May 29, 2014

Buffalo Lentil Loaf

Buffalo Lentil Loaf - a healthy & tasty vegetarian meatloaf alternative!

I always hated meatloaf as a kid, and I still do.  I can’t even say the word meatloaf without adding ‘shmeatloaf’ after it.  It’s funny that when I was young, it was more the vegetables, onions and little crunchy bits in the meatloaf that I hated, and now it’s the idea of a tray full of packed meat that turns me off.  A lentil loaf full of vegetables though?  Much more up my alley!

I know some people will have the same reaction I have to meatloaf when they hear the word ‘lentil loaf’.  Indeed, my fiancé in particular was extremely skeptical at the idea.  But even he ended up admitting that this was really good, so if you’re hesitant, I encourage you to give it a chance!

Buffalo Lentil Loaf - a healthy & tasty vegetarian meatloaf alternative!

Why should you give this a chance over regular meatloaf?  Because lentils are full of fiber and protein to fill you up and give you energy, along with other important minerals like potassium, folate, and iron.  There’s also oats and a little egg for even more fiber and protein in this, along with vegetables like onions, carrots, and peppers for added nutrition.  Of course, I had to add a little extra appeal to convince the fiancé to try this, so I included buffalo sauce to give it extra flavour and kick, which I loved!  You could substitute bbq sauce though if you’re not into spicy food.

Buffalo Lentil Loaf - a healthy & tasty vegetarian meatloaf alternative!

Though it takes a little time to cook, the result is worth it!  I love this lentil loaf on its own with a side of vegetables (mashed potatoes would be great too!), but I ate most of it in sandwiches for lunch.  Toast some whole grain bread, add some lettuce, barbeque or buffalo sauce, tomato, and a couple slices of lentil loaf and you’ve got a hearty, filling, and tasty meal!

Buffalo Lentil Loaf - a healthy & tasty vegetarian meatloaf alternative!

Buffalo Lentil Loaf

Lentil loaf recipe adapted from In Sonnet's Kitchen and The Simple Veganista

Makes one 9x5 loaf, serves about 4-6 (or more depending on how you serve the loaf)


1 cup dry brown lentils
2-1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small or medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 a large red bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Pinch each of salt and pepper
1 cup rolled oats, pulsed in a blender or food processor a few times to more of a coarse crumb
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buffalo sauce (your favourite brand, such as Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce or PC Buffalo Wing Sauce)

2 tablespoons bbq sauce (plus more for after baking, if desired)
2 tablespoons buffalo sauce


Add lentils and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer 25-30 minutes, until lentils are soft and water is mostly evaporated.  Remove from heat, drain any excess water, and puree about three-quarters of the lentils in a blender or food processor (or with an immersion blender).  Set aside to let cool slightly.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, red pepper, and carrot and sauté, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes or until softened.  Stir in the spices (cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper), then remove from heat. 

Fold together the lentils, sautéed vegetables and spices, oats, eggs, and buffalo sauce in a large bowl or in the saucepan until combined.  Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper, spray lightly with cooking spray, and spread lentil mixture evenly in prepared pan.  Mix the 2 tablespoons each of bbq sauce and buffalo sauce for the glaze, and brush in an even layer on top of the loaf. 

Bake loaf in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until the top of the loaf is dry, firm, and golden brown.  Let cool in pan for at least 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges, then use parchment paper to lift out of pan.  Top with a bit of additional bbq sauce if you like. Slice into 10-12 slices and serve however you desire – either on its own, in a sandwich, on top of a salad, etc.

May 22, 2014

Southwestern Black Bean & Brown Rice Veggie Burgers

Southwestern Black Bean & Brown Rice Veggie Burgers

The (almost) return of summer means the return of burger season - one of my favourite foods!  I still make them in the winter on the stovetop (and even in the summer I use the stovetop because I'm scared of bbqs), but there's something about summer that makes me crave burgers all the time.

