Doing it ourselves on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

It’s my turn to host the delightful Gluten Free Menu Swap this week. Each week the host chooses a theme and a group of gluten-free bloggers posts a week of menus touching on that theme. Inspired by last week’s Urban Homesteader’s Day of Action (which I wrote about at length in a previous post) I chose the theme of DIY/MYO (do-it-yourself/make-your-own) ingredients.

Bi bim bap mixed with homemade kimchi

As people who love food, who care about our health, who are trying to save money, and who follow gluten-free and/or vegan diets, I and most of the bloggers I know tend to find ourselves making a lot of foodstuffs from scratch. Of course any time we cook anything that involves more than sticking a package in a microwave, we’re “doing it ourselves.” But there are whole categories of things I used to buy – breadcrumbs, canned beans, chocolate syrup; the list is endless – that over the years I’ve found myself making instead. I wrote quite a lot about this last week, and I don’t want to bore you by repeating myself, but I’ll just hit the salient points again of why I chose this theme.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to make my own version (like dried beans vs. canned beans). Sometimes it’s healthier or tastier. Many times I can’t get a version that is both vegan and gluten-free (and that tastes good and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg). But most importantly, it’s fun. It used to be overwhelming to think about doing a lot of this stuff from scratch. I thought my pressure cooker would explode and kill me, I thought I would give my loved ones botulism from fermenting at home, I never seemed to be able to remember to defrost homemade frozen ingredients ahead of time, which pretty much negated the point of making them in the first place. DIY takes extra time, extra effort, and extra planning, and those are things I usually have in short supply.

Two pots of scrap stock

At a certain point a few years ago I loved my CSA box so much, and so treasured the beautiful vegetables that came in it, that I decided to try making some scrap stock with my leftover veggie trimmings so that no part of what came in my box would go to waste. The only recipe I could find was from the civil war, so I borrowed heavily from Deborah Madison’s vegetable stock directions and just improvised my own. It was so easy and tasted so good. Suddenly all the vacuum-packed boxes of broth I’d been buying just disappeared from my shopping list.

Stock, rich and flavorful, made totally from scraps!

Then I took some workshops on fermenting, and made a few batches of fermented food. So easy! Didn’t kill anyone! I made friends with my pressure cooker. I started menu planning – and leaving notes for myself throughout my menu plans, reminding me to defrost stock or soak beans. Little by little certain tasks stopped being overwhelming, became routine or even something to be looked forward to. And then, always, new challenges take their place. I’ve been doing so well on soaking beans for pressure cooking and mung dal for making cheela (pancakes) that I think I’m ready to try making dosa batter, which has to be soaked, ground, and then fermented. I want to try making crackers from flax seeds and vegetables in the dehydrator I picked up at Goodwill and have never used. I want to learn to pressure can my scrap stock so I don’t even have to worry anymore about defrosting it in advance. And the holy grail of DIY for me would be to make my own vegan, gluten-free bread. Not all the time, because I don’t really want bread to be a regular part of my diet, but often enough that I could have a good supply in the freezer of some different breads with actually decent textures.

For more amazing gluten-free menu plans and DIY ideas, check out below what my fellow gluten-free menu swappers have planned for this week. And you’ll find hundreds of menu plans from all over the web over at Laura’s OrgJunkie. The sheer act of planning a weekly menu is very DIY. We’re putting thought and time and intention into something that our crazy culture has been steadily trying to convince us we don’t have time for: No idea what to make for dinner? Nothing in the house to cook? No problem!  Just hit the drive-through, or grab a frozen dinner, or order delivery… But as all of us who have tried meal planning have discovered, far from adding to our burdens by being complicated, overwhelming, and time-consuming, meal planning saves money, leads to healthier eating, and makes helps to make cooking fun rather than stressful!

Cauliflower and potato uttapam

Kale and potato gratin
Impressionist cauliflower
Green salad
DIY: I make my own GF vegan bread crumbs by putting Trader Joe’s frozen GF waffles in the food processor with olive oil and herbs

Tuesday (soak rice and urad dal for uttapam/dosa batter following Wild Fermentation recipe)
Bi bim bap with napa cabbage, tofu, shitake mushrooms, and arame
DIY: Bi bam bap is excellent with homemade kimchi

Wednesday (strain, grind, and ferment dosa batter)
Thai red curry with tofu, pumpkin, cabbage, and basil
Bhutanese red rice
DIY: I still use curry paste from a jar, but I love to spice up my curries with serrano peppers I’ve bought in advance, chopped, and frozen. And I used to avoid recipes that called for basil because I could never use up the whole bunch before it wilted in my fridge. But now I make vegan pesto even if there are just a few leaves left and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then I can just throw a cube of pesto into soup, pasta, wherever!

Thursday (defrost 2 C. stock)
Chickpea picatta
DIY: Homemade scrap stock & breadcrumbs

Friday (defrost 2 C. beans, tortilla chips)
Quick red posole with beans (Viva Vegan, p. 136)
DIY: I’ll make this using cranberry beans I cooked in the pressure cooker and then froze in amounts equivalent to 1 can of beans. Whenever I have a few leftover tortilla chips that came with a takeout burrito, I throw them into a big bag in my freezer, and then eventually use them for dishes like this, or chilaquiles.

Saturday ~ Beloved Gathering (pack leftovers)
DIY: One of the themes of the gathering is self-reliance, so I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of new people with DIY ethics of their own, whatever that means to each of them.

