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.
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.
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.
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.
This summer, we took a road trip to the East Coast of Canada. We brought a tent and reserved campsites at National and Provincial Parks from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We made memories that will last a lifetime.
We’re seasoned campers – we love sleeping in a tent and hearing the sounds of the forest around us. We love waking up with the sun and the chirping birds. I love cooking over a fire pit – potatoes in the coals, veggie burgers flame broiled – everything just tastes better when we’re camping.
This summer, though, everything was different. When we arrived in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, there was a fire ban. We have a simple isobutane camping stove for making coffee but we didn’t have much fuel. We couldn’t light a fire in the fire pits provided. We ran out of fuel after making a pot of coffee and we were stuck.
Aside from our usual stock of fruits and vegetables, we had a cooler stocked with veggie burgers, vegan sausages, veggie dogs and tofu without a way to cook any of it. None of the stores we stopped at carried isobutane so we had to eat at restaurants for the first few days on the island (more about that later).
Eventually, we stumbled on the only store in Cape Breton that carries our fuel and we happily bought a couple canisters and a frying pan. Now we had a way to cook our traditional camping food.
With so many choices for vegan burgers, hot dogs and sausages, you can easily blend in with the other campers. But when you run out of that and you’re in a fisherman’s paradise without another vegan around, it’s time to get creative.
With our minimal camping stove, a pot for boiling water and a frying pan, we found a few things in the rural grocery stores to feed our hungry mob. Our favourite by far was a noodle stir fry.
Note: We don’t usually buy instant anything but when you’re camping and using fuel that is as hard to find as these canisters were, you do what you must to conserve the fuel.
Vegan noodle stir fry
one package of instant noodles
oil (sesame, canola, grape seed – whatever)
one block of tofu
seasoning (Herbamare is great but use what you can find and what you like)
one package of broccoli slaw (or another packaged salad with broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale)
soy sauce packets (if you have them)
Cook the noodles according to the package. Drain and put aside.
Chop the tofu into cubes and fry it in the oil with the seasoning. When browned, add the slaw and cook until wilted. Add the cooked noodles and stir to mix. Add the soy sauce and mix again.
That’s about the easiest vegan meal you can source in an isolated town. Another idea we enjoyed – minute rice and beans.
Camping rice and beans
can of beans (black or red kidney are great)
canned corn (normally I’d eat frozen but we were pleasantly surprised)
Cook the rice according to the directions on the box. When it’s done, add the drained and rinsed beans and the drained canned corn. Season to taste and enjoy!
When we’re car camping, I put quick cooking oatmeal in little mason jars with raisins or cranberries, sugar, cinnamon and I leave some space for hot water. (You could use instant oatmeal but I prefer the texture of the quick cooking oatmeal – less mushy.) The jars should be 3/4 full.
When you’re ready to eat, pour boiling water in the jars, screw the tops closed, shake them up a bit and let them sit for a few minutes to allow the hot water to cook the oatmeal. My kids love having their own individual jars.
If you’re pressed for space, fill a ziplock bag with oatmeal, sugar, dried fruit and spices. Maybe include seeds – we’re eating a lot of hemp and chia seeds these days. And you can make your homestyle oatmeal in a pot. There’s nothing like a warm bowl of oatmeal on a cool morning.
There are so many benefits to getting kids out into natural spaces – they benefit from exploring, finding creatures, get to know the provinces they’re learning about in school and they learn to love and protect the environment.
You can make some amazing meals over the fire or you can use some cooking short cuts and head out to enjoy the world around you.
We’re in a heat wave here in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – it has been a long one with daytime temperatures around 30 degrees but with the humidity factored in, it feels like 40. But I had a handful of garlic scapes from the farm and they have a very short season. So I cranked up my oven and made pizza. This is my second batch of scape pesto this week – it is my favourite way to eat these vegetables.
