My Husband A Vegan (?!?!?) and Vegan Lunch Boxes

August 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole vegan “thing”. I haven’t given up yet, but I’m not convinced this is going to last for the long haul. I sat here on Sunday mindlessly watching TV – off daydreaming of eggs and parmesan cheese and thinking, have I had enough? At that moment Luis looked at me and said “I’m going vegan for 30 days” and gave me a high five.

Ummm….OK??????

Let’s be clear: this is a big deal. My husband is Guatemalan and a serious meat lover. Ropa vieja, carnitas, filet mignon, you name it. I remember a dinner out recently as I approached my 30 day mark, eating some sad and badly prepared veggies as he devoured a steak rooting me on to not to give up. I don’t even like steak but I wanted a bite that night – I was hungry!

So fast forward and I’m approaching two months, having the same questions and here Luis is saying he’s giving it a shot. He was even trying his best to convert his mom tonight – I’m sure she was thinking “Dios mio! What’s happened to my son? Quick call 911 and get him a steak!”

Well, I can’t give up now can I?

The biggest question my husband had in his new vegan quest – “What on earth will I eat for lunch?” He works for a hotel so lunches allow just enough time for a visit to the cafeteria, which will have a few daily options. I asked if he wanted me to make him lunch the first day which he said, no, no, don’t worry. But I knew we were in trouble as the texts started rolling in around 12:30 the next day:

Is mayonnaise vegan? –No

Is rice vegan? –Depends

Is chocolate vegan? –Only dark

There was only one thing to do. I had to create a vegan lunch box. So Monday night after we dined on that delicious summer tomato pasta (If I could have that every day, the beginning of this post would have been different) I set to work in the kitchen and prepared a few containers of flavorful lunches for his first week.

Raw corn and tomato salad – olive oil, balsamic, basil, salt and pepper

Pasta with peas – a little good quality fruity olive oil, basil, salt and pepper (cooked a whole package of pasta when I made the summer tomato pasta so this was a super quick fix).

Greek quinoa salad – red peppers, cucumber, scallions, and oregano vinaigrette

Lentil salad – One of my favs with red onion, cucumber, and lemon vinaigrette

All these can travel easily, don’t require refrigeration immediately, or reheating, making them perfect vegan lunch box options. A side of nuts and seeds, veggies and hummus and he was good to go.

Now, I’m still not saying being vegan is easy. But I’m also not saying it’s necessarily “hard”. It is just about making it convenient – thinking ahead and being prepared. Here’s to yummy lunches that leave you light and fulfilled – vegan or not!

Another easy vegan lunch recipe you may enjoy: raw zucchini pasta with chickpeas and tomatoes.

Is A Creamy Vegan Soup Possible? – Vegan Corn Chowder

July 30, 2011 § 10 Comments

I love making soups. They are usually super easy to put together and you rarely need to follow a recipe. Soups are perfect too for using the last bits of leftover vegetables in the fridge. I’m not sure why, but I’ve really been on a corn kick latley. I’ve wanted to put it in everything: salads, tacos, everything, and I’ve been thinking of this chowder for a while. This chowder is inspired by a shrimp and corn chowder I make a lot and learned from my mom. I love how silky and rich it is – it’s perfectly comforting – but calls for all sorts of non-vegan ingredients like cream and seafood so I figured I wouldn’t get to have it anytime soon. But, I figured out a way!

Doesn’t that chowder look all creamy and silky? You’re thinking surely there is at least a touch of cream in there – nope, not a drop! What’s the secret to that rich creamy base? Roasted cauliflower! And what’s best about this soup – not only does it not have any cream – but it doesn’t leave you with that heavy feeling a traditional chowder does.

As I said the beauty of this soup and any soup really is that there are no rules. If you don’t have one of these ingredients handy or want to switch it up, go for it. Experiment and see what it gives you. Soups are very forgiving – it’s really hard to mess them up. The key is seasoning. That’s really the only way to mess up a soup.

As I said the secret to this creamy delicious soup is the roasted cauliflower. You could do this the day before to speed up this easy weeknight dinner. Roast with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper at 425 until tender and the cauliflower has a little color.