Red onion and peas uttapam
Ethiopian red lentil and vegetable stew used as sambar
DIY: Hopefully I’ll be making this using my first successful batch of home-fermented uttapam batter. And then I’m so excited as the stew recipe will call on me to make my own berbere spice mixture. I love having jars of homemade spice mixtures (like curry powder and garam masala) in my spice drawer!

Shopping list:
Part 1 (Monday) ~ 1 bunch kale, 1 cauliflower, 2 pkg firm tofu, napa cabbage, frozen spinach (check if I have some), cabbage, pumpkin/kabocha, basil, corn tortillas
Part 2 (Wednesday) ~ Large poblano/Cubanelle chile, dried Mexican oregano, radishes, avocado, 1 lime, 1 cup shallots, 4 c. arugula/spinach, 1 lb green beans (fresh or frozen), 3-4 c. spinach

Gluten Free Menu Swappers ~ What’s on the menu this week?

Heather of Celiac Family wasn’t too sure about if the DIY theme applied to her, but once she created her menu she realized that, like most GF cooks, there are all kinds of things she just ends up making for herself. She’ll be making her own homemade GF breadcrumbs to coat some delectable-looking chicken nuggets, a super tasty homemade Parmesan dressing for her wild rice salad, and a mouthwatering jalapeno-popper dip to jazz up her burgers. She’ll also be making kale chips, which I’m so curious about and keep meaning to try making. All in all it looks like Heather has a balanced, healthy, super scrumptious week planned for her family.

Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness (and the beloved organizer of our menu swap) has a crazy busy week coming up but even in the face of getting ready to move, teaching and facilitating groups and workshops, and discovering the time-vortex that is Twitter (uh-oh, Cheryl, it was nice to know you when you spoke in paragraphs longer than 140 characters!) she has an amazing menu planned. Homemade curry powder (so great – I can’t stand storebought versions!) will go with chicken and chickpeas, and lots of big flavors everywhere with rosemary salmon and herb salad and kalamata hummus. And of course Cheryl has drool-worthy extras planned with glazed walnuts and moist nutty skillet bread. Yum!

I had no idea Angela of Angela’s Kitchen was such a big fermenter and all-around MYO gal! (Even more reasons for me to show up at her house every night for dinner!) This week she shows off the prettiest pink kimchi, perfect for tempting a dubious sparkly princess girl, and her picklemeister apparatus which strikes envy and desire deep into my heart. I want! Angela is similarly smitten with all things DIY and in addition to her own pickling and fermenting she makes her own spice blends, baking mixes, coconut yogurt (ooh! I have to try that!), and more. She’s even become a certified Master Food Preserver, which I assume means she is officially qualified to come over and teach me how to not kill my family with botulism. (Yes, please!) She has a great menu planned, complete with extras she’s making and freezing for her daughter’s upcoming school trip, and all kinds of yummy things like sesame broccoli, and homemade apple-turkey sausage. Angela seems like one organized homesteader!

Wendy of Celiacs in the House has had a fabulous blog makeover! (Sorry if this happened weeks ago and I’m just catching up, Wendy – I’ve been in hermit mode for the last month or so and have been visiting any of my favorite blogs.) Wendy is adopting another gluten-free blogger so this week’s menu is full of intriguing recipes to try for the first time, including fish tacos (used to be one my absolute favorite foods), sesame peanut noodles (still is one of my favorite foods), and white bean puree with collards. She’s making socca pizza, which I am super curious about (I love socca! Why don’t I ever make them anymore? I need to get on that!) and something called “cheddar muffin tops” which makes my mouth water just reading that combination of words. This week Wendy will be making her own tortillas from scratch, using her mom’s 30-year old tortilla press!

Michelle of Gluten-Free Smiles writes movingly about how her celiac diagnosis shifted her cooking from reliance on packaged foods to making things herself. She has an admirably long list of things she DIYs, from pierogies, pasta, and potstickers to spice blends, juices and teas. I want to raid your pantry and freezer, Michelle! Or just come over for dinner. 🙂 Like me, Michelle also has a dream list of foods she’s looking forward to learning how to make for herself including cheeses and preserves. It’s amazing how conquering the fear of making things that are generally considered “buyable” leads to an ever-growing appetite and interest in making even more complicated homemade ingredients. Michelle has a great week planned, with homemade wontons and personal pizzas on mouthwatering tomato basil bases!

Nicola of G-free Mom offers up some funny truths (and lies!) so we can get to know her better this week. Her family invented the After Eight mint. What a fabulous legacy! She is adopting Wendy of Celiacs in the House this week for Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger so her menu plan practically wrote itself. I want to devour her entire menu with salmon cakes, risotto cakes, shepherd’s pie, and butternut squash risotto, all favorite flavors! Nicola asks if making her own risotto counts as DIY, and I definitely think making risotto and then reusing the leftovers to make risotto cakes fits into the urban homesteader cooking ethos!

Sea of Book of Yum is having a kale week. I’m so there, Sea. Kale Week is like a mandated holiday around my house that is celebrated as often as possible! She’s been experimenting with creatively seasoned dehydrated kale chips of all kinds, and is even hosting a linky roundup to gather kale recipes from all of us to share. My dehydrator is an MYO tool I’ve been dying to try but haven’t managed to, yet, so all this amazing kale chippery from Sea is providing serious inspiration. In addition to all the snacky goodness, Sea has another fantastic, international menu planned, with “cheesy” broccoli and pasta, Indian cauliflower and okra, tofu-avocado sushi rolls, and something dreamily called “chocolate surprise.” Every time I read her menus I want to move in next door and “just happen” to show up for dinner every night! (Ah, blog-fan-love through stalkerdom, how sweet.)

Have a great week of cooking, everyone!