Veggie School Lunch #3: Homemade Hummus

I love hummus . I think I pretty much eat my body weight in the stuff each week. And lucky for me my kids like it too. I try to make it homemade as much as possible to get away from any preservatives that can be in the store-bought varieties and because I can sneak in a few power foods without the kids even knowing it.

hummus chickpeas

It’s super easy and cheap to make and thanks to a fantastic tip from one of my favourite bloggers, Deb Perlman over at Smitten Kitchen, I think unlocked the key to the most nutrient dense, fluffy and amazingly delicious hummus ever made!

Deb recently posted a tip for making hummus “ethereally smooth” and her secret is that she peels each and every little chickpea before blending them. So I used my usual kid-friendly hummus recipe and tried the extra step suggested by Deb and I have to admit it was pretty darn light and smooth!

However- did I want to shoot myself half way through peeling those chickpeas? Ummm YES! So if you are ok with moderately smooth hummus vs ethereally smooth then by all means skip that step and make the recipe with whole chickpeas.

hummus peeled

If you are going to eat this at home and nut allergies are not a factor then make it as is with the raw cashews. If it’s going to school – skip the cashews and simply add ½ to 1 cup more chickpeas.

Hummus makes a great protein-packed lunch. I usually send it in one section of the kids lunchbox alongside some sliced pita bread and veggies for dipping. It’s also great tucked into a wrap with sliced veggies and lettuce or with rice crackers or chips.

So give it a whirl and see if your kids enjoy this lunchbox delight. Because this nutrient-dense spread is a winner…whether you peel your chickpeas or not!

Homemade Hummus

3/4 cup raw cashews
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups rinsed and drained chickpeas * (see note below re: peeling if desired)
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
5-6 tbsp water (to thin as desired)

In a food processor, combine cashews and lemon juice and puree until almost smooth. Add remaining ingredients except water and puree again until smooth, adding water  as desired to thin hummus. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Season to taste with additional salt.

*If you want to try peeling your chickpeas to experience a smoother hummus texture, simply drain and rinse your cooked chickpeas and place them in a bowl. Using your fingers, simply pop the skins off and discard. Some skins come off easier than others but generally the are shed quite easily.

hummus lunchbox

Enjoy!

P.S. I have been coveting the Deb Perlman’s new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook at Chapters. It’s going to be my next cookbook purchase. Has anyone bought it yet? Comment below and let me know what it’s like!

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Spelt Chocolate Chip Muffins with Date Puree

I don’t think I ever knowingly ate a date until I was in my 30’s (sorry if this is untrue mom but I really don’t remember ever eating one). And now I think it’s safe to say that I eat them pretty much every day.

spelt muffin date pic

Dates are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber and super sweeteners for baking, a great caramel substitute, a delicious smoothie addition and add just the perfect amount of sugary flavouring to a coffee-free latte. They are also a great snack for a sweet-tooth like myself and can keep chocolate cravings at bay at least half of the time.

I recently stumbled upon a yummy recipe for date puree that makes the perfect addition to a nutrient-dense muffin. And the most amazing thing about these muffins is that they have absolutely no added refined sugar. None! The homemade date puree provides the sweetness – with a little chocolate thrown in for good measure.

These are not gluten-free but I did use light spelt flour in place of regular flour. Spelt is a distant cousin to wheat that boasts an impressive 7,000 year history and is therefore considered an ancient grain. Dr. Andrew Weil states:

Spelt requires less fertilizer, and is more resistant to disease and pests than other forms of wheat thanks to its tough outer hull. Spelt provides a broader range of nutrients than other members of the wheat family; it’s high in manganese, vitamin B2, niacin, thiamin and copper

– Because spelt contains less gluten and is more easily digestible than wheat, many people with wheat sensitivities or allergies find that they are able to tolerate it. However, because spelt is a wheat relative containing a moderate amount of gluten, it is always unsuitable for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and sometimes even for those with wheat intolerance.

spelt muffin spelt pic

These muffins are delicious but quite dense so they are perfect for a hearty mid-morning or afternoon snack. FYI- I also brought them along in the car for my Dancing Girls and they all loved them!

