Eating well in winter

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Here, in Canada, we’re nearing the end of winter. This is the most difficult time of year for those of us who thrive on plant-based eating. Nothing is growing other than greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers. All fresh fruit and vegetables travel far to make it to our markets.

I do my best to eat local – both because I want to support my local businesses and because I want to avoid adding any unnecessary greenhouse gasses by eating foods that travel far to get to me.

One old-fashioned way to do both is through canning when fruits and vegetables are at their peak and eating them in the middle of winter. Over the summer and fall, I’ve made a number of jams, relishes and chutneys that I’m enjoying now.

In my oatmeal this morning, I have added a generous helping of apple pie jam that I make in the fall with apples we picked at a local farm. It is delicious and a great way to change things up. We still have a few jars left of yellow plum jam, peach jam and rhubarb jam – my kids love them on their peanut butter sandwiches so we go through a lot. But my favourite way to eat them is in my morning oatmeal.

Canning is a great way to bring the flavours of summer and harvest into the depths of winter. It’s not difficult once you get the hang of it. Small batch canning is an accessible way to start.

How do you add variety to your winter meals?

Fresh start breakfast pledge

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I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to work from home regularly. Since I spend the day sitting at a desk, this is my opportunity to make good choices to fit in exercise and take care of myself.

If I don’t get exercise on the days I work from home, I end the day feeling sluggish and older than I should. It’s so important to work in an extra flight of stairs and it’s a good think I have to descend the stairs to go to the kitchen but that’s not enough.

I’ve been really good about using the extra time I have from not commuting to the office to fit in my exercise. I get up at my usual hour and make sure the kids are eating breakfast and then I head out the door for a run. I love it once I’m out – even when it’s really cold out (I live in Canada).

Where it all falls apart is at breakfast. I’ll go for my run, do some yoga or other exercises when I get home, have a quick shower and grab a coffee and plop down in front of my computer and start working.

I will completely forget about breakfast until my stomach is impossible to ignore – around 10:30. And when I’m that hungry, I don’t make good decisions. I’ll grab a bagel and top it with vegan butter and call it a breakfast.

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Oatmeal with homemade blueberry sauce, vanilla soy milk and walnuts.

So this is my pledge to myself – to make myself a nice, warm bowl of oatmeal. It takes 5 minutes and it makes all the difference. I have all kinds of fruit, nuts and other toppings to keep it interesting and it sets me up to feel good all day – and continue to make good decisions.

On the days I go into the office, I have overnight oats and that’s great. I have no choice since I made it the night before and that’s what I have in my bag. I need to start making good decisions even when I haven’t planned ahead.

What’s your fresh start pledge?

Banana walnut oatmeal

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In the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to forget to eat a healthy breakfast. Starting off the day right sets us up to make healthy decisions throughout the day. I’ve found that if I don’t make a good breakfast, I’ll end up grabbing something easy around 11 a.m. and it’s all downhill from there. For me, the trick is to have ideas for a healthy breakfast that’s easy and delicious. Here’s a good solution that works for kids and grown-ups alike.

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I make my oatmeal extra creamy by replacing half the water with vegan milk (we use sweetened soy milk or almond milk) and either mashing or chopping a very ripe banana to it for each serving. Follow the directions on the package according to how much oatmeal you’re making. When it is finished cooking (it takes about five minutes), top with walnuts.

Happy holidays, everyone!

 

Easiest healthy breakfast for the kids

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When I started commuting for work a few days a week, which means I leave the house before my stomach is ready to handle anything solid, I started bringing overnight oats for me to eat when I’m settled at the office. They take me less than five minutes of prep time the night before and they’re ready to eat without a fuss.

Best of all, I can change it up a million different ways – soy, almond, coconut, cashew milk, any frozen or dried fruit I have on hand – there’s no end to the varieties I can make. As someone who gets bored eating the same foods over and over again, this is something that always satisfies. Even if I have absolutely no fruit in the house, I can always add a spoonful of homemade jam. This is a lazy but delicious meal.

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I enjoy it and I’ve found even the kids love it. In fact, if I make them overnight oats, breakfast always goes smoothly even if they’re overtired and grumpy.

This week, I’m going away on business for a few days so I made a few jars to keep in the fridge to make mornings easier on my husband. If you haven’t tried this breakfast, do yourself a favour and give it a try. Use your favourite vegan milk to make the easiest, healthiest and most delicious breakfast your can throw together in five minutes.

Overnight oats

  • jars with lids
  • oatmeal
  • seeds (I use chia and hemp)
  • cinnamon
  • fruit (I used peaches and blackberries)
  • brown sugar
  • vegan milk

Fill the jars 3/4 full of oatmeal. Add a teaspoon of seeds, as desired, cinnamon, brown sugar and top with fruit. If you’re in a real rush, just use oatmeal and a spoonful of jam. Fill the jar to the top with vegan milk. Put the lid on and give it a shake so all the seeds get mixed in.

