Spaghetti Squash Noodles and Why I Keep Trying

I follow a number of awesome food bloggers and they constantly inspire me to try out new foods and dishes. Recently, I noticed that spaghetti squash was popping up a lot on different sites as a gluten-free and high-fiber replacement for noodles so I decided to give it a whirl.

spag squash 1

As I was preparing to cook my lovely squash, I began to have some serious doubts. You see, sometimes when I am making something new for my family a little voice pops up in my head that says “the kids probably aren’t going to like this….in fact they’ll probably hate it….maybe I should make them something else to be sure they are getting enough to eat.” Do you ever do this? I seriously contemplated preparing a pot of regular noodles (that I know the kids love) just to hedge my bets.

But after staring at the yellow squash for a few minutes I decided to go for it. Ultimately, I want my family (myself included) to broaden our experience of food and to continue to be open to trying new things. If I relent and make a separate and often nutritionally lacking alternative, I’m essentially sending the message that healthy food is an option instead of the best and only choice.

According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study; “Children are our future and it just makes common sense that the food they become accustomed to will likely be the food that they prefer for the rest of their lives. In today’s society most children consume foods that will produce serious adult onset diseases down the road, and they do not eat the foods that may offer dramatic protection.”

And in his book “Disease Proof Your Child Dr. Joel Fuhrman states: “As parents, we want what is best for our children. We would never intentionally harm them- in fact, we make sure to get them the best possible care, read to them, play with them, and ensure their safety at home, at school and at play. But when it comes to feeding them, somehow we don’t know what’s best……Most children in developed countries eat less than 2% of their diet from natural plant foods and move into adulthood eating 90% of their caloric intake from dairy products, white flour, sugar and oil.”

So I cooked the squash in the oven, whipped up my favourite tomato sauce on the stove top and lovingly served up heaping bowls of spaghetti squash noodles. And what was the outcome? Well, the older 2 took a few good bites (with slightly pained expressions) and declared that it wasn’t their favourite dish as they scraped the remainder into the wet garbage. And the toddler put a bite in his mouth, made a disgusted face and spit it all back out into his bowl. He even dramatically scraped the yellow bits off of his tongue with his fingers. Not good!

But that isn’t going to stop me. Oh sure we’ll still have regular noodles from time to time but I will keep offering up unique plant-based foods for my family to experience. My hope is that they will learn to love vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains as much as the less healthy alternatives and continue to enjoy nutritionally rich diets throughout their lives.

Oh and I should mention that the kids were mysteriously hungry shortly after dinner so we had a huge bowl of popcorn about an hour later…..you might want to keep that in mind when you prepare this dish the first time ; )

Spaghetti Squash Noodles

spag squash 2

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the stem off of the squash and then slice it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and guts. Brush the insides with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 40-50 minutes depending on the size of your squash. You will know that it’s ready if the “noodles” separate easily with a fork. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then scrape the inside of the squash with a fork to produce the noodles.

Place the noodles in a bowl and top with your favourite sauce.

Enjoy! (and keep trying)

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Protein Packed Hash Browns

I almost called this post “Holy Crap She Is Actually Posting a Recipe!” because it’s been so freakin’ long since I shared a food idea on my blog. Yes I am still cooking- although perhaps thawing and reheating would better describe my time in the kitchen of late. And I must give credit where credit is due and mention my sweet hubby who has also been doing a lot of the cooking (ahem…ordering in) as we’ve been adjusting to a busier schedule.

The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favourite magazines Vegetarian Times. Anyone who has ever said that a plant-based diet is boring should pick up a copy of this mag and browse through the pages. Beautiful, delicious and creative dishes fill every issue and I always attempt to make at least one recipe from my monthly edition.

These hash browns are savoury and a bit spicy so feel free to omit the cayenne if you are making them for the kids. I served them with pancakes for a “breakfast for dinner” kind of night and they were a huge hit. You could also serve them alongside a big salad and a hunk of baguette for a hearty lunch or dinner. Oh and a tip from my family – a shot of ketchup takes these babies to the next level!

