What’s in your fridge? Autumn Veggie Melts

I’m a big meal-planning fan, but life can sometimes interfere. Last-minute engagements, ingredients that come in packages larger than the meal plan needs, and special one-time deals all can impact the inventory and leave you with stuff in the fridge that needs to be used. Here’s what I made with what was on hand, for today’s lunch.

I took some whole wheat and spelt raisin cinnamon sourdough, made this week:

img_64941That’s some Dijon mustard on there, from Kozlik’s.

Then I mashed an avocado with some lime, and put it on as well:

img_6495While I was doing this, I moved an oven rack up and set the oven to broil. My trusty assistant put some parchment on a cookie sheet for me – this gets messy.

img_64961The avocado is not only tasty but it helps the veggies stick to the melt. Grate up some leftover veg, or chop. I had some grated carrot and beet.

img_64971Then I topped that with some part-skim mozza (again, what cheese have you? Use that.)

Under the broiler it goes until bubbly and golden. That’s it. Tasty veg, healthy fats, and a little decadent cheese. You could absolutely use a melting vegan cheese, if you prefer.

Eat it up!

img_64981

Meal Planning 101

Just last week I was talking about meal plans, and how we need to give ourselves room to deviate, in order to accommodate fresh, local food. I stand by that. But the vast majority of the time, a meal plan will make your life a whole lot easier. By investing time once a week (or a couple of times a month, or monthly, to coincide with payday), you can plan meals that are healthier and easy to prepare. Think about what’s in season and buy local produce. Consider the specials, but limit your packaged and September Foodprepared foods. (Here’s my label primer so you can see why).

“What’s for Dinner?”

Even if you make most of the meals and shop for yourself, a meal plan can make it easier to shop. If you’ve got kids, a partner, a busy schedule, or weeknight commitments, it can help you map out the days when you need easier meals, versus those where you can spend a little more time. It will let you figure out how to incorporate things that are in your cupboards. It can also save you a lot of money, especially if you cook in batches that can be used for lunches or incorporated in multiple dishes throughout the week. Lastly, if your partner, your kids, your nanny, your roommates, or others share the cooking, a handy list on the fridge means you won’t always have to be thinking about (and answering), “What’s for Dinner?”

 Ready to Plan? Here’s what you’ll need, and some tools you can use…

  1. The household calendar for the week (You have one of those, right? It’s a one-stop calendar that lets you see everyone’s activities. If you don’t, maybe that should be this week’s activity).
  2. A quick inventory of what food you already have in the house. Look in your fridge, your cupboards, and your freezer – wherever you store your food. If you can’t find anything in there, make time to organize. Throw out anything expired. Write it down in three categories:
    1. Freezer
    2. Fresh and can spoil (produce, eggs, milk)
    3. Refrigerated or in the cupboard with a long shelf/fridge life
  3. Something to write the meal plan on. The easiest is to start by planning dinners, and this can be a simple sheet of paper, or a calendar. I like to track calories, so I’ve looked at apps like Paprika, software like Mastercook, as well as fitness apps like My Fitness Pal. Each of these has advantages, but what I know is this: You’re more likely to manage your calories, fibre, sugars, fat and salt well if you plan in advance (just like exercise) than if you try and log as you go. Over time I’ve developed a spreadsheet that works well for me.
  4. Get your laptop or a couple of good recipe books like How to Cook Everything VegetarianSave with Jamie; you might like an all-purpose website like Cooking Light.
  5. Start by choosing meals that include things you have in the house. Think about your dietary goals (Are you a vegan? Do you need a celiac/gluten-free diet? Or perhaps you’re just counting calories?) Make sure you consider what’s important, in advance. For our house, we rely on label reading for fibre and other nutrients; calories are what I count to maintain a healthy weight.

Now, make a plan for each day until the next payday or shopping day. Shopping only once per payday, with a midweek check on perishables, will keep you on track, save time, and mean you don’t spend every trip home from work with a mad side-trip to the grocery store. If one of your fresh foods needs to be used sooner, switch up the days so you don’t waste. Write it down and post it where everyone in the house can see it.

A simple plan for a week look something like this:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Breakfast Peanut Butter and Banana Toast Smoothie Poached Egg w avocado on sourdough Smoothie Cheese and fruit Smoothie Peach Muffins
Lunch Pear and walnut salad Tuna melt Monday leftovers Tuesday leftovers Wednesday leftovers Kitchen Sink Salad Lunch out
Dinner Pork tenderloin w winter slaw and boiled potatoes Celery and leek Gratin Carrot and chickpea soup Pork and mushroom stir fry with brown rice Pasta with Marinara and Kale Grilled Salmon Steaks with boiled potato and steamed broccoli Dinner with Friends

You can see we often try and cook once, use twice during the week – it saves money, time, and effort, and gives us a much more interesting and nutritious lunch than fast food or a sandwich. If someone is away at dinnertime, we can freeze their portion to make a nice lunch for another day, or incorporate it into soup or salad.

