Christmas Recap

It is so hard to believe that Christmas has already come and gone! I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or holidays) filled with family, friends, and lots of delicious vegan food!

With a Christmas tree upstairs, I don’t do a tree in my place, but I did do a bit of decorating for the first time.¬†

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So glad I remembered where I’d tucked away these snowflakes that my late Grandma made years ago! ūüôā

I’m officially done one third of my Natural Nutrition program and enjoying a nice break from my studies. Which gave me time to sneak in a couple days of baking before Christmas Day. The week before, I’d made these Peppermint Bark Raw Brownies to share at work.

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Monday, Jem and I had our annual Christmas Baking Day. We like to turn on some Christmas music and make a few different goodies at once, mostly to share with family and friends over the holidays. Since I made the switch to vegan, Jem is lovely enough to let all our choices be vegan. This year we choose to make Thin Mint Cookies, Pumpkin Blondies,  Chocolate Chai Shortbread, and Coconut Sugar Cookies (from Vegan Food Gifts). (The links will take you to the original recipe, but I did make some changes, which I will share with you in later posts.)

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(Please ignore the non-vegan red sprinkles on Jem’s cookies.)

And Christmas Eve I baked a Cranberry Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (this one, but with fresh cranberries added), and Christmas morning I baked fresh Herb Drop Biscuits. These were my contribution to my family’s Christmas brunch.

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I’m feeling completely spoiled from Christmas! This is all the vegan/cooking/baking-related stuff I was lucky enough to receive.

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Can you detect any themes? Seems as though my family has figured out that if I get kitchen stuff and Lush stuff, I will be a super happy camper!

Not sure if I’ll have another post for you before the end of 2013, so just in case I miss it: have a very Happy New Year! See you in 2014!

P.S. – I am so excited about my new Crockpot, but have never used one before. Does anyone have any favourite or tried-and-true vegan slow-cooker recipes they’d like to share?

Also, I’d love to hear about your favourite moment or favourite gift from this year’s holidays!

My Most Made Recipes

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Vegan MoFo 2013 – Post #12

I don’t have a lot of time today for a post, as I should be spending the day studying for a test I have tomorrow, so I thought I’d just share with you some of the recipes I’ve posted about that I actually make repeatedly. The number is actually pretty small. There are just always so many new and interesting recipes to try that I find it difficult to repeat past ones, even when I really loved them. The ones that I do repeat are usually the ones that were really quick and easy, in addition to tasty.

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I make these Chickpea Flour Omelettes all the time! They are quick, easy, very filling, and easily adaptable to whatever vegetables I have on hand. My favourite fillings include spinach, peppers, something spicy like pickled jalape√Īos or red pepper flakes, and a bit of Daiya Cheese.

And for a variation, I’ve made these Vegan Scrambled ‘Eggs’ a few times since I discovered them.

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I’ve been making these Easy Hot & Sour Refrigerator Pickles on and off all summer long and they always disappear very quickly! I mostly just eat them as snacks.

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It isn’t a recipe, but I am pretty much obsessed with falafel salads and wraps. (Seriously, search my blog for ‘falafel’ and you’ll see one pop up on almost every What I Ate Wednesday post.) I used to use Casbah Falafel mix, but now I’ve been using the Baked Falafel Burgers from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way. Staples in my falafel salads are cucumbers, peppers, either hummus or tahini sauce, and (lately) Sriracha.

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These Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies from Veganomicon are a big hit with my family and I. I love the texture and taste from the oat flour and the recipe is really easy. The small batch means you won’t be taking cookies in and out of the oven for hours, and you won’t have too many leftovers to tempt you in the following days.

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This Lower-Fat Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Veganomicon has been repeated quite a few times in our household, and is a big hit with omnivores and vegan (just me) alike. You can also see it here, with the addition of raspberries!

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This Basic No-Mayo Coleslaw is (in my humble opinion) crunchy, tangy, coleslaw perfection. I make this quite a lot, both for myself and as a contribution to family dinners. My mom and sister have also requested the recipe and made it a few times! ūüôā I find it seriously addictive, in a good way, and it never lasts long.

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And last, but certainly not least is my Avocado Toast with Balsamic Vinegar. Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I make this all the time, at all times of day, and I always thoroughly enjoy it! Hearty crunchy whole grain bread (I prefer Silver Hills), rich creamy avocado, tangy balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, and a punch of spice from the black pepper! Yum yum yum. I think I know what I’m having for lunch today.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Vegan Mofo 2013 – Post #11

What could be better than combining all your favourite cookies into one? When they are also super easy to make and pretty darn healthy as far as treats go! And they taste amazing!

