Greek(ish) Potato Salad- Fast and Easy Double Duty Meal

100_5030Here is a super easy recipe that is versatile and easy to adjust depending on how much time you have. Because I just throw it together, all measurements are approximate. Tonight we made up a huge batch and had it as a side with a summer weekend BBQ vegan sausage sandwich. Tomorrow I will be using the rest of it in a different way to make a double-duty meal.

Greek-Style Potato Salad

Ingredients (approximate measures)
100_4961-1 or 2 potatoes (I used new red-skinned gems)
-1 or 2 sweet potatoes or yams
-1 or 2 peppers (I like to use red and green or yellow for color)
-1 onion (I used purple for color and sweetness)
-1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes

100_4979-1 whole cucumber
-3-5 cloves of garlic (don’t skimp- you really want the heat of the garlic here)
-1/2 to 1 cup feta cheese or vegan feta replacement
-1/2 to 1 cup tzatziki or creamy cucumber dressing.
-Salt and pepper to taste.

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Method:
-Cube the potatoes and sweet potatoes and put in a pot to boil for 5-8 minutes (don’t overcook or they will be mush). When cooked but still holding together, drain and dunk into cold water to cool them and stop them cooking further.
-As the potatoes cook, chop all the other veggies and the feta into cubes (halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes).
-Dump the cheese and veggies in a big bowl.100_5014
-Crush the garlic into the dressing/tzatziki and stir well. Pour the dressing into the veggie bowl and stir them up until well mixed and coated.
-Add in the cooled potatoes and mix until coated.
-Sprinkle with pepper and salt to taste, chill to let flavours mix.

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With all the veggies and a sub of sweet potatoes, this is a much healthier version of potato salad. If you use fat-free dressing or make a vegan tzatziki and feta (using tofu), it is totally guilt-free, too. Served on a bed of kale, it can be a filling meal salad, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or a handful of black olive slices make a fine garnish. Creamy and pretty enough to serve to guests, it can be whipped up in 20 minutes. And my kids like it even better the next day after the flavours have really melded. Yum.

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Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #1

100_4704Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Cooking club this time set out with a whole new challenge. Fat-free vegan Chinese celebration food- how’s that for a tall order? I think we did a great job, with some good recipes and some innovative techniques. Check out some of the fun recipes we tried:
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What the Heck is Jackfruit? (A Fruit You Can Use as a Meat!)

100_4392I am committed to a plant-based diet now. I have passed the point of no return, as the thought of eating real meat now makes me feel quite squeamish. That is sometimes a problem, as I grew up in Alberta- definitely meat country- and I loved meat. I really get the bacon-flavoured everything craze. So, I am always on the hunt for new ways to satisfy an old craving. I have already posted about meat substitutes, and this week I finally sourced one that I have been wanting to try for a long time. Believe it or not, it is actually a tropical fruit. When ripe I have read that it is sweet and deliciously addictive. In fact some sources said ripe jackfruit was the inspiration for the flavour of Juicy Fruit gum.

Green jackfruit, however, has very little flavour of its own, and it can be shredded and cut to resemble mild-flavoured meats like chicken, pork, and even tuna. Most vegan recipes 100_4366using jackfruit call for jackfruit packed in brine. The fruit I found, however, was packed in water. Better for heart-health anyway, but I suspect I will need to experiment a bit more with seasonings to find the perfect fit. In the meantime, expect quite a few jackfruit recipes as I try out ways to use it. If you are looking for green jackfruit yourself (and it does not grow where you live), try stores that carry Asian or Indian foods.

It cost about $1.50 (Cdn) per can and the nutritional info per 280g (a little over 1 cup) is:
Calories 60                                       Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 g                                 Sodium 1260 mg
Carbohydrate 14g                             Fibre 6g
Protein 2g                                         Sugar 0g
Calcium 4% RDA                             Iron 12% RDA

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I wanted to make a quick lunch with no cooking, so the first thing I did with the jackfruit was to use it in a mock tuna salad. It really does not require a recipe- you can just use your regular tuna salad recipe and substitute the jackfruit for the meat, but I will outline the steps I took and give a few hints about modifications you might want to try. It would work exactly the same if you wanted to make it as a chicken salad- you would just change the seasonings that you use.

