Friday, August 14, 2015

CSA Round Up: Week 7

On to my fourth CSA basket round-up! If I've learned one thing this summer, it's that a half share of a CSA basket is not difficult at all for one person to consume. In past years when I've struggled, it was out of pure laziness and getting carry-out while beautiful, fresh vegetables languished in the refrigerator. I'm so happy that I committed to posting my round ups, because I realized just how much I love using all this fresh produce!

Without further ado, here's this week's haul (and an inquisitive cat):

There's chard, collard greens, fennel, beets, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, basil and chives. I REALLY wanted to make some fresh mozzarella to add to a Caprese salad, but that needs a few days of lead time. So instead, I just made a balsamic reduction and sliced up some tomatoes and basil: 

This was amazing; no cashew cheese needed. My air conditioning wasn't working and my windows don't really open, so it was 85 degrees in my apartment when I was eating this and I didn't care at all. It tasted like summer.

As I mentioned last time, I'm counting macros, bro. Or more specifically, trying to get a few more of my calories from protein than cookies. I really, really like Beyond Chicken, and the grilled strips are so easy to throw in any dish. (Plus I can reuse the trays as plates. Genius!) To round out the meat/starch/veg plates, I cooked some brown rice and added sauteed garlic and chopped basil. Then I peeled, diced and boiled the beets and sauteed the beet greens. Mixed together, this was delicious:

There were only about two servings of beets, so I made a few more portions with the collards and chard as the vegetable. I used this method to make the collard greens, which only took a few minutes, and added the chard at the end. 

Both dishes turned out great, though I may have gone a little overboard with the garlic and/or not cooked it enough. I had a few REALLY garlic-y bites. I threw the carrots in the Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette from Appetite for Reduction (my FAVORITE cookbook on the planet), but didn't take a picture. Lastly, I left the fennel to languish in my fridge. As I mentioned last time, I am not a fan. So technically, I'm not finished with this box, but I'm as close as I'm going to get!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

CSA Round Up: Week 5

It's a new record, folks! It's only Thursday (13 days in) and my CSA basket is gone! Week 5 (I have a bi-weekly pickup, so this was my third of the summer) was another bonanza. There's snap beans (basically red green-beans), zucchini, green onions, fennel, beets, chard, lettuce, and turnip greens:

First up, taco salad. This is lettuce and green onions from the basket, plus romaine, Beyond Beef Feisty Crumbles, black beans, tomatoes, and blue corn tortilla chips. For hot-weather food, it was pretty hearty and delicious.

After a decade of being vegan, there's not many vegetables I haven't tried. That said, I've always avoided fennel because I'm not an anise fan and assumed it would taste like licorice. But in the spirit of using everything, I roasted the fennel with beets and zucchini and threw it on top of some greens. I pride myself on not being a picky eater (except, you know, anything with meat, eggs, dairy, honey...), but I can now decisively say that I do not like fennel. I picked it all out of the salads. The fennel-less salad was good, though. And that's right, I repackaged my salad in the greens package.


While I'm certainly no believer of the protein myth, I am trying to drop a few pounds and figured cutting back on my usual carb-bonanza would be a good place to start. Here's Beyond Chicken grilled strips with some boiled snap beans (and broccoli, and more repurposed packaging in the background):

Outside magazine had a great (albeit long) profile on Beyond Meat this winter, where the company basically said they were taking plants and turning them into meat using a machine instead of an animal, which was a far more efficient and humane practice. I've used that logic ever since on skeptical omnis who don't want to eat fake meat because it's too "processed." I explain that meat is processed, too, just by an animal's body instead of a machine. Given a choice between the two methods, I'll take the machine product.

Last up, more fake chicken (this time Simple Truth Meatless Griller Strips from Kroger), with brown rice and a random mix of greens: beet greens, turnip greens and chard. I'd never had turnip greens before, but I really liked them, especially mixed with the slightly sweet chard. I also thought they also paired nicely with the Simple Truth strips, which have a different taste and texture than the Beyond Meat ones.