Chocolate Chip Spelt Muffins (adapted from Refresh, Ruth Tal)

Date Puree:

spelt muffin date puree 2
2 1/2 cups medjool dates, pitted
2 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on low heat for approx. 30 minutes.

spelt muffin date puree

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, place in a food processor or blender and puree. Store in the fridge.

Muffins:

spelt muffins
2 cups unsweetened organic soymilk
1 1/3 cups canola oil
2 cups Date Puree
1 cup chocolate chips
6 cups spelt flour
4 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt

Coconut oil for greasing muffin tins

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly oil 2 regular sized muffin trays with coconut oil.

Stir together the milk, oil, date puree and vanilla.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add wet ingredients to dry and combine to form a smooth batter.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let muffins cool in the pans before removing from trays. Enjoy!

Broccoli and Potato Fritters

In my ongoing search for new and exciting ways to served broccoli to my kids, I stumbled upon a recipe for broccoli fritters. Aha! Bite sized, crispy and something that can potentially be dipped in ketchup…I think we have a winner!

broccoli fritters - broc pic

I made this recipe vegan by substituting nutritional yeast flakes for the parmesan cheese in the original and using flax eggs in place of real ones. I also added some potato to give them a bit of a potato pancake taste which I could then pass off on the toddler as a “french fry”. 

Nutritional yeast flakes add a cheesy flavour and are very important in a vegan or vegetarian diet as they are one of the few non-animal sources of B-12. They are also rich in folic acid, 18 amino acids, protein, biotin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, chromium and selenium. Most nutritional yeast is grown on beet sugar or molasses and then fermented and dried so it is gluten-free and non-yeast forming in the body. I use it often in my homemade hummus, sauces and even sometimes on popcorn to add a cheesy taste.

broccoli fritters - nut yeast pic

I served these fritters for dinner to the kids and I brought them along in the car for my Dancing Girls and they all seemed to like them. Now that the girls know I’ve written about them as my taste-testers on a past post, they are always eager to try something new and offer up their comments.  I will say they weren’t as popular as the muffins with chocolate chunks but in fairness that is quite a hard act to follow ; )

There are a few stages to making these patties but they are really quite easy so don’t be put off by the steps. A few fritters and a green salad would be a nice lunch or light dinner and they also keep well in the fridge and were easy to reheat the next day.  I popped them into a wrap with some hummus and spinach for a quick and delicious lunchtime snack.

These little fritters are super yummy and taste good plain but you can take them to the next level if you dip them in sour cream or vegan sour supreme… or ketchup if you’d like ; )

Broccoli and Potato Fritters (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

fritters done

2 large potatoes, boiled
2 cups of broccoli, chopped small and steamed
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tbsp of olive oil (plus 1 tbsp for mashing potatoes and broccoli. You may need to add more to the frying pan as well)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp milled flax seeds and 1/2 cup of water)
½ cup AP flour (or gluten-free flour of choice)

Boil the potatoes until they are soft enough to be pierced easily with a fork. Drain and set aside in a medium bowl.

Steam the broccoli until tender but still brilliant green. Drain and add to the potatoes. Add a tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of sea salt and mash together lightly – there can still be some chunks.

fritters broc and pot

Combine flax egg, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic, flour and salt and pepper. Add to the potato and broccoli mixture and stir to combine.

fritters batter

Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil over med/high heat in a frying pan. Using your hands, form the broccoli potato mixture into small patties. Place 4 patties on the pan leaving space between them so they get crispy. Cook approx 4 minutes per side until they are golden brown.

fritters in pan

Remove cooked fritters from pan and put them on a paper towel lined plate to soak up some of the extra oil. If you are serving them right away, pop them into a warm oven to keep them hot.

fritters in pan 2

Serve with vegan sour cream (I like Sour Supreme). Enjoy!

