weekdayvegetarians

Love to eat? So do we!

Month: April, 2012

Rice, nights 3 and 4.

You’ll be happy to know that we threw the rice away today. It was almost a week old and we had definitely maxed on it – even with some creativity. I made some new recipes which I am SO happy to let you know the children ATE UP!!! Sometimes they surprise you. Take this evening for example, I made a completely vegetarian meal (I know it’s Saturday) and the kids ate and ate and ate. It was so nice.

What did I make? Tonight I made my new favourite rice salad (recipe follows), a goat cheese tart with oven roasted tomatoes, vegetable kabobs, and a green salad. This was Night 4 with the rice. Night 4 was a resounding success. I don’t know what it was, but the kids loved it. Letting this rice salad sit overnight is the key to having your kids eat it or not. Yesterday, they didn’t like it, today, they did.

Rice, Chickpea and Sundried Tomato Salad

When it comes to salads, I don’t follow a recipe, but make it to our taste. Take as much or as little of the ingredients listed above (feel free to add) and mix them together. Make the vinaigrette and pour over salad. Allow to sit for a few hours to meld the flavours and then enjoy… and you will.

  • 1 can of Chick Peas (try to look for brands that do not add preservatives)
  • Leftover rice (as much or as little as you want)
  • Sundried Tomatoes in oil (again without preservatives), about 3, chopped
  • Feta cheese (about 45 grams)
  • Grapes tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • Kalamata Olives, cut in quarters
  • Sweet pepper, finely diced
  • Red Onion, finely chopped
  • Flat-leaf Italian Parsley, chopped 

Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons oil from the sundried tomatoes
  • olive oil, enough to make a nice vinaigrette
  • white balsamic vinegar
  • grated garlic (or crushed)
  • pepper to taste (I don’t use salt because of the feta and olives)
Yum.

This salad not only has a lot of flavour, but the texture is amazing. Chickpeas and rice together make a complete protein, so if you just have a portion of this for lunch, you’ve got a lot of good things in you! And, even a small amount makes you feel full. Let’s go to Rice night 3.

Night 3 was “rice cakes.” I took a bunch of the leftover rice, added an egg, some cut up mozzarella (I left it in big chunks but would probably grate it next time) and then seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then, I heated up some oil in a frying pan (on Medium/Medium-High) and then fried the rice cakes up. The second I put the rice on the hot pan, I feared I should have put flour in the batter to help them stay together, but it was too late and I held true and waited until I saw the sides getting golden. When I flipped them, they didn’t fall apart!!! They were crispy and cheesy and delicious and like I said before, the kids ate them. Of course, my kids and I love dipping savoury fried foods in ketchup so that is a necessity in our house, but they would be good on their own. This is another thing too that I sort of came up with based on our taste. I had made other things that had more flavour and sometimes I think the kids go on flavour-overload, so I try to keep one thing in their meal basic, familiar.

The photos for the rice cakes are not so hot. I was afraid to burn the rice or the cheese so I didn’t let it get too golden (I have a bad habit of getting distracted at a crucial part in frying, so I took them off before they got burnt), but this means the photo is kind of blah. However, I will post the photo of my delicious goat cheese tart which, I have officially decided, I will be making again, and again and again because I love to eat it and so does the rest of my family! I will post the recipe for you tomorrow. Whatever you’re having for dinner tonight, buon appetito! Double yum.

Rice-a-plenty.

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We ended up being the recipients of some leftover rice. I use the word “some” loosely, because we have a fridge full. It’s like when our very generous (and very talented) Italian gardening neighbours give us a zucchini that barely fits in our car. What do we do with all this generosity? Well, with rice, we try to muster up enthusiasm to have a different rice-centric meal every night. Night 1: rice with lentils, dates, and raisins (the same rice that was made about a week ago, but made by my mother-in-law and, without a doubt, more delicious than mine). Night 2: stir-fried rice, with tofu, zucchini, carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, peppers, and snow peas. I will let you know what Night 3 and 4 bring!

Let me say, I am learning as I go here, and am still very excited to try new recipes and new flavours, my husband is too. My children are not so inclined. I have seen my once mushroom-loving daughter now push them to the side of the plate. Zucchini she has always had an aversion to. So now when I am making stir-fried rice and I want to add zucchini, I take half the zucchini and cut it into pieces they can see (on the off chance they’ll try it on their own) and I take the other half and grate it into the rice. Once you stir-fry it, they really can’t even see it, and they eat it up. This makes me happy because I know she’s getting vegetables but the best thing is that we avoid the drama. This evening, she gobbled up the broccoli coleslaw because no one said it was broccoli and no one asked! If she knows, there is no way it’s going into her mouth.

