Mexican Rice Bowls

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One of my favourite food categories is: things you can put avocado on. I was at my parents house two weeks ago for Canadian Thanksgiving, and I came across a perfectly ripe avocado on Saturday morning. My dad tried to keep suggesting breakfast options – I could have oatmeal or cereal or he’d make me pancakes. I had to tell him that when avocado is a choice, I don’t need any other options. Avocado on toast is God’s gift to man (or me, at least).

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SO, today I give you one of my favourite ways to eat avo – in a Mexican themed bowl with rice and black beans! If you have ever followed a vegetarian or vegan diet, I am really confident you know your way around a bowl of rice and beans. This combo is so classic, and for good reason. Combined, rice and beans make a full protein (that is, they provide all the amino acids your body can’t synthesize). I don’t actually know which those are – I had to memorize a list of 20 amino acids once, but they have long been forgotten. Anyways, I am happy to eat this timeless combo for the tasty benefits instead of the health benefits, so it doesn’t really matter to me which amino acids are which. Just feel good knowing you’re getting them ALL.

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To make this an easy meal, I use canned black beans, and cook a massive pot of brown rice at the beginning of the week/over the weekend. The sweet potato can also be roasted at any time and kept  in the fridge until you’re ready for it (or just omitted!).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (1/4 cup dry)
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • Sweet potato cubes, roasted (directions below)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Salsa

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 1 part rice to 2 parts water to a boil, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 25-30 minutes (until all water is absorbed, follow package directions if they differ from mine).

Cut sweet potato into bite-sized cubes, and place on baking tray lined with parchment paper. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, or until they can be easily stabbed with a fork and feel soft. If you don’t have parchment paper, toss in a tablespoon of oil.

Combine beans and rice, dress with a squeeze of lime and the cumin, and toss. Top with sweet potato, diced avocado, and scoop of your favourite salsa.

One of my favourite things about this recipe is that it tastes equally good hot or room temperature. If everything finishes cooking at different times, don’t worry about trying to keep things hot! It’ll be delicious either way.

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Vegan Butternut Squash Soup Two Ways

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Fall has definitely arrived in Vancouver. I knew when I saw the amazing coloured leaves on the trees of the main boulevard yesterday, but the rest of Vancouver tells me they knew when it rained for a week straight before that glorious day. The silver lining that comes with all those rainclouds, however, is that I can share a soup recipe! I am not the kind of girl who needs an excuse to eat soup – I honestly enjoy it any time, any place, any season. But it seems the most appropriate to talk about it when it gets a little cooler outside.

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I love to make this soup two ways – the difference is only one ingredient but it changes the flavour entirely! I love to add curry paste to so many things – and soup is no exception. So here is creamy (thanks coconut milk), vegan butternut squash, curried or not.

You’ll want to roast your squash first, and it takes a while so I actually did it the night before (as I lay in bed watching Wild – I love Reese Witherspoon so I really enjoyed it). Set your oven temp to 350 degrees C. Cut your squash in half (I like to slice off the top and bottom first then set it on the flat bottom edge to make the long, vertical cut). Scoop out your seeds, rub a little bit of oil on your squash, and stick it in the oven on a parchment-lined sheet for about one hour. When it’s finished allow it to cool before peeling the skin off. Store your squash in the fridge if you aren’t going to make the soup right away.

Dice a large onion and 5 cloves of garlic, and sautee them in a tablespoon of olive oil until the onions begin to brown. Add the chopped carrot and sautee a few more minutes. Add four cups of veggie broth and your squash, and bring to a boil. Turn down your heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. After this remove your pot from the heat, and blend it all with an immersion hand blender. (I think you could also use a blender for this step.) Add in the 1/2 can of coconut milk and curry paste if you have chosen to use it, and stir really well. I divvied this up into four tupperware and have been eating it for lunch at school this week. It will keep in the fridge for a week, or would probably freeze fine as well!

