Lentil Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie feat. Dijon Mashed Potatoes

We’re starting to get some lasting snow and ice on the ground. That means it’s time to start cooking up what I like to call hibernation food—warm, hearty dishes to fend off the cold and build up a sturdy winter bod! (Any excuse to feast during this time of year right?)

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This shepherd’s pie is a great starting point for comfort food and a generally swell vegetarian option. It can work with adding any spare vegetables you’ve got around in your fridge if you sautee them into the filling.

The real MVP here is the creamy warmth of the dijon mashed potatoes. The tang of the mustard cuts the earthy quality of the mushroom lentil filling with contrast and a buttery mouthfeel.

…I’m going to stop writing like Martha Stewart now and let you at this recipe.

Lentil Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie feat. Dijon Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4-6
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For the Potatoes
4-5 medium yukon gold potatoes
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Milk (non-dairy OR dairy is fine)
Sea salt
Butter (optional)

For the Filling
2 c. brown lentils, cooked
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 package (227g) brown or white mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

2-3 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
1/3 c. red wine (optional)
1 c. vegetable stock (optional)
1 tbsp. arrowroot flour or cornstarch (optional)

1. Prepare the potatoes by quartering them and putting them in a large pot. Cover with water, salt generously. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat and cook until fork tender. Drain the water and mash the potatoes vigorously. Stir in mustard and splash with milk, mixing to a thick, desired consistency. Add butter and salt to taste. Set aside.

2. In a large pan, sautée the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until slightly translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until brown and slightly shrunken, stirring occasionally.

3. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the celery and carrots, stirring until slightly softened. Now it’s time to add the lentils! If using the canned variety, drain and rinse them before adding, stirring to ensure everything is evenly mixed.

4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Now add the soy sauce and red wine to the lentil mixture, stirring until it has evaporated. Add your peas and stir through, fresh or frozen. Taste the mixture to check your seasonings.

5. Optional step: if you want a thicker consistency for your filling, whisk 1 tbsp. arrowroot flour or cornstarch into 1 c. vegetable stock. Pour into the pan, turning up the heat to simmer and activate. (If using arrowroot, whisk quickly!)

6. Pour the lentil mixture and spread evenly into a deep, square ovenproof dish— roughly 10 x 10. Cover the mixture with the dijon mash, spreading evenly. Bake in the oven until the potatoes are browned on top–about 20 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes to let the ingredients “settle.” Serve and enjoy!

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Not-Cake Berry Smoothie

The other day I was listening to a health podcast that claimed something tasted “exactly like a chocolate milkshake.” I wondered about the last time the dude speaking had actually HAD a chocolate milkshake, and how objective you could actually be about the taste of a milkshake if you hadn’t had one in a week, or a month, or a year.

And then two weekends ago, post-run, I whipped up this dreamy, creamy smoothie and thought on first sip, “this tastes JUST LIKE CAKE!!!” …I haven’t had cake in awhile.

I can guarantee you that this smoothie does not taste like cake, BUT it is delicious, packed with antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats to keep you satisfied. The optional greens powder adds a little kick of vitamins and minerals that might otherwise be missed by the lack of spinach. Spinach cake ain’t much fun, people. I’ll stick to smoothies.

Not-Cake Berry Smoothie
Serves 1
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1 c. coconut milk
1/2 frozen banana
1/3-1/2 c. plain kefir
1 c. frozen mixed berries
1/2 – 1 full scoop berry protein powder (I use Vega One. Vanilla protein also works!)
Extra coconut milk or water, to thin out as needed
1 scoop greens powder (optional)

1. Put coconut milk, frozen banana, and kefir into your blender, and blend until smooth.

2. Add berries, protein powder, and any add-ins you might want to the mixture. (I used greens powder and a little ashwagandha!)

3. Blend, pausing to scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula if needed. Process until entirely smooth, adding more liquid until texture is to your liking.

