What I Ate in September (Vegan)
I thought I would do a fun post showing the dinners I cooked all month. I typically only cook one meal a day and I cook for one, so this might give people some ideas as well as show how simple and inexpensive vegan cooking can be.
I started out this month with a Beyond Meat smoked sausage. I haven't had one of these in a really long time. I moved to this smaller town about 1 1/2 years ago and the stores here are just now beginning to catch up with what I was used to before. I buy 2 or 3 meat subs a month and spread them out among more affordable proteins like beans, tofu, of tvp.
I cooked the sausage on low with some onions and, at the end, dashed a bit of soy sauce for seasoning. I served over some fresh kale (so yummy the way the hot sausage wilts it!) and topped with some spicy mustard. I paired this with some some onions and potatoes that I cooked on low and seasoned with ancho chili powder, salt, and pepper. The muscadines came from my dad's and there are a ton of them so they will probably make more appearances. All in all it was a satisfying meal that came out to just under $3.
I did a take on ratatouille today because I really wanted an excuse to make gnocchi and had an eggplant that needed to be cooked. Cube, salt, then deep-fry your eggplant while you cook everything else because it won't be done in time otherwise. (You could also bake it if you have the patience.) I sautéed onion and cherry tomatoes along with 1/2 of a Tofurky Italian sausage. I stirred in some spinach at the end along with the eggplant, seasoned it all with some nooch and oregano, topped with Kalamata olives. No need to add more salt. This meal, with the veggies from my garden, was about $1.50. To be perfect it should have had some zucchini and capers, but it was very filling as it is and I am definitely planting a lot more zucchini next year and a lot less cucumber because UNCLE! on the cucumber already.
So I had this idea that I could make a couple helpings of lasagna by making lasagna rolls. They are delicious, though very messy. They are filled with onion, pepper, garlic, mushroom, and a little bit of soy as well as some vegan mozzarella. I forgot to put the spinach in the mix but it made a nice bed for the pasta. These are oven-ready lasagna noodles which I softened with boiling water. I didn't take the time to make a proper sauce, but a can of diced tomatoes seasoned and cooked down a bit worked just fine. I prefer a chunky sauce at any rate, Topped with a little vegan 'parmesan' which is basically ground nooch, nuts, and spices. I made 4 rolls for about $4 considering the noodles and the parm have been around for a while. The leftovers will make a quick lunch tomorrow. Very filling.
Rainy, yucky day today but a good day for an effortless meal of fish tacos. The lettuce needed to be eaten right away, so that worked out great. (One important rule about saving money is to not let the food go to waste!)
There's hardly anything taco-y about this meal other than it comes in a tortilla. It's just shredded lettuce and carrots, some Gardein vegan fish patties from the air fryer, and some homemade tartar sauce. It's mostly an excuse to eat tartar sauce, which is a very simple mix of 3 parts vegan mayo to 1 part yellow mustard with a diced up baby dill pickle, a little pickle juice, salt, pepper, and dried dill. You can add in some cayenne or sub lemon juice for the pickle juice or even add in some lemon zest in you like. It's a very simple sauce I've been making since I was a kid.
Still eating muscadines and cucumbers as fast as I can. I ended up with almost 2 gallons of muscadines in the end because I am scatterbrained and claimed more than I needed. Oh well. They are super delicious and I am saving all of the seeds to plant around the perimeter of the woods and hope to have endless vines of berries to share with the deer in the coming years.
I filled up on leftovers at lunch today, so the only thing I cooked was some popcorn. This is such an inexpensive snack- or meal- depending on how hungry I am that day. If you don't know how to make popcorn on the stove, then you are really missing out. I put off learning for a really long time, remember the huge iron pot that my mother used to make popcorn for the family. I don't have a pot like that. Where do you even get a pot like that? It turns out that a small pot- as long as it has a lid- is plenty big enough for 1 person. I get excellent results from doing things exactly like in this video, except I use a scant 1/3 cup of kernels instead of a half. I melt my (1 1/2 Tbsp of Country Crock plant) butter first and add a wee bit of salt to the butter itself to avoid that weird graininess in the bottom of the bowl. I can have buttered popcorn every day for a month for about 30cents a generous serving. You really can't beat that cost and it has the added benefit of helping me resist the potato chip aisle.
My Southwestern Breakfast Bowl today had a tofu scramble, some adobe potato/onion/pepper hash, 1/2 a vegan sausage, some sautéed mushrooms, and a small quesadilla. The only thing missing here is the avocado. I have had the worst luck with avocados lately and once again the inside did not match expectations. BUT it was too much food as usual. That seems to be a common problem when it comes to construction bowls. Maybe I need smaller bowls.
Today's meal decision is owed entirely to the fact that there was an open container of tofu that needed to be eaten. Simple air-fryer tofu with buffalo sauce and homemade ranch dressing. This meal is really pushing my heat-tolerance, so the fresh veggies to cool things down are a necessity. I will add single-serving ranch dressing recipe soon!
