Well, here is the second recipe in this series. I made it a goal about 2 years ago to streamline and simplify my everyday cooking. Luckily, this recipe was already ridiculously easy. Just like my Never Fail Spaghetti, this uses pantry items and so it is another go-to recipe on nights when time is short or the week's meal plan has gone awry. I have no idea where they get this trait, but my oldest three like spicy food, so they like this chili when it's a little on the hot side. My daughter in particular craves this chili and it's one of the few left-over foods that she willingly takes for lunch the next day. My youngest two aren't fans of it, but I'm sure that will change with time. When I make it, I try to have left-overs from another meal to fill them up.
Fyi, this is one recipe I absolutely refuse to blend! Gracie and Simon have to blend their own portions because I just refuse to turn it into a soup.
This is an easily adaptable recipe. Once again, if I had my druthers, I'd add sliced mushrooms, chopped celery, carrots, green peppers and frozen corn. Adjust the chili powder and add more or less garlic to find the right seasoning for you and your family. If the maple baked beans make it too sweet for you, just substitute another can of black beans [or any other beans you like].
Now without further ado, here's the step-by-step or you can skip to the bottom of the page for a printable version!
1. Gather your ingredients. Set a kettle to boil for the Textured Vegetable Protein [TVP].2. Chop up an onion [I used two because they were smallish] and roughly chop up a garlic clove. If you want to add a bunch of other veggies, this would be a good time +to add them. Saute veggies in a tbsp of vegetable or canola oil. You can saute with a bit of water too, if you prefer to avoid oils.
3. When the onions and garlic are translucent and the kettle has boiled, take off the heat and add 1 cup of TVP and 1 cup boiling water. Stir to combine and set a timer for 5 minutes.
4. Now start opening cans! One can of diced tomatoes, one can of dairy-free tomato soup, one can of maple baked beans [the ONLY ones that are vegan that I have found -- check the ingredients to make sure!], and one can of black beans. Drain the black beans and if you like you can rinse them too.
5. When the 5 mins are up, add all your canned foods and 1 tbsp or more of chili powder. You will have to taste to see if you have the right amount of chili powder after its begun to heat through. Heat over med-high heat until bubbling, then turn down to low and let simmer as long as you have time for, stirring occasionally. You can also add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Best served with Bannock Biscuits or Cornbread [Recipes coming soon!], along with a Garden Salad and/or veggies and dip!
Oh, and fun fact ... The cans fit into each other like nesting dolls!
It's nice when things work out like that 😉
Many twists and turns, stops and starts and stalls led me to a whole-food, processed sugar-free and plant-based life. If we had never had to deal with health issues, I may never have looked at it. So, with one child who suffered from allergies, horrible excema and a gluten-sensitivity and another child who is haywire when he has processed white/brown sugar, I was forced to look at how I was feeding my family.
We eliminated eggs for a period of time around 11 years ago (the Grade 5 immunization in Canada is egg-based, and our daughter's body had trouble dealing with it) and moved to a gluten-free (due to gastrointestinal issues) way of cooking. It was Difficult. My repertoire of recipes were no longer viable and in 2007 the gluten and egg-free options were hard to find...and I found myself dreading cooking. Over those few years, I experimented-many fails, few successes-and eventually got better and started to feel good about my cooking again.
Enter the 'Hungry For Change' documentary....and then 'FoodMatters'...and I shifted again. These movies called attention to the incredible amount of sugar in our North American diet and processed food in particular. We clearly needed to eat more vegetables. I realized that this was contributing to why my son was so difficult - too much sugar was going into his growing body. I learned so much from these documentaries and they really supported me as I implemented going sugar-free.
I would just like to note this mistake I made as a warning for other moms: DO NOT TELL YOUR CHILDREN THAT YOU AREN'T BUYING SUGAR ANYMORE and expect them to be as excited as you are. We had a revolt.
