I don’t give my kids microwaved popcorn. The bag lining includes a chemical that could cause cancer (google it) and the popcorn itself is very salty with questionable additives and it’s rarely vegan. But air-popped popcorn or popcorn popped on the stovetop is a whole food that makes a great snack for everyone. We often make extra to put some aside for lunches – in a sealed container, it won’t go stale before it’s eaten.
Making popcorn on the stovetop is really simple and quick – simply heat some oil, add the kernels and cover the pot with a lid. When they start to pop, shake the pot regularly until the sound of the popping stops for a few seconds. Pour them into a bowl and season them as you’d like. If you’re used to microwaved popcorn, buy some kernels and give it a try. It’s inexpensive, easy and you can season it as you like.
For popcorn seasonings, I like to experiment with different spices but it’s always topped with vegan butter, salt and nutritional yeast. In the image above, I used the recipe that follows.
Savoury spiced popcorn
2 tbsp vegan butter
1 tsp garam masala
savoury masala (mine is a spicy mix so the kids had theirs plain)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Pour the butter over the freshly popped popcorn. Add the spices and mix well. Enjoy!
My favourite pakoras are packed with sweet onions and spicy chilies. But when I decided to make a little snack this evening, I wanted to make something the kids would enjoy too. So I left out the chilies and swapped the onions for carrots and cauliflower. It resulted in these little gems I can share.
On the side is some Curried apple chutney that I made in the fall. It’s a bit spicy so it makes up for the missing chilies in the pakoras. This recipe is based on Vegan Richa‘s pakoras.
Carrot and cauliflower pakoras
1 cup chickpea flour
2 Tbsp rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced
3 tbsp non-dairy yogurt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup finely chopped cauliflower
Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add garlic, ginger, yogurt, lemon juice, oil and water and stir well to combine. Add veggies and mix.
Scoop batter into 2 tbsp balls on to the parchment paper and bake for 18 minutes.
My son has been off all week. The lethargy and lack of appetite makes it hard to stuff him with the healing foods he needs to get back on his feet. But he doesn’t need an appetite to eat fresh homemade bread – so I filled this bread with everything his body needs. If he crashes before dinner today, I know he’s had at least one solid meal – even if it was just a piece of buttered bread!
This bread is stuffed with seeds: pumpkin, sesame, flax, sunflower, hemp and quinoa. And yet it’s light and delicious. I let it rise at room temperature for a few hours and baked it on a hot pizza stone so the crust is crunchy and the inside is fluffy.
I had my daughter’s help measuring the ingredients. It’s good for her to practice her fractions with measuring cups and to learn about the ingredients in the foods we eat. Bread making is a great craft to hand down – it’s my hope that she knows her way around her kitchen when she has her own place (we have a few years to get there!). Making bread reminds me of my grandmother – the bread I make is different but her bread was something I always looked forward to when we would visit.
Protein-rich superfood seed bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oats
2 Tbsp ground flaxseeds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 hump seeds
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp sea salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
3 cups very warm water
1/2 maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
Combine the dry ingredients in stand mixer. Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine (but don’t bother kneading – just make sure there’s no more dry ingredients). Let it sit in room temperature for 2 hours covered (I cover my mixing bowl with a plate – you don’t want it airtight). Don’t punch it down.
Preheat the oven to 450 F with a pizza stone inside to heat too. Prepare a flat surface with cornmeal (like a cutting board). With floured hands, grab a ball of dough about the size of a cantaloupe. Pull it into a ball, tucking the sides underneath. Let it rest while the oven heats up (20 minutes is good).
When the oven is hot and the dough ball has rested 20 minutes, brush the top with water, slice it with a knife and top it with more seeds. Slide it from the cutting board onto the hot pizza stone and bake for 30 minutes.
Once the bread is done, let it cool for about 15 minutes – I know this is hard but if you cut into it right away, it won’t keep its nice shape. Enjoy!
Packing nutritious school lunches can be a real challenge for anyone. The kids get limited time to eat – generally in their classrooms with minimal supervision. It’s noisy and rushed on the best of days, from what I gather. They want to eat and go for recess with their friends. But my kids know they’re expected to eat their whole lunch before they eat all their snacks. If they eat a treat before they’ve finished their lunch, they won’t get a treat the next day.
My son’s a little rule follower so if he runs out of time to finish his lunch, he’ll eat it during last snack. If he feels the lunch we’ve packed was too big, we hear about it after school – through tears. My daughter, on the other hand, has a good appetite so the challenge with her is packing enough calories for her to consume in the time allotted.
Generally, we pack leftovers from dinner – if we can. But we have a few tricks for those days when we can’t pack leftovers or if the leftovers won’t translate well into cold lunches (like soup).