Jackfruit Salad Sandwiches

Ingredients:
– Canned jackfruit100_4353
– Mayonnaise or vegan substitute
– Veggies. I used green onion, celery, mini tomatoes in the salad, and lettuce and cucumber in the sandwich. Shredded radish, carrots, peas, even green apple would be good too. If you were to make a curried “chicken” salad, you might add green grapes.
– Chick peas or mild-flavoured beans (I used them whole. To make the salad stick together more, you could mash them before adding. They add protein and body)
– Pickles (I like pickles in my tuna salad, and the vinegar also helps to add some flavour to the jackfruit. You could also try pre-soaking the jackfruit in a teaspoon or so of vinegar and leaving out the pickle if you don’t like it in the salad).
– Pepper, spices, and extras as desired (sometimes I like chicken salad with cumin, other times I like it with a bit of chili powder. Experiment. This time I just added pepper for flavour and some hemp hearts for texture and extra omegas. Flax seed would be good for that too).
– Bread, pita pockets or lettuce for holding and delivering the salad to your eager mouth.

Directions:
– Shred the jackfruit with two forks to 100_4376give it the look of tuna or shredded chicken (It shreds naturally into strings). Soak in vinegar if desired (this would make it more tuna-like. When I made it plain it was more like chicken)
– Chop up veggies, pickles and extras to add to salad, and slice the ones for in the sandwich.
– Mix jackfruit, chopped veggies and extras, and add a Tablespoon or two 100_4390of mayo (to taste). Add pepper and spices (to taste) and stir.
– Pile it all up in your bread and add lettuce and other sliced veggies (you could use sprouts, too).
– Serve with a pickle slice. This was as good as tuna salad any day, and I imagine (like real tuna salad) it would get even better if you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two so flavours can mix.

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Vegan Aspirations in Holiday Recipes- Mushroom Wellie

100_3055A few years ago, when I was still eating meat, one of my sisters started the journey to vegan eating. Christmas dinner for the extended family was at my house, so I ambitiously decided to provide a vegan roast along with the regular turkey. Somewhere I found a recipe that used wheat gluten and nutritional yeast- things I had never heard of at that time. I boiled up a bland, chewy chunk of seitan with no seasonings to speak of. In a pathetic attempt at humour and to dress it up, Continue reading

Plugging in to the Plan

Last post I talked about success at New Year’s Resolutions. This is a very quick illustration of how I am putting the plan to work for me.

Step one- Set Your Resolution as a Goal.

My goal is healthy weight loss, and it will have two parts to it. The part I will “plug in” here is the diet part. (Exercise is already in place, though I will be tweaking that later).

Going by my “SMART” parameters:
S – specific, stepped, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

Specifically (and measurably), I am aiming at an even 150 lbs.
This is indeed attainable, reasonable, and trackable, and by setting out my diet plans and tools, it will be action-oriented.

There, that part was simple (I could detail it a bit better, but it will become clearer as I fill out step two and three)

Step Two- Plan for the Goal.https://i2.wp.com/www.pcrm.org/images/health/pplate/PowerPlategraphichirez.JPG
Part One- Check out the research on what has worked for other people:
After comparing Canada’s food guide, a vegan food pyramid, and Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Power Plate, and reading literature about them, I will be basing my diet on PCRM’s Vegan Power Plate.

Part Two- Figure out what has worked for me in the past: In the past, I have found the two most important parts of eating well to lose weight are to never let myself go hungry, and to stay completely away from processed foods. When I get hungry I become like a nicotine addict seeking the next cigarette, and all thoughts of real food go out the window as I urgently seek something fatty and chemical-filled. What the heck do they put in processed foods anyway to make this happen? Willpower holds me off for a while but all too soon it is game over. Then I have to go cold turkey again as I continue to experience cravings for processed foods for the next few days (often at the exact same time of day). If I keep well-enough fed on good food I don’t experience these cravings at all, but it definitely takes careful planning to stay out of that cycle.

Step Three- Prepare for Success.
Set up my tools and supports:
I will be relying on three things in particular for this step. First, my online diet/exercise tracker (which goes back to the “T” in my SMART goal). This is a well-known technique for dieting success, in large part because it makes you eat and exercise more mindfully. There are many different free programs, and it is not a bad idea to sign up for a few and then after a few weeks drop the extras and keep up the one that seems to offer the ease and features that fit your lifestyle best.

