tofu stroganoff that is so darn yummy I had to stop myself before I ate the entire pot! Does it taste like beef stroganoff? NO! But it does have a tangy creamy sauce and is loaded with mushrooms and noodles and chunks of sautéed tofu that satisfies my craving for stroganoff. Don't like tofu? Then leave it out and add more mushrooms. Easy peasy!

Just yesterday I made a stew based on a favorite Armenian lamb stew I used to make all the time. I made it instead with seitan, a wheat meat substitute. Other than that, I followed the same recipe. It's a tomato based stew with tons of green beans, onions and flavor. Just like the recipes above, it did not taste exactly like the lamb stew I've loved since childhood, but it was a lot healthier and pretty darn tasty.

Tomato, Green Bean and Seitan Stew

1 pkg of cubed seitan (I drain and rinse it because it's so salty)
1 large can of chopped tomatoes with garlic and seasoning
1 onion chopped into large pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Green beans cut into bite size pieces - about 1 lb. I used fresh, but you could use frozen
1-2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water

Sautee the garlic and onion in the olive oil until onions are soft. Add the seitan and brown a little. Add the tomatoes and green beans, salt, pepper and water. Bring to boil and simmer for about an hour on low or until green beans are cooked through. (Note: I make this in a slow cooker and it's better cooked all day. You can also add some red potatoes cut into bite size pieces.)

It won't happen overnight, but I've found over time that I've stop craving many of my old favorite dishes and have replaced them with new plant-based favorites. And when I do crave one of my old standbys, I think about the non-healthy v. healthy aspects of the two dishes and usually go with the healthier dish.