Veggie Hamburger Helper for Grown-ups

Hey folks! Happy Sunday everyone. Since it’s a cold Sunday afternoon in November, my least favourite month, I thought  I’d share a warm and comforting recipe that brings back nostalgic images of my childhood. I got the idea a couple weeks ago while thinking of easy meals to make during the week. Why not make a healthy, meat-free and grown-up version of this 90’s kid boxed wonder?

It certainly brought back memories of  my brother and I spending the afternoon with our babysitter who whipped up this muck.  When my mom was cooking, we got real food with real ingredients like this dish I’m about to show you. It’s comforting and delicious without tasting gross and artificial. It’s also probably easy, quick and convenient enough for a teenage babysitter to cook for a couple of kids.

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Mmm! “That looks delicious, but how on earth were you able to make that without any meat? Where’s the animal protein? You need meat or you’ll stop breathing and DIE! You cannot survive without the flesh of an animal! I know this for a fact because within this brief conversation I suddenly went back to school and became a Registered Dietitian, so you should listen to me.”

I thought I’d show you pretty much what I hear when someone asks me “where I get my protein” and how on earth I’m able to  buy all those expensive ingredients of dried beans, produce and grains at a regular grocery store. To me, it’s like the food version of “When are you having kids?”. Do you really want to know the entire list of everything I eat? How much time do you have? And will you give me a chocolate bar if I tell you? Jeesh.

Any who, I’m getting sidetracked…

When throwing this meal together I broke it down into three components: Pasta, protein source/veggies, sauce.

For the pasta I used a box of penne I had in the cabinet instead of the more traditional elbow macaroni. So I cooked my pasta and set that aside.

For the protein I chopped two patties of Yves soy-free veggie burgers into cubes and fried with oil, garlic and onion until they were brown and slightly crispy. Gardein beefless tips would also work well or if you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own burgers.

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Hello, beauties!

Set aside the “meat” and chop some spinach and bell peppers to add to the pan. You can of course use any vegetables you choose, these are just the ones I happened to have in the fridge. I’ve also been reading a lot about how important folic acid is for women my age. Yay, leafy greens!  Saute the veggies for a couple minutes until they’re tender.

Now, it’s time to make the sauce! I may have made the sauce before I cooked the burgers and the veggies but I honestly can’t remember. For this, I used a simple white sauce: butter, flour and unsweetened almond milk.  Yes, you can cook with almond milk, I use it all the time because we don’t drink cow’s milk. Just make sure it’s unsweetened.  No, it will not curdle and is perfectly fine to use in making simple sauces such as this one. While it’s simmering, season the sauce with salt and pepper, chili powder and whatever spice you fancy.

You’re going to add a magical ingredient to this base: 1 can of cheddar cheese soup. It gives the sauce that essential creamy texture and helps bind the flavours together.  I remembered to check the label on the can for any suspicious and artificial ingredients and I’m happy to report that there were none that I could see. So this will also please all those people who watch way too many documentaries on food.

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See? No curdles

Add the “meat” to the pan with the cooked vegetables and stir in the pasta and sauce. And, finito!

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Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 1 Box Penne Pasta
  • 2-4 Veggie Burger patties chopped into cube-like pieces
  • 1-2 Red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Spinach

For the sauce

  • 1 Can Cheddar cheese soup
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Milk, any kind
  • Garlic powder, chili powder to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

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Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Greetings, my readers.  What a long and strange time it’s been since I’ve shared my culinary experiments with you. The dreadfully long and hot summer has came and left, thank the gods. We didn’t have a CSA share this year due to the whole Pembroke thing and move back to Ottawa in early June so my creativity has been a bit lackluster lately. Alas, it is now Fall, Hooray!

On this day before my birthday, I have been blessed with an unprecedented emancipation from my fatigued stretch of incessant toil. That is, I’ve finally been blessed with two consecutive days off from work. I made this quick dinner one quiet Sunday evening over two weeks ago and have been eager to share one of my first recipes of the Autumn (or Fall) season with you.

