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Molly likes it when I cook

Molly is like a miniature hoover, right at my feet anytime I cook to catch any scraps that may fall in the process (its amazing how fast she learned I am a messy cook!) She is quite the food loving dog and I am fairly sure she is packing on the pounds despite getting a good amount of daily exercise but if I feed her any less I am afraid she might start eating the walls!

IMG_0166 She adores going for her walks, loves the dog run but also loves leaving the dog run, she does not like being sprayed with the hose. The kids love it however so she will have to learn that getting a little wet is not the end of the world or she will have to learn to hide when the sprinkler is on.

  I have been trying to encourage her to come up and down our back stairs since discovering her on someone else balcony the other day!! so she can climb them, she chooses not to….. so far though, no real luck with ours. In fact all stairs seem to cause a severe case of lazy dog syndrome. Doesn’t matter what the reward is at the top she won’t climb more than 1-3 steps. 

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In other news, Molly has a boyfriend named Simba, a white/apricot mini poodle. She also has a puppy friend whose name I have forgotten but whose breed is so unique I will never forget it, a “Gany” or Ganaraskan. Not officially recognized this mix breed is really really cute!

  

Molly makes friends, and shows her empathic side. 

 In the past couple days we have been visiting the dog park. Each time we go Molly gets more and more enthusiastic about it. But doesn’t really like the skateboarders. She got lucky Sunday night when the small dog park was full of small dogs.

 She had a great time.

Today I started trying to extend the amount of time I left her crated. But then my son had a horrible fall that sent us to the emergency room and forced me to crate her in a panic and leave. She clearly understood something was wrong. She just looked at us as I ran around grabbing things she didn’t whine or cry or bark (no clue however if she did while we say in emergency.  I don’t know what Molly would say about the last couple days but I have to say I am so grateful to have her in my life. Her 6:30am kisses are my absolute favourite.

Molly was a champion and when we got home she licked us like she had not seen us in a week and was very happy to have a chance to go pee before curling up to sleep!

Stroganoff

My mom will hate me for saying this, but I hated all beef dishes growing up, not because I hated beef per-say but because she couldn’t cook it. (our dog refused to eat leftover meatballs) I only realized this as an adult. So every once in a while I try my hand at a recipe that as a child made me nauseous.

This week it was a Beef Stroganoff, but since we do not eat beef, it was Tofu Stroganoff, inspired by Isa Chandra’s Tofu Mushroom Stroganoff which looked just so delicious but way too complicated for my mood that day I set out to modify the recipe to meet my tastes, and my kitchen. Its still a little complex but less time consuming and fewer dishes to wash than using cashews to make a truly creamy sauce and I am not a cream sauce kind of girl, I love fresh tomato sauces and that is why this has very little in way of creamy ingredients and is instead has luscious fresh tomatoes.

This is a photo-less post unfortunately until the next time I make it because its been a mad house around here.

Tofu Stroganoff

Serves: 4                     Prep time: 10 min                              cook time: 30min

Ingredients:

350g of pasta (ideally a broad noodle, or something like fusilli)
1 package extra firm tofu in thin strips
a total of 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp of salt
4 large cloves minced garlic
2 portabello mushrooms cut in half then thinly sliced
1/2 pkg (about 130g) cremini mushrooms (white mushrooms ok too)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup white wine
2 large italian tomatoes or 3 small, diced
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk substitute (or milk) – I suggest soy
2 tbsp arrowroot starch (or 1 tbsp cornstarch)

Method:

cook pasta according to package

in large frying pan heat 1 tbsp oil over medium and add tofu, toss occasionally until tofu takes on some colour. Sometimes I find a spatula helps flip the strips to keep one side only from browning.  cover and set aside.
If you only have one pan you can transfer the tofu to a dish and reuse the same pan. (this also means you can likely use less oil for next step)

Add remaining oil to frying pan and saute onion and garlic until onion is transparent.
add mushrooms and thyme and continue cooking until mushrooms soften and begin to brown. Add the fresh tomatoes, white wine, salt and pepper. Reduce wine over high heat (about 5 min) before returning heat to medium.

while the wine reduces, in a small bowl, mix arrowroot starch with a few tbsp of the milk substitute until smooth, add rest of milk and the vegetable broth and mix well.

add the broth/milk mixture to the pan and stir well, cook until sauce thickens, adjust salt, pepper and thyme as needed add tofu. mix well, lower heat to low, put pasta pot back on burner and mix the sauce into it.

Serve!

This keeps well in the fridge, but I don’t think I would attempt to freeze it.

Also feel free to take on my rule for cooking with wine:

When cooking with wine it is completely acceptable even if you are alone to enjoy a glass as well.

I am looking forward to experimenting slowly with recipes that I couldn’t get into as a kid that maybe now I will like with a veg twist. If you have a favourite let me know!!!!

Quick, Easy, Delicious tofu-steak burgers.

