Miso ginger eggplant with braised brussels sprouts, squash and edamame

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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.

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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!

South Indian chickpea and eggplant stew

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This will be a short post since we have to jet out the door for swimming lessons. Today’s dinner is South Indian chickpea and eggplant stew. It’s fromĀ Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook.

It was quick to make – blended the sauce, cooked the onions and garlic with spices and added the sauce, simmered it a bit and then added the rest to finish it off. It was really good.

I didn’t bother making my picky eater taste the eggplant since we’re in such a hurry and he did complain about the sauce but with encouragement, he ate it. It’s good for him to push his taste comfort a bit.

Have a good evening! Off we go!

 

Easy, unprocessed plant-based meals for kids and adults

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Here’s my secret to getting lots of vegetables on the table that the kids will eat. I’m often asked by people who are shifting to more plant-based meals – what do I make for dinner? We all know that we should be eating more whole grains, legumes (beans and lentils), fruit and vegetables but the question is how to get started.

When you go to restaurants and look at the kids’ menus, usually the options are limited. There may be burgers and fries, hot dogs and fries, pizza, chicken fingers and fries and grilled cheese sandwiches. You’d be lucky to get a carrot or celery stick on the side of the plate.

If this is what our kids are used to eating, they’re not getting the fruits and vegetables their bodies need to grow strong and healthy.

Some kids genuinely don’t like vegetables. I get it. I find it hard to imagine anyone turning down a fresh cut mango but I guess some kids aren’t fans of fruit either. But I’m an optimist and I think they may not have tasted the fruit and vegetables that they like yet.

When my son was in Kindergarten, his class had Fruity Fridays. One of his teachers would bring in a different kind of fruit each Friday for the kids to try. She cut them all up and had huge garbage cans in the middle of the room. The rule was they had to try it. They didn’t have to like it and they could spit it out but they had to taste a new fruit each week.

That teacher did those kids a huge favour by teaching them to experiment and try new foods. The strides that were made on Fruity Fridays were noticeable at home too. He applied the same rule to dinner as he did to tasting fruit – that he had to give it a try.

My son would be excited in the grocery store produce aisle pointing out fruit we’d never tried but he knew them. At the end of the year, he brought home a book that he had made to chronicle all the different fruit he tried. And for each fruit, he circled a happy face, straight face or sad face.

I like the spirit of discovery and adventure that was fostered in Kindergarten. Try it at home. Encourage your kids to eat more vegetables and try new ones without putting a lot of pressure on them and turning meals into nightmares.

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Here’s my method. Make a whole grain – something your kids will eat (I have used brown rice but it doesn’t matter what you use). While your rice is cooking, slice some vegetables into thick slices or chunks (I’ve sliced eggplant, sweet potato, broccoli, onion, mushrooms and carrots).

Make sure you’ve included vegetables you know your kids will eat and include some they may not eat. Toss them in olive oil and bake them at 425 until they’re done, flipping once. It takes about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the slices and chunks. They’ll probably be done at the same time.

Spoon the rice in a bowl for each person and arrange the vegetables on a large platter in the middle of the table. Make sure you have a few vegetables you know your kids will eat. Cucumbers are often an easy win. The point is to have a variety on display. My kids like olives so they’re included.

Open a can of chickpeas or other beans and rinse them. Add them to the platter. When the kids come to the table, let them choose what they want. Encourage them to try a bite of anything new.

Have something on the table for them to sprinkle over their meal – if I put seeds on the table, the kids will use them. Hemp seeds, for example, don’t have much noticeable flavour but they’re another source of vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats. Nutritional yeast is another flavour enhancer that my kids love.

For the grown ups, it helps to have a nice sauce or two. I topped my meal with a tahini sauce and hot sauce and it was delicious.

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Tahini sauce

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend well. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.

If you’re always eating delicious vegetables in front of your kids, they’ll see you enjoying nutritious food. It might take time for them to become interested in their vegetables but don’t give up. Keep eating them in front of your kids.

Tell them about the benefits of eating nutritious foods. Talk to them about eating a rainbow. Teach them about the importance of eating well-balanced meals. Give them the opportunity to surprise you – they will.

That’s my secret. I eat delicious, nutritious meals in front of my kids every day. They see me enjoy my vegetables. And they know it makes me really happy to see them enjoy theirs.

Focaccia with an eggplant spread and kid-friendly spaghetti

Eggplant spread
Provencal Eggplant Caviar

Dinner tonight is just for me and the kids so I’m making a classic that everyone loves with a little something extra for me.

I love eggplant. I haven’t always – I hadn’t even tasted it until I was a teenager. In high school, I became a vegetarian and started experimenting with recipes. The first time I tried eggplant, it was terrible. I made some kind of casserole that completely ruined eggplant for me.

It wasn’t until I lived in Japan where they would bake the eggplant in a miso sauce that I truly understood how delicious eggplant could be. I haven’t found a good recipe to replicate the eggplant I had there. Any ideas?

As for the kids, my daughter recently came around to liking eggplant but it’s still on my son’s yucky list. That’s okay – he’s still developing his taste!

I got my recipes today fromĀ The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Dishes from the Healthiest Region Under the Sun. I find Donna Klein’s recipes to be excellent. The eggplant spread is her Provencal Eggplant Caviar (roasted eggplant and onion with olive oil, lemon juice, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar – I left out the raw garlic and cayenne pepper for the kids). And the focaccia is her recipe too (Classic Focaccia with Rosemary, Olive Oil and Coarse Salt).

Classic rosemary focaccia
Classic focaccia made with whole wheat flour, rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.

Kid-friendly spaghetti

The tomato sauce is my own. Recipe as follows:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
Tomato sauce with bell pepper
The orange bell pepper adds a sweetness to the tomato sauce that makes it extra popular with the kids.

I fried the garlic and pepper in the oil until they were browned. I then added the balsamic vinegar to deglaze before adding the rest of the ingredients. I simmered for about 30 minutes. Once it had thickened, I pureed it with my immersion blender to make a smooth sauce – that’s how my kids prefer their tomato sauce.

Pureed tomato sauce
Tomato sauce pureed in the pot.

The kids might not like the eggplant spread but I know they’ll devour the focaccia and spaghetti with tomato sauce.