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Tiny, condensed pantry, big ideas! 

I can only begin to describe how much I adore the Fall: The crisp, cool air on my face on a sunny Fall day ; the delectable taste of hot cider on my lips; the aromatic scent of pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon candles. The joy of seeing the leaves fall into shades of crimson and gold as the Halloween/Samhain season creeps in on us with the frights of horror movie marathons, costumes, decorations and haunted houses. There isn’t one thing I don’t like about this month that I was born in; it’s deeply embedded in my veins.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Grab the potatoes, poke them with a fork and put them in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes or until tender. These potatoes weren’t actually “twiced-baked” but feel free to pop them in the oven beforehand for about 5 minutes. Slice the taters down the middle, scoop out the flesh and set aside, leaving only the skin of the potatoes intact. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Nutrition Factoid on Sweet Potatoes: Sweet taters are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Their rich orange colour indicates that they’re high in beta-carotene which is a precursor to Vitamin A that strengthens our eyesight, boosts our immunity to diseases, wards off cancer and slows down the aging process. Among the myriad of their other health benefits, sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamin B6 which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies which is linked with heart and blood vessel disease. Since this is a vegetarian food blog, I’ll mention the fact that homocysteine is acquired mostly from eating meat. Just sayin’! Orange  is the new green in the world of vegetables.

You should also start by cooking the quinoa. For those that don’t know the drill: Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside. You shouldn’t need to drain the quinoa, if you do, you’ve used too much water. This makes 4 portions; since I was cooking for 2 people I was able save some of the quinoa to use for another day.

 

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An empty canvas of possibilities

Chop and dice some onion, garlic (not pictured) , peppers and kale.

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Saute in oil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Add the potato flesh, quinoa, veggies and seasonings in a bowl to combine. I added about 2 tablespoons of Italian bread crumbs for taste, along with the seasonings. Nutritional yeast flakes would have added an extra kick here as well, but of course I didn’t have any. I also added the jar of homemade stewed tomatoes my good friend Ashley made. Thanks, Ashley! They were awesome and I wish I had time to can my own tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill each potato skin with two big spoonfuls of the quinoa filling. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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I forgot to add the protein source until after, but black beans or lentils would be a great addition to these. I decided to heat up some leftover lentils and made a green salad to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 cups Quinoa, cooked
  • 1 cup Black beans or Lentils
  • 1 can Diced tomatoes
  • 1/2  Cup Kale, chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp, Italian Breadcrumbs or Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar  Cheese
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce (optional)

 

Feisty Chickpea Burgers

Now that I finally have time to sit down and put fingers to keyboard to get this blog updated for you folks, I thought I’d post a recipe that really emphasizes simplicity. I’m focusing on really simple and quick ingredients here since most of my things are packed in bins right now ready to be moved back to Ottawa. With that said, be prepared for a bit of a rant…

Some of the main ingredients that I left unpacked are of course my trusty collection of dried legumes and beans that make up the majority of our meals. Cost-effective, versatile and convenient; these excellent sources of protein and fiber are the perfect foundation of any  meat-free meal and help squash the ignorant myth that vegetarianism is expensive. A bag of Great Value brand dried chickpeas costs $2.57. A can costs 77 cents but you don’t get nearly as much and can only use it for one meal. That’s dirt cheap. Omnivores pay a lot more for meat as the prices continue to soar. So, unlike a pot of dried beans, this myth that a vegetarian diet is “expensive” just doesn’t hold water.

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The only way a vegetarian diet will be pricey is if you shell out all kinds of money on those processed soy meat alternatives. Try to eat those sparingly. I have a very low opinion of soy, which is another discussion for another time. So if you choose to eat soy, choose products like tofu, tempeh and edamame and avoid products with isolated soy protein or soy flour.  And buy organic. Choose dried beans and legumes and buy  other products such as quinoa and nutritional yeast in bulk to save money. And if you feel like the cost of fresh produce is too much, I suggest signing up for a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) share to get a weekly or bi-weekly supply of locally-grown vegetables. It’s an excellent investment, trust me.

