Fill Yourself Up!

In an ongoing quest to be better every day, I’m always working on health as one of my priorities, and that starts with walking, and also with eating well. Filling yourself up is important – starvation, deprivation, and denial just aren’t sustainable. So instead it’s really helpful to focus on putting as many good things into a meal as possible. Empty calories are easy to banish when you choose lots of healthy vegetables, brilliant colours, lean protein – with a nod to Michael Pollan, mostly plants! This tasty salad has sweet potato, peppers, red onion, pink beans, and a tasty curry vinaigrette (equal parts Dijon, cider vinegar, canola oil, and a teaspoon or so of curry powder for each serving).

There’s more to filling yourself up to eating, though – something I have been discussing with a friend quite a bit lately.  It’s important to fill your mind with positive, helpful, forward-moving thoughts. Often when we are overwhelmed with trying to help others, we forget to take care of ourselves – but the oxygen-mask rule can help keep us on track. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ll recall that they tell you to put your own mask on before helping others. That’s because if you aren’t filled up (with air), you won’t be any good to anyone. So my favourite fill-up method is to get out for a good brisk walk, early in the morning as the city is waking up, and to drink in the sights and sounds around me. Today I was particularly inspired by the sunlight filtering through the trees in Allen Gardens – just steps away from skyscrapers and streetcars. That alone has filled me up with enough gratitude to last all day.

 

Savour the flavour…

Yesterday was an absolutely stunning day here in Toronto; we took a nice long walk (about 5.7km) through the city, taking in the sights and eventually making our way to St. Lawrence Market for produce. We stopped in along the way to take in the awesome Gothic Revival Cathedral Church of St. James, with memorial plaques commemorating many of Toronto’s noted citizens. We were intrigued by the very contemporary Stations of the Cross.

To the south, we swung by Berczy Park’s new dog fountain enroute to the market. Kids and pets alike were enjoying the spraying water. We had fun finding the one cat statue amongst the dogs, and to discover just what she was looking at. (We won’t tell just now – you should check out the mystery yourself!)

The sun was blazing and hot, so by the time we arrived home, we were in the mood for something quick and cool, that wouldn’t overheat the kitchen. We put some potatoes on to cook while we enjoyed a cool beverage on our balcony and took in the sights of the neighbourhood. When they were cooked, we let them cool in the fridge while we prepared the rest of this tasty curried salad. For two, as a main course:

For the dressing, whisk in a large bowl:

3 tablespoons (45ml) mayonnaise

1/4 cup (60ml) cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (30ml) curry powder – more or less, to your taste

3 boiled potatoes, cooled and peeled, and cut into chunks

1 red pepper, diced in bite-size pieces

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can)

1 cup frozen green beans

1/4 cup (60ml) chopped unsalted peanuts

3 leaves basil, sliced finely

Mix all the vegetables into the salad, including the chickpeas. Divide between the plates and sprinkle with peanuts and basil. You can easily scale up this recipe to serve more people, and it keeps well in the fridge, gaining flavour as it sits. Enjoy!

Veggie Mushroom Chili, Step-by-Step

I love a traditional, spicy chili, slow-simmered. This is a vegan-friendly version, designed to simmer in the oven while you watch a movie, chase your kids around, or finish that report you need to get written. I hope you enjoy it. Since I get requests for recipes, I’ll walk you through it. You can most definitely adjust the proportions – this makes a large Dutch oven full, which is dinner, plus lunch, for two, and several more meals’ worth for the freezer, or just enough for a big crowd for dinner.

You’ll need:

Olive or canola oil (I am using canola these days because it is produced in Canada)

2 onions

2 cloves garlic

3 stalks celery

2 large carrots

1 green and 1 red bell pepper

1 jalapeno

2 cans or l large bowl of cooked beans, as you like (kidney are traditional, but we had chickpeas and black-eyed peas on hand)

2 cans diced tomatoes stewed without salt (large cans, 28oz.)

