Chili Cheese, Please!

I adore versatile foods that can help stretch out the dollar! I don’t have a recipe to share with you, but this week I made chili. It was “use up everything in our freezer” chili. There were pre-cooked frozen beans that I did in a big batch cook, vegetable mixes, frozen from the garden spring onions that were given to me, vegetable quinoa and barley mixes, veggie burgers, and so on. If it needed used up, I threw it in the pot. I added a few cans of chopped tomatoes, as well as a frozen container of left over tomato sauce. I didn’t know if it was going to turn out, but I needed my freezer back in order.

Only it did turn out! It was fantastic, and even my bean-phobic 9 year old son loved the chili.
As I was packing it away, I wondered how we could use it all. The chili is great, but I only like it once in a while.

My kids love eating chili if they can use tortilla chips to eat it instead of a spoon or fork.
Chili can be used over rice or baked potatoes.
There’s always the “chili cheese dogs” (veggie dogs).
And from that, I think nacho’s or even chili smothered french fries.

But I figured none of those options will work with my kids for very long, if at all. So we’re going to stuff noodles with chili and vegan cheese, because who doesn’t love a stuffed noodle?

From one pot of chili, we can make several different meals.

And that is what I love about chili.

Vegan Shepherds Pie

Ohh how I love the pie. Not your traditional pie, but vegan shepherds pie. Everybody does it a little differently so I’ll share my own recipe with you.

I’ve never been good at paying attention to measurements, so you’ll have to wing it!

Ingredients:
1 cup brown lentils
2 cup veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp marjoram
3 cloves minced garlic
1 minced onion
3 stalks celery finely chopped
4 skinny carrots finely chopped
4 button mushrooms finely chopped
1 can corn
dash vegan worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
enough potatoes peeled and quartered to fill a medium pot
grapeseed oil for frying

I started by prepping my veggies..
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Then I got the potatoes into a pot of water and started to boil them.
While they were boiling, I got the lentils going. First I added the lentils and broth, followed by the thyme, cumin and marjoram. I stirred it all up to distribute the spices and added the bay leaf, then simmered the lentils for about 20 minutes until the water was absorbed.

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Next I fried the garlic for about 30 seconds on low-medium heat, followed by the onions until fragrant. I added the carrots and celery, and covered the pan to cook the veggies until tender. Then I added the mushrooms and let them cook for a few minutes. Add the corn and cooked lentils, a dash of worcestershire sauce, some salt and pepper and cover it. Cook until thoroughly heated and the flavors are well incorporated.

While the flavors are mingling, mash up the potatoes. I usually add a bit of garlic margarine to mine, not mentioned in the ingredients above. Make them up however you like them.

Now just put it all together. I used small tinfoil pans to store mine in as I made one for a friend and two for myself and needed a reliable way to keep it fresh in the fridge/freezer. Layer in the lentil/veggie mixture, then top with the potatoes.

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This is all that was left on my plate when I remembered to snap a pic.

 

It’s another (cupcake) Sunday..

It’s another Sunday, and let me tell you; it’s a good one.
Not only is today going to be beautiful (a high of 9 degrees, yay!) but it is also my oldest sons 9th birthday party; to which 9 children will be attending. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Last night we made really simple cupcakes for his party using this recipe. It took all of five minutes to throw together. Then I tossed on some chocolate icing and let my son decorate them for his friends.

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It’s been a weekend full of cupcakes, honestly. My four year old son was having cupcake day in his classroom so I had written it on the calendar, and when the older two went to school that day they were expecting cupcakes too. So when their Grandma picked them up they shared their disappointment as they realized only their little brother got cupcakes that day. Being the freaking cool Grandma that she is, my Mom decided she would do cupcake day with them on Friday after school while I was at work.

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So on top of some really great cupcakes this weekend, we’re taking a layered chip dip to the party and some veggie dogs. The chip dip was a can of Amy’s refried beans, a layer of salsa, tofutti sour cream, and daiya cheese shreds. It’s so easy and so fantastic. I was even able to make an extra dish of it with the left over ingredients for work tomorrow!

We’re off to party!

Food Saving Tips – Discount Produce

I just wanted to share that during yesterdays grocery shop, I picked up a few cheap items from the discount produce shelves. This is a great way to save money though you always need to check the produce over carefully before committing to the purchase!