Here is a local farm in the Ottawa  area that was recommended by the farmers we got our CSA from last year. They are looking for a few CSA members for the summer: http://www.happyradishfarm.ca/csa-organic-vegetable-baskets.html. Check them out if you’re interested!

Now that I’ve gone on a bit of a rant and lecture, I can proceed to the main event..chickpea burgers! It’s that time of year again; the season for burgers, salads and grilled veggies. This is the burger recipe I have tested for perfection and it just has a handful of ingredients.

You’ll need to prepare for these burgers a day ahead by soaking the chickpeas in a covered bowl of water overnight. Drain and rinse the chickpeas the next morning and add them to a pot of water. Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat and let them simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until tender. The instructions on the bag says you have to cook them for an hour but I’ve never needed to cook them for that long. Drain and rinse them.

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It’s just the beginning

At this point, you’re going to throw all the main ingredients in the blender or food processor. Add the chickpeas, after they’ve cooled down, hot sauce, 1 egg, breadcrumbs, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a handful of blue cheese ( I used goat cheese this time because I didn’t have any blue cheese), cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Mix and mash it roughly together with a fork. Pulse once, stir the ingredients together again, adding more breadcrumbs or oil to combine as needed. Pulse again.

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Lovely visual

Scrape mixture into a bowl, and using a potato masher or fork, mash the remaining chickpeas into the mixture that didn’t get blended.

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Take out all your frustrations on these chickpeas; go on, it’s fun!

Form the mixture into patties and fry up!

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Fry on each side twice until slightly browned. The patties should hold together and not fall apart in this recipe. If they’re too sticky and soggy, add more breadcrumbs. If they seem to be too dry, add another egg or more oil.

Voila! For serving, I added a drizzle of hot sauce and crumbled goat cheese on top. I didn’t have any burger buns so I just went the low-carb route and ate them as is with a side of my homemade coleslaw. It’s such a comforting summer night meal. Enjoy, folks!

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup- 1 1/2 cups Dried Chickpeas, soaked and cooked,  or 1 Can
  • (Approximate) 1 cup dried breadcrumbs, I used 2 toasted slices of bread
  • 2-2 1/2 tbsp hot sauce, more for serving
  • 1 tbsp crumbled Blue cheese, more for serving
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Coming Soon: Feisty Chickpea Burgers

Hey folks:

I wanted to pop by here and give you all a brief update on why it’s been so long since I’ve written any of my culinary creations. I’m on a quick break from doing school work this evening to tell you that I will be posting my wonderful, summer-themed recipe of Buffalo chickpea burgers which I am making for dinner tonight. This recipe is a much needed update and improvement from the chickpea burger recipe I posted a few years ago which came out too soggy and bland. I’ve finally mastered the art of the chickpea burger with the magic of hot sauce, blue cheese (tonight I’m using goat cheese), and the right amount of wet and dry ingredients. They’re spicy, addictive, flavourful, don’t fall apart and kick ass!

I’ve been so ridiculously busy these days because we are in the process of moving back to Ottawa from a failed stint in the sleepy town of Pembroke, I’m taking 6 courses online to get my Food Service Worker Certificate and am of course, once again looking for work. Ugh. I just want to rest my weary heart at one great company and stay there for good, no more moving around! I’m done, finito. Part 1 of our move is tomorrow so maybe I’ll post sometime on the weekend. See ya then!

Better go finish making dinner and my school work 🙂

L.D.