But I was stubborn and prevailed hahaha. We have been white/brown/molasses/corn syrup-free for about 5 years now. Not perfectly! We have icing on cakes and treats from friends and school still make it through the gate but it is WAY less than it used to be. We've even changed Hallowe'en...but I'll write about that in a different post 😉
When we were first married I had a sugar bin, and bought a 10kg bag of white sugar about once a month. Now I have coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey to sweeten our life (yes, I know that honey is from bees and many vegans abstain. We have quite a few bee-keepers in our area who are passionate about their bees and no bees=no growing food, so I am happy to support them). We eat very little processed sugar, preferring fresh and frozen fruit and raisins as sweet treats over the kid-friendly fruit snacks and store-bought cereals and granola bars. The kids still like those things but I don't buy them as a regular staple anymore.
So while I was transitioning to sugar-free and increasing the amount of vegetables in our diet, my sister Carla had been moving towards Veganism and while I was there for a visit, she introduced me to 'Forks over Knives'. While I was always sad when animals die and had to pretend that they didn't when I ate meat, it hadn't really hit me as something that I could or would be willing to change. We need meat, right?? Well, between that movie, Cowspiracy and great support on www.Foodmatters.com...I was done with Meat. Now to get the family on board....
Thankfully I remembered my "DON'T TALK ABOUT SUGAR-FREE" lesson and started with myself. The first week was hard, the cravings while cooking meat for everyone else were sometimes overwhelming. The second week I was tired and had brain fog and thought 'I don't think I can do this' about a million times. By the third week, I was feeling proud of myself and in the fourth week I watched the documentaries again to bolster my spirit. I was still cooking meat, but it was no longer attractive to me. Yay!!
Somewhere around month 4, as I stuffed a Turkey (not for the last time, but I'll get into that later) I realized that I couldn't even cook meat anymore. My Spirit was screaming at me. I was a hypocrite. How could I spout the health and spiritual benefits I was experiencing of living animal-protein free and still feed it to those that I love the most? It wasn't enough for me to just abstain...I needed to remove it from the dinner table. So, a few months later I told my husband "I'm not cooking meat anymore. Period. I just can't do it. I can't feed it to the kids anymore. If you want it, you will have to buy it and cook it yourself." Fight ensued. Not a deal-breaker one, but one that definitely shook things up!
So there we were, a somewhat divided family for a period of time while I once again dreaded cooking dinner and the inevitable discussion of 'where's the beef?' at the table. And I had to learn how to cook food that my family would eat and hopefully enjoy! Some wins along the way...a lot of misses. But we got through it.
In the spirit of compromise, I taught my husband how to stuff the turkey the next Yuletide and washed my hands of it completely the second year..and last year he said 'Why don't we just not have turkey this year?' so we had a Harvest Vegetable Pot Pie and it was a bigger hit than the turkey had been all those years!
Over the last year, I have let go of dairy. It's not always perfect - I love dips and caesar dressing and sometimes slip, forgetting that there's probably dairy in them. Letting go of cheese was tough, but I found that once I stopped looking at it like a nutrient source and more like a garnish, it was easier to give up and convert to Non-Dairy cheeses when I feel the craving. Dairy-free options in restaurants can be hard to find, so occasionally I send an energetic Thank You to the cow or chicken who provided me with that aspect of my meal. I have learned to Forgive Myself on this path.
Overall, the dairy consumption in our home has DRASTICALLY reduced - in the past we used to buy FOUR 4L jugs of milk a week..yes, you read that right...and now we buy none. There's still cow cream going into some coffee mugs, cow butter for those that still want it on their toast and cow cheese going on kid pizza and nachoes (still working on a good melt-in-the-oven cheese!) but waaay less than even a year ago! I'm excited for a further reduction in this next year!
As far as the kids go...I have one daughter who transitioned easily to about 98% meat-free (parties and friends homes are the other 2%) in the first few months of my cooking completely meat-free, a son who has discovered that veggie hotdogs and nuggets are now his favourite (yes, they are highly processed, but this is a Journey, not a race!), another son who craves Udon Noodle Miso Soup (from www.itdoesn'ttastelikechicken.com - LOVE her!!) which is loaded with straight-up tofu! And because my eldest is out in the Great Big World living her life...all I can do it hope that her Food Choices are a Blessing to the Earth and her body and encourage her where I can. My husband and children may never be completely vegan, but through discussion and taking the time to really acknowledge where our food comes from, their food consciousness has definitely improved.
