Monday, June 29, 2015

Meal Plan: June 28- July 2- Chimichurri Acorn Squash Bowl

It feels like it's been a while since I've been in the kitchen, preparing my weekly recipe. Last week, I subsisted on weekend leftovers and my fave broccoli/rice/tahini combo.  I have been making some green smoothies to increase the intake of greens by a  little but that can hardly count as cooking/meal prep. I'm thinking they are enough to be snacks or dinner (a very light dinner) at best because they don't keep me full for long! Anyway, this recipe comes from the bowl section of Isa Does It. It consists of pasta and chimichurri sauce, black beans, and some pumpkin, although I opted to use acorn squash. This comes together pretty quickly. I've never made a chimichurri so I'm not sure that I got it fine enough. But it was fresh and green and very zippy from the red wine vinegar and garlic. I feel like I didn't puree it enough because it didn't coat the pasta the way a sauce would but it was still delicious. This week I spent about 27 shekels at the farmer's market just on the parsley, cilantro, some spinach (for smoothies) and a couple of sweet potatoes. I had bought the pepitas and pasta last week and the beans I already had on hand. You can find the original recipe here

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: A Brief Recap

So this past weekend, I did something I haven't done in ages- host a meal at my place. While I always make chicken for my non-plant based friends, everything else that I made was plant-based. I made a cauliflower kugel using a thickened cashew sauce (I think this would be better with broccoli), Isa Chandra's Spinach Noodle Kugel from Veganomicon (was amazing!) and Sweet and Sour Brown Rice Salad from Isa Does It. I couldn't get any photographs because it was Shabbat but the rice salad was also delicious. It has a really nice spicy bite and I loved the crunch that the peanuts offered. You can find the recipe here. As we were six people and I made loads of food, there was a lot of leftovers. So much so that they served me for most of the beginning of this week and I chose to skip a meal plan recipe this week. Also, yesterday we had a fun day with the office, food provided, so nothing was necessary. I did buy spinach and bananas though so that I could start making some green smoothies. This video gave me hope that by adding green smoothies, my hair loss will stop. I'm hoping it will happen. In addition, I did go to the shuk picked up some stuff. Not alot but enough to set me back around 115 shekels. I bought two huge, fragrant and delicious melons, some bananas (that were really pricey but needed to be bought for smoothies!), kale, spinach and acorn squashes so I did have some expenditures this week. Hopefully, this coming week I'll get back to the regular programming and get back to cooking. Have a great rest of the week!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Meal Plan: June 14th- June 18th- Sunflower Mac

So I'm a bit on the exhausted side of things today but that's okay; all those episodes of Downton Abbey late at night are more than worth it. (Where have I been for the last five seasons?!) It is such quality television and just so so good. Anyway, this week, I flipped around the meal schedule again and made the Sunflower Mac. 
As you might already know, I have always disliked meat and cheese. I may or not have been the only child that never touched that neon orange excuse for macaroni and cheese. Even the real stuff grossed me out. The only way I'd ever consume cheese was if it were on pizza or in lasagna- essentially, in anything where the sauce or other ingredients were able to disguise the flavor of the cheese. What can I say? I take after my mother. I also really dislike things that are thick and creamy. So what drew me to make this recipe? I'm not really sure but it might have to do with the fact that I have seriously neglected the pasta chapter and also, I'm not sure I can call myself a proper vegan if I never made a vegan mac and cheese. And here we are. I initially was going to make the red pepper version but me and nightshades... we don't see eye to eye lately so that was out. I did take a few precautions to make sure that the creamy sauciness wouldn't overwhelm me. Firstly, I doubled the amount of pasta called for. (I should have tripled it!) I also added some peas to add color and more nutrition, sprinkled the top with some bread crumbs and nutritional yeast and BAKED this for about twenty minutes. The flavor to me is quite mild and not really very cheesy so I think real fans of mac and cheese might be disappointed. You might want to up the amount of nutritional yeast used here. All in all, I really liked this. It wasn't overwhelming for me and I really found it to be comforting, homey food. Oh and the best part? This week I spent a mere five shekels on food! That's right-- all I bought was a bag of pasta, a couple of carrots and two onions. A great feeling. The original recipe can be found here. Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Meal Plan: June 7th- June 11th- Chicky Tuna Salad Sandwiches

My am I tired. (As I typed that line, I let out a huge yawn.) Yesterday I celebrated my 28th birthday. It was kind of tough for me honestly; aging year by year does not get any easier!  My coworkers were really great and surprised me with balloons and lots of seasonal fresh fruit. I picked up my Vitacost order and books from the post office. They came just in time to be considered a birthday gift and I'm super thrilled to finally have Teff Love and The China Study Cookbook on the shelves. I also went to see the movie Spy with Melissa McCarthy and I gotta say, while parts of it were ridiculous, it was also ridiculously funny and I really enjoyed it. I'm a big fan of hers and seeing a woman who is not considered conventional by Hollywood's standards play the starring role was very empowering to me. I got home at around ten thirty and only managed to get into pajamas and brush my teeth before collapsing in to bed, exhausted. Which brings us full circle. :)
I can't tell you how many incarnations this month's meal plans went through. I had to change them up to replace the seitan recipes that I had chosen (turns out I dislike seitan!), and I had to replace the nightshade-full recipes for ones that were nightshade free so that my tummy wouldn't throw a tantrum. One of the recipes that I scheduled in was this recipe for Chicky Tuna Salad Sandwiches. No oven or stove required, pretty simple and perfect at room temperature for these warm spring days, this recipe was just the ticket. Now, I believe that everyone has their own tried and true recipe for tuna fish. Growing up, I loved my father's tuna fish, which he made with finely chopped red onion and kept it on the dry side. This was the stuff of Sunday afternoon lunches. While I don't miss it per se, I am kind of nostalgic and I did think of him while making this. The other extreme was the famous tuna fish of the local bagel shop. Full of mayonnaise and celery, a tuna bagel was a Friday afternoon staple. In making this recipe, I decided to use red onion instead of white as an homage to my dad's but the celery that was here really brought me back to my childhood and really gave this that authentic flavor that I associate with tuna fish. I did use a homemade tofu mayonnaise for this recipe and did keep it on the dryer side. And I had it with pita of course and not a bagel. 
I didn't need the supermarket this week; instead, I got all that I needed (including a couple of acorn squashes) from the farmer's market for a grand total of 26.60 shekels. Everything else for the week, I already had on hand. You can find this recipe here. Off to cover those 28 years of gray hairs! Until next time!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Falafel Burgers with Baked Curried Potatoes

My dear friends A and A gave birth to a beautiful baby boy a couple of weeks ago. A bunch of friends and family rallied together to get a meal train going for them and I signed up to bring them dinner this Tuesday. I must admit, I was a bit nervous. As you all know, I'm a WFPBNO eater and the thought of making something with meat, dairy or eggs just wasn't appealing to me. I didn't want to bring that into my house and I also didn't want to feed it to others if i wouldn't eat it myself. So something vegan/plant based was on the menu but I wasn't really sure what. Also, A is a huge foodie. Can you say intimidating? I can. In any case, as I am cooking through Isa Does It, I looked there for inspiration and decided to make the Falafel Burgers along with the Baked Curry Fries. I sent that along with pitot, Israeli salad and the miso- tahini from the same book. I have been off potatoes (see my previous post about my sensitivity to nightshades) so I didn't taste these. While I fried some patties for my friends, I left a couple for me to have for lunches for the rest of the week. They were really delicious and to me really tasted like authentic falafel but without the fat. I had them in pitot with some cucumbers and the miso-tahini. If you've prepared your chickpeas in advance then the mixture comes together really easily with the use of a food processor followed by some chill time. I love using my round cookie cutter to form the burgers. They come out perfectly shaped every time. These held together really nicely during cooking and afterwards. If you have the book, I would definitely recommend you give them a try. Aren't those fries picture perfect? You can find the fries recipe here

Monday, June 1, 2015

Meal Plan: May 31- June 4th- Roasty Soba Bowl... Or Something Like That

This week, I bring to you what was supposed to be the Roasty Soba Bowl. Except I had a bad experience, a fail actually, with the soba noodles. So I did what any good vegan would do and improvised from my pantry. Thankfully, I had a bag of whole wheat fusilli on hand and they cooperated with me just fine. This bowl is really easy. Cauliflower that is meant to be roasted (but obviously I was lazy so I just steamed it), plain cooked lentils (I already had frozen in the freezer), the noodles and the star of the bowl, the miso-tahini sauce. You may or may not know that I am in love with tahini (or techina as we Israelis call it) so this should come as no surprise. It's simply some white miso (the best), tahini and water mixed together. I couldn't be bothered to whip out the food processor just to blend a clove of garlic so I left it out. If you think this recipe looks pretty bland and beige, I'd agree with you-- it could handle some fresh greens so go for it if you feel like it. On the bland front, I'd say it's straight up comfort food. Make sure to be liberal with the tahini sauce.
In terms of the supermarket this week, I spent a total of 140 shekel, which included all the ingredients needed to make a meal for friends of mine who had just given birth. The bulk of this week's shopping was buying four bags of frozen vegetables, which will carry over to next week as I used only two bags so far. Also stocked up on more quinoa which was on sale again for a better price, at ten shekels a bag. And I bought another bag of lentils. And that's all. I closed this month having saved a significant amount so I'm glad and hoping I can keep it up for June as well. This brings May to a close; I will be continuing to cook through Isa Does It until the end of June. 

