Monday, March 18, 2019

Second Lenten shop

Today I went shopping again for the next two weeks.  This time, I didn't buy any meat for dinners because I think I can get buy without making it at all -- and anyway, I've got quite a lot of meat frozen from last time.  The only exception is a box of fish sticks (in case I really don't have it in me to make dinner) and a package of pepperoni, for pizza. 

What I don't understand is how I could cut out the most expensive items and still spend $191.  Don't I usually spend more than $9 on meat?  I guess I replaced it with so much produce it came out the same.  Oh well.  At least there are plenty of healthy things to eat in the house -- nobody's going to be left eating bread and oreos.

Here are the planned recipes for this week.  This time, I'm not assigning them to specific days.  I just can't always predict which days are going to be good to make something complicated, and when I'm going to basically have to phone it in.  I felt like phoning it in last Wednesday, but I had already marked falafel on the calendar, and it was a very stressful evening.  One does not simply tell the children the plan has changed!

1.  15-bean soup
I got a mix so all I really need to do is add some veggies.

2.  Tacos

3.  Falafel
This time I bought pitas, because falafel itself takes a lot of attention and it's stressful to try to homemake pitas at the same time.  Besides, half my pitas didn't puff.

4.  Split pea soup

5.  Noodles, tomato sauce, eggplant, and mushrooms
I made this last week, worried it would be a flop, but no, the kids loved it!  I did let Marko pick out the mushrooms.

6.  Broccoli teriyaki with white beans
This was a hit last week also.  Which is weird because they don't usually like my attempts at Asian food!

7.  Lentil pot pie
This was on my list last time, but I made shepherd's pie instead because I ran out of flour.  This time I'm not going to be caught short!

8.  Hummus sandwiches/wraps
I bought premade hummus for this last time, and the kids kept whining that it's not as good as mine.   Ha!  Mine's a bit chunky because my blender is a little weak, but I guess they like that.

9. Enchiladas
I got a couple of plantains to go in these; I think that would be nice.

10.  Lentils 'n' dumplings
Basically I'm thinking carrots, celery, lentils, and broth, with my usual dumplings on the top.

11.  Nachos
These will go on whatever day the avocados get ripe.

12.  Pizza
Poor John is going to be stuck with flatbread and sauce.  Because is it really pizza without the cheese?

12.  Chili and cornbread

13.  Tomato soup

14.  Fish sticks

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Greek Irish Catholic Orthodox

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and I have some feelings about it. Some of my ancestors, and fully half of John's, suffered persecution from the British in part for their Catholic faith. I feel like I have let those ancestors down by not being Catholic anymore.

But there was a way to honor our Irish heritage and keep the Orthodox fast. No corned beef or fish 'n' chips or Guinness beef stew, but I made bubble & squeak and slightly-inauthentic Irish soda bread. Everyone gobbled it up, myself included.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Falafel recipe

A reader asked for a falafel recipe and I went trawling for links, but I couldn't find one that was exactly what I do.  Mine is not authentic, but I have tried the authentic kind and failed miserably.  My food processor can't handle uncooked chickpeas, and without flour the balls fell apart.  So here is what I actually do do, which is easy and always turns out well (if I actually follow it).  You can tinker with the spices as much as you want to make them taste how you want, but don't leave out the flour.

See this shapeless mass? This is what happens if you leave out the flour.

Foolproof falafel

3 cans chickpeas
handful of fresh parsley or cilantro if you have them -- 1 T dried parsley will do if you don't
1 tsp cumin
garlic and onion, fresh or dried
1 tsp salt
sprinkle of cayenne
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda

Drain the chickpeas and grind them up in a food processor or blender.  You're not looking for smooth here.  Reasonably fine with a few chunks is good.  Process the herbs also, and then stir in all the other things.

At this point, try making it into a ball.  Does it actually hold together well and keep its shape?  If not, add more flour.  Less flour is for classier chefs.  You and I want something that'll hold together in the oil, so don't be stingy.

