Vegetarian

Scrumptious vegetarian sweet and sour “meatballs”

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This recipe is out of this world delicious and sure to be a crowd pleaser for the vegetarians and carnivores alike. It’s not dairy or gluten free but for a hearty-weekend dish, it sure does the trick! My aunt made these for us on Christmas Day as an appetizer and I’ve made them twice since! The recipe is super simple and they come together super quickly!

Recipe is from allrecipes.com


Ingredients

4 eggs
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1/4 cup white vinegar (I used apple cider)
3/4 cup apricot jam (I used maple syrup)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 dash hot pepper sauce (skipped)

Preheat the oven to 350
In a  bowl, mix together the eggs, cheese, and cottage cheese until well blended. Mix in 1/2 cup onion, pecans, basil, salt and sage. Stir in bread crumbs. Form the mixture into 2 inch balls, and place them in a 9×13 inch baking dish.
In another bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, syrup, ketchup, 1/4 cup onion, oregano and hot pepper sauce. Pour over meatballs.
Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until meatballs are firm, and sauce is thick and bubbly.

I served over brown rice


Light and simple spinach salad

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I was wanting a super light, healthy and tasty wintertime salad. This is what I came up with while scrambling around at Superstore today with a five year old and a 10 month old. You could definitely dress it up a bit more but I actually am really digging the simplicity of these few ingredients.


Ingredients

1-2 cups of Spinach

1-2 Avocados

1/4 cup of Mixed nuts (cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds – can be raw or salted, whatever you prefer).

2 tsp of Nutritional Yeast

1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard

3 tbsp of Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pomegranate Seeds of one pomegranate

Pinch of Salt & Pepper

1 Tbsp of Maple Syrup

Dressing

In a small bowl combine about 3 tbsp of olive oil with 2 tsp of nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp of dijon mustard and 1 tbsp of maple syrup. Whisk together. Add salt & pepper to taste. Try a sample and if you prefer a sweeter dressing add more syrup or saltier add more salt or dijon accordingly. I always play with the ingredient amounts.


On a medium-sized plate gently scatter all ingredients and drizzle with the dressing.

Enjoy!


My new favourite: the veggie bowl

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We are a mostly vegetarian household with the exception of some fish in our diets. It has been difficult for me to make something filling without meat or fish and one that also satisfies all of our taste buds. This dish has hit the jackpot! It is super simple and you can basically use whatever veggies you have on hand at the time.

For this particular veggie bowl, I typically bake a yam or sweet potato in coconut oil for about 20 min in a 400 degree oven, prepare a green veggie (raw or cooked, typically I use broccoli), make carrot or zucchini noodles with my spiralizer for a nice raw crunch, prepare lentils, and rice.

To build the bowl I layer some brown rice in the bottom, surrounded by my veggies and lentils. I finish the bowl off with some avocado and fresh sprouts.

What really makes this veggie bowl come together is the sauce. While there are many sauces that go well with fresh and local organic veggies, my favourite is a peanut-tamari sauce in which i use about 2tbsp of peanut butter, 2tbsp of sesame oil, 1tbsp of tamari, salt and pepper, the juice of one lemon or lime and one minced clove of garlic. That’s it! The sauce is amazing and just the right amount of salty and sweet over the crisp veggies.

I hight recommend this dish as a quick weeknight recipe as it is easily adjusted to the preferences of picky eaters and with the peanut sauce on top, it is sure to please!


Super simple vegetarian pad thai

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I am obsessed with Thai food. It is so delicious. I especially love Pad Thai with fried tofu, a pretty basic dish that has amazing flavours! I find it is super simple to make at home too!

Here is what I do:

For the sauce:

I am an eye ball and taste kind of person so I add about 1/4 cup of sesame oil, 3tbsp of tamari sauce, 2tbsp of fish sauce, 2 tbsp of honey, juice of one lime, and a dash of ginger. Salt and pepper to taste. Taste the sauce and you can always add more of something to adjust the flavour.

For the noodles and tofu:

In a large wok or fry pan, add coconut oil and fry up extra firm tofu letting it sit for about 2 minutes on each side. It’s a good idea to dry the tofu ahead of frying the tofu.

Traditional pad thai has egg in it. Once the tofu has finished cooking you can crack two eggs into the pan and scramble them. I don’t always do this but you can add egg if you wish.