Buffalo Chickpea Pizza

Today,  it’s all about the Za!  As the weather starts to get colder and we begin to move swiftly towards the holiday season, I’m been craving all kinds of vegetarianized comfort food to warm myself up:  Several versions of chili which never get old, or cheesy casseroles leaned out by quinoa and roasted vegetables; and pizza, of course, which is the king of comfort food.

I thought  I’d bring back the flavours of my short-lived meat eating days to reinvent the only meat I ever really liked: Buffalo chicken wings, and by that I actually mean the buffalo wing sauce. I don’t think I need to summarize that awful section on chicken slaughter and the stomach-churning details of all the wonderful health hazards involved in getting it prepared for the supermarket in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. You can still never convince me that it doesn’t taste like a wet rag, that’s just my opinion. I don’t judge anyone for their dietary choices; I am not a PETA-Nazi. The beauty of vegetarianism is that there are a plethora of alternatives out there to enjoy the nostalgic flavours of buffalo-style pizza, dips or “wings.”

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I’d like to re-introduce the chickpea, otherwise known as the garbanzo bean, the versatile legume which originated in the Middle East. It’s high in protein, fiber and  possesses an chameleonic ability to adapt to any delicious flavour you wish.  I typically use the faux-meat products Gardein or cauliflower to make my buffalo chicken dip or breaded and fried cauliflower “wings,” but chickpeas offer a healthier, non-processed alternative to allow you to indulge sensibly.

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Pizza party team: Mozzarella, hot sauce, Green bell pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, Danish blue and cilantro.

Let’s get started! Get your crust ready. Although I admit I didn’t make mine;  I bought a 2 pack of whole wheat crusts from the store in order to avoid to disappointment. Pastry still isn’t my strength. I will be tackling Tarte au sucre (French Canadian sugar pie) this Christmas so stay tuned for that.

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The empty canvas.

 

For the buffalo wing sauce, mix half a bottle of hot sauce, 1/4 cup pizza sauce, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Spread a layer of the sauce on the crust, smoothing it out evenly towards the edges. Add the chickpeas to the sauce to allow them to marinate. Quick tip: Soak the chick peas overnight, then cook a few hours before making the pizza. Soaking them overnight reduces their cooking time to 30 minutes. If you’re using canned, you can skip this whole tip. Although I highly recommend using dried chickpeas; they’re cheaper and better for you.

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Saute the bell pepper, onion, and garlic until softened. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare the ranch dressing, stir a cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow it to curdle. I never buy buttermilk and when I happen to have it on hand for a recipe, a majority of it goes to waste. This is the perfect alternative. Once the milk is ready, add 3/4 cup sour cream, a tablespoon of mayonnaise, dill, garlic powder, salt, pepper and a splash of apple cider vinegar. If you like thicker ranch, add more sour cream. Whisk until smooth and set aside.  Once you start making ranch dressing from scratch, there’s no going back. What Hidden Valley?

Spread a layer of the dressing on the pizza evenly, and set aside the rest to use as an optional garnish with chopped celery.

Spread the chickpeas on the pizza, adding the crumbled blue cheese and shredded mozzarella.

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Add the peppers and onions on top.  Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Once it’s out of the oven, add the chopped cilantro. Brace yourselves for the adventure you’re about to take, this is one intense and fiery pizza. Keep a pitcher of water at the table, you’re definitely going to need it. Enjoy at your own risk.

Ingredients

     Pizza

  • 1 Whole wheat pizza crust
  • 1 cup dried Chickpeas, soaked, drained and cooked
  • 1/2 bottle Hot sauce
  • 1/2 can Pizza sauce
  • 1/2 cup Crumbled Danish blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Homemade Ranch dressing, recipe below
  • 1 Bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chopping cilantro
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped into sticks for garnish-Optional
  • Sliced cucumbers or carrots-Optional

Ranch dressing

  • 1 Cup unsweetened plain Almond milk
  • 1 tbsp Lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Sour cream
  • 1 tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 1/8 tsp Organic Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dill
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper

That’s it for today. I’ve been brainstorming for ideas as to what to write in my other blog-Life’s characters, where I make critical and analytical observations of society and reflect on things that get me thinking. If you have any ideas, let me know!