Since becoming weekday vegetarians, we have done a lot of reading and learning in attempts to ensure that we are properly feeding our children and ourselves. My husband and I are almost reluctant to eat meat on the weekends, because afterwards, we don’t feel so great (and I have lots of weird, scary dreams the night we eat meat). My children do ask for it, and this doesn’t bother me but I am careful about what we give them. What bothers me a bit, is the constant questioning and teasing from people about what we’re doing. A lot of people think we are doing a disservice to our children because we have limited their meat intake. A lot more people think we are going to leave them malnourished and scarred from this lifestyle.

I spoke to our family doctor before we started weekday vegetarianism. When I told her we were becoming lacto-ovo vegetarians (meaning we would eat eggs and dairy products), she didn’t even flinch about the health of my children. She thought it was a good thing to pursue.

And, after doing a bit of reading about whether we are doing a disservice to our children, or if I am scarring them for life, I have to say I think it’s interesting that we have been made to believe that unless we eat meat, we will not be healthy. When you properly eat vegetarian, you can get all the nutrients, vitamins and daily requirements that you require without touching meat. 50 years ago a dinner plate was not centered on the meat on your plate – the meat was a small portion. More people ate vegetables and locally and organic (without it being called that) and they were balanced and healthy and content.

I have come to the resounding conclusion that my children, as weekday vegetarians, will grow up to understand how directly their food choices affect their lives, what food is and the importance of eating locally and organic and will not, for any reason, be scarred by this lifestyle (because they will choose when and if they want to eat meat. Don’t let the naysayers sway you, whether it’s lacto-ovo, vegan or pure vegetarianism you are pursuing. Already, after just 25 days, we feel better, have more energy and do not miss meat – much to our surprise.

If you’re interested, here is the link for the Canada Food Guide. There is a new part on their site where you can enter simple information about yourself and it will walk you through what a serving is and what your daily requirements are.

And, if you find yourself with a bunch of leftover rice, try out this rice dish. This recipe calls for you to start from scratch, but you could adjust it to use with leftover rice. As the Persians say “Noosh-e-Jan!”

Kindness.

This past week has been light on posts. The reason for this is that our family recently lost someone very dear to us. She was a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, wife, aunt, friend, cousin. My husband’s grandmother (my children’s great grandmother) lived to an amazing 90 years of age. Needless to say, the past few weeks have been difficult and very emotional.

So I won’t be posting about what we had for dinner this evening, or maybe not until we have something interesting for dinner again… next week for sure. But I’d like to share with you some of the thoughts my husband’s grandfather had the evening we said goodbye to the woman that he loved, and was married to, for over 70 years. As I sat with him in the waiting room in the hospital, he told me about what he thought he would like to say at her memorial. He felt that, at 92 years old, he was going to be the oldest person at the memorial and therefore the most qualified to give advice. I think he is right. His main message to those coming on Sunday comes from an old Persian poem which I have been told translates to:

Don’t bring a whole bunch of flowers to my grave. What good are they to me then? 

Instead, bring a single flower to my hand while you still can. 

We need to remember the importance of being there for the people we love and care for while we still can. Whether this a phone call, a message, a card or letter, a visit, even a quick note to say that you are thinking of that person – it really takes so little effort but has such a strong result. Being loving, kind and thoughtful of the people we love, and of all people is so valuable that it not only means a lot to the people to whom we are being loving, thoughtful and kind but it has such a wonderful effect on us.

Cause a chain reaction with kindness, in memory of someone you love.

Stuffed peppers.

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Coming up with new things to eat can sometimes be challenging. My kids constantly ask for the same things over and over again, and, frankly, so does my husband. If they like something, they want to eat it, and often.

But I am too interested in searching for recipes and ingredients to constantly make the same things over and over again. Now, sometimes I have to make things that I know the kids will eat without me fighting over every bite. The begging gets tiring. Also, if you’re wondering why I don’t post what we eat every night, it’s because sometimes what we eat is boring, or leftover, or thrown together before gymnastics, etc. I think I would be too embarrassed to post everything we ate! However… last night for dinner, I decided to make stuffed peppers. In our house, we crave a lot of “Tex-Mex” inspired flavours. These peppers satisfy your southwestern taste buds, but also give you a change to a family favourite like tacos or fajitas. You could definitely serve these with tortillas and wrap them up for a delicious meal if the peppers aren’t going over so well! 