Breaking Up (With Potatoes) Is Hard to Do: A Health Update

How's this for a revelation?

About ten months ago, I transitioned from a raw food diet to The Starch Solution/McDougall way of eating. I was thrilled to be able to eat starches and potatoes and have it help me be healthy and manage my weight. And yet, ever since I made the transition, I noticed that the great moods and energy that I had exerienced while on raw seemed to have been fading away. I couldn't comprehend how I was eating so well and yet was experiencing poor moods and brain fog and lack of energy. I loved what I was eating but I was just feeling down. All the time. Reading post after post about people experiencing renewed energy on this WOE confused me-- how was this not me? I knew intuitively that something wasn't right, I just had no idea what my body was trying to tell  me.

Fast forward until about a month or two ago when I began having digestional distress- really bad flatulence and gas, and I started taking probiotics, thinking they would help my problem. I put my finger on the fact that potatoes were the culprit. A friend of my sister's confirmed they are a source of discomfort for her as well. It's funny- some Fridays, I would have potatoes and ketchup or salsa as a meal. I wouldn't eat anything else and I would still experience distress. It never even dawned on me that the potatoes were the reason why. I didn't want to give them up but when probiotics weren't helping all that much I knew that letting them go was inevitable. I did some research about sensitivity to nightshades and it would seem that I am indeed sensitive to them. Further reading indicated that some side effects of the nightshades are depression and mood swings. Suddenly, things began to make sense. I had been eating them for almost a year, it's no wonder I felt the way I did. And this whole time, the humble potato was responsible. Who would have thought? I know that there isn't scientific research or studies to back this up and there is no way to know for sure but my body doesn't lie. I hope this is the key to a happier future.Thankfully, after really giving them up, I feel great and my moods are much better. It was sad for me to part with my best friend the potato but I've given rice and quinoa and sweet potatoes top billing in my diet and you know what? They don't hurt me. True friends never do. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Happy Friday, everyone! We are coming off a terrible heatwave here and experiencing some interesting spring weather just in time for the weekend. Last night, I had the idea to make pancakes for breakfast and seeing as I had carrots that needed to be used, these Carrot Cake Pancakes from Isa Does It seemed like a fitting candidate. They turned out beautifully. The grated carrots really lend their color to the pancakes as well as their mildly sweet flavor and the spices come through as well.                           I made a few changes based on what I had on hand. I was initially bummed that I didn't have flaxseeds on hand. Flaxseeds take the place of the eggs and are pretty critical. I decided to be brave and soldier on with out them, subbing instead unsweetened applesauce for them and for the oil. I also used whole wheat flour as I don't keep all-purpose on hand. They turned out just perfectly. I didn't have fresh allspice, so that didn't make it in either. They turned out lovely and light despite all of the changes I made. The pancakes are sweetened with maple syrup and it would be appropriate to drizzle these with some maple syrup but I didn't feel like gilding that lily this morning.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meal Plan: May 24th- May 28th- Tofu and Broccoli with Pantry BBQ Sauce

So this week's post is a bit late... The holidays took us until Sunday and I made due with what I had until last night because I figured the supermarkets wouldn't be stocked up. And wouldn't you know- they were all out of the less expensive broccoli and cauliflower. This week I chose to make the Seitan and Broccoli with Pantry BBQ Sauce except as you'll notice by the title, I chose to use tofu instead of seitan. And it's not because I didn't make seitan. I did. A little while ago I made the beany sausages and the chicky seitan. I wanted to love it. I tried to love it. But in the end, I just don't like seitan. Maybe I did something wrong, but I can't seem to get past the spongy texture and funny flavor. I'll take the tofu any day. 
Speaking of tofu, I recently bought a bunch of it and decided to freeze it. I had heard that freezing it changes its texture, making it firmer and more absorbent. So, this is indeed true but I'm not sure I like it this way. It too becomes spongier rather than smooth and firm and I miss the flavor and texture of it. I think it would be good for a tofu scramble because it does have a heartier texture but for next time I'm gonna stick with regular, unfrozen tofu. 
Sorry for the ramble!

In terms of the supermarket this week, I spent quite a bit again-- about 150 on sweet potatoes, more rice, and frozen broccoli and spinach pretty much. I got some applesauce also, but the frozen stuff ate up my whole budget and half of next week's too. :(

In any case, I made this BBQ sauce ahead so I wouldn't have to spend more time in the kitchen. This isn't exactly what I think of when I think BBQ sauce as it's not so tomato-ey and it has strong notes of peanut butter and mustard. And while my picture looks NOTHING like hers, it still turned out yummy, especially served over quinoa. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Coconut No Bake Cookies

So, it's erev another Jewish holiday, Shavuot. My whole facebook has gone and filled itself up with very decadent looking cheesecakes. Vegan, you ask? Not a chance. While I did find some pretty great looking vegan cheesecakes, I really haven't been in the mood to fiddle around too much. So when I saw this recipe for Coconut No Bake Cookies by Minimalist Baker on my Instagram, I was there. Easy peasy, chocolate, peanut butter, coconut and oats. Nothing could be bad. And in fact, they are delicious. I usually don't eat sugar and desserts even of the relatively unprocessed, raw kind, but I figured that it's the holidays and why the heck not. YOLO, right? You can find the recipe here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Meal Plan: May17th- May 21st: Bistro Beet Burgers

Spring has finally sprung! The weather is really really beautiful now which means that cooking soups and stews is pretty much out until the fall. Which is fine by me because I'm good and ready for some light and colorful fare. Like these beet burgers from Isa Does It. You can't beat the bright red color of the beets and they're delicious too.This week's supermarket run was a bit on the pricier side, because I did get some needed household things and I stocked up on some sale items. I spent 200 shekels on oats (my fourth box!), rice, quinoa, hand soap, frozen broccoli, dried ginger, curry powder, applesauce and pita breads. That's right--- no salad vegetables on the list. I'm trying to change it up a little bit and I think instead of having salad and sweet potatoes for lunch, I'm going to have sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli instead. I need to get some more green in my diet somehow and I looooooove broccoli.In any case, these beet burgers are really yummy. In fact so yummy that they feature as my first post on Instagram. (Yes, I am new to Instagram and enjoying seeing all the beautiful food out there. You can follow me @chavisamet.)I can't really find real hamburger buns in this country so the ubiquitous pita took its place. As I had just steamed some broccoli I stuck some in there with tahini. I looove tahini. And pita. And broccoli. And  beets. Don't be turned off by the color or by beets if you don't like their earthy flavor. It barely comes through.The only issue I had with the burgers was that they were very crumbly. Like falling apart. Which isn't an issue when you're sticking it into a pita and you can't tell. It was my fault, really. I didn't process the mixture enough. My bad. Next time, I make these, I'll make sure to process them longer so that they hold together. I adopted Isa's technique of forming the patties with a large biscuit/cookie cutter. I baked them also. You can find the recipe here.   

Monday, May 11, 2015

Meal Plan: May 10th- May 14th: Cozy Hummus Bowl

This week I bring to you another bowl. Looking at this picture of my bowl, you're probably thinking, well, doesn't that look blah. Aside for the beige tones (there are lots of greens and sprouts underneath, I promise!) this Cozy Hummus Bowl is anything but blah. Made up of greens, sprouts, brown rice, tofu and Kalamata olive hummus, this bowl is hearty, filling and delicious.

This week, I decided to skip the supermarket and pick up everything I needed at the shuk. In total, I spent about 70 shekels on greens, sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets for a different recipe. I already had the tofu on hand (I need to get more) as well as the chickpeas, of which I used half canned and half frozen. I also purchased the olives in advance so that didn't factor into this week's shopping. 

Back to the bowl. Isa is a master of bowls and I really hope to make all of the bowls in the chapter at some point. The peanut curry sauce is a definite repeat. This does have a few elements that need to be made but if you plan ahead you'll be fine. I actually totally forgot about the tofu element but I was still able to get it together by [drastically] shortening the marinade time. The tofu recipe is the basic baked tofu recipe from the proteins chapter and it is good. Gotta make it again with a longer bath time. The rice cooked in the pressure cooker while I whipped up the hummus. With my food processor it came together in a snap. I opted to double the recipe but I used only half the amount of tahini and used water for the rest to cut some calories. Truthfully, to me the olives turned the hummus into the closest thing to tuna fish that I've tasted in months. That's definitely not a bad thing.

