Spicy Chia Chili

Ch-ch-ch-Chia! Honestly, I think that jingle has got to go down in history as one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all times. I can’t even open a bag of chia seeds without humming the tune in my head.

chia pet 1Little did I know back in the 80’s while I was coveting my own sprouting pet that the little seeds were actually nutritional powerhouses. Chia is an amazing source of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese and phosphorus. Not bad for tiny beads that we used to slather on ceramic animals for decoration!

chia

I was inspired to make this chili after watching Dr. Ali Zentner on the Steven and Chris Show (I love those guys btw). Dr. Ali has a recipe in her book for a Chia Chili but I decided to freestyle and make up my own creation based on the ingredients that I enjoy. And that is the beauty of this recipe – you can add your favourite things (cubed potato, squash, celery, yams….whatever) and dial-up or ease off on the spices to make it just to your liking. I prepared mine in a large stock pot on the stove but I’m thinking you could also fire up your crock pot, toss in the ingredients and let them simmer all day long. Then you grab a baguette on your way home from work, breeze in the door with dinner all prepared and look like a total rock star!

Spicy Chia Chili (inspired by Dr. Ali Zentner)

chia chili

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of sliced mushrooms
1 red pepper, diced
2 vegetable or mushroom bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups of hot water
1 can organic kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can organic chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz can organic crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can organic diced tomatoes (with juices)
1 cup frozen organic shelled edamame beans
1 cup frozen organic sweet corn kernels
3/4 cup chia seeds
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon of hot sauce (I used green tabasco)
I zucchini, cubed
1 cup fresh spinach or kale leaves, finely chopped

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and red pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes longer.

Add in water/bouillon mixture, both cans of tomatoes, all cans of beans, edamame, corn, chili powder, hot sauce, jalapeno and chia seeds. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about an hour. Stir the mixture a few times and add more water if it seems to be getting too thick.

Toss in the zucchini and spinach (or kale) leaves and stir to combine. Cook for 15 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Enjoy!

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A Challenge – Thanksgiving Without The Turkey

“What is added by having a turkey on the Thanksgiving table? And what would happen if there were no turkey? Would the tradition be broken, or injured, if instead of a bird we simply had the sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, green beans with almonds, cranberry concoctions, yams, buttery mashed potatoes, pumpkin and pecan pies? It’s not so hard to imagine it. See your loved ones around the table. Hear the sounds. Smell the smells. There is no turkey. Is the holiday undermined? Is Thanksgiving no longer Thanksgiving?

Or would Thanksgiving be enhanced? Would the choice not to eat turkey be a more active way of celebrating how thankful we feel? Try to imagine the conversation that would take place. This is why our family celebrates this way. Would such a conversation feel disappointing or inspiring?” (Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals)

This coming weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada I’m issuing a big challenge to my readers, family and friends: I would like you to consider serving this holiday dinner without any meat. Do you think it’s possible? Could you add a new element to your meal by sharing with your family the reasons behind your decision to forgo the usual turkey centerpiece? (If you are interested more information about the truth of the turkey industry, you can check out this link.)

Trust me I get it- this is no easy challenge. Suggesting a Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey can elicit reactions ranging from curiosity to downright anger. But as I am midway through Brene Brown’s amazing book “Daring Greatly“, I am encouraged to test out my own bravery and vulnerability by tackling this tradition and putting my own neck on the line (I guess you could say in place of the turkey).

What do you think? Could you give it a whirl? I’m picturing you seated around a festive table with your loved ones and raising your glass of wine to say  “I am thankful for this 100% cruelty-free dinner that I can share with my family.”

If you are open and willing, here is what I will be preparing with my family this Thanksgiving as inspiration:

Tofu Stuffed Mushrooms (recipe courtesy of Vegetarian Times)

tofu stuffed mushrooms

Vegan Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

caesar done

Kym Salad

kym salad in bowl

Fresh Baguettes from Pane Fresco

baguettes

Vegan Shepard’s Pie with Mushroom Gravy

shepard's pie on plate

Vegan Caramel Apple Pie (courtesy of Healthy. Happy. Life)

apple-pie58

Whatever you decide to serve, I wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving weekend! Cheers!

Dinner Table Mix Up

I’ll admit I have been sorely uninspired when it comes to cooking lately (sorry about the lack of recent recipes) but I promise I’ll get my kitchen mojo back on once the fall weather hits, the kids are off to school and I get reacquainted with my kitchen.

