Tag Archives: Vegetarian

The Compassionate Glutton meets the Compassionate Shepherd.

10 May

When i was a child, my mother would make the dish to end all dishes. Sweet, crunchy corn, mushy peas and perfectly mashed potatoes, burnt to a light crisp on top came together to create scrumptious Shepherd’s pie. (Ground beef was also in there, but really, this blog post is about eliminating that component, so i am not listing it as a yummy ingredient. Take that, ground beef.) I  remember dousing my portion in ketchup, delighting in the mix of different textures and flavors coming together to form one. I haven’t had Shepherd’s pie in over 3 years, since giving up meat. This weekend, Shepherd’s pie was brought up in conversations with different people i crossed paths with at least 3 times. I  already had this dish in the back of my mind after an extensive conversation with the B, comparing our mothers’ versions (Peas NEED to be in there!!!), when i went to visit my parents on Sunday evening. My pops had come across a recipe for Shepherd’s pie with lentils, and had thoughtfully bookmarked it for me. I initially got really excited; i had been toying with replacing the ground meat component with lentils for some time. After a quick scan, i realized the recipe was not vegan (why add veal to the lentils? That’s just silly!), and was inspired to create my own version.

The Compassionate Shepherd’s Pie

You will need:

1 9×9 inch square pyrex pan

1 1/2 cups lentils (any color will do, i mixed 1/2 red and 1/2 brown)

2 1/2 cups of water

1/2 a veggie bouillon cube (optional)

4 medium sized sweet potatoes (or white potatoes, but sweet potatoes are healthier!!)

1 can corn

1 can peas (not optional! My mother, Suzie, says peas are an essential part of Shepherd’s pie. Suzie’s word is gold.)

1 small onion, chopped in small pieces

A couple of slabs of vegan margarine (i love Earth Balance)

Directions:

Put lentils, piece of veggie bouillon cube, water and onion in a pot, and heat on high heat. Once lentils are boiling, lower heat to simmer, and cover. Stir frequently so lentils do not stick to bottom. Simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until hardly any liquid is left.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the potatoes. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into bite size chunks. Throw into a pot and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt if desired, and boil potatoes until they are soft enough to mash.

To assemble pie:

Mash sweet potatoes with a bit of vegan margarine, until no lumps remain. Pour lentil-onion mixture into pyrex pan. Make sure the bottom of pan is completely covered. Pour can of corn on top of lentil layer. Por can of peas on top of corn layer. Scoop up mashed potatoes and spread on top, as the final layer. Use a fork to get the potatoes all over the top, so that it completely covers the top. Cut 2-3 thin slabs of margarine, and place on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, until a fork placed in center comes out piping hot throughout the middle. For last 5-10 minutes, place your oven to broil, and broil the top of the pie so the potatoes develop a crispy top layer.

Oh Compassionate Shepherd, you complete me.

This dish easily made 4-5 portions,  enough to bring for lunches this week! The lentils pack lots of protein, while the sweet potatoes give the dish a hearty feel without being too heavy. This is the perfect dish when you’re looking for comfort food, without the unnecessary calories!
Every family seems to have their own version of Shepherd’s pie, especialy here in Quebec. This version lends well to alterations and additions. Your mom adds paprika to the top? No problem, go for it!! Your grandmother sprinkles cheese on the potatoes? Grab yourself some vegan cheese and throw it on! Your maman adds spices to her ground beef? Add those spices to the lentils! Seeing as i am biased to my mother’s recipe, i will leave you with this one last tip for creating amazing vegan Shepherd’s pie: Dont forget to add peas! (Happy Mother’s day, Momma!)
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Kale, Cookies, Battlestar Galactica.

5 May

As i departed work on this gloomy, rainy Montreal evening, it dawned on me that tonight would be the perfect night to fill my cozy apartment with the warm smell of chocolate chip cookies, stuff my face with said cookies, curl up on my couch and lose myself in Season 3 of my new obsession du jour; Battlestar Galactica.

However, not one to eat sweets before a proper meal, i decided to whip up a batch of one of my favorite “Mommy makes it better” dishes; spaghetti with rapini. Every time i have tried to make this dish, my efforts have always ended in me calling The Suze, whining that my rapini was too soggy, or that my pasta was too hard. I could never get the timing right. Tonight, i was determined to master this simple dish, a dish one might say has been the bane of my culinary existence for 5+ years. As i scoured the vegetable aisles of my local fruit market, all i could see was kale. Rows and rows of kale took up the place where rapini should have been. Now i am no stranger to kale. I have sauteed and chipped kale with the best of them. (I live for kale chips. No joke, i actually do…) In a moment of inspiration, it dawned on me; why not use kale instead of rapini? The flavor is milder, the cooking time might potentially match that of pasta, and the texture is sublime!