A late and lazy dinner tonight of a Gardein chicken filet, lemony brussels sprouts, and some homemade vegan 'honey' mustard. Very filling and quick for a $3 meal. I will add the honey mustard recipe eventually.
Tonight's dinner, since I was craving beans, was a doctored-up can of black beans. Onion, pepper, garlic, spices with a little bit of creamy cheese stirred in at the end. Sometimes you just know when you need a boost of protein and if you can do it in 15 minutes for under $1, all the better.
I threw together a pasta salad with some veggies and olives and other stuff opened in the fridge that needed to be eaten up soon. A simple homemade vinaigrette brought it all together. If it's too warm for soup, a pasta salad made of random stuff is a good alternative and it's no extra effort to make a few extra helpings for some lunches next week.
My green beans with potato turned out more potato with green beans because I greatly overestimated how many green beans I had in the freezer while peeling potatoes. I cooked them on low in some veggie broth, though, and they are quite delicious. I served them with some Beyond Meat sausage and caramelized onion. Very hearty and delicious meal for this rainy day.
Anyone else looking forward to soup weather? I really am!
Anyone else looking forward to soup weather? I really am!
Instant Pot spaghetti is the most inauthentic Italian dish but OH SO DELICIOUS and super easy and quick. It also happened to be a good way to use up an opened can of tomatoes and an opened jar of roasted red peppers and the last of some tomato paste. It also has some soy meat cooked in, which worked out better than I was expecting. At the end I stirred in a bitty bit of creamy vegan cheese. Mmmm. Do you like a chunky sauce or a smooth sauce? I am happy either way!
Today I made this asparagus (almost forgot about it!), some corn, and a Gardein chicken cutlet with some quick homemade BBQ sauce (which is basically ketchup, brown sugar, and spices). Really hit the spot. I have enough asparagus left over that I can put it into a salad for dinner. SO GOOD.
I did a big pot of butter beans this morning and this is my favorite way to eat them. Garlic, green onion, and tomato cooked in butter and spices, nooch, then add in spinach (or kale today because I was out of spinach), and then a couple ladles of beans with broth. Simmer for a few minutes to meld flavors and serve. I topped with some vegan parmesan for an added nutty flavor. This is an adulteration of a Greek recipe, adapted to use ingredients I always have. It also happens to be a good way to reheat beans when, like me, you prefer not to own a microwave. Oh also good with some hot sauce, if you're in the mood for the heat.
I paid way too much money for some tater tots at the Dollar General down the road just so I could make a casserole I was thinking about but then ended up not feeling all that great or hungry and didn't eat until very late. Maybe the taco meat (soy) and onions wasn't such a good idea on an empty stomach so close to bedtime. It was a very dissatisfying meal but I don't like to not eat because they I have to lie to my doctor when he asks how many days this month did I not have an appetite.
So today I made the casserole which is just tater tots and frozen broccoli with a yummy breadcrumb and nooch topping. It will go well with these butter beans until they are eaten up. I really don't like leftovers, tbh, but reheating things on the stove or in the air fryer while adding a little extra seasoning or other - changing it in some way- makes them tolerable. But you have probably noticed that I do a lot of short-order cooking for myself. It's because I don't like leftovers. No meal-prepping in this house. Gross.
Things that are definitely as good or better as a leftover: lasagna, pizza, pasta salad.
That's about it.
The last of the big pot of butter beans with some roasted Brussels Sprouts. My favorite way to eat fresh sprouts (I probably eat frozen more often just because of the way I shop only once a month), is to toss them in olive oil and a dash of salt and bake until some crisping is happening. The seasoning to make separately by sautéing some garlic and adding nooch, spices, herbs until well toasted. Stir this seasoning into the finished sprouts and taste before adding more salt. I have taken this dish to many family dinners and it is amazingly well received to be almost no work past the initial prep.
Bok Choy stir fry today with a homemade garlic/ginger sauce which I added some sautéed TVP to for added texture and protein. Really quite delicious, though my sauce was runny because I was out of starch for thickening. I ate it anyway.
Spent the day visiting my daughter and attending events at my grandchildren's' school. We had lunch at Taco Mama, a pretty great place where it is easy to order vegan. They even have tofu, if you want it. Their nachos (no vegan cheese, but it is so loaded with everything you want the cheese isn't missed) is enough for two people, which you may need to remind people of because they will habitually order their own plate of nachos and barely be able to eat half of it (you know who you are that I am talking about. TOO MANY NACHOS!) It was a fun day and I had a doggy bag to cover my dinner. Click the picture to see their menu and locations.
Craving protein today, so I made some TVP barbecue, paired with some air-fryer fries. It's important to listen to your body. It can usually tell you when you need protein or fresh veggies or whatever. I have monthly blood checks and very rarely are my levels off and I don't put much more thought into it past 'what sounds good?' or 'I should maybe eat more green stuff today.'
Another Instant Pot spaghetti- this time with some breaded TVP. Very tasty!
So, I missed a few days there. I was running out of ideas and did some repeats as well as ate some leftovers. I am pretty much down to tofu and frozen veg at this point, so we will see how creative I can be for the last week of the month.
More coming soon!