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium/large butternut squash
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp green Thai curry paste (optional)

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Acorn Squash with Rice and French Lentils

image5 I. Love. Squash. I really do. Every fall when it comes into season and goes on sale I get super excited. Butternut and spaghetti squash have been my go-tos for many an autumn, but this year I decided to start with an acorn squash. As a vegetarian I am always combining grains and legumes to make my meals full of complete proteins. I decided to use rice and green lentils for this one, and figured roasted squash would mix nicely. The squash was SO EASY to prepare, but it does take a good amount of time in the oven. This is something I would make at the beginning of the week and take to school for lunch.

image1To be incredibly honest, I chose this squash because I thought it was beautiful. The colours and the little stem with a curly-cue flair cried out to me. Cutting squash can be tough, and I have two tips to help with it. The first is to find a really sharp knife, the second is to cut a flat edge as soon as possible – this makes the rest of the cutting easier.

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I got my flat edge by slicing off the top of the squash. After that I flipped it upside down and rested it on the newly flat top surface, making the longest cut (vertically through the squash) a lot easier. Once your squash is in two halves it’s easy to scoop out the seeds (“guts”). I sliced it into wedges (four pieces total) and a little bit of olive oil and some pepper was all I used for seasoning. I lined a tray with parchment paper and put this in the oven at 350 degrees and forty minutes later had beautiful roast squash.

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Once the squash has cooled it is easy to peel. Then I diced it and added it to my already prepared rice and lentils. Follow package directions for these! I used brown rice and french lentils – these tend to hold their shape better than other lentils, making them superior for salads in my opinion, but green lentils would work well too! I dressed everything with a ginger-dijon dressing (recipe bellow) and threw it into individual serving size tupperware.

Ingredients

  • 1 small roast acorn squash, prepared as described above
  • 3/4 cup dry rice (white or brown) prepared according to package
  • 1/2 cup french or green lentils prepared according to package
  • For the dressing:
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (I used rice wine because it was all I had, but would recommend white wine vinegar if you have it!)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • fresh black pepper, to taste
  • I didn’t have any but I think 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cumin would be delicious in here as well

My Grocery Guide: What I Buy (AND WHY)

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There are a lot of ways to shop for a plant-based diet. Mine is the cheap way (hello student budget!). Moving to Vancouver with zero groceries, I had to buy everything new, and it was a great time to take stock and become more aware of the foods I eat and buy on the regular. The majority of my intake is whole, unprocessed fruits, veggies, legumes and grains. I feel so good when I eat these foods, they haven’t been processed, contain no additives, aren’t packaged – I love feeling like my food is fresh, and when it hasn’t been processed it needs to be. These things are cheaper because they aren’t value-added products – that is, no middle men have come in between the farmer and the supermarket.  You can see that even the grocery store step could be eliminated by purchasing from farmer’s markets or participating in CSA boxes, and I often try to get my produce from growers directly. (UBC even has a farm on the Vancouver campus where they grow and sell fruit and veg! I haven’t been yet but I can’t wait to see it! Post coming!).

I also buy some packaged goods, including rice, quinoa, oatmeal canned/dried beans and lentils, plus condiments including spices and curry pastes, olive and sesame oil, miso paste, coconut cream.. are you feeling like I favour south asian flavours? If so you are very correct – that also sounds like another good post.

The reason I call my way of shopping the “cheap” way is that I am just buying whole foods. None of the “vegan” products that companies are manufacturing and marketing these days. I mean, okay, fine, I buy chia seeds. They add a magical quality to oatmeal and have tons of fibre plus omegas. But in general, I don’t buy products that say “vegan” on the label.. I just buy whole foods which I know to be herbivore friendly. When you don’t have to read an ingredients list it’s obvious what does or doesn’t fit into a plant-based diet.

I hope to encourage others to include more fruits and veg in their diets! There are so many places to buy good (local) produce on the cheap in Vancouver. So far my favourite is Kin’s Farm Market (Cambie & 12th is closest to me, but I know there are others). Also so many farmer’s markets in this city, and other small, family-owned shops! These seem to be the cheapest and also carry the most local produce – coincidence? Maybe not!

Hope everyone has had a happy long weekend – I kept putting off this post hoping I would get better photos, but maybe I’ll just update them later on.. my weekend has been full of hiking and schoolwork and watching movies and reading and talking on the phone with the family, what have you been up to? 🙂