It has been over 3 years now that I have been fully vegetarian.
I feel good, from the Inside-Out. My kids are healthier, we talk about food differently now. This was the right path for us and I'm glad I implemented it for my family. This journey began with excema, tummy troubles and a child who literally bounced off the walls, challenges that felt frustrating and very unfair at times, but the strings weaving our Family Food Story led us to where my Spirit always wanted our family to go. 'Do what you will, and harm none.' We're getting there and I am Greatfull for that 🙂
From the time we were small and entering the school system, our lunches were consistent: a honey and peanut butter (sans PB for me - I'm allergic to nuts!) sandwich on homemade bread, an apple and two Cowboy Cookies. This pattern continued with very little deviation from kindergarten to Grade 12 ~ we were creatures of habit!
To this day the smell of Cowboy Cookies baking conjures a feeling of safety and comfort, for myself and my kids! These cookies are a staple in our house and when using coconut sugar, maple syrup and vegan butter they are a healthier alternative to store-bought! They pack well and freeze well too. Enjoy them dipped in coffee or eaten clandestinely in the pantry 😉
Cowboy Cookies (- exact measurements in Recipe link below)
Mix flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix butter, sugars and chia seed mixture.
Add raisins and dark chocolate chips to the flour mixture. Mix wet into dry and blend well.
Using a spoon or a scoop - I love my Pampered Chef 1 tbsp scoop! - drop onto a cookie sheet.
Bake at 350F for 10mins or until they are a bit browned on the bottom and cooked through.
I use Pampered Chef stoneware so they take a little longer to cook, about 15 mins.
Lisa would probably suggest at least 15 mins...she likes hers the way they ended up when Mom was busy - almost burnt!
A lovely afternoon tea!
One of the things that I felt would help me on the way to a Plastic-Reduced kitchen was Beeswax Wraps!
These handy sheets and bags were made with an old, clean duvet and napkins that were destined for goodwill, a block of Beeswax from our Health Food Store, my handy dandy sewing machine and some string from Dollarama. Thankfully my Mom was around while I sewed the bags and she grated up all the beeswax for me (thanks Mom!)
First Step was to create the bags...I used no pattern and just eye-balled the size and shape (which is why this rectangle is not perfect - I am a 1 hr-project girl after all!), creating a 1/2 inch hem at the top for the drawstring.
Next I used aluminum foil to line my oven rack and cut to size a piece of parchment paper to go inside the bag to keep the two layers separate. This way I could do 1 side at a time without them fusing together 🙂
Oven preheated to 200F, it only took a few minutes to melt into the cloth...keep an eye on it! When it looks all melted, pull it out of the oven and let it cool ~ I like to pick it up and wave it around 😉 Once it is cool, it is ready to use!
They aren't perfect or overall as pretty as I would like...but that's what trying something new is all about! Next time, I want to choose some fabric that is more colourful and create some sandwich/snack bags for school lunches ~ when I have done them, I'll post some pictures!I find that they keep my vegetables fresh for waaay longer than plastic bags!
Here's an example of mushrooms that I bought in a plastic container, removed the plastic and replaced it with a Beeswax Napkin:
TWO weeks later....
a little bit brown but Still Edible! That's a WIN!
Off for my morning walk.
The air is crisp and the leaves are changing their glorious colors. I still call this mid-september even in the later half of the month, holding onto the last shreds of summer when clearly it’s...gulp...fall.
I’ve never been the greatest fan of fall. Change is hard, and for me, many difficult life events have occurred around this time in previous years, so adjusting my perspective of this season is a work in progress. I have often thought of how nice it would be to skip from summer straight into winter and the holidays (for which I’m sure many people would want to slap me).
