If not for the heavy taxpayer subsidies to the meat and dairy industries, the prices consumers would pay for them would be so high, as to be out of reach for most Americans. The impact of meat consumption on the average family's food bill today is less than half of what it was in 1970. But the cost of consuming animals can't be calculated in one's food bill. The impact of intensive factory farming and its end result, cheaply produced animal products, is doing more damage than ever to human health and the environment, not to mention the animals themselves.
Still, I get sticker shock each time I fill up my grocery cart. Organic produce is still significantly more expensive than conventional pesticide-laced options, and I'm hard pressed to find a decent whole-grain bread for much less than five dollars a loaf. Buying from bulk bins rather than cans, boxes, and plastic packages and making everything from scratch are certainly money savers, but who has time to soak dried beans or make her own bread every day? I certainly don't. And even though I've all but eliminated every last vestige of fake meat from my diet, tofu still costs 50% more than it did just two years ago, and let's not even begin to talk about the cost of Daiya vegan cheese. I've calculated that the average meal costs me between four and five dollars per serving, which is one reason why lately, I've slipped back into depending on takeout several times per week. By the time you calculate in the time and energy used for meal preparation, a tasty vegan meal from one of favorite food carts really doesn't cost that much more. But I've joyfully discovered that there is a way to create deliciously satisfying vegan meals on the cheap and do so without spending hours in the kitchen. Enter my new favorite book—Robin Robertson's Vegan on the Cheap.
Robin Robertson is one of my favorite vegan chefs. She has eighteen cookbooks under her belt, including the ground-breaking Vegan Planet, which holds a treasured spot in my extensive cookbook collection, showing many pages that are well-worn and stained. Her latest book, Vegan on the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies that Save You Time and Money features 150 enticing recipes that cost between 50¢ and $2.00 per serving. Now that's a money-saving idea I can really wrap my lips around!
Vegan on the Cheap contains a cost comparison chart, meal-planning tips, menu ideas, and other smart-shopping tips. Searching through the recipe index, I found many familiar favorites like Lasagna and Coconut Curry Rice, and a few surprising dishes with intriguing names like Skordalia, a creamy Greek garlic sauce, Pot au Feu, a French mélange of root vegetables, and Bobotee, a South African curry-seasoned casserole. The apples, raisins, and almonds in Robin's Tempeh Bobotee tempted my taste buds enough to dig head-on into this recipe first. The casserole looked great out of the oven,
and even better on my plate!
bobotee (or bobotie) is traditionally made with ground meat and an egg-custard topping. There's a surprise in every bite, which has nothing at all to do with animal-based ingredients, but instead comes from the apples, raisins, and almonds. It's a bit like eating your favorite stuffing, but heartier, because of its protein-rich tempeh base. Making Robin's bobotee inspired me to create my own curry blend, since I wanted a mild curry, and the only curry powder I had on hand was rather hot. And I impressed myself with Robin's recipe for Cheepskate Chutney. Pineapple, assorted dried fruits, ginger, brown sugar, and just a tiny bit of red pepper blended beautifully together. It was so gorgeous that it almost made up for my sloppily plated casserole, and it was quite possibly the best chutney I've ever eaten!
The next recipe I tried confirmed that there is no sacrificing taste for economy. I first came across photos of this dish on Keri's I Eat Trees blog. (Go there if you want to see stunning photos of this dish and several others from Vegan on the Cheap.) Take a look at the Deconstructed Enchilada Bake:
Doesn't it look a little like a Jackson Pollock painting? Made with mashed pinto and black beans, it was deliciously wholesome and hearty and a snap to put together! (There was no need to fill and roll enchiladas or make a complex enchilada sauce.) I just love finding tasty new money- and time-saving ways to enjoy beans, don't you? Beans have never sounded very appetizing to me, but put them together creatively with a few well-chosen ingredients, and they open a whole new world of culinary magic. The Cheezee Sauce topping made the dish taste rich and creamy while going easy on the fat and calories.
With recipes for Walnut Crusted Tofu with Spinach and Orange, Indian Spiced Lentil Ragu, Pumpkin Spice Cake with Chocolate Glaze, and Chocolate Chip-Walnut Rice Pudding, I can't wait to sink my teeth into all of the recipes in this wonderful book. And I'll be buying several more copies to give away as Christmas and Chanukah gifts.
Following are the recipes for the Deconstructed Enchilada Bake and Cheezee Sauce from Vegan on the Cheap excerpted with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Robin Robertson. Happy World Vegan Day! Enjoy! And don't forget to check out my holiday recipe for Rosewater Glazed Lemony Cranberry Cookies on Nuestra Cena this Friday!
Deconstructed Enchilada Bake
1 Tbs olive oil (I made this McDougall friendly, and substituted 1/4 cup vegetable broth)
1/4 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 15.5-oz can pinto beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
2 Tbs water
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 15.5-oz can black beans, drained rinsed, and mashed
1 24-oz. jar tomato salsa
8 7-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup Cheezee Sauce
Heat the oil (or broth) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cover and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the pinto beans, water, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the flavors have blended and the mixture is well combined, about 5 minutes. Add the black beans and 1 cup of the salsa. Mix until combined. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking pan. Spread a thin layer of the remaining salsa on the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange half of the tortillas on top of the salsa, overlapping as necessary.
Spread the bean and salsa mixture over the tortillas in the baking pan, then top with the remaining tortillas.Spread the remaining salsa on top of the tortillas and drizzle with the Cheezee Sauce. Cover with foil and bake until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Removed from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot.
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 Tbs cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups plain unsweetened soy milk
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard
In a medium saucepan, combine the yeast, cornstarch, salt and garlic powder. Turn the heat on medium and whisk in the soy milk. Cook, stirring until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. (I cooked it for 3 minutes.)
Remove from the heat and stir in the oil, lemon juice, vinegar and mustard. The sauce is now ready to use. If not using right away, refrigerate the sauce in a container with a tight-fitting lid, where it will keep for several days.