I've never liked beef burgers though, and a regular beef patty with the standard toppings doesn't appeal to me much.  Instead, I love experimenting with different chicken and turkey burgers - like buffalo chicken and cheddar burgers or apple turkey burgers with caramelized onions and brie - and veggie burgers, which are so customizable, like lemon chickpea quinoa burgers or portabello mushroom burgers with roasted red peppers and provolone!

Southwestern Black Bean & Brown Rice Veggie Burgers

I love trying out new flavours and for my first veggie burgers of the post-winter season (it's hard to call this summer yet), I went with a Southwestern theme!

The veggie patties for these burgers are hearty and full of real veggies, just how I like them!  The base is a mixture of brown rice, oats, and black beans for plenty of protein and fiber, and mixed in are some onions, garlic, peppers, corn, and plenty of spices for added nutrition and flavour.

Southwestern Black Bean & Brown Rice Veggie Burgers

Ryan and I ate these for dinner three nights in a row (another great thing about veggie burgers is getting a lot of food for a pretty low cost!) and ate them differently each night.

The first time I topped mine with salsa and served them with chipotle sweet potato fries as pictured, which made for a pretty spicy meal though I still loved it!  The second night I added cheese on top, skipped the salsa, and used a light ranch dressing instead which was also awesome.  And the third night I crumbled my patty up and served it over a big spinach salad which was a refreshing change! 
If I had avocado I would have definitely added it to all three meals but avocados are so expensive these days I have to sadly try to limit my use of them.

You can eat these however you like and with whatever toppings you think sound good - hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Southwestern Black Bean & Brown Rice Veggie Burgers

Southwestern Black Bean & Brown Rice Veggie Burgers

Inspired by and adapted from similar recipes seen on Simply Scratch, Veggie Belly, and Katherine Martinelli

Makes 6 burgers


For the Burgers:
1/2 cup uncooked whole grain brown rice – I used pre-cooked instant rice
1/2 cup rolled oats, divided
1 (540mL) can of no-salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup diced bell peppers – I used half a green pepper but you could use a mixture of green and red
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup thawed frozen corn kernels
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder for added spice (or substitute paprika)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For Topping:
6 whole wheat hamburger buns
Lettuce or spinach
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced ripe avocado
Salsa (optional)
Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (optional)


Cook the rice according to package directions.  Let drain well.

Pulse 1/4 cup oats in a food processor to form crumbs.  Keep remaining 1/4 cup of oats whole.  Transfer all oats to a large bowl.  Reserve 1/4 cup black beans and transfer remaining beans to the food processor.  Pulse until most of the beans are mashed (but not completely mushy).  Add to the large bowl with the oats.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and peppers and sauté until softened, 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add corn and reserved 1/4 cup of black beans and stir.  Add all spices and sauté for another minute, stirring.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Add vegetable mixture and rice to the bowl with the oats and black beans.  Add whisked egg and stir mixture until combined.  Form into 6 large patties or 8 smaller ones, if desired (I made 6 patties).

Heat two large skillets over medium heat.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray or use a light amount of oil.  Add 3 patties per pan and cook about 5-6 minutes per side, turning carefully in between, until browned and cooked through.  If using cheese, add slices to the tops of the patties about a minute or two before they’re done cooking to melt the cheese.  Remove from heat.

Add patties to buns and top with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, salsa, or desired other toppings.  You could also crumble the patties and serve them on salad!

May 16, 2014

Spring Vegetable Minestrone with White Beans & Pesto

Spring Vegetable Minestrone with White Beans & Pesto

After a tease of summer-like weather last weekend, we've been making up for it all week here with rain, rain, and more rain.  Just in time for the long weekend!

For us Canadians, this May long weekend is sort of the unofficial kickoff to summer, but almost invariably ends up being cold and rainy.  So while soup isn't the type of recipe you would normally kick off a late May long weekend with, it's pretty appropriate for this wet and rainy spring weather we've been experiencing!

