Monday, April 23, 2012

Pasta for Parents: Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Greens and Tofu

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tofu and Greens

I went to a potluck housewarming party this weekend with my friend Krishna, who convinced my tired, anti-social, suburban-living butt to go by reminding me that our hosts (Valerie and her husband Jason) are vegan and all the food at the party would also be vegan. That coupled with a very real desire to see their new house and meet their lovely dog, made me keen to attend the party. It ended up being a very fun party featuring a lot of great food, and as always I was excited to be in a room full of vegans. That just doesn't happen to me very often. Expect maybe when I'm hanging out with Krishna or Adam, but we don't exactly fill a room all on our own.

 At one point in the evening the talk turned to raising kids vegan/vegetarian and pretty much every person involved in the conversation said that they would be scared to leave their vegetarian child in the care of their parents or in-laws because they were certain these loving grandparents would feel that it was their duty to secretly feed the child meat so he or she wouldn't die some horrible plant-based death. Which made me think, wow, I am lucky.

  Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tofu and Greens

The Man of Science's parents are very, very cool about the whole vegetarian thing. Since the MoS and one of his close cousins have been vegetarian for years and years, meatless meals have always been a part of their family life. I doubt we'd ever find them giving their grandchild a piece of pork because they thought he or she might perish due to malnutrition.

My mom is a vegetarian and even if she wasn't would never think of subverting my parenting. "I do what I'm told," she said, when I told her about the other party guests' worries. Almost every night I make a vegan dinner for my parents and they eat it happily. With gusto, one might even say.

For example, the other night I made this pasta dish on the fly, having no idea what to make for dinner and no particularly inspired plans. It came together so nicely, everyone was happy to eat it. I recommend it as an easy, well-balanced meal that is very forgiving if you're out of a particular ingredient. You could change the pasta, or the greens, or even the protein, and still have most of the flavours work well together. Go ahead. Try it. Make it for your parents.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tofu and Greens

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Greens and Tofu

 approximately 400 grams of (dry) whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 pound of tofu, cubed
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of mixed kale and spinach, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup vegetable soup stock
salt and pepper to taste
homemade or store-bought vegan "parmesan" for extra flavour
(my favourite is Parma- Veg, pictured below. Raw, healthy, vegan, delicious.)

my favourite

Cook spaghetti in lightly salted water until al dente.

While that's happening, toss your cubed tofu in the soy sauce and set it aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the tofu to the oil, cook until it begins to brown.  Add garlic and saute for a minute or two, don't let garlic burn!

Add the greens, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast. Let the greens cook until they are wilted and tender, stirring every few minutes.

Add the pasta and the soup stock to the dish, stir to make sure everything is well combined.

Season with salt and pepper, glug a bit more olive oil over the top if you want to be all Jamie Oliver about it.

 Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tofu and Greens

Serves four.


Monday, April 16, 2012

"Can you actually BE vegan when you're pregnant?" and other interesting questions

When I told the Man of Science that I was going to write a post about what I was eating as a pregnant vegan he said, "So your post will say, everything within arms reach that isn't nailed down?" I laughed. And then I pretended to eat the dog.

Currently, I'm on a supermega version of my usual Hobbit eating schedule. Waking snack, first breakfast, second breakfast, early lunch, late lunch, afternoon snack, predinner snack, dinner, dessert, after dinner snack, bedtime bowl of cereal. Then I fall asleep, exhausted, covered in pets.

To be honest, I was pretty sure that I would get a bunch of flack when it came to my choice of diet paired with pregnancy. I thought that the whole not-eating-meat-dairy-and-eggs would be one of those things that people would get all up in arms about, like breast feeding into the preschool years or piercing your infant's ears. I expected opinions.

I have been pleasantly surprised. I've had a few questions about how one has a healthy vegan/vegetarian pregnancy, but no one has called the Children's Aid Society on me or anything. I've also had a few requests for a blog post about my experience with vegan pregnancy, so that's what this will be. (If that kind of thing doesn't interest you, please go watch this blooper reel from my favourite TV show on earth, Parks and Recreation. Or at least watch the part around the 6 minute mark where Amy Poehler keeps saying that she's "fart and smunny" and Louis CK can't stop laughing.) I think the easiest way to tackle it is to just go through what I'm eating on a typical day and add in some explanations of my choices. I'm no doctor, but I have spoken to a naturopath, midwife, and regular doctor about my diet and taken heed of their recommendations. So here's what I ate today.

When? Monday, April 16th.

What Did I Do? Drove two hours away to work in Petawawa, Ontario for the day. Did two work visits, one at a nursery school, one at a daycare for toddlers and preschoolers. Took a ten minute break in between to eat lunch in my car in the parking lot of a Rexall drugstore. Drove two hours home. Sat on the couch with my mom for a few minutes, made dinner, wrote this post.

What Did I Eat?

Waking up: two saltine crackers from the tupperware container I keep beside the bed. This keeps me from feeling woozy from hunger when I first get up.

