Category Archives: Vegetarian Main Dishes

Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad, & Boosting Nutrition Profiles

Salad looking lovely! (Was promptly eaten, fyi)

Salad looking lovely! (Was promptly eaten, fyi)

The days after Christmas are always filled with delicious foods, and oftentimes, with self-recriminations over eating all those delicious foods (not that I speak from personal experience or anything). So I developed this recipe to be a) delicious and b) healthy! And I made it using only what I had in the house, hence the name: Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad!

Fattoush is a Mediterranean salad, made with crunchy bits of pita. I suspect that it originated as a way to use up stale pita — toss it with olive oil, vinegar, a few herbs, and some veggies! These days it’s made with fresh pita, usually dabbed with oil and baked until crispy. I didn’t have any pita in the house, but whipped some up myself using this recipe. (Who knew it was so easy?)

My dad, who is of Mediterranean origin, will shake his head if he reads this post, because fattoush usually contains some dried sumac as a seasoning. Do I have it in the house? No! Am I the Queen of Substitutions? Yes! So I just mixed up a dressing that seemed vaguely Mediterranean-ish (heavy on the olive oil and garlic), sprinkled on some pomegranate seeds, and called it good. The DH called it delicious!

Make some fattoush yourself, and modify the ingredients to match what you have in the house! Then feel virtuously healthy and enjoy another Christmas sweet! (Hey, it’s all about the balance, is it not?)

Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad

Serves 2

  • 8 baby tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce, sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cubed
  • 1 pita
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. pomegranate seeds

Dressing

  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. high quality olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over the finished salad
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • dash of dried thyme
  • pinch of dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar

Split pita in half, spread 1 tbsp. oil on each half, and toast in oven on high heat until it starts to get crispy. Let cool, and break into bite-sized pieces.

Mix dressing ingredients together and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the vegetables together, add in the pita pieces, pour the dressing over it all, and toss to mix. Plate immediately, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Enjoy!

Pita from scratch! (So cool to see it puff up in the oven when baking!)

Pita from scratch! (So cool to see it puff up in the oven when baking!)

But…didn’t I write something about a nutrition profile in the title of this post? Indeed I did! While salad for a meal is in and of itself healthy, why not bump up the nutrition level? Which is exactly what I did! I used blackstrap molasses in the dressing instead of regular molasses, because it’s higher in iron and lower in sugar.

Plus, when I was making the pita breads, I sprinkled either side of the pita with freshly ground flax seeds (omega fatty acids, baby!) as well as ground psyllium husk (up with fibre!). Ideally, the pita would have been whole wheat, but again, I was working with what I had in the house.

Had I had more time, I probably would have made some lentil sprinkles to add to the salad as well, just to make sure there was some protein in the dish, but hey, one does one’s best. When I make this dish again though, those lentil sprinkles are IN! (Totally picturing my culinary purist father throwing his hands in the air at the addition of lentils to fattoush. Tee hee hee!)

Next Post: Those peppermint chocolate candy cane cupcakes that I mentioned last time! Probably. Unless I make some chocolate whoopie pies with peppermint buttercream. Hmm. Any strong feelings either way? Let me know in the comments!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

Memories of Meals Past: Pack-n-Go Lunch Burritos

Totally not posed. I just plated it and snapped a quick photo before eating. I mean, it was lunchtime! A gal's gotta eat!

Totally not posed. I just plated it and snapped a quick photo before eating. I mean, it was lunchtime! A gal’s gotta eat!

So I was planning on writing a post about growing sprouts from lentils. And then…I realized I had eaten all the lentils in the house when I made my last batch of lentil sprinkles to add to my lunchtime salads. Huh. Ok, well, I am nothing if not the Queen of Substitutions, so I just replaced the lentils with peas! I mean, lentils, peas, same dif yo’! Except not.

Because my pea sprouts did not grow. They grew…and then stagnated. Ugh. I have no patience sometimes, so I didn’t bother to figure out where I went wrong. I just wanted sprouts and when I want my sprouts, I want them now. So I dispatched the DH to the local bulk store to pick up some lentils. I asked for 1/4 c. of dried lentils. He came back with 1/2 c. of dried lentils, because the DH is generous like that. Cost him all of 36 cents. Which means…a double batch of lentil sprouts! Have I mentioned that the DH isn’t into sprouts? Ha ha! Too bad, so sad, because it’s lentil sprouts for everyone!

But not in this post. Because my sprouts are still sprouting, so instead let’s talk lunch!

This here’s a picture of one of my super-yummy lunches from last week. It’s a super-healthy burrito, packed the night before, and quickly assembled for lunchtime consumption.

Why was it so easy to assemble? Because it was all prepped previously!