Sound good? Check out these Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Oatmeal With A Fork!

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I actually used the last bits of my almond butter and peanut butter up to make these, so it ended up about half and half.¬†Also, I just realized that I never added the stevia, but I really didn’t feel like I was missing any sweetness, so I’ll probably just leave it out next time.

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Veganomicon’s Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Jem and I whipped up a batch of these Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies recently for a last-minute evening treat and they were fantastic! This recipe is another one from Veganomicon that I’ve just tried for the first time. I love Veganomicon, and I love the fact that after almost a year and a half on my shelf, I still keep discovering new things within it’s pages.

As it says in the book, “these cookies couldn’t be any easier to make, unless you had someone else make them for you” (Veganomicon, Moskowitz and Romero, p. 237). Even with the extra step of processing some oats into oat flour, this recipe was very quick and easy to throw together. I will say that, while the tip included in the recipe suggests using a blender or food processor for making oat flour, I wouldn’t attempt it with a blender unless you have a very high-powered one. I used my blender and it was not very successful. I will be using my food processor next time.

The only change that we made to the original recipe was with the sugar. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Since I prefer my chocolate chip cookies not very sweet (I find the chocolate chips provide more than enough sugar) and I only had sucanat on hand, we just used 1/2 cup of sucanat. Personally, I could lower this even more  next time, perhaps to 1/3 cup.

I also wanted to mention that I was surprised that this recipe actually made the exact amount (18) of cookies stated. Maybe I’m just not good at following recipes, but always find that cookie recipes almost always make far less cookies than the states yield suggests.

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Anyway, Jem and I had some of these Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies with our evening tea and they were delicious! The oat flour gave them a really great taste and texture. Also, they are chocolate chip cookies. Hard to go wrong there.

If you are going to make this recipe (and you really should) I wouldn’t suggest doubling it unless you are making them for a crowd. These cookies were still good the next day, but absolutely at their best fresh from the oven! And, they are so easy that you’ll have no problem making them all the time if that’s what you need to do!

Lucky you, in addition to Veganomicon, this recipe can also be found at the Post Punk Kitchen. Happy baking!

You May Also Enjoy:
Lower-Fat Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (Veganomicon)
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Ginger Chocolate-Chunk Scones (Post Punk Kitchen)
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Almond Joy Cookie Bars
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What I Ate Wednesday #85: Fall Into Good Habits

First of all, I love the above badge! Don’t get me wrong, I love summer but after a few weeks of sunshine and heat I am ready for fall. I can’t wait for clear cool weather, falling leaves, boots, and cozy layers!

Anyway, before I even knew the theme for this month’s What I Ate Wednesday, I was trying to jumpstart myself into making some changes. Its been a rough couple of months and despite the fact that I’ve definitely upped my fresh fruit intake, I haven’t been eating all that well and haven’t been exercising AT ALL. Especially in the month of July when I was spending most days at the hospital, meals were mostly whatever was quick and easy, and I was way too tired all the time to exercise any more than walking back and forth from the ICU a bazillion times. Combine that with the fact that I wasn’t working at all during July and August (which keeps me on my feet and lightly active) and it’s not difficult to see why I’ve gained a bit of weight over the summer.

About 2 1/2 years ago when I decided I really wanted to lose weight and get in better shape, what jump started me was getting a Wii Fit (a great way to get into exercising, as I never really exercised before) and using a food/fitness tracker (I used LoseIt on my iPod and computer). I still love my Wii Fit: it has a great variety (there are still exercises and levels I haven’t done), is fun, got me interested in yoga, and my workout is¬†different every time if I want, but my use of it in the past year has been sporadic at best.

Anyway, because I know it worked for me last time, yesterday I downloaded and started using the diet and exercise journal from My Fitness Pal (its available online, for iPhone, IPod touch, Blackberry, Android, and Windows). It probably will be a big help that my sister Jem is also using My Fitness Pal to get back in shape after recently going through chemo and beating Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. ūüôā While I do want to lose some¬†weight, I’m more interested in eating healthier and starting to exercise again on a regular basis. I find using the diet and exercise journal makes me a lot more aware of what I’m eating so I make better choices, and want to exercise so I can minus some calories (and eat more). Plus, If I log throughout the day I can see what nutrients I’m maybe lacking and make choices to fix that. Also, because I’ll be inputting most of my recipes into the journal already, I am going to start posting the nutritional information of my recipes.

Sorry, I really didn’t intend to write so much, but as you can probably tell, I’m getting a little excited about this!

