Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cooking when you’re too busy to cook

Back in August, I went through a very busy time with work – straight through two weekends, and several days that passed 12 hours. It’s not the first time I’ve done this to myself, but this time was different. I stayed sane – beyond outer appearances! Putting some extra planning into my food was no small part of this, and this little cookbook was a huge help:

 One-Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson:

http://www.amazon.ca/One-Dish-Vegan-Soul-Satisfying-Delicious-One-Plate/dp/1558328122

First, there was the Artichoke Spaghetti Pie. I loved that this recipe felt kind of fancy, but was super easy to make. Just boil the pasta, blend everything else, mix together, and bake.

Spagetti pie uncookedspagetti pie cooked

http://www.peacefulplates.com/recipes/artichoke-spaghetti-pie

The recipe makes a sizable pie, which is great for having leftovers. Not too shabby for a super quick lunch!

spagettie pie leftover

Oh man, the corn was good this year!

Then there was the chickpea and cauliflower laced Indian-Spiced Risotto. This recipe won’t replace taking a whole afternoon to cook up your favourite Indian dishes, but it’s a fantastic weeknight tribute to many of my favourite things about those meals.

Indian risotto in pot Indian risotto on plate

There is a whole chapter on chili in this cookbook! I chose the West Coast Chili because I had some lovely little zucchinis in my fridge, as well as the remnants of a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce – and I don’t think I’d ever tried adding wine to chili before (beer, yes).

West coast chili in bowlsWest coast chili on balcony table

Most of the leftovers went into the freezer for lunches, but I kept one portion out for Friday night nachos (this is another keep-your-sanity trick I’ve discovered… even if you’re going to work straight through the weekend, it still does good to mark the end of the week).

This isn’t a super thick chili, so I added some kidney beans before pouring it over the tortilla chips.

West coast chili as nachos

Overlapping ingredients is always a good thing, especially when you’re busy. In this case, zucchini, chickpeas, chilies and cilantro for Oven-Baked Indian Vegetable with Chickpeas. This is a wonderfully easy recipe as you basically throw everything together in a baking pan, then shove it in the oven.

oven roasted Indian vegetables with chickpeas

It’s rare that I make lunch from scratch when I’m busy, but I still had chickpeas on hand (I cooked my whole pressure cooker full) and mangoes were on sale.  This Smoky Chickpea Salad with Mango and Avocado is delicious! This is my favourite of all the roasted chickpea recipes I’ve tried so far, and mango worked great as the base for the dressing (I chose the mustard variation).

Smoky chickpea mango salad

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/recipe-smoky-chickpea-and-watercress-salad-with-mango-and-avocado/

Finally, so I don’t come off as more culinarily virtuous than I actually am, I should also thank vegan freezer products for helping me get through that busy stretch. Lucky for me, these are super easy to find in my neighbourhood – there are 3 separate places where I can buy vegan freezer pizza within a 10 minute walk of my apartment! Beyond pizza, other freezer favourites are Gardein seven grain crispy tenders and golden fishless filet and SoL Cuisine burgers.

Double mushroom burger

SoL Cuisine mushroom and rice burger – doubled up with a roasted Portobello. I was really hungry that night!

As for the non-food things that helped keep me sane… Living with someone who does a pretty good job of tolerating my high-gear incarnation, yoga, getting enough sleep, the adorable fuzzy company of our cat, and long summer evening bike rides to the less urban parts of the city.

River at sunsetKitten Pants

 

Quick & easy whole food vegan Thanksgiving

Off the bat, I’ll confess my idea of an easy meal isn’t everyone’s. I mean easy on the celebratory made-from-scratch scale, where it gets a 9/10. If I had to rate it as just plain easy, hmmm… maybe 6.5/10. That’s counting dessert, so still pretty good for a big, guest-worthy holiday meal!

For dinner:

Festive Chickpea Tart from Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton

http://viveleveganrecipes.blogspot.ca/2010/11/festive-chickpea-tart.html

Festive chickpea tart

I’m a pretty compulsive recipe sampler, so it’s a real tribute to this tart that I made it again this year. As I picked a rich desert, I baked it without the crust and the slices still held their shape perfectly.