What can i say, my experiment in substitution turned out a million times better than any spaghetti and rapini dish i have ever tried to make. While kale does not have the same bitter taste i adore from rapini, it has a chewy, leafy texture that rapini does not. It also takes well to being boiled, while rapini sometimes tends to fall apart in the boiling process. Kale is super good for you; it’s packed with loads of anti-oxidants, AND it’s anti-inflammatory!

Next time you see a beautiful, lush bunch of kale at the grocery store, pick it up and try this recipe!

Spaghetti with Kale

You will need:

1 bunch of kale, the stems cut off, washed

Enough spaghetti for 2 people – or enough for one supper and one lunch for you, if you live alone like me!

1 lemon

3 fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks

2 cloves of garlic

A pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:

Fill a LARGE pot with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, throw in a pinch of salt, the spaghetti and the kale. Keep the heat on high, and boil, stirring VERY frequently.

While the spaghetti is cooking, cook the tomatoes. In a frying pan, heat oil over med-high heat. Add garlic, minced, and stir for a minute or 2. Once the garlic is aromatic, add the tomatoes, and lower heat to medium. cook for a few minutes, stirring. Once you see the tomatoes getting a little mushy, lower the heat and add the juice of 1 lemon and the chili flakes. You want your tomatoes to get really mushy, and you want the juices to come out to create the “sauce” for the pasta. Let the tomatoes cook on med-low heat until the pasta is ready.

Once the pasta is to your desired texture, turn off heat, strain the pasta and kale, and return it to the large soup pot. Throw in your tomato mixture, and toss to coat all the spaghetti and kale. Add pepper and enjoy!

I realize not everyone shares my love and pure excitement for all things vegetable, though i don’t understand why. I’d pick a head of kale over a chocolate chip cookie anyday, but for all those who would go the chocolate chip cookie route, please get in your kitchens and make the following chocolate chip cookie recipe NOW. This recipe kicks all other CC (that’s chocolate chip, for you amateurs) recipes to the curb. It’s chunky, it’s sweet, it’s got oats and cinamon, and it oozes chocolate. What more could you ever want from a cookie?

This recipe comes from Jae Steele’s awesome cookbook “Get It Ripe”. Jae Steele is a Canadian vegan cookbook author who has published 2 excellent books i would highly recommend. “Get It Ripe” was somewhat of my introduction to vegan cooking, and was a sort of Bible for me througout my introduction to veganism. Jae Steele always favors natural sugars and sweeteners, and is very health conscious when it comes to desserts. Her recipes are easy to follow, and her approach is very user-friendly. I recommend her cookbooks to beginner and professional vegans, and carnivores alike, just because she’s awesome!

Cowgrrrl Cookies (Get it Ripe, p. 225)

You will need:

2 cups spelt flour (Trust you me, it’s better for you than all-purpose!!)

2 cups rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

11/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (make sure to read the ingredients and choose the kind with no dairy!)

1/2 cup nuts (i used peanuts, but walnuts are delicious)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 scant cup of sunflower oil (i used canola, but sunflower is better for you…)

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup room temp applesauce

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (artificial = gross, pure = YUM!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix well. Add chocolate, nuts and cinnamon and mix throughly. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, blend oil and sugar until throughly combined. Add applesauce and extract and blend. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until all flour is absorbed. Form into tablespoon sized balls in your hands and drop on a cookie sheet. (I always line my cookie sheets with parchement paper, it makes for less clean-up!) Flatten balls a little with your fingers, making sure there is ample room between each cookie. I usually cook 6 cookies at a time, to be on the safe side. Bake in the oven for 13 minutes.

Once the cookies are ready, take the cookie sheet out of the oven, and let the cookies cool on the sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Eat. Share. Give to friends. Spread the cookie love.

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(Food porn…)

To all you lucky cats who are scoring yourselves a bag of these babies tomorrow, i hope you love them. And for all you bakers who feel like the recipe makes way too many cookies for your own good, you can freeze the cookies in an airtight baggie, and pull them out to thaw when you get a craving. Which is exactly what i’m doing for my awesome man B’s visit this weekend.

Now, enough about food, the Cylons await…

So say we all.

“Banana chocolate chip cake” or an Amateur Cook’s night of Living Dangerously…

3 Mar

I have always been the type of person who lacks a bit of confidence when it comes to straying from recipes. For some reason, i have this crazy fear of messing up; images of cakes that don’t rise, or worse yet, collapse, flash through my mind the minute i even think about substituting. I picture myself omitting a key ingredient in veggie burgers, only to have the whole burger crumble before my very eyes the minute i lay it on the frying pan. Just thinking of these types of incidents makes me shiver with disgust.

In the past couple of months, i have become a bit more adventurous in the kitchen. I have added, substituted, omitted, and even *GASP* created my OWN recipes! I’ve finally realized that the worst thing that could happen is the recipe doesn’t turn out as expected. And that’s not a big deal. The best thing that could happen is you end up creating a masterpiece that is even better than the recipe intended! This brings me to banana chocolate chip cake.

