Sunday, December 25, 2011

Where have I been?

Hi all. No excuses for me in the least. I have been AWOL from this blog for a number of reasons. 

First of all I'd like to thank all those who are looking at this little blog on the tubal inter webs. I started it as a way to document what I ate and how much I spent so I could show others that yes, you can do pretty well as a vegan on a very tight income. It might not be super fancy, and it might require a lot of home cooking, but for the jobless, that is often a good thing.

I am happy to say, I am no longer jobless!
I got a very nice full time job as an illustrator for a start up. Yes, that's what I do, I'm a creative professional. Now, before the 'starting artist' comments start flooding in, let me tell you all that I looked for every type of gig I could find. Target, Fresh & Easy, cleaning houses, house sitting, dog walking, etc. Nothing was open.

This gig just dropped in my lap and I'm making sure I work hard at keeping it. These past few years have been hard, and to finally get a job, and in my field has made me feel leaps and bounds of grateful for everything.

The first thing I did when I got this job was think, "how can I give back," and within a few weeks I was working on a cancer fundraiser. Then I was getting gobs of freelance stuff, and as I type this, today, on Christmas, I find that I'm pretty happy just sitting here in my warm small apartment with my dog and cat resting.

More on them later.

I had to tell you the happiest day for me in a long time was when I did't have to submit my quarterly food stamp report. I simply filled in the 'no longer need assistance' part, and I was on my own. Totally on my own and it feels great.

Looking back I realize I rarely told anyone, sans a few close friends and family that I was even on food stamps. I felt low, trying to hide my bright yellow card as I paid for things at Trader Joes,  and even though I genuinely could use the help, I didn't want others in better situations than me to know that I was *that* low. Sure, many knew I was jobless, but going to a free clinic and getting food stamps low, nope.

It's only been a couple of months and I still have all my thrifty habits. I still look for the bargain, and I will not spend more than I need to on things that I need to get. The plus is I have been getting some things I *want* to get, and that's fun. I've been trying some of the newer vegan products out there, and many of them are a total fail. I'll be posting more on that too.

I'm also able to eat out more and try new places. I'm still cheap, so even the occasional treat out for us who are on assistance is good for your sanity if nothing else.

Speaking of eating out, for my birthday some friends took me to this quite amazing vegan diner type eatery called Doomies. They really do need a website.

I live about a mile from them and had never heard of them! Most vegan fare that you hear about is Asian leaning. Thats all fine and danny, but American food can hold a vegan slant too.


Shrimp Cocktail 
Fried Chicken
I have to say, the skin on the 'chicken' was to die for!!
Yes, that is exactly what you think it is.
They had tons off sweets but I had been craving creme brûlée  for a loooooong time.
I mean, the food isn't for the health conscious. And why should all vegan food be healthy? We like to indulge too. The three of us had 2 sodas (I had hot tea), two appetizers, 3 dinners, 3 deserts, and 3 coffees. Total was about $80. For all of that, I think that's a good priced night out. Now that I have a job and this place being so close, I can tell, nay, know that they will know me be my first name soon. Like Norm from Cheers!

In closing I just want to say thanks to everyone who has emailed and talked with me and has shown interest in my little blog. I really appreciate. There will be tons more content to come, and I will still be posting from the food stamp perspective, so have no fear.

Hope your Holidays are great and lead to great opportunities!

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm trying gluten free and it sucks!

I have a throat congestion I've had for going on 4 months and I was finally able to get a clinic visit where the doctor told me it was allergies. Which ones, she didn't say, but she put me on an antihistamine, which didn't work. Now I'm on Flonase and it's not doing anything either. I feel bad, because the slip that came with my free meds said this Flonase cost $100. I'm taking away a medicine someone could really use just because my 'doctor' is lazy. But I digress.

My reason for trying gluten free isn't because of said mythical allergy. I've wanted to do it for a while and I'm one month in.

Oh. My. Goodness. People with wheat allergies, I so, so feel for you! It's so hard to find food that has no wheat contamination! I didn't realize how wheat dependent we are her in this country. No wonder people develop allergies to it! Our bodies are on overload.

So  this month I finished off some pasta I made in soup form before I decided to go gluten free. I actually put all the stuff that is wheat/wheat contained food in the freezer. It take up half the freezer. Insane. Granted, there are two bags of flour in there, but still, that's a lot of wheat!

Pasta, spinach, and veggie bouillon broth
Red velvet cupcakes drizzled with coffee extract.
Okay, no wheat for two months. Now comes the challenge of finding what I can eat. I did some research and decided if I was going to attempt this, I was going to do it right. I packed away my oatmeal, which I LOVE, and got some GF oats. I love Bob's Red MIll, so I also bought some of their all purpose flour as well. Not too much, but it says you can 'use it' like normal flour, so we will see. I have yet to bake with it. I had to get some Xantham Gum. That was $12 so I better find a lot of uses for it.

But I wanted to try some stuff before the special stuff got to me. I'm not the kind of person who uses a lot of substitutes, so I looked online for some good recipes that I could make up with stuff I already had. 

