Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Tag Archives: vegan

Frugal Saturday: Homemade Goat Cheese

Sorry, dear readers, for the lack of posts lately. Have no fear, we’re still working tirelessly in the gardens, it’s just my blogging time has been constrained since I’ve started working (outside the home) again, at a small, family-owned grocery store. I have a huge amount of respect for the owners and all of the employees there; the store’s slogan is “Know Your Food” and everyone is committed to the mission of supporting local farmers and providing organically grown, sustainably-raised products.

You probably know that I identify as a vegan, though I do sometimes use the eggs from our own chickens in cooking or baking- I know they have a happy life. My ethics haven’t changed, and I will always vehemently oppose factory farms and CAFOs, but I have started consuming dairy products, in very limited quantities. I’m not talking about straight-up buying Velveeta or Cheez-Whiz or anything- at the very least the dairy at the store is nearly all produced humanely and sustainably, though I’m still hesitant.

The thing is, given the time and energy that goes into producing the product and its packaging (plastic is made from petroleum after all, and petroleum is inevitably used in the production of glass and cardboard as well), it hurts my soul way more to see that product go to waste. In most cases, expired dairy products from the store aren’t just discarded like at most grocery chains- they’re up for grabs by employees before being donated to a local food pantry. However, this week there was a whole case of organic goat milk that expired, which the food pantry didn’t want. So what’s an ethical vegan to do?

Make goat cheese, that’s what!

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Frugal Friday: Homemade Seitan, a Versatile Meat Substitute

Seitan is a high-protein, vegetarian meat substitute that has, along with tempeh, allowed us to minimize our consumption of processed tofu, which is best eaten in moderation, as there are several studies debating its health effects. Seitan is wheat gluten that has been separated from the starch, leaving a protein-rich, elastic material.

You can buy seitan already formed and flavored (expensive), make your own using vital wheat gluten flour (still somewhat expensive), or make your own from flour (cheap!). We had been following this recipe to make a tasty seitan log from vital wheat gluten until yesterday, when we finally made our own from flour. It was incredibly easy. Here’s how we did it:

dough ballWe followed the process from this how-to on Forkable, though we changed it up a bit. We mixed 12 cups of unbleached flour and 6 cups of water to form a ball of dough, and kneaded it for a few minutes. We put the dough in a large bowl and covered it entirely with water and let it soak for about half an hour. The water turned milky white as the starch started to leach out of the dough. We put the bowl in the sink and kneaded the dough in the water until it started to feel rubbery.

making seitanAfter the underwater massage, we dumped the dough into a colander in the sink and began a half-hour long rinsing and kneading session.

As you knead and rinse to remove the starch, the dough starts to get denser and more elastic. You can control the texture of your seitan by kneading more or less. For our purposes, we wanted a chewier result so we aimed for a texture like the smaller ball at the top right, while the the bigger mass in the middle still needed some kneading.

Most seitan recipes at this point will instruct you to form the gluten into a ball and boil it in broth. Then you can pack it into containers with the broth and refrigerate or freeze it. We had a different plan.

not the most appetizingWe wanted to try an approach more like the above-mentioned seitan log recipe. So once the gluten was formed, we worked in a marinade of tomato paste, olive oil, soy sauce, and seasonings, then oven baked it in a loaf pan at 325°F for about an hour and a half. We had it wrapped in foil like the log recipe but saw the seitan wouldn’t hold its form and the foil began to stick, so we dumped it in the loaf pan, added more marinade, and covered it with foil. Every twenty minutes or so, we stirred and turned the seitan to keep it from sticking to the pan. We also split some of the bigger pieces into smaller chunks to cook more evenly.

seitanWe ended up with about 4 cups of chewy seitan chunks from the original 12 cups of flour. Overall, the process took about 3 1/2 hours, most of which was cooking and waiting time. Next time we’ll try incorporating the marinade and seasonings before the gluten is completely formed so the seitan will be more infused with flavor and maybe achieve the log texture.  To be extra frugal, we’ll also re-use some of the starchy water from the rinsing stages to thicken soup stocks and sauces, instead of letting it all go down the drain.

We love to make protein-rich wraps with sauteed seitan chunks, quinoa, cucumbers, red onion, avocado, hummus, and parsley and salad greens from the garden.

You can use seitan to substitute any sort of meat, or tofu for that matter. Throw it in a stir fry instead of cubed tofu, crumble it in pasta sauce or add it to chili like the commercial soy crumbles, bread it and fry it for a chicken nugget type snack, we might even slice it in strips and put it on a barbecue pizza! With bulk flour from our co-op, we may never have to buy meat alternatives ever again.

Frugal Friday: Beat the Heat

We’ve had a week of 100º+ days here in St. Louis, and the weather service says 33 states are currently under a heat advisory. We do run our air conditioning, but there are some other fun, frugal ways to beat the heat.

Shot-cicleShot-cicles: We’ve been making some homemade popcicles lately. We don’t have popcicle molds. so we use shot glasses- or you can use anything where the rim isn’t narrower than the rest of the glass. Fill with three parts juice and one part almond or coconut milk (you can omit these milks, but we like the creaminess they add). Get creative-  throw in dash of vanilla or cinnamon depending on the flavor, or mix in fresh fruit. Freeze for about 10 minutes until the juice is frozen enough to support a popcicle stick (or chop stick, like we used above).  The popcicles will be ready in just a couple hours.

Ceiling fan adjustment: The direction of rotation makes a difference because each fan blade has a tilt. Most fans have a switch to change the direction. In summer, you want the leading edge of the fan blade higher so the air is pushed downward (this is counter-clockwise for most fans). In the winter, the leading edge should be lower, so the air is pulled upward and the warmer air above is displaced. Just having proper air circulation makes a big difference in your indoor comfort.

Heating Cooling pad: Some heating pads can be used as cooling pads, like this one I made last winter. Keep it in the freezer and it’ll be ready when you need it!

Anyone else have cheap, creative ways to stay cool?

Vegan Hamantaschen for Purim

Purim is one of our favorite Jewish holidays! In the story of Purim, Haman, one of the advisors to the Persian King Ahasverus, wanted to exterminate the Jewish population because the new queen’s cousin, Mordecai, refused to bow down to Haman. The king didn’t know his new queen was Jewish, and when she revealed her Jewish identity, Haman’s plans were spoiled. And, most importantly, Haman was known to wear a triangular hat.

So now we eat triangular cookies called hamantaschen to celebrate Purim.Hamantaschen in your face.

I’ve veganized my mom’s hamantaschen recipe,  Read more of this post