Protein Packed Hash Browns (adapted from Vegetarian Times, Sept 2013)

hash browns

1 package of extra-firm tofu (organic and non GMO), rinsed, patted dry and cubed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow pepper, chopped
5-6 yellow fleshed potatoes, cubed
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 pinch cayenne
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the cubed tofu and sauté for 5 minutes, flipping a few times until the chunks are lightly browned. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.

Add the other 1 tbsp. of oil to the same pan and sauté the garlic, onion, yellow pepper and potatoes for approximately 10 minutes or until potatoes are starting to brown. Toss in the tofu and add the spices. Saute for 7-8 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender and browned. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

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!

Raw Cauliflower “Rice” Salad

I learned in a Raw Cooking Class with Meghan Telpner that if you simply whir cauliflower in your food processor you end up with a grain-like consistency. It’s actually very cool and tastes remarkably like rice. And it has the added benefit of featuring a cruciferous veggie that is often overlooked but comes loaded with antioxidants, fiber and anti-inflammatory properties.

cauliflower rice

In a continued effort to not turn on my stove during our current heat wave, I thought this was the perfect time to experiment with more raw foods and thus this salad was conceived. My husband and I both enjoyed it but the kids only ate a small amount and found it a bit too tangy with all of the lemon juice. I might actually hold off with the lemon the next time I make it and let the kids control how much they put into their own servings.

The easiest way to prepare this rice is to use the “S” blade on your food processor or you can simply grate the cauliflower with a hand grater. If it is over processed it will become watery and mushy so be sure to pulse the florets slowly in your processor. Oh and word of warning – raw cauliflower may make you a bit gassy so don’t overindulge in your first sitting unless you are prepared to blow your family off the couch later in the evening if you know what I mean ; )

Raw Cauliflower “Rice” Salad

cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 pepper (the colour of your choice), chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 handful fresh basil, chopped
12-15 black olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Break cauliflower into pieces and pulse in a food processor using an “S” blade until you achieve a rice-like consistency. Work in batches so that you don’t overload the processor and end up with big chunks- you want it all to be even and fine. Place the finished “rice” into a large bowl.

Stir in cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, olives, cilantro and basil. Add oil, lemon and salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Serve cold.

Enjoy!

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!

Chocolate Fondue Fun

We recently had our good friends and their 4 children stay with us for the weekend. There were 11 of us in total and I really wanted to cook a homemade meal for everyone to enjoy. Coming up with a delicious plant-based dinner to please the entire crowd took some serious thinking and planning – but the dessert was an absolute no-brainer. It had to be chocolate fondue!

corbin

Doesn’t that adorable face just say it all?! I guarantee you this dessert will elicit loads of giggles, squeals of delight and gobs of chocolate on hands, clothes, the floor and all over faces. What fun! And hey – everyone will be eating a ton of fruit and soaking in antioxidants from the chocolate. It’s win-win.

You can get fancy and purchase a proper chocolate fondue set but I just melt my chocolate in a saucepan and then transfer it to a bowl, put it in the middle of a fruit platter, hand out some forks or wooden skewers and let the good times begin.

7 children and 4 adults – CHAOS. Lifeguarding the kids in the pool – STRESSFUL. Trying to reminisce about university days over the cacophony – TRICKY. Losing a euchre tournament to the guys yet again – FRUSTRATING. Sipping wine and watching chocolate drip down our smiling kid’s faces- PRICELESS.

Chocolate Fondue

fondue 6

1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan or regular)
1 tsp coconut oil
2 bananas, chopped
1 container or strawberries, washed and stems removed
1/4 pineapple, cut into chunks
3 apples, sliced
Optional: marshmallows, plain cookies or cake cut into cubes, pretzels, orange slices, grapes, kiwi – or anything you love dipped in chocolate!

Cut up fruit and other dipping items and lay them out on a large tray or platter.
Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Place in the middle of the fruit tray.
Hand out skewers or forks and enjoy!