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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How to Cook with Ginger

I love to use spicy ginger in sweet and savory dishes! It is a raw power food so the later in the cooking process you can add it, the better! This brown fibrous root can be difficult to prepare

Peeling the Skin 

...the spoon! Use a spoon to gently scrape away the skin piece by piece. This is way to waste the least amount of the ginger flesh. This can be time consuming.

If I'm feeling lazy:
...the vegetable peeler! It is not really intended for ginger but will peel the skin a only and little of the flesh if you do not feel like the spoon method.

If I'm feeling really lazy or rushed: 

...the knife. You can slice down the sides to remove the skin but it will take a lot of the juicy ginger with it. You may need to use the knife anyway if you have particularly hard, woody areas or dry areas on your piece of ginger

My Favorite Ginger Tool!
The cute ginger grater my hubby bought me from a Japanese store!
Start with a small-ish peeled piece of ginger.
Grate away! Apply pressure along the grain of the ginger and occasionally switch sides. Do this vertically over a container to collect the juice. The fibers/pulp will stay on the grater.
As a Garnish:
Slice your piece vertically and then into strips with the grain.  Add to a dish at the last minute for decoration and added crunch and taste!

Storing ginger is not something I have mastered! It does not do well in the freezer or a plastic bag. I have heard of pickling it in vodka. What I usually do is toss the unused ginger in the fridge- cut or not- and use it up as soon as possible. No long term storage ideas here :o/

What is your favorite way to use ginger?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meal Plan & Baby Bump

Meal Plan for This Week 

Chili with TVP
Burritos or Quesadillas
Sweet and Savory Crepes
Veggie Stir Fry
Leftovers Night
Pasta with Green Beans
Indian Chickpeas with Samosas

20 weeks and 1 day

20 weeks and 2 days

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vegan-izing Conventional Baking Recipes

We only own one vegan cookbook. At all. It's a baking cookbook specific to cookies and you probably know it and love it: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar 

I have held onto some of my older non-vegan cookbooks and I do a lot of recipe searches online. Sometimes there is something I really want to make but it calls for animal products. Thankfully in baking, these substitutions can be pretty easy and undetectable by even the most steadfast "omni." 

I am no expert, but from my experience, here are some successful baking substitutions:

Butter or Margarine: Forget that cholesterol and carcinogens! I suggest Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread. There are a few varieties available including soy-free. It is made with a variety of vegetable oils that are not partially-hydrogenated. This acts exactly like butter to use the same methods to soften or melt it. 

Cow Milk: I'm not too helpful here because my lousy palate does not detect taste differences between non-dairy plant-sourced 'milks.' I use them indiscriminately in baking. Substitute whatever you have in your fridge: soy, coconut, hemp, rice, almond. Make sure it is not flavored- unsweetened is a good idea also so you are in control. 

Eggs: Eggs provide a few things in baking- binding, fluff, and rise. For the later two, you may want to experiment with a little extra baking soda and baking powder
Bananas: This will make whatever you are baking taste banana-y! Mash up an egg-size worth of banana for each banana called for. I usually use this for scratch brownies.
Flax: For each egg, use the ratio 1 tablespoon ground flax seed 
~ 3 tablespoons water
Mix in a separate bowl and let sit to become thick. Great way to get some extra omega 3s!
I've heard of using apple sauce but have not tried this. There are also commercial egg replacers

Standard Sugar (make use bone char, bleach): Go for evaporated cane juice or granules made from something besides sugarcane like beets. If you use a 'wet' sweetener like agave or maple syrup, you need to lessen the other liquid ingredients to balance. 

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from Isa Chandra Moskowitz' book
Weird fact I learned from another vegan blog- most icings you buy in tubs are vegan! This does not mean that they are healthy- full of high fructose corn syrup, trans-fat, preservatives, etc. but in a pinch they would be an easy fix!

Happy Baking!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pregnancy Update

How far along? 19 weeks and 1 day -Into week 20! Out of the teens!

Due Date:  December 30 (for now) I have a suspicion that we will be told the baby is measuring ahead of schedule at our ultrasound on Friday!

Total weight gain/loss:
 4 lbs total gained, though I'm SURE I will have to add on to this from my appt. on Wednesday!

