Archive | September, 2012

Taco Meat on the Cheap

29 Sep

I accidentally celebrated my birthday all month long, and my debit card is not pleased.  Whoops.  To get my savings account back in order, I’m tapping into my neurotic, Virgo self and making budgets and lists up the wazoo.  I now have a four page excel spreadsheet comparing prices of my most frequently purchased pantry items at 5 different stores.  When I buckle down, I go all out.

Part of my “buckle down” plan is to not spend any money on food Monday through Friday, which means I plan for the week, grocery shop over the weekend, and then avoid the siren call of Native Foods and Veggie Grill by creating even better grub at home.  I was up until 3am the other night, dreaming of tacos, kale salad, curried tofu scramble, pumpkin fritters, and baked falafel.

It’s one thing to plan it, it’s another to put it into action.  How was I going to find the time to cook five different meals to keep up with my demanding taste buds?  They need variety or they will revolt/go get take out.  Believe me, I’ve tried the “cook a big meal on Sunday and eat all week” technique and it did not end well.  So this time, I put the prep into my calendar.  I looked at the recipes, saw what needed to be done, looked at my schedule, and planned accordingly.  I’m budgeting time for it just like I would for a meeting, so I don’t come home exhausted Monday night debating whether or not to call for Thai.  Because I would definitely call for Thai.

So tonight, I made a bunch of taco meat so I can assemble whatever my heart desires throughout the week.  There are greens, taco shells, beans, rice, salsa, and some vegan sour cream and cheese leftover from when I still thought I had money to spend.  Ahh, those were the days.

When I first thought of tacos, I considered beans as a base, but I wanted to get a little more punch without breaking the bank on veggie meats.  Here is the delicious outcome.  Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is about $3.50/lb, and I needed less than half that to make 10 servings of taco meat.  I think I just met my new best friend.

Taco Meat
serves 10

2 cups dry TVP
1.5 tbsp coconut oil, divided
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Better than Bouillion, No Beef Base
1 packet of Trader Joe’s taco seasoning mix (vegan, $0.79, and no scary ingredients! Jackpot)

Prep the TVP by soaking it in just under 2 cups of boiling water for at least 5 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.

Hello world, meet rehydrated TVP. Kinda looks like oatmeal.

While waiting, dissolve the bouillon in a 1/4 cup of hot water.  Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil (save the rest for later) over medium heat in a non-stick pan, then add the TVP, soy sauce, dissolved bouillon, and taco seasoning, stirring occasionally.

All into the pan.

After about 8 minutes, push the meat to the side of the pan and heat the 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil.  When it’s warm, toss everything together and cook for another two minutes.  You know it’s done when it stops looking wet and takes on a good crumble.

Voila! Taco meat for cheap!

Making this reminded me of helping my mom prep ground turkey for tacos.  I was warm with nostalgia when handling the taco seasoning mix and stirring everything together.  I also remember how much I hated handling the meat raw, but loved how it would transform from flesh into “food” right before my eyes.  Now I like to think what I eat is food from beginning to end, though I wouldn’t recommend munching on dry TVP!


A Meditation

24 Sep

There’s a longstanding joke, “How do you know there’s a vegan in the room?  Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”  But in my experience, I almost never bring it up and yet it almost always becomes a topic of conversation.  Perhaps I have to decline the cheese tray at a party, or say no to sharing a dessert.  Like moths to a flame, someone will feel compelled to ask, “Why not?”  because even people on diets take a sliver of cheese or a bite of someone’s chocolate cake.  There is just something so weird and uncomfortable about a person not partaking in food that everyone should love and not be able to resist.  So the dreaded “V” word is dropped and boom, there goes the party.

“Wait, really?  Why?”

I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly positive experience explaining to someone why I’m vegan, which is such a shame.  I remember an aunt asking me what I thought was so wrong with dairy.  “Do you really want to know?” I asked respectfully.  “It’s kind of intense.”  “Yes, absolutely!”  She seemed really responsive, so I took the bait.  “Well, veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry, and the abuse sustained by the dairy cows is so heartbreaking that I…”  She huffed.  She didn’t really want to hear it at all.  I backpedaled immediately.  “Also, I’m lactose intolerant.”  That was an acceptable answer.

