What I’ve Been Eating!

Recently, I cooked the Tofu and Vegetable Cacciatore on Roasted Spaghetti Squash from Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen.  I had fun cooking with mushrooms- for the very first time ever!  I also liked that the recipe made five servings, each with about 310 calories, 10 grams of fat, 11 grams of fibre and 17 grams of protein!  That packs a great vegetarian punch!

Since the oven was hot from roasting the spaghetti squash, I also decided to whip up a simple roasted vegetable pasta.  This is quite possibly the easiest fancy pasta dish ever!

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Curried Coconut and Chickpea Soup

Need a quick soup fix?  Curried Coconut and Chickpea soup can be made in twenty minutes, using mostly ingredients from your pantry.  The flavours are fresh, the texture is comforting, and it’s a good source of vegetarian protein.  Serve alone, topped with a scoop of brown rice, or as part of a Thai-inspired vegetarian meal.

Curried Coconut and Chickpea Soup (Serves four.)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp Thai-style curry paste (I used A Taste of Thai’s red curry paste), or to taste
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Heat the olive oil.  Add the red onion and saute until soft.

Add jalapeno and bell pepper, saute until soft.

Add garlic and curry paste, saute five minutes.

Add chickpeas and tomatoes, saute five minutes.

Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for thirty minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and lime juice.  Reheat if needed.

Enjoy as is, or partially puree with an immersion blender (as shown).

Nutritional Estimate: Click here.  (Yup, that will be my Spark Recipes profile!)

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Catalan Couscous Salad

I’ve been hooked on Catalan Couscous Salad since I first found it in Appetite for Reduction: Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Meals. This awesome cookbook features lots of healthy, low-fat, low-cal vegan recipes.  I love it because unlike other vegan cookbooks, the recipes feel natural- not full of vegan cheese, vegan mayo, vegan milk, etc.  The cookbook is written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz who also has a vegan blog called Post Punk Kitchen.  The combination of chewy spinach and fluffy couscous makes it a bit of a messy salad (you might have to vacuum after!) but the delicious homemade romesco sauce pairs perfectly with sliced pears and truly does evoke the flavours of Barcelona (I should know- I lived there!).

For the complete salad recipe, including the Romesco sauce, you can look on Google Books here.  Scroll slowly!

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Lunch in Minutes: Fresh Southwest Quinoa

Once again I was checking out 101 Cookbooks, and I stumbled across an old recipe for Heather’s Quinoa.  It looked like it would pack up nicely for a week of lunches at work, but I was concerned about the flavour profile as I had already planned an Italian-style dinner for the week.  What’s a girl with pesto-overload to do?  Look to her second-favourite herb of course!  Cilantro!  This meal goes from idea to plate (or Tupperware container) in twenty minutes, and it’s a healthy choice to boot!

Fresh Southwest Quinoa (Makes six servings.)

  • 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and stemmed
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1.5 cups dry quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes (10 halves), not oil-packed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bag baby spinach, rinsed and chopped

Combine the cilantro, pumpkin seeds, chipotle pepper, lime juice and olive oil in a blender, to make a cilantro pesto.  (Some recipes call for more olive oil, others for grated asiago.  Both are yummy, add according to your flavour and health needs.)

Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in just-boiled water until soft (about ten minutes).

In a large skillet, heat olive oil.  Add shallot and saute for five minutes.  Add tofu and saute until slightly golden.  Remove sun-dried tomatoes from water, chop and add to skillet with regular tomatoes.  Once everything is cooked, add in spinach until slightly wilted, and then add in the quinoa to reheat.

Pour the vegetables, tofu and quinoa into a large bowl, and mix in the cilantro pesto to coat.

Nutritional Estimate: 360 calories, 13 grams of fat and 17 grams of protein per serving.  A good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Riboflavin. 