Cheers,

L.D.

 

CSA post: Pumpkin Soup

In this Thanksgiving edition of  Ottawa Green  Cuisine, I’m sharing an easy Fall-themed soup for my final CSA-related post of the year.  Last week we received a sugar pumpkin (or pie pumpkin) in our last CSA share of the season, and I figured a soup would be perfect to warm our souls in this October chill. Love is the figurative feeling of pouring warm pumpkin soup over your heart. Ahhh!

To start off, poke a few holes in the poor little pumpkin with a fork, place in a glass casserole dish or pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for an hour or until the pumpkin is tender.

In the meantime, get your ingredients ready because there’s such an overwhelmingly long list of them. I used vegetable broth (bouillon cubes), heavy cream (called whipping cream here in Canada),  cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of allspice and molasses in place of maple syrup. I’ve been using molasses a lot lately in place of maple syrup. Besides saving 10-15 dollars on a can of real maple syrup, I’ve become a new fan of cooking with molasses in a lot of my autumn-themed dishes because it gives them that little extra punch it needs. I recently used it to roast sweet potatoes for a quinoa “stuffing” for Thanksgiving. When I pulled the potatoes out of the oven, it was like they were kissed with this gorgeous sweet and spicy flavour. Yay for molasses!

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The little team that could.

Heat about 2 cups of vegetable broth in a pot on low while the pumpkin finishes baking. Once the pumpkin is ready, here’s the fun and messy part: Slice the top off the pumpkin,  slice it in half and begin separating the pulp from the seeds. Put the seeds in a colander or strainer and rinse off any remaining pulp. Set the seeds aside for the moment. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh and add to the pot of broth. Using a potato masher, mash out the pumpkin and stir as the mixture heats up. While the pumpkin is heating, add the seeds in a small skillet  and toast on low for about 5 minutes until they’ll all brown, crisp and toasty.

Returning to the pumpkin mixture, add 1/3 cup of molasses and stir. Add dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice then turn off the heat. Transfer the pumpkin mixture into a blender or food processor and place the blender in the fridge to allow it to cool.  In my experience, the heat will actually make the plastic crack if you blend it right away. I ended up destroying one of my blenders before I got my Ninja by doing this. To be on the safe side, let it cool for about 20 minutes.

Once it’s cooled, add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, a.k.a. “whipping cream” to the blender. Blend until smooth.  Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin seeds to each bowl and serve. Voila!  Enjoy.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 sugar Pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream/ Whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup Molasses, any kind
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • A dash of Cinnamon
  • A dash of Nutmeg
  • A dash of Allspice

 

CSA Post: Roasted Patty Pan squash with Quinoa Parmesan filling

We’ve received an abundance of patty pan squash in the past couple weeks of our CSA, most notably the week of Sept.17 in which we got a massive squash almost the size of my head. With its unique look and  size, this summer squash is not the typical selection on my dinner menu at home. So I really had to be creative here and think outside the vegetable crisper: What am I going to do with this thing from outer space? After browsing Google for recipes, I stumbled across a recipe from Alton Brown for Overstuffed Patty Pan squash and immediately became inspired. Think twice baked potatoes, but with squash.

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Sept.17 bounty: The tasty flying saucer is on the far right

Expect it didn’t go quite as planned when I forgot to only slice the squash in half and bake it whole before proceeding onto the actual stuffed part.  It was me being partially lazy and absentminded when I just decided to slice the whole darn thing, bake them and whip up a quinoa-tomato based filling  with nutritional yeast, Italian breadcrumbs, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses melted on top for a nice Italian twist.

At that moment, this dish became qualified for a blog post with my official stamp on it instead of copying Alton Brown.

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My happy accidents, roasted

Like they always used to say in art class in highschool, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents!