1 T/15ml each of chili powder, oregano, smoked paprika

1 chopped chipotle in adobo (or another jalapeno and a bit more smoky paprika)

1/4c/60ml red lentils (split peas will also work, but take longer to cook)

If you’re working alone, chop everything, then start. If you are working as a duo, chop the onions and garlic, and the other can stir and manage the cooking while one chops.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Turn the oven on to 350F

Add the onions and garlic:

Stir and sweat these until they start to get shiny, then add the celery:

 

 

 

 

 

You can use a machine to chop, but honestly, the time to chop each vegetable gives just about the right gap for the prior one to cook a little. Now for the carrots – these aren’t a traditional chili vegetable, perhaps, but they have the tremendous effect of adding a little sweetness to the chili, as do the onions as they sweat down more and more.

 

After the carrots, the peppers, the most tender of the vegetables, come last. Use any colour, but red and green give a great combination. Continue to cook until this mixture of vegetables (the “holy trinity plus” or a mirrepoix) have begun to soften nicely. Now you’re ready for the rest of the ingredients.

Tomatoes come first, then the beans. Stir everything well so you get a good mixture.

Canned beans are easy and fast, but they often have a lot of added salt, which most of us don’t need any more of in our modern diets. We get enough naturally. In the EAT section of this blog you can find a recipe to cook your own; they can also be prepared very nicely in a pressure cooker.

Adding a few red lentils will help it thicken and contribute to the meatier texture some people prefer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring this to a simmer over medium heat, then put it all in the oven uncovered for at least an hour. 

 

It will cook down and thicken considerably; you can let it carry on for as long as it takes until you are ready to serve. Sometimes we will make a batch of cornbread on the side, but it really didn’t need anything else. Enjoy!

I’m always grateful for the opportunity to cook together with friends or family and to have a warm, low-maintenance dinner at the ready. Freeze whatever you don’t need, and remember it’s always better on the second day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Recipes, New Tools

Hummus and VeggiesHave you ever purchased a new appliance, and found yourself looking for every possible way to use it? Last year it was the spiralizer (I admit the novelty wore off just a little, although I do have a spiral meal planned very soon); this year it’s my new blender from Blendtec.

I’ve been making homemade hummus for years, using my food processor. The processor is heavy and cumbersome to get out of the cupboard, but there isn’t room for it on the counter. In the old recipe, I started by mincing a couple of cloves of garlic and the zest of half a lemon in the processor. The Blendtec didn’t do much of a job of that – not enough volume, I guess. However since I had already started the job, I decided to press on.

To that I added:

3c cooked chickpeas (drain, but be sure to reserve the cooking water) – I cook a big batch without salt and I add cumin and garlic instead, then freeze them to have on hand whenever I need them.

The juice from the 1/2 lemon

More cumin to taste – about 10ml

10ml or a heaping teaspoon of tahini

I processed this at a medium-high speed in the blender, and then added most of the reserved cooking water until I got the consistency I liked.

It was creamy, smooth, and just the way our guests expected it to be – no perceptible difference in the end product, and I’ll be able to skip a step in the process.

It keeps very well in the fridge, has a fresh taste (no salt!) and can be frozen for up to 3 months if you have more than you can use.

It’s great served with veggies, pita slices, or spread in a sandwich with some sprouts.

 

Turkey Soup, Two Ways

Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice SoupSoup season has arrived! (Okay, to be fair, it is always soup season at our house). Each time we have a bag of parings, ends, and leftover veg bits, we make stock. And the same goes with something like the Thanksgiving turkey. We don’t eat much meat these days, but when we do, we are conscious of using every bit.

This starts with putting some sliced onion (skin and all) or other vegetable parings underneath the bird as it cooks. These will add flavour to the stock. We like to use a large roaster with a lid, and cook the stock right in the same pan, or otherwise put some parchment underneath so every bit can be transferred to the stock pot. We always keep stock on hand, and we love to make traditional soups, like Traditional Turkey, or new ones, like Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice soup.

What’s your favourite soup?