IMG_6305 My children love just about anything between two pieces of bread, but the word “veggie burger” and its associated ketchup, mustard etc get a particularly joyful reception. But homemade veggie burgers are a pain in the rear, they dont always stick, they require things I do not always have on hand (like my eggplant burgers) they are time consuming to make. I had time to make dinner when I last made these but I didnt feel like stressing over dinner prep and I wanted it to be both adult and kid friendly. I started looking up easy tofu burgers, with the idea that it would be easier than bean based burgers, but they all involved various stages of mashing, processing, forming and breading. I quickly gave up. We love pan-seared tofu around here, and I figured if I cut a tofu brick into 4 I would have 4 thick square tofu steaks, which would be a perfect burger. and from there, I got creative.

I should mention I want to eat this every night this week. This burger can be made vegetarian or vegan, I had the vegetarian version, my kids the vegan one.

Tip: Start the toppings before the tofu, the burger should be the last things prepared.

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Avocado and Carmelized Onion and Mushroom Tofu Steak Burgers

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Burgers:
1 brick extra firm tofu, pressed to remove excess water
garlic powder, salt and paprika to taste
1-2tbsp Olive oil.
buns of your choice

Toppings:
Onions:
onions cut in strips about 1/8th in thick,
1-2tbsp safflower oil
water (or white whine)

Mushrooms:
1 pkg mushrooms, (I used brown)
1 clove garlic – minced
olive oil,
white wine vinegar (or white wine)

Tomato

1 avocado, lemon juice

shredded Daiya cheese (for vegan/parve/allergy option) or goat cheese (dairy)

Method

Start by preparing the fixings, mushrooms and onions first.

Mushrooms: using a good frying pan on medium-high cook the garlic- I used a non-stick pan here, I wasn’t after the browning juices, but if you use a regular pan you will get the delightful juices up when you add the white wine vinegar after which is great. once garlic is softened add the mushrooms cook until there is no liquid and the mushrooms are greatly reduced, add a few splashes of white wine vinegar, stir and remove from heat.

Onions: heat safflower oil over medium heat, depending on your burner you may even want medium low to keep onions from burning. add onions and cook slowly until a nice crust has built up on the bottom of the pan (use a regular pan, you want this!) and the onions have become very very soft and golden. add water (or wine) to deglaze the pan and the onions will absorb these juices keep adding til you get the consistency you like. I ended up adding a lot of water because I really wanted that juicy sugary melt in your mouth texture. when ready I turn heat to low and add the sauteed mushrooms to the pan, I then use the mushroom pan to prepare the tofu (no washing, let those flavours transfer).

For the Burgers: re-heat pan used for mushrooms and add a bit more olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. cook tofu for approximately 5 min on each side (until a light golden brown). They are done and ready to serve.

Avocado, mash the avocado with a fork and a little lemon juice.

Assemble the burgers:

spread the avocado thickly on the bottom bun, (If avocado isnt your thing, use mayo/nayo here or for added creaminess use both!). Add the tofu steak, onions and mushrooms, a scoop of goat cheese or a sprinkling of daiya cheese a tomato and the top bun.

MAKES A MESS! keep a fork on hand to eat the escapees!

 

 

Sweet potatoes…. I love you, I love you not

IMG_4493We hung out with our cousins one weekend this summer (well many weekends, but one particular weekend inspired this post). It was fun, and I discovered that their kid too used to love sweet potatoes and now turns his nose up at them. I’ve heard this strange story from other parents too. I understand sometimes liking things sometimes not, I understand liking only certain preparations of foods, but going from basically a sweet potato monster to absolutely refusing to eat them, this fairly typical toddler transition baffles me.

For us, and my cousin, this happened sometime before their 3rd birthdays. Now, just after their 4th birthday I am starting to see a sweet potato revival. I have continued to cook with and serve sweet potatoes. Usually accepting that the leftover sweet potato dish would be my lunch.

I really like sweet potatoes, it was the magical food on holiday plates. Cooked in generous amounts of butter and brown sugar candied sweet potatoes and I are good friends. Yet even prepared this way (with vegan butter) my children refused to touch them, I was baffled. I still am because I am drooling just thinking about these!

I tried mashing them with vegan butter, brown sugar, pumpkin pie type spices and still nope. I tried plain and boiled
(sometimes with toddlers the simpler the better) big nope. I tried in soups and stews, which worked only if accidentally ingested. I tried fries (only if the frozen variety, made by the grandparents and served with mayo). I roasted them in very shape I could think of (nope). I was out of ideas. Then my mother had a craving for sweet potato chips. So we made some. In the oven, with olive oil and salt. And 2 out of 3 preschool aged children ate them. (The lone hold out has since relented to these) We had a collective mom mouth drop and a way to make sweet potato chips for the future:

Sweet Potato Chips

serves: 6                prep time: 15minutes          bake time:40min approx

Ingredients:
3 sweet potatoes cut into chips, carefully!, with mandolin or by hand
1-2  tsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Method:
Pre-heat oven to 400
Lay sliced potato out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (you may need to make 2 batches) sprinkle half the salt and the pepper over the potatoes drizzle the oil over them toss with your hands to coat them all toss with rest of salt and the lay in a single layer on the baking sheet, any that don’t fit just keep aside for the next batch.
Bake for about 45 min turning once or twice, watch carefully as they go from perfect to burnt very quickly. They are still a little soft when “perfect” allow to cool a few minutes on a cooling sheet or wooden board. They will crisp up a bit more as they cool.