For the first step after slicing the squash, grab a cookie sheet and line it with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the squash slices on the sheet, overlap them if you need to,  and with squash this size, you’ll definitely have to. Rub the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.

While they’re in the oven, make the filling. Cook a cup of quinoa, add it to a bowl with a can of diced tomatoes, nutritional yeast, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese. Mix evenly.

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Once the squash is done, take those out of the oven. Use an ice cream scoop, if you have one, to scoop and spoon a serving of filling on each slice of squash. Sprinkle each slice with shredded mozzarella and extra parmesan. If your squash is gigantic like mine, you’ll have to fill two pans and save some to use for another night. Any leftover filling is great to use in quesadillas or grilled wraps.

Return the squash to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top.

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A quick word on nutritional yeast:  The “nooch” as us herbivores like to call them, are savoury yeast flakes with a nutty, cheesy flavour used to liven up dishes in place of, you guessed it, cheese. It’s not exclusively for vegans, the dairy-free folk.I often use it to enhance flavour in dishes or casseroles with grains or veggies but there are a plethora of different uses for it,  It’s also enhanced with B vitamins so it’s a true winner in the kitchen with health nuts. It brings dishes to life, I definitely recommend it.

Enjoy the funky squash! I know we did.

Ingredients

  1. 1 Patty pan squash
  2. Extra virgin olive oil, amount as needed for the squash
  3. 1 cup Quinoa
  4. 1 can Diced, stewed or plum tomatoes
  5. 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  6. 1 cup Shaved Parmesan cheese or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, NOT the grated sawdust variety
  7. 1-2 tbsp Nutritional yeast flakes
  8. 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  9. Oregano,to taste
  10. Basil, to taste
  11.  Sea salt, amount as needed for the squash
  12. Black pepper, amount as needed for the squash

I saw this on my Google homepage this morning as I started writing this blog. Yes, I’m spending my birthday writing. I had enough fun over the weekend in Montreal since this is the first year after two consecutive years that there hasn’t been a wedding to go to on my birthday. How nice. We’re going out to eat tonight, I’m definitely not cooking.  Thanks, Google!

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Cakes shaped like the letters of Google linking to my Google + page , just what I wanted. 

 

 

Lazy woman’s Roasted Chickpeas with Broccoli and Cauliflower

This past Friday I was having one of those tiring weeks where, when  I finally made it Friday, I just wanted to plant myself on the couch and not move an inch unless a fire broke out. So when dinner time rolled around, I decided to chop up some veg, season some chickpeas and throw them in the oven. I was back to the couch in no time!

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For the chickpeas I used canned because, of course, this was the lazy woman’s edition of roasted chickpeas but I usually soak the dried ones overnight and cook them myself. I rarely have digestive issues but dried beans make a world of difference. After 13 years of vegetarianism, I’m used to the cheap and easy protein that beans  provide and have become immune to the gassiness that it causes in other people. If you’re really concerned about that, try out the old trick with the strip of seaweed that they do in Japan. I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve read that it does help make the magical fruits more digestible.

Now, enough of the bean talk. For the seasonings, I grabbed the half a jar of sundried tomato pesto that I had in the fridge and coated the chickpeas in it. Anything with pesto makes the flavour of the food pop, and combining that with roasted vegetables, I was sure to get maximum flavour. My love for pesto has no bounds, whenever possible, I try to put it in as many dishes as possible.

Set aside the chickpeas in a bowl. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet (one less thing to wash later, yay!) toss the broccoli and cauliflower in olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, oregano and italian seasoning. Make friends with these wonderful cruciferous vegetables,which also include cabbage, bok choy, kale and brussels sprouts. Why? They contain large amounts of antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins. Studies show that they can lower the risk of cancer so eat your damn veggies!

Pop the beauties into the oven, plop yourself on the couch and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until it’s golden brown and crispy.

