weekdayvegetarians

Love to eat? So do we!

Dinner tonight.

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This evening we had a pasta dish for dinner. I am not crazy about pasta for dinner – it just doesn’t do it for me. But tonight my daughter had gymnastics so I knew I had to make something she would eat – even though she had a thermos full of pasta for lunch. Luckily for me, pasta is her favorite and she still ate it enthusiastically for dinner.

We live in a city that is full of Italians and if there is one things Italians do well, it is make pasta. Local friends of ours told me about a pasta dish they make when they want something delicious, but quick, for dinner. So, without further ado…

Pasta with Zucchini and Breadcrumbs

Start by taking some olive oil and heating it up in a skillet. Then you add some finely sliced garlic and fry that up until it is golden. Meanwhile, bring a large pot full of water to a boil for your pasta. Start to cook it, unless you chose an angel hair pasta which is done in three minutes. Back to your skillet, take a zucchini (I peeled mine in an attempt to hide it from the kids) and chop it into your hot garlic oil. Fry this until it is softened and starting to get golden. Then, take bread crumbs and sprinkle them over your zucchini. Fry the breadcrumbs until they start to get toasted and fragrant. Once your pasta is done, add it to the skillet and toss it to coat all the pasta with the breadcrumbs and zucchini. You can add fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan at this time and even some oven roasted or sun dried tomatoes, if you wish. Before serving, drizzle the pasta with more olive oil (only a little) and dig in!

This pasta dish was a nice change from the regular marinara sauce and was flavourful and different. Pasta for dinner is starting to look a little better!

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Green Smoothie M.I.Y.

First off: Happy Mother’s Day! I don’t know about you other mothers out there, but I had a wonderful day with my family. I was taken out for breakfast (and finally filled my bacon craving) and then was taken out for a late lunch (and I had ribs). Needless to say, at about 6 o’clock, I had the worst upset stomach I have had in a long time. I think it was my body’s way of saying why are you eating meat!?!!!!?!!? Anyway, lesson learned… it was too much in one day and I won’t be doing that again. My husband has controlled himself much better and has even started promoting our weekday vegetarianism to anyone who will listen. He loves telling people about our green smoothies but he passes them back to me once they ask how we do them – so, for all those who wonder how we make our version of green smoothies, here is how we do it!

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Homemade Falafel

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The past couple of weeks have been a bit busy with me and the kids together almost 24/7 and my husband at work for most of the day. This has meant that we have been eating a lot of different things (some homemade, some definitely not) but nothing that interesting or blog worthy up until tonight. This evening I made homemade falafels (which I will share the recipe for below) and couscous. My husband and I were amazed that a baked falafel with butternut squash could possibly taste as good as a deep-fried version… but it did. I was very skeptical about the butternut squash in the falafel, thinking it might give too much flavour, but as you will see by the other ingredients, you can barely taste the squash at all.

Sometimes after we finish eating falafel, we feel so full, almost as if we have eaten meat. It can be too much. These homemade falafels are filling but not so much so that you need a nap after eating them. The couscous I made was a recent acquisition from Costco. They were selling a 1 kg bag of an orzo/mini-chick pea/couscous mix which, start to finish, is done in about 12 minutes… I like this. I usually leave everything for dinner to the last minute, and then kick myself afterwards for doing that. But this entire homemade delicious meal was started and finished in about 1 hour (or 1 episode of Sesame Street) and it was worth it.

Baked Butternut Squash Falafel
adapted from Vegetarian by Alice Hart

1 small butternut squash, peeled, descended and cubed
3 – 4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can organic or no-salt added chick peas, drained and rinsed
handful of parsley
handful of cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 – 2 tbsp water

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the butternut squash on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Allow to roast until tender and starting to get dark.
2. While your squash is baking, place the chick peas, fresh herbs, garlic, cumin, baking soda and water in a food processor and pulse until pasty. *I had my mixture in the magic bullet at first but because of the lack of liquid, it did nothing.* Move to a bowl.
3. Once the squash is done, mash it up and then add it to the chick pea mixture. If you have time, you can chill it for 30 minutes, if not, don’t worry.
4. Make small balls using two spoons and place the falafel on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle the falafel with the other half of the olive oil. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until nicely crisped on the outside. The falafel will remain tender on the inside. Enjoy with your favorite toppings – we had a mint-cucumber yogurt, tahini, hummus and all sorts of fresh vegetables.