Why I Love My Vitamix and a Starter Green Smoothie Recipe

I took a vegan cooking class a few years ago and in the course of preparing the food, the instructor was extolling the virtues of her high-powered blender called a Vitamix. I clearly remember thinking at the time that anyone who would spend $600 on a blender was certifiably nuts and I would never make such a foolish purchase.

vitamix 1

Fast forward to today and I seriously can’t imagine my life without my beloved Vitamix blender. I use this thing at least twice every single day and often three and four times. I make smoothies, lattes, sauces, hummus, batter, soup, ice cream, salad dressings  and more. Heck – I even travel with it when I can (yes my family was actually vitamixing green smoothies in our hotel room at Darien Lake this past summer! Hey – we needed something to balance out the Dippin’ Dots and kettle corn ; )

vitamix green smoothie

It is so much a part of my everyday life and so vital to my plant-based diet that I would seriously break down and cry if I had to go without it. This little baby pulverizes greens so that a kale and banana smoothie is green, chunk free and delicious. It can blend nuts to liquid in seconds, turn garlic cloves to smooth mush and break down a whole apple – core and all- in under 30 seconds. I’ve even heard it can crack through avocado pits but I haven’t personally put this to the test.

And as if this wasn’t enough – I am now even more in love because after an accidental tumble off of our counter and a resultant crack in the pitcher base – the lovely folks at Vitamix graciously sent me a brand new carafe for free!

So am I telling you that you simply must buy one? Well kind of. Trust me I get it – this is a big purchase.  And for a blender?! Seems nuts eh? But it can and will change your life if you embrace the power of this mighty little machine. And FYI – Vitamix has a travelling road show at Costco locations in Canada year-round so if you are lucky enough to catch them while they are in your local store you can get $100 off of the regular price.

If you decide to take the plunge and purchase a Vitamix or if you own one but you haven’t dusted it off for a while, here is a basic recipe for a Green Smoothie that we make a variation of in our house every single morning. I rotate the greens, fruits and veggies but I always like to start my day with this nutrient-packed beverage and I insist that the kids down them too….even if we are about to ride the Viper at Darien Lake. Happy blending!

Basic Green Smoothie

vitamix green smoothie 3

4-6 cups of packed spinach
1/2 of a cucumber
1 ripe banana
1/4 of a medium pineapple
3-4 cups of frozen strawberries
Enough water to cover

Blend for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Enjoy!

Love, Gratitude, Guest Posting and Granola

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

valentine

I hope your day is filled with  homemade Valentine’s cards, tons of hugs and kisses, dozens of roses, lots of chocolate and perhaps even some champagne to celebrate this day of love.

As a special Valentine’s treat for me – my very good friends over at the Parenting Network invited me to do a guest post for their blog and they have put it up today. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to combine two of my passions – family and food. Thank you Beverley and Doone!

You can read my guest post  here to find out how I use their principle of LRC (Love, Respect, Confidence) around meal times at my house and also get my yummy recipe for Vanilla Cinnamon Granola. You might also want to check out some of the courses offered by the Parenting Network – their live classes for those who live in the Toronto area and teleseminars and audio learning series for those farther afield.

Happy Valentine’s and here’s wishing you and your family lots of love today!

Decadent Vegan Brownie Bites

I have to admit that I was feeling quite sorry for myself last week. It’s been a rough winter for colds and bugs in our house and my little guy was still battling a nagging cough, my husband plunked his extensive upcoming travel schedule in front of me for my (insert eye roll and loud sigh here) perusal, I was plotting out the kids spring activities on the calendar and it was not looking pretty AND I just finished probably the most heartbreakingly beautiful book I’ve read in ages and sobbed my way through the last 20 pages (The Fault In our Stars…in case you want to join me at the tissue box). There was only one thing to do – make something chocolatey. And fast!

These little brownie gems are the perfect size for a small indulgence. They are rich, fudgey and decadent without being full eggs, butter and unhealthy fats. Don’t get me wrong – they are definitely not health food but they are much healthier than your average store-bought brownie and they’re gluten-free to boot. And heck sometimes we all need a little treat!

