I’m eating this soup for breakfast today.  I’m not kidding.  

It’s Monday, and it’s raining. (Welcome to November in Toronto), and I spent my early morning running the kids to school, grocery shopping, and hauling out garbage bins under a blustery mist of rain, and I’m chilled to the bone.  

While I waited for my tea to steep (and organized the fridge), I remembered I had bought chopped butternut squash and some leeks the other day, and I needed to use them up.  I’ve been working on a perfect butternut squash soup for my cookbook for a while now, and wanted to test drive what (I hoped) would be the final version.   I think it hit the spot, but I’ll let you decide.

I meant to eat “breakfast food” while I was cooking it, but a flurry of activity (and lack of counter space) kept me from my morning bagel, and suddenly I was starving.  Fortunately for me, this steaming pot of golden soup, with it’s warm smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and chili flakes wafting into the air, was ready.  Lucky me!

What I love about this soup is that it’s super-easy to make (because the squash roasts in the time it takes to prep and saute the remaining ingredients), and because it’s a pureed soup – so there’s no need to worry about fancy knife skills and perfectly diced veggies.  Rough, large chops are totally fine here.  It’s ready in less than an hour and is a great fall/winter staple.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

Ingredients:

8 cups of butternut squash, cubed
1 leek, root and top discarded, and sliced into rounds
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4 tbsp olive oil, divided in half
1 vegan chicken bouillon cube
1 cup water
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp each: ground cinnamon, paprika, crushed chili flakes*
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

*you can adjust the chili based on your preference for heat.  This amount gives it a warm heat without being too spicy – but enough to know it’s there.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.

​Toss butternut squash with 2 tbsp olive oil and salt/pepper in a large bowl.  Arrange on a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until tender but not mushy.

Soak leeks in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to loosen sand or dirt.  Strain by removing leeks with a slotted spoon, leaving the water in the original bowl.  (Don’t strain leeks the way you drain pasta, otherwise you’ll just pour all the dirt and sand back on to them.)

In a large pot, heat remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat, until shimmering.  Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add leeks and garlic and cook for an additional 10 minutes until leeks are soft and wilted.

Add bouillon cube, water, vegetable broth, roasted squash and spices.  Stir well to combine, and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.  

Add 1 cup of coconut milk and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender in small amounts). Adjust salt and pepper and serve.


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This is THE spinach dip you need in your life.  Game day, girls night, holidays, Tuesdays…any reason is good enough to make this dip. It is the most spectacular dip.  Creamy and crunchy, salty, savory, and yet slightly sweet. It hits all the notes. But don’t just take my word for it, I shared it with a friend and her exact words were:  “I’d hit on that dip if I saw it at a bar.”

I think that just about speaks for itself.

The key to this dip is lots of garlic – I mean LOTS of garlic; and my homemade smoked maple tofu bacon.  The smoky sweetness of the “bacon” adds such tremendous flavor and some great texture too. Of course, you can always use a pre-made vegan bacon if that’s easier, or what you have on hand, but I really think you should try this maple smoked tofu bacon recipe – it’s like bacon candy!    

Garlicky Spinach & Bacon Dip

Ingredients:

¾ cup mayonnaise

1 ½ cups vegan sour cream

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp onion powder

2 tsp tamari or dark soy sauce

1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 10oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed and all water squeezed out

8 pieces tofu bacon, diced

1 8oz can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

8 stalks green onion, diced

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, tamari and lemon juice. Whisk until well mixed.

Add in tofu bacon, green onions, spinach and water chestnuts.  Stir to combine.

Chill for minimum 30 minutes to allow flavours to mix, then serve with tortilla chips, crackers, pita or flatbreads.

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When I was a (really little) kid, there was this restaurant my Dad used to take me to downtown (on McCaul Street in the Village by the Grange, for those who know the area).  It was called Ginsburg and Wong, and it was my first introduction to ‘fusion’ food. Well, not so much fusion in the sense that we know it today, but fusion in that it served two totally different styles of food – both of which were my favourite – old-fashioned Jewish Deli, and Chinese food.