4. Pour into a glass (or drink from your blender, nobody’s judgin’)! Drink up, and then go find yourself some real cake.

Refreshing Lime Cucumber Smoothie

They cancelled the full Montreal marathon this weekend because of our current heat wave—but people still got to run the half!  Since Sundays are my long run days, I also got my badonk outside to power around the city in the hot weather, which meant seeing some of the runners in action. Watching all of the different participants supporting each other and wearing their numbers got me pretty excited about my own impending doom half marathon on October 22nd. (Week 9 of training officially begins on Monday!)

It was a tough run. The humidity made everything twice as hard. I poured about half of the water I was carrying straight down my back, and the last couple of kilometres were uphill. BUT, when it was over and done, and I forced myself to stretch—it was time for a recovery smoothie!

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This smoothie is a green dream! It’s on the lighter side in terms of taste and texture—there’s a time and a place for your double chocolate peanut butter mayhem, but for me, it’s not after hustling my butt around in 30 degree weather for two hours. The lime juice makes it refreshing, and the cucumber is re-hydrating. There’s also protein powder and banana to replenish your carb stores and help aid muscle recovery! Good stuff all around!

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You could even swap half the milk for coconut water and refill those electrolytes, and add more ice to up the chill factor. Side note: I ran Saturday and Sunday this weekend and made this smoothie after BOTH because I liked it so much. GET BLENDING!

Refreshing Lime Cucumber Smoothie
Serves 1
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1 c. almond milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 c. cucumber, diced
1/2 c. spinach
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 pinch sea salt

Optional: greens powder, 1 tbsp. maca powder, other add-ins of your choice!

1. Measure out almond milk, frozen banana, cucumber, and spinach into blender and run until smooth.

2. Add in the protein powder, lime juice, sea salt, and any of your other add-ins! (I used maca powder and a greens powder to stay on colour theme.)  Also add ice here if you feel like it!

3. Blend until smooth, pour into a glass, and enjoy!

Tex-Mex Vegetable Bowls feat. Spicy Quinoa

The best thing about bowls is either their no-frills name or their simplicity to prepare—it’s a toss up. A few ingredients can combine to make a satisfying meal, as long as you follow a few rules. The perfect bowl will have a grain, a protein, a few vegetables, a jock, a rebel and a recluse.

…Wait. That last part was just the script of The Breakfast Club.
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While this is not technically a breakfast bowl, I approve of any and all veggies in the a.m., as per Dr. Robynne Chutkan’s simple 1-2-3 rule for a healthier microbiome and general wellness. (TL;DR: eat one vegetable at lunch, two at lunch, three at dinner.)

This bowl is more than prepared to meet your greens n’ veg needs. It’s got kale and romaine lettuce, onions, peppers, and fresh tomatoes. It’s got fluffy quinoa simmered in taco seasoning spices… That last one isn’t a vegetable, but it’s so delicious it warranted mention.
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The best part is that you can mix in whatever veggies you’ve got in your fridge or cupboard. Sautee fresh or frozen corn in with the peppers, sub your lettuce for spinach, or top with your favourite salsa. You can even make it vegan by omitting the yogurt and/or cheese! Don’t you forget about cheese.

Tex-Mex Vegetable Bowls feat. Spicy Quinoa
Serves 2
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1 cup quinoa, rinsed*
1 tbsp. chili powder**
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
1 can beans, black or kidney

1-2 hearts of romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
1 tomato, diced
1/3 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream

Optional toppings:
Salsa
Jalapeno hot sauce
Cheddar cheese
Green onions
Tortilla chips

1. Rinse your quinoa and put it in a medium saucepan, sprinkling with all of the spices. Turn heat to medium, stirring the quinoa to toast it for about a minute.

2. Add 2 cups water. Cover with a lid and let the quinoa gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Taste and add additional salt or chili powder if needed. Set aside.

3. In a medium frying pan, add olive oil over medium heat. Fry garlic until golden. Add onion and stir until soft, about two minutes. Add in the bell pepper and any other veggies, tossing them in now and sauteeng until soft. Add in the beans, stirring until warmed through.

4. Add in the tomato paste, stirring to to distribute with the veggies, until everything is warm and mixed together! Season with salt, pepper, and additional spices from the list above if desired. Remove from heat.

5. Assemble your bowls! Start with a good handful or two of lettuce and greens. Add 1/2 c.  each the quinoa and the spiced tomato/bean mixture, and sprinkle with diced tomato.