These super boring fake chicken dishes are great examples of why I love having a CSA - even when making the most plain, lazy meals, I think "oh hey, I have veggies I need to use up", and so I add a serving of greens. Totally worth $20 every other week, IMO.

Monday, July 20, 2015

CSA Round up: Week 3

After successfully using everything in the first week of my 2015 City Commons CSA, I eagerly set off to pick up the next one. [I have a bi-weekly pick up on odd weeks, so to keep things consistent, I'm using their weekly numbering system on here. This is my second basket and second post.] This week was another awesome showing:

There's lettuce, baby kale, collards, chard, cabbage, beets, oregano and sunflower sprouts. You can't tell in the picture, but that container of sprouts was huge -- it probably would have cost $10 at the grocery store. I think this CSA is very reasonably priced; my 10 week share worked out to $21.50 each. That pile would have cost a lot more to buy at the grocery store, plus I know that it's local and the quality and freshness can't be beat.

I normally try to scan my cookbooks for recipes to use the ingredients, but I winged it this time. I call my first dish "omni salad." It's essentially a chef's salad, which is one of very few omni foods I miss. The salad is lettuce, baby kale and sunflower sprouts from the basket, plus carrots, avocado, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes to round out the vegetable offerings. Now get ready for analog overload, it's also topped with: Oven Roasted Tofurky, Follow Your Heart Provolone, and Beyond Meat's Beyond Chicken Grilled Strips, plus Follow Your Heart Vegan Bleu Cheese dressing. I'll save my love of the new FYH products for another post, but suffice it to say that this salad was hearty and delicious. I also really liked the added texture from the baby kale. I'd never had it before and it was a great compliment.

While I was buying all processed/pre-made items for the salad at Whole Foods, I also picked up some Rising Moon Organics Butternut Squash Ravioli. I saluted the chard with garlic, added the cooked ravioli (tossed with a little olive oil) and topped it with oregano:

This was my first time trying the ravioli and it was pretty good. The chard was a nice addition, but I picked most of the oregano off. I'm not sure if I just had too much or it was too old, but it was not a wise addition. This would have been better swimming in a creamy sauce, but for the calories, it was good.

Much like last time, I went out of town (to Cleveland) for the weekend and lost cooking momentum. With time running out, I turned to my trusty copy of Appetite for Reduction, and found plenty of options. With the collards, I made Ye'abesha Gomen (Stewed & Sautéed Collards). I also threw in the greens from my beets and added a can of chickpeas. I felt like this dish belonged in r/ShittyVeganFoodPorn, so I I just decided to shovel it into my mouth while on the computer, rather than setting the table.

Isa is spot-on in her recipe description, these do taste just like the ones in Ethiopian restaurants. There are a lot of onions in there, but I think they were a perfect addition; the slightly soft and sweet taste was a good balance with the slightly bitter and chewy greens. 

Next, I made the Braised Cabbage with Seitan (also from AFR). I couldn't find any plain seitan (and was too lazy to make it), so I bought the Italian Style from Upton's Naturals. This was another super simple, super delicious meal.

And last but not least - beets!!! There were only a few and they were small, so I just boiled them and ate them as a snack with some of the FYH bleu cheese dressing mentioned above. I love beets and these were certainly a better way to get through the afternoon than a bag of chips. (Please forgive the phone pic, taken with fluorescent cubicle lighting.)

I'm pretty psyched that I'm 2/2 on using every last bit of produce in my CSA! Though I didn't technically eat the oregano, I used the beet greens, so I feel like those offset each other.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

CSA Round Up: Week 1

Summers in Detroit are great for so many reasons, but one of my favorites is the City Commons CSA. I was a member in 2014, and couldn't wait to renew this year. I've belonged to a few CSAs over the years (as mentioned here), but City Commons has been my favorite. It's very reasonably priced, hyper-local (all grown in Detroit), and most importantly, has a super convenient bi-weekly half share pick-up. I've struggled in past years to use all the produce (especially living by myself, in a location where I can have vegan pizza, Indian food, and sandwiches/curly fries all delivered to my door), but vowed this year will be different. No waste allowed!