Seriously, you could order a lean corned beef sandwich AND sweet and sour chicken balls at the same time.  To six-year-old me, this was brilliant. In some way, it probably led to my current love of taking everyday favourite foods and giving them an international twist.

Ginsburg and Wong hasn’t been around for a very long time, and even if it were there now, grown up, vegan me wouldn’t have much interest in it, but tonight’s dinner reminded me how much fun it is to mix cuisines and create something wonderful.  Like my Asian-inspired “chicken” noodle soup. 

My littlest one has been sick all week, and hasn’t has much of an appetite, but bow-tie pasta and clear soup are two things she will almost never turn down.  And with the weather being what it is (hello Fall in Canada), soup is pretty much on everyone’s mind lately. When I was sick as a kid, Lipton’s chicken noodle soup was my go-to comfort food.  That bright yellow broth and slurpy noodles…it was like a hug in a bowl. 

An acquaintance recently introduced me to the vegetarian chicken soup base at Bulk Barn (which is 100% accidentally vegan!) and it’s been my number one soup and flavour base ever since.  So off I went to make her some vegan ‘chicken’ soup. But I also had some mushrooms, green onions, smoked tofu and ginger lingering in the fridge that needed to be used up. So I grabbed a little soy sauce, hoisin and sriracha and BOOM! Asian ‘chicken soup was born.

It’s like the hugs of my childhood, with a spicy, rich twist.  

Quick and Easy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

1 package of pasta/noodles, cooked according to package directions
6 cups water
⅓ cup vegetarian chicken soup base (or two cubes of vegan chicken bouillon)
2 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, diced
1 thumb ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp vegetarian hoisin sauce 
Sriracha to taste
½ block of smoked tofu, sliced into strips


Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add white onion and saute for 5-7 minutes until soft and slightly translucent.  Add mushrooms and continue to saute until mushrooms are lightly browned and soft.  Add green onion, garlic, ginger and simmer and additional 3 minutes. 

Add water, veg soup base, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and sriracha. Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Add pasta and smoked tofu to pot. Adjust heat level (sriracha) and seasoning (soy or hoisin sauce) to taste. Serve immediately.  

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I’m going to start this post by saying no – I’m not producing these again.  It was fun while it lasted, but I no longer produce food in mass quantities for sale. That being said, a good friend of mine is slowly testing out plant-based food options and asked me if there way any way I would “pretty please” make him some of these patties.

It’s been about a year or so since I last made these – long enough for the “twitch” to wear off, so I actually gave it some thought.  I mean, when a life-long meat eater comes to you and asks you to make a plant-based version of one of his staple snacks, how do you say no?  Plus, I knew that my nine year old would be insanely thrilled to hear mommy made these again (and even more thrilled when she saw one in her school lunch the next day).

So I cleared my afternoon, pulled out the rolling pin, and got to work. I actually found it enjoyable, and a bit therapeutic.  Especially the dough part. I’ve always said there is something so calming and relaxing about rolling out dough. It’s one of the main reasons I’m so in love with baking (I’ve been a baker way longer than I’ve been a cook!)

Of course, it’s easy to feel this way when you’re making one batch.  Producing them by the thousands – by hand? Not so much. So seeing as this batch was a once-in-a-really-long-time kind of thing, I thought I’d share my recipe so everyone can make them whenever they want too. It’s a pretty simple undertaking, I promise! And if you feel inclined to double (or triple) your batch – these patties freeze absolutely beautifully!

So here it is, the official Mama Vegan #NotBeef Patty recipe.  Enjoy!

Vegan Jamaican “Beef” Patties

Ingredients:

Dough:
3 Cups all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 cup vegan margarine, cold
¾ cup cold water
1 tbsp white vinegar

Filling:

1x 350g package of veggie beef crumble
½ large onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
Scotch bonnet sauce to taste (I start with a ¼ tsp and go from there)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushroom broth (you can use vegetable broth but mushroom broth gives it a deeper, beef-like flavour)
1 ½ tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce (if you don’t have any you can use dark soy or tamari)
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp yellow curry powder
¼ tsp each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
½ tsp ground thyme

Directions:

Combine all dough ingredients in a food processor and pulse until dough is formed. Turn out onto plastic wrap and roll into a disc.  Wrap dough up and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

In a deep pan, heat oil on med-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions and saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds.  Add veggie crumble and cook for 5 minutes, allowing crumble to heat thoroughly and to blend with onions.

