What to eat when you’re avoiding the world…

Vegetable cheese strata

Lovely layers.

If you’re looking for a simple dinner that uses up vegetables, I can’t think of anything better than this vegetable strata, with the exception, perhaps, of soup. Whenever I make it, I start with potato – but you could use turnip, beets, pretty much anything that’s round and can be sliced. Potato will be the easiest on your budget, and they’ll last for ages in a cool dark cupboard. You may need longer than the recipe says to bake – if I make this in a big casserole for four (or two, with leftovers for tomorrow), I’ll bake it for an hour.

Cooking for one or two people? Sometimes the big bags of veg aren’t a bargain, because you can’t use them all. If you’ve got foods that seemed like a bargain, but now you don’t know how to use them up, let me know. I can help. I’ve got a recipe for pretty well anything. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I do have lots of plant-based recipes, and I’m happy to adapt if I can. And if you’re not shopping because you’re trying to stay home and stay safe, I get it. If you’ve got foods in your cupboard but don’t know how to use them up, let me know.

Bean, Corn and Mushroom Burgers

It seems all the fast food places have been on the fake meat train lately, but as usual I’m not thrilled with food that’s made in a plant. (Better to eat mostly food that you make from plants). On that note, last night’s burgers. Not vegan, although they could easily be. Instead, try this.

Per burger:

60ml or 1/4 cup cooked beans (chickpeas, kidney, I used pink beans in this one), mostly mashed with a few left whole

2 finely chopped mushrooms

1 T corn niblets (fresh, frozen or canned)

1 T breadcrumbs

Pinch of smoky paprika and cumin

You can add an egg if they are dry, or a bit of the aquafaba (bean water).

Shape into patties. Put in the fridge for 15 or 20 minutes to firm up a bit

Serve with cheese, vegan or regular, sliced tomato, dill pickle, and your favourite toppings, on a whole wheat bun.

No Skipping Allowed!

Breakfast: for me, it’s still the most important meal of the day. I know there are plenty of trends promoting fasting, or other approaches to weight loss or maintenance, but for me, exercise and breakfast are “must-haves” for a good start to any day. And it’s more about feeling great and having lots of energy to face life’s challenges, than about weight.

Our breakfast rotation doesn’t vary a whole lot – all year, one of the options is a smoothie; in winter, another is oatmeal (granola in warmer weather), and occasionally an egg (with or without leftover pizza). This particular version features one of my favourite smoothie ingredients: a beet. Along with that, there was a carrot, some kale, ginger, cinnamon, a few berries, sunflower seeds and soy milk. Creamy, delicious, and fast!

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!

Start your day colourfully!

Delicious smoothies hide tasty produce inside. We endorse Natur-A products.

Purple Smoothie Everyone can benefit from more fruits and vegetables – and one way to get them on-the-go is by starting the day with a delicious smoothie. Today’s version turned out to be a gorgeous purple colour, but a word of warning: sometimes the results are surprisingly unappetizing in their appearance, despite amazing ingredients. For this version, for two smoothies, I used a carrot, chopped, an over-ripe banana, a cup of blackberries (mine were fresh but frozen are just as good), a shake of cinnamon, and filled the blender to the 32oz or 1l level with unsweetened, low-sodium soy beverage. The brand we always use is Natur-a.  They’re Canadian, organic, and low-sodium, which can be very hard to find in plant “milks”. Unsweetened is even more difficult, so your healthy beverage can actually be quite a sugar bomb. These taste great to drink, on cereal, and also work as a one-to-one substitute for dairy milk in most recipes.

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.

 

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

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.