While the tofu is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. boil one package of rice vermicelli or rice noodles of your choice. (Cook as per package instructions).

Once the tofu has finished cooking add your vegetables of choice. I usually add kale and broccoli or broccolini.

Once the veggies are soft, add the noodles to the pan and pour the pad thai sauce over the noodles and vegetables.

Add some grated carrot and fresh spring onion to the top and sprinkle with hemp hearts.

Voila, my version of Tofu Pad Thai.


Vegetarian Christmas Mains

Ah Christmas, the time of year where we gather and eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. It’s glorious! But, I am not nor have I ever been a turkey fan, and pork is out of the question. As a family we don’t eat meat with the exception of some fish and we have also recently decided to go dairy free (with the exception of a cheesy treat here and there – still looking for a great nut cheese). I know, what a great time of year to have a relatively limiting diet but, I have learned a few awesome recipes that work well for the vegetarians this time of year!

My extended family is all meat eaters so, I typically bring a vegetarian main dish for my family. This year I am going to bring Eating Bird Food’s Lentil Loaf – I will cook them in muffin tins and add a mushroom gravy to suit our tastes! This meal will be paired with whatever salads and vegetables appear at Christmas dinner! Typically I would do a roast vegetable.

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Also, as an appie, I will be making this sweet pea hemp dip by Joyous Health!

For brunch on Christmas morning – we will be doing these  pancakes by Minimalist Baker, much to the dismay of my younger brother. They are so delicious he won’t be able to refuse with some fruit and maybe peanut butter and maple syrup – seriously so delicious! Of course, we can’t forget the mimosas!


Vegetarian Perspectives

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Have you ever thought about going vegetarian? Don’t understand why someone would choose this lifestyle? Here are some perspectives on the matter…

Enza Ward: Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Enza Ward is the creator of Senzable Health. She is a Natural Health Coach, Educator and Wellness Speaker who is very passionate about healthy food and holistic living. Though she does eat meat and doesn’t consider herself a vegetarian, she tries to eat exclusively organic meat and limits her meat intake.

This is something that Holistic Nutritionist, Stacey Deering agrees with and also emphasizes that you must know where your food comes from.

“Yes I do believe meat is healthy if you know where it comes from. I suggest grass-fed, grass-finished meat that has been raised in a sustainable environment. I do not believe in meat that has been treated with antibiotics or hormones,” Deering says. “Free range chicken or turkey versus caged. Organic, free range eggs versus free run or conventional. Wild caught fish and seafood versus farmed. Know the source, get to know your farmer, make sure they have been humanely raised and fed a natural diet.”

As  a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Enza Ward, explains some of the reasons why people may choose to eat meat and some of the reasons why people may choose not to.

Replacing unhealthy food with healthy food

Ward has a passion for learning all about food and how eating nutrient-rich food can help you feel better.

“The food we eat ultimately builds are body, our organs, our skin, our tissue, by doing that it also impacts our thoughts and the energy that we have,” Ward says.

Being a nutritionist, Ward knows the controversies around eating meat.

“Red meat and meat in general is one of the most controversial foods in the history of nutrition,” Ward says. “Some of these controversies involve health, the environment and livestock industries creating greenhouse gases, compassion for animals and how they are treated, religious beliefs and the dislike of meat.”

Ward also shared how there has been observational studies done that show a correlation between eating meat and certain diseases.

“The effects of red meat on health have been intensively studied and several observational studies show that red meat eaters may be at a higher risk of heart disease and cancer, among other diseases,” Ward says.

Supplementing your diet when you choose to eat a vegetarian diet can be intimidating at first. But doing a little research into what to supplement and where can go a long way.

“The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is to enjoy a variety of foods,” Ward says. “A little planning can go a long way.”

Some of the things that Ward says to pay special attention to are protein, vitamin B-12, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, iodine and calcium.

“You can get a sufficient amount of protein from plant-based foods,” Ward says. “So legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and sprouted whole grains or super foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and Spirulina are all good ways to make sure you are meeting your protein needs.”

For vegetarians who don’t eat fish Ward says, “you may want to consider fortified products or supplements or both. [But] diet-wise, walnuts, ground flaxseeds and hemp seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids.”

Ward explains that iron is a crucial component of red blood cells and says, “dried beans and peas, lentils, sprouted whole grain products, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruit are good sources. To help your body better absorb this iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli at the same time as you’re eating iron-containing food.”

