Sunday, December 4, 2011

Vegan once-a-month slow cooking: Part II

People have been asking me how the once-a-month cooking worked out and my answer has been "Great!" I loved dumping a bag of frozen "stuff" into the slow cooker in the morning and coming home to a delicious hot cooked meal. It really did give me more time in the evenings. We went for walks, ran errands and just hung out and all for 45 minutes of work on Sunday evening!

Each gallon freezer bag made enough for two dinners and at least one lunch, except the "beef stew" which we ate all at once. I immediately put any leftovers back into the same freezer bag that I had emptied and rinsed in the morning and put it into the freezer. I once read that you can freeze something one time before it's cooked and one time after it's been cooked. I suppose you could just put the leftovers in the refrigerator and eat them again the next night, but neither of us like eating the same thing two nights in a row.

Of the four meals I made last time, my very favorite was the Curried Chickpeas. They smelled soooo good I completely skipped making the rice as I had planned and ate them on some Indian chapati bread I had lying around in the refrigerator! It was probably some of the best Indian food I've ever tasted (and I love Indian food).

So, now that we have only one bag of lentil soup left, I've done this again, but I did some things differently that I think made a difference in the process - mainly intention and planning! Last time, I made the meals on a whim after having learned of the concept. This time, I planned the menu (10 items), made a grocery list to ensure I had everything on hand and actually bought the things I needed beforehand. I also cleared my kitchen counters of any extraneous junk, like the toaster oven and the blender. Not that these things are junk per se, but I won't be using them, so they are temporarily considered to be junking up the counter :)

Once the counters were clean, I did just a little prep work last night, like putting out the cutting boards and knives and any staple foods onto the counters. That way, I was ready to go this morning. I started at 8am after a hot Silknog chocolate. it took me an HOUR to peel, dice and cook all the onions even using the food processor. Actually, I think using the food processor made things worse. There were times I couldn't even open my eyes even though I peeled the onions under cold water and soaked them for a few minutes as well. Eventually though, I was able to get through it and they turned out all brown and yummy.
This is 10 onions chopped AKA "Blinders"

Here are the onions nicely browned and ready to go into the freezer meal bags.

The ~40 cloves of garlic I used in today's cooking!

As the onions were nearing completion, I put together the rest of the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce. After that, the rest of the dishes were fairly easy to put together. I worked on each one individually so I wouldn't get confused or feel as rushed as I did last time. The other factor is that I didn't have DC to help me this time as he was sleeping in. He was definitely a help last time and I think I want to enlist him next time. Not only did doubling up on the prep make it actualy go faster, but he's pretty good company, too :)

Here's the list of meals I made today:

1) Spaghetti Sauce
2) Greek "chicken" stew (eggplant, garlic, onions, tomatoes, veggie chicken, olives, red pepper, greek herbs and spices)
3) Peruvian Locro Stew (winter squash, peppers, potatoes, peas, corn - no cream or cheese, please)
4)Yellow Split Pea Dal from the Caribbean Vegan cookbook.
5) White beans with Chipolte chilies from the Complete Vegan
6) Creamy French lentils w/ celery root and garlic (from the Complete Vegan listed above)
7) Creamy potato peanut stew from the Viva Vegan cookbook
8) Middle Eastern Chickpeas from the Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites Cookbook
9) Slow-cooked Tofu with pineapple peach barbeque sauce from my favorite website, Fat Free Vegan Cooking (I'll be subbing in peaches for the pineapple as DC is allergic to pineapples)
10) Hot and Sour Soup from that good ole' Complete Vegan cookbook.

The spaghetti sauce cooked in the slow cooker all day. We ate some with pasta for dinner and the rest went into the freezer for another time. I made the hot & sour soup in the pot that I used to cook the onions. It helped to get the stuck on onions off the bottom of the pan and allowed me to dirty only 2 pans for ALL the cooking I did today. I used this pot and one large frying pan to cook the tofu before using it in the soup. By noon, I was finished cooking and cleaning up with the exception of the spaghetti sauce.

Here's the vast majority of food/spices I used today. I realized as I went along that I missed one or two items for the picture, but you get the idea...

The only produce I had leftover was a lemon and one of the green peppers.  Here's the entire tick-list:

10 onions
42 cloves garlic
1 celery root
1 green pepper
4 red peppers
3 pounds potatoes
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 lbs. mushrooms
2 carrots
1 zucchini
1 eggplant
6 green onions
1 bunch spinach
2 limes
4" gingerroot
1 butternut squash
1/2 kabocha squash
1/2 c. pumpkin
chilies: 2 jalapeno, 2 yellow hot, 2 chipoltes
2 large cans tomoatoes
3 cans tomato paste
beans: french lentils, yellow split peas, great northern beans, chickpeas
1 package Quorn chik'n tenders
1 can peaches
6 Medjool dates
1 jar artichokes
tofu: 1 firm, 2 extra firm
vegetable bouillon

This doesn't include the various herbs and spices which would proably make this post too long :) Suffice to say, I had them all on hand and there wasn't anything too weird. Then again, I'm a spice monger LOL!

Anyway, I feel as though I was more adventurous this time. There's more of the Latin food DC and I love. There's also Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Middle Eastern food represented. I've never eaten celery root before, so that will be an adventure as well.

A very overexposed image of what I got for my 4 hours of work!

All in all, I figure I've put together at least 20 days worth of dinners - enough to carry us through the hectic holiday season! DC chose the White beans with chipolte for dinner tomorrow. Mmmm can't wait!