I like these peppers because they don’t take that much time to prepare (but you do need to bake them) and they have a lot of flavour. We serve them with a dollop of sour cream (we sometimes use yogurt when we run out of the other) and a big heap of salsa. It’s a delicious vegetarian meal with a complete protein (because of the rice and beans and corn) and it’s a nice change from the same-old, same-old! Enjoy!  

For the recipe, please click here

*I didn’t think of it at the time, but you could definitely add small pieces of chopped tofu to bump up the nutrients in this dish. Also, I took out the poblano peppers because I know my children don’t want to even look at something that’s spicy, but you could adjust the heat in the dish to your liking. 

Going green.

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On Friday we bought a Magic Bullet after years of wanting one. My husband and I have a thing for piña coladas and we always hate restaurant versions because they just don’t taste authentic. Well, we have had our Magic Bullet for three days and have used it twice a day since we’ve had it. None of those drinks have been piña coladas. We have been making green smoothies and they have been amazing. I have been putting whole leaves of kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, spinach and dandelion (not all at once as I learned on my first day of smoothies), frozen berries, Pomegranate/Blueberry juice, water and a little bit of honey together and this countertop appliance whirs it all together as if it’s mashed banana. There is a bit of a learning curve.

My first green smoothie was not successful. It was about 75% green and 25% other things. It was too green. It was bitter and tasted like we were drinking grass. Darius loved it. He takes after my husband and both love bitter things, but my daughter and I just couldn’t do it.

The next day I adjusted my ingredients a bit and put only a few greens in (kale and spinach) with the berries and juice and water and honey and this time, it was delicious. I have stopped giving my children diluted fruit juice in the morning and instead they get water in their sippy cups and their green smoothie to enjoy. And they are, and so am I.

Let’s see what we feel after a month of our smoothies! If you have a blender, give it a whirl!

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Resolution no. 9

One of our resolutions is to be more active. I always find this resolution MUCH easier to do when the weather is nice. My kids love going to the park but as much as my husband like seeing them do things on the jungle gym, it loses its appeal after 10-15 minutes. This evening, after going to Costco to pick up our Magic Bullet and Chia seeds for our green smoothies tomorrow, we went to a nearby conservation area and walked around. The kids loved it – my son jumped or ran the entire time (which is exhausting just to watch) and my daughter got a kick out of making “smoke” which was basically her kicking up the dirt path everywhere we went. Our hour plus trip to the conservation area ended with us climbing over a makeshift branch bridge across a bustling stream (much to my dismay) and a climb straight up hill which my husband creatively referred to as a “shortcut.” However, my sarcasm aside, it was a lovely afternoon outside in the sunlight and we all felt ready for a good rest when we got home. Hopefully the weather will cooperate so that we can enjoy more of these hikes in our green spaces! Check back soon for our green smoothies!

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We’re all students.

This evening, I attended a seminar at my daughter’s school all about eating well and living well. The speaker was Vanessa Sarraino of Cooking Kind for Life and she was completely encouraging and informative. I recommend you check out her website (which I have linked). Her basic motto was that what we put into our mouths completely affects how we do everything in our day and our lifetimes. If you make healthy choices, you will be healthy – make unhealthy ones? Well, it will show.

She prepared 2 versions of a “green smoothie” which she recommended enjoying at breakfast or for breakfast… and I had both (with seconds) even though I was HIGHLY skeptical that dandelion greens, spinach, celery, kale and collard greens with a few frozen blueberries and a splash of maple syrup could taste good. I was sure it would taste “good for you” but not good. Was I wrong. The green smoothie was so delicious, that Anis and I have decided to buy a Magic Bullet and start our green smoothies on Saturday morning.

Vanessa’s basic message was received on many levels. Buy pop with lots of sugar in it? Feel the aftermath of a sugar high and then a sugar low. Buy food with preservatives and additives? Feel foggy and sluggish, and in the long term, feel it break down your regular bodily functions. Eat well? Feel energized, light, capable, balanced.