The first thing I picked up was a bag of eight small corn on the cobs for $0.99. I cut them all in half, sliced off any sketchy bits and threw them in a pot to boil. We ate them with veggie burgers and fries. Corn isn’t something that I would typically buy but my kids really enjoy corn on the cob. We each ate one half and the rest went into the kids lunches.

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The next discount item that I bought was fresh chives! They come in over priced plastic containers but they’ve been on my list for ages. The problem was, any time I found the dried chives in the spice aisle I found that they were asking a horrendous amount of money for a very small amount. So when I saw two containers going for $0.99 total, I tossed them in the cart. When I got home I sat down and picked out any pieces that were too far gone, and chopped the rest using my little kitchen scissors. Then I rinsed them in a “quinoa strainer” as I call it (just a metal strainer with very tiny holes) and shook them out on a tray to dry out before putting them back in a tupperware container to freeze. I love using chives in many recipes, including twice baked potatoes and pizza dough.

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The trick with most produce (discounted or not) is to take care of it right away. While some hardy produce can last a week or two, there comes a point when it must be used up or stored differently if you don’t want to throw it away like money down the pooper. If I had waited a day or two before tending to this produce it would have been too late. Now I have fresh chives at my convenience any time I need them and we were able to get a meal and two lunches out of the corn. I would say that it was $2 well spent!

Grocery Haul Over Budget

I’m not going to post my full grocery haul this week, but I’ll give you a brief break down! Off we went to the grocery store, precise list in hand including estimated dollar amounts based on the flyer and experience alone. My plan was for $70 and that would leave me some wiggle room for the health food store with a max budget of $100. I was doing great, two stores in for all the best deals and only $67!

Then we went to the health food store (dun dun dun!). All I wanted to get were some veggie burger buns, vegan cheese slices and maybe some tofurky slices for the kids school lunches. But oh look, ice cream! We missed our special ice cream day this past weekend and my kids go off to their Dad’s on Friday. So I got to thinking.. but when I looked at the price of our regular size ice cream container it was nearly $9! That’s $3 more than what I would usually pay at Wal-Mart. But there was a package of four coconut ice cream bars on sticks (whatever you call those things) dipped in chocolate. That was much cheaper (only $5!). Yeah why not, right? But next to the ice cream is nori sheets. And I’ve had vegan sushi on my mind lately. I wandered over a few steps to check out the prices.. opted for the cheapest one at $7 and went to get those buns and tofurky slices. But then.. they had some cheese shreds on sale! ON SALE! Despite the fact that I already picked up two bags of the Daiya Chedder shreds at a cheaper store, the mozerella shreds here were even cheaper! Another bag won’t hurt anything. Then I realized that if we wanted to eat veggie burgers and fries tonight, I won’t feel like making the burgers so I’d better pick some up. And oh hell, it’s hard work buying groceries! A natural root beer and dark chocolate bar later.. we were finally at the check out when I saw that naan bread taunting me. “It’s pizza night.. you know it is.. the kids should have pizza in their lunch for pizza day tomorrow.. pizza.. piizzaaaa…” Yep. So $51 later we’re finally home.

A total spent of $118.11

Here’s a break down of our items, if you wish to continue reading..

Foil Wrap
Fries
Daiya Chedder (x2)
Strawberries 1lb (x2)
Green Onion (Scallions) (x2)
Navel Orange 3lb (x2)
$21.43

Laundry Detergent
Reduced Produce (chives and corn on the cob)
Sweet Red Peppers(0.900 kg/1.98 lbs)
Bananas (3.14 kg/6.92 lbs)
Sweet Onion (1.20 kg/2.64 lbs)
Frozen Strawberries
Coconut Whipped Topping
Soy Milk (x2)
Wheat Tortilla
45.25

Chocolate Bar
Naan Bread
Root Beer
Tofurky Slices
Tofutti Cheese Slices
Whole Grain Burger Buns
Coconut Ice Cream Bars
Sol Burgers
$51.43

So there you have it. A not so brief break down of our grocery shopping day. This will last us a while though and is just fill in foods for what we already have at home. The nori will make for an extra meal that wasn’t planned on but it’s so nice to switch things up now and then. We have enough cheese for two weeks. We have cereal that needs to be eaten before we buy more even if it’s not the kids favorite. Canned goods to be used up. And from Friday evening until Sunday at bed time I am only feeding myself. That small break in custody every two weeks does a lot to stretch my grocery budget out! All of the above is for a family of four; myself, my 8 year old, 7 year old and three year old.