Les ingredients:

  • Spanish rice n’ beans. I used this recipe, except that I added a whole bunch of white beans for protein. Spanish rice is very forgiving, so just make it up as you go along. It’s basically rice and tomatoes, cooked together with some flavourings like onion and oil, and for those who don’t care about authenticity, taco spice. You know I added taco spice, right? 😉
  • lettuce, chopped
  • cheddar cheese, grated
  • green salsa Or red salsa or guac or whatever you crave. I had green salsa in the fridge so that’s what I used. But I’ve got some avocados ripening on my kitchen counter — they’re next up on the chopping board, because I’m craving some burritos with guacamole now!
  • sour cream This really added to the delicious mouth feel of these burritos.
  • homemade tortillas What? You’ve never made tortillas? But this must be rectified! Use this recipe, it’s super-easy. And if you don’t have time, don’t bother. But if you have time, definitely do it! They taste ah.maze.ing! So pure and fresh and oh, just make them, seriously!

Package in containers, bento-box style (or Tupperware-style, more like) and pop in the fridge. Bring to work and make all your colleagues jelly that they don’t have the fresh, tasty, healthy lunch that you do! Also, the mouth-gasms? Totally worth the work of making the Spanish rice and the tortillas. (Am drooling as I type this, just remembering. Plus, the rice and tortillas are really easy to make. And cheap, incidentally.)

The official taste tester. Or sniff-tester, rather. Because these burritos are mine, all mine!

The official taste tester. Or sniff-tester, rather. Because these burritos are mine, all mine!

In case you were wondering if the burritos were appetizing, I present Exhibit A. The local office cat, checking out my lunch. (FYI, they passed the cat sniff test, and were rapidly consumed by me before said cat could get her paws on them. I gave her a kibble instead, poor kitty.)

Next Post: Ok, so lentil sprouts, for realz! They’ll have grown by them, and been omnomnom’d by me. After being photographed for you, so stay tuned! Mmm…dreaming of crunchy sprouts now. And chocolate, because when am I ever not?

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Memories of Meals Past: Dumplings Two Ways

Served with a nice crisp green salad!

Served with a nice crisp green salad!

Last year I decided to start a Cookbook Supperclub with some friends, and hold dinner parties where we all cooked a dish from the cookbook-du-jour, ending up with a number of appetizers, mains, sides, and of course dessert. We cooked our way through a number of cookbooks before the group dissolved due to well, life and other schedules.

One of the cookbooks was Martha Stewart’s Appetizers book, and one of the appetizers I made was a soup dumpling (albeit veggi-fied, because that’s how I roll). It turned out slightly differently from how it was supposed to, likely because I used agar-agar for the first time instead of gelatin and made it way too weak to be gelatinous. I tramped around the city looking for dumpling wrappers and agar-agar, and while I found the agar-agar in a crunchy-hippie type store (a very cool store, btw) I couldn’t find the dumpling “skins”, and didn’t want to go to literally across the city to a genuine Chinese store to get some.

So I made some. From scratch. *blows on nails and buffs nails on shirt*

I should have started there, because it was sooooo easy! Would have saved me hours. And it’s only a few ingredients! Here’s the recipe I used, albeit just for the dumpling wrappers.

As for the filling, here’s my own creation:

Quick n’ Easy Dumpling Filling

  • 2/3 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pkg veggie ground round
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c. chopped dried mushrooms, rehydrated with 1/2 c. boiling water

Mix all ingredients together. Use 2 tsps. of filling in each dumpling (the dumpling dough recipe makes 34 dumplings, or at least my batch did).

Feel free to add in additional ingredients to make it extra savoury, although I think using actual meat would make it savoury enough for the meat-eaters.

You can freeze the dumplings in single layers for later use, or you can use them right away. I’ve done both and they’re both delicious!

Plate o' dumplings. Excuse me, I'm off to nom.

Plate o’ dumplings. Excuse me, I’m off to nom.

As for the dumpling dip, I came across a recipe in a Buzzfeed article (also where I got my new favourite smoothie recipe, but that’s a post for another time!) and used that. Basically, it’s 2 parts vinegar to one part soy sauce, with grated ginger added in. It’s salty and sweet with a little kick. Puckerlicious!

Ok, so far we have the dumpling skins, the dumpling filling, and the dumpling dip. But…how to actually cook the dumplings? Well, here are three ways:

  1. steam the dumplings – put a tsp. of oil in a frying pan, dab the bottom of the dumplings in the oil and fry until slightly brownish on the bottom. Add in enough oil to just cover the edges of the dumplings, and put a lid on the pan. Steam until thoroughly cooked (i.e. the top of the dumpling is no longer doughy). This is my version of steaming, though. True steaming is when you place the dumplings on a steamer over boiling water. Meh, to each her own!
  2. boil the dumplings – pretty self-explanatory (I made some like this but didn’t photograph it, so you’re out of luck if you wanted to see them!)
  3. fry the dumplings – also pretty self-explanatory. Fry the dumplings in oil on the stove-top until the bottom and sides are crispy and golden brown. Crunchy and yummy!