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You can serve with quinoa or rice, but it’s perfectly filling on it’s own. I personally couldn’t be bothered with it.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Sundried tomato or Basil Pesto
  • 1 can Chickpeas
  • 1 head Broccoli
  • 1 head Cauliflower
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • Paprika, a pinch
  • Italian seasoning, to taste

This dish happens to be vegan, Gluten-free, peanut-free, low-carb, low-calorie, sugar-free, air-free, grass-free, etc, so no one is left out. Even the gluten-free fad dieters who I don’t usually cater to. So, enjoy!

Cheers,

L.K.D.

 

CSA Post: Vegan Cabbage rolls

Hello all, welcome to the 2015 CSA season in Laura’s cooking blog world. I’m quite late to the game here since I’ve been preoccupied with the drudgery of everyday work routine, hibernating from the heat and occasionally writing in my “society” blog. It’s been awhile since  I’ve been able to feel the tingling sensation of culinary inspiration in my bones but I’m finally ready for a comeback.

Last week we received a beautiful bounty in our CSA from Herbivor Farm, including kale, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini and their unique cousins from outer space, the patty pan squash, scallions, sugar snap peas and of course, the man of the hour: Cabbage!

I dreamed up the obvious usage of this wonderful cruciferous vegetable: Cabbage rolls, or traditionally known in Poland as Golabki, galumki, halupki , galoopi and hippopotamus in several other  Eastern European countries and variations. There’s so many different variations and names on the internet that I can’t keep track of them all. I may have made a couple of those names up, but it’s really quite hard to tell.

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Laura’s vegan cabbage rolls: A simple name for a weeknight classic

None of that traditional name and recipe business matters because we’re going as far away from tradition as you can imagine in this vegan version. Us vegetarians are usually forced to reinvent recipes from meat-heavy cuisines in order to survive. And our versions are usually a lot healthier so you’re in very good hands. So, if you’re looking for a recipe that’s similar to your grandma’s, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

So, begin by washing the cabbage, removing some of the nasty looking leaves on it (if any) and removing the core at the bottom. Then fill a huge pot of water, add the cabbage and bring the water to a boil on medium- high heat.

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Turn the cabbage every 2-3 minutes and slowly remove the cooked leaves that appear cooked and easy to fall off. Place each leaf on a plate for later. This whole process should take about 10-15 minutes for you to have enough leaves cooked to use.

When you’re finished cooking the cabbage, slice it in half and roughly chop and dice up some of the leftovers to add to the sauce. Any remaining cabbage can be put away in the fridge and used for coleslaw or braised cabbage to accompany another meal.

Chop up some onion and garlic, and saute in oil until tender.

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Now it’s time to make the mixture. By now, you should have your lentils cooked (about 1 1/2 cup) and long grain wild rice ready to go. I forgot to mention this before, whoops! I used a teeny tiny bit of inspiration from my mom’s Americanized ground beef, rice and tomato sauce-based recipe that she used when I was growing up. I of course swapped the beef for brown lentils and used long grain wild rice.

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As you can see, I also added some extra chopped cabbage to the mixture. For the spices, I went all across the board: Some paprika of course, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.  Then I added  the cooked onion and garlic. I later stirred in a bit of the sauce to this mixture once it was done cooking to even things out.

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For the sauce, add a can of tomato sauce and simmer on low-medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir in the chopped cabbage. Add salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and dash of white vinegar. At this point I still wasn’t satisfied with the flavour and added a squeeze of dijon mustard and…drum roll.. just a pinch of adobo sauce. Gasp! Oh, the blasphemy! But I tasted it and it was perfect!  The goddess of culinary creation had to spoken to me. In a way, this method was actually more traditional because I didn’t meticulously measure and add the spices to the sauce, but instead added and tasted it as I went along. No written recipe involved. This is something that mothers and grandmothers from the old country do.