Vegan Kids Lunches – 1

What do vegan kids eat for lunch?

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Tomorrow my kids will be taking left over vegan pizza (I love pizza night, lunches made easy!) and a bowl of strawberries and grapes. The bars are a blueberry fig bar and MADEGOOD chocolate chip granola bar. I love these because they have vegetables such as beats and carrots in them too, and my kids don’t seem to know the difference.

I try to pack foods that are similar to those that their friends eat because at the tender ages of six and eight, they have already complained about their lunch looking different than every one else. I’ve even noticed some resentment from my oldest, and so it’s about compromise and understanding that each child has their own life path no matter what we want for them. I keep it vegan, but sometimes my son will eat all of his lunch as fast as he can so that he can pick something from the bin at school, usually a non-vegan, dairy item like cheese strings. So as a parent, I can only do my best!

Every Wednesday at school kids can get pizza orders, so we have pizza night on Tuesday and always make a bit extra for Wednesday lunch. Vegan doesn’t have to be difficult or different. 🙂

Let’s Talk Kale Chips

Call me crazy, but I’ve never been into kale chips. The taste was something like that between fish food flakes and bitter greens, or so bland that I might as well just grab a fresh bunch of kale and start munching.

In my food haul post, you will have seen that I did buy some kale chips. A new brand of kale chips is being sold at our health food store and my official review is: Edible!

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Solar Raw Food Ultimate Kale Chips in the Red Peppercorn Ranch flavor is all they had. The packaging is bright and fun, and (bonus!) they’re made in Canada!
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While the cashews make these a little high in fat, these kale chips pack a nutritional punch. Vitamin A alone is at 70%.. most of the ingredients are “sustainably grown without herbicides or pesticides.” Everything is air dried below 118F (47C), preserving the nutrients with minimal loss. They definitely pack a ranch punch of flavor, and occasionally you get a rare treat of some whole cashews in the mix. The chips themselves are also very pretty!
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Overall, these are the best kale chips I have tried thus far. I would love to try some other flavors though, such as “Better than Cheddar,” “Spicy Curry Lime,” and especially “Hemp Cream and Chive.”

Large Food Haul

Note to self: do not make impulse purchases at the local health food store!!

Today I decided I would show you what a large grocery haul looks like for us. We’ve been short of money for a couple weeks and really had to limit what we were buying, but it’s pay week so it was time to stock up and go a little crazy! Keep in mind, this is for a family of four; one very fussy eight year old, a healthy food loving six year old, a snacky three year old, and my trying to get healthy self.

The first store is our cheaper grocery store, where they sometimes have discounted produce and are always out of the advertised sales. Yes, the three main things I went there to buy were sold out. That leaves me with three very limited rain checks. But, we did get a lot of other good stuff.

*Sorry about the picture quality, this is my first haul post and one of these days I’ll work up the courage to do a video haul!*

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Here we have two packages of romaine lettuce, two bags of chopped kale, about 8 tomatoes, one butternut squash (for soup!), one anise/fennel bulb, a big watermelon, about ten red bell peppers, 2lb bag of baby carrots, two bunches of celery, a container of strawberries, bag of grapes, a small eggplant, 3 onions.. cut out of the pic is a bag of four grapefruits and package of sliced mushrooms.. (cont’d)
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One bag of avocados, three limes and three lemons, three bunches of green onions, one cucumber, head of cauliflower, five bunches of bananas… (cont’d)
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Four cartons of organic vegetable broth (a lot of recipes that call for veggie broth), a box of Rice Krispies cereal, two boxes of Cap’N Crunch, and one box of Jordan’s Morning Crisp (chocolate curls), grape juice, organic apple juice, pasta sauce, two jars of olives, a jar of hot pepper rings, two loaves of bread.. (cont’d)

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Kettle salted popcorn, blue corn chips (organic), two packages of tortilla wraps, one package of small pita’s. The total for this store was $148.90.

