Frugal and Healthy Cooking Alternatives…..Vegan Style

IMG_5532My family and I are ‘Part-Time Vegans’. What is a ‘Part-Time Vegan’? Well, its a person who loves meat and animal products, but is very aware of the health benefits of abstaining from animal products, so they eat from both worlds. As a mom and wife, I would like to see my family become completely vegan, but I am a realist…..75% vegan is about as close as I am going to get with my husband and kiddies!

It started two January’s ago when I was searching Netflix Streaming for something to watch. Pickin’s are slimmer for a Christian family who ‘watches what they watch’ so to speak, so I often search for documentaries. On this particular night, I ran across one entitled “Forks Over Knives”. I loved the film so much, that I asked my husband to watch it with me the following evening. Then, I made my kids watch it during health class. When I realized that it was stuck in my head with no way of getting back out again, I ordered the book online. That lead to tons of research and eventually a whole new lifestyle. Check it out if you get a chance, it really is an eye-opener.

I won’t bore you with the details, instead I will fast forward a year and a half and give you a few of the fruits of my labor! Aren’t I nice? The following tips and recipes will go MOSTLY unnoticed by your family members (except for the ‘Wow, this is awesome!’ exclamations). If you don’t tell them what they are eating, they will never know. You will, and you can give yourself a mental high-five for being so clever while keeping your family healthy. I said MOSTLY earlier because the soup recipes will tip them off that there are vegetables in there…..yet, they taste amazing, even to a meat lover. Here are a few things to get you started:

NUTRITIONAL YEAST: Nutritional Yeast is very….well….Nutritional 🙂 Without all of the scientific explanations, let me just say that it is overall goodness! I order mine on the internet because it is so much cheaper than purchasing it locally at the health food store. The brand I use is KAL Nutritional Yeast Flakes….just make sure that you are buying nutritional yeast (usually in flakes) and not a rising yeast that you use for bread and such. Here is how to get it into your families bellies:

Vegan Vegetable Bouillon Fixin's

Vegan Vegetable Bouillon Fixin’s

Vegetable Bouillon. This is an awesome recipe that will flavor your dishes better than chicken or beef bouillon….that’s a challenge and a promise! It is very cheap, loaded with veggies, and is a great way to get nutritional yeast into your diet. It is adapted from the cookbook “The Vegan Slow Cooker” by Kathy Hester.

This recipe makes about a one month supply for a family of (6).

Equipment needed: crock pot, food processor, sharp knife, cutting board, (3) sturdy ice cube trays, and (2) large freezer Zip-Locks.

Ingredients:
(3) large onions, peeled and roughly cut
(6) medium size carrots, peeled and roughly cut
(6) ribs of celery, stems removed and roughly cut
(3) teaspoons dried thyme
(3) teaspoons of dried parsley
(2) teaspoons salt
(1.5) teaspoons pepper
(1.5) cups nutritional yeast flakes
(1.5) cups water

In a food processor, process onions THEN carrots THEN celery (do not attempt to process all of them at once). Empty each vegetable into your crock pot after processing each vegetable into a pulp.

Add remaining ingredients into the crock pot and stir to combine.

Simmer in crock pot for 8 hours, stirring every hour or so (enjoy the absolutely delicious aroma that fills your home, but be prepared to disappoint the children when you have to tell them that it’s not dinner that’s cooking, but just bouillon!)

Cool, then spoon into ice cube trays (generously, but not over the edge of each cube section).

Place trays into freezer over night. The next morning, crack the cubes into the freezer Zip-Locks and return to the freezer. Wash out ice cube trays, and put aside and use ONLY for your bouillon each month, otherwise your ice will taste of the bouillon.

To Use: (2) frozen bouillon cubes = 1 meat bouillon cube. Pretty simple, eh? You can use them in any recipes that call for bouillon, and the taste is amazing….plus there is no cholesterol.

SPLIT PEAS: Split peas have amazing properties that help with your heart and weight. These tiny little green dots have zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, vitamins B and K, and many more. They slow down sugar absorption in your blood, helping with not only the prevention of diabetes, but also with managing diabetes if you already have it. The fiber in the peas can also lower your total and bad LDL cholesterol by absorbing it and moving it from your body. Pretty mighty stuff for something so small. Add the health benefits of carrots and other veggies into split pea soup, and you have a bowlful of awesomeness to feed your family. Best part of the recipe below? Let’s see….it has no added fat, no meat or meat products, is fairly easy to make, is VERY cheap, is VERY filling, and tastes like mashed potatoes so everyone in your whole family will like it! The only downside (if you have finicky eaters)…it looks like creamy green mud :-).

Vegan Split Pea Soup Fixin's

Vegan Split Pea Soup Fixin’s

Split Pea Soup. My teens and toddlers alike scarf this down! This recipe is adapted from ‘Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease’ by Caldwell B. Esselstyn (which is a must read by the way!)

This will feed a family of (6) with a bowl or two left over.