Breakfast: smoothie made from a frozen banana, enriched unsweetened soymilk, a big spoonful of almond-cashew butter, a tsp of cinnamon, 2 tsp of 369 oil. The soymilk and almond butter provide the protein, and the enriched-ness of the soymilk gives me calcium, vitamin D and a whole bunch of other stuff I need. the 369 oil is good for the baby's brain development and my dry pregnancy skin, and the cinnamon makes it tasty and helps to regulate blood sugar. Also I take a pre-natal vitamin pill which contains folic acid and vitamin D. I haven't been taking additional prenatal vitamins because the iron in them makes me feel really pukey and my blood tests have shown that my iron levels are just fine.

In the car: one maple pecan ProBar, half a water bottle's worth of water. I am thirsty all the time, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

At my first work stop: a handful of almonds on my way in, and an apple after I sat down to do my work. I can't eat nuts in daycare centres because they are always banned due to allergies, so if I my only snacks are nut-based I need to eat them before I go in and then wash my hands immediately. I like almonds, but I find them dry, and an apple cures that nicely.

Lunch in the parking lot: Leftovers from last night's dinner, soba noodles with tofu and broccoli in tahini sauce. A handful of chocolate covered cashews. I've been craving sweet things, but my blood sugar problems are magnified, so if I eat something sweet, I try to make sure it's combined with protein.

On the way home: Lots of dried apricots (the midwife's recommendation to add to my iron stores), almonds, plus handfuls from the bags of pretzels and lentil chips I keep in my car. I finished my bottle of water and started drinking a small tetrapak of coconut water that I had in my bag. Coconut water has become one of my favourite things in my pregnancy diet. It is good for me, doesn't mess with my blood sugar, and hydrates like crazy.

At home before dinner: Giant glass of water with lemon squeezed into it. I am always thirsty and tired when I get home from work, and the lemon water is easier to drink. I also occasionally feel nauseous this time of day, and some cold lemon water often helps quell that.

Dinner: Lemon lentil carrot soup, with whole grain bread. I was feeling a bit sick of tofu tonight, I have been eating a whole lot of it lately because it is such an easy protein and because I've been too busy/tried on the weekends to make seitan or soak and cook beans. Agave-sweetened coconut ice "cream" bar for dessert. Cup of mint tea.

Before bed: Some delicious, unsweetened oat cereal from the Barbara's brand with more of that enriched soymilk. More water.

This kind of diet is working for me now, but may need to be adjusted as I get pregnant-er. Apparently babies like to steal all their mother's nutrients away, and it only gets worse as time goes on. So far so good, though.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Pregnant Lady Special

the "pregnant lady special"

If I had a sandwich shop I'd sell this sandwich and call it the Pregnant Lady Special because right now I want to eat it ALL THE TIME! Kamut bun, vegannaise, baked tofu, avocado. There's some yellow mustard hiding under there, too. This is also excellent with Tofurky slices if your husband doesn't eat the last of them. (But baked tofu is healthier, so really he did me a favour).


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Traditional Easter Tacos. For Nine.

shells X2 plus refried beans

Say you have a whole whack of people to cook Easter Dinner for. And say a bunch of those people are vegetarian. Also, the ones who aren't vegetarian might be kind of picky. Oh, and maybe you're pregnant and can't quite manage the spend-all-day-on-your-feet-in-the-kitchen deal as well as you used to. What do you do?

Tacos. You do tacos.

cooking taco veg

Tacos mean very little cooking, since what makes tacos awesome are the garnishes that you heap onto them. The only real cooking I did was make refried black beans using this recipe from the New York Times as my guide. The other dish I actually cooked is the one pictured above which was a lightly fried combo of potatoes, sweet and spicy peppers, corn, and onions. I added some soup stock, lime juice, and chili powder for flavour and it was a great addition to the meal.

In addition to that, I chopped up tomatoes, lettuce, jalapenos, and cilantro. I grated some cheddar cheese and put out a dish of sour cream for the non-vegans (read: everyone but me). The two different kinds of salsa were store bought, but at least they were healthfood-store-bought and not the bland fare that is often the only choice at the big supermarkets.


I didn't quite predict everyone's tastes accurately. What surprised me the most was how everyone went for the soft taco shells instead of the hard ones. I'd thought the soft shells, which look a bit more rough around the edges than the boxed hard shells, would be too weird for everyone, but they went fast. I didn't even get any myself. I was also surprised by how much cheese we had leftover. For some reason I thought people would pile on the cheese, but that didn't seem to be the case.

Easter tacos

And above you see the full spread. It looks impressive, but didn't really take a lot out of me. I did the shopping on Saturday and cooked the soaked back beans that same day. On Sunday I started doing prep at noon, and worked in 1-2 hour jags with plenty of time for sitting down with a novel in between so I didn't wear myself out. By the time everyone arrived just after five PM everything was totally ready to go and I had enough energy to socialize. Done! Tacos for the win.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Cafe My House

Cafe My House is a super vegan-friendly restaurant in the Alta Vista/Bank Street neighbourhood of Ottawa. It's not walkable for most people, but since I drive around a lot for work I am able to stop in now and again for a quick lunch or a smoothie. This one was Cilantro and Mango, which was perfect on a hot day when I was dying of thirst, but next time I'd get a small, since the flavour was very intense and I couldn't finish it.