Superbowl dinner and snacks

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Superbowl Sunday calls for a spicy chili and plenty of snacks to nibble on while watching the game. This year, we didn’t bother making a kid-friendly chili because they never like it much anyway. So we threw in the jalapeño pepper and didn’t skimp on the flavours. It’s topped with a dollop of spicy cashew dip for a creamy kick.

The chili was served with homemade pretzel dough cut into little “bites.” I got the idea from Vegan Richa (this dip is delicious and super easy too). I love the fact that the pretzels take no time to shape at all. Fresh out of the oven, there’s nothing like them! Aside from the hour it takes to let the dough rise, they’re quick to bake. Once you try them, you’ll be craving them again and again!

They’re served with a spicy cashew dip but we also dipped them in the chili. I usually make cornbread with chili but this was a really nice change. The recipe made enough pretzel bites for leftovers – even after we all ate our fill.

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For the kids, I fried up some vegetables and tossed leftover rice and lentils in the pan for a very easy kid-friendly meal. It’s flavoured with just sesame oil and soy sauce. Not too complicated but it makes the kids happy.

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Lentils and rice are a great pair that can be dressed up however you like them. If you have leftover rice and lentils, fry up some onion and garlic, add any vegetables you have on hand and spices that you like, add the rice and lentils, and you have a really nutritious and delicious meal.

If you’ve never cooked lentils before, they’re really simple and quick to cook. Just wash them well, checking for stones, cover them with water and simmer for 20 minutes. You can add your flavour in the water at the beginning or cook the lentils in plain water without any salt or seasoning. Fry onions and vegetables while the lentils are simmering and then throw the lentils in at the end. Give them a try!

Spiced carrot soup with red lentils

Vegan carrot soup
Carrot soup made with red lentils, cumin and curry powder. It’s garnished with red pepper flakes.

I may have come down a bit harshly on the lowly red lentil in last night’s post so I thought I’d give an example of a recipe that works well with red lentils. Red lentils are the secret ingredient in this carrot soup making it thick and creamy enough to banish the chill from our bones.

It has been snowing since last night and I’m hoping the smell of dinner cooking will make up for the fact that I have refused go back out to shovel the driveway for a second time today. I summoned all my will to force my aching body to clear the last of the snow this morning. When I went to leave the house but saw the snowplow had deposited a new, rock-hard pile at the end of my no-longer clear driveway, I drove right over it!

This soup will melt any hard feelings. The carrots are sweet and the cumin and curry gives it a bit of a kick without overwhelming the kids. The grown-ups’ soup is garnished with red pepper flakes.

Carrot soup with red lentils

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed in cold water
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • salt to taste

Heat a large pot over medium heat and toast the spices until they’re fragrant (it takes about a minute). Add the remaining ingredients (except the salt) and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Season with salt according to taste.

FYI – my daughter came in the door singing, “I hope Mommy shovelled the driveway, I hope Mommy shovelled the driveway!” So, I guess the subject came up on the car ride home – but all was forgiven thanks to this yummy soup.

I served it with homemade bread – the dough was ready in the fridge, I just had to preheat the oven and bake it while I made the rest of dinner. We had the rest of the lentils I had cooked for last night’s dinner with basmati rice cooked in cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, turmeric and garam masala.

My son asked me to make this dinner every night. If I had to, I could live on this too! But they’ll have to be happy with having the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Shepherd’s pie and kale salad with squash, cranberries and walnuts

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Tonight’s dinner was simple thanks to all the leftover mashed potatoes and gravy from last night’s not-fried feast. All I did was cook some lentils to make the base of the shepherd’s pie and roast some squash.

Lentils are easy to cook and can easily be substituted as a meat substitute in any recipe that calls for ground beef if you season them appropriately. If you’re looking for a sturdy lentil that will keep it shape, go for the green or brown ones. If you want lentils that will cook down into a mushy consistency or make a thick sauce, choose the red lentils. I used small brown lentils.

Whatever lentils you choose, be sure to look through them carefully for stones and debris. Wash them well. Then cover them generously with water. Bring them to a boil and simmer them for about 20 minutes. Drain any excess water and use them in your recipe.

If you haven’t made lentils before, I encourage you to try them. They’re inexpensive and versatile. My kids love them plain but they’re even better seasoned and served with rice. When I’m looking for an easy win with the kids, I reach for the lentils.

Back to the recipe. While the lentils were cooking, I cubed the squash, brushed it with olive oil and roasted it at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

kale salad
This kale salad was seasoned with apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil and a dash or salt. I added dried cranberries and roasted squash and walnuts.

In the meantime, I made my kale salad. The trick to a good kale salad is to use your hands to rub the dressing into the kale. And then let it sit in the dressing to soften.

As a dressing I used a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of maple syrup, a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. I massaged it into the kale, added a few tablespoons of dried cranberries and put them aside until the rest of dinner was ready. I put some walnut pieces in the bowl I used to mix the salad dressing to coat them with a bit of oil and sweetness and spread them onto a cookie sheet and added them to the oven. This bit of warming adds to their flavour. Just be careful not to let them burn.