I found a chickpea chocolate cake! Wow! I tried it and it was a HUGE FAIL.

The outside looks nice, but it never got solid, so the inside was runny. Into the trash it went. In hind sigh, I think it was me who added too much moisture to the cake. The chickpeas were supposed to already be cooked, and that in and of itself adds tons of moisture. What I did was add two tablespoons of soy yogurt to the mix, a boni-fied moisture maker.

I wanted to know what my options were for bread, so I got a loaf of the GF stuff.

I have to say, I really, really like the bread. With the salads I've been eating, it works out great as a hard chewy add in.

Butter lettuce, kale, spinach, sautéed onions, and salsa. 
Butter lettuce, kale, sauteed onions, chickpeas, and avocado.

Here I'm sautéing brussle sprouts and carrots with water and a bit of cocoanut oil. Use the oil sparingly. It makes a very buttery taste, and I've never been a big butter cooker.

We will see where this ends up, but so far, I haven't baked. I'm afraid of another cake fail. No one like a cake fail.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How I do salads.

I've been trying to think of my reason for this blog. Mainly I believe it is to catalog what I eat as a vegan on government assistance. It's a hard road, especially when you are trying to eat healthy. My income rarely allots extra for food, and sometimes I need to find extra money to make food happen. I'm not soup kitchen poor, but I'm not go out and have a sit down dinner weekly rich, either.

I think by now readers know what I buy. I realized that I don't vary that much from month to month. I pick up staples and I often eat in ruts. So I'm going to focus on what I make/bake/cook instead. Sure, I'm still on a food assistance budget, but I've learned to make up some great shit!

I've been sautéing a lot lately. Making some greens that will last two to three days. A whole bag of spinach, with some onion, and some other things. I'm not a cold salad eater. I've always hated cool produce. I does not grow out of the ground cold, why are we forced to eat salads cold. I don't buy into that at all.

My salad making has become somewhat of a puzzle. I don't like dressing much, either. Come on, that doesn't limit me in the least. It just makes me construct more of a full bodied meal when I'm cooking.

See my ingredients.

I start off with 1/3 an onion, sautéed with sea salt, black pepper and some rosemary. I do love me some rosemary. Once the onions are just starting to glaze, I de-glaze the pan with some cooking sherry. It adds great flavor.

Next is the kale. Kale is becoming a big yummer in my diet. I nibble on it raw while I am tearing the leaves from the stalk. It's got a bitter taste that I love. Whenever I am eating kale, I think on who turned me onto it. I very thin woman at a party who was vegetarian too. I think she may have had an eating disorder, but she was super nice and said that she ate the kale as a snack often. I thought what the hell. All I can say is thanks miss and yay kale.

I've started to add some water to the pan, and a dollop of vegetable bouillon.

From there I lightly cook the spinach enough to start to wilt the leaves. I just could not bear to turn out the leftover skillet juice. I think Ill add it to some potatoes I plan on making in the next few days.

I place the cooked greens on a bed of butter lettuce and add red cabbage as garnish. Now that's a salad I can get behind.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I'm going to try my best to get on a regular keel with this blog. I've been baking a lot, tweaking recipes, and trying my hardest to not spend a lot of money. But I wanted something sweet. Not too sweet, I'm not a big fan of sweetness for the sake of sweetness.

I found this recipe online but tweaked it a bit to make it less oily. The tofu is vital, as it makes a great soft cookie so don't leave it out.

Sugar Cookies

1/4 cup cocoanut oil
1/2 cut MINUS 2 tbls of sugar (it's a sensitive balance)
3 tbls of blended extra firm silken tofu
1 tbl vanilla
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cream cocoanut oil and sugar until creamy and fluffy (about 4-5 min). Add tofu and vanilla and mix until silky.

Sift remaining dry ingredients into wet and mix well. The dough will be soft and slightly slick. Place in fridge for 10 min and preheat oven to 350.

Taking dough out of fridge, you can either cookie cut it or do as I do and roll it into little balls. Using parchment paper, flatten the balls evenly. The dough does not spread so flatten accordingly.

Bake for 8-10 min or until edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove and allow to set for 3-4 min. Then move to cooling rack.

The end result is a nice sweet-ish light soft cookie that can be decorated. I love em.

End of last month's food.

6/14/2011 Trader Joe's cash total: $16.27

6/19/11 Food for Less cash total: $19.63

6/20/11 Ralphs total: $17.73

This past month has been a very interesting one money wise. I spent a lot on salsa. I wanted some freshness of veggies but I was lazy. The cool thing is salsa is cheap, I got veggies, and all is good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fun with Kale

This month's food stamp total, $128.58

6/2/11 Food 4 Less total: $28.97

6/4/11 Trader Joe's total: $28.59

6/10/11 Trader Joe's cash total: $17.15

6/13/11 Food 4 Less total: $18.62

6/13/11 99 Cent Store total: $4.85

This month I got a letter saying again that there is something wrong with my bennies. The first month of my quarter, I was given $170, as normal, but for some reason the other tow months I'm being awarded $67. Hey, I'll take it any way I can get it, but it is odd. I'm sure that was the reason for the letter. I'll have to contact my case worker.

