Tofu Florentine with home fries

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We don’t have a lot of Easter traditions because we don’t eat eggs (or decorate with them) and we’re not religious. Rather, we use this weekend to celebrate the coming of Spring. It’s not always here on Easter weekend but early signs are everywhere. The snow is gone and the robins are back with their trilling birdsongs. When the sun comes out, it’s really nice to be outside. I even put my super warm winter coat away – though our light winter coats are still needed.

This morning, the kids played together nicely enough for me to sleep in. And when I got up, I craved this breakfast that I used to make often before the kids were born. It’s one or two steps too many for most weekend breakfasts (and the kids are often begging for pancakes or oatmeal) but with the extra sleep I got last night, I thought I’d make one of my favourite breakfasts.

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If you start the potatoes first, it isn’t time-consuming to make. Start by boiling the potatoes. While the tofu is broiling, fry an onion until golden, add the potatoes and whatever spices you like. Steam the spinach and make the hollandaise sauce. There are a lot of really nice vegan hollandaise sauces but this one is so simple that it’s always been my go to. Sometimes, simplicity just wins.

Hollandaise sauce

  • 2/3 cup vegan mayo
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  •  pinch cayenne
  • pinch turmeric
  • salt

Combine the ingredients. Done.

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Because I was generous with the cayenne, I topped my daughter’s breakfast with plain mayo (which I know she likes) and a sprinkling of paprika. My son won’t eat spinach or mayo so his english muffin is buttered and topped with tofu with the potatoes on the side. He’ll eat his veggies at another meal.

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Some day he’ll look at our meals and realize he’s missing out when he skips the veggies and sauce but we’re not there yet. That’s okay – we’ve got time. The truth is, we’re making progress and every month he becomes less strict about the foods he eats. Last month, he happily ate parsley and halved cherry tomatoes for the first time instead of just whole cherry tomatoes. I think this summer, we’ll win him over to regular-sized tomatoes. Fingers-crossed!

Happy Easter everyone! How do you celebrate?

Eating carbs as a vegan

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I was on the train commuting to work the other day when the people sitting across from me in our 4-pack of seats was talking about fitness and diet. They were speaking so loudly that I found it impossible to concentrate on the words of my book and even my podcast couldn’t drown out their conversation so though I was completely uninterested in their babble, I couldn’t avoid hearing their conversation in full.

They were congratulating themselves on their fitness regime and after giving full details about their favourite gyms, they started talking about their diets. They agreed that sugar is evil and should be avoided at all cost. Salt bad. And then one of them started on the carbs. “If you’re limiting your sugar, you should limit all carbs. They’re so bad for you.”

He suggested she continue eating whatever it was she liked to eat, “keep that steak the same size but eat less rice.” He told her that rice is terrible for you and pasta too.

I find this blanket statement ill-informed.

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I completely agree with limiting processed carbs – you’re not getting much out of a piece of white bread. But as long as you’re eating a variety of whole grains, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a lot more credible science to back a whole foods diet than a meat-centred diet.

As a vegan, it’s the carbs that fill me up and make me feel satisfied after a meal. Quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread is a wholesome and satisfying part of any meal. And as long as you’re eating a variety of whole grains and not processed white rice for each meal (although, really, it’s not that bad to eat white rice), there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Carbs are a satisfying comfort food so it is easy to overdo it with large portions. And if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, watching your carb intake is a good place to start. But don’t eliminate it completely. If you really want to shed some weight, ditch the dairy and meat. That’s how you’ll get the best results.

Creamy cauliflower dip with cashews and caramelized onions

If you’re looking for something special to bring to a potluck or a party, I have your solution. This dairy-free dip is creamy with a kick of spice and it won’t impact your waistline. But there’s no need to wait for a special occasion – whip it up today for an indulgence you don’t have to share.

Note to parents: don’t let the Santa plate fool you – the kids won’t touch this dip. It’s sweet and spicy with caramelized onions and hot sauce, which makes it too flavourful for most kids. I could make a kid-friendly version but not today. This one’s just for the grown-ups.

Warm vegan cauliflower dip
Straight from the oven, this creamy dip tastes naughty but is really nice.

This recipe is a bit more time consuming than others because you have to soak the cashews. If you have a high speed blender, you only need to soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a Vitamix or similarly powerful blender, you should probably soak them overnight.

