September 25, 2014

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Healthy vegan pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie is my (and a lot of people's, I'm sure) favourite type of pie, and the type I have the least self-control around because it's so easy to just take a little slice from the fridge, and then one more little slice, and suddenly you've eaten a whole pie just like that.  Ryan has been wanting to buy a pumpkin pie for weeks now but I told him that since it would just be the two of us eating it (and I intend on eating much more pumpkin pie in the coming months!) I wanted to try making a healthy pie that we wouldn't feel guilty about eating!

Healthy vegan pumpkin pie

This pumpkin pie is pretty healthy and also happens to be vegan.  The crust is made from low-fat graham crackers mixed with a bit of coconut oil, so the crust alone has a lot less "bad" fats than a typical butter or shortening-packed pie crust.  (Not that I have anything wrong with eating the occasional piece of traditional pie, but like I said, I wanted to make a healthier version!)  I could have made a healthier crust with nuts and dates but I wanted to keep this as easy and inexpensive as possible since we wanted it to be more of an every day dessert pie.

The filling is made up of pumpkin puree, unsweetened almond milk, no eggs, a reduced amount of brown sugar and some pure maple syrup for sweetening, cornstarch to help everything set, and of course the usual pumpkin spices.

Healthy vegan pumpkin pie

For a topping, I made a batch of coconut whipped cream, which is a great vegan alternative to traditional whipped cream!  To make it, you basically put a can of coconut milk in the fridge for a while so that the cream separates from the liquid, then you scoop out the coconut cream and whip it in a chilled bowl until it's fluffy.  It doesn't need much sweetener but I added a tiny bit of powdered sugar and vanilla extract to mine.  It tastes amazing and the slight coconut flavour really complements pumpkin pie!  Oh She Glows has a great tutorial for making whipped cream if you've never tried it before!

Coconut whipped cream

I was worried that either the taste or texture of this pie wouldn't turn out right but it turned out so much better than I'd even hoped!  It had a really nice bold pumpkin flavour from all the spices and addition of molasses (you can cut back if you don't like a lot of spice though!), the filling set perfectly and was smooth and creamy, and the crust sort of softened but stayed firm.  I won't say that it tastes exactly the same as a traditional pumpkin pie, but we both loved this and will likely be making it again soon!

With (Canadian) Thanksgiving quickly approaching, this would be a great dessert if you'll have any vegans at the table, or just want a lighter option after a big meal!

Healthy vegan pumpkin pie

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Recipe inspired by and adapted from several sources, including Vegetarian Times, Minimalist Baker, and Oh She Glows

Makes one 9-inch pie


For the Crust:
10 sheets of low-fat graham crackers (about 1.5 cups of crumbs)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup melted organic coconut oil

For the Filling:
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
3-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly spray a 9” pie pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until they form fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cinnamon with a whisk or a fork.  Add the melted coconut oil and mix together (I use a fork) until well combined.  Pour crumb mixture into the prepared pie pan and press evenly across the bottom and up the sides to form a pie crust.  Bake in preheated oven for about 7 minutes, then remove.  Leave oven on.

For the filling, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, whisking together until just combined.  You could do the wet and dry ingredients separately if you like but I saved bowls and just mixed everything together in one.  Pour filling over the baked pie crust, return to oven, and bake for 55-60 minutes, until set. 

Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature for at least an hour, then transfer to refrigerator and let cool for 3-4 hours or overnight before slicing and serving.

Serve with coconut whipped cream, if desired.  Follow the link for instructions on making coconut whipped cream; note that your coconut milk will need to be in the fridge the day before so plan ahead!

September 19, 2014

Chipotle Bean Burritos

Chipotle Bean Burritos

As much as I love cooking, I don’t like having to coordinate a bunch of dishes at once or cook multiple nights in a row, so meals that consist of one dish and make lots of leftovers are a favourite around here. And these burritos fit the bill perfectly!