In an effort to keep myself honest, I'm going to try to post the bi-weekly haul and how I used it. Without further ado, here's week 1:

There's lettuce, chard, kale, bok choy, oregano, dill, garlic scapes, and strawberries. Yes, strawberries!!! Another great thing about City Commons is that they post what will (likely) be in the baskets on Tuesday and I pick up on Saturday, so I had time to game plan. First up was bok choy, used in Ginger Bok Choy & Soba from Appetite for Reduction:

This was pretty good, though next time I'd use half as many noodles. The recipe notes suggested adding tofu, which I mistakenly read as adding the Hoisin-Mustard Tofu. After making it, I realized the suggestion was to dry fry the tofu like the first step in that recipe. Since it was already made, I decided to use up the lettuce to prepare the tofu as lettuce wraps (the original recipe). I should note that the decision to make wraps occurred when I got home from the Windsor-Detroit fireworks (and related drinking), so the "wraps" very quickly devolved into "tofu on lettuce". I'm including this picture because it pretty aptly describes my attempt at drunk food prep:

And a close up:

These were good, but weirdly reminded me of egg salad. I think it's just that for a decade, any time I've had cold tofu cubes in mustard sauce, it's been vegan egg salad. It was good though, and probably would have been better as a lettuce-wrapped appetizer.

Next up, strawberries, dill and oregano. I lifted my 18-month cookbook buying moratorium to buy Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero specifically in anticipation of the CSA. The very first salad recipe in the book is for Spring Herb Salad with Maple Orange Tempeh Nibbles. The recipe had a number of steps (roasting pecans and cooking tempeh), and I assembled it over a few days, but it was so delicious and worth every minute of effort. I wish I had staged this better than in a Pyrex container, because this salad deserves to be on a silver platter sitting on a bed of diamonds:

After my early cooking marathon, I went to Craft-A-Way Camp (another favorite summer tradition) and lost my cooking momentum. At the last minute (literally, I woke up, cooked, then picked up my new basket), I used the garlic scapes, chard and kale. I just steamed the greens with the chopped scapes, and added some tofu dry-fried with a little soy sauce. And you know what? It was DELICIOUS. So amazing. Sometimes I forget how good plain food can taste. Even two weeks old, the greens were fantastic and the garlic scapes were also a great addition. They added a great texture and plenty of flavor. 

Whew! I made it through my first week!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Purple Carrot Review v2.0

A few weeks ago, I posted about The Purple Carrot, which is a vegan meal [ingredient] delivery service. According to their website, it's "All the raw, pre-measured ingredients and recipes you need to cook healthy, delicious vegan meals and snacks at home - just $59, delivered!" As I noted in my previous post, I was skeptical of the value of these ingredient delivery services, but I've found they do a good job of forcing me to eat healthier. This is the third time I've ordered from TPC, and each time I used a 50% off promo code. In that case, for $30, you get the ingredients to make two four-serving meals and a snack. On sale, I feel like it's slightly cheaper than going to the grocery store, plus it's pre-measured and shows up at my apartment.

My complaint the past two times I've ordered was that the recipes weren't well tested and the food didn't taste exceptionally good. I might be getting better at choosing (you select two meals out of four offerings), but I was much happier with the meals this time.

First up, Quinoa Power Bowl with Adzuki and Spinach:

This was quinoa, adzuki beans, roasted sweet potatoes, and spinach, with a dill cashew cream sauce, topped with almonds. The recipe is pretty self explanatory. As written, it made four servings at 726 calories each. I divided it up into eight servings instead, since I've been trying to eat smaller meals.

This is a solidly nutritious meal and it's amazingly delicious. I will definitely be making it again, though I'll add more spinach and sweet potatoes next time. But seriously, it's so delicious!!! 

Next up, Speedy Teriyaki Noodles:

This is another fairly  simple recipe, with brown rice noodles, carrots, celery, broccoli and edamame in a teriyaki sauce, garnished with green onions and sesame seeds. It came together pretty quickly, and again, I made the four servings into six.