To sum up, it's good. Keeps you full for a nice long while. You can find the recipe here 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Vitacost Haul!

Ok, Vitacost. I am seriously loving on you! Not only do you carry a wonderful selection of products, your international shipping is super speedy and reliable! As with the last one, this latest order arrived in just about two weeks. You can't really beat that. I seriously am addicted to buying from them and have already started compiling a list for what to order in advance of my trip to the states in August. (Okay, okay, I started ordering already!) What can I say? Oh yea, they're customer service can't be beat either.

Recently, Vitacost had a sale, I think ten percent off? I can't quite recall. In any case, I took advantage of it to order some things that I'll need for recipes that are coming up in the meal plans that either I haven't seen here or that are more expensive here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Meal Plan: May 3-May 7th- Down Home Curry with Broccoli and Chickpeas

April is finally behind us! It felt to me like the longest month ever! The weather is still a tad bit unsure of itself but all this sun is really doing great things for me. Life and work have been busy lately and while I'm grateful for it, it's exhausting! In any case, there are lots of things to look forward to this spring and summer (including a trip to the states in August!!) so I'm hoping for a fun May.

This week's recipe is the Down Home Curry with Broccoli and Tofu from the stew/soup/curry chapter. I pretty much had all of the ingredients on hand already so grocery shopping wasn't too expensive this week. All in all, I spent 67 shekels on groceries this week which included carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, corn, a bag of rice (I returned the five pounds of rice-- it just wasn't tasty!), cucumbers, and mushrooms. I've stopped getting as peppers as I think nightshades don't agree with me. Sad but true.

Before I share my thoughts on this recipe, I should say that I do not like things that are creamy. Even in my SAD days, I hated the texture of whipped cream, or anything too mayonnaise-y, and if the coldness of ice cream didn't dull my senses, I wouldn't have liked that either. So it stands to reason that even on this WOE, I wouldn't like creamy, coconut-y sauces and things and I steer clear of anything that fits that bill. In my recent exploits that called for coconut milk, I made some homemade milk, which was thinner than store bought, but still, I just wasn't a fan. I decided that I'd leave out the coconut milk in my future curries (even though that lowers the fat, it's kind of blasphemous, isn't it?!) and that's what I did in this recipe. Consequently, it turned out less of a curry/stew and more of a nice vegetable mixture with which to top rice. I'm not complaining about that, I actually enjoyed that and find that it worked. That said, this is the first recipe that I made that while totally acceptable is just "good" to me and not something fantastic, like the previous recipes were. I will happily devour this until the last stalk of broccoli but it's not something I'd run to make over again.

I did make a number of changes to the recipe.. I used chickpeas instead of tofu, omitted the oil and coconut milk, used frozen broccoli, and sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes (those darn nightshades again!). I also chose to make this in the IP, obviously, just using the saute feature. You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

UP4 Women Probiotics Review

In recent weeks, I've been suffering from lots of bloating and flatulence (not the harmless kind!). Although I've been eating the McDougall way for about nine months, this was pretty new to me. I was able to pinpoint the discomfort to beginning after lunch, which usually consisted of baked potatoes. My first instinct was to start taking a probiotic in the hopes that it would balance my gut flora and help with the after effects of digestion. I knew potatoes were the guilty party but I really couldn't bear the thought of giving them up! Everything here in Israel is significantly more expensive so I did what anyone would do if their parents were coming to visit on holiday- I ordered some to the states to be brought here.

I searched on Vitacost for a kosher and vegan probiotic and UP4 turned up. UP4 is a company founded in 1979 that focuses on probiotics. They have a few different products that are tailored to your specific needs, including one for children, one for women (the one I tried), one for seniors, etc, so they get points for having a nice selection.

All of the supplements aid in digestion, some just have some extra perks thrown in to the mix. The women's supplement has organic cranberry in it to help with urinary tract infections. I personally don't suffer from these and thought I made a mistake by ordering this one first but after emailing the company, I was reassured that this would serve my digestive needs just as well. I think the packaging is well designed-- I like the color they chose, and while this might seem strange to say about a bottle of pills, I felt like it was kind of down-to-earth and inviting, not like the typical blah, sterile looking bottle of pills. I also think the tagline they chose (A Happier Inside) is spot on!

A box of this probiotic contains a jar with a one month supply of capsules, meant to be taken twice a day, before meals or with food. Once opened, it needs to be refrigerated. Thankfully, the pills aren't horse pills (in my opinion), and I had no problem getting them down with food.

On the very first day of taking them, I had the slightest, barely even detectable discomfort, so perhaps that's just me. But the effects of the probiotics were immediate. Not almost immediate but immediate. Even after eating potatoes, the amount of flatulence and the nature of it was much different. A lot more tolerable, I'd say. I was pretty much sold on these right off the bat and continued to enjoy their benefits throughout the month. I haven't gone through the whole bottle yet, but I made sure to order another bottle to have around when it's finished so that I don't get stuck without. A I mentioned above, their tagline is pretty on the nose-- these really do make for a happier inside! That said, I think I have pinpointed the nightshades to be problematic for me so I am trying to cut back.

In any case, I highly highly recommend this company/brand of probiotics. If you're looking for one, this might be the way to go for you and they are often on sale, at the Vitacost site at least.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Meal Plan- April 26th- April 30th- Olive Lentil Burgers

I present to you the final recipe for April. This completes four months of delicious culinary experiments (and money saving in the process!) and I couldn't be more thrilled. In these last four months, I've been introduced to new cuisines, new ways of cooking and new and unique flavor combinations. Take these burgers from the Handheld chapter for example. I would have never thought to pair olive and lentils and mushrooms together. But let me tell you- not only does it work but they are remarkably good. The dominant flavor here is olives but that is not a bad thing, not even a little. I had a bag of lentils sitting around so I cooked them up ahead of making this recipe and froze them in 1 cup portions. All I had to do was defrost a couple of bags the night before and they were ready to go. Everything else, I already bought in advance so I spent only about 35 shekels this week (at the shuk) on some vegetables for salad and some pita bread. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Meal Plan: April 19th- April 23rd- Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu

This week's recipe comes from the Bowls chapter of Isa Does It. To me, bowls are consummate comfort food but are still a little bit intimidating to me because they have a bunch of components that have to be made. I am not the person who likes to make a million things for one meal. I chose to begin my foray into this chapter with the Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl. And oh me oh my what a good pick that was. I love me some tofu and I love me some rice but put this curried peanut sauce over the top and I am right in heaven. I could eat this sauce with a spoon and if I didn't need it for the rest of the week, that's exactly what I'd do! I gotta figure out what else I can smother this stuff on. Isa, you done good!         So this week, I didn't spend any money at the grocery store. I've been eating leftovers of the tamale shepherd's pie for lunch and I pretty much bought everything I needed for this in previous trips. (I've been trying to be thriftier than usual because I just booked a ticket to fly to the states in August and I gotta save every shekel! As it is, this month is stacking up to be pretty expensive!)                                                                               The original recipe called for kale but I stopped by my local vegetable store on the way home on the day I made this and they were all out so no kale here. It definitely could use some color but maybe I'll add that the next time I make this. I used a natural peanut butter to make this (no JIF or Skippy here!) and I dry fried the tofu and the garlic and ginger for the sauce-n o damage done to either. I also found that two tbsp of tamari wasn't enough for me. I think I may have added an extra tbsp and a half or so to get that perfectly umami flavor.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: Tamale Shepherd's Pie

I wasn't really planning on cooking this Shabbat. I was out for dinner and then home for lunch. The thought of simple rice and beans was perfect but then I had a friend over last minute and thought, I can't serve her rice and beans! The same friend has had all my incarnations of tofu so even though I had some in the fridge for the coming week's recipe, I decided to go with something else. Since the next couple of months I'll be cooking through Isa Does It, I looked there for a good recipe. I found this recipe in the Sunday Suppers chapter and thought it would be perfect. I have never made a shepherd's pie (even though I've really wanted to) because I always thought that it was wayyyy too much work. This recipe isn't quick, but isn't intimidating either and I took advantage of these long Fridays to put it together. 

Now, this recipe wasn't that cheap. I didn't have most of the things around, as I'm avoiding tomatoes and potatoes. I also needed some chips, some mushrooms and cilantro and wine. I think it turned out to about 20 dollars. But I also shopped at an overpriced convenience store. I will say that I was proud of my thriftiness in freezing the leftover wine in half cup portions instead of throwing it away. (I am not a wine drinker, not even a little bit!) I also used the rest of the overcooked black beans that I had frozen ages ago and some frozen corn I have on hand so I can say I shopped the freezer! Even though it was a bit pricey, I have tons of leftovers and will be having it for lunches the rest of the week instead of my usual salad and sweets, so that works out well.