I consider these a fairly healthy version of a burrito with beans instead of meat, some veggies, low-fat sour cream, not too much cheese, and whole wheat tortillas (which taste just as good as regular tortillas in my opinion!).

Chipotle Bean Burritos

These also involve fairly minimal effort to make, and make six servings, which meant lots of leftovers for us!  To prepare them, a mixture of black beans and kidney beans gets cooked with some onion, garlic, vegetable broth, spices, chipotle sauce, and salsa to give it lots of flavour. It’s then rolled up with lettuce, tomatoes, mashed avocado, cheese, sour cream, a few pickled jalapenos, and some chipotle hot sauce for a packed and flavour-filled meal-in-one.

Chipotle Bean Burritos

We ate these three nights in a row this week and liked them more each time. That may have to do with my getting much better at rolling them with more practice (the last picture was the third night’s burrito which I thought looked much better than the first!)

Ryan commented on how good these are each time too and said they’re way better than beef burritos, and I’d have to agree! (though I don’t like beef anyway, so I’m a little biased)

Chipotle Bean Burritos

Chipotle Bean Burritos

Adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 6


For the bean mixture:
1 teaspoon canola or olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 (540mL) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (540mL) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chunky salsa – Mild or medium depending on your preference.  You could also use a chipotle salsa for more chipotle flavour!
2 teaspoons chipotle chile in adobo

Remaining burrito ingredients:
6 large (10-inch) whole wheat tortillas
2 large or 3 small ripe avocados
~1 cup shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese (or a blend of cheese)
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1-1/2 to 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
~1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, optional
~6 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
Chipotle or regular hot sauce, optional

*I get chipotle chile powder at the bulk store.  If you can't find it, you can use a combination of regular chile powder and some cumin for spice.


Heat oil in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute about 5 minutes, stirring often, until translucent and starting to turn golden brown.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Add chile powder and salt and stir to coat for another 30 seconds.  Stir in vegetable broth and beans and bring to a boil.  Let simmer about 7-10 minutes, or until no liquid remains. Remove from heat and stir in salsa and chipotle sauce.  Partially mash mixture.

Warm tortillas up for about 30 seconds in the microwave, wrapped in damp paper towel, so they are easier to roll.  To form burritos, spread 1/6 of the bean mixture (so it divides evenly among 6 burritos) onto one half of the tortilla, leaving about a 1-inch border.  Top with avocado, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, and hot sauce (again dividing evenly among 6 burritos).  Roll up the side closest to the filling, then fold in each end, and roll the burrito toward the empty side of the tortilla, wrapping the filling completely.  Others prefer to fold in the sides of the burrito first, then roll up from the bottom.  I've also seen starting with the filling in the middle.  Use whatever method works for you but make sure to roll tightly and keep the filling in!

Serve while filling is still slightly warm.  I like to warm my completed burrito up in the toaster oven for a couple minutes before eating to make sure it's warm throughout.

If you have leftovers, keep everything separate.  Warm bean mixture up in the microwave and then prepare burrito as before.

September 15, 2014

Monthly Recap - July/August 2014

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As I mentioned in my last post, I spent much of the summer working on my dissertation, so I don't have a lot to share in the way of exciting activities or elaborate dishes, but we still enjoyed lots of summery meals and treats which I thought I'd share in a combined July and August monthly recap post!

corn and turkey burger

Meals like this were a staple this summer - fresh, local corn on the cob and burgers. Turkey burgers are one of the easiest meals for me to make and they're pretty healthy too. These are my favourite buffalo turkey burgers that we make all the time!

chicken tomato corn feta salad

Salads are also easy to make and let fresh summer produce shine through. I love this combo of chicken, corn, tomatoes, cucumber, and feta cheese.

potato salad and corn

Here's another great summer meal, once again involving corn, with a variation on my warm dijon roasted asparagus and potato salad using dill instead of parsley and green beans instead of asparagus.  I love the mustard-yogurt dressing on this in place of mayo!