Because they didn’t have our almond milk that was on sale, we had to make a trip to Wal-Mart. Here’s how that went:
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I knew that they had ataulfo mangoes on sale – the whole box of 20 mangoes cost under $10! These are my favorite mangoes. Also I was looking for original rice cakes for the kids and none of the stores I’ve been two these past few weeks had them! So naturally, I grabbed a bag here. Then I picked up some Kettle chips for our snack/movie night; sea salt, salt and vinegar and salt & pepper. And of course, two cartons of almond milk. The total here was 32.03.

By the time we headed to third store I was getting really hungry! This was at our local health food store, and I repeat: Bad place for impulse purchases!!
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Tonight is pizza night, so we needed to pick up some things like cheese, and the kids love taking wraps and sandwiches in their lunches with tofurky slices and cheese slices! The clif bar was my snack for all the hard work it takes to go grocery shopping 😉 Hey, it’s exhausting stuff! The gum was for my daughter who is a little gum obsessed these days, and the tooth brush is for my son who tends to walk around the house with his brush and lose it behind his bed or other weird places. So here’s a break down of what you see here.. Kale chips, organic bamboo wipes, made good chocolate chip granola bars, daiya cheese slices, tofurky slices, coconut clif bar, toothpaste for the kids, two bags of daiya cheese (shredded), a tooth brush, a bag of gum and a small package for me.
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My fussy eater loves blueberry fig bars, so I got enough for each kid to have one each day in their lunches (which clearly, works out to three boxes). Two packages of garlic naan bread for pizza night, a smoothie for the little guy and a root beer for me, and the largest impulse purchases; two new nail polishes that came in at $10 each! Almost everything from this store was roughly $5 per item. The grand total? $112.34!

I know that adds up to a lot from all three stores. Some of the purchases won’t be used until next week, others next weekend, and some will last into the week beyond that. So while it is a lot, I consider this to be two weeks worth of groceries plus some unnecessary items.

If you like this post, please leave a comment below and I’ll do more food haul posts that are much more practical, along with money saving tips when it comes to vegan food! This is not what a typical week of groceries usually looks like for us, and I would love to share with you what we buy on a more regular basis. 

Bake Sale Adventures (And Food Porn!)

I won’t say “Happy Valentines Day” because let’s face it, Valentines Day is based on consumerist hype and who wants to celebrate the real meaning of St Valentine anyway?!

But it was a wonderful day. Another vegan friend and I braved the snow drifts to support our local Farm Sanctuary in their bake sale. It was a lot of fun!

First, we got stuck:

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Then we went inside, to realize that (woops!) we were a little early, and the vegan bakers were a little late. But it was no problem, because it gave us an opportunity to sneak out to the barn and visit the residents. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap any pictures. It was quite dark in the barn and most of the residents were snuggled up to keep warm, but we were happily greeted by Eric the goat, who is an attention whore if you ask me. He happily offered us his snout to caress and closed his eyes blissfully at the stroke of my hand across his course hairy cheek. We were also greeted quite loudly by a little lamb, who I first met as a tiny wee thing and has now developed a fluffy cloud of wool around her mid section. The ducks and chickens, geese and other flighty folks welcomed us with squawks and honks.

We headed back to the events barn to buy our sweets and were greatly rewarded! For a donation of $20 (CAD) I filled up a container!

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As you can see, it didn’t take long to dive in! While we were waiting for the tow truck to come and give us a pull, we were content to munch. Look at some of the beauties (but please refrain from drooling on your keyboard!).

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Are you jealous? Damn right you are. But that’s not all. Since the wait was over an hour long, I had plenty of free time to scour the pages of this fabulous book, also purchased at the fundraiser..

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I am thrilled to start preparing the recipes in this book! At a glance, the recipes are all made with natural whole foods, easy to prepare, and familiar enough that even my kids could get into them. I am truly excited. In the years that I have been vegan, and the many cookbooks that I have purchased, I would have to say that this one is my favorite. And not just because it’s all brand new and shiny! It can be a real struggle to find cookbooks that don’t rely on processed food or expensive specialty, imported type of ingredients.

And that was only the beginning to an amazing day.

– Peace and love.