Scapes are the flower growing out of hard necked varieties of garlic – we cut them back to get bigger garlic bulbs. They’re long and curly and have a mild garlic flavour that is delicious in pesto, grilled, in stir fries or anywhere you’d put asparagus or green beans.
The kids won’t touch them – they think they have a strong flavour – and they do have a unique flavour. They pick them out every time – even if I disguise them with green beans! So this pesto is just for the grown-ups. The kids have their own pizza with tomato sauce on it and Daiya cheese. It’s easy enough to split the dough in half and make them the kind of pizza they like.
For this recipe, feel free to adjust to your taste. Once you have the general concept, you can’t go wrong playing with the ingredients.
a few scapes (6 or so)
1/4 cup of pine nuts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
fresh basil (to taste – I like 1/2 cup if I can harvest it)
1 tsp salt
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until finely chopped. Spread on pizza or mix with hot, freshly cooked pasta (try gnocchi).
I’ve paired my pesto with a cashew cheese, vegan bacon and asparagus. My daughter ended up loving this pizza with the pesto and cashew cheese!
Asparagus season is my favourite time of the year. After a long winter of eating potatoes, carrots and other veggies that store well over the winter, the first really fresh vegetable that I can harvest from my garden is asparagus. By Spring, I am craving greens – the ones in the grocery store are tired and tasteless. And then these little sprouts break through the ground.
This winter was a long one. Which made the beginning of asparagus season extra sweet.
And we love asparagus just about any way you can cook it. But my favourite way to eat asparagus is on the grill. And that brings up the question – grill?
What do vegans grill?
We put just about any vegetable on the grill either in packets or brushed with oil directly on the grill. The ones we brush with oil are: asparagus, peppers, zucchini, onions, scapes and mushrooms. The ones I brush with oil and seasoning are: potatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, snow peas and carrots. And then there’s the veggie burgers, tofu, vegan sausages and vegan hot dogs. We’ve done corn on the cob on the grill too!
Since my eldest was old enough to eat solid foods she has been a big fan of barbecued vegetables. Sometimes we’ll toss the grilled vegetables in olive oil and mix them into cooked whole wheat pasta. Veggies that won’t usually get touched will get gobbled down if they’ve been grilled.
The burger above is one my son made himself – burger with vegan cheese, zucchini, pepper and asparagus. Topped with ketchup and it’s a delicious mess – everything falls off and the bun can’t contain its contents. And that’s my picky eater! Mine is topped with mushrooms, grilled onions and whatever else the kids have left me.
More ideas for asparagus
If you have more asparagus than you know what to do with (this has never happened to me but I guess it’s possible), fry it in olive oil with garlic, add marinated tofu, fresh herbs and pasta. I like to top my pasta with a salty mix of nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, a splash of olive oil to make it all stick together and salt.
It’s Spring in Canada and I’ve started picking from my garden. Mostly I’m getting asparagus but I’ve also got fresh herbs. I’ll do a post about asparagus soon but tonight I managed to sneak a new vegetable into my picky eater – and that’s always worth sharing!
Tomato sauce isn’t always a hit with my son. He doesn’t like it chunky or with too many herbs. He doesn’t like to see the onions but if they’re chopped small and we’re at a restaurant, he may just ignore them. That’s a huge step for him but he might be doing it just to get more white bread or gelato after his dinner. I still consider it a win.
At home, I usually chop the vegetables that he doesn’t like in big pieces so it’s easy for him to find them and pick them out. There have been times when an onion accidentally made it into his mouth and he wouldn’t eat any more dinner as a result. So I know with my family it is not a good idea to hide vegetables.
Until tonight. I was making a tomato sauce and we had some nice mushrooms, peppers and the canned tomatoes were diced. I knew I’d have to puree them to make a sauce my son would eat so I decided to puree the whole lot together.
I will often puree red peppers in the tomato sauce – it makes for a really great, sweet sauce that the kids love. If you have picky kids, give it a try. Sweet peppers are a great source of Vitamin C and other nutrients and they make an excellent addition to a tomato sauce.