Heat a deep pan of oil to 350 degrees.  I use shortening because it can handle the heat and is not expensive.  Peanut is great if you have it.  Don't even attempt this with butter or olive oil or anything delicate.

When the oil is fully 350 degrees, shape the dough into balls or patties -- golf ball size or a little smaller.  Deep fry them for a few minutes, till they're brown and crispy on the outside.  Don't undercook them or you lose the entire point.  Drain them on paper towels.

The best way to serve these is in a pita with some yogurt sauce and cucumbers.  But you can also do vegan mayo or baba ganouj or whatever you want.  Or throw them on a salad.  It's all good.

Friday, March 8, 2019

First semi-vegan shop

Today is the first day of the Orthodox fast, and I went shopping.  For the most part I bought my usual things, because I'm not sure yet how the kids will like the vegan stuff and because I'm probably going to keep breakfast, lunch, and snack for the kids exactly as before.  But I didn't buy any chicken, only one package of beef and a pound of sausage for dinner meat.  I spent the extra money on more vegetables, so I came out about even.  I am pretty sure if I went more hardcore on the vegan thing I would save money, but this time I spent $200, which is my usual budget.  That's for two weeks, for a family of six.  *polishes nails*

Here's the entire haul.  I got two gallons of milk instead of three, three pounds of cheese instead of four, and only two pounds of butter.  Also two dozen eggs, one pint of sour cream, one quart of yogurt, a box of fish sticks, three pounds of baloney, and two packages of turkey.  That kind of sounds like a lot of animal foods, doesn't it?  I'm just really nervous about not having things on hand that people will eat.

On the flip side, I got fresh broccoli in addition to the usual frozen, both cabbage and celery (usually I pick one or the other), three avocados, an eggplant,  lots of carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, bagged salad, tomatoes, apples, mandarin oranges, and grapes.  Also restocked all my frozen vegetables and got lots of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, chickpeas, and beans.  A big bag of dry black beans was 2.49, much cheaper than canned and I've already cooked them up.

One of my extra purchases was soy milk.  I've bought almond milk before, but found it disappointingly watery, and it has only 60 calories per cup.  One of the main reasons I add milk to things is to pump up the calories, so I was happy to see soy milk has 100, and a similar macronutrient balance to milk.  We'll see how the kids like it, or whether they notice if I use it in cream soups and sauces.

I also got sunflower seeds, because I love them on salad.  Meant to get some other nuts too but forgot.  I got the one variety of canned soup Aldi sells that is vegan -- minestrone, at 1.35 a can.  For a snack for John I got potato chips.

Beyond that, I got all my usual things: 7 loaves of bread, 3 packages of tortillas, refried beans, crackers, animal crackers, pretzels, cereal, raisins, noodles, popsicles, and ice cream.

So, what's on the menu?

Breakfasts: I always have bran cereal with raisins and milk.  It messes up my entire day to have anything else.
Marko likes a baloney sandwich with Frank's Red Hot sauce on it.
Michael likes cereal and milk or else oatmeal (which I forgot to buy, oh dear).
Miriam and Jackie vary.  Sandwiches or toast are popular.  Too often, I can't get Jackie to eat any breakfast at all.
John usually does not eat breakfast.

Lunches: Marko has a PBJ, pretzels and/or carrot sticks, and an orange.
Michael has a turkey wrap,  pretzels and/or carrot sticks, and an orange.
Miriam, Jackie, and I vary among bean burritos, sandwiches, eggs, grilled cheese, or sometimes ramen noodles.
John usually has leftovers.  During Lent, if there aren't vegan leftovers, he'll be having canned soup, PBJ, or salad.


I make one snack each day for everyone.  Favorites include muffins, scones, or rolls, all of which can be made vegan with soy milk and flaxseed in place of eggs.  Or sometimes I make hummus or black bean dip and give them carrots, celery, cucumber slices, and crackers.  If I'm phoning it in, they make themselves sandwiches and grab apples.