To help your body with iodine, which Ward says is “a component in thyroid hormones, which helps regulate metabolism, growth and function of key organs, include seaweed products likedulse, kelp and wakame in your diet.”

And to ensure enough calcium intake Ward says to “look for dark green vegetables such as kale, turnip and collard green and broccoli. Organic tofu and tempeh are other options.”

Brittany: Vegetarian for health reasons

Vegetarianism has been a journey for Brittany Andrejcin. The 23-year-old became vegan in 2012 after watching a documentary called Forks Over Knives. She decided she wanted to make a healthy change in her life. Andrejcin is now a pescetarian and cannot fathom the thought of eating meat.

“Growing up I never really liked meat,” she says. “I always toyed with the idea of going vegetarian but I never felt like my parents took me seriously.”

When her dad died of cancer, this really started to trigger her desire for knowledge about food. She says she discovered that cancer thrives in an acidic state and she began to do more research and became more aware of foods she was eating. “I thought cutting meat out was a good step towards doing that,” she says.

The health impacts of meat are something that Holistic Nutritionist Enza Ward explains as to why someone might cut meat from their diet.

“The effects of red meat on health have been intensively studied and several observational studies show that red meat eaters may be at a higher risk of heart disease and cancer, among other diseases,” Ward says.

Andrejcin says she was vegan for a couple of months but had to scale back to being a pescetarian because she got really sick. “I found that being vegan was especially hard,” she says. “The time and accessibility of the food was the hardest.”

Andrejcin says she has to go out of her way a lot of times in Calgary to find foods that fit her diet. She says there are other places she has been where foods for the vegetarian/holistic diet are more accessible.

Protein in the diet

For protein, Andrejcin says it isn’t hard in a vegetarian diet as it can be found in a lot of plant-based foods such as green leafy vegetables, seeds and beans or legumes.

Holistic Nutritionist Stacey Deering says balance is important in the vegetarian diet.

“Most importantly in a vegetarian diet, balancing macronutrients and making sure the diet contains sources of protein with all amino acids,” she explains. “I recommend getting a variety of protein through plant foods such as quinoa, lentils, beans and legumes as well as eggs, nuts and seeds. Protein is found in many plant sources. I recommend avoiding processed or refined carbohydrates and sugar for any diet.”

Best places to shop and eat

Andrejcin shops at Community Natural Foods and Okotoks Natural Foods in particular but says she can sometimes find some things at Wal Mart, Superstore or Safeway.  She says The Coup is one of the only restaurants that has everything that fits her diet if she wants to go out for dinner.

“It would be nice to see more options in popular restaurants and it would be nice to see [health stores] open in all quadrants of the city.”

She says the diet was “a bit of a learning curve at first” and she had to adjust her meal planning to be geared more towards the diet but says she had fun trying new things out.

“Because I did the diet for health reasons, I try to find things that are completely organic and not processed,” Andrejcin says.

She steers clear of frozen or processed foods and opts for more freshly made foods as much as possible.

Holistic Nutritionist Stacey Deering says this is the best way to approach the vegetarian diet.

“The best foods come from the earth, are minimally processed and are as fresh as possible. Real food, local and organic when possible,” Deering explains. “A diet high in plant based foods that comes from the earth, like fruit, vegetables,pseudo-grains, nuts and seeds along with some legumes and beans. Super foods such as bee pollen and spirulina are loaded with essential amino acids and can be helpful for increasing nutrition.”

Now Andrejcin still maintains her meat-free diet, while including some fish. Most of her nutrition comes from plants. She does say, however, she wants to go completely dairy -free but says that cheese is something that is hard for her to give up.

Robin: Committing to vegetarianism

Robin Brandt is a vegetarian and has fully committed herself to eating healthier for the past three years. Prior to this commitment, and throughout her life, she had gone back and forth with this lifestyle.

One of the biggest reasons why Brandt is a strict vegetarian is because of her lack of trust in the agriculture business.

“As far as the meat processing plants go, [I don’t trust] that the products are safe to eat anymore, [for an example] with the whole beef crisis out in Brooks,” Brandt says. “And that’s the same with dairy, beef, chicken, turkey or pork. I don’t feel quite the same with fish, sometimes I will have a little bit of salmon.”