Here’s what I ate yesterday:

Breakfast:
Potato Vegetable Hash – leftover Greek roasted potatoes, white mushrooms, orange pepper, Cajun seasoning.
1 piece Silver Hills Mack’s Flax toast with red pepper hummus.
2 cups of coffee with unsweetened soy milk.

Lunch:
Chana curry, rice pulao, and vegetable pakora (leftovers from take-out).
Chilled chai tea with vanilla soy milk.

Dinner:
Southwest Quinoa Confetti Salad with 1/2 an avocado.

Snacks:
1 Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodle (I think I forgot to take photos, but it was basically Isa’s recipe, except I made a few changes which I will detail next time I make them).
Tropical peach smoothie & Tropical peach smoothie soft serve – 1 peach, 1/4 serving Natural Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer, 1/2 serving Tropical Vega Energizing Smoothie, 1 tsp chia seeds, 1/4 tsp pure orange extract, 3 coconut milk ice cubes, 1/4 cup frozen banana slices, and 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk. I drank 1/3 of this smoothie before a workout and put the rest in a small bowl in the freezer. I stirred it up and had it post-workout.
1/2 an apple.
2 slices off a Banana Bran Mini Loaf.
1 cup vanilla soy milk.

Plus, thanks to my beautiful tumbler and a little lemon juice I managed to drink 7 whole cups of water! Which may be a record for me, though I don’t usually keep track (one more thing My Fitness Pal helps me keep track of). I’m sure I never drink enough water. I realized I enjoy drinking water more if I add a small amount of lemon juice, and if its in an open cup (not a water bottle with a lid I have to take off), preferably with a straw!

And, a few other things I’ve eaten in the past week:

From top, left to right:
1) Baked Vegetable Spring Rolls with soy sauce & Sriracha.
2) Peach Blueberry Crumble
3) Roasted Greek Potatoes (red potatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, Epicure Greek Seasoning) & green salad (romaine, grated broccoli stalk, cucumber, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, olive oil balsamic vinegar, hemp hearts).
4) Mixed pasta with Kale Pesto & crumbled Spicy Lime Tofu Nuggets.
5) Smoked Tofu & Harvarti Sandwich on toasted Silver Hills Mack’s Flax bread with red pepper hummus, romaine lettuce, Daiya Jalapeno Garlic Havarti Wedge, and thinly sliced Soyganic Smoked Tofu lightly browned in a pan. Definitely not the healthiest sandwich ever, but super tasty!

Chocolate and Almonds: Two Ways

In the past week, without even realizing it, I have made two different things which both focus on the flavours of chocolate and almonds.

First up is Chocolate Almond Porridge. You’d never know it from the two chocolate and nut-butter porridges on this blog (check out my Peanut Butter Porridge), but for a long time the only oatmeal I ever made was totally focused on dates, apples, and almonds (I will post this recipe next time I make it). I made this one morning when I was in need of a treat. It is rich and chocolatey, not too sweet, and has three incarnations of almond. Its hard not to love a breakfast that feels like dessert, but is actually really good for you. I was more than happy to eat this 3 mornings in a row.

Chocolate Almond Porridge
1 cup large flake oats
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/8 cup ground flax
1/8 cup wheat bran
1/8 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 – 1/2 cup coconut (or brown) sugar (depending on your prefered sweetness level)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp carob powder
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Combine all ingredients, except the last four, to a medium-sized pot. Heat on medium until water has started to absorb and mixture is starting to bubble. Now stir in the sliced almonds, sugar, cocoa, and carob powders until well combined. Turn heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is fully absorbed and the oats are cooked, about 10 minutes longer. Enjoy!

I like mine with some non-dairy milk poured over.

Next up are Almond Joy Cookie Bars from Peas and Thank You. I used the recipe from the book, which is a little different from this version online, doubled it, and altered it a bit. To minimize confusion I’m going to write my version here.

Almond Joy Cookie Bars
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
1 cup large flake oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup vegan mini dark chocolate chips
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 cup natural almond butter (the only ingredient is almonds)
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350¬į and lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl combine flours, oats, coconut, almonds, chocolate chips, baking soda, and salt. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the sugars, almond butter (you might need to heat it up a bit to soften it), milk, and extracts.

Pour wet mixture into dry and stir until just combined. Spread batter into your prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

What I Ate Wednesday #79 & Everybody Loves Veggies

Or rather, what I ate Monday July 23.

Breakfast:
2 blueberry almond waffles (home-made ones I had in the freezer) with Earth Balance and agave syrup (because I couldn’t get my maple syrup bottle to open).
Tetley Bold Orange Pekoe Tea with So Nice For Coffee creamer.