Spring Vegetable Minestrone with White Beans & Pesto

This is not a traditional minestrone soup, using asparagus and yellow peppers for some bright spring flavour along with the tomatoes, white beans for protein, no pasta, and with pesto and parmesan added in at the end for a boost of richness and flavour.

I realize now that my pictures don't really do this soup justice with the way I slightly overcooked my asparagus and then pretty much covered the whole bowl in pesto, but I do love pesto!  This was the perfect type of comfort spring food that's needed this time of year as we patiently wait for summer to kick in for good - hopefully not that long now!

Spring Vegetable Minestrone with White Beans & Pesto

Spring Vegetable Minestrone Soup with White Beans and Pesto

Adapted from Food & Drink Magazine

Serves 4-6


1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small yellow onions, peeled and diced
2 cups finely chopped yellow bell peppers, (about 1-1/2 peppers; red or orange would also work)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 (540mL) can cannellini or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups vegetable broth (I use low-sodium broth)
1-1/2 cups chopped asparagus (half inch pieces; woody ends of asparagus removed)
Salt and pepper

For Topping:
~1 tablespoon prepared pesto per serving
Grated parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh basil, parsley, or green onion (optional)


In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add onions and peppers and sauté for another 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add tomato paste and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring often.  Add grape tomatoes and sauté for another minute.  Add white beans and vegetable stock, bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer 10 minutes.  Add asparagus and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender (I did 10 minutes and my asparagus was a little overdone).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide among bowls and serve warm, topped with pesto, parmesan cheese, and herbs, if desired.  Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

May 13, 2014

What We Ate for Mothers Day 2014

I  hope all the moms out there had a lovely Mothers Day this past weekend!

My sisters and I are all lucky enough to live near our amazing mom so we make sure to get together to spoil her as best as we can every Mothers Day.  She would be happy just to spend the day with us but considering how much she does for us all year, we make sure to at least cook and clean for her so she can try to take a day off!

We love planning out special meals our mom would like and since they all turned out so well I thought I'd share them with you guys as they're all great any day of the year and for any special person in your life (or yourself!)

mothers day breakfast

Starting with brunch, we decided to have a make-your-own yogurt parfait set-up along with some homemade biscuits and jam.

My sister Genevieve did most of the work on the yogurt parfaits, laying out two kinds of tropical-flavoured yogurt (Greek and regular), bananas, strawberries, blackberries, and mango for fruit, some coconut chia granola (which I've mentioned before and love!), and a strawberry chia lemon curd which she made the night before.  The curd was delicious and everyone loved that it was healthy too!  The recipe she used can be found here on Edible Perspective.

mothers day breakfast

My older sister spent the morning making homemade biscuits that were perfectly fluffy and warm and amazing topped with jam.  The recipe for the biscuits came from a cookbook called Breakfast and Beyond: Comfort Food from Dawn to Dusk, which she bought at Sunny Point Cafe on a recent trip to North Carolina, after eating there and loving it!

spring flowers

After brunch, we each gave Mom some cards and gifts, then we all went for a family walk in a big park.  The weather has finally warmed up here and flowers are just starting to bloom, so we were able to walk outside in t-shirts for the first time and took some lovely photos!


The nice weather also meant we were able to eat dinner outside for the first time this year, which was awesome!

For early evening appetizers, we all enjoyed some chips with storebought jalapeno passionfruit salsa and homemade mango guacamole which my sister made!

We loved that a lot of the dinner work could be done earlier in the afternoon so we had time to all si together and enjoy some appetizers and drinks!

roasted strawberry balsamic dressing

Afterwards, we wanted to have a nice light summer-themed dinner so we decided on a strawberry salad and focaccia.