I will also be modifying and using an old visual template that I used to use to plan meals for the week. When I get it completed, I will post it on the blog. The old template was based on an older food pyramid, so I want to update and improve it before sharing.

The final step is to create a backup plan for days or weeks that knock me off track. It will consist of “emergency” foods, meals, and strategies that will be posted in my kitchen. I will also share it as it is developed.

by epSos.de

by epSos.de

That’s it for now. Easy-peasy plugin.

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part Two (Salad Rolls)

(continued from part one- of course)
In part one I gave the recipe for a yummy cabbage salad. You will need that salad for the other meals. This entire DDD plan is as follows:
Day 1: dinner- cabbage salad.
Day 2: lunch- cabbage salad, dinner- salad rolls.
Day 3: lunch- salad rolls, dinner- Chinese(ish) food with chow mein.
Day 4: lunch- Chinese(ish) food, dinner- Asian cabbage soup.

Day Two-
Lunch is self-explanatory. Just take some of the leftover cabbage salad. You can have it as is, or add it on top of some lettuce salad. You can also take some extra chow mein noodles for a bit of crunch. I haven’t explained yet just how good this salad is. People who don’t like cabbage will like this salad. People who like cabbage will love this salad. The combination of the hot cabbage and onions with the salty umami soy sauce and soup seasoning is very “moreish” as we say in our house. The noodles and the nuts and seeds make it hearty and filling. Nobody complains about having the salad two days running.

Dinner- Salad Rolls

This is about the easiest dinner ever, and kids love it.
– Simply pull out the leftover cabbage salad (which will be getting quite soft and marinated by now, but also nutty and salty). Also set the table with the other veggies you pre-sliced yesterday. I try and make sure to have lots of crunch and colors, so I like to have radishes or red peppers, yellow peppers, carrots, and green veggies. Usually I will also put out
other items to add to the rolls- noodles, sauces, dense proteins
like tofu, etc.This time I added tofu marinated in teriyaki sauce for a little sweet to the salty. Non-vegans could add prawns or chicken I suppose.
– Also put out dried rice paper wraps and a large dish of water. The family each wets a wrap and lays it on their plate. Then they add whichever ingredients they like, fold
in the ends, and roll them up. They stick shut easily. Eat
with dips and sides- this time I quickly baked a squash and
steamed a little pre-cut broccoli.
– Be sure everyone remembers to make one or two extra rolls to put in their lunch the next day. Simply put them in a sealed container or wrap them individually in cling wrap to keep them moist. The crunchy veggies stay crunchy and they will still be bursting with flavour the next day at lunchtime as long as they are kept sealed and refrigerated.

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part One (Best Cabbage Salad)

Time for another double duty dinner. This one is not such a high scorer (reminder of the game rules here) because I repeat the exact same dish a few times. But that is because we like it so much just as it is. It is a special favourite for my kids. The soy sauce and ramen noodles add some salt, but you can offset that by packing a lot of vegetables into it. As with many of my meals, I make it more by taste than measurements, so change up amounts on the dressing to your taste, and add or change veggies as you like.

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Cindi’s Quintessential Quinoa Salad

I wrote about this super, frequently requested salad in another post, and Cindi was kind enough to give me the recipe, so I am going to print it here just as she gave it to me:

Cold Quinoa Salad – Cindi A.

You will need:
Quinoa – (this recipe is based on roughly 3 cups of
uncooked Quinoa)
8- Green onions – separate the white end from the green and dice both finely
1 fresh lemon – take zest off lemon for dressing – finely mince
2 inches fresh ginger- finely grated, skins removed
½ – 1 Tbsp. minced Garlic, minced (more if you like, like, like it!)
Olive oil – (amount should be roughly 3 parts oil to 1 part lemon juice)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 cup roughly chopped, Cilantro
Pint basket, halved Grape tomatoes
½ to ¾ English cucumber, peeled and diced (I love to use the mini cukes for this salad when I can find them)
1 to 1 ½ finely diced bell peppers. (I like to mix a few different colours of peppers.)
Broth for cooking quinoa

Cook Quinoa and allow it to cool. I use my rice cooker with equal parts chicken broth and water to Quinoa. Drain any additional liquid away from Quinoa. Quinoa is cooked when you can see a white silky line arching the outside edge. I let cool on a cookie sheet, because it’s faster.

