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Vegetarian Recipes

10 things we discovered during ‘Veganuary’

Oops… somehow its nearly the end of February and I’ve only just got round to posting a roundup of how we got on.

Better late than never, here’s 10 things we discovered during Veganuary:

1. The transition from vegetarian to vegan isn’t nearly as difficult as I expected.  Sitting down to plan our first week’s meals felt like a bit of a chore, but once we had got the hang of what we couldn’t and couldn’t eat, and worked out some substitutions and shortcuts, it was pretty straightforward.

2. We didn’t miss cheese nearly as much as we thought.  And I discovered that its usually the saltiness of the cheese that I crave, so just seasoning well and adding salty things like capers and olives to pasta sauces, for instance, is a great substitute and also far lower calorie/fat/cholesterol.  I’m a bit of a chilli fiend, and found that turning up the heat also distracts you from a lack of cheese!

3. Tomor is a brilliant butter substitute for cooking and baking.  Try it – you won’t believe its not butter.

4. You get used to soya milk in tea after 10 days.  After a dubious start, we’re still using soya milk in our house, so it can’t be at all bad.  We tried lots of other milk alternatives which were great for other things, but none beat soya in tea.

5. Most ready-made pastry is vegan. Who knew?  Obviously not the all-butter stuff, but this is a great thing to know about if you are cooking for vegan guests.  I’ve said it before…. everyone loves a pie.

6. Bird’s custard powder is vegan. Who knew? Made up with hazlenut or almond milk it is absolutely lovely.  I cooked Sunday lunch for some very vegan-sceptic omnivore friends and they were absolutely not expecting apple pie & custard for pudding.

7. Baking isn’t out of the question.  Start with this amazing chocolate cake, then try these dairy-free recipes – all by Dan Lepard for the Guardian.

8. The prefix ‘vegan’ makes things sound a bit less appetizing to non-vegans.  Sorry vegans, but I’m afraid its true. “Vegan custard”, “vegan gravy”, “vegan chocolate cake” – you’re just not really expecting them to taste very nice.  Instead, just call them custard, gravy and chocolate cake, and let the vegans know they are dairy-free.

9. The hardest thing about being vegan was social situations. Having to refuse a slice of a friend’s homemade birthday cake felt rude.  Whipping out a little tub of soya milk at a new mother and toddler group meant having the whole vegan conversation with a group of people I hadn’t met before.  I had to insist on bringing our own food to a few parties and meals at friends houses, which was a bit awkward.  I’m sure you get used to these things if you are vegan long-term, but I struggled on this front.

10. Tweeting pictures of your dinner every day really makes you think carefully about portion size, meal balance (ie. where is the protein coming from), presentation, menu planning etc.

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So, overall a very interesting experiment and we are now eating far less dairy at home – still using soya milk and being far more careful with cheese.  We felt really good at the end of the month, and being forced to think more carefully about what we ate actually led to varied and interesting meals than we would have had otherwise.

I know there were a lot of veggie bloggers giving Veganuary a try – let us know how you got on and what you would add to the list above!

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Vegetarian Recipes

CAULIFLOWER BOLOGNESE

“I want you to come watch the movie with us ON the couch, not be in the kitchen!”

I’ve been filling out this one-question-a-day journals for moms that I received for Christmas. It records a little thought or memory over the last year, and then starts again, so you can see how your answers change over a few years. One of the recent ones, prompted me to jot notes about what I am learning as a mom, and I found the question so general I was basically annoyed. I am a romantic, and also wildly pragmatic. In the span of a day I can tear up over the depths of love I feel for my kids, and also wish for them to have a mute button. We all have worlds within us; mothering pushing me into the corners of myself I am sometimes proud of or other corners ashamed of, but am I learning? Yes, every single day. Sometimes in the moment and other times after a particular season. But in 2021, my answer in the bullet journal was that I see my kids are wanting me to play with them. They aren’t registering all the service and shuttling and laundry and what it takes to pull off a week, they just want to play WITH me. It’s natural for me to move within lists and tasks and responsibilities and hustling, but playing is something I have to pay attention to. For them and for me. We usually do a family movie on Friday nights and my son (6.5), see quote above, pointed out that I don’t actually watch the movie, I tinker in the kitchen and he wants me in the couch cuddle. Flattered, and found out that I’d rather make granola than watch The Croods 🙂 So from annoyed, to passing on the question to fellow parents, what are you learning? Try not to be annoyed. Maybe circle back to it.

I published this recipe over on SKCC a few weeks ago and wanted it to live here. We’re trying to find more family-friendly vegetarian recipes (it’s easy for me to fill up on roasted veggies and big salads, not so much for the kids). This batch lasts us two meals – once with noodles, maybe half zoodles, and the second round on toast or english muffins with cheese melted on top, like a pizza sort of thing? It freezes well and is great to deliver to new parents.

CAULIFLOWER BOLOGNESE

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion – roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 head of cauliflower (about ¾ lb. or 12 oz. riced)
1/2 cup of raw walnuts pieces
1/2 tsp. of Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds – crushed
2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of red wine (or broth of any sort, and double the vinegar to mimic the wine’s acidity)
28 oz. of canned, crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of red lentils
red pepper flake to taste

For serving

12 oz. of pasta or choice, zoodles, etc.
parmesan
fresh, torn basil

Directions

In a large Dutch-oven or stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.

In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic into smaller bits. Add them to the pot with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté to soften, about 3 minutes.

Pulse up the cauliflower florets to get a rice-like texture. Add the riced-cauliflower to the pot and sauté to soften, about 5 minutes.

Pulse the walnuts in the processor and add those to the pot along with the Italian seasoning, fennel seed, another few generous pinches of salt and pepper, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. Sauté until fragrant.

Add the red wine, cook about 3 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes, ½ cup water, lentils, pinch of pepper flakes and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low, put the cover ajar and let it simmer gently for 30-35 minutes. Turn off the heat, taste for seasoning and adjust.

Cook your pasta or zoodles according to instructions. Top with cauli Bolognese, grated cheese, fresh basil and enjoy!

The Bolognese will keep in the fridge for a week and can be frozen for a few months.

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