I loved this recipe! I really really loved it! So so good! A layer of mashed potatoes on top and a mixture of mushrooms, corn, tomatoes and black beans with a Mexican flavor profile... Yum. A while back, when I was in the beginning of my plant based journey and trying my hand out with new recipes, I tried out a layered enchilada casserole recipe that had a similar profile. It flopped miserably. This pie recipe is everything that wasn't and a whole lot more! It holds together wonderfully when cutting and serving and is nicely filling. Served with a nice size salad and you have a perfect meal! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Meal Plan: April 12-April 16th- Red Lentil Thai Chili

So Passover is behind us and everything is back to normal. My parents flew home, I'm back at work and I'm eating exactly the way I want to. The only thing that hadn't gotten the memo is the weather! Since Thursday we've had uncharacteristically cold and rainy weather for April. And by rainy weather I mean full on thunder and lightning storms. I even had to pull out my winter boots and coats to brave the inclement weather. I want spring back! The good news is that when I was planning the next months' meal plans from Isa Does It, I scheduled this Thai Red Lentil Chili first. Timing turned out perfect!

I had the rotten luck of having my credit card swallowed by the ATM machine so I couldn't do my shopping last night. Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed!!! (It was my fault! Thankfully, I got it back first thing this morning. Phew!) I had enough cash on me to buy a couple cans of diced tomatoes for the chili; I had enough vegetables from last week that were still good to get me through a couple of lunches. I'll be heading to the supermarket tonight right after work, so I'll update this post with how much I spent. UPDATE: This was a bit of an expensive week-- I spent 100 shekels yesterday at the supermarket plus 20 shekels on the tomatoes. Eek! 60 of it went to stocking up on oats (I'm on my third box of ten pounds! I go through a lot of oats!), twenty went to another 5 kg of rice (I thought the price might be a fluke, so just in case!), and the rest to some corn, sweet potatoes and cucumbers.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What I'm Eating This Passover and a Health Update

In short, lots of matza!

Passover is almost over and I don't feel like it's gone by quickly at all. I was concerned about what I'd have to eat this holiday but I'm making it through just fine if not eating as healthfully as I'd like.

For the first part of the holiday, my sister made roasted sweet potatoes and beets and quinoa. Along with matza, that made up my meal. It wasn't plant perfect as she cooks with oil but I felt like under the circumstances that was fine. I had more of the same the next day. I think I was the only one who left the table satisfied and not in a food coma.

When I got home the next day, I had some rice and chickpeas and I tell you that held me over for a LONG time. I had leftover the next day and I'm telling you, I was not hungry for a long time. For the rest of the time, I was travelling back and forth and I mostly had matzah and jelly.

I did spend 164 shekels at the grocery store this week on food that I thought I would get around to eating but didn't. Which is quite alright considering I need some of the things anyway for Sunday's dinner and I was able to shave a whole lot off the grocery list. I bought peppers, carrots, corn, dried chickpeas, 5 kilos of rice (for twenty shekels!! I gotta stock up on more bags at that price- more on that shortly), four jars of no sugar added jelly (my favorite brand at the cheapest price I've ever seen), matza, sweet potatoes and some mushrooms.

Tonight begins the second half of the holiday and I know that being on plan with the oil is inevitably unlikely and I'm looking forward to getting back to my routine and cooking.

Just a word about the rice. Potatoes (my favorite food!) were my starch of choice until very recently. I've been noticing in the last couple of weeks that I've had extremely bad flatulence and didn't know what it was from. I started taking probiotics to help and while they have been helping, I knew that I hadn't eliminated the issue. While I suspected that it was probably the potatoes, I was hoping it was the corn. Eliminating the corn didn't help. A friend of my sister's confirmed that potatoes had the same effect on her and so I knew that potatoes were out. I'm hoping it'll help my skin as well. I've realized that my body has been trying to tell me that something's been wrong for a while and I hadn't been listening until now. Looking back, it's kind of obvious what the issue was. I know that everything is because of the food and I'm happy to be able to pinpoint the bothersome foods although I'm kind of devastated to see the potatoes go. Yes, devastated. In the past few days without potatoes I have noticed significant improvement. That being said, I needed a new mainstay starch to take the place of potatoes. I'm a big fan of rice and I think that that's what it's going to be (along with sweet potatoes) so I'm happy to have found 5 kilo bags of rice for dirt cheap. As I said I'm going to be stocking up on some more.

That's it for now.
Remember to be healthy and listen to your body!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cookbook Review: Appetite for Reduction

This cookbook review has been two months in the making, having cooked with it through the months of February and March. To sum it up, I really like this book!

Appetite for Reduction is Isa Chandra's book that focuses on low fat vegan recipes. I discovered it a while ago and ordered it but was initially unimpressed by the looks of it. Call me superficial but we do judge books by their covers! The cover and paper were a bit cheap feeling and there aren't a lot of pictures to go around. Looks alone made me put it aside and not give it much of a second look. When I started to meal plan I figured that this would be a good place to start as I'm on a low fat diet. Not only did I use this for my weekly meal plans but I used it whenever I could for my Shabbat cooking as well.

April-May (and Probably June!) Cook Through: Isa Does It

February and March just flew by; I've been counting the weeks with recipes. Cooking through Appetite for Reduction has really made me fall in love with Isa Chandra Moskowitz and I decided that the April-May (possibly June) cook-through will be from her most recent book, Isa Does It, a book that I picked up at my local Israeli book store and promises to be easy and delicious. This book was bought on a whim before I knew anything about her and has since stayed on my shelf, unused and unloved, beside Appetite for Reduction. I imagine that this will be the last Isa book I go through (although I do have Veganomicon on the way and Vegan with a Vengeance, so technically I can make this the year of Isa if I try hard enough). I have my recipes all picked out and my shopping lists all ready and I will get into it as soon as Passover ends. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

VitaCost, Kosher Vitamins, InstantPot Haul

So my parents are here! They flew in on Thursday to join us for the Passover holiday. They'll be here for two weeks. Knowing they were coming, I ordered a lot of things that you can't get here. And I mean, a lot. I think this time I outdid my siblings. I ordered lots of clothes for spring/summer and next winter, a sturdy water bottle (to make sure I stay hydrated every day), lots of earplugs and some other stuff. 

Check out what I hauled after the jump!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meal Plan: March 29th- April 2nd- Moroccan Chickpeas and Zucchini

This is going to be a quick and snappy post. Pesach is only a couple of days away and things are starting to get busy. My parents have arrived (!!) and there is so much to do to get ready.

This week's recipe (and the final one from Appetite for Reduction) was the Moroccan Chickpeas and Zucchini. I didn't bother trying to brave the supermarket, knowing how crazy the pre-Pesach rush would be. Instead, I picked up all my vegetables from the shuk. I think I spent 30 shekels on cucumbers, carrots, peppers, potatoes, and zucchini. Yes, the price difference between supermarkets and the shuk is significant. Everything else I had at home and I opted to serve this with whole wheat pasta because I have some laying around. I had previously cooked and frozen chickpeas in anticipation of this recipe, so I just used some of those.

I made this in the IP (again, using too much liquid!). This recipe was a bit underwhelming. Not bad but just okay. Comforting flavors and textures that I'm used to. I don't know that I would run to make it again but definitely did the trick.

That's all for now until after Pesach. Stay tuned for my review of Appetite for Reduction.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Meal Plan: March 22-March 26th- Second Avenue Vegetable Korma

This week brings us one of the last recipes that I'll be making from Appetite for Reduction. Officially, spring has arrived (hallelujah!) but the weather has been a bit fickle. I'm taking advantage of these last weeks to make soup/stews before I transition to lighter fare.  Essentially this vegetable korma is a curry, with lots of spices and a bit of coconut milk.

This week at the supermarket I spent about 80 shekels. The usual peppers, corn, cucumbers, potatoes and carrots along with a huge bag of dried chickpeas (for next week's recipe), some drain cleaner, zucchini, and some sweet potatoes to go along with the korma. Not too bad considering that the chickpeas will be stretched for a good while after next week's recipe. I had leftover red onion from a salad I made over the weekend, ginger still from my most recent tofu experiment and I made homemade coconut milk!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: Miso-Apple Tofu

Dinner Friday night was a surprise pre-birthday dinner for a good friend. While she knew that her roommates were hosting a meal and that I was coming, she didn't realize it was in her honor! I asked her what she wanted to me to make and she suggested tofu. She had really liked the hoisin-mustard tofu that I made a few weeks ago but I told her up front that I wouldn't be making the same recipe. Life's too short not to keep trying new recipes! I had a specific recipe in mind, the Apple Miso Tofu, that also comes from Appetite for Reduction. (I'm so not looking forward to finishing this cook through. I'll probably cook with some of her other books next. Anyway...) 