Monday (today): black bean tacos, with corn and bell pepper relish.  Everybody loved them.  Michael complained at first that they didn't have meat like usual, but then declared them "surprisingly good."  Miriam was happy to hear we were not eating any animals.  She believes eating animals is bad, but on the other hand "they are so delicious!"

Tuesday: Fish sticks, roast potatoes, and salad.  John can have the potatoes and salad, and make himself something in addition if he is still hungry.

Wednesday: Hummus sandwiches or wraps.  If I've got my stuff together, I'll make pitas.  Cucumbers and tomatoes will go well in there.

Thursday: Mac 'n' cheese.  I forgot until then that the Orthodox ease into Lent, and cheese is okay the first week.  Didn't want to miss the chance.

Friday: John was working late and missed dinner.  I made beef kofta. 

Saturday: Pizza.  The kids' version will have pepperoni and cheese and John's will have peppers and onions.

Sunday:   Probably pasta.  I'm torn because I want to put in mushrooms and eggplant, but Marko hates mushrooms intensely.  If they're large enough to pick out, he'll pick them out, and if they're tiny enough he might not notice them at all.  But if he does notice them, and they're too small to pick out, that's when I'm in trouble.

Monday: bean enchiladas.

Tuesday: Broccoli, rice, and white beans in teriyaki sauce

Wednesday: falafel in wraps or pitas.  Vegan mayo is the only dressing I can think of to put on it, plus lots of cucumbers of course.  (Link is to Serious Eats, which I love.  JKLA's philosophy on vegan eating matches mine exactly: no fake meat, bring on the umami and variety.)

Thursday: lentil pot pie

Friday: Corn chowder.  We haven't had that in awhile.  I think by adding some  hickory seasoning I should keep anybody from missing bacon.  Though honestly I never made it with bacon in the first place, because I never have it on hand.  The only thing I'll miss is sour cream.  But I have found potato chowders get quite a lift from a little smidge of apple cider vinegar.  You just need something sour to cut the heaviness.

Saturday: another meat meal.  I'm thinking meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and veg.  That way John can eat the potatoes and veg.

Sunday:  cabbage chili, without the meat.

Hopefully it will go well and people will eat the food!  It's taken me five days to write this post, hence the shifting tenses.  So far I've noticed that, while I planned to make meat meals twice a week, I don't want to make meat that often.  If I have a vegan recipe ready to go I'd really just as soon make that, because defrosting meat and dealing with it is an extra step.

Keep the recipe suggestions coming!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

New kitty!

Guess what guess what guess what, you guys!

I got a kitty!

Our basement kitty (officially named Pandora but always called Kitty-kitty) is still in the basement.  Every night she ventures out once the kids and dog are in bed for some snuggles with me, but the slightest noise and she whisks back down there to haunt the top shelves and stare down balefully.  It's safe to say she is a one-person cat.

But I've felt for years that what we really need is a cat that's for the kids.  Especially since we stopped keeping chickens.  So I've been keeping an eye out for the right cat.

The animal shelter sends a few cats to the pet store, to be on display there and maybe win over families, and that's where I spotted Clara.  She was a very pretty calico and I really, really wanted her.  But it took some time to get things together to adopt her, and by the time I got my application in at the humane society, somebody else had already asked for her.

It was sad, but I had come for a cat, so I asked to see all the others.  YOU GUYS.  There are some amazing cats down there.  They are a no-kill shelter so they have a whole lot of cats.  Some I was warned off of, as being stressed or hostile to kids or dogs or other cats.  But there were lots of friendly, mellow cats too.  The worker let them out one at a time for me to snuggle and the girls (who were with me) to interact with.