But in the mean time, I'm enjoying the warmer wether and the flood of greens in the grocery. I've decided to throw some change to my normal fresh greens and I bought some kale. Some of my other veg friends have commented on the dense nutritional value of kale, so I thought I'd give it a go. What I love about the cabbage is the great almost mustard flavor. I like it raw to tell the truth, but I find myself including it in place of my normal spinach.

I've also been enjoying maters. I do miss picking my own fresh maters, but along with some yummy beans and corn, the acid from fresh maters makes a great rounded flavor to a meal.

I also whipped up another quiche. It was real good this go around and I polished it off in two days! I love cooking!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rest of May food.

Homemade soy ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. 
All of it cost no more than $4 for 8 servings of this!

As usual when there is a new quarter, I didn't get the benefits until the middle of the month. 

5/19/11 Food 4 Less total: $36.39

5/19/11 Trader Joe's total: $94.92
This time I splurged on dried fruit. I love to make my own trail mix.

5/23/11 Trader Joe's Cash total: $9.97
Had a craving for some quac, and I didn't feel like pulling out the bennies card in a crowded store.
Yeah, I still have a hang up about it all. I'm a grown person, I should be able to pay for my own food, but it can't. It's been a year, but I still feel ashamed.

5/25/11 Ralph's total: $28.82
I wanted to try the vegenase. I never order it on food when I go out but I've always wanted to try it so I got some. It's pretty good but I'm not a big mayo fan in the first place. I have been eating a lot of wraps this month. Mainly as a vehicle to consume my spinach.

I also wanted to try this new Silk coconut milk. Well, yes, it's coconut milk, which has always tasted like oily water  to me. I'll use it up in some baking.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May Foodstuffs

I had my quarterly review again. Every three months you have to send in all your financial information and be reevaluated for the quarter on your food stamp allowance. For some reason my quarterly revies always take longer than normal, so I rarely get bennies for the first part of the month of that new quarter. This month was no different.

5/2/11 Gelson's cash total: $7.27

I was mad buying this bread. It was moldy upon getting it home. I should have returned it, but the store was a distance away, and I didn't want to trek all the way back there for $3. Perhaps I should have. I just won't by that bread again.

5/2/11 Bob's Red Mill cash total: $30.10

I often do an order from Bob's Red Mill I'd say two to three times a year. I LOVE their oatmeal and will not bake with anything but their dry active yeast. The thing is, the shipping costs are often 20-30% of my total, so I make sure I guy things that are cheaper than what they are in the store. I might not save a lot shopping online, but I have it sent right to my home. I also like shopping at the source.

5/5/11 Food For Less cash total: $7.85

5/5/11 Trader Joe's cash total: $20.94

5/7/11 Food 4 Less cash total: $5.50

5/9/11 Food 4 Less cash total: $7.64

5/11/11 Ralphs cash total $7

5/15/11 Trader Joe's cash total: $24.82

Cash total $111.12

Wow, I didn't know I spent that much. I had a strange craving for salsa. I just wanted fresh, or rather 'fresh' and something light. What cost the most so far this month was the coffee. I tend to go through a canister of coffee a week. It used to be faster, but I cut my scoopage to get an extra carafe of java a week.

Also, I tend to go through one half gal of soy milk a week. If I'm baking, it tends to be 1 1/2 cartons. You don't want to know the total of vanilla extract I use...

Also made some seitan for the first time. I wasn't sure how good it would turn out, as the Veganomicon recipe made me feel like I was walking on eggshells. In the end man was it salty. So the second time I used the recipe on the pack of the Bob's Red Mill VWG.

Now that summer is getting here, I'm planning on saving some money by making my own soy ice cream. This first try came out fairly good but I want to tweak it next time. The recipe is from veganomicon, and surprisingly it was pretty good.

That's it for now!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April Foodstuffs

Food Stamp total: $207

4/2/11 Trader Joe's total: $44.14

4/2/11 Fresh & Easy total: $41.74

4/2/11 Ralphs total: $19.84

4/4/11 Food 4 Less total $72.13

4/6/11 Ralphs total: $2.49

I went to 4 different stores to get this spice. I used it in jambalaya and was severely underwhelmed.

4/6/11 Ralphs cash total: $15.57

4/6/11 Whole Foods total: $15.57

4/9/11 Target cash total: $18.33

4/15/11 Trader Joe's cash total: $25.94

4/18/11 Food 4 Less cash total: $4.56

4/24/11 Target & Ralphs cash total: $16

4/30/11 Target cash total: $8.79

I spent a lot of the money gathering supplies for the recipes in Veganomicon. I actually made a few of them (which I'll cover in a later post) and I was not as impressed as I was hoping to be. But I have time to tweak them.

As far as the job front, I'm hopeful. I applied to quite a few places last week and what makes me hopeful is that they are actually hiring. yay! Wish me luck!