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!

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!

Sunflower seed butter and pear jam sandwiches

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Packing nutritious school lunches can be a real challenge for anyone. The kids get limited time to eat – generally in their classrooms with minimal supervision. It’s noisy and rushed on the best of days, from what I gather. They want to eat and go for recess with their friends. But my kids know they’re expected to eat their whole lunch before they eat all their snacks. If they eat a treat before they’ve finished their lunch, they won’t get a treat the next day.

My son’s a little rule follower so if he runs out of time to finish his lunch, he’ll eat it during last snack. If he feels the lunch we’ve packed was too big, we hear about it after school – through tears. My daughter, on the other hand, has a good appetite so the challenge with her is packing enough calories for her to consume in the time allotted.

Generally, we pack leftovers from dinner – if we can. But we have a few tricks for those days when we can’t pack leftovers or if the leftovers won’t translate well into cold lunches (like soup).

Hummus and cucumber sandwiches are a good choice for my picky eater. I’ve mentioned frozen leftover pizza. Another easy lunch is peanut butter and jam, of course. But since the kids’ school is nut-free, it’s sunflower seed butter and jam.

Sunflower seed butter has more protein and fat than peanut butter so it’s a good choice for energetic, growing kids. I know my kids get plenty of vitamins but the whole foods we eat are generally low in fat. Kids need plenty of healthy fats to energize their growth spurts. These sandwiches are topped with homemade pear jam for that touch of sweetness they crave.

Vegan pudding
Chia seed pudding is delicious and full of protein to power you through the morning.

For high energy snacks, I’ve mentioned chia seed pudding, which is one of my daughter’s favourites. Overnight oats is preferred by my son. I always include chia seeds in his oatmeal for added protein. We also include snack mixes of dried fruit, seeds, whole grain cereals (like Shreddies), pretzels or a couple crackers. This week, I’ve added a couple heart-shaped candies to the mix as a special treat.

Other snacks include fruit, apple sauce, baked goods (like muffins or leftover pancakes) or sliced veggies (generally carrots and cucumbers).

Coming up with quick and easy lunches for the kids can be a real challenge, so I’d love to hear your ideas. What do you pack in your kids’ lunches?

Surprise! Jam-filled bran muffins

vegan muffin
These little muffins are the perfect size for snacking.

Whenever he’s given the chance to choose his muffin, my little picky eater goes for the bran muffins over cookies or other kinds of muffins. And I sit there and watch in amazement as he happily gobbles it down. Vegan kids don’t necessarily need the extra fibre from the bran but why should we miss out on all the branny fun?

By definition, a vegan diet is high in fibre. Fibre comes from plant foods but isn’t present in animal products. Everything we eat is a source of fibre unless the fibre has been removed through processing (like white flour). Fruit is a great source of fibre – the little seeds in raspberries are a good example of a fibre-rich food.

I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that a clean colon is a healthy colon. When foods move through the body smoothly and waste is eliminated daily, we’re able to extract all the nutrients from the food we consume and the risk of many diseases are reduced.

Here’s a little muffin that will make you go and make you smile too. It’s loaded with fibre from bran, whole wheat flour, chia seeds and depending on the jam you choose to use, you may get fibre from that.

But the best thing about these muffins is the jam at the centre. I’ve used my favourite jam – it’s apple pie jam that I made from the apples we picked at a local farm in the fall. It contains all the goodness of pie in a form that I can use every day. Mmmm! The recipe is from this book: The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes.

This muffin recipe makes 24 small muffins. I like to bake huge batches of baked goods on the weekends so I can freeze some for snacks to pack in the kids’ lunches during the week. If I only make 12, they’ll be gone before I get to freeze some. These little muffins fit nicely in our reusable containers even when frozen solid (an important feature for me)!

The recipe is based on one from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. The ingredients have been adapted based on what I had on hand and what my kids like to eat. They’re also nut-free so they can be sent to school.

Surprise! Jam-filled muffins

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups bran
  • 2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose or regular whole wheat)
  •  1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cup vegan milk (I use soy)
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 jar of jam

Preheat the oven to 425 and grease muffin tins for 24 muffins.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the chia seeds with water and put them aside to allow the seeds to absorb the water.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

Tip: Use a whisk to make sure there are no clumps of brown sugar.

Add the milk and the canola oil to the bowl with the chia seeds. Use the whisk to make sure you break up the large clumps of chia seeds.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine – don’t use a whisk because you don’t want to over mix the batter.

vegan jam muffins
Add one teaspoon of jam in the centre of each muffin.

Scoop 1/3 cup of batter for each muffin into the tins. Add a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each muffin. Then distribute the rest of the muffin batter to top each muffin. You want the jam in the middle of the muffin – if it sinks to the bottom, it will stick to the bottom of the tin. If it’s not covered with batter, the sugary jam would show and ruin the surprise.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool a few minutes before removing them from the tins.

vegan muffins for snacks
Not too little, not too big.