The cat that won me over had zero interest in the toys, but was enthusiastic about pets, even clumsy pets from Jackie.  She let me pick her up without a break in her purring.  I knew she was the cat chill enough for our family.  So I brought her home!

She's so chill and relaxed with the kids.  Just picks a place near them to lie around, and when they pet her, she purrs like a jet engine.

She's not meant to be "my" cat, but she's friendly with me also and loves to be picked up and snuggled.

I meant to name her something Greek and obscure, because that's a thing I do.  But I couldn't find anything related to the sun or fire that was feminine and didn't sound terrible.  And she was reminding me of somebody from a long, long time ago....

You see, when I was four years old, all I wanted was a stuffed cat.  I had seen this orange one at the laundromat, and just longed for her without any hope of actually getting her.  We were having a really rough time that Christmas.  I think that's when my dad was unemployed.  My mom warned me I wasn't likely to get very much for Christmas.

But, of course, on Christmas morning, there she was!  An orange stripey stuffed cat, the exact right size and shape for hugging.  I named her Tiger and slept with her every night till I left for boarding school.  And . . . after I got back.  And for some of the time in college.  She was just very comfortable to hold, okay? 

Anyway she was my best friend and I brought her everywhere.  I put sun lotion on her fur and it went all scruffy, and her whiskers all fell out at some point.  She was like the Velveteen Rabbit, the fur half loved off.

 Our new cat looks just like her.  So we named her Tiger.  It seems to suit her.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Orthodox Lent

I'm not the world's most supportive wife when it comes to John becoming Orthodox.  I don't go to church with him most Sundays, and when I do, I don't enjoy it.  I'm not sure if it's too Catholic or not Catholic enough.  Half the time I wish that, if he were inclined to woo, he could stick to the woo we're used to.  The other half, I wish that if he wanted a religion, he could have picked one that isn't homophobic and patriarchal.  It's like the worst of all possible worlds: ritual that's alien instead of comforting, and doctrines that are virtually the same as the Catholic ones.  But that was what John was looking for, I guess, and I'm glad he's happy.

The one thing I don't mind backing him up on, though, is the fasting.  The Orthodox fast the entirety of Lent, and by that they mean no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, and no olive oil.  Invertebrates are okay.  I'm not ready to make vegan meals every dinner--I just don't know enough things to make that we like--but I've agreed to try for three days a week, and he can make the rest of his food himself. 

I'm excited because I desperately need to mix up our dinner menu.  We have had everything I usually make a million times.  Taking out meat gives me space to do more with the other ingredients.

So, what to make?  So far my vegan repertoire includes:
pasta with marinara sauce and spinach
falafel in a pita with cucumbers and vegan mayo
hummus wraps/sandwiches
black bean tacos with corn/bell pepper relish
bean enchiladas
minestrone soup
black bean/bell pepper soup
tomato soup with focaccia on the side
split pea soup
breakfast for dinner (vegan pancakes, homefries, baked apples)
lentil curry with coconut milk (the kids did not love this one)
tofu stirfry (nobody liked this option)

I'm a bit limited by not wanting to do much frying.  Fried eggplant, for instance, is delicious but John is watching his cholesterol and eggplant soaks up fat like a sponge.   Another limitation is that I mostly shop at Aldi and do not want to make a separate trip to the regular store for tofu, lentils, or other "odd" items.  Luckily margarine and soy/almond/coconut milk are all available there.

I can come up with endless soups but I would like more things that aren't soup.  I tried white bean "faux-fredo" sauce once and it was an utter fail . . . the noodles soaked up any liquid in the sauce, so it was just a starchy paste clinging to the noodles.  Maybe ratatouille or vegan lasagna would be good?  John also thinks there's got to be a way to make spanikopita vegan.  Honestly I would put just about any veggie into a pie.

I have no trouble getting by without meat, really.  But cheese.  Everything on this whole list would be better with at least one dairy product added.

Anyway, what are your favorite family-friendly vegan recipes?
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