Monday, September 26, 2011

Chana Masala Time

Fall is here now officially and with that means it's time to start making some cold weather food. I thought I would start off easy and make one of my favourite stews, chana masala. This Indian stew is special for me as it was my first vegan dish. When I decided to try a 30-day vegan challenge, I was so sure that not being able to eat any dairy products would be my downfall, I decided to make something that dairy just wouldn't go with. Armed with Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, I decided on this stew because it looked impossible to screw up and I figured it could go with just about any grain. I was right and now chana masala is a regular dish that I cook in the winter.
Warning - Making this dish will make your whole place fragrant. It is worth it though!

There are a million different ways to make this dish. I still use Silverstone's recipe as a guide, but over time have altered it a bit to work better for me (Her recipe makes a ton of stew!) You can serve this dish with naan, pita, rice, barley, but my favourite is to serve it with nacho chips... Since it makes a lot, you can try it out a few different ways and see what works best for you.

Chips and Chana Masala

  • One large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 tsp curry powder (or more if you like curry)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 small (or half a large) eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 cup of cauliflower (optional)
  • 1/2 spinach (optional)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can of vegan chili
  • 1 handful of cilantro, chopped 
Looks dry, but just let it cook and it will get better!
First, get a large pot and heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and spices and stir well. Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes. Next, add the vegetables starting with the eggplant, letting it cook for a minute or two, then the spinach and cauliflower. Add another Tbsp of olive oil so the veggies don't stick (or add water). Cook for 5 minutes. Now add all the other ingredients except for the cilantro and stir well. Reduce the heat a bit and let it cook uncovered for about 30 minutes.
I admit, it is not the prettiest dish.... but so good

Before serving add the cilantro to the pot and stir. Serve it in a big bowl with tortilla chips or grain of choice. It is also good on its own.

Another variation, add potatoes instead of cauliflower. 

See how easy that is? Minimal mess and labour... and if you want, you can freeze some off for another time. This makes 4-6 servings.

Funny how cilantro can brighten any dish :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Roasted vegetables from the garden

Last weekend, my friend James and I decided to go check out a u-pick. I have been in Edmonton a long, long time and I have never actually been to a u-pick here! Anyways, we found a pretty nice one west of the city. Unfortunately the berries were kind of picked over, but there were lots and lots of vegetables there! We got corn, potatoes, beets, lettuce, cabbage, beans and there was much more there. I hope to go back sometime soon with more of a plan (I had no plan, so I was hesitant to pick lots of vegetables).

Later in the week, I realized I still had some veggies kicking around that needed to be eaten, so I decided to whip up some corn on the cob and BBQ tofu and with only two burners (my other two have not worked in years), I had no room to get vegetables done for my dinner. So I got ready to do a little roasting.

Roasting vegetables is one the easiest ways to cook vegetables. It is not the quickest, but comparing to steaming, roasting brings out more flavour and leaves my stove top free for other things. It is definitely one of my favourite ways to cook vegetables. All I usually do is toss the veggies of choice with some oil (usually olive oil, but you could use grape seed, sesame, or pretty much what ever is on hand) and some salt and pepper. Sometimes I will go so far as to toss some dried herbs in with it too if I have some around.

Some roasting tips:
* Heat your oven to 350 - 400 F (lower for veggies that cook fast and higher for those that take longer)
* use some tin foil on your baking sheet so things don't stick and things are quick to clean up after too.
* if you have some dried herbs on hand, use them. You don't need much and it will change up the flavour a bit
* Add a little vinegar or citrus before roasting.
* Toss them at least once or twice while they are cooking so they come out even

for my dinner, I made roasted zucchini, tomato and basil with fresh corn on the cob and BBQ Tofu:

The vegetables
Pre-heat the over to about 375 F. While you are waiting, chop up your vegetables into bite size pieces (about 1 1/2" thick). Put the veggies in a bowl and toss with about 1 Tbsp of olive oil (just enough to coat them). add in some salt and pepper, dried herbs and a splash of lemon juice. Next, get a cookie sheet and cover it with tin foil. Spread the veggies on the sheet and put it in the over for about 20 minutes. Once or twice through cooking, toss the veggies around so they cook evenly.

Corn on the Cobb
This is so easy, you don't need a recipe. Bowl a big pot of water and if you like, salt the water. While you are waiting, shuck the corn removing the husk and silks and if you are like me, feed some to your guinea pigs :)

Add the corn to the water and cook for 8-10 minutes. 10 will make the corn quite soft, so adjust accordingly if you want it more firm.

And that is about it. I added some BBQ tofu to my dinner. Something I make a lot because I don't have to prep and it's fast.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blackberry-Cherry Breakfast Bars

I hesitated when I titled this as a breakfast bar. They kind of remind me of a blackberry-cherry crisp or crumble. That said, I have been eating these for breakfast and they are a great way to start the day. Who needs a boring breakfast when you can snap your taste buds awake with this fresh, sweet and tart bar.

Above = morning bliss

I adapted this recipe from Colour me Vegan. The book's version has only able 150 calories per bar, but with my changes... they are definitely more than that, but my addition of peanuts and pecans also add some good fats and protein which is good to have in the morning.

Either way, these are worth the time it takes to bake them. The labour is minimal.

Blackberry-Cherry Bars (Breakfast or Dessert)!
*makes 12-16 bars and takes about an hour
  • 2 cups of berries (I used about 1 cup blackberry and one cup cherry, but do as you like)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup ground chia seeds
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 handful (about 1/8-1/4 cup) of chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup melted margarine
  • 2-3 Tbsp melted peanut butter
Alright, preheat the oven to 350 F. In a sauce pan, combine the berries, sugar, water, lemon, vanilla and cinnamon and stir well. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer and stir often for about 8-10 minutes. While the sauce is cooking combine all remaining ingredients except for the margarine and peanut butter. Stir the dry ingredients well. Pour into it the melted margarine and peanut butter and stir until its combined. 
Action Shot!