Add all remaining ingredients to pan, stir to combine and simmer for 5-7 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked out.  Set aside to cool.

Break off ¼ of the dough and roll out between two sheets of wax paper.  (Do not roll dough directly on counter as it will leave yellow stains from the curry powder.)   Roll the dough until it’s ¼ inch thick. Using a large cereal bowl (or any other round shape), cut out rounds.  

Place 1 ½ tsp of filling in the centre of the dough and spread out in a line slightly.  Fold over one half of the dough to form a semicircle. Press down to seal and crimp edges with a fork.  Repeat with all remaining dough.

Arrange on a lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F.  Cool slightly and enjoy!

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Let’s be honest here, eggs are a hard thing to replace. And whenever I’m asked “what’s the thing you miss most now that you’re vegan?”, my answer is almost always eggs.

They were always an easy go-to dish, and incredibly versatile.  But, knowing what I do about them, I prefer to let them be chicks, and find plant-based ways to satisfy that craving. 

It’s taken me a really long time to find a tofu scramble recipe that I deemed worthy of sharing.  Hubby and I are very particular about scrambles, and creating one that had all the elements of a traditional scramble took a lot of time and effort (and tasting!)

Most importantly, I wanted a scramble recipe that could be made using every day pantry ingredients. No searching for overpriced, egg substitutes or exotic spices.  Just simple, clean ingredients that will create the perfect eggless-yet-eggy base for breakfast (or dinner…)

What I love best about this recipe is that it’s so adaptable.  The base is the same, but you can load it up with whatever fillings you prefer.  And you can use the filling in a number of ways too (hello quiche!)

So, grab your choice of veggies, plant-based meats, and cheese alternatives and get scrambling!

Ultimate Tofu Scramble

This is our current favorite, but you can swap out our veggies for your faves, and/or add vegan cheeses and faux meats too!

Ingredients:

1 block extra firm organic tofu, crumbled.
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
4 tbsp veg broth for sauteeing (or 2 tbsp olive oil if you prefer)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp  tumeric
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a deep pan, heat veg broth or oil on med high heat.  Add onions and mushrooms and saute for 5 min until translucent.  Add garlic and saute an additional 2 min.  Add in spinach and tomatoes (or whichever veg you prefer) and saute until soft or wilted.  Add soy sauce and stir to combine.

Add tofu to the pan, along with nutritional yeast and tumeric.  Mix well to combine and cook for approx 5 min to warm through. (If the scramble is a bit dry, add more veg broth or water – 2 tbsp at a time – to make it more egg like.)
Season with salt and pepper.  Add vegan shredded cheese if using and stir until melted.  

Serve immediately, or use as a filling for wraps, quiche, etc.

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Happy first day of Autumn!

I’m celebrating it with a sick kiddo this weekend. So, to cheer her up, we decided to play around with these new Pumpkin Spice Cheerios and make a new cereal bar treat!

Regular Cheerios are a go-to cereal in our house. They are vegan (obviously), low in sugar, and fun to eat. Every once in a while, Cheerios releases a specialty flavor that is also accidentally vegan, and when that happens we get very excited! Pumpkin Spice is the newest of those flavors (Chocolate Peanut Butter and Apple Cinnamon are two others).

Since we just happened to have a bag of Dandies vegan marshmallows kicking around, we decided that a fun cereal treat was in order.

They definitely brought a smile to some little faces around here today. (They may even make it into a lunchbox treat this week – assuming they last the weekend!)

Pumpkin Spice Cheerio Cereal Bar Treats

Ingredients:

3 tbsp vegan margarine

1 283g bag of Dandies vegan marshmallows

1 306g box of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios

Directions:

Line a 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an edge hanging over each side.