6. Top with your extras! This time around, I used Greek yogurt, jalapeno hot sauce, a little extra old cheddar and green onions… (Pro tip: take your Instagram photo first, and then mix everything together for more delicious bites!)

* This will make more cooked quinoa than you need, so get ready to add it to salads, tacos, soups—the possibilities are tasty!

**  You can use a packet of taco seasoning to sub for all of the spices in a pinch. Cook the quinoa with half, and add more after cooking as needed! Just look out for sodium!

Cashew Coconut Curry with Crispy Tofu

It’s been an anxious week, y’know? The kind where being mindful is interrupted by just being in your skin—a discomfort with existence. When anxiety haunts me for no particular reason, I cling to the familiar—wearing a favourite t-shirt, watching an old reliable movie, or cooking a well-loved dish.

Cooking is an amazing escape. It engages your senses, and you usually need focus and finesse to make it happen. Meal prep is almost active meditation, and this curry adds a layer of velvet to that feeling. It’s spicy, creamy, and warming, especially as August runs head first for September and cooler nights are on their way.

I’ve been cooking this recipe—and variations of it—for years. The original was one of my favourites against the damp in Scotland, and I’ve tweaked it and changed it many times—I even adapted it when I was doing the Whole30. It’s simple, crave-worthy, and always open to interpretation. Sub chicken for tofu, forget the tomato paste and use canned tomatoes, or add other veggies for a finish. Don’t be afraid to branch out and trust your instincts—you’ll be noshing a delicious bowl of comfort in no time. (Legal disclaimer: it will actually take several minutes.)

Cashew Coconut Curry with Crispy Tofu
Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
Serves 4-6

1 package firm tofu*
2 tbsp. coconut oil

1 can tomato paste (6 oz., 180 ml)
1 can coconut milk (14 oz., 400ml)
3/4 c. roasted cashews
1/2 c. water

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tbsp. dried ginger
2 tbsp. garam masala
2 tbsp. curry powder
1/2-1 tsp. turmeric
Salt (to taste)

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 generous handfuls baby spinach (optional)

For serving:
2 c. cooked brown basmati rice
Naan bread

1. Press tofu by wrapping the drained block in paper towel and setting some heavy books on top for 30 minutes. After this, cut the tofu into 2 cm cubes. Heat 1 tbsp. of coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Spread the tofu in an even layer in the pan, turning when each side is golden brown.  Set tofu pieces aside on paper towel, reserving the skillet.

2. In a blender or food processor, add cashews and cover with coconut milk, running until combined. Then add tomato paste and water, blending until smooth. Set aside.

3. Add the second tablespoon of oil to the skillet from step 1. Sautee onions and garlic until fragrant. Add the spices and stir to toast them, about one minute.

4. Add the coconut cashew blend to the pan, stirring to distribute the spices. Add salt to taste. Raise heat to simmer. Stir in broccoli florets and then reduce heat slightly, allowing them to cook for a 3-5 minutes to desired tenderness.

5. Stir in tofu cubes until evenly coated and warmed through. If adding spinach, stir it in here, cooking until slightly wilted. Remove from heat.

6. Serve with fluffy basmati rice or delicious naan bread! Enjoy!

* If you have a soy allergy or sensitivity, this recipe is also great with paneer or chicken!

Raspberry Coconut Protein Overnight Oats

Half marathon training is bringing on the change and I only just finished week two!

I haven’t exactly reclaimed my motivation from the dream fatigue I wrote about last week but my determination is back in line after taking it easy in July. With a clear goal ahead, my vision is getting sharper—and one of the things I’m honing in on is nutrition.

It’s key to eat healthfully since my mileage is slowly increasing every week—running on empty (literally) is no longer becoming an option. As a result, I’ve been listening to some podcasts and reading lots about nourishment for distance running. I’ve been trying to keep up with protein, eat more greens, and experiment with “super” foods… Just like the small addition of matcha to these delicious, protein-packed overnight oats—

what a segue!