Today I got my wish as I headed out in search of my morning coffee. The clouds cooled and the snowflakes began to fall, slowly at first, so peaceful. Dreamy even. Like everything was standing still for me in this perfect haze of whiteness. I might normally have just looked out my front window and though of the extra work this could potentially cause us all and how hectic this time of year can be. But instead, I was reminded to just enjoy this moment of purity, and how lucky we are to have the change of seasons. To get something of a fresh start a few times a year is a gift and there is always something to look forward to. I invite you to embrace a fall snowy day the next time you get the opportunity. Take a moment. Take a stroll and let it clear your mind and refresh your soul.
Entry #1: AirMiles
‘I am one step away from being rich, all I need now is the money!’
After many years living on a tight budget, sometimes uncomfortably tight, I have managed to hone in on that extra sense of ‘thrifty’ not listed in the body’s nervous system. And let’s face it, when money is tight, there is plenty of nervous to go around. Saving money and earning perks can became a fun challenge as both a necessity at times and frivolity in others. Saving has become a bit of a game for me...and this is a game I have come to WIN!!
Now I pride myself on being an avid collector of points, and saver of all things possible. I would love to impart as much ‘saving wisdom’ I’ve learned on to you! Most of the specifics I have to offer here in my series will be for residents of Canada, so my tips may tend to benefit Canadians more than others. If you live elsewhere, I hope some of these ideas can help guide your search in similar fashion.
When I’m in the checkout line at a store to which I am earning great rewards, it’s painful...and very hard not to say something to the person in front of me when they don’t have whatever savings, points or punch cards that store offers. I have been known to work harder than the stores employees to get other customers to join up Hahaha. And I’ll admit, it’s even harder to resist the urge to ask them to use my loyalties if they weren’t savvy enough to join up themselves prior. Shouldn’t someone benefit from the rewards??
OK, so on to the important stuff...
Step One: Joining AirMiles
One of my top five points systems around is AirMiles. They have been in Canada since 1992, and when consistently used, have the potential to earn you many reward options from worldwide flights to kitchen appliances to gift cards. Even if you live in a small northern town without local business participation, there are many online shopping options to earn these rewards. You may already be shopping with these stores, but not tapping into the reward potential - Yet. AirMiles is regularly adding new partners online, so that is where we are going to begin.
Once you have become a member (you’ll find many more details about the program at www.airmiles.ca than I’m going to list out) you will receive your collector card by mail. You will need to use your points number and pin code for logging in online – and then you are set to check your points balance and save some miles! You can set your reward preferences to Dream Miles (to use online for items like travel rewards, gift cards etc.) or Cash Miles (which lets you redeem your miles as a cash substitute at participating stores in person). You can also allocate your split on both (ex. 80% Dream / 20% Cash). I myself have kept them as Dream rewards – I find it easier to save for big things like flights when I’m not tempted to spend it on toilet paper and groceries in Safeway.
Step Two: Shopping with AirMiles Online Participants
Let’s now move on the shopping side of AirMiles to collect regular points and bonus points (which are offered frequently), at you guessed it... www.airmilesshops.ca!
You will need to login to your account separately there, but your login information will be the same. Have some fun, flip through the pages and see all the stores that are participanting there. It might surprise you how many businesses are members. As you go through, you can ‘favorite’ your favs, and make returning to them simple. One important tip here, is that you need to go through airmilesshops.ca and link through the ‘Shop Now’ buttons – if you go directly to the store (ex. straight to amazon.ca) without going through airmilesshops first, you will not receive the regular or bonus points offered. Also, if you close the participants (ex. amazon.ca) browser window, you will need to go back through airmilesshops.ca and link through or you won’t get those points. Trust me, it’s worth the extra couple of steps, they can add up fast!! Several times a year they also offer Mega Miles in which you can earn thousands of miles from your online and in-person purchases.
So join up, log in and start collecting all those miles just waiting for a savvy customer like you!! Either that, or turn to the person in line behind you and offer up your points to them. You may very well make someone’s day 😀
Entry Two coming soon.... Spoiler alert!!...Hotel bookings to the max!
A couple years ago, after CBC listeners were shocked when they realized that Jian Ghomeshi was a sexual predator and a twisted, abusive misogynist who BEAT young women, I wrote the letter that follows in a Facebook post to thank my father. I have a many things I'd like to add to this in light of the #MeToo movement, but I will write about those in future posts. And although this letter is specifically about women, the same holds for boys who have experienced abuse too. For now, I will stick with one extra comment because it emphasizes the salient point of this letter to my Dad.
