Carrot and cauliflower pakoras

IMG_5347

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.

IMG_5349

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.

Protein-rich superfood seed bread

IMG_5335.JPG

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!

IMG_5337

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.

IMG_5336

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!

Fake chicken fingers and fries

IMG_5330.JPG

This isn’t an impressive dinner but it’s a weeknight and it was quick and easy. My son has been under the weather – just overtired with a low-grade fever. His immune system is working overtime fighting something off so he stayed home from school today to snooze all day. I’m able to work from home to be with him – but I had a lot of work to do so he spent most of the afternoon in front of the TV while I was working away in my office.

So when I shut my computer down for the evening and went to have dinner, he asked me to play with him. I chopped some potatoes, slathered them in olive oil, nutritional yeast and salt (makes for really nice french fries), tossed in some fake chicken fingers and frozen seitan I had made in December (when I had all the time in the world). And went to help my son build a car out of straw-like connecting toys.

The cucumber sticks are my gateway into dinner. Even when my kids are grumpy and don’t feel like eating, the cucumbers tempt them into eating and once they start, the momentum grows… they’re often grumpy BECAUSE they’re hungry. But they won’t hear it. You can’t reason with kids when they’re hangry – this is when a crispy, cool, irresistible cucumber works wonders. A few bites and they’re back to their sweet selves.

IMG_5333

My husband and I had this spicy barbecue seitan that I made in a huge batch and froze in dinner-sized portions. That’s the best way to make seitan because it requires simmering and then baking or frying – it’s time consuming to make from scratch. But if you make a big batch, it’s a great last minute meal.

Rotini, tofu parmesan and garlic bread

Pasta, tofu and garlic bread

I’ve been out of town most of this week – leaving my teacher husband with the kids, while it snowed repeatedly during the week report cards are due. So when I picked up the kids from school and got home (later than usual), there were dishes to do before starting dinner.  What I needed was something simple that the kids would eat.

Dinner tonight was rotini with leftover tomato sauce, garlic bread and tofu baked in garlic/tofu marinade smothered in tomato sauce and melted Daiya cheese.

IMG_5321

My son’s not a tomato sauce fan but he’ll tolerate some on his pasta if it’s topped with nutritional yeast. I didn’t bother putting any sauce on the tofu. If you have a picky eater, this meal is worth a try. It was gone before I could say, “eat with your fork!”

The garlic bread is whole wheat store-bought bread with vegan butter and the Daiya cheese melted under the broiler. My daughter likes powdered garlic granules but my son was hanging around when I mentioned them, he ran away and hid under the table. This is the drama that ensues when they’re overtired and hungry.

If I had had enough energy, I would have used real garlic for the adults but it didn’t happen tonight.

Here’s how I made the tofu.

Garlic/olive oil baked tofu in tomato sauce and cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (gives it some flavour)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 block tofu
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegan cheese

While the oven is preheating, mix the marinade in a wide dish. Slice the tofu into the thinest slices you can (I was able to make 6 slices). Rub each slice in the marinade and let it sit while the oven is heating.

When the oven is ready, bake the tofu for 20 minutes. When the  tofu is cooked, flip it and put a spoonful of tomato sauce on each slice. Sprinkle it with a bit of cheese and broil until melted.

IMG_5320

Serve with whole wheat pasta and whole wheat garlic bread and you’ve got an easy, nutritious meal that the kids will scarf down. Good luck!

Miso ginger eggplant with braised brussels sprouts, squash and edamame

IMG_5315.JPG

Yesterday’s okonomiyaki didn’t quite satisfy my craving for Japanese food so here’s another meal with the familiar flavours of Japan but with local ingredients. The only thing authentic on this spread is the eggplant so we’ll classify this as a dinner inspired by Japanese food.

Miso eggplant was one of my favourite menu items in Japan. The eggplant is buttery smooth and the miso sauce is salty and full of umame flavour – it’s another one of those meals that I tried many times to make at home without quite getting it right. It’s also one of those dishes that often came with fish flakes as a topping. And though I wasn’t vegan when I lived in Japan, I was always quick to scrape those off the eggplant if I hadn’t managed to communicate my desire to have my eggplant without them.

This is a popular dish in Japan – and it’s really easy to make at home and you don’t have to worry about whether the waiter understood your request for no fish flakes.

Two long Japanese eggplants are halved, scored and brushed with oil before being baked, face-down at 400 for about 20 minutes. I should mention that it is important to use Japanese eggplants for this meal. I haven’t tried to make it with Italian eggplants but the cooking times would be completely different and I don’t know how it would work. It’s best to save the Italian ones for eggplant parmesan.

