Lessons from a Vegan-ish kitchen

Meal Prep

I believe in the power of my every day choice to abstain from eating meat or dairy and how that helps decrease my carbon footprint. Without getting too much into the politics, I realize that eating vegan is a lifestyle not just a diet; and that with any lifestyle, it takes time and practice to continue on any given path. I heard someone explain a “vegan-ish” lifestyle like this, “It’s like being a Christian – if you sin, it doesn’t mean you need to quit being a Christian, you keep aiming for a Christian lifestyle that practices your morals”.  So when you “mess up” and eat meat or a piece of cheese, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a vegan.

Now, I know some vegans who would probably get upset at the above statement, but like I said, I don’t want to get too much into politics and I think there needs to be a more common ground for those interested in making a change- no more of this “you can’t sit with us” attitude towards those lost in the grey area of vegan-ish land. Everyone’s journey towards awakening must start somewhere.

So here! I’ve compiled a “tip” list of things to ponder over if you are considering making a transition into the vegan lifestyle…

Find a buddy

The first time I attempted a vegan diet was after taking an environmental science class my sophomore year of college and feeling alarmed about the reality of my carbon footprint. Long story short, I gave up quickly after I gave in and ate some carne asada tacos. Fast forward to 2015 and I met my Fiance who was practicing a vegan diet. I was a bit intimidated at first and the independent person in me felt  it unthinkable to try a diet just because a guy I liked was doing it, but I had to push my ego aside and find facts that resonated with me and persuaded me in the first place. So as we started dating, I decided to eat vegan when I was with him- which was usually just the weekends. Then I gradually started adding days when I was by myself- for me that was Wednesdays- and from there it got easier. So grab a friend or a coworker, try to find someone you see on a regular basis and make the effort together. It will be a lot easier when you have someone to hold you accountable.

Find your flavor

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 I grew up in Los Angeles with a Filipino mother, so my flavor profile usually leans towards Asian cuisine or tacos. With that in mind, I have a few tricks up my sleeve for a quick vegan meal that incorporates some tricks I learned watching my mother cook. For instance – soy sauce, garlic, vinegar, and lemon. Those four things alone whether used together or not have been the gateway to so many flavorful dishes I have made now in my adult life. One of my all time favorite lazy vegan dinners is a bowl of brown rice, steamed spinach topped with a mixture of soy sauce, garlic and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Sometimes I’ll add ginger if I have it on hand. But from there you can build- add tofu for protein, or use some frozen vegetable gyoza from the freezer section of your market to top it off and bam! you have a palatable meal…oh and don’t forget the Sriracha.

Thai and Indian curries are another one of my favorite dishes to whip up and so I keep the staples for that in my kitchen- curry paste, coconut milk, and other spices – when I need to eat my vegetables before they go bad, this is a great dish to cook because you can basically put everything in a curry.

Learn how to grocery shop and the basics of cooking

Now I know that to some people, this may sound a bit silly. But it took me a while to learn the properties of certain foods and how they were best prepared to maximize their flavors. For instance, did you know that you should soak your potatoes (cut) in some water and dissolved sugar to achieve that soft french-fry like goodness on the inside? Neither did I and boy does it make a difference! Learning how to simmer and when to add certain vegetables makes a difference, like eggplant for instance, you add that towards the end of your stir fry so that it doesn’t get slimy, and you add the carrots and potatoes first so that they can cook all the way through- so on and so forth.

Here is my shopping List with some notes! 

At first I thought meal prepping on Sunday’s was the way to go. But then I quickly found out that I was spending most of my grocery budget on the ingredients for one meal, and I would grow tired of eating the same thing throughout the week, resulting in wasted food. I knew that making scrappy meals on the fly was my strength so I decided to focus on items that I knew I could “paint” with when it came time to get creative in the kitchen. So here is how I tackle grocery shopping:

Grab your proteins! 

  • soy chorizo
    • tacos
    • throw in some hashbrowns and you have a bomb breakfast hash
  • tofu
    • stir fry
    • curry
  • tofurky italian sausages
    • pizza
    • hot gogs
    • pasta
    • vegetable ratatouille
  • meatless ground beef
    • Pasta “Meat Sauce”
    • tacos
    • Pizza
  • Jack Fruit Protein – When I want to treat myself
    • Found at Safeway they have multiple flavors. I enjoy the Teriyaki and BBQ.