I just watched a news clip highlighting the new hashtag #WhyIDidntReport and I was sobbing. I'm so angry that women have had to put up with so much, for so long. And the overwhelming theme of their experiences was their fear/belief/experience that 'no one would believe me'. It's so horrifying, so outrageous, so infuriating that this has truly been the case for countless women.
So here is the letter I wrote to my Dad, and the fact that my experience is the exception not the rule is a tragedy that we need to fight ceaselessly to change -- by believing and supporting women who bravely speak up.
"In honour of Father's Day, I would like to share my gratitude to my Dad for something that I have only just really understood and appreciated of late. I hope it will be encouragement and a lesson to dads of daughters who might read this.
My dad and I have not always seen eye to eye on things, and we have had some pretty big rifts, but I love my dad and I know he loves me. And he gave me a pretty precious gift, maybe without knowing how it would shape me as a girl/grown woman. It may sound like an odd thing to thank him for, but it is really profound: I never suffered physical or sexual abuse from anyone. I always knew that if anyone ever hurt me, he would hunt them down because he told me so. I never felt afraid when I was with him because I knew he would fight to his last breath to protect me. He taught me to fight -- literally, we practiced --, and to stand up for myself, and that no one had the right to hurt me.
And most importantly for the course of my life as a woman, I always knew that if someone tried to abuse me, that he would believe me and do something about it. He proved this to me when I was about 7 years old and we were visiting another family from church. The slightly older boys of the house tried to pull my and Debbie's pants down while we were playing in the basement. I raced upstairs like a bat out of hell and told my parents. My dad believed me. The other people didn't. There was an argument and we were out of that house in as long as it took to put on our coats.
He proved this when I told him 2 of the boys on my street had flashed me and my sister. He was livid, and next time we drove by those boys, he stopped, rolled down the window and told them that if they ever touched his girls he would hunt them down ... not something a parent might be able to do today without getting himself into trouble, but this incident and others taught me something: no one should get away with that kind of behaviour, and I didn't have to put up with any of it.
He warned me never to accept a ride from a man, even if it were a family friend. He said, they are most likely good people, but you could never know for sure, and it was better to avoid the situation. What I learned from that was no man, regardless of power or position was inherently trustworthy -- trust was something that was to be earned, and lost, if proven otherwise. So when a family friend -- an old bachelor neighbour -- and his huge old friend slowed down and offered me a ride home when I was 13, I politely declined and assured them that I liked walking home. I kept far away from the truck's door, but I was prepared to bolt if they tried to grab me -- in the opposite direction from the direction of their vehicle. Our bachelor friend, who was likely just actually being nice, said okay and have a good day. Incidentally, I have never forgotton the creepy smile on his friend's face and later heard a rumour that he was known for molesting his kids and grandkids.
There were more instances of this throughout my life, too many to recount here.
Why this is so significant to me now, is that this year the news has been filled with stories of women who have been molested, raped and beaten by people in positions of power from Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby to football players, priests, pastors and politicians. So many of these women dared not tell anyone, felt confused about what had happened, felt guilt for no good reason, feared what would happen to them if they spoke up. Those who had spoken up in years past had their names dragged through the mud, were doubted by the public, were accused of having brought it on themselves and had their lives commandeered by the scandal.
When I heard the stories about Jian Ghomeshi, I thought, why didn't someone flatten him when he started choking them? A swift shot to the nuts, head butt to his nose ... I have run through the cathartic kind of what if's ... imagining scenarios where the pervert tried that on me and I left him writhing on the floor in breathless agony as I called the police and charged him with attempted rape.