The smell of chocolate wafted through the house and the whole family could barely wait for them to cool before we all tucked in to one or two of these little brownies. Mmmmm…chocolate. Things are definitely looking up!

Vegan Brownie Bites (adapted from BabyCakes, Erin McKenna)

brownie on plate

1 ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp xanthum gum
1 tsp salt
½ cup melted coconut oil (plus more for greasing muffin tins)
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup hot water
1 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease mini muffin tins with coconut oil.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, arrowroot, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthum gum and salt with a wire whisk to remove any lumps.

Add the applesauce, oil, vanilla and hot water and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins until they are 2/3 full.

brownie in pan

Bake on the center rack for 12-14 minutes – rotating the pans 180 degrees halfway through to ensure even baking. Allow the  brownies to cook in the pans until ready to serve. Enjoy!

(P.S. my daughter just made the blue rainbow cupcake plate at Crock-A-Doodle and wanted to show it off. Cute eh?)

brownie 1

The Importance of Making Mistakes

“Mistakes are simply opportunities for learning”

This has been my parenting motto for a long time. It took me a while to get my head around the concept but thanks to some amazing mentors, I’ve grown to embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning. Every spilled glass of juice, every blow-out sibling fight, every broken glass, every mommy freak out I remind myself of this mantra. Sometimes I say it to myself through gritted teeth and sometimes it takes me a few minutes (or hours) to remember it but I always come back to learning the lesson from each misstep.

mistakes 1

This might sound extreme but the fear of failing can be paralyzing. Think of the child who won’t raise their hand in class for fear of sounding dumb. Or the kid who won’t try a new sport because they don’t want to fail at it and look foolish.  And the same goes for adults – how often have you had a brilliant idea or thought but never shared it because of the fear of what someone might say? Or had a big blowout with your child and been too afraid to just apologize and move on because you don’t want to admit your shortcomings?

Trust me, I’ve been there. But I have to say it really does make life more enjoyable if you can start to let go of the fear of mistakes and just embrace them as opportunities for learning and then move on. Ultimately, we set the tone for how mistakes are handled in our home and if our kids are ok flubbing up from time to time they will try more things, be more adventurous  and in the end have a freer, happier and richer experience of life.                  

The same principle can be applied to my cooking. As I’ve transitioned to plant-based diet I’ve made a lot of clunkers along the way. And I mean A LOT! (cakes that never set, cookies as hard as rocks, lentil meatloaf that stuck to the tinfoil, ranch-flavoured kale chips that made my oldest son’s gag reflex kick in. I could go on but you get the idea ; )

Last night I had the best-laid plans to make a delicious vegetable pot-pie that I was planning to share on my blog. Tons of hearty winter veggies, a thick gravy, hand-rolled pastry….it all sounds so good right? Well the reality was a different story. It was a runny unattractive mess and the taste was somewhere between bland and inedible.

pot pie 1

My husband (bless his heart) ate 2 helpings but I can always tell when he doesn’t like something by the amount of time he holds it in his mouth – like he’s trying to convince himself to swallow. And this sat in his mouth for quite some time. The kids barely touched theirs and I threw mine in the food waste bin after only a couple of small tastes.

So here’s what I learned from this mistake:

  1. Soy sauce and cornstarch do not a gravy make.
  2. Watery veggies will make a pastry mushy and impossible to cut.
  3.  Sunbutter and jam sandwiches aren’t a half -bad Sunday night dinner.

pot pie 2

Yep – I messed up. But after a moment of self-pity, I was able to laugh it off and enjoy the rest of my evening with my family. I encourage you keep trying, learning and making mistakes. Sometimes we all fall on our faces but if we keep moving forward we will be more likely to stumble upon something amazing (I’m thinking specifically of the rich fudgey brownies I turned out for dessert….I’ll share those  tomorrow!)

brownie 1