Ms Betterhome

Slow cooker seitan pot roast experiment
May 30, 2012, 1:20 am
Filed under: budgeting, food, learning, vegan eating | Tags: ,

I was thumbing through Robin Robertson’s Vegan on The Cheap, and her Seitan Pot Roast caught my eye. I’ve made seitan by the ‘boiling on the stove’ method before, and I found it a bit fussy. I have also made oven baked and steamed seitan sausages, but they have a very dense texture, and are less chewy than ‘classic’ seitan. The seeming ease of a slow cooker ‘roast’ intriqued me. However…

I am a fan of seitan, but the omnivorous MrB is more ambivalent. Still, we had all the ingredients, so I thought I’d give it a try (there’s a slightly less ‘on the cheap’ variation of the recipe here).

The dish only took 10 minutes to put together. I made a few substitutions – fresh thyme from our garden instead of dried, sweet potato rather than carrots, crushed fresh garlic instead of garlic powder,  flaked chillis instead of pepper, and a tablespoon of barbeque sauce instead of ketchup. I have a smaller slow cooker, so I used a quarter cup less vital wheat gluten flour than recommended, and fewer veggies than the large cooker version.

I also cooked it for the recommended 8 hours, but could have gotten away with 6 or 7, I think – my slow cooker is pretty warm, even on ‘low’.

The veggies were a bit mushy at the end, but I solved that by tipping them into a bowl and mashing them with a little soy milk instead of presenting them whole. I also tipped the cooking juices and beautifully soft and caramelised onion slices into a pan, added a little red wine, reduced them a touch, and served them as a gravy over the seitan slices. Even with the extra steps at the end (including throwing together a salad), the whole process was very easy, and it’s definitely a dish I’ll cook again.

MrB approved (though he will probably never request seitan, he is willing to eat this dish again), and even though we ate all the veggies, there was plenty of leftover seitan for my lunch the following day, and even more for the freezer.

The verdict – this was a tasty, simple, high protein ‘meat and potatoes vegan’ winter dinner with a short prep time.  Robertson estimates the ‘on the cheap’ version is about a dollar a serve, & I think our dinner would have come in under $2 (especially as I used our home grown herbs and lettuce). I declare the experiment a success, and I’ll certainly cook it again.


Slow cooker blackbean chilli (vegan)
May 6, 2012, 11:36 pm
Filed under: food, vegan eating | Tags: ,

I have been making chilli with dried black beans ( aka black turtle beans) for a few years. The beans are not common in Sydney, so I used to buy 5 kilo bags from the Fiji Market in Newtown whenever I spotted them. Now we no longer live in Newtown, my spotting opportunities are limited, so I buy them online from Honest To Goodness ( again, in 5 kilo bags).

Black beans have a great, earthy flavour, and they’re quite high in protein ( around 14 grams per cup). I used to make the chilli in 3 stage process, that involved soaking overnight, precooking the beans, then cooking again with veggies & seasonings. However, this process was a bit fussy, and often led to slightly runny chilli, because the beans were so well hydrated when they went into the slowcookerfor the last time ( slow cookers trap condensation, so you often get extra liquid in the meal as a result).

Emboldened by an experiment with slow cooker baked beans that used pre-soaked but not pre cooked Cannellini beans, I decided to cut the precook stage from my chilli recipe. It was a great success, and the process will be simpler forever more.

My new recipe (based on the approximate amounts I use in my smaller slow cooker) is:

Pre soak about 2 cups of dried blackbeans overnight or longer

Add drained, soaked beans to the slow cooker with:

2 onions, 4 cloves of garlic and one chopped red chilli, sautéed in olive oil

One chopped red capsicum ( no need to pre cook)

One tin chopped tomatoes

Veggie stock to cover bean/veg mixture by about 2 cm

Seasonings to taste: I used a harrissa spice mix and about a teaspoonoff cumin seed. Sometimes I add smoked paprika and/or dried oregano

Optional: a 2-3 cm square of  kombu sea vegetable. This is an old macrobiotic trick for cooking beans. It adds minerals and flavour to the broth, and increases digestibility (ie reduces farting).

cook on low for at least 10 hours.