This is good. It's not great and keeping with my normal complaint, the recipe should have been better tested because the carrots were undercooked by adding them at the end. But it's still fairly tasty and was quick and easy to make. 

I didn't take any pictures of the snack, Blueberry Chocolate Trail Mix Bark. It's exactly what it sounds like -- dried blueberries, peanuts and pretzels with melted chocolate chips. I made this into 12 breakfast servings and it's so delicious. Every morning, I consider eating a second piece because I just want more salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy chocolate. It's a recipe from Robin Robertson, so I wisely trusted that one. 

Here's the total haul: 12 breakfasts, eight lunches and six dinners for $29.50 and a few hours of cooking.

Oh, and an hour of cleaning up the kitchen. I normally attempt to clean-as-I-go, but I severely slacked this time. Ooops:

After three times, I stand by my opinion that The Purple Carrot is a great value when you can find a promo code and it's a good way to ensure you'll eat healthy food if you don't have a ton of time or energy (you still need SOME to cook everything, but you'll save the meal planning and grocery shopping step).

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cheesecake Dreams (aka Daiya review)

Cheesecake was always my favorite desert, even when I was a kid and the only "cheesecake" I'd ever had was Jello No-Bake with cherry pie filling on top. Fast-forward a few decades, and I consider myself something of a connoisseur enthusiastic-consumer of vegan cheesecake. Metro Detroit Whole Foods stores sometimes have slices from the Chicago Diner that are FANTASTIC. I buy one whenever I see it, but at $5 a pop, that gets pricey. 

I'd heard about the new Daiya cheesecakes and was excited to finally see them in the freezer case. The Detroit Whole Foods had both chocolate and New York Style on sale for $6.99 the last time I was there, so I figured I'd give it a try. The downside is that it has to thaw 4-6 hours, but I'm a genius glutton, so I bought a ready-to-eat Chicago Diner slice AND a frozen Daiya one.

The verdict? Delicious! It's not exactly an 'authentic' cheesecake (like the Chicago Diner version), but more like a tangy, thick mousse, which is also delicious. I attempted to exercise self-control in this picture, but ended up eating the rest straight out of the plastic container over 24 hours. I also want to try the NY Style, but I knew better than to have two of these in my apartment at the same time!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sophie's Kitchen of Disappointment

I've mentioned before that I have an inexplicable affinity for mock seafood. I wasn't a huge seafood fan before, but maybe it seems like the last frontier of veganization? Sophie's Kitchen makes a wide variety of vegan seafood (shrimp, calamari, fish sticks) and for a while, I tried every variety I saw. Ultimately, I realized I didn't miss seafood and would rather eat my hippie food. But when I saw a variety of tuna at Whole Foods, I had to try it. One of my favorite things to eat pregan was Kraft mac & cheese with tuna and peas. Now that Earth Balance makes a vegan mac and cheese that tastes exactly like Kraft's (in my mind, at least), it was a no-brainer to attempt a vegan version. Behold the [theoretical] tower of processed perfection: 

I tried the Meatless Select vegetarian tuna a couple years ago and remember it being pretty passable in appearance. When I opened the Sophie's kind, it reminded me A LOT of cat food:

It tasted kind of weird, but I persisted and made the mac & cheese and peas, then mixed it all together. I set it down on the table (a great habit I picked up during 2014 MoFo!) and walked away to get a drink. When I turned around, my cat had jumped on the table and was vigorously attempting to bury my dinner, which is what she does with HER food. Action shot:

I've only tasted cat food once, when I mistook the gravy from cat food for gravy from the vegan shepherd's pie I was eating (don't ask). I can assure you, this did NOT taste like cat food. That said, it didn't taste particularly good, either. The tuna had a weird texture and made the dish too salty. I love that EB mac and cheese so much that I ate it anyway, but it would have been better without the $4 can of fake tuna. I portioned out some leftovers, which I will also eat, but only because I REALLY hate wasting food.

Sadly, the quest for vegan tuna will continue.