Creamy cauliflower dip

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (or whatever kind you have on hand)
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 cup cauliflower (chopped very small)
  • 2 Tbsp oats
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Pour the boiling water over the raw cashews and soak them for 30 minutes or overnight (depending on the strength of your blender).

When you’re ready to make the dip, preheat the oven to 350 and find an ovenproof dish that can fit up to 3 cups of dip.

Heat a frying pan on medium-low heat, add the olive oil and the onion. Cook it for a few minutes until it starts to turn brown. Turn the heat down if it starts sticking. Add the garlic and cauliflower and continue to cook for another minute, stirring often to prevent burning. Add the balsamic vinegar, paprika, dry mustard and hot sauce and remove from the heat.

Put the cashews and their water in the blender with the oats and nutritional yeast and blend until smooth. Pour the cashew cream into the pan with the onion mixture and stir to combine. Pour this mixture into the ovenproof dish and bake for 15 minutes.

Serve with crackers, chips or fresh bread.

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Even Santa approves of this nice treat.

Greens with roasted chickpeas, salty seed mix and a tangy avocado dressing

Vegan salad with roasted chickpeas and avocado dressing
Lettuce topped with avocado dressing, roasted chickpeas and a salty seed mix.

People often tell me they couldn’t be vegan because they could never give up cheese. I don’t miss it at all. In fact, when I think of where cheese comes from and I remember the smell of the dairy farm I visited (that inspired me to give up dairy), it turns my stomach.

One food that I do miss, though, is caesar salad. In my early teenage years, I loved caesar salad dressing. I didn’t like that caesar salads don’t include much in the way of vegetables so I would order a garden salad with the dressing and cover it in fresh pepper.

I’ve tried every vegan caesar salad dressing I could find and I was always disappointed. This dressing on my salad above gets its creaminess from avocado and it hits the spot.

Full disclosure – it didn’t pass the kids’ taste test. It was too tangy for my daughter and my son wasn’t interested. They had spaghettini with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables without any salad.

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Spaghettini with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables.

I topped their tomato sauce with a salty seed mix.

Salty seed mix

  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Combine the seeds, nutritional yeast and salt in a little bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and toss it well to mix. Use to top pasta and salads.

Roasted chickpeas

Very simple stuff. Preheat the oven to 350. Drain a can of chickpeas and dry them off with a towel. Toss them in olive oil, salt and garlic powder and bake for 20 minutes. Bake further if you want them crunchy.

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Salad, spaghettini with tomato sauce and vegetables

I won’t call my salad caesar because it isn’t a match but it is a nice change if you’re looking for a nice creamy dressing. Here’s how I make it.

Creamy avocado dressing

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove of garlic (I roasted my this time but raw is more caesar-like)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup water

Blend the ingredients together and serve.

To make the salad, I topped the lettuce with dressing to ensure ultimate coverage and topped it with the chickpeas and a sprinkling of the salty seed mix.

Find the recipe for the kid-friendly tomato sauce here. The roasted vegetables were chopped to bite-sized pieces and roasted at 425 for 30 minutes.

Bon appétit!

 

Thank you and a lasagna dinner

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Since I started this blog a month ago, I’ve gotten so much support from new friends and not-so-new friends and family. So I just want to say thank you to everyone who has visited, liked, commented, shared or followed me over the past month. As anyone who has started a website knows, it can be tough to get going but your interest and support that has encouraged me to continue. I hope you’ve found something of interest here and that you’ll return often! Your feedback is always appreciated!

Lasagna with focaccia

Vegan lasagna

My husband always jokes that I never blog about the dinners he makes. I’m very lucky to have married a man who worked as a cook at pubs when we were doing our undergraduate degrees. He has some signature crowd-pleasers that he has veganized over the years. Lasagna is one of them.

He makes a mean eggplant lasagna but the kids won’t touch it so he’s been keeping it simple since my son was born. Sauce, noodles, a tofu-based ricotta and repeat. Topped with Daiya cheese shreds and that’s it. The kids devour it.

Last night, he added a Bolognese layer with Yves veggie ground round – which was a nice change. And because it was the second layer, we were able to scrape the Bolognese layer off when my son refused to eat it. “What is the brown stuff?” he asked. “Delicious,” is my standard answer. “Taste it.”