Happy, healthy eating!

It IS Easy Being Green (Or Nearly Any Other Colour)…

IMG_5343Green is one of the less-popular colours of smoothie with my friends (although there are worse outcomes from my smoothie obsession). They like pink. Chocolate is okay if you don’t tell them there is kale in there. Yellow tends to get a decent reception. All the recipes are basically the same, but much like when you mixed modeling clay together when you were a kid, the colours you end up with sometimes leave something to be desired. The taste, though, is always divine.

It’s Bananas! And Not a Kale In Sight

This is a super delicious and easy breakfast for two.

imageIn your blender, blend 1/2c or 125ml shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds until finely crumbed. Add two ripe bananas, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a handful of baby spinach. Last of all, top up to the 1l or 4c line with unsweetened almond or cashew milk. Blend on high until smooth, and have an awesome day.

Youre welcome.

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.

 

Oh, the controversy!

The other day I posted a gorgeous purple cabbage and blueberry smoothie on my Facebook. It was met with much skepticism and derision (yet, might I add, more discussion than any post in recent memory). So today I have another tasty smoothie for you. What you need to know is that it can be a bit like mixing paint…putting many beautiful colours and flavours together like this:


May result in something not quite so pretty (but amazingly tasty), like this:


I want to take a moment to thank all of you who follow, comment, and interact. It’s very gratifying to share this wonderful planet with you. You’ll notice in the coming days and weeks that I will continue to have lots of food posts, but the “walk” and “live” parts of WalkEatLive will be given a bit more space as well. It’s also my plan to do some more promotion and review of resources I use, like cookbooks, tools, resources, workout gear, and places and things to see and do. I hope you’ll stick with me on the journey.

Who Needs Toast?

I like a toast soldier as much as the next guy, but this is a great way to get more flavour and vitamins if you favour an eggy breakfast.


I started with a sliced onion, half a bell pepper, diced, and a chopped hot pepper in a nonstick pan. A regular pan will work also; just add water in small increments to keep it all from sticking. After it got going a bit on medium heat, I added about a cup of chopped kale.

Once all this was softening, I chopped and added two ripe tomatoes – one red, one yellow. Once it came to full heat, I cracked in four eggs, reduced the heat to medium-low, covered the pan and cooked undisturbed, save occasional checks until the eggs were done.

Quick, easy, and tasty. To veganize I might substitute cooked kidney beans or tempeh for the eggs.

Drink Your Veggies!


There are SO many opportunities to sneak in some extra veg – like this delicious smoothie. It features red cabbage (with some peaches, mangoes, strawberries and blueberries for good measure). I topped up the blender with almond milk, a few sunflower seeds, and some cinnamon, and we were all set.

Never Underestimate the Power of Green…

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I am a great promoter of buying local. However it’s often darkest before the dawn, and at this time of year, when fresh local produce is just barely trickling into our stores, I have been known to give in to a moment of weakness. I had just such a moment yesterday, when I bought kale that had been trucked in, all the way from Texas. This entire smoothie is as un-local as it gets, with the kale, avocado, almond milk, frozen peach-mango-strawberry mix, cinnamon, and turmeric. 

Despite all this, and the perhaps unappealing colour, it’s delicious. In fact, it has already transformed my day. I could have been grumpy at the freezing temperature, but instead, I’m starting with a spring in my step and a smile in my tummy.

Breakfast Luxury

…or perhaps, lax-ury? This morning’s omelette is filled with a decadent mixture of asparagus, mushrooms, onion, and baby potato slices. It is tasty enough on its own, so the two thin slices of thyme and pepper gravlax on the side make it extra special. It’s more of a method than a recipe, but here’s what to do, for two:

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and cut the good bits into 1″/2.5cm lengths. Thinly slice 1/4c or 60ml mild white onion. Add to this, 6 sliced mushrooms and 2 thinly sliced baby potatoes. Stir the whole thing together in a nonstick pan over medium heat until nicely cooked. Now, pour in three beaten eggs, and turn the heat to medium-low. Lift the edges with a spatula, letting the uncooked egg run underneath. Fold in thirds and cut in half to serve.

We bought our gravlax from De La Mer on the Danforth; look for gravlax at a good fishmonger near you.