In the meantime, I have been thoroughly enjoying my final week of summer holidays with the kids. We tried out a fun/interesting/slightly harsh family exercise the other night at dinner that I thought I share with you. If you are open to some real honest-to-goodness feedback about your parenting style and/or your personality – you can give it a try and see how it goes!

family dinner table

It’s very simple – all you do is mix-up your regular seating arrangement at the dinner table and then assume the identity of the person who normally sits in that seat. You can also do this if it’s just you and a partner by simply switching chairs. When we tried it out my husband was me, the toddler was my 9-year-old daughter, my daughter was the toddler, I was my 12-year-old son and the 12-year-old was my husband. Instead of setting any ground rules, we just decided to go with the flow and see where the experiment took us and it was quite funny and very enlightening.

Although I’ll bet you think you have a pretty good idea of how you act towards others, it’s most interesting to see how you come across from someone else’s perspective. Personally, I think my hubby was being a little too over-the-top as me….I mean am I really such a money spending, veggie pushing, overly enthusiastic, self-improvement junkie? (note to self: tone it down already!)

This can also be very helpful if you are experiencing any challenges within your family dynamic. Because you are all role-playing, it provides a fun and safe environment for your children to express things that may be bothering them. For example, in the course of our mixed up dinner, my daughter was able to share her feeling that my husband and I dote on the toddler and that we are always on his side. It’s not always easy to hear these things but it helped us gain a better understanding of something that was hurting her- and perhaps causing her to act out against her little brother.

I encourage you to mix-it up at your next family dinner and please share your experience in the comments below. My kids had so much fun that they’ve asked to do it twice more and each time we take on the role of someone different. If you are doing this with children, I would suggest you remind them not to make any personal attacks – keep the tone as positive as you can. And have fun with it! It’s refreshing to try on someone else’s role for a change and I’m betting you’ll learn something about yourself in the process.

Barbecued Potato Salad

Potatoes are a fan favourite in my household. French fried, baked, hash browns, mashed…you name it the kids will gobble them up. And nothing says summer like a good potato salad so I decided to tinker with an old recipe to amp up the healthy ingredients while still putting the spotlight on the almighty spud.

potato

I was planning to bake the potatoes in the oven but I couldn’t bear to heat up the house any more during this warm summer so I lined my cookie sheet with tin foil and popped those babies onto the BBQ to roast. And in the end I think this made the salad taste even better!

I used a combination of yellow and sweet potatoes but you could use just one variety if you want a more uniform taste. It was delicious when the potatoes were still warm right off the bbq but even better the next day after all of the ingredients had mixed together in the fridge overnight. I’m thinking this would also be a winner at a summer picnic or potluck. And feel free to add in any veggies and herbs you love to make this salad your own…..if you are like my toddler you might also want to throw on a little ketchup as an extra dressing and call it “French Fry Salad”. Hey – whatever works.

Barbecued Potato Salad

potato salad 2

5-6 yellow flesh potatoes, cubed
1 large sweet potato, cubed
1 can organic mixed beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp. parsley flakes
2 tsp sea salt (plus more for seasoning)
Fresh black pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Dressing:

1/4 cup flax oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil

Place potatoes, onion and garlic in a large bowl. Toss with oil, paprika, turmeric, parsley, sea salt and black pepper. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and either bake in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes or grill on the BBQ for 30-40 minutes over medium high heat.

potato salad 1

Put the cooked potatoes and veggies in a serving bowl and toss with mixed beans, cucumber, peppers and fresh cilantro.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a whisk. Pour over potatoes and veggies and toss to combine. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Billy Bob’s Fresh Pasta Sauce

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and although my dad was a very involved parent, my mom definitely did all of the cooking. And judging by most of my friends I think that is pretty much the norm for many men of my dads age…..and more than a few men today (yes I’m talking to you Mark).

So it never ceases to amaze me when I come upon a guy of my dad’s generation who can actually cook. My parent’s friend Bill is not only a brilliant chef but he is also a passionate lover of food, a great cooking teacher and an all round super guy. This is a man who will excitedly chat about his technique for “chiffonading” basil, is more than happy to share his homemade jam and relish and has been known to host a men’s only cooking class in his cottage kitchen for his biking buddies. Impressive!
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Black & White Rice Pilaf

I like to bring a good plant-based dish or two when I go to a friend’s house for a dinner to guarantee that there will be something for me to eat. I never want my host or hostess to feel like I am a pain in the butt or high maintenance so I always pop a veggie appetizer and/or main course quietly on the table and then I can relax and enjoy a glass of wine and the good company.