Apple and miso kind of sound odd together but many bloggers out there have offered rave reviews of this recipe. Honestly, just the sauce alone on tofu would have been perfect, it's that yummy. The apple does lend a bit of sweetness, but I don't think it was that present. Maybe I needed more apple, or to use a more apple-y apple. That being said, I really loved this tofu. The white miso called for in this recipe is a lot more mellow but really, you probably could win me over with any fermented soy product. Miso, soy.. I'm there.

I'm glad to have a couple of go-to, tried and true tofu recipes should I ever need to please a crowd or if I ever decide to host that vegan meal that I've been wanting to do for a while. I doubled the recipe and set some aside to have with basmati rice for Friday lunch and so I would recommend serving with rice, although you can certainly choose something else. I left out the sesame oil; the recipe doesn't indicate what to do with it anyway and it wasn't missed here. Because I doubled the recipe, I allowed it to cook a lot longer to get some nice darkened pieces. It probably would have been wise to use a larger pan. Oh well. 

On  a side note, I'll just mention that it seems to be that rice is my evening starch of choice. I cook up a batch and serve it with almost every dinner I make. I'm trying to lay off of more refined starches like pasta or couscous and rice is the perfect fit for me especially since cooking a batch in my Instant-Pot is super easy and fast. It's a staple here in Israel so it's pretty inexpensive as well.  Oats are my breakfast starch and potatoes are my lunch starch. I'm thinking that with spring/summer fast approaching, I will make breakfast all about  the fruit, particularly melons. I love melons because they are both delicious and abundant here in those months. They are also full of water and I love being able to eat my water instead of having to force myself to drink. It keeps my tummy very happy.

Now, about that tofu...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Meal Plan: March 15th- March 19th: Red Thai Tofu and (Bhutanese) Pineapple Rice

Happy election day! Here in Israel, election day is a national holiday, meaning a day off from work! It's already coming to an end but I can say that I got a lot of Pesach cleaning done and my room is looking a lot tidier and less dusty. Trying to focus on getting as minimalist as possible and getting rid of things that I don't need, have any use for, or have simply expired. I'm making progress but it's not always easy!

In any case, this week, I put the second package of tofu to use in the recipe for Red Thai Tofu. (Tofu, being from soy is not allowed to be consumed by Ashkenazi Jews on Pesach which is approaching faster than I can say chametz! Gotta get a move on the rest that I have laying around!) I made the Bhutanese Pineapple Rice, which was pretty good, to go along with it. 

This week I spent 71 shekels. (Btw, I am already five pounds into my ten pounds of oats! Yikes!) I picked up red onion, frozen cauliflower (for next week's dinner), potatoes, pepper, cucumber, corn, fresh ginger, canned pineapple for the rice, and garlic. 

Isa's tofu recipes are a bit labor intensive, for me at least. Lots of chopping, for both the tofu and the rice and then all of the tofu needs to be browned before the sauce gets made. The component of this dish that makes this a Thai dish is the red curry paste. It adds a little spice to the tofu. Honestly, I really like tofu in any form so it can't really be bad to me, but this dish didn't wow me as much as the previous tofu recipe I made. I would be much more inclined to make the soy-hoisin tofu again if I would be asked. Therefore, I won't include the recipe here. won'That said, there wont be leftovers of this in my fridge by the end of the week- no tofu goes to waste here. I'm really curious to try the Apple-Miso tofu.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Meal Plan: March 8th- March 12th- Kidney Bean and Butternut Jamba Stew

This week's recipe was the Kidney Bean and Butternut Jamba Stew. Apparently, it's meant to be a riff on a jambalaya but growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I never had any. I do love me some butternut squash and beans so I figured it was a good fit. (This recipe was supposed to be in a couple of weeks but because Im going to be away for the weekend and I thought I should put some more time between me and my tofu, I made this now. Also, the weather is getting delightful here. Hot stew during a heat wave? Not fun!)

Enough babbling. This week's supermarket run cost me only 67 shekel. 67.44 to be exact. What did I buy? Let's see... I picked up peppers (yellow this week but 1 green one for the stew), a few cucumbers, corn, a few onions, a butternut squash, corn, rice, bay leaves, celery (so expensive!) and 1 can of whole tomatoes. Not bad at all.

I made this stew in the Instant Pot. I started by sauteing the onion, pepper and celery. (Left out the oil!) Add some spices, broth, tomatoes and a bunch of other stuff and pressure cooked it for about 9 minutes. Initially, I thought to leave the rice out but then I realized it wouldn't have any thickener in it so I kept it in. When I opened the pot, I was happy to see that everything was perfectly cooked but saddened to see that it was nothing like the thick stews I like and very much on the thin side. I ate this over fresh Basmati rice (also made in the IP) and I thought it was yummy. Thankfully, this baby thickened up into more of a stew-like texture overnight in the fridge- that made me very happy, indeed. The butternut squash is so sweet and the green pepper really gives it that jambalaya flavor. I really liked this and how hearty it is; a perfect meal for a cold night and another winner from Isa.

Update: I'm realizing that I must decrease the amount of liquid when using the IP as the liquid doesn't evaporate as it would using a regular pot. I will learn my lesson eventually!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Black Bean Brownies

Remember those mushy black beans I stashed in the freezer? Well, I figured it was time to put some of them to use, seeing as we're heading towards Pesach. While they're not strictly forbidden (only for the Ashkenazim among us), they gotta be used eventually. I was inspired to make Black Bean Brownies... actually, I'm not quite sure what triggered that thought process. In any case, I thought to make some and started doing some Googling, After a bit of searching, I came across this recipe from Oatmeal With a Fork. My hosts for my Friday morning Purim meal needed to delay the start of the meal by a bit which was fine by me as it gave me ample time to get this batter whipped up and in the oven.

I did adapt the recipe quite a bit, lowering the amount of oil, omitting the stevia, and adding a bit more cacao since after tasting the batter, the honey flavor came through stronger then the cacao. Oh, and I used cacao and not cocoa-- total risk, having no clue how it would interact with the baking soda. I think I did ok? I left out the chocolate chips as well since I don't keep those on hand.

These brownies don't look like any brownie I've ever made. They actually look like an earthquake hit them; not so attractive. I refrigerated them immediately as the recipe says that because they contain no binders, they need to be chilled to hold their shape. When I came home from my Purim meal, I gave them a taste. Although they are a bit crumbly, they held up the cutting just fine. The flavor was also quite different; not chocolate-y as I know it, but rather a deep, rich cocoa flavor. Pretty different, but pretty good. I would definitely say that they hit their mark. I carefully portioned the brownies out, wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and froze them. I think these will be good for a special treat, for dessert when I feel like I need a boost, or for a day that I'm up and traveling for work, such as tomorrow, and I'm not sure how much WFPB based food I'll be able to get my hands on. I will say that I have realized that I'm kind of a sugar addict (I guess I get it from my dad) in the sense that when I have a little, I want more. I don't keep sugar or candy in the house, but if I have it, it's bad news. I try to not have it as it doesnt lead to good things. In that sense, maybe having these brownies around werent such a bright idea. On the other hand, I could do A LOT worse. UPDATE: These brownies are so yummy out of the freezer! They are soft and melt in your mouth and are just like Devil Dogs to me in flavor! That's a win! Anyway, recipe after the jump.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shabbat Cooking Part 2: Unfried Fried Rice

Isa suggested that the Hoisin Mustard Tofu be served with her Unfried Fried Rice. Who am I to object? I should mention, that I loooove fried rice so that was a no-brainer. Turns out it was the perfect accompaniment to the tofu. I had leftovers for Shabbat lunch and they just hit. the. spot.  I'm going to take a break from tofu this week before trying another recipe.

I started by cooking the rice in the Instant Pot and then used the saute function to finish it off. I love the ease of using the same pot for one recipe and really like getting use out of the IP. I opted to add frozen peas to the recipe as that's what I had on hand. Pesach is coming and I gotta use things up! I made a double recipe of the rice.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Shabbat Cooking Part 1: Hoisin Mustard Tofu

Purim is in full swing! I gotta say, it is NOT my favorite holiday on the Jewish calendar, not even close. This year, most of my focus was on reading Megillah. I spent the last few months learning how and preparing for my grand debut. ;) I was very nervous leading up to it but I pulled it off! Very proud of myself. This year, Purim falls out on Friday, which is right into Shabbat, making this day quite rushed. One who celebrates Purim in Jerusalem has to prepare and eat a meal in honor of Purim and then prepare another one for Shabbat. Eek! For me? I need a relaxing Shabbat after all this hulabaloo. I'm eating with a couple of friends at her apartment and then at home in the morning. Need me some quiet after all those firecrackers!

