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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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!

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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Creamy Vegan Garlic Pasta Sauce

This week’s motto: wash your blender. 

Sometimes, you take your first crack at homemade almond milk, and after two days of soaking the almonds, and then blending and straining them to perfection,  you detect a slight garlicky undertone at first sip. You realize the last thing you made in that blender was delicious potato hummus and maybe missed a spot in the scrubbing afterwards. So smoothie dreams take a back seat to sauce dreams… I don’t hate it.

Still, wash your blender.

It’s probably narrow-minded to resign this simple, warming, garlic sauce to pasta—especially since re: the rules of this month’s Whole30 challenge, I’m not technically eating pasta at all. You could put it on LOTS of stuff. I served it up with roasted spaghetti squash and broccoli, and homemade, ethically raised, hormone-free pork meatballs… My lunches this week are THE BOMB.

Yes I understand the ridiculousness of vegan pasta sauce with meatballs. IT’S MY LIFE OKAY? The Whole30 made me do it.

Creamy Vegan Garlic Pasta Sauce
(Adapted from The Minimalist Baker)
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups sauce
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1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
2-3 tbsp arrowroot flour (use something else, but this makes it Whole30 compliant)
1 1/4 cup unsweetened, plain almond milk

1. Add olive oil, onions, and garlic in a medium saucepan, and sautee over medium-low heat until soft and fragrant.

2. Whisk in 2 tbsp. arrowroot flour. It will get clumpy, but don’t worry, just keep whisking!

3. Over low heat, slowly stream in the almond milk, whisking until the flour is no longer clumpy. Turn up the heat to medium, whisking the sauce until it begins to thicken to your desired consistency.

Note: If it doesn’t feel thick enough, whisk in the last tablespoon of arrowroot. If sauce becomes too *thick*, add in a splash of almond milk, veggie stock, or water to loosen the texture.

4. Arrowroot has a tendency to turn things into a bit of a gelatinous mass (yum!) so when you’re happy with the thickness, remove the sauce from heat, scrape into a blender, and let it run until the sauce has reached a velvety smoothness. Add salt and pepper to taste and blend again.

5. Serve over spaghetti squash or your noodle of choice, with roasted vegetables and maybe a little vegan parm on top if you want to get fancy! Recipe easily doubles for company or for when you want extra.

P.S. Don’t forget to wash your blender after this, yes, AGAIN.

Chickpea Pepper Burgers feat. Red Cabbage Slaw

Since I’ve taken on the #AVeryVeganApril challenge, my meals have been mostly bowls of noodles (whole wheat rotini, brown rice vermicelli) with vegetables and sauce. After awhile, I started to mouth-crave something different—burgers.

They had to happen. Homemade, spicy, flavourful, sink-your-teeth-in chickpea burgers. I wasn’t going to share this recipe, but I took one bite and knew it had to be DONE.

…Okay, fine, I took like three bites to reassure myself it was as good as I thought it was. Also, these are kind of small (burgs not burgers!), so if you’re looking to feed a whole bunch of people, double the recipe.

Chickpea Pepper “Burgs” feat. Red Cabbage Slaw
Makes approximately 6 cute burgers or 3 dope double burgers

For the slaw:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
1-2 broccoli stems, shredded
1/4-1/3 cup hulled, raw sunflower seeds
3 tbsp oil (olive, grapeseed, etc)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1. If you don’t have a mandolin or a fancy food processor, this is your biggest step.  Finely chop cabbage, carrot, and broccoli stems in a bowl. Add the sunflower seeds on top.

2. In a small separate bowl combine oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and cumin. Whisk together and pour over the shredded veggies, tossing to coat. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or another splash of vinegar if the flavour is missing “zing.” Set aside to marinate. The secret ingredient is TIME.

For the burgers:
2 cups chickpeas, boiled
1/2 red pepper, seeds removed
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot, (or 2 tbsp yellow onion), chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flaxseed meal + 2½ tbsp water, stirred)
2 tbsp whole wheat flour (or bread crumbs? I didn’t have breadcrumbs. SO.)
Juice from 1 lime

For serving: whole wheat buns, avocado slices, veganaise, aioli, whatever-you-want…

1. Make your flax egg by combining water and flaxseed meal in a small dish. Set aside to “activate” for about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a food processor*, combine chickpeas, pepper, garlic, and onion. Pulse until the mixture is finely diced but not smooth. Add in spices, salt, flour, and the flax egg and pulse to combine again. The mixture should keep shape fairly well but may seem a bit dry.

3. Empty bowl of food processor into another bowl and fold the lime juice in until it’s absorbed. Measure a third of a cup of the mixture for each burger, and then use your hands to form patties and leave them on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. You should get about 6 or 7 patties.

4. Heat up a small amount of oil in a frying pan, and cook the patties over medium heat, until each side is golden brown, about 3 minutes. (They are fairly sturdy, but flip with care!)

5. To assemble, spread slices of avo on the bottom bun, plunk a patty on top. I’ve been eating these as double burgers—second patty, a few healthy spoonfuls of slaw, and then the bun. Slather mayo or queso or whatever you want (I used vegan Mexican cheese from Minimalist Baker ) on the top bun**, cap that burger!

6. NOSH!

*I made this by using my tiny handy chopper and literally grinding the elements one batch at a time. If you’re feeling determined, use a potato masher for the chickpeas and chop everything else as fine as you can!

**I realized looking at my pictures that I put this beauty together upside down. Learn from my mistakes, peeps. Also top bun sounds like the gay remake of “Top Gun” ohwaitTopGunisalreadygay.

#AVeryVeganApril

Okay that title isn’t accurate, but #AVeryVeganFortnight didn’t sound as good. (Also, have a picture of a Highland cow, vegan creature and unofficial mascot of this post… because I like Highland cows.)

The challenge: eat vegan for two weeks, from April 1-14. No using recipes I’ve tried before to make it happen. (I could eat peanut noodles with tempeh forever, soooo…)

Why: For fun! I like cooking, and I eat a lot of cheese, so this is a good way to change things up and try new dishes and ingredients.

How’s it goin’, eh?: I eat vegetarian about six days a week, so this maybe isn’t as hard for me as it might be for someone who eats more animal products. THAT BEING SAID,  friends came from out of town and wanted to meet for the best smoked meat in Montreal so, at least ONE lunch was a delicious bust.

My kitchen has changed up too! I’ve tried new recipes, ventured into tapioca starch, and made vegan queso. (I also screwed up Veganaise by using almond milk instead of soy.)

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I’m taking care to read a lot more labels. I look at ingredients to scan for animal products, and in the process, I’m noticing all the additives and preservatives that are even in the healthy foods that I eat (especially things like breads or tortillas). Here’s to nosh with less additives?

What are you eating, dude?:

Uhm, basically whatever I want, without the cheese? It has been a lot of curious comfort food and some indulgent bites, but I’m always trying to add more vegetables to everything, and I’ve got a veggie burger recipe coming that BLEW. MY. MIND. So stay tuned for that!