I freeze in 200 gram portions, and we get about 4-5 taco dinners for 2 out of this amount… It makes about 2 litres of chilli in my 3 litre slow cooker.

What I’m up to…

Well, I’m not doing the Independence Days Challenge this year. Work has already gotten crazy, and I’m trying to really take care of myself, so it’s first things first!

My personal priorities right now are:

Home & relationships I have a lot of travel this year, and I want to devote energy to MrB and our home & garden. That means having fun together, but also staying mindful of the household jobs that really niggle at him. I like Gala Darling’s take on keeping thing’s fresh.

Work This year I want to thrive, not just survive! This means planning ahead to manage my projects well, and making sure I delegate when I can. I currently have 4 staff, 2 who are pretty autonomous, another 2 who really only work on my projects… So I have to stay in a good place to supervise them properly and delegate (not dump) tasks appropriately. Plus I need to be in a good place to encourage and mentor them, so they can develop according to their own interests. That means preventing overwhelm by staying positive & forward looking, and focusing on eating well, and getting enough sleep & exercise.

Exercise I do 30 mins of walking most days, taking the dog for a stroll. I’ve added 3 x 20-40 minutes swimming or gym cardio per week, plus an additional 1-2 hours a week of yoga and pilates (using Gaim DVDs) , and at least a 1/2 an hour of dancing. I’ll be going to a day club to dance this afternoon. When I do it at home, I tend to do Gabrielle Roth’s Wave DVDs. I have her 3 DVD set – the Power Wave is my favourite. I’ve also started doing some arm work with light hand weights. I’m starting with 1.5 kilos, as my upper body strength is pretty ordinary.

Food I used the myfitnesspal app to keep a food & exercise diary for 6 weeks. I’ve stopped now, as I think I’ve learned appropriate portion sizes pretty well now… I’ll start again if I feel like I’m backsliding. I’m generally eating vegan with attention to getting some protein in all meals; minimising my intake of oil & processed foods (but getting plenty of plant fats in whole nuts & seeds); minimising flour products; and avoiding anything with added sugars, and limiting fruit to the equivalent of two small pieces a day.

According to the scales I didn’t lose kilos in the first 6 weeks, but my body has changed shape dramatically, and I’m fitting pants I haven’t worn for a while, so things are definately happening. I feel a lot stronger, and it’s much easier to climb stairs & hills.

Having said I’m not doing Independence Days, the truth is, we are still gardening, harvesting, cooking at home and buying in bulk. This week I did a big stockup on organic, fair trade coffee, bulk rice (from Honest to Goodness), and tinned tomatoes & beans (from Aldi).

Revisiting the FatFree Vegan blog
February 5, 2012, 6:03 am
Filed under: food, vegan eating | Tags: ,

It’s been a while since I visited Susan Voisin’s blog, but I’ve been browsing it a lot lately, as I’m trying to lose a couple of kilos. I’ve been tracking my food & exercise using the myfitnesspal app for about 3 weeks, and while I haven’t actually weighed myself yet, I am feeling stronger & a bit leaner, and I’ve lost a couple of centimetres from my hips & waist. Last week, though, there were a few days where I really over-snacked, and I’d like to cut back on that.

I discovered a couple of good tips on Susan’s blog; including her recommendation to make up a huge pot of veggie soup for snacking. I love soup, and we’re having a mild, wet summer, so there are lots of days where a cup of soup makes a good alternative to veggie sticks.

The other new feature on the site (which has probably been there a while, but is new to me), is the ‘Recipe Box’ function, where I can favourite the recipes I like while I’m browsing. So far the chickpea crackers and low fat version of Annie’s Goddess Dressing (a delicious, but very rich dressing, not actually sold here in Australia) are my faves.