Maternity clothes? Yes, from here out I think. Going to raid the clearance rack at Kohl's tomorrow unless it's, like, shorts.

Sleep: Argh, there's no hope. Here are the new sleep issues:
  • I think Squiggles is having a growth spurt because I have been woken up by hunger every night.
  • I can no longer sort of lean on my belly- it's too big!
  • Angry and distressing dreams :o(
  • Insomnia from excitement and worry
  • Continued discomfort on left side, sciatica, and dehydration
Best moment this week: 
Building the crib all by myself!

Movement: YESSS!!!! Much more than every before, definite kicks that repeat. Can't wait until hubby can feel it, too!

Food cravings: Anything sweet, cold, or both! Fulfilling this with fruit and candy. I think I really want ice cream but I'm not eating any type, not even vegan because of the agave.

Food aversions: None


  • I felt sick for two days followed by what I swear is a baby/uterus growth spurt. 
  • Ravenous hunger like in first trimester including during the night!
  • More heartburn but not that bad
  • Sciatica grrr messing up my ballet skillz
  • Emotional, constant crying
  • Lots more movement including at different times of day! 
 I can't believe how excited I am to find this out on Friday (hopefully!) I am of the mind that it doesn't matter, won't make a difference in our preparation or parenting except to decide about circumcision, and our child may decide on a different "gender" than is represented by their genitals BUT I am still dying to know. 

Labor Signs: Nooo

Belly Button in or out? Closer to a full outie but it will still be a while

What I miss: Summer! It seems to be ending and that means less time for baby prep, exercise, and cooking, though I do look forward to some income as a substitute teacher

What I am looking forward to: Hubby to come back from out of town. I am SO emotional lately and missing him. Oh, hormones.
Milestones: First person who I do not know asking "What are you due?" See! I knew Squiggles had a growth spurt this week!

Friday, August 5, 2011

How I Save Money on Food

Farmer's Markets: Find out where these happen in your area and go! In my experience, the produce is usually very cheap with added bonuses of fresh, possibly organic, and supportive of local economy! However, I recommend asking the price before you buy. There could be a product that is harder to grow or less available or whatever and cost more. You can sometimes haggle with a farmer or get a great deal if it's something that will go bad soon, they have too much of, or because you are a repeat customer! Bring cash and bags. If possible, sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). 
Other posts about Farmer's Markets: Farmer's Market Haul #1, Farmer's Market Haul #2

Coupons: Even if you eat very little packaged food, there is still a coupon out there you can use! I found one recently for bagged baby spinach which I buy every week! We do not get newspapers, the typical coupon go-to, so I print them all online. I use a coupon binder to organize. There are many coupon blogs out there, even organic ones, to alert you as to newly available printable coupons. Find out your store's policies on doubling and stacking to maximize your savings.  
Future Post with More Information
Storing coupons in clear inserts with labeled tabs

Rewards Clubs: Take advantage of extra sales or print extra coupons. Be careful you are not signing up for a charge card unless that is your intention. They will also get you discounts but with bigger obligations.

Sales: Find out what is on sale at your stores and shop strategically. Look at newspaper inserts, websites, and coupon blogs. Also check out the clearance/discontinued sections. Find and use coupons on sale items- you may end up getting some for free!

Stock Pile/Store/Freeze: You will end up with many items that you will not use immediately if you shop sales and with coupons. Select a way to store and organize your nonperishable edibles in a stockpile. For anything in my kitchen cupboard for which I have duplicates, I store those in shelves in my laundry room. Store other extras in the freezer- great way to enjoy summer fruits and veggies in winter and to have ready-to-eat foods on hand.

Buy In Season: The least expensive produce is the produce that is growing currently in your area. Fruit and veggies out of season are probably grown far away so you are paying for transportation or grown less naturally like with a greenhouse or extreme fertilizers and pesticides  which adds to the cost. We buy a lot of food from because the prices are usually lower than in stores with retail costs and we get prime shipping which is free and arrives in two-days. With, you can buy in bulk sizes for extra cheap or single items. Additionally savings are possible if you choose Subscribe and Save and receive an item on a regular schedule for 15% less cost. We also use a Rewards Credit Card and get points on purchases which add up to gift cards.