In a large pot on medium-high heat, melt margarine and marshmallows until soft and gooey.

Remove from heat; stir in entire box of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios until fully combined with marshmallows. Press firmly into lined baking dish, evening out the top and corners. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour. Remove from dish and cut into squares.

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TGIF!

For my kids, this means super-special treat day in their lunch.  I usually try to keep sweet treats to a minimum during the school week, but on Fridays, the kids get an extra yummy treat in their lunch.  And they look forward to it all week!

Of course, extra special doesn’t have to mean extra sugary too. Last night we made these delicious, gluten and refined sugar free cinnamon sweet potato muffins, and the girls practically begged for them as their Friday treat. (They gave up potentially getting cookies or chocolate pudding for these!) And they were super-easy to make too.

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins (gluten free, refined sugar free)

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato, roasted (or microwaved) until soft and cooled.

3 flax eggs (3 tbsp ground flax mixed with 1/2 cup hot water and steeped for 10 min)

3/4 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp olive oil

1 /2 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground tumeric

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 
 

Directions:

Scoop out flesh from sweet potato and place in medium bowl with flax eggs, cocounut milk, oil and maple syrup.  Whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add wet mixture to dry and stir to combine.  Batter will be a bit dry. If it’s too dry to stick together, add more coconut milk – 1 tbsp at a time – until batter comes together.

Drop equal amounts into a lined muffin tray (fill each one about 3/4 full) and bake at 400°F for 30 min.


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Ahh…the granola bar. A lunchbox staple since the beginning of time.  Okay, maybe not.  But definitely since the 80s when I was in school.  They’re self-contained, quick, kid-friendly, and nowadays, available in a million nut-free versions that are safe for school.  Sadly though, it can be tricky to find ones that are nut-free AND vegan.  (And that don’t contain copious amounts of sugar – but that’s another story.)

My kids are hit and miss on granola bars (much like me).  They like the idea of them, but have never really been sold on any particular commercial brand.  Grade 4 has found some that she likes (but not loves).  Kindergarten, not so much.  If they came out with a broccoli flavoured one, she might be more excited. But the standard options out there aren’t really her thing.

So I set about creating a homemade version that was just as interesting as the packaged ones, but had less (or no) refined sugar, and incorporated real ingredients.  And of course they had to meet all our lunchbox requirements (vegan, nut-free).

What my kids love most about these granola bars is that they taste amazing. What I love is how flexible the recipe is.  Right now we are hooked on a dark chocolate cherry version, but you could easily swap out the cherries for any other dried fruit and skip the cocoa powder too.  Mixed berry. Apple cinnamon. Tropical Fruit Medley. The combinations are endless.  

These granola bars harness the natural sweetness of medjool dates to give them the stickiness and sweetness we all expect from a granola bar.  And because dates are all natural, there’s no refined sugar or other processed stuff used as a sweetener.  On that note…this recipe does call for the use of a nut-free substitute butter.  I use wow butter, but sun butter, pea butter, etc also work well.  We are fortunate that our school board allows them to be served at school (I always clearly label their wrapper with the ‘made with wow butter’ stickers that come with the jar). Since starting this blog though, I’ve heard from many parents who have kids in school boards that (very understandably) don’t.  If you aren’t able to send a nut-free butter to school, simply swap it out for an equal amount of tahini.  

I classify this as a no-bake recipe, because the bars themselves don’t have to cook.  But I do find that the flavour is enhanced if you toast the rolled oats first.  So there is a teeny, tiny bit of oven work involved.  I use rolled oats in baking a lot, so I tend to toast up a big batch of them on any given weekend and store them in a glass mason jar for the week, so they are always ready to go.   Also, if you’re looking for a gluten free option, simply swap the regular rolled oats for certified gluten free ones.  

I hope you like these as much as we do!  

No-Bake Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
400g pitted medjool dates
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds 
1/4 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp cocoa powder 
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 wow butter, sunbutter or tahini
1/2 cup total dried cherries and cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. 