Hummus and cucumber sandwiches are a good choice for my picky eater. I’ve mentioned frozen leftover pizza. Another easy lunch is peanut butter and jam, of course. But since the kids’ school is nut-free, it’s sunflower seed butter and jam.
Sunflower seed butter has more protein and fat than peanut butter so it’s a good choice for energetic, growing kids. I know my kids get plenty of vitamins but the whole foods we eat are generally low in fat. Kids need plenty of healthy fats to energize their growth spurts. These sandwiches are topped with homemade pear jam for that touch of sweetness they crave.
For high energy snacks, I’ve mentioned chia seed pudding, which is one of my daughter’s favourites. Overnight oats is preferred by my son. I always include chia seeds in his oatmeal for added protein. We also include snack mixes of dried fruit, seeds, whole grain cereals (like Shreddies), pretzels or a couple crackers. This week, I’ve added a couple heart-shaped candies to the mix as a special treat.
Other snacks include fruit, apple sauce, baked goods (like muffins or leftover pancakes) or sliced veggies (generally carrots and cucumbers).
Coming up with quick and easy lunches for the kids can be a real challenge, so I’d love to hear your ideas. What do you pack in your kids’ lunches?
The chickadees are very brave. As long as we stand very still, they’ll sit and take their time choosing their seeds.
My son, being the smallest, has to hold his hand up high to get the birds to come down to eat from his hand. So he prefers to feed them from his tuque.
It was so nice to get outside, we had a spring in our steps!
We spent the afternoon outside hiking and feeding the chickadees in the mild winter weather. As soon as we got out of the car, we were spotted by some chickadees who called to us to feed them. These friendly birds followed us throughout our hike – singing in the trees and keeping us in their sight.
We were in an area owned by the local public school board where the staff host nature walks for their schools. The birds are wild but used to kids feeding them. The blackcapped chickadees are very tame.
We didn’t just see our the friendly chickadees. We saw two kinds of woodpeckers and a couple other little birds we weren’t able to identify. But the chickadees were the only ones interested in our seeds and brave enough to approach us.
We got home just before dinner time. There’s nothing like a steaming bowl of noodle soup after being out in the cold. This soup has wheat noodles, tempeh, mushrooms, greens and shredded carrots. The broth has coriander and star anise and it’s garnished with cilantro.
We had asian-style vegetable pancakes on the side with a spicy dipping sauce for the adults and a soy dipping sauce for the kids. The pancakes are a simple flour, salt and water mix but when cooking, I press pre cooked, shredded vegetables in the batter.
The end result is delicious – I almost didn’t get a picture because the kids ate them all before I got the camera out! But my son asked for more while I was still cooking the adult pancakes. I made him one more with the remaining batter – as you can see, his fork got to it before I took this picture!
The difference between the adults’ pancakes and the kids’ pancakes is that I added mushrooms and onions to the adults’ pancakes. The kids’ only have cabbage and carrots – although my daughter liked them enough to eat one of the adult pancakes, onions and all, without complaining.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup water
thinly sliced or shredded veggies (try onion, carrot, mushrooms, etc.)
oil for frying
Fry the vegetables in oil until cooked. Set aside.
Mix the remaining ingredients together and heat a griddle. Scoop 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot, lightly greased griddle and spread the batter around. Add a spoonful of the veggies and press them into the batter.
When the sides of the pancakes look ready, flip the pancakes and cook for a couple minutes on the other side until the vegetables are seared and the batter is cooked.
Make a dipping sauce with soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, hot pepper flakes and minced garlic. Or just dip it in soy sauce.
Whenever he’s given the chance to choose his muffin, my little picky eater goes for the bran muffins over cookies or other kinds of muffins. And I sit there and watch in amazement as he happily gobbles it down. Vegan kids don’t necessarily need the extra fibre from the bran but why should we miss out on all the branny fun?
By definition, a vegan diet is high in fibre. Fibre comes from plant foods but isn’t present in animal products. Everything we eat is a source of fibre unless the fibre has been removed through processing (like white flour). Fruit is a great source of fibre – the little seeds in raspberries are a good example of a fibre-rich food.
I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that a clean colon is a healthy colon. When foods move through the body smoothly and waste is eliminated daily, we’re able to extract all the nutrients from the food we consume and the risk of many diseases are reduced.
Here’s a little muffin that will make you go and make you smile too. It’s loaded with fibre from bran, whole wheat flour, chia seeds and depending on the jam you choose to use, you may get fibre from that.
But the best thing about these muffins is the jam at the centre. I’ve used my favourite jam – it’s apple pie jam that I made from the apples we picked at a local farm in the fall. It contains all the goodness of pie in a form that I can use every day. Mmmm! The recipe is from this book: The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes.