Plans for this week
January 22, 2012, 2:44 am
Filed under: Menu planning, vegan eating | Tags: , ,

We have a public holiday on Thursday, and my niece and nephew re sleeping over on Friday, so this week’s plan is a little different than usual.

Sunday- Choose your own adventure night
Monday- Roast veggie wraps ( our version of homemade falafel rolls with added veggies)
Tuesday- rice paper wraps
Wednesday- lentil patties with roast veg & salad
Thursday- Moosewood sweet potato & seitan ‘roti’ ( we use mountain bread & homemade seitan for this).
Friday- home-made pizza on Lebanese bread
Saturday – veggie curry, dal & rice

Smoothies, toast, hummus & tomato

Mon- Wed Moroccan spiced roast veg & tempeh salad for me, Chili con carne & rice for Mr B.

And also on the food front – I’ve downloaded a free app called myfitnesspal to track my food & exercise. It’s very easy to use, and I’ve been able to add my own food if whatever I’m eating isn’t in the database. It’s been very good motivation for keeping my booze consumption low (a glass of white wine is 175 cals!), and staying active.

Christmas Eve, 2011
December 24, 2011, 9:02 am
Filed under: food, vegan eating | Tags: ,

I had my surgery in early December, and while I’m not 100% fit yet, I must say, I’m feeling pretty good!

MrB and I wrapped all the presents today, and I made 2 cups of maple walnuts to go with the Christmas Pudding Vodka gifts. They were a little sticky (the humidity is pretty high), but they look very cute in recycled bottles, and they will taste good.

The Christmas Pudding Vodka would have benefitted from an extra stage of filtering before it went into the final bottles (just for appearances) – I will certainly remember the extra step for next year. We’ve already given away one bottle and the recipients were *thrilled*. I’ll start hunting down little bottles & cheap vodka early in the year next year.

I found a little flip top bottle in St Vinnies yesterday, so have filled it with maple syrup, and made up a batch of bulk gluten free pancake mix for our neighbor, who has ceoliac disease. I was going to give her a boozy gift, but given she has a toddler, I thought a ‘just add water’ meal might be appreciated, too.

I’m just starting phase one of the ‘tofurky’ for my family Christmas lunch tomorrow. I’ve made a quinoa pilaf for the stuffing, I’ll stir in chopped coriander, nuts and dried fruit, tomorrow before I roast it.

The next step is blending a block of firm tofu with some veggie stock, nutritional yeast and smoked paprika, then letting it drain in a colander overnight. In the morning I’ll scoop out the centre, add the stuffing, and cover with the extra tofu. Then the whole lot needs to be carefully transferred to a baking tray. Or that’s the plan, anyway. I’ve already made a pomegranate molasses and walnut sauce for it… I may or may not add a glaze as well.

If all goes well, I’ll post a photo tomorrow!

Chickpea flour egg replacer
October 14, 2011, 4:07 am
Filed under: budgeting, food, vegan eating | Tags: , ,

A couple of months ago I bought 5 kg of chickpea flour from the magnificent Fiji Market in Newtown, source of all my great bulk legume purchases. I love chickpea flour, but I tend to use it in just a couple of recipes (specifically pizza bases, & homemade seitan chorizo), and I began to suspect I had overdone it with the bulk-buying thing. However, a bit of websearching revealed this fabulous tip – chickpea flour can be used as an egg replacer.

Since I was out of soy flour, and hadn’t yet opened the box of commercial egg replacer I had on standby, I decided to try chickpea flour in an experimental batch of pancakes. The results were great, so the next experiment was a batch of savoury muffins – superb. It adds a little extra protein golden colour, & an earthy undertone to dishes that I really like. And it makes gluten free, soy free, egg free baking much easier (if you’re into that sort of thing). And it’s cheap! So yes, three cheers for chickpea flour, a revitalised pantry staple.