Vegan Shepherds Pie

Okay, so from the feature picture, you can already tell that my mashed potato portions are way off. This was no accident. I love mashed potatoes.

Like most of the recipes I feature, they can be modified for different diets. This one, for example, could easily be paleo, without the lentils and with meat instead of a mushroom spiced replaced.

I was also too lazy to open a can of corn, which I’m sure would be a great addition to this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large potatoes (pretty sure there’s a specific kind to use, but I just grabbed whatever from the grocery store)
  • A decent amount of mushrooms (it depends on how big you want the layer to be, right? I used an 8″ cast iron pan for frying the layers and baking)
  • 1 cup of brown lentils (cooked prior to use or directly from can after being drained)
  • Carrots
  • Almond milk (for the mashed potatoes, can use any sort of dairy replacement/alternative)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Nutritional yeast flakes
  • Optional: Additional layers like corn,  or any vegetable really.
  • Optional: For a sweet twist, try using mashed yams or sweet potatoes. For a soft touch of sweetness add a layer of cooked beets (the color alone is gorgeous).

Instructions:

  1. Cut and boil potatoes until soft (leave the skins, they won’t kill you).
  2. Cut and fry mushrooms with lentils, salt & pepper, and rosemary. Again, spice to your personal taste. Fry until mushrooms and wholly cooked and sizzling.
  3. Slice and boil carrots.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Layer carrots over mushroom/lentil fry. Here you would also layer any other vegetables, which should be cooked and soft before adding.
  6. Mash potatoes once cooked, spicing with salt and pepper, and adding a dash of almond milk to make them more creamy. I don’t really care if they’re chunky, but that might just be me. Also I have to use a cup to mash the potatoes because I’m working in a student kitchen and also, it works fine, so leave me be.
  7. Layer potatoes on top of everything, and sprinkle a heavy layer of nutritional yeast flakes on top. This is the all-time best cheese replacement ever in case you didn’t know.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until funny popping sounds (lentils bursting) start coming from the oven.

At this point, if you find yourself starting to hate that I don’t put exact measurements all the time, I need you to understand something. First off, I do apologize. Second off, I don’t really apologize because I don’t use measurements when it comes to proportioning layers/spicing. Taste test like its your day job, people. Trust me. A lot of the time you can eye-ball these sorts of measurements, and if you’re not used to cooking like that- isn’t learning new things fun?

All the best,
The Dirt Mouth

Baked Chick Peas

I’m not sure a recipe gets more simple than this… Except for kale chips. Those were pretty easy too.

Ingredients:

  • Canned chick peas, drained, as many cans as your heart desires (with consideration for your supply of pans)
  • Some sort of oil (avocado, olive, etc)
  • Salt, pepper, assorted spices

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Mix chick peas and oil using the following ratio: 1/2tbs oil to 15oz can of chickpeas. Alternatively, without measurements, you want a light sheen across all chick peas- how else are they supposed to hold the seasoning?
  3. I like to use 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, but seasoning isn’t as hard as you think. Less is more to start, and if you’re daring enough to try one before they’re cooked, that’ll give you plenty direction on how much more to add.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until they’re a more lovely golden brown and crunchy.
  5. I mean, they’re going to get stale eventually, but I was eating mine for weeks. I have low standards about that sort of thing.

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cookies

Keep your love of PB cookies, cut the extra sugar, gluten, hell, cut the extra everything. Let’s do this. How does four ingredients sound for minimalist? Hard to believe, I know- guess you guys will have to trust me on this one.

Prep Time: 5-10 Minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 Minutes
Yield: 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup of all natural peanut butter (I use Adam’s, love the stuff)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of maple syrup (can also substitute honey)
  • Optional: crushed peanuts, chocolate chips, oatmeal, raisins, basically anything else you can think of. Because this is a consistency conscious recipe, the amount you add is fairly subjective to the consistency you want and the size of the cookies.

Baking:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (Notice I’ve been remembering to do this first? Little victories.)
  2. Throw it all in a bowl.
  3. As mentioned above, this recipe is all about consistency, so as long as you have the right consistency, feel free to add as much “optional” items as you want, balancing the consistency with more peanut butter. If you find yourself adding whole cups of optional ingredients, it might be worth it to throw in an extra egg. Look at you, living life on the edge.
  4. Place spoonfuls (a Dirth Mouth original measurement) onto parchment paper, evenly spaced. The cookies won’t expand too much.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges brown. They burn suddenly, so keep an eye on them.
  6. They’ll come out of the oven fairly soft- don’t worry about it, they’ll harden as they cool.