This chowder starts with the traditional onion, celery, carrot base. Saute the onions until translucent in some olive oil then add the celery and carrots. I happened to have shredded carrots in my fridge which worked great here. Since you end up blending everything together it doesn’t matter. I love adding peppers to all my soups – and really just about anything. Sometimes I’ll do a duo of red and yellow but for this soup I just used a red pepper. If you wanted a little heat you could definitely add some jalapeno but I’d wait until later in the cooking. Then add the diced potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and season with a little salt and pepper.

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Next add the stock. To keep it vegan, I used vegetable stock but if you’re not eating vegan you could use chicken stock which will give it great flavor. I actually only had one 32 oz. package of stock which I knew wasn’t enough to cover all the ingredients. I was a little nervous to add another 32 oz. of water but it still had fantastic flavor. I threw in a bay leaf and generous amount of salt and pepper to season.

While the soup simmers, prep the corn. Set the cut corn aside. You simmer the soup just long enough to ensure the potatoes are fully cooked through. Once the potatoes are cooked, the soup is ready for blending. I used an immersion blender which is so easy and takes just minutes to blend this into that beautiful creamy base. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can easily use a regular blender. Now, before blending you want to remove the bay leaf like the pros always caution. But don’t worry, if you don’t, I learned it blends nicely. I forgot to remove it and didn’t even notice.

Once the soup is blended smooth, add the cut corn and let it heat through for a few minutes. Taste test and season with more salt and pepper as needed. I promise you’ll be licking the bowl clean!

Update: See my posts on five tips for reducing dairy intake and 10 tips for a 30-day vegan challenge.

Vegan Corn Chowder
Serves about 8 bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 4 carrots (can use shredded as I did)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 6 small potatoes (red or new)
  • 2 32-oz. cartons vegetable stock
  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cut up head of cauliflower into small florets. Coat well with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 until tender.
  2. Dice onion, celery, carrots, and red pepper. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and saute onions until translucent. Add celery and carrots and saute a few minutes, then add the pepper. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Dice the potatoes and add to the mixture. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Add the bay leaf and season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. While the potatoes cook through, cut and prep the corn. Once the potatoes are cooked through, remove the bay leaf and then blend the soup until smooth. Add the corn to the blended soup. Taste for final seasonings.

Fiesta Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing

July 12, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’ve been on a recent kick of eating raw corn. That’s right – uncooked corn. Sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it. I’m an avid corn lover. Anything with corn and I’m game. Mmmmm…I’d like some creamy corn chowder right about now – yummy! Might have to find a vegan version. (Update: check out the vegan corn chowder recipe I came up with.)

So with my love for corn it’s amazing that I’ve never even thought to try it raw. But it’s so easy to cut off the cob and is surprisingly sweet and of course crisp. Now, while I love my corn, I don’t love black beans. But I’m trying to like them more with this vegan challenge. I’ve added them to my veggie bowl at Chipotle and have learned one scoop is good – two scoops, too black beany. I can enjoy a sprinkling of beans throughout my food but not a whole bundle.

I put together this salad recently for lunch and enjoyed it with some whole grain tortilla chips. Smokey cumin, sweet corn, crisp cucumbers, spicy jalapeno – everything in here works so nicely together. You could serve it as a salad or a salsa. If serving with tortilla chips just watch how much salt you add as the chip will add a lot of salt. I’ve also been adding crunched up pita chips in my salads recently which is really good and would be great here.

To make just chop up whatever veggies you’d like to include. I added red bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, and jalapeno. Red onion would work nicely in place of scallions. I didn’t have tomatoes on hand but they’d also be great here. For the vinaigrette mix olive oil, lime juice, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and enjoy! As with many salads like this – it’s even better the next day.

Fiesta Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • tortilla chips or pita chips to serve if desired

Directions

  1. Rinse beans and set aside. Clean and cut corn from cob. Dice veggies.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper. Toss in a bowl with beans, corn, and remaining veggies.

 

Craving Warmth – Shrimp and Corn Chowder

January 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

It truly pains me to admit this but I have finally, maybe, still-fighting it, come to the realization that perhaps I’ll never move to a winter climate again. I spent the better years of my childhood in Chicago and have envisioned moving back there for years – living in a condo, walking everywhere, enjoying the many cultural attributes of the city, not to mention unbelievable food options. But alas, sometimes we must grow up and realize what we are and are not willing to do. After several trips this year to Washington DC, Detroit, Philadelphia, and yes, even Chicago, I come back home each time more and more relieved to return to my comfortable 60 degree weather.

