Nishi’s Luscious Lentil Salad

I veganized my friend’s Nishi’s lentil salad, and replaced some veggies with what I had in the fridge.

Ingredients:
1 can lentils (brown or green)
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red or yellow pepper, finely chopped
1/2 english cucumber, finely chopped
1/2 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

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Dressing:
4 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix all the ingredients, and add dressing. Even my omnivore husband enjoyed this salad!

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For vegetarians, below is Nishi’s original lentil salad recipe.

Ingredients:
1 can lentils (brown or green)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red or yellow pepper, finely chopped
2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
2 oz semi firm Havarti cheese, cubed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

Dressing:
4 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper

Enjoy!

Oyster Mushroom Pasta

We’ve been on a bit of a pasta kick. This pasta comes together really quickly with minimal ingredients. It’s the perfect dish to follow a long day of work/school when energy and enthusiasm for cooking is far from our minds. The oyster mushrooms add meatiness to the dish, while the double-smoked cheddar cheese grated on top enhances the flavour.

3 cups dried pasta, preferably rotini
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 oz oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups marinara sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Double-smoked cheddar cheese, grated
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
2. Saute mushrooms and garlic in olive oil for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Drain the pasta and return to pot. Add sauteed mushrooms and garlic, marinara sauce, salt and pepper. Stir and heat until thoroughly warmed through.
4. Top with double-smoked cheddar cheese and serve with garlic bread.

Vegetarian Lasagna

We love gooey cheese dishes, bonus if we can sneak a vegetable in there like zucchini. Usually we’re not really sure what to do with zucchini besides eat it straight off grill or put it on pizza. We love putting vegetables like eggplant in risottos, stews, etc. but the zucchini somehow gets neglected. However, it’s absolutely delicious in this lasagna! This dish is healthier than traditional lasagnas thanks to the vegetables and the low fat cottage cheese.

3 cups organic Marinara sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 package lasagna noodles
2 medium zucchini, sliced
7 oz oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups low fat cottage cheese
2 cups shredded cheese (We used a 4 cheese blend)
1 teaspoon oregano

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic for two minutes, then add oyster mushrooms and zucchini. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until zucchini and mushrooms are tender.
3. Cook the noodles in boiling water for a few minutes, rinse in cold water and drain.
4. Cover the bottom of a 9×12 inch baking pan with 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, then cover the sauce with one layer of lasagna noodles. Cover this with a thin layer of cottage cheese, then add a layer of cooked mushrooms and zucchini and a thin layer of marinara sauce. Repeat 2 times, then add a layer of noodles, a layer of marinara sauce and a layer of shredded cheese. Sprinkle oregano on top of shredded cheese.
5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the lasagna and bake for another 15 minutes to lightly brown the cheese.
6. Allow lasagna to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa rules. It’s gluten-free, pairs well with everything, cooks in 15 minutes, and is high in protein and other good stuff like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. We like to make this salad Sunday night and have it throughout the week as a side dish, but it would be great on its own as well.

If you buy prepackaged quinoa, it should say if it’s been rinsed or not. If not, then let the quinoa soak for about 15 minutes or longer to remove the bitter coating that contains saponins. Then give it a quick rinse and it’s ready to be cooked!

1 cup organic quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
2/3 cup frozen peas
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Dressing

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
A dash of freshly ground pepper

1. Soak quinoa in cold water for 15 minutes and then rinse under running water using a strainer or a cheese cloth.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring quinoa, 1/2 teaspoon salt and water to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until done. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, cover, and let cool.
3. Chop the English cucumber, mint leaves and tomato and set aside.
4. Boil chopped celery and frozen peas for 4 to 5 minutes, rinse and drain, and then add to chopped vegetables.
5. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, remaining salt, sugar, water and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. Combine all ingredients before serving and toss gently.

Serves six.

Kale and Boiled Potatoes

When the weather is around 30 degrees C, we like to cook Mediterranean food because it’s very light. This side dish goes well with any kind of fish, or a vegetarian burger or scrambled tofu. When buying kale, look for crisp and dark greens. Avoid those that are wilted or have yellow or brown spots. Young greens can be stir-fried, steamed, or sauteed briefly.