It was a while before I figured out what I wanted to make as I am WFPB and wanted to go as unprocessed as possible. I don't know that I succeeded but I decided to make tofu and rice. I finished all the cooking Thursday afternoon so I wouldn't be rushed on Friday. Obviously, I turned to my go to girl right now, Isa Chandra and decided to make the Hoisin Mustard Tofu and the Unfried Fried Rice. That girl hasn't let me down yet!

First things first. That tofu? Amazing. I really am a savory over sweet girl and I just love some soy. The tofu did not disappoint. Im so excited that I made a triple batch and have leftover for Shabbat morning. (I missed tofu so much that I decided to change up this week's meal plan!) I started by pressing the tofu and then cubing it. I dry fried it (not even cooking spray!) and that turned out well. I tossed it with some soy sauce and set it aside. Next came sauteeing some vegetables in sesame oil and then adding some mirin, hoisin and mustard. So simple, but so flavorful. This recipe is a freakin' winner! If ever I need a protein rich dish to bring to a meal, I can guarantee you, this is going to be it!

As I mentioned, I tripled the recipe but didn't use as much oil as called for. Below is the recipe as it appears in the book. Gosh, make this and stat!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Quick Health Update

And the diagnosis is..........

Turns out, the tests that the doctors and endocrinologist ordered have all come up clean. Which is a relief, but perhaps also a bit frustrating.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that my hair started falling out once I went 100% vegan. I suppose I'll never really know.

In any case, I will keep taking my iron and Vitamin D and hopefully will see renewed growth and thickness in the coming months. A girl can hope :)

To health!

Meal Plan- March 1st- March 5th: Yam and Black Bean Soup with Orange

The past few days have been quite a whirlwind! Purim is only a couple of days away and Ive been practicing hard to get my reading perfect. That coupled doctor's appointments and such and I'm already wiped out. This week's recipe is the Yam and Black Bean Soup with Orange and Cilantro from Appetite for Reduction. (Yup, I'm continuing to cook through it until the end of March; after Pesach, I'll be cooking with something else.

Although I did my regular shopping on Sunday (it was a madhouse!), I didn't get around to making this soup until Monday night. I had about a serving of leftover split pea soup from Shabbat that I didnt want to go to waste so I had that instead.

My grocery bill this week was only 80 shekels, which is pretty good considering it included two jars of raspberry jelly (each thirteen, down from the usual twenty) and a bag of sugar (for the hamentashen that I'll make tomorrow). I also got peppers, cucumbers, some tomatoes for the soup, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes for the soup, orange juice (which I'll use for the hamentashen as well) and carrots.

The soup was pretty easy to make and pretty hands off, considering I made it in the Instant Pot. My, I love that thing! I started by sauteing some red onion eventually adding some sriracha and garlic. To that I added some freshly chopped tomatoes. I added most everything else and then set the pressure cooker to about seven minutes at pressure. The sweet potatoes were perfectly cooked. I opted to puree the soup with an immersion blender, but I was sure to leave a bit of texture in there. Added the orange juice and beans and voila! (I left out the cilantro.) The soup was pretty good. (I wonder if the flavors will have developed just chilling in the fridge.) The orange gives it a bit of a zing and I like the addition of the black beans. I thought this was a rather different soup and I enjoyed it. A salad would definitely be appropriate with it.  As per usual, I omitted the oil in the recipe.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: Mushroom Tibs

Shavua tov!
It's been a long time since I've hosted a meal for my friends at my place and so I decided to organize a small one. I knew that except for the chicken that I was preparing for my guests that everything else would be WFPB. I made Isa's Smokey Split Pea Soup again (I made it exactly as the recipe stated this time and it was so good!), a batch of rice in the Instant Pot (not perfect yet!), a salad and these mushroom tibs.

I had been wanting to try these mushrooms for ages but couldn't figure out a way to incorporate them into my meal plans. Mushrooms are pricey here and it would take quite a lot of them to turn them into nightly dinners. I figured they would be appropriate for dinner and so they made it to the menu. This recipe also comes from Appetite for Reduction (when I say I'm cooking through a book, I mean it!). Isa explains this as an Ethiopian inspired recipe. I've never had Ethiopian food before so I took her word for it. I was a bit nervous that my friends wouldn't like these because they are loaded with pretty much every spice I have in my cabinet. (The curry stained my pan!!) Turns out, they were a hit. I really liked them myself and had the little bit that was leftover with some leftover Persian rice. Yum. This really is a winning side dish. Definitely try it. I doubled the recipe pretty much and I left out the oil as well. Another keeper!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Black Bean Spew and Impromptu Burgers

Riding high on my first soup success in the Instant Pot, I decided to give it another go. I had recently bought dried black beans and thought I'd cook them and freeze them in advance of needing some for next week's soup recipe.

Yesterday morning, before I left to work, I soaked the beans. When I came home, they were ready to cook. I got the Instant Pot set up, covering the beans with about two inches of water. I was cooking a lot of beans though so there was a lot of water in there.

How long to cook for? So here was where I wasn't quite sure. Some places said about 5-6 minutes for the soaked beans. I made the mistake of following the Instant Pot manual (never doing that again!) and cooked them for about 11 minutes at pressure. When the machine went off, I forgot to unplug it, so that it was accidentally continuing to cook. Eek! I finally remembered to unplug the machine. Then came the question of the pressure release. I started to release it.... until I remembered that there were black beans in the pot and that the liquid that was coming out was black. All over my white walls. Black. Bean. Spew. Eek! (Yes, there was counter climbing involved to clean it up!). I left it to sit for a bit before realizing that I was going to have mush on my hands if I didn't get the pressure out. I covered the pot with a towel and let the rest of the pressure out. I opened the pot and to my surprise (not!) I discovered.. mushy beans. What a bummer. I drained them and decided that they'd be perfect for burgers. I think I previously mentioned that my burgers always fall apart because the beans aren't mashed enough. Well, here's the solution-- mushy, easily mashed beans! I pulled out The Everyday Happy Herbivore and made a double batch of the easy burgers. The rest of the beans were portioned and frozen for future burger ventures.

I definitely have more to learn about this pot. The ability to cook beans fast was pretty much what led me to invest in it, so I definitely won't be giving up on it soon. Fingers crossed for a more successful cook next time. And cleaner walls.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Meal Plan- Feb 22nd- Feb 26th: Butternut Apple Soup

I wanted February's meal plan to include a soup recipe to enjoy on these winter nights. My timing seems to have been right on the mark as the snow from a huge snowstorm (huge for us Jerusalemites!) has all but melted and I am recovering from a nasty cold. Butternut Apple Soup by Isa Chandra was on the menu and it would be the Instant Pot's inaugural dish. Super exciting!

I took the day off from work to get some R&R and decided to get to the supermarket early. My total this week came to 150 shekels! That is the most I've spent on groceries since I started keeping track. 60 shekels went to purchasing ten pounds of oats which takes me through a good few months. I came home with the usual salad suspects, apples, apple juice,  dried rosemary, sweet potatoes (no butternut squash!), a couple of onions, a sack of potatoes, and a hot water bottle. This brought my total spent on food (including six pounds of frozen berries) for the month of February to 650 shekels. Not bad at all and that is significant savings from previous months!

Anyway, back to the soup.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Meal Plan- Feb 15th- Feb 19th: Eggplant Chickpea Curry

So today is Wednesday, which means I'm a bit late with posting this week's recipe and shopping summary. Work has been quite overwhelming this week, there's been plenty of hullabaloo about getting a massive snow storm tomorrow, and I think I'm getting sick. Eek! Right now, I'm holding out for the weekend, as freezing cold as it might be!

This week's recipe was the Eggplant Chickpea Curry from Appetite for Reduction. The only thing I needed to make this recipe was eggplant, tomatoes, and couscous to serve it on. Everything else I had on hand which made this week's shopping trip very inexpensive. I picked up the usual peppers, corn, carrots, and cucumbers in addition to the eggplant, tomatoes and couscous all for a mere 45 shekels. Not bad. (I'll be making up for it next week seeing as I need to stock up on potatoes and oats.)