This muffin recipe makes 24 small muffins. I like to bake huge batches of baked goods on the weekends so I can freeze some for snacks to pack in the kids’ lunches during the week. If I only make 12, they’ll be gone before I get to freeze some. These little muffins fit nicely in our reusable containers even when frozen solid (an important feature for me)!
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose or regular whole wheat)
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp baking powder
2 heaping tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cup vegan milk (I use soy)
2/3 cup canola oil
1 jar of jam
Preheat the oven to 425 and grease muffin tins for 24 muffins.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the chia seeds with water and put them aside to allow the seeds to absorb the water.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
Tip: Use a whisk to make sure there are no clumps of brown sugar.
Add the milk and the canola oil to the bowl with the chia seeds. Use the whisk to make sure you break up the large clumps of chia seeds.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine – don’t use a whisk because you don’t want to over mix the batter.
Scoop 1/3 cup of batter for each muffin into the tins. Add a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each muffin. Then distribute the rest of the muffin batter to top each muffin. You want the jam in the middle of the muffin – if it sinks to the bottom, it will stick to the bottom of the tin. If it’s not covered with batter, the sugary jam would show and ruin the surprise.
Bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool a few minutes before removing them from the tins.
I’ll be starting a new job soon, which means we’ll all have a new routine when school starts again. And no matter what that means, mine never has room for breakfast. Even if I did schedule myself some extra time to sit down, I’d rather drink my coffee and get going than sit down and eat breakfast. So I’ve come up with a breakfast that I can take with me and enjoy at my leisure (or destination).
We all know that breakfast is an important meal to eat if we want to be healthy. If you’re trying to watch your weight or eat more whole foods, these breakfast ideas will help kick start your day. They’re make-ahead, the ingredients are inexpensive and you can tweak them to your preferences.
The kids were thrilled when they saw my mason jars out – it has been a while since I’ve made this for them. I’ve included three options: hot oatmeal to go, overnight oats and chia seed pudding.
Hot oatmeal to go
This one takes no planning at all and on a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing better. All you require is a mason jar and oatmeal and you can adapt this recipe to suit the contents of your cupboards. (I’ve been known to take an extra 30 seconds on my way out the door to throw this breakfast together for myself.)
Use the 250 ml mason jar for an adult-sized breakfast. If you’re making some for the kids, use the tiny jars. The recipe below is for the adult-sized portion.
Fill the jar just less than halfway with oatmeal – you can use instant, medium or large cut oats. I use the large ones because I prefer that texture but if you want the Starbucks’ style, use the instant oats. Add the ingredients below to your mason jar:
2 tsp sweetener of choice (or to taste)
1 Tbsp dried fruit
1 Tbsp nuts or seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, matcha tea, etc.
Put the lid on and give it a good shake. When you want to eat, fill the mason jar with boiling water, put the lid back on and shake it around a bit. Set it down for a few minutes with the lid on to allow the hot water to cook the oatmeal. Mmmm! It goes well with that cup of coffee you finally get to sit down and drink!
If you haven’t tried overnight oats, you’re really missing out! This is such an easy and creamy breakfast and you can change it up every day so you never get tired of it. Once again, everything can be changed according to your preferences. I prefer to use small frozen berries in my overnight oats. The small pieces means more fruit in every bite and doesn’t take up as much space in my mason jar. Jam works well too!
1 Tbsp vegan yogurt (coconut is our favourite kind)
1/2 tsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp frozen fruit or jam (pomegranate seeds, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
1/3 cup oats (instant, medium or large cut oats all work well)
1/2 tsp cinnamon or other spice
3/4 cup of soy milk or other vegan milk
Combine the ingredients in the jar, put the lid on and shake it well. Make sure the chia seeds are mixed in – use a spoon to stir if you have to. Check if you need to add some sweetener – it will depend on whether your milk and yogurt is sweetened or not. Leave them in the fridge overnight.
Chia seed pudding
Have you ever gone to pack your kids’ lunches when you realize you are out of snacks? Don’t panic. Chia seed pudding is almost as easy to pack as store-bought and the kids will love it! It also works well for a super creamy breakfast. I made these in the tiny jars for the kids.
1 small jar that won’t spill
1 Tbsp vegan yogurt
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp chopped fruit or jam (frozen berries work well)
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk or other vegan milk
sweetener (if you’ve used unsweetened milk, yogurt and fruit)
Put all the ingredients in the jar and stir it well or shake it until well combined. Put it in the fridge and it will be thick and delicious by morning.
If you take a few minutes to shake up some breakfast before bed, it’s really easy to eat on the cheap even on the go. Since I make my own jam, I like to use a spoonful of jam in my oatmeal and chia seed puddings but you can use anything you have on hand such as banana, apple sauce, fresh fruit chopped into small pieces or anything you like. Enjoy!