tex mex quinoa casserole

When I had time to cook I tried to make something that would give us a lot of leftovers (and thus days off cooking)! I loved this quinoa casserole I threw together with what we had in the fridge one night. I just cooked a box of quinoa in chicken broth then stirred in a little tomato paste, cumin, and chili powder. Then I sauteed some onion, garlic, corn, and kale in a separate pan, stirred in black beans, tomatoes, salsa, and more cumin and chili powder (and salt and pepper), stirred it all together with some shredded cheese, transferred it to a baking dish, topped with some more cheese, and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes (15 covered, 5 uncovered) at 375.  I plan on making something similar again soon so I can share it as an actual recipe!

baked pesto pasta

We also loved this baked pesto pasta from Pinch of Yum, which gave us lots of meals! The pesto was packed with spinach, kale, and basil, then tossed with whole wheat pesto, tomatoes, and a little cheese for a healthy and filling meal!

carrot salad with tahini dressing, crispy chickpeas, and baked turkey meatballs

This carrot salad with a tahini dressing, crispy spiced chickpeas, and baked sesame turkey meatballs from Smells Like Home (click for the recipe) might sound a little weird but was one of my favourite new dishes I've tried recently. The flavours and textures all worked together so well and I loved that it was a balanced and healthy meal. I plan on making it again soon!

strawberry, feta, spinach quinoa salad

I made this quinoa salad with strawberries, spinach, feta, and pecans for a strawberry social potluck my lab held earlier this summer. It was light and tasty but I thought it needed a bit more flavour so I didn't share the recipe on here. I'll have to try again next summer; too bad strawberry season is so short!

vegetarian pho

When my whole family started to come down with colds in August, I made a big batch of vegetarian pho to try to fight it off. I haven't tried a traditional pho before, mostly because I'm not a fan of the meat that comes in it, so it was hard to compare this version but I didn't think it tasted quite right (though we did manage to fight off our colds!). If anyone has a great vegetarian pho recipe, please share!

 apple and cheese naan pizzas

Naan pizzas are one of my go-to quick and easy light meals when I don't have time to cook. I love the combo of apples and cheese!

buffalo chicken sandwich and tomato hummus bagel sandwich

I also ate a lot of sandwiches. Pictured on the left above is a buffalo chicken and blue cheese grilled cheese, and on the right is a whole wheat bagel sandwich with hummus, sprouts, tomatoes, and a little blue cheese. Both so good!

breakfast bagel egg sandwich

And a breakfast version of a bagel sandwich - I follow this method for making a little omelette and cheese egg that fits perfectly on a sandwich with a little lettuce and tomato!


When I was working from home I drank lots of smoothies to power me through! I always start with a frozen banana, oats, and almond milk, then I'll throw in some combination of powdered peanut butter, cocoa powder, raw honey, spinach, or berries. I also love adding instant coffee for a little pick me up!

healthy juices

Fresh fruit juices (pictured is a beet, carrot, and cucumber juice), kombucha drinks, and fruit smoothies also gave me writing energy!

coconut water chia popsicles

These coconut water and chia popsicles I got at Costco were a great refreshing snack!

strawberry chia jam

I love chia seed jam because it uses so much less sugar than traditional jam and adds in the nutritional benefits of chia seeds. I only made one batch this year (using local strawberries, some raw honey, and chia seeds) but wish I'd made more!

I made a few treats for social gatherings too...

guinness chocolate cake balls

I finally used my babycakes cake pop maker to make some chocolate guinness cake balls using a recipe from their cookbook. No cake mix or canned frosting or having to roll the two together and put them on a stick like I've done with cake pops in the past - I loved these!

roasted cherry brownies

I've made these roasted cherry brownies in the past and made them again for an event this summer. They're rich, dense, and chocolatey but with bursts of sweet roasted cherries to balance them out.

peach crumb cake bars

I tried these peach crumb bars from Two Peas & Their Pod for the first time and they were delicious (though I'd call them cake squares rather than bars). It's probably a little late in the year to be recommending them now but you should save this recipe to try for next peach season!

ice cream and frozen yogurt

I also treated myself to lots of ice cream/frozen yogurt breaks!

star trail photography

I tried star trail photography for the first time one summer night and loved how it turned out. It takes a few hours to get one picture though so I didn't get another chance to try it but look forward to doing it again next summer!