Showing empathy for animals that most people consider to be food does not go over well.  I learned really quickly that if I didn’t wanna get into it, the best answer was, “Health reasons.  I have trouble digesting animal products,” which is true, but considering how much I love alcohol and cupcakes, it’s not like I’m one to act in the best interest of my body at all times.  Responses along the lines of, “I’m just trying to do my part for the environment,” or “I love animals,” or “It just feels wrong to me,” are rarely ever tolerated because they imply that the person you are talking to does not do their part, does not love animals, and is doing something wrong.  What a wallop.  I’d get defensive, too, if I really loved my eggs in the morning.

I have no agenda.  I am on my own path, and I don’t think I’m better than anyone for being on it.  You wanna know why I’m vegan?  Because I really care about the earth but I’m the laziest person of all time.  It’s the absolute easiest way to be an activist and a good person without having to trade my car for a bike, picket city hall for change, volunteer at homeless shelters, reuse plastic baggies, foster twenty animals, or live off the grid.  I have friends who do so much good work for the community, and I absolutely believe they are better people than me.

If vegans make you uncomfortable, just remember what you’ve done to make the world a better place, and pat yourself on the back big time.  Then tell me all about it – I promise I won’t get defensive.  We might all be on our own unique paths, but we’re on this journey together, and anything we contribute to make our shared home a better place is worth its weight in gold.

Mocha Smoothie

20 Sep

ImageSeptember in Los Angeles is just too damn hot.  When I’ve made my money and have the luxury of choosing my own schedule, you better believe that I will be on the East Coast from 9/1-9/30.  Nothing makes me more homesick than craving a change in season and instead being forced to reckon with 100 degrees, or getting sunburnt walking to and from the car.  I mean, really.

This is the time of year I should be bringing out sweaters, baking pumpkin bread, and sipping a latte without risk of breaking out into a sweat.  I want to be comforted by warmth, not suppressed by it.  Goddamnit, sun!

Okay, so all this rage really stems from me wanting a cup of coffee this morning and not being able to have it because my apartment is a furnace.  We get the rising sun so mornings are bright, which is nice, but so hot, we’re covered in sweat by 8AM.  I wandered into my kitchen, slightly delirious, and wondered, “What can wake me up, cool me down, and not taste disgusting?”

I should note here that I am usually adverse to sweet frozen coffee concoctions, due to their association in my mind to Starbucks’ “Frappucinno.”  That stupid, stupid store only uses sweetened vanilla soymilk, so even a tall frappe has enough sugar to bring on diabetes instantaneously.  Gross.

But here I was, in my kitchen, needing something.  A guest of mine had left Starbucks VIA instant coffee packets, another item that usually turns my stomach, but I’m not one to waste caffeine.  The wheels began to turn.

Mocha Smoothie
makes 1

1/2 cup unsweetened almondmilk
1/2 cup Silk Light Chocolate soymlk
1 medium frozen banana
1 packet of Starbucks VIA Colombia medium instant coffee
1/8 tsp cinnamon

In a measuring cup or bowl, stir milks until homogeneous in color.  Place frozen banana and instant coffee into blender.  Pour milks overtop and add a dash of cinnamon (about 1/8 tsp).  Blend on high until smooth.

It was love at first sip.  Sweetened only by the chocolate soymilk and banana, coffee was the predominate flavor, just the way I like it.  Instead of being icy and watered down, this was rich and creamy, filling enough for breakfast.  This is perfect if you’re on the run but usually need food and a cup of coffee to get your day started.

This is going into my morning rotation until the temperature finally cools off enough to enjoy a proper latte while curled on my couch, under a blanket.  At this rate, it’s going to be a while.

Cacao Fig Smoothie

7 Sep

I just had the loveliest smoothie that really embodies what September means to me – celebration (my birthday month!), change, and comfort. Early fall is the last hurrah for fresh figs, and yet it’s their time to shine. A touch of raw cacao compliments the earthy fruit perfectly, and I can believe I’m having a decadent treat when I swirl it all together.


Cacao Fig Smoothie
serves 1

1 cup vanilla soymilk
6 figs, halved
1/2 frozen banana
1 tsp raw cacao
1 tsp maca (optional)

Blend ingredients together on high until smooth.