The verdict? I’d totally make these dumplings again! I might change up the filling to use up whatever I have in the fridge, but the basic filling I outline above would be my starting point. These dumplings are great to serve fried with a green salad, or steamed/boiled for an appetizer or a side dish. If you make some yourself, let me know what filling you use!

Next Post: Either a fancy-pants strawberry cake, or a post about how to make mini Skor cupcakes! Mmm…I do love dessert!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!  (And again!)

Memories of Meals Past: Healthier Spring Rolls

Healthy spring rolls! A tad purple, but hey, I can live with that.

Healthy spring rolls! A tad purple, but hey, I can live with that.

Time for another Memories of Meals Past post!

This time it’s a lunch/light dinner food, spring rolls, that I made a few months ago. But made healthier by baking as opposed to deep-frying! I used this recipe as a starting point, and then naturally I made substitutions. I had half a head of purple cabbage in my fridge, so I grated that and added that into the filling, along with some dried mushrooms (albeit not the shiitake kind that the recipe called for).

Pro Tip: Do not use purple cabbage if you want a perfect presentation. Purple cabbage makes everything purple. Your filling, your wrappers, your fingertips. But it is healthy, so if you have it in your fridge, well…waste not, want not!

And these spring rolls were delicious! The DH and I happily crunched on them for dinner and lunches. I do love trying new recipes and…substituting ingredients!

Next Post: I go French with Tarte Tropezienne!

Adventures in Indian Food, Part II: Channa Masala & Making the Best of Things

What not to do: use ALL the garam masala spice at once! Just no.

What not to do: use ALL the garam masala spice at once! Just no.

I wrote in an earlier post about some friendships I made while working in the non-profit sector, and how one of those friends (Miss O!) gave me her recipe for Garam Masala. That same friend also gave me her recipe for Channa Masala, and that’s what today’s post is about! Channa Masala is an East Indian dish made with chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and spices — even if you’re not really a legume sort of person (*cough*me*cough*), this is a delicious dish.

I’d never made Channa Masala before trying this recipe, and I have to say, it’s surprisingly easy! Want to make some too? It’s great to serve over rice, or as a side dish, or even all by its delicious lonesome! This particular version of the recipe is my take on my friend’s recipe. In other words, I didn’t have enough fresh tomatoes, so I combined fresh baby tomatoes (that I usually eat on my salad for my lunches) with some tomato sauce that I had in the fridge. I don’t call myself the Queen of Substitutions for nothing, you know!

Channa Masala

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped tomato
  • 2 heaping tbsp. tomato sauce
  • pinch of curry powder
  • pinch of garam masala
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • lemon juice to taste
  • chopped cilantro

Fry onion and chopped tomato until onion is golden and translucent, and tomato is all caramelized. Rinse chickpeas and add to pot. Add in tomato sauce. Add in spices, and a little bit of water (it depends how saucy you want the dish to be). Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Just before serving, stir in lemon juice, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro!

Caramelized onions and tomatoes...so delicious!

Caramelized onions and tomatoes…so delicious!

My friend says that if you’re partial to heat in your food, you can add some chopped green chili before you add in the chickpeas. I deliberately left them out because the DH is NOT a fan of heat in his food (he finds black pepper spicy *puzzled face*), so being the sweet, loving wife that I am, I considered his preferences when making this dish. Does that get me wifely brownie points? Yes, right?

Speaking of the DH, I was standing at the stove mixing up this dish, and he came up behind me and *gasp* pinched my butt at the exact moment that I was adding the spice. I was so discombobulated that I ended up tipping my entire container of garam masala into the dish, as opposed to a pinch. Which would have bumped up the heat in the dish by about a 100 units! I do NOT recommend using all your garam masala in this dish, btw. Just saying.

But I didn’t want to toss the whole thing, because I hate wasting food, and also because I hate wasting my time, so I did the next best thing and…rinsed my chickpeas. That’s right, I rinsed off the chickpeas and started again. Although I reserved a bit of the garam masala-coated chickpeas to act as the spice in the second round, as I had no more of the spice. Hey, I like to make the best of things!

Between subbing in tomato paste for part of the fresh chopped tomatoes, and using too much garam masala, this dish didn’t turn out exactly as my friend had written, but it still turned out deliciously, and that’s all that matters to me! If you make this dish, let me know if you make any substitutions or additions — I’m always open to new ideas!

Next Post: Lemon Squares. So pucker-licious!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!