While Quinoa cools, make the dressing for salad by combining together the white ends of green onion, juice from lemon, finely minced lemon zest, olive oil, ginger, garlic, and salt & pepper to taste. Shake and let marinate. If it too thick, you can play with the amounts of oil and lemon juice to your taste. Salt is important for a balanced flavor.

While Quinoa cools, and dressing marinates, and if you plan to serve your salad same day; Put Quinoa into a large mixing bowl and add cilantro, green onion (dark ends), tomatoes, cucumber and peppers, additional S &P to taste and serve.

If you want to make your salad a day or so ahead of time, combine everything, EXCEPT tomatoes and cucumbers.

I believe that’s it, peeps. I made this recipe up over the years, so forgive me if it doesn’t make sense somewhere along the line. It’s a simple concept. You’ll figure it out if need be.

NOTE: Allowing Quinoa and dressing to rest in the refrigerator is never a bad plan. Salad is best when ingredients are thoroughly chilled, except for the grape tomatoes of course!

ENJOY!

So, I made it almost exactly as Cindi outlined, but you know me, I can’t resist experimenting nearly immediately upon getting a new recipe. Since I try to keep things vegan at home, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Instead of just using the zest and juice of the lemon, I threw the pulp in too. Then I put the dressing through the bullet blender before mixing it into the salad. I forgot about Cindi’s note about salt and I didn’t add enough (or maybe the veggie broth is less salty), so I sprinkled in a little rice vinegar on my plate to bring out the flavours more. I think that worked too. Next time I might try mushroom broth, or add different veggies like snap peas or edamame along with the ones listed here, because for me it is always about playing with my food. This salad is so good (even better after sitting to develop flavours) and good for you (quinoa is a superfood), that you can go back for seconds with a clean conscience- and believe me, you will! Thanks Cindi, prepare for fame on this one!

Cooking Club Chronicles Update (With a Bonus Double Duty Recipe Twist): Part Two

After all my talk about how our last cooking club failed because there were people who just weren’t committed, I was the jamtart at the last meeting. It was at my house and the last few weeks I have been in what I call crisis mode, when I’m so busy that I can just think about the next hour or so. I use detailed lists for my every move to make sure I get some regular tasks done in between dealing with the real crises at work. Sometimes when I really need some relief I begin my lists with “write list” as my number one task, so I have something I can cross off immediately as done. It provides some “Toad” perspective and helps me to me slow down and smile.

Anyway, crisis mode does make the work week fly by, but also tends to result in a house I’d be ashamed to let people in. Which reminds me of a true story. A good friend of mine came home one day to find her door kicked in. After checking the house, a police officer came out and told her that it was safe to enter, but unfortunately the crook had ransacked the place. He was very kind and sympathetic as they went in to the house together so she could tell him what had been stolen, and she was horrified to see that things looked just the same as they had when had left it that morning. In fact, since the thief had taken her husband’s electronics and games which had been strewn around the living room, it was marginally cleaner! When my house gets to the state it was in last week, I think of how humiliating it would be to have to admit to the police that it is not the result of a crime.

So that’s my excuse for why, instead of prepping for cooking club, I did a really good houseclean. It was a nice foodsafe kitchen we worked in, but my recipe choices were a little last minute and based on what I actually had on hand. Even so, they turned out to be pretty darned good, and when I combined Marg’s recipe with one of mine I got the bonus of another “double duty” recipe set.

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What I Miss About Meat (And What I Do About It)

The other day I encountered an unexpected pleasure that made me think about some of the inconveniences of eating a meat-free diet. I am an itinerant counsellor for a school district, and school staffs often arrange potluck lunch days for their celebrations. If I happen to be in their school on one of those days, I am usually kindly asked to join them for lunch. However, typically most of the dishes are meat-based so they are out for me.

But the other day a school’s staff asked me to join them for their potluck salad and dessert bar lunch! Although I love my FITR salads, it can sometimes be hard to sit among all the great smells and sights of staff potlucks and eat a cold salad. It was such a treat to see all the delicious fruits and veggies made into colourful dishes, and I even found a source for a new mouthwatering quinoa salad recipe (thanks Cindi!). In retrospect, I realized it was the first time that I felt really “part of” the staff celebrations, and that led me to think of some of the other things I miss about eating meat.

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