Deconstructed burritos

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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.

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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.

Quick veggie, chickpea and tofu bowl

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Here’s another quick weeknight meal. It’s one I reach for when I’m really short on time. Chopped raw veggies with beans over couscous takes only minutes to prepare and it’s a reliable kid-pleaser.

Today, I cubed tofu, covered it in olive oil, a splash of apple cider vinegar, garlic clove and oregano and put it under the broiler while I prepared the rest of the food. I added chopped broccoli under the broiler for the last five minutes and it was delicious.

For the grownups, I made a tahini-miso sauce. A couple tablespoons of tahini mixed with a tablespoon of each olive oil, miso and water to thin it.

Rinse the canned chickpeas under hot watch to get rid of some of the sodium from the can and warm them up. The couscous is ready about 5 minutes after the water boils – my kids like the rainbow couscous.

The best part – altogether, it takes about 15 minutes to prepare. What’s your easiest home-cooked weeknight dinner?

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
  •  pinch 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?

Eating carbs as a vegan

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I was on the train commuting to work the other day when the people sitting across from me in our 4-pack of seats was talking about fitness and diet. They were speaking so loudly that I found it impossible to concentrate on the words of my book and even my podcast couldn’t drown out their conversation so though I was completely uninterested in their babble, I couldn’t avoid hearing their conversation in full.

They were congratulating themselves on their fitness regime and after giving full details about their favourite gyms, they started talking about their diets. They agreed that sugar is evil and should be avoided at all cost. Salt bad. And then one of them started on the carbs. “If you’re limiting your sugar, you should limit all carbs. They’re so bad for you.”

He suggested she continue eating whatever it was she liked to eat, “keep that steak the same size but eat less rice.” He told her that rice is terrible for you and pasta too.

I find this blanket statement ill-informed.

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I completely agree with limiting processed carbs – you’re not getting much out of a piece of white bread. But as long as you’re eating a variety of whole grains, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a lot more credible science to back a whole foods diet than a meat-centred diet.

As a vegan, it’s the carbs that fill me up and make me feel satisfied after a meal. Quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread is a wholesome and satisfying part of any meal. And as long as you’re eating a variety of whole grains and not processed white rice for each meal (although, really, it’s not that bad to eat white rice), there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Carbs are a satisfying comfort food so it is easy to overdo it with large portions. And if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, watching your carb intake is a good place to start. But don’t eliminate it completely. If you really want to shed some weight, ditch the dairy and meat. That’s how you’ll get the best results.

Sweet potato biscuits and breakfast sandwiches

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Before I had kids, I used to make biscuits every weekend. They’re easy to make and only take 15 minutes to bake in a hot oven. Even half asleep, I can whip these up quickly and have my butter melting on a fluffy, crumbly biscuit to have with my morning coffee.

I don’t make them nearly as often now because as soon as I walk into the kitchen on weekend mornings, my kids are asking for pancakes. But I made a double batch of pancakes yesterday so when I walked into the kitchen this morning, my daughter was pouring maple syrup on leftover pancakes and quite happy with her breakfast.

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We had some leftover sweet potatoes so I worked them into the biscuits for a special treat. They were delicious!

Sweet potato biscuits

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Preheat the oven to 425. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash the sweet potato and mix with the butter. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until the butter and sweet potato mix is evenly distributed throughout. There should be small clumps – this will make the biscuits fluffy when the butter melts. Add the milk and mix until the dough is evenly moistened.

Form the dough into 8 large biscuits. Bake for 15 minutes.

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For the breakfast sandwiches, I had marinated some tofu before I started the biscuits. I sliced the tofu into four thin slices and then in half to make 8 squares. I marinated them in soy sauce, turmeric and dijon mustard with a bit of water. Once the biscuits were finished, I fried the tofu.

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My son’s breakfast was a deconstructed breakfast sandwich (a buttered biscuit with tofu on the side). My daughter’s sandwich is above – it has a slice of tofu, a slice of vegan lunchmeat and a slice of Daiya cheese. My husband and I had ours with an herbed cheese made with coconut milk. Served with coffee, of course!

 

Miso-glazed eggplant

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This meal was a combination of two things I love: miso and Japanese eggplant. The eggplant bakes until it’s buttery soft then it’s brushed with a glaze and broiled until the glaze is bubbling. We had it with wheat noodles topped with broccoli, yellow pepper, carrots and tofu.

My kids are iffy with eggplant – and I’m okay with that. They don’t have to love all the vegetables I love as long as they’re getting enough variety on their plates. I wasn’t planning on sharing these eggplants with the kids but I decided to let my daughter have a taste and she loved it. So I had to share.

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Miso-glazed eggplant

  • 2 Japanese eggplants (long and thin)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 1.5 Tbsp miso (whatever kind you like – the light miso is the mildest)

Preheat the oven to 400. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Brush them with one Tbsp of sesame oil and bake for 15 minutes with the skin up.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining sesame oil with mirin and miso. Stir until mixed.    (I’ll admit, I wasn’t so patient with this step!)

When the eggplant is soft, remove it from the oven and flip them over so the skin is down. Slice it a few times – not through to the skin but through the soft interior. Brush the glaze on the tops of the eggplants. Place them under the broiler and broil until bubbly (only a few minutes).

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The kids simply had noodles, veggies and tofu with sesame seeds on top. The sauce is light – sesame oil, mirin and soy sauce.

I bought them starter-chopsticks and they’re learning to use them quite well. They didn’t give up and switch to forks! It’s great for their small motor skills.

That’s all for tonight – have a great night and let me know what you’re cooking!

Savoury spiced popcorn

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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)
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Pour the butter over the freshly popped popcorn. Add the spices and mix well. Enjoy!