Lunch:
Millet Lentil Salad with added cucumbers.
1/2 an apple.

Snack:
2 mugs of Organic Green Mate tea
2 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. (I finally baked the dough I had from our For the Freezer Day.

Dinner:
Vegetable stir fry (carrots, orange pepper, broccoli, sui choy, peanuts) with sauce (hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar, Bragg’s, Siracha hot sauce) and roasted sesame seeds over green tea noodles (I had to try them, but they were only okay. I don’t think I’d buy them again).

Snacks:
2 squares Giddy Yoyo Raw Organic Ginger Dark Chocolate (I got this in my package from this month’s Vegan Food Swap. More on this in a few days).
Nature’s Path flake cereal (I mix a few different kinds in my cereal keeper) with hemp hearts, cinnamon, and unsweetened soy milk.

Here are some other things I’ve been eating over the past week:

From left:
1) Salad: green leaf lettuce, spinach, orange peppers, cooked buckwheat, cucumber, dried cranberries, hemp hearts, chia seeds, pickled chopped banana peppers with balsamic vinaigrette. Chipotle Seasoned Sweet Potato Fries
2) Yves Veggie Chicken Burger on a whole wheat bun with Veganaise, Siracha hot sauce, spinach, and dill pickles.
3) Whole wheat rotini with Creamy Avocado Sauce, Almesan, and steamed broccoli.

Also, yesterday I ate at a little vegetarian/vegan place called Everybody Loves Veggies for the first time. It is located in the food court at City Square 555 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver. (I stumbled upon this place because it is just down the street from Vancouver General Hospital, where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately.) They had a nice selection of salads, sandwiches, stews (with rice), and a daily soup. You can buy things individually or make combos with 2 different things. Everything looked really good!
For lunch I had an Avocado Cucumber Sandwich and Couscous Salad. The sandwich was just avocado, cucumber, and Veganaise on some really fresh light rye bread (I think) but it was very good. The salad seemed to be just couscous, roasted eggplant, fresh parsley, and some sort of dressing. It was also really tasty. I also got a Double Chocolate (vegan!) cookie for later. It was super soft, chewy, and very chocolatey! Yum!
From what I tried, and how everything else looked, this is like eating someones simple home cooking. Simple, but very well done. I really enjoyed my lunch and will definitely be eating here some more. Definitely better than the food court at VGH!
Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera to take photos, and they don’t have a website but for more information and to get a closer look at some of the food you can check out these two videos: One Two

Chocolate Vega Macaroons

Let me just start by saying that these chocolate macaroons are far too good! It took massive amounts of willpower for me to not eat them all day, every day until they were gone! So, if you are a chocolate fiend like I am, I suggest making sure you have people to share these treats with. Or, perhaps you won’t want to share them at all.

I adapted this recipe from these Cocoa Coconut Bits over at the Sprouted Kitchen. When I first tried the recipe, I was curious as to how the addition of Chocolate Vega would be like, so I divided the recipe in half and added Vega to only one half. Trying both kinds one after the other, I’ve decided that I prefer the taste and texture of the Vega macaroons to the original recipe. I’m sure that you could replace the Vega with a different brand of protein or meal replacement powder, but just make sure that it is one you enjoy the taste of. The taste of the Vega is not overpowering but is definitely noticeable in the final product.

Also, I use cocoa powder and toasted carob powder here, as I do in almost all of my chocolate recipes. Carob powder is not actually chocolate, but tastes similar. While it does have a higher natural sugar content than cocoa, it is lower in fat, caffeine-free, and is a source of calcium and iron. Carob is also free of theobromine, thenylthylamine and tyramine, all three of which can trigger headaches and migraines in some people.* I really like the taste of carob, though it may take some getting used to if you are substituting it for chocolate, and I enjoy the complex chocolate flavour I get in baked goods from using both cocoa and carob powder.

Chocolate Vega Macaroons
1 1/2 cups dried unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup oats (I used quick, but I’m sure large flake would be fine)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup carob powder
1/3 cup Chocolate Vega One
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Add all of the dry ingredients to a medium bowl and stir to combine. If necessary, heat the coconut oil until it is mostly liquid. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla to the other ingredients and stir until everything is moistened and clumping together. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Now preheat oven to 225¬į. Using a mini-scoop, a 1 tbsp measuring spoon, or your hands, make 1 inch balls and set on a lightly greased baking sheet. These won’t spread at all, so you can put them quite close together. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing them from pan. Enjoy!

These can also be enjoyed raw. Just scoop the prepared mixture into balls, refrigerate and enjoy!