Brandt grew up on a farm of where she and her sister helped raise two or three dozen chickens that were bound for slaughter.

“My dad would put their head in between two nails that were pounded into a stump [and] he would chop their head off with an ax,” Brandt says. “They would flop around and they usually did backflips for a little bit until they were dead.”

“As a kid, it never really bothered me. But when I think of it now, it makes me repulsed.”

Another big reason for Brandt’s vegetarian lifestyle is her love for animals.

“I was holding a budgie at Petland and I was thinking ‘how did I kill chickens because it’s the same thing, Brandt says. “It didn’t bother me then, but now if I had to do that, there would be no way.”

As a former paramedic, Brandt spent two years studying pre-medicine, which involved learning about anatomy. This is why seeing a steak on a plate bothers her.

“When I see a steak I don’t call it a steak, I call it a piece of quadriceps muscle,” Brandt says. “I look at animals the same way as us. I don’t see it as a piece of meat, I see it as a muscle on a body, it doesn’t look any different to me.”

“The more medical training I got the less I wanted to eat meat.”

Brandt has also experienced health benefits such as having lower cholesterol.

“At 40 years old I should have started medication because my cholesterol was high. And since I haven’t been eating animal fat my cholesterol is lower than normal,” Brandt says.

Brandt remembers eating meat but not because she enjoyed the taste of meat, it was because she wanted the protein.

“Whenever I ate a piece of chicken or something with a bone in it I hated eating it, but I felt like I had to eat it to get the protein,” Brandt says. “I never enjoyed cutting into a steak and eating it. It was only out of the feeling that I had to.”

Now that Brandt is vegetarian, she enjoys her meals to the fullest.

“I eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables and I love the taste of them,” Brandt says. “I can actually sit down and eat a meal and enjoy every single bite of it and not feel any guilt or any repulsion.”


Greek-Style Lentil “Tacos”+ Leftover Meal Idea

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Okay, so this recipe is basically an amalgamation of all of my favourite recipes – done tastefully, don’t worry.

This recipe can be turned into a variety of meals including, obviously tacos, but also a lentil bowl, or even a pasta dish. It is so versatile!

I use french lentils or sprouted lentils for this particular dish.

I cook the lentils based on the provided cooking directions and then I add them to a pan to season and sauté with other ingredients.

I personally like to add one onion, one red pepper, cherry tomatoes (vitamin c helps to absorb iron), and some greens (kale, chard, spinach). I cook down until the ingredients are soft but not overcooked.

The sauce is super simple and is my go-to for so many dishes, especially when I am in a pinch!

Sauce (all measurements approximate):

1 tbsp EVOO

1 tbsp nut & seed butter

1 tbsp tamari sauce

1 small garlic glove, grated or minced

1 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt and pepper

It really is that simple.

To finish the tacos and what gives it the greek flare, in my opinion is the Greek Feta Cheese. While the sauce isn’t really a Greek-style adding the feta in addition to the tomatoes, peppers and onions + the lemon brings out those flavours.

I call it a taco but I really wrap it up like a burrito!

But, I also like to make it into a bowl! Adding a few simple ingredients can really change up the flavours! I like to add steamed broccolini, avocado, squash or sweet potato, and fresh pomegranate seeds to add a nice refreshing punch! I have also topped this dish with coho or sockeye salmon and the dressing paired so nicely!

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Deliciously healthy lentil bowl and cookbook review

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I am a big fan of getting inspiration from cookbooks and then modifying them to suit your needs and taste. Also, it’s even better when you can make two meals out of one! Recently, I picked up the cookbook THUG Kitchen at Indigo. I was looking for more inspiration when it comes to plant-based meals and was inspired by the lentil taco recipe on page 144 of the cookbook. I ended up making the lentil taco recipe adding my own spin to the slaw as I was unable to find jicama. I was pleased that I had enough filling and ingredients left over to make a yummy deconstructed lentil taco into a yummy veggie bowl!


Save on Music, Books and DVDs at Indigo.ca

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The great thing about THUG Kitchen is that nearly every page has pictures and I love the intro to the cookbook and their no nonsense approach to eating real food.

“It’s easier to sauté kale than it is to eat pizza bites without burning the fuck out of your tongue.” — What the fuck is this (preface) to THUG Kitchen.