Sweet and Simple Fare

Delicious! Butternut Butternut Squash Currysquash curry. What I love about this dish is that it is super-simple, and very economical. It did require a little time, about an hour, but I was working from home. It could easily be prepared on a weekend and reheated…

It was a real use-it-up meal, taking advantage of odds and ends from other recipes.

First, I roasted the vegetables. In my case there was half a large butternut squash in the fridge – probably about a pound and a half, or 700g. I peeled it, seeded it, and cubed it into bite-sized cubes. I also cut up two carrots and two parsnips into similar-sized pieces. All of these went on a parchmented cookie-sheet in a 350C oven for about an hour.

At the 30-minute point, I started the rice and lentil mix. I had a mixed-rice blend from the bulk store, as well as some Puy lentils. I have to admit I didn’t measure – but probably about 1 cup or 250 ml in total. I wanted to use both up. I use a cooking method I learned years ago on television, from the great Indian and vegetarian expert, Madhur Jaffrey. Rinse rice, check for small stones, and then put in a pan with water that comes up as deep as the first knuckle of your thumb (about an inch). I put the lentils in just as if they were part of the rice. Bring to a boil, and when the water has reduced so it is just a small amount above the rice, cover, turn to low, and simmer another 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, start your curry. I have leftovers of both the rice-lentil mix and the roasted veg to cook something else today.

In a little olive oil, gently saute an onion and 3 or 4 sliced mushrooms. Add some of your roasted vegetables (1-2c or 250-500ml). Stir in 1/2c or 125ml of cooked white beans, and the same amount of vegetable broth. Season with 1T/15ml curry powder. You can make your own, but I didn’t on this occasion. Let this simmer until the rice is done, then top a serving of the rice mixture (3/4c or 190ml) and a ladle full of the curry. Top with a few green onions, some chopped cilantro, or even some chopped celery leaves.

 

Fast food!

  
Today’s lunch is on a limited time budget. Lots of client work to do, problems and puzzles to solve! So how to make good food fast? You can never go wrong with a salad.

It helps to have one or two serving batches of frozen cooked legumes on hand, as they are much healthier than canned. But even those are an excellent choice in a pinch.

I layered some prewashed spinach on plates, and then cucumber, celery, mushrooms, and the chickpeas. For the dressing, 1/3 c or 80ml cider vinegar, 1 T/15ml olive oil, and the same amount of Dijon – whisk together for 2 servings. 

You could also make one of those handy mason jar salads this way, and take it to the office.

That’s it! Now back to work.

Like this, but with a local twist…

One of the most important ways to contain your food costs is to never waste. This week, we bought local produce. Yes, the cheese is imported, but we could just have easily used a local variety, if we hadn’t had to use this kind up.

Here’s a link to the original recipe – although practically every ingredient is changed. For the turnip, we used its larger purple and yellow cousin, the rutabaga. We also swapped out the beans for kidney beans we had on hand – in our case cooked without salt and a little chili powder. Red cabbage was swapped for green, and pecorino for Manchego. Even the vinegar was subbed with our homemade wine vinegar.

The result? Every bit as delicious. Vegans can easily use soy cheese,  and although the recipe suggested this as a side, it’s so good, full of fibre and colour that the two of us split it as a main.

  
Stay tuned as we find more ways to make our limited supply of local produce look fresh and exciting!

Take 5!

   Today’s lunch is a new twist on an old favourite: rice and beans. Veggie bowls like these are a cheap and cheerful way to get your five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables, too. We started with reheated leftover brown rice and cooked beans. Then we topped this with grilled pattypan and orange bell pepper, and some diced avocado. Finally, a dressing (for two) with 1 T (15ml) each lemon juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil and 1 t (5ml) wasabi paste for just the right fusion of flavour.

A Breakfast Worth Celebrating

  It’s well known amongst our friends that we love a celebration. Today’s breakfast is a salute to Cinco de Mayo. One of the great things about having a multicultural family is more excuses to get together, reconnect, and of course, eat delicious food. Our whole wheat tortilla is topped with salsa, black beans, avocado, tomato and a scrambled egg. This will get us off to a running start, for sure!