Add in your grains

Now if you don’t have grains already, this will be a bit of an investment the first time around, but once you have them, they last a lot longer than your other food groups. So stock up on:

  • rice
  • pasta
  • quinoa
  • nuts ( I prefer to have raw cashews because so many vegan recipes call for cashews- cheese, sour cream…)

Condiments 

  • soy sauce
    • stir fry
    • curry
  • pasta sauce
    • pizza
    • pasta
  • mustard
    • dressing
    • hot dogs
  • ketchup
  • apple cider vinegar
    • works wonders with red cabbage
  • white rice vinegar
    • just a part of being filipino 😉
  • Balsamic glaze
    • great for sauteing vegetables in
    • salad dressing

Other

  • Nutritional yeast!
    • this is a big one because, as I mentioned, a lot of vegan recipes call for this
  • Something fermented – Sauerkraut, pickled veggies.. always an easy way to take a sandwich or hot dog to the next level!
  • Finely ground flaxseed meal
    • this is what I use to replace eggs when I bake! It’s a 3-1 ratio 
      • 3 tablespoons of water to 1 tablespoon of flax meal
  • coconut milk
    • this is another important staple because it’s a great replacer for heavy cream when it comes to baking, and it’s a staple in the curries.
    • I prefer this brand because it isn’t as fatty as the other ones: 

Produce

I am fortunate to have a farmers market a few blocks away from my house every Wednesday and Sunday. It is actually a lot cheaper than the grocery store and the quality a lot better. Now if you’re like me, there is just something about the farmers market that makes you want to buy everything! All the fresh fruit and beautiful flowers are all so inspiring. But the reality is, you must buy what you can eat! So after much learning, I limit myself to spending ONLY $20 or less and have kept this rule of thumb: 

3 hearty vegetables

 3 Herbs for flavor 

1 leafy green (or purple) 

2 different types seasonal fruit to snack on

  • Hearty vegetables: I like some variation of the following, these tend to have a longer shelf life too.
    • zucchini
    • eggplant
    • Potatoes
    • tomatoes
  • Leafy greens (or purples)
    • red cabbage – this stuff goes a long way!
    • kale
  • Herbs- leafy herbs have the shortest shelf life, so don’t get too excited and over buy… just get what you need.. and keep them OUT of the fridge
    • onions- always
    • garlic – always 
      • you can never go wrong starting out each dish with garlic and onions in a pan… never!
    • Basil
    • Mint
  • Misc.
    • lemon or lime- always
    • fresh flowers – if there is room in the budget 😉

 

I hope I was able to synthesize everything in a way that makes grocery shopping and cooking a lot easier. Once you have your condiments (flavor) and grains stocked, everything else can be purchased and added based on your cravings. When you think about grocery shopping based on flavor profile, it will make cooking a lot easier as well, because everything you buy, in theory will go together. I am not a chef, and I’m not claiming to be a vegan blogger, just an efficient human being 😉 – hence PlannerCreative. So as I continue to learn along the way, I’ll keep sharing ways I find to be the most time efficient and budget friendly ways to live a vegan lifestyle. One more thing: Pinterest is your BEST FRIEND! It’s as simple as listing a few ingredients + “vegan” and you will have all sorts of inspiration to choose from.

Thinking about making the switch? What are some concerns you have in terms of time efficiency and budgeting? List them below and let’s get talking 🙂

Peace easy,

D. marie

The Secret to Making Vegan Sour Cream & Other life lessons

Creative Writing, Meal Prep

August. What a month! A lot has happened, and I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. I kept Lesson #1 practical… the rest is more food for thought. So feel free to take the kitchen tip and leave… otherwise read on…=) 

Lesson #1: I finally learned the trick to making Vegan Sour Cream.

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Photo from Original Blog Post @ Gluten Free Vegan Pantry

If your like me, when it comes to following instructions, I do a quick browse, look at the photos and then jump on the project, ESPECIALLY cooking and art projects. So for the first two times I attempted vegan sour cream made of cashews, I didn’t quite catch why mine wasn’t turning out like the photos.

Thanks to Pinterest, it’s easy to fall into that trap of going solely off the info-graphic. What I learned -and actually in reviewing the recipe for this post, turns out I didn’t overlook a step; it just wasn’t stated! – was that when using a food processor (especially a cheapo one like mine), it works best to grind the dry ingredients first, THEN add the liquid in. *slaps forehead* In the original instructions, blogger Savanna uses a Vitamix which is probably why adding all the ingredients at once didn’t cause a watery- nutritional- yeasty mess all over the counter, and therefore wasn’t added as a disclaimer in her post. The thing is, I’ve done so much baking in my life and this whole mixing dry ingredients first, then wet ingredients is something I already knew which is why this is so embarrassing.  Anyways, I only have myself to blame 😉 because this really is the best damn vegan sour cream when done right.

Hopefully this tip helps out some of you newbies in the kitchen.

Lesson #2: You’ll never be famous – And that’s O.K

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As I completed my 26th year around the sun, I was faced with a bit of Saturn’s Return.