Easy, healthy (use other seasonings, or salt preparations like herbamare to cut back on the sodium content), and sweet potato hating kid approved!

Since this particular weekend, homemade sweet potato chips and fries go over extraordinarily well. We even had a french fry dinner.

 

Vegan Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

muffins2For a while it was a regular Sunday morning occurrence in our house to make muffins, prior to recognizing my daughters dairy issues we followed this recipe but using real dairy and free-range eggs. It took a while for me to brave adapting our favourite recipes because when you have a memory of something its not so appealing to start messing with it. But this adaptation worked quite well, probably because I didn’t have to switch out butter, I find butter the hardest ingredient to replace and get the right texture and flavour.

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As for baking muffins I love it because generally they are 1 or max 2 bowl recipes, they bake fairly quickly, and they are pre-portioned. This is super important when it is fairly easy to pass through half a cake without realizing it. I keep out what we will eat at that meal and freeze the rest.

Vegan Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

Makes 12 muffins            Prep time: 20 min                   Bake time: 20 min

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups flour (plus 1 tbsp in reserve)
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk alternative (I have used almond, soy and rice with success but prefer almond or soy)
2 tbsp applesauce, mashed banana or other egg replacer (I recommend a flax egg)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 apple, grated or finely chopped ( I keep skin on, but feel free to peel)
1/2 cup fresh, frozen or dried chopped cranberries.

Method:

Preheat oven to 375

In large bowl mix flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl whisk soy milk, apple sauce, oil and vanilla,

toss chopped cranberries with the reserved flour

pour milk mixture into dry, add apple and cranberries and mix until just moistened, do not over mix.

spoon into well greased or lined (or both, muffins tend to stick) muffin tin (makes 12 muffins)

Bake for 20 min or until toothpick or fork comes out clean. allow to cool at least 5 min before removing from muffin tin.

In general, muffins do not store well on a shelf, (24-48hrs max) individually wrap muffins and freeze to keep fresh longer.

 

Lentil Flexi Spaghetti Sauce

This mild, high protein vegan spaghetti  sauce doubles as a fantastic chilli. It falls into one of the recipes I try to keep in my freezer but fail because it is the first thing I go for when it is there.

This is one of those recipes that gives well to emptying the fridge. It is never quite the same because I always adjust the exact vegetables based on whats in my fridge.

Red lentils are just so flexible, inoffensive and healthy. If my stomach allowed me I would eat lentils so much more often, all legumes but red lentils especially.

The recipe for a normal serving of sauce serves 6, I happen to like sauce on my pasta not pasta on my sauce so it is more like 4 servings around here, I eat about as much sauce on my pasta as I would in a bowl as a chilli.

Lentil spaghetti sauce
Serves 6

Time: 45min-1hr

2-3tsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 grated carrot (or finely chopped)
2 stalks of celery (3 if using small organic celery hearts), finely chopped
1/2 – 1 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 zucchini, finely chopped
1 cup red lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can tomato paste
1 can drained, no-salt added diced canned tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh parsley, or basil (1 tsp of dried)
1/2 tsp salt
cayenne pepper to taste (omit for kids)

The easiest way to prepare these veggies is tossing it all (including the garlic and carrots) in a food processor and pulsing to a fine chop. it doesnt result in pretty chunks of veggies but it renders them all perfectly tiny for a kid friendly sauce in seconds. I suggest you do this in two batches (carrots, celery, onions, garlic first, then while they sautee do the red pepper and zucchini)

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium and  cook onion, garlic, celery, carrot, as they start to soften add the zucchini and redpepper cook until all veggies are tender. (about 5 min)

Add lentils and broth and cover to cook for 25-35 min (until lentils are cooked) add the tomato paste, tomatoes, oregano, parsley and cook for another 15 minutes (lentils will go sorta mushy)

Variation: replace the oregano and basil with cinnamon (1 tsp) and all-spice (1/4 tsp) it completely changes the dish in an instant. I love it both ways but I prefer the traditional spices for serving on a pasta.

Tip: Generally this sauce needs no sweetening, but occassionally I get the balance wrong in the veggies I suppose and I find it needs a dash of something,  a little brown sugar works well as does honey if you use it.

Baby friendly: Omit the salt, and you can use an immersion blender to render the sauce even thinner, or entirely into a puree.  My kids have never had pureed pasta sauce cause I cannot be bothered.  (this trick works too for picky husbands, you can even use this as a base for a meat or soy protein sauce to really increase the protein content)

As mentioned, this freezes super well.

Please excuse the formatting. posts will be coming to you via the mobile app for a while.