Take half of the mixture and press it into a 8 X 8 pan. bake it for about 20 minutes or until it is golden. At this point the sauce should be done. Remove it from the heat and set aside while the base cooks. Once it is finished, pour the berry mixture on the base and then top with the remaining dry mix. Press lightly and then cook it again for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving if you can... If you can't wait, it will crumble, but still tastes good!
Yes, the plate is dirty because I couldn't wait and ate one before the picture! BUSTED

Whew, that was a lot of ingredients, but these bars pack a powerful punch. Full of healthy ingredients (and some not so healthy... but hey no one is perfect). I can;t think of a better way to start the day... All I have to do now is find some will power to not eat them all before the morning!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guest Post: Laura's 7-Day Vegan Challenge

Anyone that knows me, know that I do gently push people to try more vegan meals, if not try going vegan full time. Most respond by telling me to eat more meat, but my sister kept an open mind and tried some vegan meals. Liking what she had she and her family now have vegan meals regularly enough that they all get to enjoy my company at many of their vegan meals (by the way.. thanks guys! Much appreciated!). Anyways, Laura recently decided to try a seven-day vegan challenge with a friend and when she told me, I asked her if she would track how it went and we could include here.

Also, if anyone out there is a avid reader, Laura is also a blogger and has a pretty cool blog found here:

This is what she had to say:
Photo credit:

The Seven-Day Vegan Challenge

I recently challenged myself to eat vegan for seven days. This didn't seem too daunting a task. With the Angry Vegan helping me out, and many vegan recipes already mastered, how bad could it be? Turns out, it was just as easy as I thought it would be in most ways, but much harder than others. Here are the things that made it easy, and hard, for me. If you are newly vegan, thinking about it, or just up for a challenge, this should help you prepare. 

What Made it Easy:

1. Support. My husband didn't give me and grief about doing the challenge. He didn't exactly cheer me on either, but he didn't ask me why, or imply that I couldn't do it... which helps a lot. It's probably because I've been wearing him down for months (years?) with tasty vegan meals! My son who at the time was just beginning to eat solids loved all the vegan meals I was making, so it would comforting to know that he would enjoy the challenge too. It was also really helpful to know someone that I could talk to about it. Angry Vegan was a phone call away to talk about the #1 question, what do I eat? I need to snack through the day and the best tip she gave me was hummus and bagels. What a great snack! Something I will continue to eat in the future.

Photo credit:
2. A really good vegan cook book. Mine is Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet. Everything I've made has been gold. Alicia's breezy delivery of vegan propaganda makes it almost palatable to non-vegans! I love how she lays out a few "levels" for people new to the vegan world. Flirting is when you try vegan recipes, make a few changes to your diet, and try different products to see what you like. You don't "have" to go full-on vegan right away. Vegan is well, a plant-based diet. And Superhero is a super-healthy, whole food only vegan diet. 

3. Be able to advocate for yourself. I think vegans may be, as a group, more outspoken and independnet that the general population (just a hunch), and those are traits you are going to need when it comes to eating outside of the home. I had a wedding on day 2 of my challenge, and almost changed my dates to avoid the hassle. Angry Vegan schooled me... she talked to the head chef the day before, and arranged to bring in her own vegan  entree (Succotash!) and have them plate it with roasted vegetables. Not only was it delicious but it was very pretty! 

The chef at the wedding made a pretty vegan meal using Angry Vegan's Succotash!

What made it hard:

1. Meal planning. Until you are a seasoned vegan, you have to really plan. Not just meals, but snacks, things that will travel, things you can keep at your desk - having good, vegan food readily available is key, and if you don't plan it, it's easy to find an excuse to slip! It took me a really long time to do my meal plan, taking into account everything I put in my mouth and still trying to have variety, good use of leftovers, etc.

2. Sticking to whole, unprocessed foods. I didn't specifically challenge myself to stay away from processed food, but I mostly did (save for a few Luna bars). The point of the challenge, for me, was to reboot some bad eating habits, so no use "going vegan" and just eating chips and bread. The time, planning, and cooking ahead required to have fresh, home-cooked food for EVERY meal and snack was WAY more daunting that the vegan aspect!

Photo credit:

3. Having animal products in the house. I slipped on the last day of the challenge. I wanted a glass of milk SO BAD and it was just SITTING THERE waiting for me to drink it. If at all possible, simply do not have whatever you weakness is in the house! 

4. Pregnancy. Most of the comments I received were along the lines of "but, you're PREGNANT!". Those comments would probably get pretty annoying on a long term basis. I can just imagine if you were also feeding your kids a vegan diet (nothing like mommy judgement). I believe that you can have a very healthy pregnancy on a plant based diet; though if I was doing this for the long haul I likely would speak to a nutritionist. But what *really* made it hard for me was dealing with morning sickness and exhaustion... when I had my slip, I was sick, tired, and just had nothing left in me to stop the milk craving! 

I learned a lot doing, and ultimately failing, this challenge. Going vegan took a lot of time and effort, yes, BUT, food is really important! It SHOULD take a lot of our time and effort. As for the future... I think I'll keep flirting!

I live alone and I think if I had meat and dairy in the house when I made my decision to try a plant-based diet and I think it would have been a bumpier ride if I had. I hope my sister's experience can educate and hopefully empower others to give it a try. Even if you decide to not stick to it forever, I think you might learn a bit about how vegans eat and probably answer many questions (Where do I get protein, what do I eat, where do i get calcium, vitamin B, etc etc). Not only that, but you might think more about where your food comes from and whether you really should be eating it.

Night y'all!