March 22, 2011

This is the easiest, tastiest and the best lentil soup recipe ever. Trust me, I have made this quite a few times now and it never fails me. It's packed full of nutritious vegetables and lentils and makes a hearty vegetarian meal.

Lentil and Kale Soup adapted from Chatelaine's Lentil, Kale and Sausage Soup

1 cup red lentils, soaked and drained
1 leek (the recipe said to only use the white parts, but I used the whole thing anyway)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
4 cups water
1/2 of a small can of tomato paste
A handful of kale (stems removed)
Salt and pepper to taste, plus 1 tbsp turmeric, curry powder, cumin and a dash of cayenne pepper sauce


1. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onions and garlic. Cook onion for a few minutes and add the spices.
2. Add the carrot and leek and add a bit more of the spice. Cook for a few minutes.
3. Add the tomato paste to the vegetable mixture. Make sure the vegetables are coated with the paste. 
4. Add the water and lentils and cook for about five minutes. Then add the kale. Let the soup simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes until the lentils and kale cook and the whole mixture thickens up.
I recommend serving it with a dollop of cottage cheese or plain yogurt on top. It's a filling soup with lots of vegetables and protein. Definitely one to try if you're planning a post Spring Break detox.
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March 15, 2011

I read a lot of food blogs. Fortunately --or unfortunately-- I have FoodGawker and TasteSpotting on my Google Reader, so I'm always sifting through great food pictures, as well as posts from my favourite bloggers.

Among the blogs I read are a few vegan blogs. I've said in previous posts that I'm not vegan, but lately I've been experimenting with the possibility of sometimes eating vegan. I'm indecisive, can you tell? I'm sure there are merits to eating both vegan or "regular," but I just don't see food as something limiting and restricting. I don't want to deprive myself of enjoying food--especially cheese, meat and eggs--because of certain guidelines or rules. I think that as long as I eat my five food groups, three meals a day and make healthy choices I shouldn't have to deprive myself.

Here are two recipes done two ways. One is the regular way I usually make it and the other is the slightly modified vegan method. Here's what I think:

1. Risotto

Here's my regular version of a classic risotto made with butter, wine, chicken broth, parmesan cheese and vegetables, plus some shrimp on top (full recipe):

Alright, admittedly quite a rich meal and probably not the healthiest of options. However, risotto for me is a "sometimes" food and often something I order at restaurants simply for that reason. I don't eat risotto every night.

Here is the "vegan" risotto I tried with a recipe from Ohsheglows, a vegan blog. This version is a Tomato and Barley risotto with a vegan "cheese" sauce. (Risotto recipe)

This was the first time I used nutritional yeast in cooking and I have to admit, it was a little weird. Nutritional yeast is often used in vegan cooking as a substitute for cheese. I use regular yeast when making bread and dough and I don't really like the smell, so the idea of actually eating yeast freaked me out a bit. I also used regular milk, so I suppose the recipe isn't completely vegan.

The "cheese" sauce (recipe) was made by pulsing cashews, milk, garlic, spices and the yeast in a food processor. The risotto included crushed tomatoes, pearl barley, nutritional yeast and milk, plus a bit of the "cheese" sauce. I was actually quite surprised by the taste. It smelled a bit weird, but didn't taste that bad. I loved the use of barley instead of rice; however, the leftovers the next day didn't taste that great heated up in the microwave. I'm still not sure about this recipe.

2. Mac and Cheese

I have been working on perfecting my butternut squash Mac and Cheese recipe for quite some time now. I've tried a few different recipes and methods in the hopes of creating the perfect cheesy mac and cheese with vegetables. The recipe I like uses milk, butter, flour and cheese to make the sauce. Like risotto, mac and cheese is a "sometimes" food for me, although in University, Kraft Dinner was an "always" food.

Obviously not the healthiest choice with tons of cheese and dairy products, but I do put vegetables like butternut squash, spinach and broccoli in it (that has to count for something, right?)

I put broccoli in this version instead of butternut squash. The vegan mac and cheese is basically pasta mixed with the "cheese" sauce from the previous recipe. Instead of cheese and butter, the cashews, nutritional yeast and milk make the creamy sauce (full recipe). I have to say, I really liked this version of mac and cheese. It has the same texture and creaminess, but without the fat of cheese, and it almost looks and tastes the same as regular mac and cheese. I was impressed with this recipe and I will definitely make it again.

In conclusion, I think it's good that I now know some healthier alternatives to my favourite comfort foods. I wasn't completely sold on the risotto and the mac and cheese was pretty good, but it's still not enough to convert me to being a vegan just yet.
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March 02, 2011

I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to cooking. I'm one of those people who thinks about what they want to make for dinner pretty much all day. I also obsessively read food blogs, recipes and cookbooks, so I'm always excited about new things to try. Mike also loves to cook, but he says he's not as creative when it comes to thinking up what to make. So to compromise, I usually text him before I come home with what I want to make and he starts making it. Then I come home and put on the finishing touches. I know, it's a little bit controlling, right? Sometimes he just makes the whole dinner and that's nice as well.

The best part of our arrangement is coming home and smelling fresh tomato sauce cooking away on the stove. We stopped buying sauce from a jar awhile back because of the sodium content. Now we make our own sauce with canned tomatoes. I love coming home to a huge plate of pasta and sauce after a long day. I just couldn't live without carbs.

Tomato sauce

Basic homemade tomato sauce

1 can of whole tomatoes (no salt added)
1/2 can of tomato paste
Pinch of sugar, salt, pepper, plus spices to taste (basil. sage, oregano, thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper sauce)
1 diced onion and shallot
1-2 cloves garlic
Splash of red wine
Vegetables: kale, tomato, zucchini


1. Heat a pot with oil, then add diced onions, shallots and garlic and sauté for a few minutes.
2. Pour in the red wine until just covering onions and let the wine boil off for a few minutes.
3. Throw in the kale, tomatoes and veggies and saute for a few minutes.
4. Add the can of tomatoes and spices, then mash the tomatoes into a pulp.
5. Add the half can of tomato paste and stir in. Add pinches of sugar the until tartness of tomatoes is corrected (about 2-3 pinches).
6. Set on low heat and stir occasionally for 50 minutes.

Pasta and tomato sauce is a basic, tasty meal that can be dressed up in many ways. For a quick eggplant parmesan, slice up an eggplant and coat the slices in oil and then add breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Roast the slices in the oven for about 30 minutes. Then top the pasta and sauce with the eggplant:

Eggplant Parmigano

Or add various toppings, such as shrimp, feta cheese, pesto or meatballs:

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