This salad is light, refreshing and darn tasty (if I do say so myself) and tastes best at room temperature so it is perfect to tote along to a dinner party, picnic or potluck. I also like to make this dish for lunch or a light dinner at home although I have got some push back from my kids in the past because of the “black” rice. However, once they tasted it they had to admit that aside from the colour, it actually tastes pretty much the same as the white rice that they already enjoy.
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Warm Quinoa Salad with Fresh Basil & Toasted Almonds- Plus 4 Shout Outs

When our family switched to a more plant-based diet I had to rethink mealtime. When I could no longer plan my dinners around a centerpiece of meat, I had to get creative and learn about other satisfying options and healthy sources of protein. Trust me this took some adjusting, many spectacular flops and more than a few bags of Yves “Veggie” Nuggets before I had a repertoire of family friendly selections.

Once the warmer weather hits, I like to have the ingredients on hand to whip up salads for dinner that are light and refreshing but also pack a punch nutritionally for my active family. This quinoa dish is yummy and loaded with healthy protein, fresh veggies, herbs and nuts and is perfect for a pre-soccer game meal. I served this alongside a crisp green salad and a sliced baguette and everyone seemed to enjoy it (including the toddler who I passed the quinoa off on as rice).

Try this one out on your family- even as a side dish to see how it goes over. I find by serving up different foods and making sure to appreciate my children for their openness to trying new things (before they’ve even put a taste in their mouths) seems to make them feel proud of themselves and increases the likelihood that they will at least eat of bite or two of my latest creation. But you may want to keep a bag of veggie nuggets in the freezer just in case!

Warm Quinoa Salad with Fresh Basil & Toasted Almonds

quinoa salad 1

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
2 large tomatoes, finely diced
3 mini cucumbers, finely diced
1 handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 cup raw almonds
1-2 tbsp. tamari
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Place almonds on cookie sheet and toast for 7-10 minutes, shaking a couple of times to prevent burning. Cool and then slice or chop using a sharp knife.

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil. Rinse quinoa 2-3 times under cold running water and then add to the water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes until water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in a large bowl. Add quinoa and nuts and toss to combine. Toss with tamari, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.
Enjoy!

*BONUS– 4 Shout Outs

Don’t you just love good customer service?! I’ve had a few amazing experiences lately that I wanted to share:

1. My youngest somehow managed to crack my iPhone OtterBox. When I went to a local electronics store to buy a new one, the salesman informed me that these cases have a lifetime warranty and that if I contacted the company they would send me a new one for free. I wasn’t 100% convinced this would actually happen but sure enough after forwarding a picture of my broken case along with the serial number, I received a brand-spanking new Otterbox in the mail within 3 days. Awesome!

otter box

2. On my recent trip to NYC, I bought a fabulous new yoga top at lulu lemon that I was dying to wear to class. But when I went to put it on I realized that I had purchased the wrong size. Damn! I’d already thrown out the receipt but I thought I’d bring it back to a local lulu lemon to check about the possibility of trading it in. They were only too happy to accommodate and quickly did a return for my NY shirt and made sure I left with the right size. Woohoo!

lulu lemon

3. I was driving through a local Starbucks this week and noticed a new offering- “Zesty Black Bean and Quinoa Wrap”. At least in my area, this is the first vegan option on their food menu and I think that is totally amazing. Way to go Starbucks! Now if I could just get them using almond milk in their green tea lattes……

startbucks wrap

4. Our iPad takes a lot of abuse and inevitably the sticky fingers, being toted all over the place and the relentless hammering on the screen during game play results in problems with how the poor thing runs. Recently we couldn’t get it to work at all so I headed off to our local Apple store to see if it could be resuscitated. When I walked in (accompanied by my little guy in the stroller) I was disheartened to see that the store was absolutely packed with customers. Of course my son picked that instant to start freaking out and I felt the uncontrollable urge to burst into tears. However, within seconds a lovely customer service associate approached and asked if he could help me out. He said he was a dad himself and he saw the “I-might-lose-it-at-any-moment” look in my eyes. In less than 5 minutes he had our iPad cleaned up and running perfectly – and he didn’t charge me a cent! Incredible!

apple store

In each case, I went straight home and fired off an email to the respective head offices complimenting the company on exemplary customer service. As quick as most of us are to complain about mistreatment and minor injustices, I think it’s equally important to recognize when people go above and beyond to treat their customers with kindness, compassion and generosity. Thanks so much to OtterBox, lulu lemon, Starbucks and Apple.

Have you experienced good customer service lately? Share your story in the comments!