Yup, my kind of cookbook! All of the recipes are simple and I like that it breaks down the basics of plant-based cooking while serving up a side of realism and hilarity.

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I did a modified version of the jicama slaw by adding some Wildbrine red beet and cabbage sauerkraut. I also served up some oven-baked yam fries on the side. This recipe was simple and tasty. It also left enough of the filling over for a hearty lentil bowl to which I added my modified slaw, the leftover yam fries and the red beet and cabbage sauerkraut for some extra probiotics. I love recipes like this where I can get two healthy and relatively similar but different meals out of one! I am excited to delve further into this THUG Kitchen book and would recommend that you do too for some good recipes and a good laugh!

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Versatile Sweet Potato Pasta

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With fall fast approaching my thoughts turn to comfort food and for me, what is a better comfort food than pasta? This sweet potato pasta is one of my go-to recipes. It is so easy to whip-up, easy to adapt to different ingredients and, great leftover!

The full recipe is here.  I typically swap the olive oil for coconut oil and don’t typically add the vinegar or lemon juice.

I start by sautéing an onion and garlic in about a tbsp (give or take) of coconut oil. I then add a red pepper sliced into thin strips, and any other vegetables I decide to add and sauté until soft. Then I add 1-2 grated sweet potatoes or yams and continue to sauté until soft. Lastly, I add the goat cheese (eye-ball it), and  kale or other green and frozen peas. I then add my boiled noodles of choice to the sweet potato mixture. I add herbs such as parsley if I have them on hand. Salt and pepper as needed to taste.

It is a super simple recipe and I love how the grated sweet potato melts and blends with the oil and goat cheese.

This dish is sweet yet savoury and adapts well to the addition of extra veggies such as green peas or broccoli! I have also made this with rice noodles for a gluten free option and it holds up really well.

Though veggie-filled, this dish is great for children as well because I find it tastes kind of like mac n’cheese (but way better) and looks like it too. It is a great way to try to disguise healthier options, even if you don’t want to add the green vegetables for the pickier people in our lives.

This is also one of those recipes where it tastes even better the next day with the way the flavours blend together, so it’s a great dish to take for lunch or to make a big batch to have for leftovers!


Vegan Black Bean and Seitan Stew

I am always on the lookout for new, easy vegetarian recipes that are full of flavour and that are good leftover. I find that soups, stews or dishes with some sort of sauce or broth generally do the trick. I recently picked up the cookbook Afro-Vegan:Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, & Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry. 

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I picked this up because I am always looking for new and interesting ways to create vegetarian meals. Also, living with a vegetarian from the Caribbean, I need some help in the flavour department. This cookbook offers a variety of recipes and recipes for different traditional sauces and rubs made vegan. I would have liked to see all of the recipes with pictures but there are a fair amount. Some of the recipes seem to have a lot of instructions and could be seen as quite complicated but I think that if you try them once you will get a feel for them and they won’t be so daunting.

I tried the black bean and seitan stew:

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Seitan is a wheat gluten, also known as “wheat meat.” It is very high in protein.

It required a few steps but it wasn’t too bad. I outline the recipe in the video below. I think the second time around it would be much easier but overall, I was quite happy with how it turned out.  Overall, I really enjoyed the flavours and I think the stew will stand up great as a leftover for lunch or dinner the next day. It will be another great vegetarian option to have on hand.

See the video below for all of the steps! (I apologize for the quality, my tripod broke and I decided to shoot the vlog by myself with my iPhone. It’s not great.)


Hearty Vegan Sweet Potato Chili

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This vegan chili is loaded with flavor and vitamins, and everyone in the family will ask for a second bowl. It’s easy to prepare, takes just over a half hour to get on the table, and the best part?!?! There’s only one pot to clean!

Vegan Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili

makes 6 hearty bowls of chili
one 29 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
one 6 oz can tomato paste
32 oz vegetable stock
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced – I never put in this much, so add to your own discretion
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks – I also never peel my sweet potato, but that’s just me. I just wash it really well.
1 cup dry quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
avocado, cilantro for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium low heat. Add onions, and cook until soft and they start to turn brown (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beans, stock, and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper . Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the quinoa. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes – 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until quinoa and potatoes are cooked and the chili has thickened. Add a bit of water if the chili becomes too thick for your liking. Top with avocado, sour creme (if desired) and cilantro. I also serve this with brown rice occasionally.