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Promised Goat Cheese Tart Recipe.

I wrote about our dinner from last week and promised to post the recipe for the goat cheese tart that I made (not entirely from scratch). It was promised to you the next day, but, as always happens, life gets in the way, and I forgot. But, I finally remembered and am delighted to share it with you! If you like goat cheese, please give these a try, you will love them.

Goat Cheese Tarts with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Yields 6 tarts

Total time, approximately, 1 hour.

  • 1 tomato, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package puff pastry shells
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • garlic clove, grated (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of thyme
  • about 5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tbsp 10% cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F (Please double-check this temperature as I am going from memory).
  2. Place the puff pastry shells on a baking sheet and bake as directed on the box, or until starting to get golden.
  3. In the meantime, place your sliced tomatoes on another baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake these for about 12-15 minutes, or until nicely dried out and roasted.
  4. Heat just a tiny amount of oil in a frying pan on medium and sauté your shallot until golden. If you want to add garlic and thyme, add it just as the shallots are finishing, to make them fragrant but not to burn.
  5. While the shells and tomatoes are baking, take your crumbled cheese in a bowl, mix in the egg and cream (and salt and pepper to taste) and add the shallots, garlic and thyme. My mixture was quite creamy but not liquid.
  6. In this time, your tomatoes and shells will have finished baking. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Set aside the tomatoes to cool. Take your cheese filling and, using a pastry bag (or two spoons), fill in the baked shells.
  7. Place back in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is set but not browning.
  8. Top with an oven-roasted tomato and enjoy while still warm. They are flaky, and cheesy and so flavourful. This is a higher-fat dish and we ate it as our main dish along with a salad and vegetable kabobs for dinner. It was incredibly satisfying and I had one the next day for breakfast too! The tomatoes add a “fresh” and sweet flavour that is wonderful. I hope you give them a try – I think you will like them!
Buon appetito!

Happy 1 Month Anniversary!

50% of all illnesses could be delayed or eliminated by dietary changes. 4 of the top 7 causes of death – heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes – are related to diet.

Well, we did it! We have been Weekday Vegetarians for 1 month! It has been, in a word, amazing. If you’re still sitting on the fence or completely unconvinced, you’re probably wondering why we think it’s so amazing. It’s for a few reasons:

1. It’s so easy – my initial hesitation to become vegetarian was that I wasn’t sure we would be able to keep track of proteins or vitamins or minerals. I realize that as long as we eat well, and balanced meals, we don’t have to fret about each gram. I also wasn’t sure my kids would eat what I made (we’re still working on that) and I wasn’t sure we could do it. And the food that we make is SO easy and quick to prepare. There’s no cooking for extended periods of time and a healthy dinner can be made in no time at all.

2. Our plates are so colourful. I know this sounds weird, but when we ate meat, I always made sure our plates had salad on them and usually a starch (rice, pasta or potato) but our plates were sort of boring. Now, because we use so many different vegetables and new ingredients, our plates are exciting, colourful and SO appetizing.

3. We’re saving money. We stopped buying about $30-$40 worth of meat a week, which leaves room for me to shop! Just kidding. We also haven’t been buying meat on the weekends because the past few weekends have been a whirlwind. However, we have decided that when we do want meat, we are buying free-range, organic meat.

4. We have more energy. We’re not being weighed-down with digesting heavy meat.

5. Our digestive systems are in ship-shape. I won’t go into too much detail, but I can say that the occasional constipation from my children is GONE! We have never been more regular. Our diet has so much more fibre in it now which is helping everyone in that department!

That’s why we love being vegetarian. Today I went to the library and I got yet another vegetarian cookbook for some meal ideas. The book was filled with all sorts of interesting statistics. Keep in mind these are for Americans; however, I think they provide some worthy insight into the benefits of vegetarianism.

Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook. By the editors of Vegetarian times. – 2nd ed.

“In a lifetime, according to the authors of The Animal Rights Handbook, the average meat-eating American will consume 1 calf, 3 lambs, 11 cattle, 23 hogs, 45 turkeys, 1097 chickens and 15, 665 chicken eggs.”

And my personal favourite: “Soybeans contain more protein than beef, more calcium than milk, more lecithin than eggs, and more iron than beef.”

So, if you’re still sitting on the fence, what are you waiting for? Give it a try, even if it’s a start with Meatless Mondays.

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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