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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!

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Making the Switch: Face Scrub

27 Feb

I’m going to do a series of posts entitled “Making the Switch,” which will focus on ridding a certain ingredient or product out of my life and replacing it with a kinder alternative. Some may not work out the way I hope, but this year is dedicated to trial and error.

LUSH's "Ocean Salt" and Kaia House Organic's "Lemon and Sugar Clarifying Scrub"

Once upon a time, I used to work part-time at LUSH in Philadelphia, and fell madly deeply in love with their facial scrub called “Ocean Salt.” And it seriously felt like you were scrubbing the grime out with all the goodness of the ocean. It’s chockfull of amazing ingredients, like a mix of fine and coarse sea salt, grapefruit infusion, seaweed absolute, extra virgin coconut oil, avocado butter, and fresh organic lime extracted in vodka.  WOW, right?  But they sneak in one little ingredient that pretty much negates everything good they put in: lanolin.

What’s lanolin?  It’s a yellow waxy substance that’s secreted by sheep to protect their wool and skin.  While it’s usually harvested from the wool and not the sheep themselves, it is still pretty nasty to think about.  Why do I need yellow sheep wax in my face scrub?  I don’t!  My skin secretes enough oil to keep me protected.  While lanolin is technically vegetarian because it’s a byproduct of wool, just do a Google search and take a look at what sheep go through to get shorn.  The wool industry is an industry more interested in making a profit than humanely shearing sheep.  While I take no issue with a small farm gently shearing their sheep in the summer, the lanolin from that wool is almost definitely not in “Ocean Salt.”  So that’s why I’m saying goodbye to my favorite facial scrub and on the search for another that can do a hell of a job without supporting big bad wool.

My first attempt is Kaia House Organic’s “Lemon and Sugar Clarifying Scrub.”  I ordered this online, sight unseen, thinking the lemon and sugar might have something in common with my beloved “Ocean Salt.”  This is a much gentler scrub that kind of smells like playdough.  But it’s vegan, mostly organic, made in the USA, and makes my skin baby soft.  No complaints with any of that!  Also, while I’m not anti-parabens (in moderation), it’s cool that Kaia products never contain them – one less thing to worry about.  After I’m done with this jar, I’ll be on the look out for a salt scrub with a little more oomph, and get back to you on what’s better.

Color Me Green

3 Feb

Never in my life did I imagine I’d one day enjoy green smoothies, because nothing sounds appealing about lettuce and celery blended.  But the crazy beautiful nutritionist Kimberly Snyder changed all that for me with her Glowing Green Smoothie recipe and her promises that it tasted sweet and delicious.  Okay, I’ll bite.

My Glowing Green Smoothie

I’ve been making this baby for over a year, and find when I stop for a while, I miss the burst of nutrients and energy in the morning.  I actually just ended a two month hiatus, as my CSA box lately has been root vegetables and not so many leafy greens.  I was totally inspired when my box came yesterday with romaine, kale, celery, cilantro, and tangelos.  Perfect for smoothie making!

I highly recommend following Kimberly’s recipe to start, which will give you a better feel of what the proportions should be, but once you get the hang of it, go crazy!  Today I chopped up a head of romaine, 6 big dinosaur kale leaves (torn from the stem), 4 stalks of celery, a pink lady apple, a tangelo, a frozen banana, a handful of cilantro, and the juice of one lemon.  Behold!  A green smoothie that totally glows.

I have Kimberly’s book, The Beauty Detox Solution, and it’s filled with great nutrition advice that’s inherently vegan (though has options to help omnis lean into it).  It’s a little intense – no gluten, no soy – but all of her recipes are delicious and her advice is sound.  In the months leading up to my wedding, I can definitely see myself getting gung-ho about it, but in the meantime, I’m a happy dabbler and enjoy the occasional smoothie.