While the eggplants are cooking, mix the following ingredients into a smooth paste:

  • 1/4 cup of white miso
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • grated ginger (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp water

When the eggplants are done, flip them over so the interior is face up and brush the tops with the miso paste. Put the eggplants under the broiler for about four minutes until the paste is caramelized. Sprinkle the top with black sesame seeds.

These are really salty and flavourful so they’re best served with white rice. On the side, we had braised brussels sprouts (I baked them in the oven with 1/3 cup of water, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp mirin, and a minced clove of garlic). Squash (the kids had theirs with vegan butter and brown sugar because that’s the only way my son will eat it). And edamame.

IMG_5316

My kids love edamame. The little green spread is an edamame spread with ginger, miso, rice vinegar, soy sauce and a bit of water to help the blender out. The kids didn’t like it as much as I had hoped so I’ll be tweaking the recipe or just giving them their edamame plain. Why mess with something that works!

Steamed veggies, tofu and barley

vegan barley bowl
My barley bowl is covered in a savoury miso ginger sauce.

I had a short first day at the office and made it home to make a quick dinner before skating. I went for an old familiar – a bowl as many call it. Meaning: a grain topped with veggies, a protein and a sauce. This is as simple as it gets and it’s always a winner at our house.

You can vary the ingredients, keep it plain for the kids and top it with whatever sauce you’d like. The kids gobble it down like little bunnies. And I’m happy because I know they’re getting a healthy meal and we’ll be out the door in no time. Seriously – we only had 15 minutes to eat!

The grain today is barley. I got it going while I cubed and marinated the tofu. For the kids, I added a teaspoon of vegan butter to their barley since I knew they wouldn’t have any sauce. My son has rejected barley in the past but he has since forgotten that he declared he didn’t like it. I added the butter just in case. And it worked!

The tofu is marinated in a bit of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. I let it absorb the flavours while I preheated the oven to 350. Then I baked them while the barley cooked, flipping a couple times. They’re done when they’re crispy and you can’t resist popping one in your mouth!

I steamed a selection of the veggies that we had in the crisper. I rarely steam our vegetables – so bland – but it tasted nice and clean today. I guess I was craving simplicity.

The sauce is a miso ginger sauce made with olive oil, miso, rice vinegar, maple syrup, a bit of fresh ginger and water to thin it out a bit. Popped it in the blender until smooth.

I also sprinkled black sesame seeds on top.

barley bowl
The kids’ barley bowls are simple and they love them.

This is clean eating! Food like this just makes my body happy.

Prepping for the week

vegan meals ready to cook

This week, things are going to be different around here. I’m starting a new job and will be focused on learning everything I can about a new industry so I can write about it with authenticity. For the next few weeks, I’ll be making a longer commute to my new office – as I learn as much as I can from my new colleagues.

I’m not going to abandon this blog – but my posts may be more of a weekly or bi-weekly nature rather than a daily one. Since I won’t be the first one through the door, I won’t be making dinner.

My husband is going to be shouldering most of the family work until I can find some balance between work and home. He’s a great cook and we’re in good hands. We’re very lucky.

I’m doing my best to support him by stocking the freezer with supplies, helping with the meal planning and making fail-safe back up meals for those days when starting dinner from scratch is just too much to ask.

Some days, everything is not okay. The kids are feeling battered and bruised emotionally from something that happened at school (these are often little things to us but feel huge to my sensitive little ones – like someone saying my son’s tuque looks like an acorn or squabbles between friends). On these days, the littlest thing triggers tears or an argument.

Of course, we may have come home from challenging days as well. What’s left of our energy is spent restoring calm between siblings or soothing raw emotions. In the midst of this chaos, it’s nice to have dinner in the can (so to speak).

We’ll be meal planning throughout the week but these act as super simple back ups for when we need them. These meals are “just add water” or very simple steps.

Lentil and pasta soup – just dump the jar in boiling water and cook 12 minutes or until the lentils are done.

Lentils masala – this is one of my favourite meals but the list of ingredients is daunting. I’ve premixed the spices in a bag in the jar. Cook the lentils and at the same time, make a savoury sauce. The only actual prep is chopping an onion and opening a can of tomatoes.

TVP taco meat – one of our most relied-upon mid-week meals is tacos. The kids like them with black beans, avocado and whatever else we have on hand. But us parents want something different. Just pour boiling water over the TVP and wait 10 minutes and it’s good to go. Not gourmet but quick and sometimes that’s good enough.

These are also great to have on hand for babysitters. You can find plenty of options for these kinds of meals in Vegan Food Gifts: More Than 100 Inspired Recipes for Homemade Baked Goods, Preserves, and Other Edible Gifts Everyone Will Love.

How do you prep for busy weeks?