And then it began to dawn on me why I should have that reaction, and why I flipped a guy onto the ground in the church foyer when he jokingly grabbed me from behind. And why I stood up to the creep in high school who tried to harass me and nearly clipped his chin with my foot, I was so outraged. And why I never hesitated to tell someone if something inappropriate happened, be it an 11 year old flasher or an older man -- a youth leader -- who wouldn't stop lecherously watching my 16 year old self to the point of stalking. It wasn't because I was inherently braver or more fearless -- on the contrary, fear has pervaded and shaped and dogged me my entire life -- but it was because I knew I had someone in my corner, someone who would believe me, fight for me and who gave me the right and power to fight for myself and to not put up with crap because I was a girl.
So Dad, thank you. You gave me an immeasurable gift and I am so grateful."
Greetings, Culinary Compatriots!
I thought I would take a quick moment to sing the praises of Textured Vegetable Protein, aka TVP. TVP is made from soy and I can’t think of a better food to help people transition to plant-based cooking. It can replace hamburger in almost any familiar recipe you can think of and it is SO EASY TO USE! SO EASY! I really can’t emphasize that enough, because gone are the days of standing over a pan scraping a solid block of slowly thawing/cooking frozen hamburger.
Instead, I boil a pot of water and five minutes later, I have my mince for any recipe I can think up. Here’s why I like it so much:
It has a neutral taste, and so it can take any flavour you want to add to it. I can make chili, spaghetti, taco ‘meat’, lasagna, shepherd’s pie, spicy Jamaican patties … you get the idea.
HUGE bonus — if you buy it from a Bulk Store, it’s super cheap. And Zero Waste if you use a cloth bag.
It also doesn’t go bad because it is shelf-stable. I have a huge glass jar of it in the cupboard above my stove.
In short, it is awesome.
To prepare it, it is a simple ratio of 1 part TVP: 1 part BOILING WATER. 1:1 — it doesn’t get easier than that. Leave it for 5 minutes to reconstitute and it’s ready to use. Don’t worry about the slightly earthy smell, once it is added to whatever you’re cooking up, it has a very neutral flavour — try it and you will see what I mean.
I hope you find it as easy and versatile as I have.
So here is the first of a series of recipes that are QUICK and EASY to make. These recipes/menus are tried and tested in my house and I rely on them a lot for days when life gets busy or I'm tired, or a combination of both. They are generally pantry-based meals too which means that I usually have everything I need for them.
In fact, one of the unexpected benefits of going vegan is how many of the ingredients are shelf-stable, even plant-milks. I love it! It really makes life easier and cheaper ... bulk buying staples means you are always prepared and it saves money.
This spaghetti recipe is so simple and satisfying that we rely on it probably the most of all my recipes. Everyone here loves it, so it's a perfect supper to follow up a more experimental meal from the night before...and it means great left-overs for lunch the next day!
So much of home-cooking is intuitive, so I'm going to first go through step-by-step with pictures, but you can scroll to the bottom of the page for a printable recipe. Also, this recipe uses Textured Vegetable Protein, so here's my post on TVP if you don't know what it is or how to use it!
1. Put a kettle of water on to boil. Set water to boil for spaghetti noodles too.
2. Chop an onion and saute with about 1-2 tablespoons of oil.
3. Peel and roughly chop 1-2 cloves of garlic, add to onions and saute.
4. Once onions and garlic are translucent and fragrant, take off the heat and add 1
cup of Textured Vegetable Protein and 1 cup of boiling water and stir. Set aside for
5. By now, your pot of water should be boiling, so you can take this moment to add
your spaghetti noodles.
5. Start your can opener! Time to add a can of tomatoes and a can of dairy-free
tomato soup. Then add oregano and basil, salt and pepper -- all to taste. I estimate
every single time.
6. Heat the sauce on medium to high until it starts to bubble up and then turn it
low to simmer. Let this simmer as long as you have time for -- it can simmer on
low for a long time, but tastes great simmering for as long as it takes to finish
cooking the noodles, whip together a simple salad or cut up a veggie plate if you're
up to it.
7. And finally, I pull out my kitchen's MAGIC WAND. My kids collectively don't
like texture -- sigh -- so I blend EVERYTHING. It's actually a great way to get
kids to eat a ton of veggies in soups too, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.
And there you have it! A really super easy and quick supper that you can throw
together last minute. Here's Peter digging in ...
Click here for the printable recipe!