This recipe featured a different flavor profile than I'm used to. I've never cooked with really Indian flavors and it was my first time really featuring curry or garam masala in a recipe. It was pretty no frills and easy to put together. I accidentally defrosted 3 cups worth of chickpeas instead of 1.5 cups but I would keep that for next time. It took a while for me to adapt to the different flavor profile, but by yesterday, I actually really liked it! I hope to try more Indian style recipes in the future. As always, (except when I'm feeling rebellious) I left out the oil.. and the red pepper as well. Make it as you please. You can serve this over rice or couscous. Having sold my rice cooker (to buy the Instant Pot- woot woot!), I opted for the simpler couscous. Choice is yours.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: Moroccan Spiced Couscous Salad

A lot of potluck Shabbat meals happen 'round these parts and while I enjoy them, coming up with something healthy and creative to make does not come easy. I was asked to make a side dish for dinner this Friday night. something that I myself could eat, considering that the remaining guests are omni eaters. I finally settled on some sort of grain salad. The options were either barley or couscous and seeing as couscous cooks faster, whole wheat couscous it was going to be. That was the easier part. Finding a recipe that worked with what I had around and that was appealing was the real challenge. What can I say? I'm picky. When I exhausted Pinterest and the rest of the internet, I turned to my book shelf. One of the first books I picked up was.. you guessed it, Thug Kitchen. Almost immediately I saw the recipe for the Moroccan Spiced Couscous. Although I gave the book a lukewarm review, I decided to give it a go knowing that I'd doctor it to bulk it up anyway.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meal Plan: Feb 8th- Feb 12th- Baked Falafel

The second recipe I chose to make from Appetite for Reduction was Baked Falafel. For those of you that don't know, falafel is pretty much  one of Israel's national foods. A great fast food, but healthier than your average McDonald's, you can pretty much find it on every other street here; in some places, there are multiple falafel stands on one street. And the smell.. nothing like it!

Falafel is made out of ground chickpeas and herbs and spices, shaped into balls and then fried. It's traditionally served in a pita with Israeli salad, humus and tahini and various other toppings. Fried eggplant? Yes, please. Now, haven't had a falafel in a pita with the trimmings in years simply because it's so... greasy. Now that I eat a WFPBNO diet, it is certainly not something I would ever pick up. So when I saw that there was a recipe for Baked falafel in the book, I immediately incorporated it into the meal plan.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Meal Plan Feb 1st-Feb 5th Part 2: Fresh Corn and Scallion Cornbread

This recipe, in my humble opinion, was the star of this week's meal plan. Maybe I just love corn, maybe I just like quick bread type things, I don't really know- but it was and it really hit the spot.

I had all of the ingredients on hand for this recipe except for the scallions. I didn't realize how pricey they were and seeing as their flavor wasn't pronounced in the final product, I'd probably leave them out next time around. I used frozen corn as that's what I had, as well as soy milk and coconut oil as my chosen milk and oil. Not exactly McDougall friendly, in terms of the oil, but we all have our weeks.

There really isn't that much more to say about this recipe than that I loved that the corn flavor came through nice and sweet and that it reheats nicely. I'll be making this again and again. And again.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Coconut Pancakes

I interrupt this week's rigid meal plan to bring you.... Coconut Pancakes! This recipe was made on an impulse and my am I glad that I was impulsive! I finished my monthly stash of berries two days before I can pick up my order for a fresh supply so that left me without breakfast for a couple of days. That, coupled with the fact that I had leftover soy milk from making corn bread meant I had to be creative. Can't starve and certainly can't have any waste! Although I asked for suggestions on Facebook, my heart was telling me only one thing- pancakes! And so pancakes I would have. I checked online and a basic search told me that my favorite vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, has a a few pancake recipes in the very book that showed up in my mailbox a couple of days ago. The coconut pancakes quickly caught my eye. Seeing as I had everything in my pantry (making this budget friendly) I set to work. These were easy peasy to make and behaved just as an egg-filled pancake would and my how delicious all the coconut was. I didn't use as much nutmeg as called for and I'm glad I didn't because then I would have been too overwhelmed by the flavor. The nutmeg really complemented the coconut well. Did I mention that I love coconut?! Being a McDougaller, I rarely use oil and almost never use coconut anymore but I figured that once in a while is okay. I'm hoping my heart will forgive me. As I still have another cup or so of soy milk left, I probably will make a batch of her plain pancakes tomorrow, the recipe being very similar to this one. Gosh, go make these already-- they are simply divine!

Meal Plan Feb 1st-Feb 5th Part 1- Lentil and Eggplant Chili Mole

A new month, a new set of meal plans! I have really been enjoying this whole meal planning thing. I come to the supermarket prepared, get just what I need and go in record time. I've managed to save a lot of money on my groceries all while being well fed and satisfied. Why didn't I start this sooner??
As I mentioned in my previous post, this month (and most likely next as well) I'll be cooking with Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction.

This week's supermarket bill was 75 shekel, a bit higher than in previous weeks but still amazing for a week's worth of meals. I bought the usual peppers, cucumbers, and potatoes. I opted for canned corn instead of the unfortunate looking tomatoes, bought scallions for the cornbread, eggplant, crushed tomatoes for the chili and bought a new container of cumin. The cumin and scallions were the biggest expense! The avocados were not good at all, so I passed them up this week.

For the longest time, I've been wanting chili and cornbread. That and lasagna have been on my mind for ages. Isa has a recipe for Lentil and Eggplant Mole Chili that sounded unique and she pairs it with a Fresh Corn and Scallion Cornbread. I knew that that was exactly the way I was going to ring in February. Yay for comfort food!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February Cook Through-- Appetite for Reduction

In an effort to be more dollar conscious and put the books I own to good use, I've decided to cook through a book each month (or couple of months). For the last while, I was cooking through the Thug Kitchen. February (and possibly March) will feature recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction. I've heard great things about this cookbook so I'm looking forward to loving it! Stay tuned for my thoughts and recipes and for a review when I finish trying recipes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


My plant based life won't be complete without this in my life:

Saving up every shekel to get one! It will be mine!

Cookbook Review: Thug Kitchen

After cooking through the Thug Kitchen, I'm finally ready to give it a review.

It seems to be that I am the last person on the planet to have heard of the Thug Kitchen, being a total stranger to the blog. I think I first came across them when I was looking for a burger recipe and I found their Smokey Spinach and Black Bean Burger on their site. I made it and actually quite liked it.

I will admit that I was kind of shocked by the language and in-your-face attitude. I didn't feel like there was any racism going on here but I'm kind of sensitive to foul language and so I was initially turned off. I took to Facebook to ask my McDougall Friends for their opinion and they warmly recommended it if I could get passed the language. The inexpensive price on Amazon was the impetus that drove me to buy the book as I was already placing an order.

So what did I think? Read on to find out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 24th-Jan 29th Part 2- Beer and Lime Roasted Cauliflower

The main vegetable component to this week's recipe was the Beer and Lime Roasted Cauliflower. This is the last recipe I tried from Thug Kitchen and they serve them as tacos. I decided to leave out the taco factor and serve it over the Baked Spanish Rice that I wrote about in my last post.

I love baked cauliflower. Love it. Roasted with just some oil, salt and pepper, there's nothing better. (Obviously, oil isn't an option, and I've gotta say while I don't miss the calories that come along with the oil, I sure do miss the flavor. Anyone who says you can get the same flavor out of onions and other things with the oil is just fooling themselves. Okay, rant over.) That's why I was super excited to make this recipe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 25th-Jan 29th- Part 1- Baked Spanish Rice

This week's meal plan included two recipes. I saw someone review this recipe for Baked Spanish Rice and when I saw that it was in the Thug Kitchen cookbook, I decided to make it to accompany the dish I had been meaning to make for a while.- the Beer and Lime Roasted Cauliflower Tacos. I figured I'd leave out the tortillas in the recipe and serve it over a more healthful brown rice.

First things first- my grocery bill for the week was 64 shekels. I bought peppers, tomatoes (finally found some decent ones!) cucumbers, a bag of frozen cauliflower, carrots, avocado, a can of beer (for the roasted cauliflower), a new set of containers, and a bottle of soft drink (for my Shabbaton this weekend). Not bad at all!

Back to the baked rice.

I'm pretty familiar with baking rice- I learned the technique from Alton Brown ages ago, and it's pretty convenient. The Thug Kitchen recipe calls for blending up a sauce in the blender, heating it with some broth on the stove and then pouring it over the rice. You cover the rice, bake and then add some peas and corn and lime juice when it's done. I like to get things done in advance so I decided to make this Saturday night.

I gotta say, this recipe was quite underwhelming. I didn't find it to have much flavor aside for the peas and corn. It made a good base for the cauliflower, but I could have just as well saved myself some dishwashing by just making plain rice. Not terrible, just pretty bland. Adding the lime juice does help, but I got very little tomato flavor here.

You can find the recipe here.

Let me know if you disagreed, or how you changed up this recipe.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 18th-Jan 22nd- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Growing up, we never had Mexican in the house. I'm kind of making up for it now as Enchiladas is something that I've been wanting to make for a while. Thug Kitchen has a recipe for them and as I'm cooking with that book this month, that became this week's meal plan. I don't think they'll get me all the way until Thursday; in that case, I'll supplement with simple beans, brown rice and salsa, which I already have on hand.

