Quick Potatoes!

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I thought this was cute.

But there are some things I hate when it comes to homemaking.

Cooking. I hate cooking. Some people enjoy the process of making a bunch of ingredients work together for this thing called ‘food’. I don’t. I like to eat…but I don’t want to work for it. But until they figure out a way for me to simply think of a meal and it being magically prepared, for a low cost because I’m frugal…I’m going to have to make this cooking thing work for me!

Another thing I hate are hot ovens on a sweltering day. I hate cooking…and I hate cooking on a hot summer day. My house becomes a battlefield between the air conditioning unit and the oven…and I’m torn between sweatpants and shorts….hoodies and tanktops.

Then I found this:

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The potato bag. I had one but then I got rid of it. I thought the idea of cooking something in the microwave in a cloth bag was weird. I found this brand at Walmart for $7 and change and decided to try…

…the picture below is my dinner from last night. Baked potatoes and red peppers. And it was yummy, and quick, and my dishes in the sink were minimal, and my house was not confused on whether to be hot or cold.

Using a potato bag is easy. This one has clear instructions; but basically you wash your potatoes, put them in the bag (unpoked), and place ‘flap side down’ the bag in the microwave. Two medium potatoes turned out nicely at 5 minutes, but if you cook more or if you cook larger potatoes, you need to check them every so often. Four larger potatoes in my bag yesterday took 9 minutes.

To launder you just wash and air dry. I’ll probably just hand wash it and let it dry in the strainer.

FYI: you can also make corn on the cob and reheat bread in this bag. This particular bag has instructions on each when you buy it.

I wanted to share this because I normally hate microwaved baked potatoes. The way I used to make them (washed, pierced, and on a plate for 6 minutes/potato) never turned out right, and so when I decided to try this contraption, I was a little desperate for a quick fix since I’d rather be in the living room than the kitchen.

Another cool thing about this contraption is that it’s portable. If you have to stay at a hotel that has a microwave, grab this bag and a few potatoes and save yourself the cost of dining out. At least that’s my plan! But I can be painfully frugal at times! 🙂

I started thinking about this potato as a meal thing. The recipe book suggests all sorts of potatoes..my thoughts were beans and potatoes (baked beans, lima beans, or any other cooked bean), topping with salsa or other mexican seasonings, or the garlicy bean alfredo sauce over top for a change up.

Tonight I’m trying out another gadget we picked up: a microwave rice bowl/cooker. I’ll let you know if it’s a keeper!

Garlic “Alfredo” Sauce

One thing about eating differently that is difficult is that you want some things that you are used to. I have tried a lot of new foods, but my favorites are still the stuff that were basic staples in my diet. Alfredo noodles were one of those things!

Who doesn’t love the creamy goodness? Well, now my tummy doesn’t! So here is a different version of the cheesy classic that makes me (and my tummy) happy!

You Need:

  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine (“Earth’s Balance” is what I use)
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups cooked (or 1-15 oz can, drained and rinsed) white beans
  • 1 1/2 cup plant based milk (I used Unsweetened Original Almond Milk, because it’s what I had in the fridge)
  • salt, pepper, parsley, and garlic powder: to taste

In a medium saucepan, simmer on low heat butter and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a blender and add the beans and 1 cup of the milk. Blend until smooth. If it is too thick, or you don’t like the texture, slowly keep adding milk (a little at a time), and blending to find your desired consistency.

Once you are content with the consistency, pour it back in the saucepan and turn the heat on low. Add seasonings to taste. Cook it til warm, stirring frequently. Toss it on half a box of cooked whole grain pasta.

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The flaw with this recipe is that it doesn’t make a lot (it covers a half of a box of cooked pasta well, but if you make more pasta, you would want to double it.) Something you can do is buy the plant based milk when it’s on sale. Some varieties of plant based milk are in the dairy section of the grocery store; some are in the cereal aisle. Check the cereal aisle if you know you’d like to have this sauce but not sure exactly when you are going to have it, because you can store that milk (as long as it hasn’t been opened) in your pantry, freeing up much needed fridge space.  Once you open up your plant based milk, either the milk from the cereal aisle or the dairy section, it needs to be used up within 7-10 days.

What?? You CAN Save Money on a Whole Food Plant Based Diet! Pt. 3

This is the hard part of any diet: snacks. I can make good choices for meals, but when snack time hits, my senses usually go out the window. Again, this is a time when a list of what you like to eat is helpful. My list looks like this:

  • Smoothies with flax seed*
  • Clif bars*
  • Kind bars (preferably, Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate kind, they are great when you need something sweet!!)*
  • Granola*
  • Oatmeal (brown sugar or apples and cinnamon added in is a sweeter variation!)*
  • Peanut Butter Crackers*
  • Simply Salted’ brand Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Fruits*
  • Vegetables with hummus or creamy Italian dressing as a dip
  • Pretzels
  • Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Chick Peas*
  • Roasted Cauliflower
  • Whole Grain Pasta Salad
  • Garden Salad
  • Fruit Salad*
  • Toast with jelly or peanut butter *

I have had the soy variation of ice cream, So Delicious, in addition to the coconut milk variation. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t fill you up and also can be quite expensive. There is also vegan chocolate chips and chocolate chip cookies (Enjoy Life brand). Those I haven’t tried, but they can be expensive too. The key with this kind of stuff is to get it when it’s on sale, and let it be a novelty item, not a daily staple. (plus, it’s processed anyways, and not so much a whole food).

My issue is sweets. I love sweet stuff, and that is when I break down and grab the stuff I know I shouldn’t eat. The * beside some of the food items on my list show things that can cure my sweet tooth. There is a lot more than I thought!

Some of the things on my list are processed (like the Clif bars), but they hold me over so well that I don’t mind. They also are expensive, but…sometimes I will spend more on something if I know it is worth it. In this case, having a handy bar to eat when I’m really hungry is helpful. I’ll make sure I have the extra in my grocery budget to account for them.

Some things too are higher in calories (nuts), but if I stick to a serving size then I’m ok in the calorie department.

The main thing is buying snacks that make you feel better and hold you over longer. A bag of chips may taste good, but they don’t hold me over long. And if I eat enough to make myself feel full, I don’t feel well afterwards. So, when you are not hungry, make a list of what snacks work for you. Ask yourself:

  1. Is it a whole food or mostly a whole food? Or do I have to read a long paragraph of weird words on the ingredient list?
  2. How do I feel after I eat the food? Even with my processed Clif bar, I feel great after I eat it, so it makes my list.
  3. Will it cure my sweet or salty tooth?

Another great thing is flax seed. Ground, you can add it to smoothies and get some fiber in an otherwise super sugary (but naturally sugared) snack. It helps me stay full after drinking a smoothie.

There it is! Snack foods that work for me! I’m curious, what works for you? I’m always looking for new snack ideas!!