dehydration situation

My mother bought me a dehydrator a few months ago as an advance Christmas present, either that or advance birthday present, I am about 2 years ahead on holiday gifts. Anyway I used it to make some weird raw crackers and things but then it seemed the least I could do would be to dehydrate some meals for my mom to take on her week-long kayak camping trip to the Georgian Bay in Canada. This is her first time camping out of the kayak and the ones we both have do not have very big hatches so space and weight were a concern, also because my mother likes to take a million tote bags of books on every trip so I can only imaging what she has with her right now.

I used the book “Another Fork in the Trail” by Laurie Ann March. I really like this book. For one thing, I find the cover extremely aesthetically pleasing. It makes me want to force Chris O to go hiking, stat. I have no personal need for dehydrated meals as I have made peace with my level of laziness as far as carrying heavy things while hiking… there was a time when I was buying all kinds of backpacking junk before I came to terms with my non-hardcore-ness and accepted that I would much rather car camp with my zillions of belongings. Then I stopped investing in tiny light things and started buying 25 lb cast iron dutch ovens and a tent the size of my current bedroom and whatnot. Anyway. I would say these recipes are good enough to make even at home. Also, they are nearly all vegan or veganizable so do not fear that you are going to be wasting your time with a bunch of cheesey vegetarian recipes.

I made a bunch of things and they were all pretty winnery. As my first foray into dehydrating cooked foods, I made the Roasted Sweet Potatoes. The potatoes are cubed and roasted with rosemary and garlic, and then food processed, and then spread onto sheets and dehydrated, and then you have a a big translucent sweet potato sheet, and I ground that into a powder in the vitamix.

 

 

 

 

Sweet potatoes are delicious as usual. It is suggested that you can use these as ravioli filling or toss them with broken lasagne noodles for deconstructed ravioli. I am totally going to do that at home next time I am carb-loading for a 5k.

Incidentally, I also dehydrated a raw sliced sweet potato, because it is supposed to make a delicious dog chew. Lenny loves cooked sweet potatoes but he would not even deign to touch his princess lips to the raw sweet potato chews. He is a huge disappointment in the area of homemade dog treats.

I made the Roasted Tomato Dip. This is roasted tomatoes and onions and then food processed with a can of beans and some other stuff. I had a crap ton of mini roma tomatoes from my CSA so I used those. This was pretty good. I was expecting more of a hummusy texture but it is nice and tomatoey. I wasn’t sure how I would eat this (it did not go that well with the super healthy fiberous crackers we had) so I just passed it on to my mother and let her worry about that. It would be a nice pasta sauce, probably.

In the area of entrees, I first made Mushrooms Burgundy. The difficulty here was that it calls for frozen pearl onions which do not exist at Wegmans. Well, they exist in a mixture with peas, or in a “Real Cream Sauce.” I will admit that I considered both picking them out of the peas and washing off the Real Cream Sauce and I would have gone the peas route if I had not just recently bought a giant bag of frozen peas. Instead I bought some fresh ones but they were not very small and cute, they were kind of monstrous.

I had some doubts about their ability to dehydrate, which I am prescient because they were totally not dehydrated at all the next morning, so I cut them into bits at that point, which was annoying because they had a creepy amphibian like consistency at that point, and then kept dehydrating for ten thousand more years, so that I am not totally sure this item will ever rehydrate itself, but, my mother has a camping stove, so she can boil it for a while.

Thirdly, or whatever number I am on, I made the Butter Bean and Kale Ragout. This was quite good and dehydrated/rehydrated easily. I added a minced red pepper because I had one. I tried it out with Bob’s Red Mill potato flakes, which are supposed to make instantaneous”fluffy” potatoes, but instead they made gooey goop, possibly this was a user error, but I passed them all on to my mother anyway. Everything tastes much better when you are starving in the wilderness so I am sure it will be fine.

I also dehydrated a bunch of cooked quinoa, which makes it “instant” so you just add boiling water to it, it works really well. So my mother is out camping right now and we will see how it went next week… probably she will not starve to death.

I also made a few non-dehydrated things, such as the Maple Walnuts, which are so delicious there is no picture since we ate them all, and Harvest Apple Granola, which is sweetened with boiled-down apple juice. I ate this all myself and I am going to try making more with less oil because I do not need backpacking amounts of calories and am on a granola binge lately.

Finally (finally!) I bought everything to make the Harvest Chili but then I ran out of time for dehydrating so I made it last weekend just for eating. I couldn’t find any reviews of this online and I was slightly apprehensive because it has no tomatoes and 3 cups of pumpkin. But it is totally my favorite.