When Anis and I decided to become weekday vegetarians, we didn’t want to just stop eating meat. That’s not what this change in our lives is about. This change is a change to become healthier in every aspect of our lives and our children’s lives. If we set up some good rules and foundations now, our children will have those with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deluded. I know that at certain times (parties, holidays, etc.) the children will be exposed to food that is less than good for them, and rather than force them not to look at it, (let alone eat it) we will let them try it sparingly so that when they see it and we’re not there, they don’t go insane with junk food. After this evening’s talk, we have a few more resolutions that we want to share with you. Of course, this is going to take time and effort (bribery at times, hiding food at times, promises that this food is actually good for you), but I think it’s all part of the course. And, like I said yesterday, because we’re starting so young by the time they’re old enough to make decisions, these rules will be second nature for our kids.

One thing I wanted to share before I give you our resolutions, was that Vanessa said that when she initially introduced green smoothies to her children, she had to do it with ice cream. She admitted to bribing her children to get them to eat something. As we end up our second week as weekday vegetarians (with a dinner that made Zara very unhappy – it was rice and lentils with dates and raisins, and was actually quite delicious), Anis and I have to remember that patience will get us very far, and that eventually Zara and Darius will try these new foods and… eventually… one day (I hope!) like them. Otherwise, we’ll just eat pasta everyday.

Our resolutions?

  • To eat responsibly raised meat only on Saturdays and Sundays, if we chose.
  • To avoid foods with preservatives, additives, colouring, and processing, where possible.
  • To avoid junk food (including breakfast cereals high in sugar, and the regular bad guys that we all love).
  • To make as much of the food that we eat as possible.
  • To buy and eat organic where possible.
  • To drink a green smoothie in the mornings.
  • To eat 3 meals a day with good, quality fat, fibre, protein and carbohydrates.
  • To eat 2-3 snacks a day with good, quality fat, fibre, protein and carbohydrates.
  • To be physically active, daily, for 30-60 minutes.
  • To ensure that our children will not have a shorter life expectancy than their parents like is predicted for these little ones.

Whatever changes you decide to take on, good for you. It’s all a step in the right direction and has to start somewhere.

On Saturday I will post our first green smoothie. When I spoke with Vanessa about the art of the green smoothie, she basically said whatever amounts your children will take and however they like it (with fruit, or yogurt, or ice cream) until they get used to it, is okay. Vanessa drinks 100% greens in the morning, but I think Zara and Darius will want something a bit sweeter!

For some green smoothie recipes, check out this site.

Dinners… experimenting outside of our comfort zone.

Zara!Darius!

Veggie burgers. Again.

Well, we had another one of those rushed evenings with a to-do list that was too long to allow us to make a nice dinner with the kids, so we decided to try another veggie burger. This time we went to Harvey’s. I’ve had their veggie burger before, but never as a weekday vegetarian. This one was good, but if I’m honest, I preferred the Yves burger. The Yves burger had more flavour and substance. The Harvey’s burger just tasted like the rest of ingredients we piled on the burgers. Also, the sodium levels were quite high just like the Yves, so that wouldn’t be a deciding factor. However, the onion rings and french fries will definitely change your mind… that, you can’t get at home! Now, back to our good home cooking. Last night for dinner my daughter asked for… PASTA! Surprised? No, me neither.

I have wanted to try a macaroni and cheese for awhile now and decided to take the plunge. I also wanted to throw something super healthy into the food, and so I added some cooked broccoli to it.

Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese

The macaroni and cheese was good, and surprisingly easy to make. I added the broccoli that I originally was intending to serve beside the macaroni and cheese (which is why it is so big). However, as much as I trick my kids into eating vegetables by hiding it in tiny pieces in their food, sometimes I like to see them try something they know they are eating, without hiding it.

My daughter is constantly saying “I don’t like that” about something she has never tried before. It bothers me. Don’t get me wrong, I was probably the exact same way growing up, and I don’t remember eating broccoli as a side dish, ever. So, even when I have to bribe the kids with ice cream for dessert so that they’ll have one piece, it makes me happy to see them push their limits a bit. Also, I have to remember that my husband and I weren’t the serve-broccoli-as-a-side-dish kind of people, so for my little ones, this is their first time eating broccoli as a main part of their meal. They’ve had it as a snack before at birthday parties dipped in so much dressing that they didn’t even know it was there. But, this is different. This is broccoli as broccoli. As we cook more and try new vegetables and recipes, I am learning which vegetables to hide from them (by pureeing, or grating) and which ones they are more willing to try.

