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A Stew That Tastes Like Christmas (to me)

18 Mar

Lentil Stew
I know it’s almost Spring and far from Winter festivities, but the weather is making me crave cozy meals.

Most of my friends and family have Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that consist of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.  This year my family Christmases had those things plus more.

Being the vegetarian of the group, I usually bring my own dish with enough to share.  This year’s dish brought on the “Mmm”s and “Ooh”s.  It was a vegan lentil stew adapted from vegan chef and cookbook author, Chloe Coscarelli.  Hers was featured in a handy nytimes blog post along with the recipe and two more recipes for soul-delighting vegan holiday mains (for those internet newbs, click the link to read the post and recipes).

It’s a lentil stew with the sweet and spicy flavours of apple, sweet potato, and curry powder.  Oh yes, curry, but it doesn’t taste just like an Indian-style lentil curry.  It’s got a different vibe.  The curry is subtle in the background and is balanced with the richness of the vegetable broth and green lentils that simmered in it.

The original recipe calls for squash instead of sweet potato and spinach instead of kale.  I put a little of my own preferences into it – and let’s face it, squash is a bit more difficult to peel than a potato (any tips on peeling butternut?).

I recommend you give these flavour combos a try.  What other ingredients do you cook using curry?  There’s a whole curry world out there, and someone’s gotta eat it.

p.s. Sorry for the lack of pics.

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Want a Sweet Treat? Man, Go Eat a Mango!

11 Mar

Until recently I would only buy bags of already cut, frozen mango.  Then I saw some whole mangos on sale for a good price and bought three!  I had been too lazy or disinterested to figure out how to pick a good mango and actually cut one.  Eating a ripe, fresh mango is such a tasty experience.  When the juicy sweetness hits my taste-buds it transports me to a tropical fruity heaven of some kind.  Yes, I’m being a little corny.  But honestly, for me , no other fruit can provide such an elated feeling!

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In general, fruit is like natures fast food.  It often comes in its own edible wrapping.  It’s easy to grab and go.  And it’s a scrumptious mid-day snack.  Mangos are a little different in that they need to be peeled and they can be quite messy – not the best fruit-on-the-go option.

1-IMG_2379That’s why I have taken to eating mangos as a dessert, at home.  I like to cut it up all fancy-like, and eat it with a bit of dark chocolate and scoop of coconut ice cream (yes, all vegan!).

Want to make your mango look all fancy too?

What you’ll need: 
– a ripe mango (soft to the squeeze with a sweet smell)
– a paring knife or small-ish utility knife
– a cutting board (to catch all the juice and mess!)

How to slice it:
1) The mango has an oblong shape, a bit like a squishy egg shape.  You’ll want to start by cutting off each of the wider, flatt-ish sides (which will become the attractively diced fruit you see above).  Watch out for the pit!  Mangos have a stone a lot like a peach, but bigger and oblong, just like the fruit it lives in.  You’ll have to cut the flesh off as close to the seed as possible (you’ll hear a kind of crunching sound and the knife won’t glide easily when you hit it).

2) After cutting off each of the fleshier flatter sides, you can slice off the other parts, so as not to waste any of the yummy fruit (I just eat this part right away, ’cause who can wait?).
The "hedgehog" style is a common way...

3) Now you should have two flatter, fruity sides to work with.  Much like cutting an avocado, if you’ve ever done that, you’ll want to hold the oblong half in your palm – flesh up, skin down.  Now run the knife through the flesh vertically, just until you hit the skin (but not through the skin!).  Do the same thing horizontally, making a checkerboard pattern.  Now you’ve got your dice!

4) Gently push the skin side so it’s now concave and the inner flesh is now a convex shape with diced chunks sticking out of it (as pictured above).

That’s it!  It’s so pretty and impressive.  You can do this for your own enjoyment or present your beautiful mango dessert to your dinner guests.  Such a sweet treat to behold!

The First Day and Just Getting Started

1 Mar

It’s officially the first day of my month of vegan-only eating.  And I’m pumped!  Last night I went out and bought a few items that I would consider staples in the process of converting to an animal-free diet.

Some of these items include:

  • agave syrup (as an alternative to honey which is what I usually use, along with maple syrup)
  • quinoa (one of my fave grains/seeds for its high nutrient profile, with all the amino acids a new vegan needs)
  • WAY TOO MANY types of non-dairy milk – unsweetened almond, unsweetened soy, and a chocolate/mint soy that I have previously tried during the holidays (so good in coffee)
  • Bengal Spice tea, which is like chai tea except there’s no caffeine.  It’s so good with a bit of maple syrup and almond milk.
  • chocolate chunks for baking (these ones are semi-sweet and non-dairy with no soy either).  Baking is one of my favourite hobbies, so I gotta have chocolate in the chip or chunk form.
  • greens – spinach and kale (great for anything from soups and stews to salads or just to eat on the side)

In addition to these I already have:  vegan buttery-spread, lots of fruit, dark chocolate, carrots, potatoes and other vegetable basics, and 3 kinds of mustard (my favourite condiment).

For my first vegan breakfast I decided on a quinoa porridge with vanilla almond milk and some frozen mango chunks cooked-in.  Then I added some sliced bananas, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup.  I made this with the leftover quinoa I had waiting in the fridge.  Pretty convenient!

Quinoa Porridge with Mango and Banana

Quinoa Porridge with Mango and Banana

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I really enjoyed this (with some of that Bengal Spice tea)!  You have to be okay with a quinoa flavour and texture to begin with.  It’s a bit nutty and is high in fibre with a slight grit to it.  That sounds weird, but if you’ve ever had quinoa, you know what I’m saying, right?

Quinoa has been touted for its healthy protein, fibre, and mineral content – and it’s gluten-free and therefore safe for folks who are sensitive to the gluten found in wheat.  Here’s what the Whole Grains Council organization website has to say about it.

Well, how about that?

This weekend I plan on trying out a few more complex vegan meals (more complex than porridge at least).  I can’t wait to discover some alternatives to my usual weekend breakfast of eggs over-easy.  🙂

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