I took charge of the salad for dinner, and decided to follow Closet Cooking's recipe for strawberry and balsamic grilled chicken salad.  The dressing he recommended was a homemade roasted strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, which is basically a vinaigrette with pureed roasted strawberries.  I ended up over-dressing my salad a little but I didn't mind because I really liked this dressing!  The dressing recipe can be found here.

strawberry chicken and tofu salad

I used a mixture of spinach, arugula, and baby greens for the base, then added fresh chopped strawberries, toasted almonds, thinly sliced shallots (which I soaked in water briefly to remove some of the bite), and lots of goat cheese!  I followed the recipe for marinating the chicken but cooked it on the stovetop because the bbq hasn't been cleaned up for the season yet.  It was still delicious though!

And for the vegetarians, my sister prepared some breaded tofu based on this recipe, which I'm told was good!

strawberry chicken and tofu salad

Love eating outside with my family!

strawberry focaccia

For the focaccia, my sister Genevieve followed this recipe for strawberry focaccia with maple balsamic onions.  We also decided to add goat cheese since we had some extra, which complemented the other flavours well.  It was a bit of work preparing the dough ahead of time but it turned out well!

mothers day dinner

My dinner plate - yum!

mini tarts

Finally, for dessert my older sister went to a lot of work to make two different kinds of homemade tarts for us all to enjoy.  On the left was a lemon cheese tart with mascarpone cheese and fresh lemon juice and zest, and on the right was a rhubarb custard tart which was similar to a butter tart but with the first of the season's fresh rhubarb!  Click the links for the recipes she used - even though it was a lot of work, it was worth it as everyone loved them both; I don't think I could pick a favourite!

I'm so grateful that I got to spend the day with my amazing mom and family and that they are all such great cooks! :)  Hope you all had a nice weekend and that the weather has warmed up where you are too!

May 07, 2014

Monthly Recap - April 2014

April is one of my favourite months of the year because we usually start to see signs of spring (which was much needed this year after our ridiculously long winter!), we often get to celebrate Easter this month, and it's my birthday month!

The only Easter treat I had time to make this year were these malted milk blondies:

easter malted milk blondies

I used a recipe for malted milk blondies from one of the Baked cookbooks (but found on many blogs, including here) but replaced the whoppers, chocolate chips, and walnuts with Easter-themed robin's eggs (a malted milk candy).  That probably wasn't the best idea because melted candy gets pretty chewy, and overall I found the bars a bit on the sweet side, but others all really enjoyed them, especially warmed up with ice cream!

easter dinner

For Easter dinner, we enjoyed an asparagus and oka cheese tart (using this recipe) and some roasted spring veggies with dill pesto (recipe here) all made by my sister Genevieve; a scalloped potato dish with sweet potatoes and gruyere from my aunt (recipe here; it was so good!); an arugula, strawberry, and goat cheese salad from my mom; and ham for the meat eaters!  For dessert, my older sister made a delicious coconut lime bundt cake which was the perfect light finish to the meal!

My sister posted more details of our Easter meal on her blog if you're interested!

birthday cake oreos

For my birthday dessert, I already shared the Oreo cheesecake I made using these festive Oreos!

birthday dinner

And for dinner, my parents made an amazing Mexican-themed meal with my mom's delicious homemade guacamole and sangria to start, followed by quesadillas with a strawberry salsa and a cucumber salad on the side.  My dad made two types of quesadillas - one with pinto beans and one with chicken - both both had caramelized pineapple in them which was the star of the dish!  I only just realized that the recipe he used is from one of my favourite blogs, How Sweet It Is, which I find amusing because he found it all on his own!

date and seed bars

As one of my gifts, my aunt made these chewy date and seed bars which I devoured and will need to make for myself to have more soon!

starbucks frapps

On my birthday I spent some time doing work at Starbucks and treated myself to a frappucino.  Later on a barista came around with a free cookie sample and little baby frapp which I thought was the cutest thing ever!  It's the little things that make me happy!

red wings game

On the night of my birthday, my fiance and I went to see my first NHL playoff game!  I've been to regular games before but the excitement of a playoff game was even more fun (except that the game didn't end how we wanted)!