My daughter started eating salad sometime last year, and that was mostly because she loved the croutons. But the croutons lead her to the dark green leaves, which is great. Yesterday was the first time my son ate the lettuce and not just the croutons. And then once he started, he kept eating. I was so happy. It showed me that he is willing to try something out of his own curiosity and not just because of the promise of ice cream. I feel very fortunate that we have started eating vegetarian for our kids at such an early age. My daughter now knows that we only eat meat on “S” days and hasn’t asked for it. In fact, when we were eating the veggie burgers, she asked me why we were eating meat on a Wednesday. She’s catching on, and she’s willing to tell anyone who will listen that we aren’t eating meat.

This is just the beginning and it’s going to be a challenge to get them to try things they’ve never SEEN before, but at least some of these firsts are at a time in their lives where soon they won’t remember a time before weekday vegetarianism. Hopefully we’re just paving a better path for them and teaching them healthy eating habits that will stick with them for the rest of their lives! Of course, this means that we won’t have Harvey’s too often!!!

For the macaroni and cheese recipe, click here. I added some ground nutmeg to the sauce and broccoli to the dish and omitted the minced onion.

Week 2.

Homemade Vegetarian Lasagna

Apologies for the blurry photo. We started eating before we realized that we hadn’t taken a photo and everything was cut up! This is a popular dish in our house. I think my daughter could eat pasta every meal for an entire week without asking for something different. However, we get a little tired of it, so instead of pasta, pasta, pasta, we did LASAGNA! I made my favourite lasagna dish (which usually has Italian turkey sausage removed from the casings) and added zucchini, mushrooms and diced tomatoes. The thing I like about this method of making lasagna is you don’t pre-cook the lasagna noodles (I always hate that part) – you only soak them in hot water for 20 minutes. The lasagna ended up being hearty, healthy and very filling.

Adapted from this recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style. 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium zucchinis, chopped
  • 1 container mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, low-sodium
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups mozzarella, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the vegetables and cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables are golden and soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

Day 5.

Well, we finally  went public with our cooking and for the first time as Weekday Vegetarians, entertained! I discovered a recipe for “Spiced Chicken in Coconut Milk” and made it twice with chicken before weekday vegetarianism (BWV). It was a hit – with family, friends, even the kids! This recipe has such a complex flavour but is so easy to make and, if you like Thai-styled food, it will become a household favourite.

Spiced Tofu with Coconut Milk.

I took out the chicken and replaced it with firm tofu. I will admit that this recipe is a bit ingredient heavy, but if you’re like me, and like to cook, chances are you’ll have some of the ingredients in it. Several, you will probably have to buy. BUT! It is worth it. The main recipe calls for coconut milk, but not an entire can’s worth and so I take the extra coconut milk and use it for the jasmine rice I make beside the dish. It’s a simple way to make coconut rice without complicating things. I also serve this dish with a mango salad and a spicy sauce so that the people who like it spicy can make it spicy! Definitely give it a whirl – I think you’ll be glad you did!

Spiced Tofu with Coconut Milk

Spice Paste

  • 4 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1″ piece of ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried cilantro
  • 2 tsp. tumeric
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice

Place all of the spice paste ingredients into a food processor or immersion blender and blend until smooth.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • 250-300 gm. tofu (or as much as you need)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 1/3 cups canned coconut milk
  • A handful of green beans
  • 8-10 Thai eggplants
  • Coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish


Heat 1 tbsp. of peanut oil in medium/high heat frying pan and add tofu. Sauté until tofu is golden. Add onion and fry until soft and getting golden. Add spice paste and cook until you feel the paste has been heated. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the eggplant and coconut milk and reduce heat to medium/low, cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes (or so) until vegetables are soft and flavours have melded. In the meantime, cook your rice and make your salad – dinner is done! 

For dessert, we served sauteed pineapple with vanilla ice cream. Here it is.

Pineapple and Ice cream!

This is really simple, but so delicious.

Cut up a ripe pineapple. Heat some butter in a pan on medium-medium/high heat. Roll your cut up pineapple in brown sugar and place in the heated butter. Sauté until golden. Meanwhile scoop some ice cream on to a plate or in a bowl and once the pineapple is golden, put it beside the ice cream and spoon the sauce left over in the pan over the ice cream. This will create a caramel-y sauce that will have you licking the plate.