We are converting to vegetarian lifestyle. And I've done this a couple of times before, so have a bit of an idea where we are headed. I am old enough to remember the health food of the Seventies and pleased to see that in 2000 there are more choices. I converted us strictly to Dr Ornish diet before, and that was great, and I will borrow again from those recipes. But to really kick us off I wanted to try some flavorful, spicy vegetarian recipes - Meditteranean, Indian, and Asian. I don't exactly know how to cook ethnically so I will need to follow recipes and instructions.
I went back to one of my bookmarked saved sites - VegWeb.com, got myself a membership and went off in search of Thai recipes. Pleasant and happy surprise, as there are many Thai recipes there, and I began saving several to my recipe box. Oh, and the site gives you the convenience of creating a grocery list for your recipes saved to your recipe box. And .... it lets you add the recipes to your weekly menu. I am pleased to have created a menu for two weeks, a comprehensive grocery list and you can print out the recipes there too. A nifty one stop shopping center online with others who are vegetarian, vegan sharing their tried and true recipes. What a great community!
After I compiled everything and knew where I wanted to get started, Sweetie and I went grocery shopping this weekend. Our choices require that we travel, an hour or more where-ever we decide to go - Washington or Oregon. I lined out choices for Natural and Organic Food Co-op in Astoria, Aberdeen or Olympia. Or Trader Joes in Vancouver or Tacoma. Or Fred Meyers for the bin foods and health food section. Fred Meyers in Astoria, Tacoma, Vancouver and I would imagine in Olympia. Not in Aberdeen. But Safeway too may have plentiful choices in health and natural food section - we haven't been to Safeway in a while, so not sure how much they've developed their health food section. Safeway in each of the cities that are within our range.
We discussed the advantages and disadvantages. I love Natural and Organic Food Co-op stores but find them a tad too spendy. I love Trader Joes but it carries more 'prepared' foods than pantry type items that I need for this first run. So it is good ol' Fred Meyers or Safeway. I know from experience that Fred Meyers offers a wide enough choice of what I need in produce, health food and bin food and I will have to check out Safeway sometime for comparison. I decided on Fred Meyer - Warrenton, Oregon (right across the bridge from Astoria, Oregon).
Sweetie was quite patient with the shopping and yes, I am surprised, since he is usually in a hurry to get in, get what we need and get out. But we don't know the layout or products I will be purchasing, so knew this shopping trip would take a lot longer than our 'usual'. He was patient right up until I put ten tofu packages in the shopping cart. He wasn't seeing how I could use that much tofu in two weeks time.
Well....I showed him my shopping list so he could see for himself, and he loaded the tofu without another word. We looked over the bin food and were pleased enough with the prices until we got to nuts and dried fruits (for the granola) -- uh, NOT - no way am I paying prices like that for dried fruit or nuts. Guess it's time to get out the dehydrator. Okay, so we have raisins, cranberries, bananas, blueberries and that will have to do for granola cause I'm just not paying those kinds of prices for dried fruit or nuts.
I see tons of prepared 'health foods' now, and I did a bit of cost comparison between pantry products needed to make and prepared, packaged health food products. I think, not unlike most grocery shopping I do whether healthy, vegetarian or otherwise, the same principle applies - less spendy to make your own than to buy prepared and packaged products. But I can see where it makes it easier for say single people, like my son, who is primarily vegetarian to have the prepared, packaged products which he can easily then cook up.
We got to the produce and I just love fresh produce....yes, it's more healthy at natural/organic food stores, I know, or better yet, farmers' market when in season ... but I still love the colors and sense of freshness, freshly preparing food for us to eat. It's good Sweetie was with me, cause I do tend to overdo the produce, and then we have to do a tetris game to fit it all into the refridgerator when we get home.
Sweetie is the refridgerator Testris guy - he fits it where it doesn't look like it could fit, so I'm glad for his spatial visual acuity in that regard. I have long said that I wish we could have a commercial size glass cooler instead of a refridgerator. Actually, we had to replace the refridgerator last year and I wanted an all refridgerator, no freezer. There was a model like that, but we quickly learned the measurements and dimensions were too large for the refridgerator space created among our cabinets. We aren't likely to be remodeling kitchen cabinets soon, so I have what I have. Option 2 is second refridgerator in the basement. But I digress.
Produce - and I love the color of Eggplant. I don't like the taste of Eggplant, but I like the color and think it's a great vegetable to look at even if it isn't tasty. I buy one from time to time, and they go bad quickly if not used promptly, I find, so I wind up tossing more often than using when I do buy Eggplant. Well, I knew that and didn't worry too much about it, since it costs 99 cents. It's rather like flowers to me - pretty to look out and won't last too long. I didn't know Sweetie was paying attention to my Eggplant quirk. He growled when I put one in the basket and didn't say much, but later he casually mentioned that I seem to throw out Eggplant when I purchase one, rather than cook and use.