Get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning because breakfast is done!

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Simple, delicious vegan pancakes

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On Friday, when I brought my sleepy son to the kitchen for breakfast and sat him at the table and asked him what he’d like to eat – peanut butter and jam on toast or cereal being the options – he said, “pancakes. We haven’t had pancakes in forever and I love pancakes.” I told him we couldn’t make pancakes on weekdays but the weekend was coming.

And then yesterday, when I was baking a double batch of muffins to freeze for school lunches, he excitedly came running down the stairs. “I smell pancakes!” Poor guy, I had completely forgotten. It’s a good thing he likes muffins!

So this morning, the first thing I did was make a double batch of pancakes. This batch will last a few breakfasts popped into the toaster and nibbled as a snack.

If you’re new to vegan baking, you may wonder how the pancakes are made without egg or milk and if they turn out well. We have numerous recipes for pancakes, plain, banana flapjacks, pumpkin and anything else you can imagine and they’re all delicious.

Here’s a simple recipe you can use and adapt as you wish. Top it with fresh fruit, a berry sauce but most importantly, pure maple syrup. This recipe is based on Perfect Pancakes in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz – it’s a great book for breakfast-lovers.

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Vegan pancakes

  • 1 1/4 cup of flour (I use half whole-wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (like grape seed oil)
  • 1 1/3 cup vegan milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat and oil a well-seasoned griddle. Make sure it’s hot.

Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Add the wet to the dry and mix until there are only small lumps.

Pour batter onto the griddle – once bubbles are forming, flip. Serve warm with maple syrup.

I always make double batches because you can never have too many (and one batch doesn’t fill four people up). Reheat pancakes by popping them in the toaster.

Oatmeal cakes with berries

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It’s Victoria Day here in Canada so I thought I’d make something special for breakfast. My kids would be disappointed if I made anything but pancakes but I wanted something different. These pancakes are made with oats.

They are as hearty as you’d expect from a bowl of oatmeal and more nutritious than your average pancake. Topped with berries, they were delicious and the kids were so happy to see I had made pancakes for breakfast!

 

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The recipe comes from Thug Kitchen. It’s quite simple: let the oats soak up almond milk for a few minutes before adding the rest of the dry ingredients and fry them up like pancakes. Next time, I’ll make a double batch – they disappeared too quickly with a family of four.

The berry sauce is simply simmered berries in a bit of sugar, fresh lemon juice, splash of water and vanilla extract. Thug Kitchen calls for blueberries but I had this frozen berry mix with cherries, blackberries and blueberries that the kids love. They’re full of antioxidants and flavour.

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For those of you who are here in Canada, have a great long weekend! We’ll be heading out for a nice, long bike ride as a family with peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch along the way. I hope you’re making memories too!

Tofu Florentine with home fries

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We don’t have a lot of Easter traditions because we don’t eat eggs (or decorate with them) and we’re not religious. Rather, we use this weekend to celebrate the coming of Spring. It’s not always here on Easter weekend but early signs are everywhere. The snow is gone and the robins are back with their trilling birdsongs. When the sun comes out, it’s really nice to be outside. I even put my super warm winter coat away – though our light winter coats are still needed.

This morning, the kids played together nicely enough for me to sleep in. And when I got up, I craved this breakfast that I used to make often before the kids were born. It’s one or two steps too many for most weekend breakfasts (and the kids are often begging for pancakes or oatmeal) but with the extra sleep I got last night, I thought I’d make one of my favourite breakfasts.

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If you start the potatoes first, it isn’t time-consuming to make. Start by boiling the potatoes. While the tofu is broiling, fry an onion until golden, add the potatoes and whatever spices you like. Steam the spinach and make the hollandaise sauce. There are a lot of really nice vegan hollandaise sauces but this one is so simple that it’s always been my go to. Sometimes, simplicity just wins.

Hollandaise sauce

  • 2/3 cup vegan mayo
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • ┬ápinch cayenne
  • pinch turmeric
  • salt

Combine the ingredients. Done.

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Because I was generous with the cayenne, I topped my daughter’s breakfast with plain mayo (which I know she likes) and a sprinkling of paprika. My son won’t eat spinach or mayo so his english muffin is buttered and topped with tofu with the potatoes on the side. He’ll eat his veggies at another meal.

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Some day he’ll look at our meals and realize he’s missing out when he skips the veggies and sauce but we’re not there yet. That’s okay – we’ve got time. The truth is, we’re making progress and every month he becomes less strict about the foods he eats. Last month, he happily ate parsley and halved cherry tomatoes for the first time instead of just whole cherry tomatoes. I think this summer, we’ll win him over to regular-sized tomatoes. Fingers-crossed!

Happy Easter everyone! How do you celebrate?