I added some corn because I had a languishing ear of CSA corn. Also the ingredients were slightly off (high on pumpkin and low on beans) to use the amounts of things that were in the cans I bought. Next time I would double the beans and possibly a small can of tomatoes although that might not be great. Usually we end up throwing out leftovers (especially since I kicked the microwave out of the kitchen to make room for Excalibur) but I gobbled this all up. I am going to make it again for Labor Day car camping. It is great! However Dr. Oetker’s Corn Muffins mix is way too sweet.

In conclusion, Another Fork in the Trail is a very nice book and if the world of dehydrated backpacking food is completely mystifying to you as it was to me, then you should get it. There is also a lot of stuff about baking in backpacking ovens, if you are into that. Apparently you can also make a dry cookie mix and then fry cookies in a frying pan.

 

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13 lbs peaches

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We call these the Peaches of Hate since Chris started a huge fight with me at the pick-your-own. After he narrowly avoided having to walk home from Purcellville I made Chloe’s Kitchen pancakes with them. I wouldn’t make that recipe again. Too sweet and too weird using water instead of soy milk. Now the Peaches of Hate are overripening before our eyes which means boiling a huge pot of water during a heat wave. So hateful! Yet tasty and only $1/lb.

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raw cupcakes

Aaand for my next foray into expensive, laborious foods that turn out strange, it’s raw cupcakes!

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This is the cinnamon swirl cupcake with cream cheese frosting. I’m not exactly sure what I think. I think I’m getting to the end of my raw food rope and almost ready to eat gardein on white bread and coconut fudgicles for a while.

So, the “dough” is interesting. It’s mostly raw apples and coconut flour and honey (you can use agave if you are a real vegan/not lucky enough to have pet bees) and it is the texture sort of like a prechewed real cupcake. It is much lighter and spongier than most raw cakes. No nuts or dates! The frosting is tasty but it does taste like cashew and the cupcake is kind of grainy and coconutty so I don’t know. The flavor is nice. I think I would like it better as a cake with fruit on top. Maybe I do like it. I’m still not sure.

PS There are 3 vanilla beans in this one recipe so make sure you buy them on the Internet where they are 50 cents each and not at Wegmans where they are 8 dollars each. O man I am so rich in vanilla beans right now. But it is already half a thing of coconut flour which is expensive too. But, I only ate half a cupcake and I am done, there is no way I could do 3 in a row like I can with VCTOtW ones. They are dense! And you can keep them in the freezer for a long time.

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beets part ii

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Today’s dinner was: CSA beets, roasted yesterday, with red onion, fresh herbs & balsamic, and cashew-macadamia “quick cheese” from Raw Food for Everyone by Alissa Cohen, and CSA lettuce. The cheese is delicious but kind of weirdly sweet so the next thing I am going to do is make the fermented version.

Meanwhile, I thought I was doing so great using everything from my CSA on time (it is week 2 right now but I was very bad last year so we need to recognize small victories). But then I remembered I have a whole cabbage in the crisper (aka the drawer of neglect) from last week. Damn cabbage!

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beets it

So far I am loving my CSA this year, look at this bunch of beets! I love beets!!! Also NO scapes this week yay!! Hate scapes.

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constraints

I am trying to find new recipes to break our dinners (and lunch leftovers) out of their rut of the same 10 things over and over again, but it is quite hard to make everyone happy. Any of the brassicus family (oh Brussels spouts I miss you so much) are incompatible with breastfeeding, unless I want a crazy unhappy gassy baby, and also lentils, it seems. Alice and my mother in law are a little harder to please than me and Sweetie in the taste department, and I hate making a different dinner for them to make them happy. Our lovely neighbor from across the street whose husband died suddenly a few months ago has been eating dinner with us a few nights a week, and she doesn’t like to eat soy because she has thyroid problems and thinks she shouldn’t eat it (I do too but I don’t think it matters). And of course I am always trying to not cook with sugar or white flour. With all those things in mind, I’ve found one new recipe that met all these requirements, the falafel sliders from Chloe’s Kitchen. Sweetie actually made the patties since he is home on paternity leave, I was very impressed. We used cut in half whole wheat hot dog buns for the bun and they worked great. And the avacado hummus was really, really good. Everyone liked them! Hooray!!

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meal plan

So  a couple months ago Mr. O and I moved to a 1780 log house with a tiny galley kitchen, like one that one might find on a non-luxurious sailboat. Except I feel like a sailboat would have a nice propane stove and this house has a godawful electric one. The house makes up for this in other ways such as the 2 fireplaces, the Rip Van Winkle-esque historical neighborhood which is refreshingly free of Walgreenses and Harris Teeters, and the excellent yard where the dog now spends so much of his time that I am starting to take it as a personal insult.

Lenny prefers the outdoors to my company

Anyway nothing really happened in a culinary sense in the past 3 months besides that I discovered kelp noodles, spent a ton of money on kelp noodles, then ate too many kelp noodles at once one day and now never want to eat a kelp noodle again. Seriously they are amazing though. They look crazy, like transparent plastic but you just have to soak them in hot water and lemon juice until they get less crunchy and then you can make pad thai or cashew alfredo and the noodle part only has like 6 calories or something, it is crazy. One day I shall eat them again.

But so now I have a new eating project, which is the Weekly Meal Plan from Happy Herbivore. Basically it is a pdf containing 3 meals x 7 days plan with recipes and shopping list for 1200-calorie-per-day whole food vegan meals that you can then bump up with snacks or whatever to your desired caloric intake and it costs $5. Each meal is around 400 calories so you can swap them around easily which is nice. I have the perpetual and typical 5-10 lb I would like to lose but it is more that I feel like everything I cook tastes the same, I throw out tons of leftovers every week, and spend too much time thinking of things to cook and then buying ingredients and eating cereal instead and throwing out the ingredients. Although now I compost them in my excellent compost bin! But in general we could stand to shake things up a bit.

Also the meal plan is also supposed to save you a bunch of money but I don’t really understand that part of it. For example there is this infographic:

which seems to indicate that the monthly cost is $23 but the cost of what? I guess the graphic is comparing the cost of the meal plans to the cost of willy-nilly food buying? But it’s not like you don’t have to buy food with the meal plan. I guess it’s better not to think too hard about this aspect.

When I got this week’s plan my first instinct was the modify all the recipes and swap all the meals around. That defeats the purpose. So I suppressed that urge and decided to do it completely as written for this week and also force Chris O to do it with me. I did take out one day’s worth of meals because there are some things that are never going to happen and one of those things is me eating a microwaved potato with refried beans on it for breakfast (which might be ok but it does not sound like it). Also I am not taking the suggestion of making everything all at once ahead of time because I think appetizingness of foods takes a marked decline after day 4 or so. It turns out you can learn interesting things about yourself from the Happy Herbivore Meal Plan, such as how I learned that I think I know better than everyone else in the world and I don’t like being told what to do. Obviously you will enjoy this type of thing more if you do like being told what to do.

So back to the topic of financials, yesterday I went grocery shopping for all 18 meals x 2 people and I nearly had a head explosion at the grocery bill. Normally I go to the store multiple times per week so I guess the food price shock gets broken up into smaller chunks.

not $23

To be fair this is for 2 people and I bought some unrelated expensive junk like $17 worth of K cups. On the other hand I did not get a couple things, like grapes. A lot of the snacks are grapes but conventional grapes are the worst and they hardly ever have organic grapes and when they do they cost six million dollars. I think the snacks are only grapes though because it is easy to use a grape as a caloric unit when making the day come out to exactly 1200 calories. Also grapes are sugar bombs. So we will substitute other fruit. The moral of this paragraph is that I feel fairly ok about the cost aspect. Also that I’m not going to limit amounts fruits or vegetables because Dr. Fuhrman taught me not to.

Ok so we started last night with the first dinner recipe, which was Mexican Cabbage. I did not have high hopes because it sounds punishingly diet-like to have a big bowl of cabbage for dinner. BUT it was actually very good. It was sassy just like the recipe says. Also the recipe makes a TON. There is a whole serving left which is stressing me out a bit because we are on a schedule of meals so how are we going to eat it.

Ole, it is Mexican Cabbage

I added 1/2 an avocado mashed up with lime juice and cilantro for an extra 100-ish calories. Also I admit I sauteed the onion in a smidge of oil because I can’t get down with water-sauteeing even though Lindsay, Dr. Fuhrman, and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau all want me to. I will keep track of these things though in case I accidentally bring the 1200 calories per day up to six thousand or something.

Today is our first full day and I will let you know how that goes as long as our internet still works this evening. It is raining and that sometimes makes the internet break for a week or more. It is like olden times around here.

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Cookies!

I am posting this from my new iPhone that I had to get after I dropped my old iPhone on the concrete floor at work and the screen smashed into a frillion pieces. If this works there will be less excuses for ignoring the blog. Birthing an enormous baby will probably still be valid.

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Here are some gingerbread cookies I made for work. I used ikea forest creatures cookie cutters and the vegan lunchbox gingerbread recipe. I did not start having a christmas rage until the lumps in the icing kept clogging the piping tip but I kept having it until I put the remaining icing through a sieve. Next time I would double all the spices.

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fake ricotta, hot tofuturkey sandwich, gingerbrownies

Did you know, Tofutti makes fake ricotta now.

lasagna with vegan industrial complex cheese products

If you taste this product directly from the container, you will surely be sorry. It tastes like dry pastey congealed chemicals. However, it melts quite nicely into a lasagna and makes it super creamy. Also the weird taste becomes much more subtle. I put a little daiya in too so it was a creaminess explosion. In the world of aftertastes, I am more used to tofu ricotta and since that is healthier anyway, I would probably not get this again unless I was in a mood where I was too lazy to make tofu ricotta but not too lazy to make a lasagna.

I made my fake turkey yesterday. All went smoothly except the bottom edges got a little spongey, but I think that will cure itself when it gets its second baking with its bean curd skin. I stole some bits off the ends to make hot turkey sandwiches for dinner last night.

hot seitofuturkey sandwiches, canned organic cranberry sauce, KALE

It tends to hold together better after it has an overnight chilling but it was quite delicious. That gravy (Imagine vegetarian wild mushroom) is kind of blah but the fake turkey made it more delicious. I would only get it in a gravymergency. Or, it could be that it just needed salt.

I also made the Ginger Spice Brownies from 1000 Vegan Recipes. This cookbook is growing on me but from what I have read, the baked goods recipes are not entirely trustworthy and generally require some modifications. Ginger Spice Brownies were not an exception. I made them for the first time over the weekend and was not superpleased. It was basically just gingerbread with chocolate chips and it was very dry. But, it could be my fault because I ran out of molasses and substituted half honey (from my pet bees, silence the vegan alarums) and used whole wheat flour as is my wont when destroying the pleasantness of baked goods. So then I obtained more molasses and made them again with the following changes and now they are delicious, although they are still a bit too crumbley (maybe add prunes, or ener-g?).

– halve the baking powder and soda
– double the cocoa powder
– whole wheat pastry flour
– double the cinnamon
– reduce the allspice and add cloves instead
– bake in an 8×10 pan for 22 minutes or less

tasty yet crumbley Ginger Spice Brownies

Now I shall bake an elaborate cake before joining the rest of humanity on the festive highways. Happy thanksgiving!

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pre-thanksgiving

Oh my, two posts in one day (containing enough content for half of a real post)? It is feast or famine around here.

Did you know, it is almost thanksgiving? I am going to my aunt’s house in Pennsylvania for a vegan-besides-the-turkey thanksgiving. I am in charge of:

the tofuturkey
a cake

I might also make Mama Pea’s cornbread stuffing with tempeh bacon and portabellas and cherries. I made it a couple weeks ago as a test and it was quite good, although would have been better with gravy. I will add chestnuts and celery if I make it for real. Also I will shell out the $1.50 extra for the Lightlife tempeh bacon strips instead of torturing myself making my own. But there will already be vegan regular-bread dressing so it might be too much dressings. I used the basic cornbread recipe from 1000 Vegan Recipes, which is good with white whole wheat flour and is now my go-to cornbread recipe.

tester stuffing, B-sprouts, sweet taters

My tofuturkey of choice is Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Soy and Seitan Turkey. I have made it four times, and it is great. It does take a lot of baking, but it is like a tenderer, moister, less rubbery tofurkey. This time I am going to try putting the skin on it, which I have never done before.

beancurd sheets

Basically you soften these beancurd sheets, which are the dry skin peeled off the top of soymilk vats or something, and wrap them around the tofuturkey and if you soak them too long they dissolve. Sounds head-explosion-inducing. I noticed when I got home that my package of beancurd skins expired in August of 2010. I’m just going to assume that doesn’t matter.

The cake I plan to make is also from Bryanna Clark Grogan: Pumpkin Tunnel Cake with Lemon-Ginger Cream-Cheeze Filling, Caramel Sauce & Toasted Pecans. I have not tested this due to laziness / desire not to eat a whole tester cake and become enormously fat right before Thanksgiving. I plan to make it Wednesday morning right before leaving town so that should be a fun head explosion too!

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