While perusing Jae Steele’s “Get it Ripe” for a sweet, but not too sweet, snack recipe, i came across her delicious recipe for banana chocolate chip muffins.  The recipe called for 4 bananas, but i only had 2. I also didn’t feel like making muffins, and was craving more of a cake-like dessert. I threw all caution to the wind, and decided to substitute the missing bananas with unsweetened applesauce, AND I POURED THE BATTER IN A PYREX CAKE PAN. What can i say, i like to live dangerously. The result was a delicious, moist banana cake, oozing with melted chocolate chips.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake (adapted from Jae Steele’s banana chocolate chip muffins, Get It Ripe p. 126)

You will need:

1 3/4 cups of spelt flour (you can use all-purpose, but spelt is a healthier option)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup your favorite oil (i use canola, olive or sunflower)

2/3 cup+ of non-dairy chocolate chips (i always throw in a little more… !)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Either coat a cake pan (i used an 8x8inch) with a light coating of oil, or lay parchement paper on the dish (easier clean up!).

Throw your flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt in a large bowl, and give them a whisk to mix the dry ingredients together. Add the bananas, applesauce, maple syrup and oil, and mix until the flour is absorbed. (Don’t over mix!!) Add the chocolate chips and incorporate into the batter. Pour the batter into your prepared dish, and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. You can tell the cake is done if a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If not, keep cooking for 5-minute intervals until it is cooked through.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove from dish and let cool completely on a wire rack. Yum!

It is beyond me why people make banana baked goods with eggs. (Mind you, the vegan in me wonders why people consume eggs at all, but that is a whole other story…!)  Bananas already act as the coagulator (holds it all together) and leavening agent (helps the cake rise) in the recipe, so banana breads and muffins are the easiest baked goods to veganize. In this version, the applesauce also plays the role of the coagulator, so the end result is a moist, fluffy square of deliciousness. Bananas and applesauce can replace eggs in any recipe. 1/2 a banana or 1/4 cup of applesauce are about the equivalent of 1 egg. Unsweetened applesauce is your best bet when you don’t want your desserts to taste like banana.

I also suggest using high quality maple syrup in baked recipes. Maple syrup is a great substitute for refined sugar AND if you buy the “Made in Quebec” stuff, you’re supporting our local producers! Double awesome!

I heart lentils.

23 Feb

For Christmas this year, i received the Williams Sonoma SOUP cookbook, filled with dozens of different soup recipes. They are not vegan whatsoever; pretty much all the recipes use chicken or beef stock. However, this problem is easy to remedy, by substituting the meat stock with a veggie stock. So many of the soup recipes look delicious, but every time i open the book i gravitate towards the first recipe i tried upon receiving it: the lentil soup recipe.

As a vegan, i try to incorporate lentils in my diet as often as i can. They are super high in protein, and when you make them with a grain (such is the case with this soup, and the addition of quinoa), they are a source of complete protein. As per Wikipedia: “A complete protein (or whole protein) is a source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for the dietary needs of humans or other animals. Some incomplete protein sources may contain all essential amino acids, but a complete protein contains them in correct proportions for supporting biological functions in the human body.” When a dish is high in protein, that’s cool, but when a dish is a complete protein, that is super awesome!

I tinkered with the recipe just a bit, adding quinoa to up the nutritional value, and subbing the veggie broth to make it VEGAN!

Super Delish Lentil Soup

Extra virgin olive oil, to coat pot

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons curry powder

2 teaspoons chili flakes

1 cup canned diced tomatoes with their juice

1 1/2 cup lentils* (rinsed)

1 cup quinoa (rinsed)

approx 7 1/2 cups veggie broth

1 lemon, sliced

A handful of spinach

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Coat the bottom of a large soup pot with extra virgin olive oil. Heat the oil on med-high heat. Throw in the onion, garlic, carrots, celery and bay leaf and stir to coat. Cook 5 minutes until fragrant. (The smell of cooking onions = one of my favorite smells…) Add the curry powder and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Throw in the diced tomatoes, lentils, quinoa, veggie broth and lemon slices, and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Once boiling, lower heat to med-low, and cover, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes, taste the lentils. If they are soft to the bite, the soup is ready. Take out and discard the lemon slices and bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste, throw in the spinach, and stir until the spinach is wilted. Take off heat and serve!

You will notice as the soup simmers that the lentils and quinoa soak up a lot of the broth. If you feel your soup is getting too thick, just add a bit more broth until your preferred consistency, and keep simmering. I personally love thick stews, so in my opinion: the thicker, the better!