Last week that wasn’t the case though – there were no 60 degrees to be had even in Florida – I returned home from a frigid Detroit where just 5 minutes standing in the snow storm waiting for a shuttle bus had left me slightly frozen for the better half of the week. Walking to my car back home at the Orlando airport, I expected to find myself able to remove my jacket – but no, I was met with a windy 40 degrees that encouraged me to leave it on. (I do realize that my friends living anywhere North of Orlando right now are probably calling me a big wimp if they are reading this – but it is what it is – apparently I’m quite wimpy when it comes to weather.)

All week I had a need to fill my body with a warm and satisfying something – something that would fill my stomach with warmth and spread to every last centimeter of my body – no fingers or toes to be left behind. Actually, this need started even before I’d left for Detroit and I attempted to make a lentil soup for the very first time on a cold Sunday evening. I’d been inspired by reading an incredible article on a spicy, thick lentil soup by Molly Wizenberg in Bon Appetit. In the end, the soup turned out ok – definitely hearty – but missed the mark and left me craving something comforting all week. So Friday night, I just couldn’t take it, enough was enough – I was determined to make a delicious soup that would do the trick. As I wandered through the supermarket looking for inspiration, I remembered a chowder my mom makes with crab and shrimp. I used to make a vegetarian version all the time but for one reason or another, hadn’t made it in some time. Seeing that shrimp was on sale, I figured it would be as good a time as any to give it another go and see if it could cure me of my need for warmth. It had probably been 2 years since I made this soup – thus, I was working from memory on how I actually used to make it but it turned out just as comforting and delicious as I remembered!

As I said, I’ve made this soup many times vegetarian without any seafood and its simply delicious. If you do like shrimp, it adds just a hint of sweetness and substance to the dish. This soup offers amazing depth of flavor – the slight spice of the bell peppers, sweet carrots, hearty potatoes, plump shrimp, and just a touch of cream – all make it truly luxurious. This soup is actually quite simple, really, and could easily be made on a cold weeknight. As with all soups like this, no hard-fast recipe is needed, just estimate as you go and feel free to experiment.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile dice the potatoes into bite size pieces – you want to use a delicate skinned potato so you don’t have to peel them. Add the potatoes to the boiling chicken broth and reduce to medium heat.

Dice the onion, celery, and carrots. I slit the celery down the center and then dice and I just dice the carrot whole so I have pretty little orange circles. Add these veggies to a sauté pan over medium heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat, minced garlic, some salt and pepper, and sauté. Dice ½ a red and ½ a yellow pepper and add to the pan once the onions have become soft. You could add the vegetables right to the potatoes after chopping and skip this step for an easier recipe but I find sautéing them gives the best flavor.

Add all the veggies to the potatoes and allow to cook a few minutes and for the flavors to incorporate. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it reaches your desired texture. I like it to be about half blended so I see some flecks of color from the diced veggies. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can spoon out the desired amount and blend in a blender.

Add your desired amount of corn and a touch of cream for a luxurious texture. The cream can easily be left out if you’d rather not have the extra calories but it does add a beautiful silkiness to this soup.

Cut the shrimp in half and dispose of tails and add to the soup. It will take just minutes for the shrimp to cook – once they are pink, they’re done and the soup is ready. (Note: if using frozen shrimp you’ll need more cooking time.) Add chopped scallions and reserve some to serve on top as a garnish.

Ingredients

4 14oz. cans of low-sodium chicken broth
5 potatoes
1 yellow onion
4 ribs of celery
5 carrots
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 cups frozen corn
¼ cup heavy cream
½ Ib. shrimp
2 cloves garlic
4 scallions
olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile dice the potatoes into bite size pieces. Add the potatoes to the boiling chicken broth and reduce to medium heat.
  2. Dice the onion, celery, and carrots and sauté in a pan over medium heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat, minced garlic, some salt and pepper.
  3. Dice ½ a red and ½ a yellow pepper and add to the pan once the onions have become soft.
  4. Add all the veggies to the potatoes and allow to cook a few minutes and for the flavors to incorporate. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to desired texture.
  5. Add corn and cream.
  6. Cut the shrimp in half, dispose of tails and add to the soup. It will take just minutes for the shrimp to cook.
  7. Add chopped scallions and reserve some to serve on top as a garnish.

Update: See how I made this vegan with my vegan corn chowder recipe

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