* http://www.carobana.com.au/carob.html
http://www.livestrong.com/article/397311-nutritional-information-for-carob-powder/

This post has been entered Healthy Vegan Fridays hosted by Shelby at Everyday Vegan Girl, Gabby at Veggie Nook, and Carrie at Carrie On Vegan.

Curried Lentil Soup & Cooking for the Freezer

I wouldn’t say that I like my food really spicy (I prefer to still be able to taste my food under the layer heat), but I do love spices and spiciness! Any breakfast scramble (tofu or veggies) isn’t complete without Cajun seasoning and any mention or thought of curry leaves me practically drooling and unable to think of anything else. So, when my sister and I were brainstorming what kind of soup to make on our first day of baking/cooking for our freezers – more on that later – my first thought, especially once I realized I wanted an easy lentil based soup, was curry.¬†The following Curried Lentil Soup is what we came up with. I used a Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry recipe from Veganomicon¬†(page 186) that I had made before as a soup for an idea of the method, measurements, and spices to use, but used our own mix of lentils and vegetables to create a very different soup.

Curried Lentil Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup chopped carrot
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced potato
3 1/2 tsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp each: turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander
3/4 cup red split lentils
3/4 cup green/brown lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt (omit if using store-bought vegetable broth)

Set out all of the ingredients and chop the vegetables. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the shallot, garlic, and ginger for a couple of minutes, until tender. (You might notice this recipe doesn’t have any onions in it. That is because I really don’t like them and besides shallots and small amounts of dehydrated onion I do not cook with them. If you want to add onions to this soup, add them first, saut√© until translucent, and then add the shallot, garlic, and ginger.) Add the spices and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add carrots, celery, potato, and lentils (after sorting and rinsing them). Slowly pour in vegetable broth and water. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and boil for 1 minute. Stir, then cover the pot again, lower heat to medium-low, and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Check to see if the potatoes and lentils are done, they may need a little more time. When the potatoes and lentils are cooked then your soup is done.¬†Cover and let sit about 15 minutes before serving, to let the flavours meld.

I like this soup as is, with a piece of toasted whole grain bread (my favourite is Silver Hills) or served over brown rice or quinoa. Enjoy!

As I mentioned earlier, this was one of the things that my sister Jem and I made on our first designated day of baking and cooking for both of our freezers. In addition to this Curried Lentil Soup, we also made sun-dried tomato pesto based on this one from Oh She Glows (we froze it in ice-cube trays), chocolate zucchini loaf based on this recipe, chocolate chip peanut butter cookies from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking¬†(we baked 1 tray full and then made 2 rolls of the dough for the freezer), blueberry almond waffles adapted from this recipe, and falafel burgers from The Vegan Table. Half of everything went to me and the other half is for Jem and her fianc√©. Our intention was to make a bunch of things that we could both have in our freezers for quick meals and snacks later on. Our day was very successful and we have plans to make this a monthly (or around there) tradition. We have so many ideas of things we want to make!

Our pesto cubes.

Our falafel burgers.

¬†Making extras for the freezer is something I already do, but making a day of it together was actually Jem’s idea. This gives us a day together, and we figure that it will help get us creative, eat less processed foods, and save some money. It really is those times when you just don’t feel like cooking, or have the time, that it is so easy to reach for a can or box of something way too processed, or to eat out.

What I really love about doing this is that while everything we make will be vegan, or vegetarian if Jem adds cheese to her half of something, neither Jem nor her fianc√© are vegan! They are both omnivores and pretty heavy meat-eaters. However, my sister has always been open to trying my vegan and vegetarian food, and is really interested in eating healthier and trying new things. It always makes me happy to get people interested in vegan food and I love sharing my discoveries with her. I think we already have our menu planned out for July’s For the Freezer Day and we are both looking forward to it!

Questions
Do you like spicy food? If so, what is your favourite heat-inducing ingredient?
My favourite is chipotle! I use chipotle hot sauce, chipotle chile powder, and canned chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. I’m also addicted to Cajun seasoning. I have one now that I’m not sure is vegan. It is going to run out very soon and then I’m going to have to create my own, which I’m looking forward to.

Do you have a favourite vegan soup recipe?

Do you make extras for the freezer? Or cook/bake anything specifically to have on hand in the freezer?
I always have homemade vegetable broth and applesauce in the freezer. Since I’m baking mostly for one, I usually put half of each loaf, muffin, and bar recipe in the freezer for a month or two later. Also, I’ve been trying to cook pots of beans on days when I’m at home in order to keep some handy in the freezer. I’m trying to use more dry beans and less canned ones and I find this is helping.