Not to mention, the solar eclipse was three days before my birthday, bringing in the Virgo sun – uhhh dramatic way to end/ start the year right?…What does this mean?!? Who am I?!?! Who have I become?!? Where am I going?!?! How could I even be happy when there are so many people suffering in this world?!?! Complete. Existential. Crises. 

Needless to say, I definitely had a moment.

I live a blessed life – no doubt about that ! But as many millennials struggle with, whether we actively entertain the thought or not, is constant comparison to our peers and complete strangers- thanks social media! And as someone whose job title is Social Media Manager, in a city where twenty somethings are CEO’s of  leading tech companies, and tweens and teens are becoming insta-famous and blowing up all my screens whether I follow them or not, it’s hard to block out the noise!

Having idealistic aspirations is, of course, part of being young. But thanks to social media, purpose and meaning have become conflated with glamour

So I had a moment. I felt so mediocre… So basic. My many talents were suddenly not good enough.. oh and I definitely cried ( I mean, I even cry over commercials.. so you know I was balling).

My boyfriend, I mean fiance ;), completely concerned on his way out to work – because I of course had this moment at 6:45 am while he was rushing out to catch the train- texted me this article later that morning: You’ll Never Be Famous- But That’s O.K.  from the New York Times. At first glance of the title, it reopened the wound I had worked so hard to mend before putting my big girl pants on… but after reading it, it helped me snap my mind back to reality and what really matters.

You don’t have to change the world or find your one true purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances.

It also reminded me that this uncertainty is all part of my own discovery. I need to embrace my darkness and insecurities so that I may see my own light. The reason I indulge in my talents is not because I aspire to be famous, it’s because I simply enjoy those activities – I had forgotten this.

Lesson #3: Bachelorette Parties are not the end, only the beginning.

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I come from the school of thought that all good things must come to an end. I’ve had my fair share of unhealthy, toxic relationships and I’ve always viewed moving in with a boyfriend as the end to freedom, as well as marriage and having kids…

I remember when I started dating my boyfriend I kept telling him he was a fucking unicorn. I was like – you want to talk about your emotions, communicate and resolve problems?! You buy me little gifts and cards just because!? You like to plan ahead and talk about the future?!?!? – mind blown. Love that guy.

As our relationship grew, I started to see a lot of the pessimistic views I held and bad habits I had formed while being in those previous toxic relationships. One turning point for me was this one day, we were joking around about something, teasing each other and making fun of one another… at some point I said “fuck you..” in a joking way.. although we were both laughing, he immediately got serious and in a firm voice said “Hey! we don’t say that! Even if your joking it’s not funny, it’s not something you say to someone you love”… and from that moment I realized I needed to step up my emotional maturity game. He was right.

I had a few close friends who had been in serious relationships ask me if my fiance and I had ever gotten into a full blown out fight and “if you haven’t done that yet, then you’re not ready..” type of view. So I always share this story because I learned that it should never get to a full blown out fight, and the cursing and name calling should never happen. Yes, we have problems and fights, but we solve it before it even gets there. This is something I finally learned – True respect.

Once that happened, freedom just opened up. No longer did I feel like relationships only hold you back, or that marriage is the end… Your partner should lift you up. They should be the pillow after a long day, and when there is respect, the space in your brain opens up for other things in life instead of manifesting on what “he said” that stung so hard in that fight, or what did he mean by that cryptic text.

And so, when my boyfriend proposed, I was so excited, contrary to what I always thought I would feel – this dread of a black hole sucking me into doom…ha ha.

Some of my friends started texting me “get ready for the strippers!!!” Which made me think back on all my pessimistic views on relationships. But now being in this position, I just don’t understand the culture around marriage- Why do we view it as the end? When I think about partying before one of the biggest celebrations of my life, I just feel like- yes, its gonna be SO FUN …. but to be honest, If I’m having a lot of fun, I’ll be wishing he was there…

Now of course, we are gonna have separate parties… I’m not TOTALLY dependent on my dude give me a break .. but I see a bachelorette party as an intimate celebration of stepping into freedom, not stepping into the end.

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Stay tuned for more kitchen & life lessons. 

Like I said, August has been the start to a whole new beginning and an endless list of life lessons. Part of my journaling and planning habit is that I am in constant reflection of myself and life, I hope what I’m going through and have learned can help someone along the way.

Thanks for reading ❤

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep: Heat Wave Comfort

Illusions of Productivity, Meal Prep

There are so many recipe’s online- where do you start?!? Every weekend, I prioritize my meal prep because it’s the only way I can ensure I get my healthy foods in. In this series, I will share with you my weekly menu – recipes I’ve compiled from some of my favorite Vegan Bloggers. I’ve also included my grocery lists with the total cost, as well as some notes.