So now that the sauce is finished, you can get down to business and begin the assembly of the rolls. Or, you could have already started it by now, who am I to boss you around? It’s your kitchen. Firstly, trim the ribby vein of the cabbage leaves with a knife so they’re easier to roll.

You can also preheat your oven to 400 degrees. I figured I’d mention this before I forget and it’s too late. It wouldn’t be fun if you discovered an hour later that your oven hadn’t been on the whole time.

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Spoon 1/4-1/3 a cup of the filling in a leaf and roll up, folding the base of it up and over the filling until it’s covered. Make sure to fold the sides in so the goods don’t escape. Place each cabbage roll seam side down, side by side in a casserole dish.

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Spread the sauce over the rolls, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45-50 minutes. Voila! Enjoy my friends.

Ingredients

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 Head Cabbage

1 1/2 cup Brown Lentils

1 Cup long grain wild rice

1 Can tomato sauce

1-2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tbsp white vinegar

paprika, to taste

chili powder, to taste

oregano, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp dijon mustard, or to taste

Adobo sauce, a pinch to taste

That’s not bad for a girl of French Canadian descent who grew up seeing her grandma ‘s and great-grandma’s  handwritten recipes for Tourtiere (meat pie) on faded recipe cards in her mother’s recipe cabinet. We don’t specialize in cabbage rolls and pierogies in our family but we love to experiment and try new things and that means riffing on old favourites. That’s our tradition.

Happy cooking!

CSA Post: Lentil stuffed peppers

I’m back, folks! After all the birthdays this month, a trip home to Plattsburgh and working more hours I finally snagged a free night to set aside for writing. Writing and cooking for you guys requires quite a bit of free time and concentration from all other worldly distractions.

So this week I bring you one of my personal favourites with the lovely bell peppers we got from Herbivor farm in our last CSA share two weeks ago.  Although they were a bit on the small side, I was able to put a spontaneous spin on my Sloppy Lentil recipe to create the miniature version of the weeknight classic.

Vegetarian Nutrition Factoid

Do not fear the size, these peppers were filling enough for a full meal. Due to the power protein in lentils ( 18 grams for one cup, 9 grams for 1/2 cup), two or three of these peppers will fill your belly and hold you over until the next morning. On the essential amino acid side of things, you could pair these with a small serving of brown rice if you are a big eater like my husband. That way, all your amino acid needs are met. If you had other grains or protein earlier in the day, don’t worry about it. You won’t DIE if you don’t get all your proteins packed into one meal. Just like you won’t die from NOT eating meat. The key is to just eat a balanced diet throughout the day. Personally, I was way too full to even think about rice.

Alright, enough of that. Let’s get to business! Grab the peppers, take out the membranes and slice them in half vertically. Sorry the picture turned out so dark, but you get the idea right? Okay. Place them in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil and set aside.

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Chop two or three scallions , a couple baby carrots(both from Herbivor), a bunch of cilantro (also from Herbivor, yay!) , half a red onion and two cloves of garlic.

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Add all your veggies to a frying pan, sauté on medium  heat for a few minutes. Crack open a can (or fresh if you so desire) of Fire-roasted diced tomatoes and add to the pan.  Add some chili powder, cumin and salt and pepper to taste.

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Once your taste buds are satisfied, stuff the peppers with the lentil filling, sprinkle some cheddar cheese on each and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. Or until the cheese is melted and the peppers are all bubbly and desirable. Yum!

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Enjoy, my friends!

Ingredients

* 7 Bell peppers, sliced vertically in half

*1-2 Cups Brown Lentils

* 2 cloves Garlic

* 1 can Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes

* 2-3 Scallions, chopped

* 1 bunch fresh Cilantro

* 1/4 cup Baby carrots, diced

* 1/2 Red onion, diced

*Chili powder

* Cumin

* Dijon mustard (optional), to taste

* Salt and pepper

* 1 cup Brown or Wild rice (optional)