Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cheap Vegan Eats, Whole Foods and Old Cookbooks

I was leafing through cookbooks this morning and looking over some of the less expensive to make recipes that used to be staples in my kitchen back when I was cooking more (and for more than myself). Their origins vary: vegan cookbooks, whole foods cookbooks, veganized versions of recipes in non-vegan cookbooks, recipes swapped years ago in online vegetarian or vegan discussion forums, veganized versions of childhood favourites -- you name it! I've posted a few of them over the past years, either writing them out in full or sharing links to where I've since found them online: Kasha and Veggies, Lentil Burgers, Lentil Soup, Farmhouse Stew, Marinated Lentil Salad, New Farm Macaroni and "Cheese" Casserole, Melty White Cheez (and another favourite Baked Macaroni and Cheez recipe), Baked Rice and Lentils, Spicy Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos, TVP Gyros, Oven Roasted Tom Tofu, Tang Tsel and Taboulleh.

I first started learning to cook without animal products years ago using well-worn secondhand copies of non-vegan books like Jean Hewitt's The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook and Ellen Buchman Ewald's Recipes for a Small Planet. Both books taught me to cook using whole foods -- dried legumes, a wide variety of grains (whether in the form of whole or cracked berries or flour), nuts and seeds, herbs and spices and fresh produce. For a college student on a tight budget and first exploring vegetarianism at a time when the world wide web didn't exist to offer up thousands of plant-based recipes with a simple mouse-click, they were invaluable in teaching me how easy it is to steer clear of (generally more) expensive processed foods and to work with basic foods that pack more of a nutritional punch.

Unfortunately, most of these books were unapologetically non-vegan, with many of them merely omitting meat, and those omitting dairy and eggs often including honey (which was promoted quite heavily in the "natural foods movement" as an ideal alternative to refined sugar). The book pictured above (with its horribly hand-drawn cover displaying animal use) is an example of this -- a book focused on tofu, which uses dairy, eggs and honey in almost all of its recipes. These books obviously weren't so much about the ethics of animal use as they were about environmentalism and avoiding processed foods. Thankfully, we have books available today that stress vegananism and have the internet at our disposal to find vegan recipes without having to cherry-pick through the confusion of those old so-called natural foods cookbooks.

I had grown up in a home where the only varieties or rice explored had been Minute Rice or Uncle Ben's, and where the only legumes I'd ever eaten had been the split peas in my grandmother's traditional stinky and gloppy soup, or in the navy beans in the baked beans my mother picked up for our weekly Saturday dinner. I scoured the cookbook sections of the local used bookstores constantly in the city where I attended school to find a wide variety of books like the aforementioned, which enabled me to try out so many new ingredients and to get into the habit of stocking my pantry so that I always had something on hand to whip something up when rent or that extra textbook would have left me otherwise going without groceries any given week.

There are so many more recipes I've nabbed or adapted from books like those, as well as from more recent books and web postings, and I've been itching to share them for some time. I've been reluctant to do so since I'm currently without a functional digital camera and one of my own pet peeves about food posts is that I have a hard time not passing them by unless they include both the recipe and a photo. I'm going to cross my fingers that this is mostly my own quirk and that others might find the recipes useful anyway if I keep posting them here and there. Heck, if someone has a spare unused digital camera they'd like to offload and toss my way, I'd even be willing to spend an entire month posting pictures every single day of every single dish I made.

In the interim, here are a few more old favourites I've cherry-picked from various cookbooks over the years that I thought I'd share. They're both simple and inexpensive to make. The first is adapted from an old Company's Coming cookbook on "Meatless Cooking":

Tofu Sausages

What you need:

1 lb firm tofu, pressed
1-1/2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp (or less) salt
1/4 tsp pepper, freshly ground
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 walnuts, ground
1/4 tsp cumin, ground
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup bulgur / cracked wheat
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)

Whatcha do:

Mash your tofu in a large bowl and add everything but the bulgur and rolled oats. Mix well. Add the bulgur and oats and mix well, again (I knead it with my hands) and let sit for around 15 minutes. Shape into small sausages or patties (use maybe 3 tsp or so).

Heat some olive oil up in a pan and brown on all sides. Makes about 20 of 'em.


This one was adapted from another older non-vegan cookbook, Low Fat Cooking for Good Health by Gloria Rose:

Baked Zucchini, Eggplant and Tomatoes

What you need:

1 medium eggplant, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced (I've used 3-4 plum tomatoes before)
6 fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp dried thyme (feel free to experiment with different herbs for a different outcome)
1/4 cup broth (whichever flavour you prefer)
4-5 garlic cloves (or garlic to taste)
1 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce

Freshly ground pepper to taste

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 400 F / 205 C. Spray a casserole dish with vegetable / olive oil (I use olive oil in a non-aerosol pump). Spread the vegetable slices in layers, making sure that the mushrooms don't end up on top. Mix the rest of the ingredients well and drizzle over the vegetables in the casserole.

Place foil (or a cover) over the casserole and bake for a half hour.

Serve over brown rice or other absorbent grains like cracked wheat. Serves from 3-4 people.


Crystal said...

I think most people do want to see a picture with a recipe but will just take the recipe if necessary. I'm really not a recipe person (I just improvise) so I only browse recipes for vague ideas and inspiration so I may not be the best judge.

jessy said...

i don't need a picture of these recipes to know they rock, Mylene! both the 'fu sausages and your baked zucchini-eggplant dish sound absolutely wonderful. i'm always on the look-out for a sausage recipe i can make gluten-free since the ones made mostly with wheat gluten are kinda outta the question for me. think i'm gonna make the 'fu sausages and substitute in some millet or quinoa instead of the bulghur. i'll let you know how they turn out when i make 'em, too. ;) the eggplant dish is perfect for all the tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplant go'n on at the farmer's market right now. i love a delicious seasonal meal! thanks so much for the recipes!!!!

M said...

Luckily, I've gotten my hands on a camera, so I'll be snapping some pics in the near future to include with some of my food-related posts.

Jessy, I hope that the sausges turned out OK. That eggplant, tomato and zucchini dish is pretty versatile. You can season it any way you'd like and heap it on just about anything. I first got hooked on it when I'd started gardening and had more tomatoes and zucchini than I could handle; it was a great way to go through them.