Equipment Needed: Large Stockpot with lid, blender, sharp knife, cutting board, and a ladle.

Ingredients:
(3) cups dry split peas
(12) cups water, divided
(1) bay leaf
(1) teaspoon dry mustard
(1) large onion, chopped
(3) ribs of celery, stems removed and chopped
(5) cloves of garlic, minced
(3) medium carrots, peeled and chopped
(5) small potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
(1) teaspoon of pepper
(1) tablespoon of salt

Put peas, (8) cups of water, bay leaf and mustard into large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then cut back to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Add (4) cups of water, plus all other ingredients, and boil on medium for about 45 minutes to an hour (until all veggies are soft). Stir OFTEN, scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking. Cut back on your heat if it starts to stick too bad towards the end of cooking. You can add more water if soup seems too thick.

Remove bay leaf. Add (1) to (2) ladlefuls ONLY* to blender, puree until smooth, and then transfer to a large serving bowl. Repeat until all soup has been pureed. Stir, and check for seasoning. Try not to add too much salt to keep your sodium down. Serve immediately.

My sister, who is not vegan nor does she care to be, likes to add a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese to her soup when I am serving this for dinner. Either way, enjoy!

* IMPORTANT!!!! Do NOT attempt to puree more than one to two ladlefuls at a time! If you overfill your blender, the force from the heat will blow the top off of the blender, and splatter scalding soup onto you and everything around you (even if you are holding the top of the blender)! Try just one ladleful until you get the hang of it. Make sure that you are holding the blender lid down firmly.

BLACK BEANS AND TOMATOES: Beans in general, or legumes as they are also called, are beneficial in the form of fiber and protein. They are cheap, they taste great by themselves, or in soups and casseroles. While they are definitely a staple for vegan’s and meat-eater’s alike, there are a few drawbacks….but the good definitely outweighs the bad here. First of all, beans are not a complete protein. In order for our bodies to process them efficiently, and to get all of the health benefits as a protein, we must combine them with something else….brown rice, corn, nuts, seeds, or wheat. Easy-peasy…..just always combine beans with rice, corn, bread, tortillas, or corn chips. Problem solved. The other problem with beans for some people is gas. It is actually a big problem for the whole family, but we won’t get graphic here…..just take some Beano, and all will be safe from the noxious fumes :-).

Next on the list is tomatoes. These delicious orbs of a fiery hue are my absolute favorite. In the summer, my husband and I exist on tomato sandwiches. Beautiful, fresh from our garden, thin slices of tomatoes on lightly toasted wheat bread with a bit of regular or vegan mayonnaise…..and we are in Heaven! For all other times, they are canned, and that’s ok too. They have vitamins C, A, and B6, folate, niacin, iron, calcium and fiber. They help to ward off cancer by a substance called lycopene (cooked tomatoes release even more lycopene). They also help prevent heart disease and inflammation. Did I mention that they taste great too!

Vegan Black Bean Soup Fixin's

Vegan Black Bean Soup Fixin’s

Black Bean Soup: Below is a recipe that combines these two super foods, and will please the family as well. There is no added fat to this soup, making it great for watching the waistline, nor are there any animal products. It does require wine, but the alcohol is burned off during cooking. Make sure to serve this soup with corn chips (I prefer Baked Tostitoes) to make it a meal with complete protein. The recipe is adapted from “Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food” by Alicia C. Simpson.

This will feed a family of (6) with usually no leftovers.

Equipment needed: Large soup pot, sharp knife, cutting board.

Ingredients:
white cooking wine
(1) large onion, minced
(1) garlic clove, minced
(2) 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
(1) 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes with juice
(4) cups water
(8) vegetable bouillon cubes (the ones that you made above!) OR (4) store-bought vegetable bouillon cubes
(1) bay leaf
(1) teaspoon ground cumin
(2) teaspoons salt (or to taste)
(1/4) teaspoon pepper
(1/2) teaspoon cayenne pepper (we like really spicy, cut back if you do not like really spicy or omit altogether)

Cook onions and garlic in white wine until soft. Start off with 1/4 cup of white wine, adding more as needed.

Stir in all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium to medium-low, and simmer for about an hour, allowing flavors to blend.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream if you prefer, or all by itself for a no-meat-product-meal. Either way, make sure to eat your corn chips!

Small little changes to your diet can add up to huge health benefits. These are my favorites, what are yours?

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4 responses to “Frugal and Healthy Cooking Alternatives…..Vegan Style

  1. Wow, the boulion recipe is amazing!!! I am absolutely going to try it this week. Also the soups look fantastic. This is my first time on your blog. But from what I see here, I assure you , I will be back….many, many more times. Thanks again!!! Irena.

  2. Pingback: Julia Child Roasted Chicken with Buttered Potatoes and Green Beans……..Made Easier for the Large Family | Raising Servants of Christ·

  3. Pingback: Sweet Potato Stew (Vegan) with Fudge Marble Pound Cake……..Cheap, Delicious, & Serves 12 | Raising Servants of Christ·

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