Once the lentils were done, I mixed them with the leftover gravy and frozen peas and corn, topped this mix with the leftover mashed potatoes, a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and paprika and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes.

vegan shepherd's pie with squash
If my son ever warms to kale, it’s not going to be store-bought winter kale. So I just gave him roasted squash on the side. He ate it with butter and a little bit of whine.

When everything was done, I tossed the squash and walnuts in the salad and dished out the Shepherd’s pie. I went over well with everyone.

Lentil gravy over potatoes

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Yes, we’re still using our Christmas plates.

Both kids had upset stomachs yesterday (probably from overindulging on treats on New Year’s Eve) so I kept tonight’s dinner simple and easy to digest. Potatoes with lentils and carrots lightly seasoned. They went down very quickly!

This meal is based on something my husband and I used to have as kids – so it must be a common meal in our region – hamburger hash over mashed potatoes. Generally, I will make the gravy with caramelized onions, garlic, mushrooms and vegetable broth mixed with nutritional yeast and a few herbs to match the gravies we had as kids. But since my kids have upset stomachs, I decided to flavour this gravy with ginger and garlic to sooth their tummies.

This isn’t a fancy meal but it is ready in 30 minutes and is a family favourite.

Lentil gravy over potatoes

  • potatoes (enough to feed the family)
  • 1 1/4 cups of dried lentils
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ginger (about an inch, minced)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 onion chopped in large pieces (so the kids can pick it out)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 Tbsp starch (tapioca, arrowroot or cornstarch)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp salt

Chop and boil the potatoes until tender (about 15-20 minutes). Wash and pick through the lentils to make sure there are no stones or debris in the dried lentils. Cook them in a small pot with the vegetable broth for about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes and lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (about a minute). Add the onion and carrot. Cook until the vegetables are tender (about 5 minutes). When the lentils have cooked for 15 minutes, add them with the broth to the vegetables and simmer for a minute. Mix the starch with the cold water and add it to the lentils and vegetables. Cook until thickened.

Pour the lentils over the potatoes and serve. Because I wanted more flavour for mine, I sprinkled a savoury masala spice mix and hot pepper flakes over my potatoes before pouring the lentils on top.

vegan lentils and potatoes
I added masala spice mix, pepper flakes and some black pepper to spice my serving up a bit.

If you’re looking for something with more traditional flavours, skip the ginger and the garam masala. Add 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, 1 tsp of thyme and 1/2 tsp of rosemary or tarragon, a bay leaf and 1 tsp of soy sauce. You can also adapt it with the vegetables you use – mushrooms are a good choice.

Do you make a similar recipe? What flavourings do you use?

Masala lentils and rice

I love the flavours of Indian cuisine. They inspire in me a craving that cannot be denied. Pakoras, Chana Masala, curried eggplant… if we’re going out to eat and I have a say, it’s Indian food. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to match the flavours from the restaurants but with Vegan Richa’s recipes, I’ve come pretty close. Last night, we settled into the beginning of what is turning out to be a long snowstorm with the warming flavours of Masala Lentils.

Spicy lentils

I reach for this recipe often because it includes all the flavours I crave, it’s super easy and I generally have all the ingredients required. And, as a mom who has to think about giving the kids food they’ll eat, I have a system with this meal that gives everyone what they want on their plates and nothing more. So it’s a win-win-win-win!

This recipe is from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook. My method follows her recipe so I won’t write it out in full here. But there’s one thing I do to make this meal kid-friendly.

The first step in the recipe is to cook the lentils (3/4 cup). I cook a full cup, add a bit of extra water and that’s it. I make plain rice on the side and that’s what the kids get with a few crunchy veggies on the side. Plain lentils, plain rice and veggies on the side. Nothing could be easier.

Plain lentils and rice with veggies
Vegan kids’ meal

As you can see, I had heirloom cherry tomatoes (my son only eats cherry tomatoes) and yellow bell pepper cut in strips. We have a salt grinder at the table with nice sea salt that the kids love to use so I didn’t even add salt.

I followed the rest of the recipe to fill my lentils with flavour.

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Simmering tomatoes are added to the spices that were fried in oil to make a flavourful sauce.

Here’s the tempering simmering away. Once the lentils are done and I’ve taken out the kids’ portion, I pour the remaining lentils into this tempering and they’re flooded with flavour.

Vegan lentil curry

My husband and I enjoyed a very spicy, flavourful meal and the kids really like their plain lentils with just a bit of sea salt.

Rye boule and tomato-lentil soup with brown rice

Woke up to snow again this morning and when I got them out the door, the very excited kids crawled through the snow on their way to school. No wonder snow pants rarely last a whole season!

