Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vegan on the Bottom Dollar

Have you ever "bet your bottom dollar" on anything (like the sun coming out tomorrow)?  I have and it was quite an experience, but everything came out alright in the end.  Like I've mentioned, Mister and I are still in the adjustment period of having less income and so far our pattern looks a little like this:  the first week after my paycheck, we are aware that there is less money after bills, but not paying close attention, so we still let little discretionary purchases like Starbucks (me) or pizza (Mister) slide.  The second week, which we are presently embarking upon, I check our bank account after receiving my warning email from the bank (what a great tool - I have set up an email reminder to hit me whenever our balance drops below an acceptable amount) and inform Mister exactly how little money we have.

As a result of this Adjustment Period, this week's menu is also sourced completely from Vegan on the Cheap, but this time I was even more strategic in my selections.  Before I sat down, I surveyed the freezer and cupboards to see what we already have to work with since money is not on that list.  Then, as I went through the book, I did my best to find the recipes that involved the most items I already have on hand, therefore, the least number of items I have to buy.  I kept thinking of that question in the Epic VeganMoFo survey about having only $20 to spend on groceries, because it would be amazing if I could pull that off.  I don't think it's going to happen, but considering I usually spend between $60-80 a week on our groceries, I'll be happy to stay beneath $30.

1. Black Bean Soup with Kale and Rice - see, this is how good at being thrifty I'm becoming: ordinarily, I buy a bunch of kale and put it all into whatever recipe I bought it for without bothering to measure.  When I made our Caldo Verde last night, I actually did measure out the 6 cups of chopped kale and found that I had 3-4 stems leftover.  Well, it just so happens, this soup calls for 3 cups of kale and I figure if what I have left isn't 3 cups, it'll be damn close.

2. Better Bean Burgers - yes, I know I made these last week, but a) they're super cheap; b) I still have the other half of those sandwich thins left, so why not?; and c) Mister wished they were flatter, wider, and crunchier, so I'll use that as an excuse.  Heck, we used to have frozen commercial veggie burgers and frozen french fries on at least a weekly basis, so unless Mister has become completely spoiled in the last couple of years, I don't think he'll complain.  Especially when he's perfectly happy to eat pizza for lunch every single day.

3. Baked Ziti - this is one dish my mom has always made really well, so it's kind of like comfort food for me, which I anticipate a possible need for this week (yes, folks, this is the week all hell starts to break loose at work).  I've reserved a bottle of Beaujolais for the occasion and Italy isn't that far from France.  Anyway, this also looks like something I could easily prepare the night before and then ask Mister to stuff it in the oven while I'm on my way home.  It might almost feel like he cooked!

4. Mexican Rice and Bean Bake - the first and last time I made this was a catastrophic failure, as is usually the case with any kind of casserole that involves rice and/or something tomato-based.  I have a plan, though, and this recipe still sounds too good to give up on without a fight, so let's see how Round Two turns out.

5. Pasta e Fagioli - don't get me wrong, there is a huge place in my heart specifically reserved for Dynise's recipe, but this one sounds fun, too, and I only need to buy two things for it.  Also, while I'm still trying to figure out why Dynise thinks her recipe makes a soup, there is little doubt that this recipe makes a chunky soup that you still need a spoon to eat.

I can't believe VeganMoFo is almost over!  I have so thoroughly enjoyed chronicling every single day/night and I hope you've all enjoyed reading.  My full intention lies in continuing to post every day, but I'll be honest - December is going to be rough and I've never been a fan of those Here's-A-Picture-and-a-Few-Pithy-Words posts, so I might skip a night here and there.  I took advantage of the time off I've had these past days (through tomorrow!) to catch up on some of my own reading and found some new great blogs to follow as well - check out my blog roll on the left <--- to see what I'm reading.

So....did you want to see a picture?

Here was dinner just a-sizzlin' away in my saute pan.  Isn't it beautiful?  When I saw how bright and attractive the browned tofu, green pepper, carrots, and chives looked, I wanted to take a picture before slathering them with pineapple sauce.

Tonight's dinner was Tropic of Tempeh Tofu from Vegan on the Cheap and it was kind of absurd. It is so cold in Philadelphia tonight.  The low is supposed to sink below the freezing mark, probably for the first time this season.  When I returned from teaching this evening, after the sun had set, I walked about halfway through this great underground path that lets me out of the belly of the city through a urine-soaked stairway.  I hold my breath the whole way up those stairs, but at least I was warm for half my walk!  The second half was just about enough to freeze me to the bone...I just kind of stopped moving once I was safely inside the apartment and took about five minutes to actually remove my gloves, coat, and scarf.

So, of course, I was kicking myself about 2 blocks from home for making the stupid soup dinner last night.  My options were a tropical tofu skillet supper or pizza.  I have nothing against pizza and I'm sure Mister would be happy, but I wanted to use my green pepper before it started getting shrivelly and gross and the tomatoes look like they still have a day left in 'em, so we'll have the Tuscan Pizza tomorrow. 

Anyway, it was very good and can go into my file of Perfect Portions for Me and Mister.  I enjoy having certain dishes I can make with the knowledge that there will be no leftovers.  Whether it's because we're going away or because we already have a fridge stocked with leftovers I'll be taking to work for lunch, sometimes you just don't want to put anything back in the fridge.  We each had two bowls with rice and the tofu-n-veggies - we were content but not "fat" with food; it was just enough and not too much.  The flavor was pleasant and every now and then, a bit of ginger or allspice would catch you by surprise.  I might increase the tamari to 3 Tbsp in the future for a slightly more savory flavor, but if I forget to do that, the sauce won't suffer.

I can't recommend Vegan on the Cheap enough, honestly.  I bought it because I'm familiar with Robin Robertson and have enjoyed her other recipes, but it won my heart by saving my bank account a couple of times now.  Even if it called for a bunch of expensive ingredients you can only get in specialty shops, though, I would still love it because there are a bunch of quality and unique recipes in here.  It is an all-around great cookbook, so if you still write a letter to Santa, you might want to put this one down.

I want to bid you a good evening with this one last moment of zen:

Last week at Essene, they were giving away free samples of Traditional Medicinals tea.  I grabbed an Everyday Lemon Detox ('tis the season!) and as my throat was a bit scratchy upon my return from teaching, I thought tonight was the night to give it a try.  The little hang-tag warmed my heart...


  1. I hope you keep posting as much as you can during December. I like how you talk as if you're talking with a group of friends. My husband & I have a similar relationship with our paycheck.

  2. I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog, Jackie :) I figure you're all friends I haven't met yet, so I may as well talk to you that way. Hopefully, we'll both get the hang of this paycheck thing before it gets us!