Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vegan Frugality: How to be a Cheap Vegan (basically a subject close to my heart)

I know in the past I have raved about The Cheap Vegan Zine (which is sadly out of print) and from time to time I share budget or frugal friendly tips. The reason for this is both a passion for great whole foods being accessible and attainable for everyone but also from the very real economical situation I grew up in and find myself in today. Nova Scotia is one of the worst places for food affordability and quite often I see Stephanie (of Cheap Vegan Zine Fames) and my shared bane faux frugal tips. Mock money saving ideas that cost more then they save, or cheap meal plan ideas for 1$ a day which is frankly not attainable for many people due to local food prices, other economic factors like shift work (hours available for cooking), access to transportation/printers/internet and other resources that factor into comparison shopping and other things like initial disposable income or a well stocked pantry (not everyone has a well stocked pantry to start with or enough $$ up front to buy the much cheaper 10 kl bag of flour or other bulk items).

But enough about the politics of food and affordable living, onto the real money saving and cutting down on food waste stuff. One of the best tips from The Cheap Vegan Zine is a simple one: Recycle your Leftovers! Something I have talked about before and other blogs has tackled (perhaps accidentally). This serves a few purposes: 1) cuts down on food waste 2) saves you time and often money by using something you've already made to make something new 3) saves you from eating the same damn thing for weeks on end. Which when your cooking for a smaller crowd can be helpful because honestly who wants to make 1/2 recipe of chili or w/e just because you live alone, no one that's who.

I loved the ideas given for re-purposing soups or stews into casseroles then into veggie burgers and other tips.But I always wished there were more examples given, so I present you with some stuff I have been cooking lately which you may or may not have already seen on Instagram!

Inspired by this post of Mofo's past from Vegan Sparklers : Cauliflower Tandoori Lettuce Wraps.
I made a modified version making my own Vegan Tandoori paste using Coconut Yogurt & spices I had it is loosely based on this but with fresh ginger, added the zest of the lime and red pepper flakes.

The Finished Product!

Looks impressive, but was a bit bland/mild for my taste. So the next day before moving onto the lettuce wraps I basted the cauliflower directly with my homemade rub and baked it again in the oven (which was better but got to be a bit bitter in areas where the spices were thickly applied).

The Vegan Sparkles post already had one step of recycling leftovers built in, roasted cauliflower steaks, rice and cucumber raita for diner. Then lunches or dinners later using all  last the diner components w/tomato to make lettuce wraps. Same meal with a different application and super fast because you already made it last night.

I did mine a bit differently because white rice is nutritional cardboard and I wanted more veggies I made a vegan turmeric rice w/peas but used it the same. I also steamed some carrots and sauteed in vegan butter and added hot sauce to my wraps because I found the spice was a bit lacking and it didn't need the raita otherwise.

I took this concept yet one step further this afternoon by throwing the whole dutch oven with the roasted cauliflower head leftovers onto the stove with some additional water, 2 chopped carrots and 1 diced potato. I poured the water over the cauliflower to rinse off the spices into the bottom and build a sauce for the curry, put the lid on to let the vegetables steam/boil (position the cauliflower on top if you can!). And in a separate pan I sauteed an onion and 2 garlic cloves with salt and pepper and added them on top once they were cooked. Because the cauliflower had been a bit better on my second bake attempt (likely from me applying too much paste!) I added salt and a bit of sugar to the curry as it cooked until the bitterness subsided. The water and other vegetables helped too. You can also curb bitterness with coconut milk or other vegan dairy products.

Cooking it down for about an hour with the lid partial ajar adding more water or stirring as needed. Once the liquid was reduced and the veggies were cooked I added a sprinkle or Vegan Butter and Flour to build up the gravy, cooked until it thickened and voila meal 3 Vegetable curry simply cut the cauliflower into chunks and serve with leftover rice and more cucumber raita.

You could easily make this curry with any vegetables or bulk it up with beans or tofu/tempeh/seitan/tvp leftover you have hanging around. Or if you prefer a soup simply add additional water or broth  (tasting for seasoning) to thin it out. Even a Dahl style dish with lentils. This curry is a bit more of a Japanese style with the diluted spices, added salt, and roux thickened sauce. If you have access to it you could also bulk it up with coconut milk (or add the coconut milk and blend it into a bisque), since coconut milk is a bit more $$ I stuck with the water.

1 dish, 3 meals which if I had any more left I could also add oats and blend the curry into a burger which might still happen. OR blend the curry/vegetables into a thick sauce/gravy for tofu/tempeh/seitan or other dishes. This is also a good tip if you have picky eaters who don't like vegetables you can still get the nutrients. If you do go the blended sauce (or pureed soup route) and there is still too much for you to eat (or you get sick of curry style dishes) freeze the sauce/soup into ice cube trays and use this recycled curry as a flavour booster or starter for your next meals. Once frozen you can pop the curry ice cubes into a freezer bag and you have your own veggie fueled curry paste (flavour & nutrients!).

Bonus Points: Since I am not a huge fan of Vegan Yogurt I added the rest to my homemade tandoori paste and readjusted the spices stirred it together and tossed it into the freezer for future use (marinating tofu or tempeh, as a rub or curry/soup base).

I also took the bag of marinade (since it used a whole fricken expensive can of coconut milk!) and threw that in the freezer. You can reuse most marinades a few times before they need to be thrown out and freezing can help prolong their life. Or take a tip from Isa's VWAV and use leftover marinades to build sauces, gravies, dressings, or soups/stews. In fact I could have defrosted the leftover marinade to bulk up my curry but I really want to try it out on tofu.

Possibilities are endless and you just have to experiment. Sometimes even when things don't turn out or live up to your expectations you can still turn them around into something you'll enjoy.

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