*LENTILS: There are so many varieties and colors of lentils. My personal favorites are the green and the reddish pink varieties. The red lentils have an almost meaty consistency to them, and are great thrown in chilis. The green variety have an earthy taste, and in my experience, are the easiest to find in grocery stores. Both these colors lend themselves so well to soups, giving your soup a stew-like consistency and a hearty feel.

When it comes to vegetable broth, i am a firm believer that quality affects the whole recipe. My soups and recipes ALWAYS taste better when i am using a high quality, organic veggie broth (like Pacific Foods), as opposed to veggie broth cubes. While the price of organic, high quality veggie broth is quite a bit steeper than cubes, it’s worth the delicious taste it adds to your food! Quality over Quantity, wut wut!

 

 

Parsnips and Carrots: A True Love Story…

17 Feb

After a truly invigorating Moksha yoga class, i never really want to go home and cook a big, heavy meal. I usually gravitate towards fruit and granola, salads or soups. However, i am completely disgusted by the amounts of sodium present in generic store-bought soup. What is the point of all this salt? Furthermore, when you buy reduced-sodium choices, they just taste weird. It’s a lose-lose situation. Luckily for me, there is an abundance of root veggies at the grocery store lately, and making soup is the perfect après-yoga activity, because you can laze around and put your feet up while the veggies are simmering!

I feel like parsnips are an over-looked veggie, the under-dog of its family. A relative to the carrot, the parsnip is neither as popular or as widely-used in recipes. However, parsnips pack more potassium than their orange counterparts, and are super high in dietary fiber. Another point in the parsnip’s favor is when it’s cooked, it takes on a sweet, hearty flavor. Super yummy. I decided to give parsnip a chance at its 15 minutes of fame, and make a potage out of it. I also threw some carrots into the party pot, so they wouldn’t get jealous. 😉

The addition of apples, ginger, sweet potato and nutmeg to this mélange made for a deliciously hearty bowl of awesomeness. It was a little sweet, a little spicy, and very nutritious. What more could you want out of a soup?

To assemble this potage, grab a large soup pot, and cover the bottom with extra-virgin olive oil. Turn your burner on medium-high heat. Throw in a couple of cloves of garlic, minced, depending on your garlic tolerance. I personally LOVE the stuff, so i minced 6 cloves. Let the garlic hang out, and once it has become fragrant, grate a 3-4 inch piece of ginger into the pot. Let the ginger and the garlic flavors meld together for a minute. Then toss in 6 chopped medium carrots and 6 chopped medium parsnips. Stir it all up and let cook for a minute. Throw in 1 chopped sweet potato and 2 chopped apples. Sprinkle a little nutmeg and some cayenne pepper, and stir to coat all the veggies. Cover the veggies with veggie broth (my favorite brand is Pacific Foods), and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, turn the heat to medium, and let simmer until all the veggies are tender. If you have a blender, spoon the soup into the blender and blend until puréed. If you have a hand mixer, go to town on the soup with the mixer. Purée until no chunks remain. Chop up some chives or scallions and use as garnish for each bowl. And Voilà! Soup!

The cool thing about this soup is it fills your kitchen (or 2 1/2 apartment) with a sweet aroma. It’s great at this time of the year, when the weather is a little unpredictable. (Will it be cold, colder, or utterly freezing tomorrow? Who knows?) It also lends well to dipping breads and scones, if that’s your thing. This soup nourishes the soul after an intense yoga session (or any workout for that matter!) because of it’s warmth and sweetness. It also freezes well; a batch of this can easily last me a week!

Speaking of nourishing the soul, I’ve been contemplating the subject of change today. As i look outside onto the first sunny, warm day in a long time, i can sense the feeling of spring, slowly creeping up on us. I feel spring is a season of renewal and cleansing, whether planned or not. Just as the snow melts and does away with impurities, we regenerate in a way. There is an energizing, invigorating feeling that surrounds the arrival of spring. Physically, we don’t bundle up into ourselves as much, we lose that hunched-over feel of keeping warmth in. We can open our hearts, stand taller and walk with a spring to our step (seeing as there is no more ice on the ground… walking with a spring in your step in the winter is treacherous!) At this time, one of the closest people in my life is undergoing a huge change and moving into her very own first home. It’s new, it’s modern, and it’s a fresh start. I, myself will be moving into a larger, more spacious apartment in a month’s time. This feeling of change transports me to a very specific feeling in my childhood. Every time i would get sick, the minute my mother would sense that i was getting better, she would kick me out of my room and wash all my sheets and pillowcases. The feeling of crawling back into a fresh, clean, crisp bed is the same feeling i get when winter moves to spring, when i move to a new abode, when a life-changing shift happens in my life. Spring is quite familiar to us, but in my eyes it always feels like a fresh start. A time to take on new projects, revive  forgotten ones. As much as some of us try to push it away, i try to welcome change as the start of a new adventure, as freshly washed sheets on my bed…