Caulipots from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1637526

Who knew cauliflower is the trick to super delicious, beautifully creamy mashed potatoes!

Roasted fall veggies from the market

I loved this mix of brussels sprouts, yam and parsnips. All of these vegetables really invoke fall for me, they make for a pretty colour combination, and they taste great together. I just added a bit of olive oil and a good sprinkling of pepper, but I imagine some maple syrup would work nicely if you want to go a bit sweeter.

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Quick Gravy from Happy Herbivore: Light & Lean by Lindsay Nixon

http://happyherbivore.com/2009/07/vegan-brown-gravy/

Last year, I opted for a sage-flavoured gravy, but the spice profile of the chickpea tart is so nicely balanced I wanted to try something more neutral this time – and I also wanted something fast.

Lindsay Nixon is a self-proclaimed gravy addict, and so has a whole list of recipes you can choose from (all fat-free). It’s hard to pick a favourite, but this is definitely the one I make the most often. It truly is quick, and toasting the flour and nutritional yeast first gives an extra richness that I find kind of addictive. Being Thanksgiving, I jazzed it up with a couple of splashes of port at the end.

Traditional Cranberry Sauce from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/11/dreenas-traditional-cranberry-sauce-recipe.html

Super easy + so good = Dreena is absolutely right to claim you’ll never buy another store-bought cranberry sauce after trying it.

To drink:

Local-brewed “Coeur à Tout” crackling apple cider

http://www.micheljodoin.ca/en/our-ciders/crackling-ciders/coeur-a-tout/

I love apple cider as an accompaniment to fall meals. So seasonal and a nice balance of sweet and sharp flavours. Available in a large bottle (as opposed to the more casual feel of a 6-pack), it’s also an economical way to add the elegance of bubbles to your table.

For dessert:

Pumpkin Cheesecake (gingersnap crust option) from Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

http://www.theppk.com/2011/11/pumpkin-cheesecake-with-pecan-crunch-topping/

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OMG!!!

The day before:

Made sure I had all the pantry ingredients on hand:

Chickpeas
Tamari/soy sauce
Walnuts
Rolled oats
Frozen spinach
Dried cranberries
Veggie broth
Nutritional yeast
Whole-wheat flour
Maple syrup
Balsamic vinegar
Cashews
Silken tofu
White & brown sugar (it’s a special occasion!)
Coconut oil
Corn/arrowroot starch
Pumpkin puree
Pecans
Spices

The night before:

Left cashews and chickpeas soaking.

The morning of:

Cooked the chickpeas in the pressure cooker (or use tinned to be even quicker).

Made the Traditional Cranberry Sauce.

Made the Pumpkin Cheesecake (it needs to chill a minimum of 3 hours).

Easy afternoon:

Leisurely trip to the market for produce:

Onions
Celery
Lemons
Parsley
Potatoes
Cauliflower
Brussels sprouts (on the stock!)
Yams
Parsnips
Cranberries

Thank you Thanksgiving for making sure I squeezed in a trip while all the harvest goods are out!

IMG_1526 IMG_1524 IMG_1522 IMG_1521 IMG_1520

And there was still time for a walk in the park before starting with the rest of dinner prep!

IMG_1535 IMG_1519

Final prep:

Assemble the chickpea tart & prepare the tray of roasted veggies while the oven heats, then stick both in at the same time.

While they’re baking…

Boil the potatoes and cauliflower for Caulipots (in the same pot = wash-up friendly!).

Make the gravy. If you turn off the heat before it gets too thick, you can just leave it sitting on the stove until you’re ready to heat it up for the table.

Take the tart out of the oven and let it sit 5-10 minutes.

Mix and mash the Caulipots and turn the gravy back on.

Take the veggies out of the oven.

That’s it! Delicious and decadent, but won’t leave you feeling sluggish and heavy, dinner ready to go.