“Fast Food” Solutions: Super Easy Chili


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 😉

Bon Appetit!




Super Easy Chili


A Family Food Journey

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 🙂

~ Debbie

Textured Vegetable Protein: A Wonder Staple


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.

Happy Cooking!


“Fast Food” Solutions: Never Fail Spaghetti


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 minutes.

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 ...


Bon Appetit!


Click here for the printable recipe!

Never Fail Spaghetti


My Confessions: A Tale of Three Farmgirls

         “You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car.” -Harvey Diamond


I am so excited to have finally shifted our family to a plant-based diet. It makes me so happy, I watch vegan videos on YouTube to lift my mood if I get down. I enjoy cooking a gazillion times more now. My cooking has gotten so much better too, maybe because I am taking much more pride in it. But there is another reason that cooking this way has been so exciting: it has put me in alignment with several issues I have struggled with for probably my whole life, even if I didn’t always put words to my discontent.

I don’t hurt or kill animals to eat. Simple as that.

Now, I feel the need to stress that I am not a pet person at all. I have had pets that I loved, pets that I still think about today, but I’m not a ‘pet person’. I am really allergic to cats, and I’m mostly terrified of dogs. I grew up on a hobby farm in northern British Columbia and we had a menagerie over the years. Most animals kind of freaked me out. I am skittish at the best of times, so animals were intimidating to me. We had, at various intervals, dogs, cats, chickens, goats, steers, rabbits, pigs, and horses.

When I was nine, Debbie and I helped our parents kill 20 chickens and process them in one day. It was an experiment never to be repeated because even for my meat-eating parents who had grown up on farms themselves, the whole thing was disgusting. Apparently we didn’t actually eat the chickens for months because they couldn’t get the sights and smells out of their heads either.

So, I have held a still-warm beheaded chicken in my young hands. I saw them flop around on the ground till the life-blood was drained from them. I know what their insides smell like and I can still remember the colours of their guts as we helped my mom strip their internal cavities. I have plucked feathers from their cooling bodies and squeezed pin feathers from their pinkish skin. I played with their cut-off feet, because if you know where the tendon is you can pull it and make the foot close like a claw.

As a huge fan of the Little House books and with a romantic view of the ‘Olden Days’, I swallowed my disgust at the reality of slaughtering animals that day and in the days to come because I thought that it was what had to be done and also that I wanted to be like Laura Ingalls.

At nine, I also witnessed the slaughtering of pigs at a neighbouring farm. I was excited because I loved the people that we were going to visit, and there was going to be a big dinner and it felt very Laura Ingalls-ish. I remember hearing the terrifying squeals of the terrified pigs. I probably covered my ears because it made me so sad and sick to my stomach. When I was allowed to go — after the squealing stopped — I saw the men dipping a big dead pig into a trough of steaming hot water and then heaving it onto a slaughtering table. I remember the bloody neck where the knife had sliced through, silencing the screams. I remember them taking knives and scraping the skin quickly to remove the coarse, white hair from the body. I think I ran back to the house then, because my next memory is going back to the yard and seeing several severed pigs’ heads sitting against the base of the barbed wire fence. It was pretty gruesome. But it was life, right? I mean, we need meat right? Isn’t that what everyone thought?

Then the sides of the pigs were strung up and I could see the insides of their bodies. I remember seeing the ribs and thinking that they would be sliced up for someone’s dinner. I remember later looking forward to ‘cracklings’, the bits that were left after the fat of the pig was rendered down into lard. It was a treat that my mom would make us. She would fry it up with salt and we would take pieces of bread and scoop tiny bits of the crispy flesh and eat it. I guess that helped me forget the squealing and the lifeless heads sitting there on the cold ground.

But the truth is, it didn’t help me to forget in the end. I think I have a better-than-average memory of my childhood, with some stretching back to age 3. But even so, those memories are strongest that were deeply emotional in some way. I don’t know what you remember of your 9th year, but chances are, they are the traumatic or dramatic memories that you remember in technicolour detail. And these fit the bill. I wish I could convey how vividly I remember everything about these two incidents in particular.

If someone had told me that year that I didn’t have to eat meat – or eggs or dairy – to live a healthy life, I probably would have become a vegetarian right then and there. But I didn’t know anyone like that and I didn’t even know what the word ‘vegetarian’ meant. Even in Charlotte’s Web, only Wilbur was saved. Fern’s family didn’t turn their backs on farming and eating animals. I think if Fern had known of such a thing, she would have become vegetarian too.

The funny thing is, these were chickens and pigs who had a ‘good’ life. The chickens were in a large pen in a wooded area on a rural property, with lots of places to scratch and peck and do all those chickeny things that they are born to do. They were fed scraps from our kitchen. The pigs had acres of land to root around in. They were killed quickly and didn’t have the trauma of being carted off to a slaughterhouse with all its sights, sounds and smells of horror.

But it still felt wrong to do it. It takes some conditioning to normalize such a brutal practice, and we have all been conditioned to suppress our revulsion at the thought of killing animals. That’s why it is uncouth to bring up the subject of animal slaughter at a table where meat is served. No one wants to know or think about itImage result for charlotte's web. No one has that objection to someone who says that they picked the carrots fresh from the garden that day! 

There is a kind of joy that comes when your actions and values align, and thus my excitement for this new way of plant-based cooking. Indeed, if there’s any take-away from my experiences, it’s that I wish I had made the switch to veganism sooner.

Cheers and Salutations! Carla