For this sauce, I fried up garlic in olive oil, added chopped red pepper and mushrooms. After a few minutes, I added the can of chopped tomatoes and pureed the mix. Then I let it simmer. I added a few sprigs of fresh rosemary from the garden for flavour.
I had a few asparagus from the garden so I chopped them small and added them to the sauce as it simmered. I didn’t want to puree them since we love asparagus. And that’s it. It made for a delicious sauce and I managed to get my son to eat mushrooms happily for the first time!
The sauce is served on whole wheat pasta with chopped basil (from the garden) and a mix of hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and salt for a savoury topping. And as you can see, it was served with store-bought bread because I can’t always bake my own bread.
The protein question
I’ve recently been asked about protein. How do I get my protein if I don’t eat animals? Well, it’s not really something I worry about since I eat a good variety of whole foods. Protein is made up of amino acids. Whole proteins are made of all the amino acids our body’s can’t make themselves – essential amino acids. These are found in animal meat. But our bodies have to break them down to use them anyway so there is no advantage to getting our essential amino acids all together.
Vegetables are also full of amino acids but they don’t have them in same combination that we need. But as long as you’re eating a variety – and in this meal we have mushrooms, peppers, whole wheat, hemp seeds and other plant-based sources of amino acids – we’re getting everything we need.
And as I said above, since our bodies need to break them down anyway, there’s really no difference between getting them all in one place or getting them in a variety of places. If you’re getting your protein from a variety of vegetable sources, you’re also getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs too.
So there you go – as long as you’re indulging in a variety of plant-based foods, you’ll get the protein you need.
We finished this meal with homemade ice cream made from coconut milk and cashew cream. And that was another great source of protein. The vegan chocolate chips and marshmallows – those were just treats. The bananas just happen to be healthy treats.
I was at the grocery store with my son yesterday and I asked him which vegetables we should buy. Brussels sprouts, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli? I asked. He chose all of them. Plus asparagus, cherry tomatoes, peppers and avocado. It wasn’t along ago that he didn’t eat much aside from cucumber but I’m glad to report he’s broadened his taste.
So how did I get my picky eater to eat more than just cucumbers and white rice? Obviously there were many factors and it helped to have a big sister who loves vegetables. But there are two things that I credit the most with his transformation to a little rabbit.
My vegetable garden
I have a vegetable garden. And the kids help me choose what to plant and they’re welcome to eat anything from the garden at any time (as long as I get the first ripe tomato). There was a year that (thanks to my daughter) we planted purple varieties of everything: peas, broccoli, carrots, beans. And that was the year my son decided he would only eat orange carrots. I guess a guy’s got to draw the line somewhere! So the next year I bought orange carrot seeds and planted more traditional varieties of vegetables. Goodbye lemon cucumbers!
My kids get really excited about the veggies growing in the garden. They graze on whatever they find. They eat pea shoots, berries, and they love parsley stems. One year I thought I had a regular rabbit visitor but it turned out my daughter thought the carrot tops were parsley.
I try to get them to help in the garden as much as I can but if all they’re doing is eating from the garden, that’s great too. And when we pull a nice orange carrot from the ground, it’s something everyone is excited about. I think being involved and eating from the garden has made my son appreciate fresh vegetables.
Setting a good example
The other thing that I think we’ve done to encourage him to eat a bigger variety of vegetables is to eat them ourselves. The three of us love all kinds of vegetables and we eat them all the time. When my son turned his nose up at most vegetables, we always made sure we had his favourite vegetables at every meal but we also fit in the zucchini, beets and squash. We enjoy them – and he sees us enjoy them. And I think if he tries them a few times, he warms up to them.
You’ll notice a few ingredients in my bowl that I don’t put in his. Onions, mushrooms, salsa, cashew cream and even orange vegan cheese are on his list of things he won’t touch at the moment. But that list is shrinking every day and I’m proud of him for following our example and being adventurous at the dinner table.