Other food-related things from this month...

broccoli chickpea salad

I feel like I post a picture of some version of this salad every month but I'm always making it when I'm too busy to cook dinner, which seems to be all the time lately.  This version contained chickpeas, raw broccoli, apples, grated carrots, sunflower seeds, shredded cheddar cheese, and a quick dijon vinaigrette.  So good!

mini frittatas

When I knew I had a busy week coming up, I made these little mini frittatas ahead of time for several days of breakfast!  You've probably seen some version of these on the internet somewhere before, and I've made them often but never shared them because there are already so many recipes out there.  But to make mine, I basically whisk however many eggs I like with a splash of milk, sautee some veggies (I used kale and spinach here but I also like broccoli), shred some cheese (I used cheddar here but any kind works!), then spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray, divide the egg mixture into as many muffin cups as I had eggs, and add some veggies and cheese to each, filling them to the top.  Then I bake them at 350 for about 20 minutes or until they're done.  I either eat a couple warmed up for breakfast on their own, or use them in english  muffin sandwiches!

If you're looking for a specific recipe, these go by many names, but try googling 'mini frittatas', 'muffin tin frittatas', or 'muffin tin omelettes' (I've even seen them called mini quiches even though they're not like quiche!) and you should find lots of recipe ideas!

attempt at khao soi

One of my recipe fails this month was an attempt at making a Northern Thai soup-like curry dish called khao soi.  I tried it first when I visisted Chiang Mai and loved it, and have since seen a lot of recipes for it online and meant to make it at home.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get my hands on all the ingredients I needed when I went to make this, and I stupidly thought I could try to substitute some healthier whole wheat egg white noodles in place of regular egg noodles, forgetting that Italian pasta noodles are not the same as the noodles you would use in Asian dishes.  It did not work.  I will try this again some day though!

vegan banana snack cake

Another not-so-successful recipe attempt was a healthy vegan banana snack cake.  I used whole wheat flour and oats, lots of bananas, a little coconut oil, applesauce, and spices, so there was no added sugar.  I still ate all of it, but it didn't taste sweet enough and I just find that I can never get vegan banana baked goods to cook through to my liking; they're always mushy.  If you have any good tips or recipes, let me know!

 photo IMG_1529-2_zps6015e743.jpg

The nice people at Natural Delights sent me a voucher for some of their delicious medjool dates and I've been loving using them in baked goods and snacks!  I don't usually buy medjool dates because they're a little more expensive than regular honey dates but they are so much better tasting (and have a better texture) so I recommend getting your hands on some if you can!  I used them to make these no-bake carrot cake date balls I shared in time for Easter, and I also love them in these oatmeal cinnamon date balls.

Natural Delights has tons of recipe ideas on their website too that I hope to try out!

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Another snack I tried and loved this month was this chipotle lentil hummus from one of my favourite blogs, Coffee & Quinoa.  I had never tried a lentil hummus before but the texture was so smooth and creamy, and I loved the chipotle flavour in this version!

 photo gogomart_zps2eb3c2d7.jpg

I tried a new lunch place in Kitchener this month called Go Go Mart, which serves lots of healthy meals on the go.  I got a smoothie with avocado, kale, banana, pineapple, lime and orange juice, and almond milk, along with a tahini quinoa salad, and loved them both!  I wish I could afford to eat out here every day!

 photo IMG_0529-2_zpsb18d6128.jpg

I also tried a relatively new restaurant called Taco Farm which I've now been to twice and love.  Pictured here were the chicken pibil and fried fish tacos - both good but the chicken is my fave, and the chips with guac and salsa are even better!

 photo frozenyogurt_zps9c9e64c8.jpg

I've also been treating myself to lots of frozen yogurt now that the weather's starting to get a little nicer.  I seriously can't control myself when I walk by a froyo place!

That's pretty much it for my April - hope you all had a great month and are ready for a great Spring!

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