Saturday, October 23, 2010

Last week in Veganville

It's been a few weeks since I've posted a recipe. Since my husband returned from his deployment, we've finally started getting back into a normal routine, which happens to include weekly menu planning. If you haven't done it before, I would highly recommend menu planning. It is a HUGE stress reliever for us. We used to do a lot of this:
"What's for dinner?
"I dunno. What do you want?"
"Well what did we pull out?"
"Okay. What do you want for take-out?"
And then we get frustrated with one another because we can't agree on take-out.
The best part about menu planning is how much money you save at the grocery store. I pick up weekly adds for our local grocery stores and sometimes menu plan based on what's on special that week. This past week, I saved $30 on my grocery bill using weekly ads and manufacturer's cupons. Booyah.
To make menu planning easier, we bought a magnetic dry-erase board to post in our kitchen. It helps us keep tabs on what's coming up (in case anything needs to thaw or soak), and also keeps a running grocery list. Since it's magnetic, we can attach cupons to the board that are either about to expire or are relevant to this week's menu.

Anyway, on to what you really care about: recipes!

The best part about this past week in Veganville? My husband eating several vegan or vegetarian meals without blinking an eye. One of the more deceptive meals (i.e. makes one think they're eating meat when they're actually not), was chili. Chili making was somewhat of a sacred art in my family growing up. My dad taught me how to make chili without a recipe and how to blend the spices for the perfect pot of chili. Since I think there's no right or wrong way to make chili - proportions of beans and spice change based on personal preference - I'll give you my general outline my vegan chili.

Nelson's Vegan Chili
Black beans*
Red beans*
Kidney beans*
Boca burger or Morningstar Mealstarter crumbles (optional)
Chopped onion
Chopped carrot
Chopped celery
Chopped pepper**
Canned diced tomatoes
Tomato paste
Vegetable broth
Chili Powder
Smoked paprika
Dry Bay Leaf
Secret ingredient***

*I buy dry beans (they're cheaper and have less sodium than canned beans). Please note dry beans require an extra step of soaking overnight (or 6-8 hours)
**Depending on how spicy you like your chili, you can use chopped bell pepper, jalepeno pepper, or serano pepper. With hot peppers like jalepenos and seranos, remove the seeds and white veins to limit the heat.
***I say "secret ingredient" because I think you ought to make your chili your own. Find a unique ingredient you think really "makes" the chili for you. I typically use the same secret ingredient my dad always used, but sometimes I'll throw in some other spices if I'm feeling adventurous.

Sautee onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and peppers in olive oil in a large stockpot. Once onions begin to soften, add spice combination (plus secret ingredient) and mix well. Add diced tomatoes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in tomato paste. Add beans, crumbles, and bay leaf and return to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. The longer chili cooks, the more developed the flavors become. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, Tofutti sour cream, or soy cheese.

Here's another original recipe that won my husband over this week...

Roasted cauliflower with Israeli couscous
For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets
2 T. Olive Oil
Ground cumin
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 450. In a bowl, toss cauliflower with olive oil, cumin, and salt and pepper. Spread on a foil-line baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cauliflower is fork-tender.

For the couscous:
1 c. Israeli couscous
1 T. olive oil
1 small yellow onion chopped
1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. safron threads
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried bay leaf
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth

1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley
t tsp. fresh grated lemon zest

Heat olive oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, sautee until soft and transluscent. Add cumin, safron, cinnamon, bay leaf, and couscous. Stir ingredients over medium heat until couscous looks toasted (golden to light brown). Stir in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Remove bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Serve topped with the roasted cauliflower, sprinkling garnishes over the entire dish.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christmas DIY Update

I've begun my Christmas gift DIYs so I won't be posting those projects until after Christmas. Don't want to spoil it for the recipients, of course. But I am SO excited to make these gifts! I'm accquiring supplies and am itching to get going.

I also have a "Hearts, Hands, Pots and Pans" logo in the works to label gifts, and will share that ASAP.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

DIY Pinecone Wreath

Now comes the time of year when I'm hesitant to make too many posts about DIY projects for fear I'll spoil Christmas presents. Thankfully the purpose of this project was to enhance the outdoor aesthetics of my house.

I've been collecting pinecones for almost a year with the intent of turning them into multiple craft projects. I was inspired to create a plain pincone wreath that I could decorate according to season.

For this project, you'll need:
30-50 pinecones, various sizes
Wire floral wreath frame
Floral wire, brown or green
Wire cutters
Hot glue gun
Hot glue sticks

I began by taking the larger pinecones and attaching them to the wreath frame with wire. I alternated cones facing in and out. Where there were large gaps with the frame showing, I took small pinecones and attached them with wire to the frame. I then began layering pinecones on top of the "base layer" and attaching them with hot glue. I then loosely fixed the autumnal touches to the wreath with wire - this is so I can easily swap these out for Christmas-y accents in a few months.

Here's the finished product:

Front door fall display, complete with mums and pumpkin: