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Vegetarian Recipes When You Have No Power

October 27, 2012 By: Megabeth Category: Article, Main Dishes

With Hurricane Sandy (aka “Frankenstorm”) about to rumble up the east coast, we’re all preparing to not have power for a few days. That means running to the store and making sure you have everything you need to stay safe, warm and fed. As far as food is concerned, if you can boil water, you can still have a pretty good vegetarian meal.

I highly recommend the Jet Boil as the must-have camping accessory and the hero of all power outages. They work with a little propane canister and heat up in a flash. Like scary fast. If you’re cooking something besides water, keep an eye on the food as it will cook faster than you think. Of course, there are lots of makes and models of camping pots and stoves, but we’ve found that the Jet Boils that we have don’t take up a lot of room and are light to carry when camping.

If you have access to a grill, you can boil water there, too. Just make sure the handle of whatever you are using to boil the water in won’t melt from the heat.

When you’re in the dark, the last thing you probably want to do is chop vegetables or wash a lot of dishes so I’ve come up with a few quick recipes that don’t require a lot of prep…or cleanup.

Vegetarian Pasta Puttanesca – Bring water to boil on high setting. Add pasta and cook per package directions lowering heat so you don’t boil over. Make sure to stir pasta occasionally so it doesn’t get stuck on the bottom. Drain. Add some capers, black olives, chopped garlic or garlic powder, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

Couscous – Ratio of water to couscous is 2-to-1. Bring water and couscous to a boil, turn off heat, cover and let sit for about five minutes. Add some olive oil, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. Or, you can also add a vegetarian bouillon cube for extra flavor.

Lentils – Ratio of water to lentils is 4-to-1. Add lentils and dried spices (garlic, onion, cumin, curry, turmeric, parsley – to taste) to pot, add water and bring it to a boil. Turn flame down to it’s lowest setting and let simmer until lentils are fully cooked about 15 – 20 minutes depending on amount of lentils you are cooking. Stir occasionally. Serve with pita bread.

Rice – I’m usually not an advocate of minute rice, but I do have some on hand for power outages and camping trips. It takes less propane to cook the rice than regular rice. Instant rice has a one-to-one ratio. Boil water, add rice, turn off heat, cover, and let simmer for about five minutes. If you buy the rice in a little bag, it takes longer to cook about 8 to 10 minutes versus about five minutes for the loose rice. There is also instant brown rice available that’s a little healthier.

Oatmeal – make instant oatmeal be your breakfast friend. Another thing to keep easily in the back of your cabinet when you have no power. Heat your water for tea or coffee and oatmeal at the same time. Add some dried fruit and some agave syrup for a little extra flavor.

Ramen noodles – these notoriously pack a sodium punch. But, there are many brands out there that aren’t so sodium filled and there are also plenty of  vegetarian choices. Ramen noodles are easy to make, just boil the water, follow package instructions and can have some hot noodley goodness. These also can be pushed to the back of the cabinet as they have a super-long shelf life.

Tasty Bite (aka Foods in a Pouch) – I am an enormous fan of Tasty Bite products. If you immerse the unopened pouches in boiling water, the contents will heat up. If your Jet Boil pot is not large enough for the pouch, then place the pouch in a larger pot, heat water to boiling in the jet boil, then pour the water into the larger pot. Add more hot water until the contents are heated through. (Frequently squish around the contents inside the pouch to distribute the heat.)

Dehydrated camping foods – I am planning on doing a larger review of dehydrated camping meals, in the meantime, we have had good luck with the vegetarian entrees Backpacker’s Pantry makes. They have everything from breakfast, dinner and desserts. Just add boiling water, reseal and let it sit. These products are easily found at stores that sell camping equipment.

And, with all of these recipes, stay safe when the power is out. Don’t leave the Jet Boil unattended while you are cooking. And, remember, it gets very hot so be very careful!

My best wishes and thoughts to all my dear Veggin’ readers out there about to get hit with this seemingly powerful and devastating storm.

The Banana and the “Clearly Fresh Bag” Experiment

August 26, 2012 By: Megabeth Category: Article, Product Review

As a vegetarian household, we naturally tend to keep around a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables around the kitchen. I’ll admit, though, I’ve been known to be wooed by the selection at the farmers market and then not get around to using the produce before it goes bad. I truly need the help to extend the life of vegetables so it doesn’t all go to waste. Apparently, I’m not alone. It has recently been reported that up to 40% of food is wasted and thrown away by Americans.

I have really been working on my produce over-purchasing habits so I don’t buy too much. (I think sometimes I have more motivation to cook when I’m at the store, but then life gets in the way.)  Of course, the folks in the “storage technology field” have put their heads together and figured out ways to extend the life of vegetables sitting on your counter or in your fridge. So, I have used everything from the little disks that you put in your vegetable to the life extending zip-top bags. And, from what I can tell, they do work.

Several months ago, I received some samples of these produce extending bags from the kind folks at Clearly Fresh Bags.

These bags have some sort of “BreatheWay” technology that pushes the carbon dioxide out while keeping the right level of oxygen in. That balance helps fruits and veggies last a little longer.

Armed with these bags, I wanted to figure out if they really worked. So, I channeled my inner 7th grader and came up with the classic science project to test the bags: “Will a Banana Last Longer in a Clearly Fresh Bag or Outside of It?”

I selected two bananas of the same ripeness. Placed one in the bag and one was just left to the elements next to the bag. I used the gallon sized bag which could comfortably fit a bunch of bananas and not just one.

And then I let the march of time go on…

And, on…

You can see the difference, even starting at day four, that the banana in the bag had fewer brown spots on the outside. By day seven, that became even more noticeable.

But, what you can’t see in the picture above is that the bagged banana grew a little fuzzy hairdo on the top of the stem. Um, ew. Fortunately, it didn’t make it down to the fruity part, so, luckily, the taste test could go on as planned. (I am nothing but brave for my dear readers, but not going to chance it with fuzzy fuzzy mold bits…)

I peeled the skin and noticed that the insides looked almost the same. Both had slight discoloring and were a little mushy to the touch in a few areas. But, after biting into each, the biggest different was that the bagged banana did taste a lot fresher than the un-bagged banana.

Do these bags work better than other brands? I can’t really say. But, in this particular experiment, they did work to keep the banana fresher than the banana that stayed outside the bag. I’ve been able to keep lettuce, beans, strawberrys and broccoli a little longer in unscientific experiments using the bags. So, I can say that at $3.99 for 10 re-useable bags, they really are not much of an investment to keep your fruit and veg around a little longer. And, perhaps, with products like these, we all can work towards throwing out less food.



Book Review: Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide

April 15, 2012 By: Megabeth Category: Article, Product Review

I’m not a hard-core athlete by any means, but I do bike a lot and a few months back I started running again more seriously. So, it’s time to also shape up my nutrition, too. There are plenty of nutritional supplements, gels, and foods that are vegan. But, what about the rest of the day? How does a vegan or vegetarian get enough nutrients to perform well in our sport of choice?

In comes Brendan Brazier, a professional athlete and vegan. His book, Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life outlines what to eat and how to eat to help maintain lean muscle, help reduce body fat, improve sleep quality among other healthful benefits.

Thrive is an easy yet informative read. Brazier is conversational in tone and does not talk down to the reader nor does he become preachy. Instead, he educates the reader to make good choices in their diets and explains how these choices can impact their sports performance.

In the Veggin’ household, we had been looking to eat less processed food. This book has become a great resource for us.  Brazier provides a comprehensive outline on whole foods that are good to fuel a workout and then aid with recovery.  Brazier aims to get folks out of their comfort zones when using ingredients by providing a great explanation of the basic diet staples. Flax seed, hemp, spelt, teff are just a few of the ingredients Brazier describes how to prepare, cook and incorporate into our meals. It was because of this book that I know find myself sprinkling chia seeds on my salad (whilst singing the jingle “ch-ch-ch-chia”, of course).

There are over 100 recipes in the book all wheat-, gluten- and soy- free. Most of the recipes are easy to make, don’t require a lot of ingredients and really pack in the nutrients. You can tell that Brazier really enjoys the food, and has road tested every single on of them. In his descriptions he also provides background and gives suggestions to add variety,  describing when he likes to eat it and providing suggestions for variety. For example, in his homemade energy bar section he states,

“I eat a bar or two a day, so I make a big batch at one time, usually about once a month. I individually wrap each bar and store them in the freezer, easy to grab as I head out the door. Also, these bars will not freeze solid, so you can eat them straight from the freezer – no thawing required. This is an added bonus when taking them along for winter sports, like skiing: These bars stay supple and chewy, whereas many commercial bars freeze solids. On a hot day, a cold bar is as refreshing as ice cream.”

Sure, some of the ingredients may be difficult to find or could be expensive, but the book provides a lot of alternative suggestions on how to incorporate this healthier eating into your lifestyle. The meal plan can also be a bit daunting to prepare as each day requires new recipes to be prepared and some can’t be really made ahead of time. Just realize, in the end, you might not follow the meal plan down to the letter.  Instead, this book provides one of the best compilation of vegan recipes designed for sports performance beyond just the smoothie.

Never fear, Dear Reader, I have road tested a few of the recipes including the pizzas, which I look forward to featuring here on Veggin’ soon.

Oh, also, another bonus about this book…the preface is written by Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. (Mmmm, Hugh Jackman.)

A Little Less Veggin’ and a Little More Climbin’

January 30, 2012 By: Megabeth Category: Article

Veggin’ is going to go on a very brief hiatus.

We’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and will be gone most of February.

Please don’t despair! I will be back and I’ll share with you our vegetarian adventures in Africa.

Beautiful photo by brettocop.

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