Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lentil salad - Healthy alternative to rabbit food

I have been trying (with limited success) to eat healthier this summer. However, I find that when I do try to do this, I end up eating a lot of green salad. It is easy to bring to work, you don't need to heat anything up, it is cheap and easy to make. However, I get bored of it and sometimes just want something a bit more filling. I have been meaning to try a lentil salad for quite sometime and today was the day!
Photo credit:http://www.chiropractic-help.com/lentil-protein.html

Lentils are amazingly healthy and filling. They can be eaten warm or cold and added to stews and soups to get some extra protein in your diet. One cup of lentils has about 230 calories, more than 17 g (35% of your daily requirement) of protein and 15 g (62% daily requirement) fibre and are an excellent source of folate, molybdenum, B1, Iron and much, much more! They are also free of saturated fat (as is pretty much everything vegan). They help lower cholesterol and help moderate  blood sugar levels.

Lentils have been a valuable food source dating back into prehistoric times. They are found in hundreds of cultures, so while they may not be considered mainstream in North American diets, they are found just about everywhere else. There are many types of lentils as well, black, green, red are the most common. Black and green will hold their shape well in salads and soups and red will get really soft and I usually use them in stews.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has a great podcast on lentils and she makes them sound so delicious I figured if I was to try to recipe, I should start there.

Warm Lentil Salad
Adapted from Colour me Vegan
Serves 4-6
Time: 1 hour from scratch, 15 minutes if you have cooked lentils
  • 1 cup black lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or water, but broth is better)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped coarsely
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or other fresh herb, basil would be a good one)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Note: Use whatever vegetables you have. The original recipe did not have the pepper, red onion, tomato. I added these after testing the recipe.

First, cook your lentils, combine the lentils and broth in a pot and bring to a boil, stir, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes or until the water is absorbed. While it is cooking, chop up all the veggies. In a frying pan heat 1 Tbsp of the oil and add the onions and the peppers. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Set aside.

Prep, prep, prep - makes cooking a million times easier!

Once the lentils are cooked let them cool for a bit (you could also cook in advance and serve cold). Combine all the ingredients now in a large bowl and stir well. Serve in a bowl or on romaine lettuce and enjoy warm or cold!

When I put the salad on lettuce, I made some lettuce wraps with it and it was really good. I nice way to serve them, though a little messy.

Lentil salad, served with purple and yellow potatoes

What an easy way to add some nutrition to lunch! :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cherry Pineapple Pie

Healthy? Well, I certainly think there are worse things out there!

I know I keep saying that I am going to make healthier food choices, but I have been craving cherry pie for ages now. Today I decided that not only would I fulfill my craving, but i would jazz it up with another favourite fruit.. Pineapple!

Making a pie can be as simple as purchasing a pre-made pie crust and dumping canned filling into it to making everything from scratch. I have provided the from scratch version here.

Now even though this is a pie recipe, it definitely has some nutritional benefits. First - Pineapple. It is full of Bromelain which is supposed to help with digestion, breaking down proteins. Also full of vitamin C, manganese and B1, Pineapple is great for your immune system and over all health. Want to know if your pineapple is ripe without cutting it? Pull on one of the leaves and if it comes out easily, it's ripe. If it doesn't, just leave it out for a day or two.

Cherries - well to start, they are beginning to be recognized as a super fruit. They are full of antioxidant and also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times more than blueberries or strawberries) vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate. Cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to help regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns, aid with jet lag, prevent memory loss and delay the aging process.

So even though this is a sugary somewhat fattening snack. Everything in moderation and there are lots of benefits!

Cherry-Pineapple Pie
The crust:
  • 3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup of shortening
  • 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water + 3 Tbsp if needed
Combine all the dry ingredients together and cut in the shortening in 3-4 batches. Once the mixture is pebbly, combine the vinegar and water and add it in in 3 batches. Add extra water by the Tbsp until the mixture forms a dough. Chill in the fridge for one hour and then cut it in half. Roll out each half to 12" circles for the bottom and top of the pie.

Or... Buy pre-made vegan pie crust (be careful of ingredients, most pre-made contains lard

The Filling
  • 5 to 6 cups fresh pitted cherries, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice or water
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch / Kuzu / arrowroot
First prep your cherries by pitting them. Combine the cherries with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. Cool and then pour into pie.

Or buy a large can of cherry pie filling!

Next, assemble the pie. First roll out the bottom crust on a piece of wax paper. Use the paper to transfer it to your pie plate. Next chop up a fresh pineapple to about 1/2 - 1" cubes (or use canned. You can use the juice from the canned pineapple to make the cherry filling). Put a handful of the chopped pineapple in the pie plate, add the cherry pie filling and then add more pineapple. Cut a small hole in the centre of the top pie crust and then place on top of the pit. Press along the edges to seal and cut of any leftover dough.

Preheat the over to 450 F. Bake the pie for 10 min and then lower the heat to 350 and cook for 40 - 50 minutes. Keep an eye on it. My crust started browning early, so to stop it from burning I put a loose piece of foil on top.

Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

See? Pie can be made in minutes if you're using the pre0made items, but a little bit of extra work and you can make a tasty pie from scratch.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vegan Burgers: Beet It

During the summer, it is always good to have some burgers on standby. In the past I have been really into black bean burgers, but I found a very interesting recipe for a beet burger and figured this would be a great way to get into cooking with beets. Beets are vegetable I do not cook with much. While I think they taste good and are pretty healthy, I also think they are super messy and since I am so clumsy, I didn't want to be staining my clothes and floor messing around with such a messy vegetable.

Photo Credit: http://thebubbaeffect.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/nobody-eats-beets-not-even-to-survive-p/

Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains and known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification qualities. They also are rich in carotenoids which is very good for eye health. I read somewhere that the powers of carotenoids in beets may be as much or more important to eye health than beta carotene. A serving of beets is high in folate, manganese, potassium. They are low in calories and like many vegetables, have been linked to reducing the risk of cancers.

There are lots of good sources out there that can provide more details. Beets are an excellent way to get a red food into your diet. Oh and I heard you can use beet juice for food colouring!

Beet Burgers
*Adapted from Colour me Vegan
  • 2 cups of grated beets (2-3 beets)
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1/2 toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
The steps to this recipe are very simple. combine everything in a bowl and mix. I ended up using my hands to really get in and mix it all up. If you don't want to use wheat gluten/flour, you can substitute for another flour and increase to 3 Tbsp. I did this the first attempt and I found the burgers didn't hold well, but in the end worked.

To cook, I BBQ'd them. Heat the grill to medium heat, and cook for about 7-10 minutes a side. You can also bake in the oven (About 350 F for 7-10 min a side) or fry them. Up to you.

Makes 4 large burgers or 6 small.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vegan BBQ Survival Kit

I am going to my first BBQ of the summer and it is sure to be filled with Carnivores or what they lovingly call themselves: meatatarians. my vegan BBQ survival kit. Basically, it is a cool I pack for these sorts of occasions. I am not the type of person to put everyone out and cook special meals for me. I enjoy cooking, so it is no trouble for me at all. I have learned though that it is smart to plan for picnics and BBQs so I don't end up chewing on carrots and pouting because I can't eat anything.
This BBQ would have been very unfriendly for vegans without my vegan survivor kit!

My BBQ survival kit varies depending on what I have in stock, but base on the following:
  1. Salad and/or salad dressing
  2. Veganaise
  3. Salsa or Guacamole
  4. Veggie burgers or some marinated seitan or tofu
  5. Dessert
  6. Coconut Bliss Ice cream (Yes, I consider this separate from dessert)
  7. Wine
I don't always bring all of these items, but usually most of it is there. My friends are not always so vegan-friendly. I always bring enough to share and I try to pack things that won't scare off the meatatarians.

Because it is Canada Day, I thought I would try to pack some red and white foods to theme it a bit. Unfortunately I did not get to making the salad... I did pack a vinaigrette in case there is salad there. I made some delicious beet burgers that I adapted from Colour me Vegan, packed tomato, mango avocado and lime to make a salsa to go with it. Hazelnut fudge Coconut bliss and Canada Day Surprise Cookies! I adapted my lemon sugar cookies and there were some mistake that I think I recovered from to make a wonderful, light and fresh cookie.

Canada Day Surprise Cookies
  • 1/4 margarine
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 chia egg (1tsp ground chia seeds and 2 Tbsp water, whisked)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Milk (I didn't measure it)
  • Zest of two limes
  • 1 1/4 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (could omit, I didn't mean to add this!)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. First beat the margarine and sugar together until fluffy. Add the lime juice the egg and the milk and mix again for 2 minutes. Combine the dry ingredients (Flours, zest, baking powder and soda, salt) in a separate bowl. Pour the dry into the wet and mix until it is well combined/

Take about a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball and place on a baking sheet. using a fork, press down on the balls to form cookies. Top with raw coconut and some sugar (I used a red sugar to get into my theme). Bake for about 10 minutes and then let sit on the cookie sheet for 5 more and then transfer to a plate.

Pretty easy and they are pretty tasty. Originally I was not planning to add the baking powder (I thought it was the baking soda!) and I think it dried out the dough so I added the milk at the end. I think you could omit both of these ingredient and get a nice cookie from it, but the addition of these ingredients didn't wreck anything. In fact, I think it made the cookies a bit more cakey.

Why are these Canada day surprise cookies? Well, I think the finished product looks like a basic sugar cookie with red sugar on top, but when you bite into them, they have a yummy tropical surprise with the lime and the coconut. You cannot go wrong with that!

Try something new and make these into a ice cream sandwich: Get your favourite ice cream (I used coconut bliss, coconut flavour). Take two cookies and put a good sized scoop on top of the first cookie, top it with the second cookie, sugar side down to trap in that coconut and sugar topping. Serve. All I can say is... YUMMM!!