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread oats out in an even, single layer.  Bake for 10 minutes until oats are lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.  (This step can be done in advance.)

in a food processor, process dates until they form a ball (like a dough).  Transfer to large bowl and add in cooled oats, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruit.  Using your hands, mix well.

Melt wow butter in microwave until liquid (about 25 seconds or so). Pour over mixture and (again, using your hands), mix thoroughly.  If the mixture is a bit too stiff, dry, add hot water, 2 tbsp at a time, to loosen it a bit.

Press into an 8×8 parchment lined baking dish until it fills all four corners of the pan and is packed solid.  refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set; cut into bars and store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.


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With back to school just around the corner, extra curricular activities starting up again, and the general easy-breezy-lazy days of summer fading away, I’m starting to prepare myself for the busy days ahead.  Which, if you’re like me, means a whole lot of running (ok, driving) around shuffling little people to and fro, and constant trips to the grocery store, Walmart, etc., all while still trying to manage a career.

Morning breakfast rush, school lunches, after-school-on-the-way-to <insert activity here> snack – all perfect examples of times where quick, make-ahead, healthy snacks (like these no-bake, low sugar chocolate chip energy bites) are a lifesaver.   

These delicious little bites pack a bunch of protein and energy in a cute little package that stores well, travels well, and is just sweet enough to let the kids think they’re getting a treat.  (Hint: they have the same effect on moms too!)

Best of all, they require no baking; take less than 15 min to make and travel well. They are a staple in our house/lunch box/diaper bag/snack pack.

We keep ours nut-free so that our entire house can enjoy them, and so we can send them to school, but you can easily swap out the NON-nut butter for peanut or almond butter too.

Ingredients:
(makes about 20 bites)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wow butter (or natural unsweetened nut butter of choice)
1/3 cup sticky sweetener of choice (we use Mama Vegan #NoBeesvegan honey but maple syrup or agave works well too)
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup unsweetened chocolate chips
​1/4 cup chia seeds 
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients together.
Refrigerate mix for 10-15 min to make it more firm.
Scoop out mix a tbsp at a time and roll into bite size balls.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

School mornings…they are just around the corner now.  And if they are anything like my house,  they involve a lot of rushing around  trying to get everyone out the door and on the school bus/dropped off at school on time, while searching for lost shoes, misplaced homework, the pink-with-purple-sparkles-and-a-unicorn hair clip that MUST be worn today even though it hasn’t been seen in a month, and filling out permission slips that were due yesterday (that were found while searching for the above-mentioned misplaced homework).  Oh, and in among all that chaos is the challenge of getting a quick and healthy breakfast in their tummies.  Bonus points if it can be eaten on the go, right?

Well, I can’t help you find that hair clip or shoe (we are still looking for ours), but I can help out on the breakfast front.  

A year or so ago, in an attempt to sneak a few extra veggies into my (then) non-veggie loving vegan kid, I came up with these oatmeal muffins.  They taste like cinnamon oatmeal cookies, but are loaded with veggies, low in sugar and pass the “school safe” test too!

The key to making these muffins fly under the kid-veggie-radar is to shred the veggies very finely and double up on the vanilla and cinnamon.  Trust me – they’ll never know these are healthy.  

Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

(yields 12 large muffins)

​ingredients:

1 1/2 cup organic flour (I use light spelt but all purpose or half AP and half whole wheat is good too)
1/2 cup quick cook oats (not instant)
1/2 cup hemp hearts (or another half cup oats if you don’t have or want hemp)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 flax “egg” (1 tsp ground flax mixed with 2 tbsp hot water)
1 cup alternate milk of your choice (I used soy so I could send these to school)
1/4 cup oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup total shredded carrot and zucchini

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk  flax egg, oil, soy milk and vanilla. 
Pour wet ingredients on top of dry. Add shredded veggies. Mix until just combined. 
Scoop into paper lined or greased muffin tray and bake for 20 min. Let cool before serving. 

(Optional: mix 2 tbsp granulated sugar with 1 tsp ground cinnamon and sprinkle on top before baking for a crunchy topping).

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