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Make-Ahead Breakfast: Cocoa-Banana Whole-Wheat Pancakes

I know what I’ll be eating for breakfast tomorrow (and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday…).  And it’s full of chocolate-banana goodness!  My friend had a busy weekend and she invited me over for an energizing breakfast of whole-wheat pancakes with cinnamon.  To be honest, they fell kind of flat, but I was inspired to make my own version.  There is nothing I love like a good banana pancake (except maybe a lemon crepe), so I whipped up a quick recipe using basic ingredients that I always keep around the house.  You can make a batch of these on Sunday night and eat them for breakfast throughout the week (keep in the fridge or freezer and reheat) or serve them alongside some scrambled eggs and orange juice for Breakfast for Dinner!

Cocoa-Banana Whole-Wheat Pancakes (Makes 13 pancakes… six servings of two, and one to snack on while you cook!)

  • 1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup white flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 2 cups + 2 tbsp milk (nutrition information based on 2%)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • Cooking spray if needed

Mix together the dry ingredients.

Add in the wet ingredients and stir to combine.

Heat a non-stick pan on medium-low heat.  Spray with cooking spray if desired.  Spoon one quarter cup of batter into the pan, and heat until bubbles form throughout the pancake.  Flip and cook to set.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve immediately, or let pancakes cool and store them in the fridge or freezer.  Reheat in the microwave.

Nutritional Estimate (per pancake): 100 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams protein.  Each pancake contains nearly 15% of your recommended daily intake of calcium.

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Vegetarian Zuppa Toscana (à la Olive Garden… I think?)

I keep seeing commercials on TV here for Olive Garden, which leave me conflicted.  I’m an avid member of Chowhound, where people post comments like “their reputation for serving mediocre, bland and disappointing food is very much deserved” and the food is “consistently mediocre”.  However, I grew up in an area without an Olive Garden, and I always thought that unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks sounded like the best lunch ever.  And for a picky-eating kid, who didn’t really like meat OR vegetables, those heaping plates of pasta looked pretty appealing too!  Now I live in a city that has an Olive Garden, and I’ve eaten there twice.  Both times I’ve been simultaneously underwhelmed and excited… it’s a bit like a trip to Disneyland in July!  Sadly, Olive Garden’s unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks combo isn’t as appealing today as it would have been when I was a kid, because only one of their soups is vegetarian.  I looked online at their website and decided to try to recreate Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana at home- vegetarian style!  And it turned out great!  The “Italian sausage” breaks down a bit during a brief saute, which really flavours the broth and makes the soup taste like it was simmering on the stove for hours.

Vegetarian Zuppa Toscana à la Olive Garden (Serves six.)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package Tofurkey Italian Sausages (four sausages in total), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 new baby potatoes, halved then sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 100 grams spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream (or “milk” product of your choice)

Heat the olive oil on medium heat, then add onion and bay leaf.  Saute until translucent, then add garlic and saute three more minutes.

Add the potatoes and the Italian sausage, and saute for five minutes.  Stir frequently.

Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes.

Remove bay leaf, then add spinach.  Simmer ten more minutes.

Add cream and serve!

Nutritional Estimate: 365 calories, 18 grams of fat, 30 grams carbs, 7 grams fibre, 22 grams protein. 

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Vegetable-Packed Pasta Sauce

Here’s an easy way to up the nutrients in your comforting pasta dinner: add lots of grated vegetables!  When grated on a box grater, the little vegetable pieces cook quickly but hold their texture remarkably well.  Plus, they add all sorts of colour to your bowl (eating the rainbow is good for you!).  I can see this working really well in the fall, with grated carrots, shredded cabbage and fresh sage.  But for now, here’s how I made a summery sauce!

Vegetable-Packed Pasta Sauce (Serves six.)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 very large zucchini, grated
  • 3 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and grated
  • 1 large can whole tomatoes (and juices)
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 10 basil leaves, torn

Start by sauteing the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is translucent.

Add in the three grated vegetables and saute until just beginning to soften.

Add the canned tomatoes, breaking apart with a wooden spoon.  Add in the diced tomatoes.

Increase heat to high for a minute or two, then cover, lower heat and let simmer for thirty minutes.

Add basil and serve!

One serving of sauce contains about 115 calories, 3 grams of fat, 6 grams of fibre and 3 grams of protein.  Serve over whole-wheat pasta for the healthiest meal!

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