He's right. On the ride home, though, since he brought it up, I wanted to revisit the Eggplant issue. Explaining to him all of the above - the color, the inexpensive cost, the visual, the boring taste and the privilege of a wife's little pleasure to enjoy - what the heck does it matter to him whether I cook it or keep it till it has to be tossed out and since when is he counting 99 cents as food waste? He saw where this was going and conceded quickly, but now between us we have a reference point - Eggplant - and we will joke about it into our future. In fact, I asked him to start buying me an Eggplant when he buys me flowers since I tend to see them in the same context.
Grocery shopping concluded, and I realized I hadn't made it clear to Sweetie that I was taking us vegetarian using mostly Thai recipes. What! He wasn't prepared for that and wasn't too keen on two-three weeks of Thai food. No, no, I said, not strictly Thai, but mostly Thai and here is why. It's spicy, flavorful, vegetarian, uses peanuts, peanut butter, chiles, cilandro, curry and seems like a good way for us to shift to vegetarian without going through the boing food recipes with seitan, tempeh, and Boca burgers - the usual range of vegatarian foods items trying to imitate something they are not. Besides, I'm just not ready to take myself there yet and learning to cook Thai is a challenge.
He still wasn't too happy with it and concerned that we had bought the pantry items, produce and that I wouldn't cook it. Well..... there isn't much other choice, now is there, cause that is what I bought and there is little to fall back on, so I rather have to teach myself to cook Thai. And I like a good challenge from time to time.
I was inspired to think Thai since we have in our little region some refugee families from Cambodia and Laos and there is a grocery store that stocks the kinds of ingredients that go into Thai and other Asian cooking. It advertised it had Thai food, and I was pleased that we had another restaraunt choice in the area, but as it turned out, when we went for a treat ourselves to Thai dinner for our anniversary, she said No Restaraunt - no Help - no cooked Thai food.
Oh, well there goes our anniversary dinner treat. (We still did go out to anniversary dinner - our favorite Mexican restaraunt in the area - not Thai, but still quite good and the owner gave us no-charge fried ice cream to celebrate our anniversary)
We looked around the store, and I was so impressed by the items, but knew little about what any of it was or how to combine or use. What's the difference between all these noodles, and the writing is not in English, so it's Japanese, or Chinese, or other Asianian languages and that isn't going to do me a lot of good. We talked to the shopkeeper, and told her I was impressed but didn't know how to cook Thai - did she have a cookbook for sale? No, she said, she didn't.
As we were leaving the store, though, she called us back over and told us she would order a Thai cookbook for us - from her country. Wait, I said, I need it to be in English. Yes, she said - English - will order it for you. We left her my husband's business card and she can phone him when (if) the how to cook Thai written in English from her native country comes in. He works in town, so can pick it after work and bring it home, save me a drive into town. As you can see, then, Thai cooking or learning to cook Thai has been on my mind. I'm anxious to return to her store armed with more practice and knowledge and be able to shop there knowing what I am looking for and how to use the ingredients.
I wrote all of this to get to this point and place. I cooked our first Thai meal tonight, using the recipe I found at VegWeb.com and it was Marvelous! I have to thank Leslie for posting the recipe there. You can try the recipe and I'll bet you thank her too! So I thought I would include in the blog those recipes that I am learning and trying over the next two weeks to rate them as good, and we will keep these to use again and again, or not so good and won't use again. The one below is an absolute keeper!
Vegan Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles
Ingredients (use vegan versions):
1 package of rice noodles
1 bottle of Trader Joes Thai sesame/peanut dipping sauce (it is vegan and has no preservatives) or you can use any vegan thai peanut sauce
1 package of baked tofu, Thai flavored by Nasoya
1 bag of frozen vegetables, I use broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.
3 or 4 green onions sliced
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
soy sauce to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
fresh chopped cilantro to taste
chopped peanuts to garnish
Boil your rice noodles till they are tender, drain and rinse with cold water, set aside. Steam or microwave the veggies, set aside. Combine sauce, pb, oil, soy sauce and pepper flakes in a small bowl, set aside. (The sauce is great by itself but I find it is not quite peanuty enough for me.) Cut the tofu into small cubes and set aside. Combine everything in a great big pot. stir well, heat through. Add cilantro at the last minute. serve with peanuts on top. eat with chopsticks... mmmmmmmm
p.s. This is a recipe that is even better the next day and is fabulous cold.
Preparation time: 20 minutes