Looking back on all this food makes me wish for summer weather and food to come back and stay a little longer, but I'm also excited to start working with fall ingredients now! Hope everyone had a great summer!

September 09, 2014

BBQ Tofu, Bean, Tomato & Corn Salad w/ BBQ Yogurt Dressing

BBQ Tofu, Bean, Tomato & Corn Salad with BBQ Yogurt Dressing

I'm back!

I didn't intend to take such a long absence from this blog, but my summer ended up being entirely taken over by working on my PhD dissertation, and I didn't have time to even go outside many days let alone create and photograph recipes or write blog posts.  Now that I've handed it in (one step down!) I'm hoping to have a little more time for blogging!

BBQ Tofu, Bean, Tomato & Corn Salad with BBQ Yogurt Dressing

Needless to say, most of my meals this summer consisted of quick and easy dishes, which included a lot of salads!

This bbq tofu salad was a little more time consuming because of the steps involved in preparing the tofu (pressing the water out, marinating it, and baking it), but it's worth it!  I follow Oh My Veggies' recipe for baked barbecue tofu which is my favourite way to eat tofu.  She calls it 'tofu for tofu haters' and I agree; I used to think I hated tofu until I tried it this way, so if you think you hate it too, give this a chance!

BBQ Tofu, Bean, Tomato & Corn Salad with BBQ Yogurt Dressing

With the addition of fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumber, black beans, two types of lettuce, and sprouts, this salad has lots of crunch, flavour, and protein.  For the dressing, I whisked together some low-fat plain yogurt with a bit of bbq sauce, apple cider vinegar, and a couple spices for an easy, creamy, and light dressing that complemented the tofu.

And as with most salads, feel free to add in whatever else you like!  Avocado would have been great, I just couldn't find any ripe ones in time; mushrooms would work well too.

I'm hoping to share some of the other easy meals I was enjoying over the summer in a recap post later this week, then I can't believe it's already time to start thinking about fall recipes (which I admit I'm pretty excited about)!

BBQ Tofu, Bean, Tomato & Corn Salad with BBQ Yogurt Dressing

BBQ Tofu, Bean, Tomato & Corn Salad with BBQ Yogurt Dressing

Makes about 4 main course servings


For the Tofu:
1 (12-14oz) package of extra-firm tofu
1/2 cup barbecue sauce

For the Salad:
2 cobs of fresh corn or around 1 cup of thawed frozen corn kernels
1 (540mL) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
Half to one cucumber, chopped (I used about 3/4 of one but it depends on its size)
1 ripe avocado, chopped (I couldn’t find a ripe one in time so it’s not included in pictures)
1 red pepper, chopped (I've added this in later versions but it's not pictured here)
1 head of romaine or iceberg lettuce, or your desired greens 
Handful of alfalfa sprouts, if desired

For the Dressing:
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1.5 to 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (start with 1.5 and add more to taste if needed)


Prepare baked barbecue tofu following directions from Oh My Veggies (be sure to allow enough time to press the tofu, marinate it, and bake it).

If using fresh corn, cook according to your liking if desired (I boil the cobs of corn in a large pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes, rinse with cold water, then slice off the kernels).  Prepare other salad ingredients.  

Whisk all ingredients for the dressing together in a small bowl, taste, and adjust any amounts to your liking. I sometimes add more yogurt or throw some mustard in.  You can add a bit of water to thin it out if necessary.

Toss together all ingredients with the dressing and serve.

Ingredient Index

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