One bite, and tears welled up in his eyes. We’d ruined his favourite meal. But no big deal, lasagna is a layered dish. We simply deconstructed his piece and rebuilt it. I don’t know why he doesn’t like the ground round from Yves. He likes their burgers.

My daughter didn’t pause at the Bolognese layer – she devoured the whole thing. As did the rest of us.

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Lasagna fresh from the oven.

He makes the ricotta cheese following a recipe in the Veganomicon (which apparently has a 10th anniversary edition! Veganomicon, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook).

My contribution to dinner was the focaccia. I made it a free form shape this time – which didn’t turn out as pretty but it had a nice, crispy crust. It’s rubbed in olive oil with a sea salt and rosemary topping.

Focaccia

It was the perfect dinner for a cold and snowy night. Tonight is supposed to be the same. Stay warm and thanks for stopping by!

Veggie burgers and fries

We came home from running around too late to make a nice meal so I grabbed the veggie burgers I picked up the other day and we made fries. The burgers are a new brand we hadn’t tried before: VG Gourmet Artisan Vegan Burgers. I got the lentil and walnut burgers with fresh herbs and wild mushrooms. Perhaps not the most kid-friendly choice since my picky eater likes neither fresh herbs nor mushrooms.

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These burgers are packed with lentils and veggies that are visible in the patty – that’s nice for my husband and me but I knew if my kids were to see onions, they’d turn their noses up at the whole burger. So I covered them in melted Daiya cheese as a disguise.

The kids were not fooled. They topped their burgers with tomatoes, pickles, relish and ketchup and were eating them nicely at first. But in the end, these burgers were not a hit with the kids. They managed to get them down with extra pickles. We liked them a lot, however.

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Though they were a bit drier than other veggie burgers, the flavours were unique and complex since there was a good variety of veggies in each burger. Often, veggie burgers try too hard to be like hamburgers and they fail. These burgers were not trying to disguise the veggies and I appreciated that.

The kids have taste preferences all of their own. But there are a few brands of veggie burgers that my kids like. They tend to like the ones that are uniform and hamburger-like more than the ones that are dotted with veggies the way I like them. But sometimes I slice off a square of tofu and grill it with a mild marinade for him to eat as a burger. Or sometimes we’ll make them veggie dogs while we have the burgers. But sometimes they surprise me and happily eat a whole burger. Just not tonight.

Sniffle-busting soup with ginger and garlic

Vegan wellness soup
My soup was topped with a generous helping of hot sauce – which also feels good on the throat.

When I picked the kids up from school yesterday, I had a telltale feeling in my sinuses that something was not right. By the time I made it in the door, I was glad to be near the kleenex box. I decided to fry up some garlic and ginger to make an immunity-boosting soup to stop the cold in its tracks.

All I wanted to do was eat my soup and cuddle up on the couch for the evening so it wasn’t going to be fancy – just the basics of a decent meal with enough ginger to kick the cold without causing a fuss from the kids. Luckily, I am able to bury plenty of ginger and garlic in a soup without paying for it with whine as long as the garlic has mellowed from being cooked.

I grabbed some rice noodles, tofu, mushrooms and shredded a carrot and got to work. It didn’t take long and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Soup with rice noodles and tofu
I picked the mushrooms out for my son – he did get one and declared it is still on his yucky list. No comment on the ginger and garlic!

Sniffle-busting soup

  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 block of tofu, cubed
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • rice noodles, cooked according to directions on package
  • sesame seeds
  • chives
  • hot sauce

Fry the garlic and ginger in the sesame oil on medium heat until browned. Add the mushrooms and tofu and cook until the mushrooms release their juices. Add the carrots and stir. Add the stock, soy sauce and mirin and turn up the heat to bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn it down to simmer and prep the bowls.

The noodles should be cooked and drained. Divide the noodles among the bowls. Pour the broth and vegetables over the noodles. Garnish with sesame seeds (I used white and black), chives and hot sauce. Enjoy!

I woke up this morning feeling healthy – I think I’ve managed to kick it. I had some leftover soup for lunch so I’m sure that helped too. What do you do to keep the sniffles away?