Honestly, even if you’re not into health, these cookies rock because they’re so damn easy to make. I mean, that’s not a challenge, I’m sure you could butcher this recipe if you really tried. So lets not. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash Pasta

For all you gluten-wise eaters out there, you can thank me later- spaghetti squash is the best thing since almond flour biscuits. Light in texture and absorbent with sauces, this vegetable replacement for pasta hasn’t failed me in a recipe yet. My favorite use is vegetarian Pad Thai; the squash soaks up the sauce and pairs perfectly with the crunch of peanuts, and the kick of red chili peppers.

Spaghetti Squash

Prep Time: 15 minutes.
Cook Time: 45 minutes.
Yield: Depends on the size of the squash, but a midsize squash should give you about 3 cups of noodles.

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • Avocado or olive oil
  • Optional: seasoning for the seeds.

Baking:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Slice spaghetti squash in half, do your best to keep all your fingers in the process. More difficult than you’d think.
  3. Scrape out all the icky gooey innards of the squash, here you will be reminded of scraping out a pumpkin.
  4. Optional: separate the seeds from the icky gooey mess; rinse and dry them; season them lightly with oil and spices you would use for pumpkin seeds. (i.e. Salt, pepper. I have an unreal caramel sprinkle that has never led me astray).
  5. Lightly oil your now scraped halves of spaghetti squash. Place face down on an oven-safe pan or dish.
  6. Optional: this is also when you would bake your seeds. Watch them carefully, turn them often, and no, they won’t be in there for the full 45 minutes- more like 10-15 minutes.
  7. Bake squash for 45 minutes, upon removing from the oven, you should be seeing some noodle-like separation in what was once the “rind” of the squash.
  8. Let cool. Scrape out with a fork, and use within 48 hrs of baking.

What About Hunting?

Call it lack of ambition, but meat hasn’t been a huge part of my diet this summer. Not only is it a pain to find without plastic wrapping, but the truth of the matter is that I just don’t eat that much meat. I’ve had moral problems with it for years, but the kind of moral problems that are only a pain when you really think about them.

A few years back, I took a wonderful moral philosophy course that touched on a fascinating thought experiment by Alastair Norcross. If you don’t want to read the essay, you could listen to this brief summary I found on youtube.

Did you pick up the slight hints of veganism in that essay? Yeah, me too. So whether or not you eat meat, I’m not here to judge or push opinions. Zero waste is about living intentionally- what could be more intentional than critically reflecting on what we do and why? I continued to eat meat sparingly after studying this essay, but once I made the transition to zero waste, I decided to really push myself to make all the changes I had considered in the past- that included forgoing the consumption of my furry friends.

Wait a second though… What does this have to do with zero waste?

Well, raising animals for food is expensive resource-wise, and in addition to being costly, its apparently quite detrimental to our lovely little planet; Cowspiracy is a documentary that points the environmental finger directly at the cattle industry. So when you take that into consideration, plus all the packaging and waste along the line of production, you can see where the trash would start to pile up, or more so, the cost would start to pile up. Okay, so maybe eating factory-farmed meat isn’t the most sustainable option- where does that leave us? Veganism? Rabbit food?

Perhaps not. Where are all my hunters at?

My issue with farm factory meat comes from the disrespect in which the animals are treated, as well as the waste that comes with their treatment. And while I don’t believe it’s right treating animals as a means to an end, I’m also not about to start romanticizing nature. Animals kill animals, people. Things die. They get hurt, they feel pain, and they suffer- with or without our help. Now before you jump down my throat here, understand this. I respect animals just as much, and often more than people, given their lack of prejudice. If a storm knocks down a tree, it wasn’t out of malice, that’s just the nature of the storm. If a bear kills a hiker because they stood between her and her cub, she wasn’t acting in spite, it’s just in her nature. We, on the other hand, feel a wide range of emotions and desires for a wide range of reasons, and we have the capacity to make decisions that do not cause harm, despite that being our nature, and we still don’t make those decisions. Don’t give me that look, it’s true. Our intelligence is not a valid reason to consume other animals and dominate our surroundings no matter the cost, its actually the reason we should be doing the exact opposite.

I’m starting to sound vegan, aren’t I.

Well, I’m not vegan, because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hunting, in essence. If I were to ever take up hunting, it would be because I think there’s an opportunity there to develop a truly beautiful and intimate relationship with nature. A raw give and take of pain, struggle, hunger, and fresh air; holding a paramount respect for animals while also acknowledging that life and death are realities of the world we live in. Maybe I’m idealizing hunting. Maybe not. Maybe that sort of respect for an animal and all it can provide has been lost because we can access meats and leathers with ease. Maybe hunting is the answer for that lost respect.