Rye and whole wheat bread

In this chilly November weather when our bones aren’t quite used to bundling up against the snow and wind, I crave rye bread. This bread was made with whole wheat flour, rye flour and all purpose flour, salt and water. Simple and good with a few flax seeds sprinkled over the top.

I didn’t give it time to ferment on the counter like I did with the baguettes last time but this loaf gets its flavour from the flours I used. I did leave it to rise for about three hours before shaping the loaf while preheating the oven and the pizza stone.

I wanted to have nice bread for tomorrow morning’s peanut butter and jam on toast but I doubt it will last until the morning – I may have to make another loaf. I made it using the technique in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The website is healthybreadinfive.com.

The technique involves mixing a full bowl of dough, letting it rise for the initial period and then pulling out the amount I need to make a loaf and putting the rest of the bread dough in the fridge.

Over the week, the dough in the fridge develops a sourdough flavour and I can make another loaf whenever I want. I just have to shape it and let it warm on the counter while the oven and pizza stone preheat and then bake it for 30 minutes. With this method, it’s easy to have fresh bread that tastes amazing.

Rye and whole wheat bread with flax seeds

To eat with this whole wheat rye bread, I’ve made Tomato-Lentil Soup with Brown Rice. The recipe is from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen: Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Dishes from the Healthiest Region Under the Sun. I’ve left out the scallions (the kids won’t eat them) and the celery so it’s a very simple recipe of carrots, garlic, lentils, brown rice, vegetable broth and canned tomatoes with dried thyme and a bay leaf.

I cooked the carrots and garlic in olive oil until softened. Then I added the remaining ingredients and simmered for 50 minutes. My son’s not always keen on things that include tomatoes in the broth but I think he’ll like this soup since it’s so simple. The carrots are from a local farm and are very sweet.

Lentil soup with bread

It’s a hearty, chunky soup – he probably won’t eat the tomatoes but I’ll give him a chance to enjoy it as is even if it means there will be some whining at dinner. The lentils offer a good source of protein and dietary fibre and the brown rice makes it even more satisfying.

Tomato-Lentil Soup

I love to include big chunks of the vegetables that they love so when they first sit down to a dinner, they see something inviting and dig in. This helps them overlook the less desirable ingredients they may be more skeptical about (the tomatoes).

My son prefers to eat only cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden – I get it. They’re delicious and winter tomatoes just aren’t the same. If only it were August year-round!

I’ll get them to taste the soup before I let them eat their bread. If I don’t watch them, they’ll eat three pieces of bread and be too full to eat their soup. Can’t blame them – the bread is super delicious! But I know once they taste the soup, it will go down nicely.

Hearty soup served with bread

Lightly spiced red lentils and rice and homemade roti

Kids have small stomachs. So every time they eat something, it takes the place of something else they’ll be turning down. It’s hard to convince kids to eat the healthy food they need to fuel their growth so I do my best to ensure most of the food they eat contributes to a healthy diet.

To this end, I like a hungry kid at dinner time. A hungry kid is more likely to try something new. When the kids have had a snack before dinner, they’re less likely to dig in.

Getting the kids to dig in wasn’t a problem tonight. We had Vegan Richa’s Lightly Spiced Yellow Lentils and Rice from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook. I love this book.

The smell of Indian food is irresistible to me. And Richa makes it attainable in my kitchen – no small feat! Tonight I even attempted her roti recipe!

making roti
Rolling out the rotis.

This was my first time making roti – it’s not authentic because I’m making due with whole wheat flour and all purpose flour as opposed to the flour that is used to make roti in India but Richa’s methodology made excellent rotis that were enjoyed by all.

making roti
The roti puffed up in the heat of the skillet.

The process involved cooking the flattened dough in a very hot skillet. The roti is supposed to puff up like a balloon, according to the instructions. I did manage to get them to puff up a bit – but not evenly. Nevertheless, they were delicious. Maybe I need some practice.

lentils, rice and roti
Lightly Spiced Yellow Lentils and Rice with roti on the side.

Tonight is our busy night with only a short window for eating before heading out for activities. Having a one pot meal like this makes meal prep easy and as long as the flavours are mild, it’s a quick meal for the kids to finish. They used the rotis to scoop up the lentils and rice.

red lentils and rice
The red lentils and rice were mild and delicious.

The lentils and rice are very mild – so I knew the kids would enjoy them. Sometimes I will take my changes on a more flavourful meal but on busy nights, I’m more conservative with my meal choices. This recipe was a good fit.

I followed the recipe with few exceptions. I haven’t been able to find asafetida in the stores in my region – I’m curious to know how it will change the flavours. I omitted the chile (for the kids’ sake) and chopped the onions in large pieces to make it easy to find and pick out for the kids. I didn’t have the petite yellow lentils so I used red lentils.

It was a delicious dinner. At one point, my picky eater said, “My tummy is full but I’m not listening.” He proceeded to finish his third roti! When I asked them how is dinner, they both exclaimed: “Awesome!” High praise indeed!