Vegan camping

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This summer, we took a road trip to the East Coast of Canada. We brought a tent and reserved campsites at National and Provincial Parks from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We made memories that will last a lifetime.

We’re seasoned campers – we love sleeping in a tent and hearing the sounds of the forest around us. We love waking up with the sun and the chirping birds. I love cooking over a fire pit – potatoes in the coals, veggie burgers flame broiled – everything just tastes better when we’re camping.

This summer, though, everything was different. When we arrived in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, there was a fire ban. We have a simple isobutane camping stove for making coffee but we didn’t have much fuel. We couldn’t light a fire in the fire pits provided. We ran out of fuel after making a pot of coffee and we were stuck.

Aside from our usual stock of fruits and vegetables, we had a cooler stocked with veggie burgers, vegan sausages, veggie dogs and tofu without a way to cook any of it. None of the stores we stopped at carried isobutane so we had to eat at restaurants for the first few days on the island (more about that later).

Eventually, we stumbled on the only store in Cape Breton that carries our fuel and we happily bought a couple canisters and a frying pan. Now we had a way to cook our traditional camping food.

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Snacking on dry cereal and reading a book on our campsite.

With so many choices for vegan burgers, hot dogs and sausages, you can easily blend in with the other campers. But when you run out of that and you’re in a fisherman’s paradise without another vegan around, it’s time to get creative.

With our minimal camping stove, a pot for boiling water and a frying pan, we found a few things in the rural grocery stores to feed our hungry mob. Our favourite by far was a noodle stir fry.

Note: We don’t usually buy instant anything but when you’re camping and using fuel that is as hard to find as these canisters were, you do what you must to conserve the fuel.

Vegan noodle stir fry

  • one package of instant noodles
  • oil (sesame, canola, grape seed – whatever)
  • one block of tofu
  • seasoning (Herbamare is great but use what you can find and what you like)
  • one package of broccoli slaw (or another packaged salad with broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale)
  • soy sauce packets (if you have them)

Cook the noodles according to the package. Drain and put aside.

Chop the tofu into cubes and fry it in the oil with the seasoning. When browned, add the slaw and cook until wilted. Add the cooked noodles and stir to mix. Add the soy sauce and mix again.

That’s about the easiest vegan meal you can source in an isolated town. Another idea we enjoyed – minute rice and beans.

Camping rice and beans

  • minute rice
  • can of beans (black or red kidney are great)
  • canned corn (normally I’d eat frozen but we were pleasantly surprised)
  • seasoning

Cook the rice according to the directions on the box. When it’s done, add the drained and rinsed beans and the drained canned corn. Season to taste and enjoy!

Breakfast

When we’re car camping, I put quick cooking oatmeal in little mason jars with raisins or cranberries, sugar, cinnamon and I leave some space for hot water. (You could use instant oatmeal but I prefer the texture of the quick cooking oatmeal – less mushy.) The jars should be 3/4 full.

Hot oatmeal to go
Pack your oatmeal in jars to reduce waste.

When you’re ready to eat, pour boiling water in the jars, screw the tops closed, shake them up a bit and let them sit for a few minutes to allow the hot water to cook the oatmeal. My kids love having their own individual jars.

If you’re pressed for space, fill a ziplock bag with oatmeal, sugar, dried fruit and spices. Maybe include seeds – we’re eating a lot of hemp and chia seeds these days. And you can make your homestyle oatmeal in a pot. There’s nothing like a warm bowl of oatmeal on a cool morning.

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Sunset in Prince Edward Island National Park

There are so many benefits to getting kids out into natural spaces – they benefit from exploring, finding creatures, get to know the provinces they’re learning about in school and they learn to love and protect the environment.

You can make some amazing meals over the fire or you can use some cooking short cuts and head out to enjoy the world around you.

 

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

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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.