We don’t need to be eating meat anymore, so maybe if you had to go out and kill an animal to make some burgers, you’d think twice about how badly you really need it. And in a sort of tandem consequential way, maybe if you did value meat that much, hunting would force you to develop a more personal and real relationship with animals and nature. The scars and flecks on the hide of a deer would tell the story of a life, and you would have no choice but to acknowledge that.

I’m not going to speak on the “bad” and “good” hunters out there, we all know there’s a right and a wrong way to do everything. Life, death, and pain are natural, and if you have the guts to take a life (or indirectly cause the taking of a life), I just hope you have the guts to confront yourself on your reasons and dig up some respect and understanding in the meantime.

And in case you’re wondering, I haven’t tried my hand at hunting. I’ve had discussions and conversations for hours on end with a brilliant friend of mine, and I can safely say that the wild game I have tried came from a place of respect and understanding for the value of a life and the cost of a bullet.

Homemade Almond Milk/Meal

You read that right folks, two beautiful, nutty staples in one go.

Ingredients/tools:

  • Water
  • Almonds
  • Cheese cloth
  • Blender and/or food processor

Instructions:

  1. Soak almonds in water for a minimum of 12 hrs and a maximum of 24 (yeah, yeah, so I soaked them too long once or twice, life is busy).
  2. Blender for almond meal, food processor for flour.
  3. If you know for sure that you want almond milk, then you can just add all the water and almonds into the blender or food processor.
    – Blend until smooth, and remember, as much water as you add, that is the amount of almond milk you will have. Keep in mind, its not going to be as thick as the store bought trash.
    – Once you have finished blending/processing, run the solution through the cheese cloth, catching the almond milk in a container and placing the almond paste on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  4. If you don’t want flour/meal, drain the water and place in appropriate machine. Blend/process until smooth/desired consistency. Place mulched contents on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  5. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and bake with occasional stirring until completely dry. This may take a few hours so clear your schedule.
    – Truth be told, whenever I’ve had to do this, either I’ve had the time, or I’ll do it bit by bit when I’m home. Dry them for an hour, take them out and do the same when I get home later. I’m still breathing so it must not be that bad for the almonds.
  6. If the crumble is too course, place in a food processor after it is completely dry. Don’t over-process, as with most nut flours, they’re always going to retain a little oil and you run the risk of making a paste. There are no returns at that point.

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Here is my all time favorite almond banana meal recipe by the beautiful and talented Dana. Add a brown sugar/walnut crumble on top and you are good to go, trust me. Super filling and just all around awesome. Ah. I’m making myself hungry.

All the best,
The Dirt Mouth

Buying New

Dated June 27th, 2016.

I looked everywhere. Everywhere.

I couldn’t find a used kayak that was small enough for me to carry, but big enough to be a stable multi-purpose watercraft (I want to be able to at least do overnight trips, aka bungee straps on the front/back and a watertight compartment). So I just did it. I bought new. This is the first really big rule of being zero waste that I’ve broken, and you know what? I’m not even sorry. That’s right, you heard me. I’m not sorry.

And while I’m at it, I’m not sorry for driving my vehicle to work/ the city to get groceries/tools/my precious baby (i.e. kayak). And its sort of funny, because I can’t even come close to mustering the pang of guilt I feel when I accumulate a piece of waste.

After some thinking, I finally figured out why. A kayak, a vehicle, these are definitely material goods from a consumer culture, but they stand apart in that they are not a one-time use technology. Both are huge investments that sort of come with the tagline of “maintenance” because you don’t put that kind of money into something you’re just going to throw away.

I really think that’s at the heart of it for me, and in terms of the experiment I’m doing right now, I’m acutely aware of opulent waste versus footprints of existence. As long as I’m alive, I’m going to be leaving some sort of impact- I’ll never be able to get that down to zero. That’s the logical standpoint. But my own personal interpretation of zero waste doesn’t involve a suicidal conclusion, rather, a brutal honesty with myself about things I want so badly I “need” them, and going about fulfilling that need in a sustainable manner.

I have been wanting a kayak for a very long time, but my want had never passed into the realm of “need” until this summer, when I realized that my personal quality of life could be vastly improved by purchasing something like this for myself. I can now connect with nature in my usual quiet, but  physical way, and I can spend more time immersing myself in the environment that has pushed my entire waste free initiative. In some sense, I even want to talk about the fact that I purchased a boat without a motor, but at this point I think I’m just stretching.

And so, two months in, the first amendment to zero waste has been made: Sometimes buying new is okay.

All the best,
The Dirt Mouth