Raspberry Coconut Protein Overnight Oats
Serves 1
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3/4 c. unsweetened almond milk (or other milk of your choice)*
2 tbsp. vanilla protein powder
1 tsp. matcha powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

1/3 c. steel cut oats
1 tbsp. coconut flour
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. raspberries
Hemp seeds or other seeds for topping (optional)
Maple syrup or honey (optional)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together almond milk, protein powder, matcha, and extract (if using). Taste and add maple syrup or honey to adjust to your desired sweetness.

2. Pour the protein’d up almond milk into the container you’re making your overnight oats in. (I’m impartial to the mason jar.)

3. Stir oats, coconut flour, chia seeds, and coconut into the almond milk until evenly distributed. Top with raspberries and sprinkle with hemp seeds.

4. Put into the fridge overnight! In the morning, mash and stir in raspberries! Add in nut butters or other toppings to your heart’s content. Nosh!

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Kombucha Pt. I: I Dream of SCOBY

Just like spiralized zucchini or unicorn-inspired nosh, kombucha is soooo trendy right now. (Note: unlike unicorns, you will find kombucha in your local grocery store.) However, rather than shelling out $6-$10 bucks for this fermented tea—a great pop substitute with apparent digestive benefits—you can start making kombucha at home and save those bucks for the Yeti Frappuccino or whatever they’re coming out with next.

I’ve been brewing my own kombucha at home for half a year now, which isn’t a ton of time compared to other people… This means I’m sure enough to know what I’m doing, but new enough to be thorough and exacting in my methods. I haven’t quite relaxed when it comes to brew management.

First step: to start making your own kombucha at home, you need a SCOBY—Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Rubbery, jelly, slightly translucent, a SCOBY looks like a huge booger. I personally think they’re so-gross-they’re-cute and like to give them names… Everyone needs a hobby.

The reason you need one of these bacterial boog colonies is because, in short, the living SCOBY will nosh on the sugar and tannins in the tea mixture and turn it into gorgeous, fermented, bubbling goodness.

So how the heck do you get one of ’em?

• Buy them on the internet. Google around, look for sites with good reviews. I have no recs for this
• Find someone you know who makes kombucha and ask them for one of theirs. (Every new batch creates a new SCOBY, so usually habitual brewers have some spares around!)
• GROW ONE! (YAAAAAS. Yep.) 

Kombucha Scoby
Makes 1 Beautiful Booger Baby
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1 bottle of raw, store-bought kombucha (350ml – 470ml)
1 tbsp loose green or black tea
1/2 c. sugar (I use raw demerera)
1L water, filtered
White vinegar (for rinsing containers)

Equipment:
Large, wide-mouthed glass container (I recommend 2L)
Coffee filters
Rubber band
Strainer or loose leaf tea bags
Wooden spoon

1. Make tea. In a large pot on a stovetop, bring the water to a rolling boil. If you’re using unfiltered tap water, I like to add a little extra water in the beginning, and let it boil for a few minutes. I have no idea if this actually helps at ALL, but it makes me feel better. (Note: if using tea bags, add about 4 for the same potency as loose leaf!)

2. Turn off the heat, adding in the tea and stirring in the sugar until dissolved. Steep the tea for at least 30 minutes—you want it S T R O N G.

3. Cool the tea mixture to room temperature. Clean a large glass container (rinse with white vinegar) and then pour in the bottle of store-bought kombucha. Follow this with the tea mixture.

4.  The SCOBY needs to breathe to form, so cover the mouth of the container with coffee filters (or cheesecloth) and an elastic band to allow airflow, while preventing the invasion of dust or insects. Place it a warm, dark place where it won’t be disturbed.

5. In a few days, bubbles should begin to form where the liquid meets the container, and then depending on the warmth and other factors, a thin film should start to form and thicken within 1-4 weeks. When the SCOBY is substantial, at least a few millimetres thick, it’s ready to brew! (So stay tuned for part II.)

Special notes: 

SCOBYS do not like metal, so if you’re ever giving one away to a friend, do so with coffee filters as a lid, or a plastic lid.

When working with making or handling your SCOBY, make sure your hands and your work area are clean. I usually make sure everything is soaked and rinsed with vinegar.

Don’t be afraid! It’s way easier than it looks!