My supermarket bill came out to 61 shekels- I bought some more peppers and cucumbers, canned corn (because the tomatoes are still looking sad), more potatoes, oregano, tortillas (ten shekel for a pack of twelve!), a large sweet potato, carrots and garlic. The avocados were hard as rocks! Oh, well.
I'm moving on to my second five pounds of oats so no purchase necessary there but my berry supply seems to be dwindling. :(

I decided to make the sauce ahead of time, on Friday, just in case it flopped. I didn't want to get to Sunday night and have nothing for dinner! I'm glad I did that because the sauce needed some extra work. I could tell by looking at the original recipe that it would be too thin and I knew that would not be good. I ended up adding more tomato paste to the recipe to make the initial mixture a bit thicker. When I saw that even at a boil, it wasn't thick enough, I went ahead and added a tablespoon of cornstarch and brought it to a boil once again. Success! The sauce thickened even more after it was chilled so we had a home run in that sense.

Once the sauce was out of the way, the filling was pretty easy from there. My supermarket was out of zucchini so I just used more sweet potato that I steamed in the microwave. (I thought to add a chopped red pepper but nixed that.) I water sauteed some onions and garlic with some spices, added the beans and sweet potato and some agave. I think I could have bulked this up with another can of beans, or half can, at least. 

People who have made enchiladas in their life (not me!) know how to make them so I won't describe that process. I made about twelve from the mixture and fitted them into a 9x13 pan. I covered and baked them and then uncovered them to finish the cooking.

I gotta say, I really liked these and would definitely make them again. The only thing is.... enchiladas get soggy. Apparently this is normal if using wheat tortillas. If I make them again, I would probably follow the advice from someone on FB and cook the enchiladas separately until crisp before adding the sauce that's been heated or make the effort to make homemade corn tortillas. I think that would make these a real winner.

(Adapted) Recipe after the jump.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Health Update

So this morning I had my long awaited appointment with the endocrinologist. I specifically chose him because he is an English speaking doctor and I wanted to be able to understand everything.

He took an extensive medical history and did some basic examinations, including weight (eek! I had been avoiding that one!) and blood pressure which was excellent. I described the hair loss and at first he didn't believe me. When I took down my hair to show him the crown, he understood what I meant.

Basically, he thinks that the hair loss coinciding with me going full vegan might be just that, a coincidence. He is sending me for some hormone testing so we'll see what that comes up. It'll be awhile before I can get those results and see him again though.

I'm hoping that there will be a solution at least. One more step towards solving the mystery!

My doctor is close to some health food stores only one of which carries vital wheat gluten. Although it's not in the menu plan for the next couple of weeks, I picked some up anyway because I don't know when I'll be in the area next.

To health!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 11th-Jan15th- White Bean and Red Lentil Burgers

This week was a pretty easy week to get through in terms of meals. As I mentioned previously, my breakfasts and lunches are always the same (oatmeal and berries, salad and baked potatoes) so there was no guesswork there. Since I have my monthly stash of frozen fruit and Costco bags of oats (I shouldnt run out until end of February), there was no money there. I did have to restock up on bell peppers, potatoes (the bag should carry me through all of next week), and cucumbers. The store was out of carrots and nice looking tomatoes so I bought canned corn instead for when I ran out of tomatoes.

Sunday and Monday nights I had leftover split pea soup that I had made for Shabbat- Sunday night with whole wheat pasta and Monday night with salad. For the rest of the week, the plan was to make White Bean and Red Lentil Burgers from Thug Kitchen. I had most of the ingredients on hand so at the supermarket I just picked up some breadcrumbs and onions. My total for the whole week was about 50 shekels.  Friday is an off day for me in terms of meals. As I don't work and it's erev Shabbat, I don't eat too much. Breakfast this morning was baked potatoes with salsa.

The recipe made nine burgers and so on each night I had some served with either leftover whole wheat pasta or steamed greens. The recipe for burgers isn't my absolute favorite- they were a tad bit dry and crumbled easily, but it was definitely okay. I might have had better results if I had processed the beans in a food processor instead of mashing them by hand. I left the oil with no negative results but I probably shouldn't have been too lazy to grate some lime zest into the mixture. It probably would have helped things. Try them and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: Split Pea Soup

This past week, Jerusalem geared up for a massive snow storm. Last year, we were hit with a huge snow storm which shut down the whole city. Many neighborhoods lost electricity and were snowed in. The municipality was determined to be better prepared for this year's storm and while they were, the snow storm was pretty much a dud. The heaviest snow fell on Friday and it was purely magical, bringing back fond memories of my New York childhood. (Snow is far from a regular occurrence here in Jerusalem, so this was very exciting.)

Knowing that it would be freezing out (and we have no heat in our apartment!), I knew that I would want to be all bundled up at home instead of walking some place for Shabbat dinner. I figured I'd make a soup and call it a day. And that's exactly what I did. I already knew that I was going to make split pea soup as I had all of the ingredients on hand. Thursday night, I pulled out my slow cooker and got to work.

Friday, January 9, 2015

So What Exactly Do I Eat?

When people here that I am a vegan (no patience to explain what WFPB is), people immediately ask two questions, in no particular order. The first being, where do you get your protein?? And the second being, so what the heck do you eat?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I would by lying if I said that everything on this way of eating (a starch based diet) is all sunshine and roses. While I love eating this way, and I truly do, I am experiencing some annoying effects as well. A couple are a direct result of this drastic change but the big ones... I dont know if they are just coincidental.

To what am I referring?
For one, after cutting out overt fats and oil, my skin and scalp are DRY! No amount of moisturizer seems to fix that.
Next up..Almost immediately after I switched from an 80/10/10 diet to a starch based diet, my hair began to fall out. Six months later, it still hasnt stopped. By way of a miracle, there is still hair left on my head, and because my curls give it the impression of fullness, it looks like I have far more than I do. What can I say? It's depressing. At first, I thought I could attribute it to detox but how long could that really last? At around the same time, my skin had started breaking out and that too has not righted itself.

I decided to have some blood work done to see what was going on. In July, my results indicated that my ferritin and iron levels were very low as was my D. Right away, I started supplementing. Everything else seemed to be fine. I also noticed that my cholesterol levels were pretty high for someone who is trying to prevent heart disease. Going full throttle WFPB corrected that. About four or five months later, I had my blood tested again to see that everything was okay. My iron levels were improving but still had a ways to go. On other hand, my bloodwork indicated that I had heart disease proofed myself! Woo hoo! All my cholesterol numbers were amazing, to say the least. It felt great.

Still, no indication of what could be behind the hair loss. I went to a dermatologist who didnt think I had a problem, told me it was probably just genetic (this doesnt run in my family!) and suggested I use some sprays to help the situation. Im pretty sure that it is internal and that sprays arent going to help much. Sadly, an email to Dr. McDougall himself didnt yield anything helpful.

A visit to the gynecologist (my recent periods have been inexplicably painful!) resulted in a referral to an endocrinologist to make sure that my hormones are working properly. I was very grateful that he thought to point me in that direction because I am starting to think that the hair loss isnt due to a nutritional deficiency but rather something else. My moods have been rather off lately- I was in funk for quite a few weeks, so I'm thinking they're connected. I've also been suggested to try iodine, so Im going to investigate that route as well. In addition I'm starting to add back some overt fats such as avocado to help restore a healthy sheen to my skin and scalp.

To sum up, I'm loving my eating life except for the hair and skin issues. I refuse to believe that it's because I stopped eating meat. For me, taking the steps back into a meat eating diet is just not an option. Fingers crossed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Finding a Sustainable Solution

I have a tendency to enter every book store I go into, be it regular or used. Here in Israel, the books are (obviously) in Hebrew but nevertheless, I go into them all the time to see if they have any new English books on the shelves.

One day, perusing the shelves I saw the book Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. I picked it up, read the jacket and then put it down. I prefer to read reviews and do research on a book before I pay the inflated Israeli price and give it precious real estate on my bookshelf.

After doing some research online, I returned to the book store and picked up the book and proceeded to read it cover to cover. What I learned really blew me away. I must say it was this book that introduced me to what real nutrition is and meant to be and I thought that it might be a better approach for me than 80/10/10. A larger variety of food, cooked food.. things were a changing.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hello There and Welcome to Plant Strong Israeli

Readers of my other blog, For the Love of Bread, will know that I stopped blogging at that address because I became a Raw Vegan. In the final post, I described a little about how I began my health/food journey and the impact it had on my life. Since then, the journey has had some ups and downs and has veered off into different directions, but one thing was for certain- my life had changed. I am starting to write at this new space not because I want to build a following and hope to inspire people, but rather because I miss writing. Most people who know me know that I was an excellent baker but a mediocre (if that, even) cook. I'm hoping that this space will  serve as a personal journal, of sorts; help me track my progress as a cook and log my ups and downs on this way of life.

Hi, my name is Chavi. I am twenty seven and a half years old and I live in Jerusalem, Israel. Born and raised in New York, I came to this small but beautiful country nine years ago and have never looked back.