Indoor aeroponic planter with herbs
Garden: Grow your own food! This can be done anywhere. We use our apartment balcony, but you can grow indoors in pots by a window or door! We also have an indoor aeroponic planter. Seeds are very cheap and you can be in control of getting organic/heirloom but seedlings and started plants can be inexpensive also and save time.Other posts about Gardening: Sprouts, Heirloom Tomato, Starting to Flower, Transplanting, Starting to Fruit 

Buy In Bulk: Large amounts of something are bound to be cheaper! If you buy from bulk bins like I find at my local organic store, you are also saving money on packaging/containers. Bring your own bag and fill by the pound. I usually get bulk grains, legumes, and other staples but you can find snacks, desserts, even oils! Or, buying bulk can mean buying many packages at once ala Costco. I buy huge bags of dried herbs and seasonings from and refill small shakers as needed. 

Meal Planning: Make a plan for what you will cook and eat that week, or at least your dinners. This way, you can make a solid shopping list and stick to it rather than making spontaneous purchases. You can also use up what you already have, especially before it turns bad.
Other posts about Meal Planning: Week of 7/17, Week of 7/24Week of 7/31
Future Post with More Information

Homemade Food: Cook for yourself! Packaged prepared foods are most costlier than individual ingredients. Make large quantities to enjoy leftovers and freeze for future meals. You also ingest less sodium and preservatives. Recipes are available for free online. We rarely eat at restaurants and will occasionally get carry-out or delivery food for which you end up tipping less and spending less on extras like drinks. 
Other posts about Homemade Food: Meal Photos #1, Meal Photos #2, Eggplant Parmesan, Smoothie, Popcorn, Potato Tacos, Quinoa Burgers, Hummus
Bulk nuts, seeds, and fruits to mix up trail mix
Homemade muffins- sunflower seed butter and chocolate chips

Reusable Bags: Many stores will offer discounts of five or ten cents for each reusable bag used- those savings can really add up! Reusable bags can be purchased for little money, gotten for free at events and especially if they display advertising, or you can make your own! We have awesome cloth produce bags from my mother-in-law. Make sure to wash your bags often as they can accumulate bacteria. 

Avoid the Oven: When cooking, you will use a lot less energy by opting for the microwave or the toaster over. The conventional over and burners lose a lot of heat that does not go to your food and cost a lot more. If you are going to use the oven, try to make all your week's dishes at once to capitalize on the heat and experiment with not preheating and turning off the oven five minutes before cook time is over. 

Freecycle: Yep! Food items are sometimes posted on Freecycle and they are free to pick up. People clear out their pantries when they move. I posted some food items I was no longer allowed to eat when I found out I'm pregnant.
Other post about Freecycle: Favorite Reuse Sites

And, of course, Purchase Few or No Animal Products: Meat, dairy, and eggs are some of the priciest food items. Unfortunately, the high price does not necessarily mean quality or fair wages for those who produced the products. Besides the other benefits, avoiding them will save you money. It is also helpful that I haven't had alcohol in eight months and Ian drinks very little. Plus, most alcohol contains or is made with animal products. Eww!

    Coming Soon: How I Save Money on Energy and Household

    Please add your tips to the comments! Thanks!

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Egg-Less Eggplant Parmesan

    Semi-Vegan Eggplant Parmesan. We nix the eggs but keep the cheese- however, the cheese could easily be Daiya or some nutritional yeast concoction! We don't really follow a recipe but this is how we have learned to make it work:

    The eggplants or aubergines were long and skinny so we ended up cutting strips. On the left if the egg replacement. The proportion we use for this is:
    1 tablespoon ground flax seed ~ 2 tablespoons water
    Stir and let it sit for a few minutes. It was soak and become thicker. Dip in the strips and then drench in breadcrumbs. 

    Set in the frying pan on a high setting, otherwise they will become soaked in the oil. Flip when golden brown.

    Ian whipped up this sauce. It is just tomato paste, basil from the garden, oregano, sugar, garlic powder, and onion powder.

    The finished product with a couple servings missing! Basically, layer eggplant, sauce, and cheese or cheese-like substance. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let sit before serving. Nom!