Veg-enriched tomato sauce with pasta

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Carrot and cauliflower pakoras

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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.

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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.

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.

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

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

Vegetable soup with kidney beans

Vegan vegetable soup

We started the day with above seasonal temperature. It had been lightly raining much of the night and the snow piles had melted. Farmers’ fields were showing their soil. At noon, there was still a light drizzle and it wasn’t very cold yet. But this morning, they cancelled school buses because the forecast was calling for nasty weather.

Everything changed after lunch. The rain turned to ice pellets clacking at the windows. By three o’clock, there was blowing snow. Now it is below freezing (-11), the wind is blowing and we’re back into mid-winter. We decided to stay in tonight since the roads are a mess.

When the kids got home, they were miserable and exhausted after a long week. They needed some comfort food and fast. It’s a good thing I was working on dinner. Vegetable soup and fresh flatbread to go with it.

For the flatbread recipe, I made a quick pizza dough with whole wheat flour and added some herbs de provence and nutritional yeast. I let it rise for about 20 minutes and then rolled it out like a pizza, brushed it with olive oil and sea salt and baked it like a pizza (but without the toppings) on a pizza stone. It wasn’t exciting but it was something quick and fresh to sop the soup up with.

This is a clean-out-the-fridge soup with everything in it. I chopped a bit of everything (onions, carrots, celery, potato, sweet potato, orange pepper, broccoli and mushrooms). I added herbs de provence for a bit of flavour. Threw them into a pot with some olive oil to soften them, added broth and a can of diced tomatoes and simmered for 25 minutes. About halfway through that time I added orzo (because we had it). After the vegetables were soft and the orzo was cooked, I added a can of beans.

It’s a great way to get rid of any vegetables that are starting to wilt in the fridge. I hate to let fresh vegetables go bad in the crisper so this is an easy way to use things up. Another way would be a stir-fry but on a snowy day like today, there’s nothing like a nice soup.

Veggie burgers and fries

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There’s a chain of restaurants that has taken the easy route for veggie burgers by offering a portobello on a bun and calling it a burger. That’s lazy. So I set out to make a veggie burger with portobello mushrooms that won’t disappoint. These mushrooms were marinated, stuffed with cashew cheese and placed on top of a veggie burger patty. Now that’s a veggie burger!

Here’s how I made it.

Portobello veggie burger

  • 2 extra large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1/4 balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • cashew cheese or other vegan cheese of choice
  • veggie burger patties, cooked according to the package or recipe
  • buns

Find a lidded baking dish (or use a deep one that you can cover with tin foil). Grease the bottom and place the washed mushrooms inside. They should fit gills up, flat on the bottom. Mix the marinade and pour it in the mushrooms, dividing it evenly between the two caps. Let them marinade for 20 minutes, if you can wait. Preheat the oven to 400.

Cover them with the lid and bake them for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, top with cheese and put it back in the oven, uncovered for another 10 minutes. Let them rest a few minutes before placing them on top of the cooked veggie burger – they’ll be really hot and juicy. Enjoy!

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The kids’ burgers were plain and I let them top them however they liked (just ketchup). They went down well but the recipe needs perfecting. My picky eater ate half of his before he told me, “actually, I don’t really like this.” My daughter enjoyed hers.

I made them with chickpeas and not a lot of flavour enhancements, thinking the plainer the better. I think I’ll try another method next time… I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

In the meantime, we’ll keep buying store-bought burgers for quick dinners and easy wins. There’s a couple of brands that make burgers my kids like.

 

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!

 

Pizzas with caesar salad

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I made pesto the other day so I’ve been planning on making a pizza for me with pesto and roasted veggies with a cashew cheese instead of the kiddie version we usually make with Daiya. Served with a caesar salad, it’s the perfect meal.

But, of course, the kids won’t eat the pizza I want – the pesto is covered with roasted garlic and onions – so they get their own. All the leftovers go into the freezer for last minute lunches so it’s worth my effort to make two large pizzas.

I was originally going to make the pizza from my new cookbook but I would have had to start it yesterday to have it today! The dough is supposed to sit in the fridge overnight, cashews are supposed to soak overnight, the onions, garlic and peppers are supposed to be caramelized and roasted separately… it was too much prep work. Not to mention the dishes!

So went with my tried and true quick pizza dough (takes about 5 minutes to mix and then 10 minutes to rest and it’s ready to use). I used the pesto I made on the weekend. I chopped the onion, peppers and peeled the garlic cloves, tossed them in olive oil and roasted them in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes (on one pan).

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My pizza has pesto, cashew cheese, vegan sausages, roasted onions, peppers and garlic on a whole wheat crust.

I used the quick soak method for the cashew cheese, adding boiling water and letting them soak for 30 minutes or so and followed the mozzarella recipe inĀ The Edgy Veg: 138 Carnivore-Approved Vegan Recipes.

When I got to the end of the recipe, I noticed it said to let it sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours before using. That didn’t happen. But I didn’t use it all, I guess I’ll see if the time in the fridge improves the flavour or texture of the cheese. It was nice on the pizza.

I wouldn’t call it mozzarella, though. Cashew cheese is delicious in its own right. When we name it a traditional cheese name, like mozzarella, it disappoints because it isn’t the same thing. This cheese was dropped in spoonfuls onto the pizza – it doesn’t spread or melt. But it does taste good. And with the pesto, roasted vegetables and vegan sausages, it was REALLY good.

The kids’ pizza

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The kids pizza has Daiya cheese, vegan sausage and roasted yellow pepper with tomato sauce.

Both pizzas were topped with roasted yellow peppers and vegan sausages made by Fieldroast. So far, these are the only sausages my kids enjoy – the Fieldroast Apple Sage Sausage. They were delicious with the caramelized onions, peppers and garlic. We enjoy the other flavours but the kids find them too spicy. Their pizza has tomato sauce from our freezer stash.

The salad

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When I was making the salad, I originally planned to top it with the eggplant bacon from the Edgy Veg but the eggplant took too long to sweat and then marinate. The next step is to bake for an hour or longer in a not so hot oven but this would have cut into the pizza baking time. So I saved half the caesar dressing to make the salad I wanted to make tonight, tomorrow.

In the meantime, I tossed half the dressing with romaine lettuce, a red bell pepper, cucumber and a large tomato. I topped it with hemp seeds and sea salt. And put the black pepper grinder on the table (my daughter has no tolerance for black pepper). My son isn’t into salads so he got his cucumber and red pepper in stick form on the side of his plate.