I only prep for lunches and dinner, and occasionally – like this week- a snack. Every Sunday I prep my smoothie fruit and veggies, and have oatmeal and coffee when I get to work, so breakfast will not be included below.


Farmers Market – $20

Shopping List:

Lime

1/2 lb of Raw Pecans

Kale

5 medium sized tomatoes

Basil

Garlic

Stone Fruit ( for snacks)

Cilantro

Red Onion

Yellow Onion

Trader Joes: $21.50 

Shopping list:

*I didn’t have any of the spices, which was a lot of the cost…* 

1 can of garbanzo beans

Thyme

Cinnamon

Smoke Paprika

1 can of Mandarin Oranges

1 bag of frozen shelled edamame

1 bag of frozen sweet corn

2 bags of cubed butternut squash

Maple Syrup


Menu

Lunch

Edamame Quinoa Salad

Beet Salad

Vegan pizza

or

Mouth watering Vegan Dog with pickled veggies and sauerkraut

Dinner

Chickpea Butternut Squash Fajitas

Snack

Rosemary Candied Pecans


 

Lunch

There’s been a heat wave in San Francisco and this week I wanted to focus on hearty cold salads that I could alternate. I chose these two because of their durable shelf life and different flavor profiles.

Edamame Quinoa Salad by 86 lemons.

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So this one I completely doctored up. This salad is served cold, and holds up well for the week in the fridge.

Ingredients: 

1/2 red onion 

11 oz of mandarin oranges

1 cup of edamame 

1 cup of corn

1 cup of cooked quinoa 

Bragg’s Ginger and Sesame Dressing measured to your own liking.. 

The instructions are simple – make sure  to cook and cool the edamame, corn, and quinoa; and mix it all up in a big bowl. Bam. You’re done. You can follow the instructions in the original recipe if you need more detail.

 

Beet Salad by Hell Yeah It’s Vegan!

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On this one, I stuck to the original recipe. I had some left over beets in the freezer I needed to use, so this one was perfect!

Ingredients:

6 beets

1 clove of garlic minced

15 basil leaves minced

1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 pinch of ground mustard

*here I had some fancy dijon mustard that I used instead of buying something new.*

The dressing…

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Still hungry?

I meant to grab some ingredients for some scrappy lunch meals to go with these salads, but I work near a Trader Joe’s, so it will make for a nice walk break during work.

What I meant to grab were ingredients for a vegan pizza. Trader Joe’s has a great cornmeal gluten free crust that runs at about $3-$4 that I top with simple pasta sauce (about $2-$4 depending on which one you prefer) and a bunch of veggies, sometimes some vegetarian Italian sausages and some vegan cheese- if I’ve really craving the cheesiness. This is great for packing lunches.. just bake once, then microwave (or toaster oven if you’re lucky) at the office.

Another one of my favorite scrappy faves is my veggie dog concoction which I will probably make again this week.  Find your dogs (veggie or not.. I prefer the “Perk up your pasta” Tofurky, original sausage Italian flavor , about $3-4); Find your buns ($3), and desired toppings. I LOVE these toppings with a whole wheat bun:

Toppings:

Dijon Mustard

Ketchup

Arugula

Pickled Veggies

Sauerkraut

DANG. so good.

*These two products below are a staple in my kitchen. The pickled veggies taste great on tacos as well. 

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Dinner

Chickpea Butternut Squash Fajitas by Sweet Peas & Saffron

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This recipe calls for bell peppers which I cannot eat because it gives me indigestion. I substituted the bell peppers for the Hungarian sweet pepper, it’s not as colorful, but it tastes great and still adds that crunch. The seasoning on this is AMAZING, I made an extra batch of it and poured it on top of the vegetables when it was done baking. This is a great freezer item, super easy to make, and both filling and light.

I didn’t get a chance to make the vegan sour cream, so I just topped it with avocado and cilantro- still super yummy! These measurements yield about 5 servings

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Snack

Candied Spiced Pecans by The Minimalist Baker

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I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s Candied Pecans, but they run pretty expensive for such a small amount =(.

I made a few changes:

2 cups of pecans *instead of including walnuts; 1/2 pound of pecans = 2 cups – $6 at the farmers market

Then I chopped up 2 sprigs of rosemary from my garden =)

This made my house smell like Christmas ❤

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Here are my main pointers when it comes to meal prep:

  1. Do your menu research!

  2. Always make a list before you go shopping.

  3. Divide and conquer- I take my finished list and then divide it into the stores I go to – Farmers market, Trader Joe’s, Etc. (see featured image)

Thanks for reading! If you like this post, let me know! Do you have any Meal Prep questions?