1 bunch Kale
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper

1. Cook the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain.
2. Rinse kale well in a large bowl of warm water. Drain in colander.
3. Use the leaves only. Trim away tough stem ends by making a “V-shaped” cut at stem end. Save the stems for vegetable stock! Cut the leaves into small pieces.
4. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and add the pieces of kale. Cook and stir over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes until wilted and tender (older leaves may take slightly longer).
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet. Add minced garlic and saute for a few minutes.
6. Add potatoes and garlic to kale, stir and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Potato Soup

This recipe has been in our family for generations. It’s delicious, creamy and so comforting on a cold day. We like to eat it with grilled cheese or French bread.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cups water (or more, if needed)
3 Bay leaves
2 teaspoons Vegeta (or seasoning salt)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

First, make a roux (pronounced “roo”). Roux is a basic thickening agent used when making stews, soups and sauces. Traditional roux recipes call for equal parts of butter and flour, but in this creamy potato soup we prefer to use olive oil.

1. Heat oil in a pan. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the flour gradually and stir constantly. It should be smooth with no lumps. Keep stirring until the flour is light brown. Make sure it doesn’t burn.
2. Remove from heat and add water. Be very careful, the roux will be extremely hot, and when you add water, be careful not to splash yourself or get burned.
3. Add potatoes, carrots, Bay leaves, salt, pepper and Vegeta.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are soft.
5. Mash with a potato masher instead of using a blender.
6. Stir in sour cream and parsley, and remove Bay leaves. For a vegan version of this soup, omit sour cream. The soup is still very yummy.
7. Serve hot with a slice of fresh French bread or grilled cheese.

African Yam Stew

This recipe originally called for chicken. That’s not something you’re gonna find in our house, so we adapted it until it was delicious and still super filling. The peanut butter adds a lovely creaminess. The yam, peas and chickpeas are there to remind you that it’s healthy dish, even though it tastes like comfort food. It’s been cold, rainy and gloomy here, so this dish has been nice to dig into!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large yam, peeled and diced
4 carrots
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons natural peanut butter
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add chopped onion and saute for 4 minutes.
2. Add carrots and saute for an additional 4 minutes. Add garlic, yam, cumin, chili flakes, coriander and fry for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Mix in vegetable broth and water, cover, bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Stir in the peanut butter, frozen peas and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 more minutes. Make sure the peanut butter is well blended.
5. Remove from heat, add salt if needed, and garnish with 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley.

Tofu Chicken Chili

We love chili. Beans are the bomb. But sometimes we also like to have some tofu, particularly before a gruelling boot camp session. We repeat to ourselves, we are doing this willingly. This is fun. Despite the pain we undergo 3 times a week, at least we are full and able to do all those planks and squats. No diets here! Just delicious, home cooked food.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 package veggie ground “chicken”
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups vegetable broth
1-2 cups water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can white kidney beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon vegeta
1/2 cup vegan cheddar cheese or regular cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1. Heat the olive oil in large non-stick pan or saucepan. Saute onions for 5-8 minutes at medium high heat. Add carrots and cook for 5 to 8 min, stirring constantly. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 min.
2. Add dry seasonings, veggie broth, water and veggie ground chicken, mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add red and yellow bell pepper and cook for another 10 minutes.
3. Add beans, cheese and parsley. Heat through, stirring to combine. Season with salt, pepper and vegeta to taste. Serve immediately.

Homemade Pizza

In Croatia where our family is from, the pizza always has a thin crust. We prefer this type of pizza to the thick, doughy fast food pizza usually served in restaurants. While Calgary does have pizzerias that offer a delicious thin crust pizza, it’s nice to roll out your own dough, lay on fresh ingredients, and enjoy a slice that is not scant on ingredients.

Pizza Dough

1 cup water
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Toppings

1 small can tomato sauce
4-5 Crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Handful of chopped artichokes
1 teaspoon oregano
Fresh tomato slices
Grated cheese (we recommend a four cheese blend such as Romano, Mozzarella, Parmesan, and smoked Gouda)
4-5 fresh basil leaves, washed and blotted dry
Dash of truffle oil

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water, and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution. In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of the flour with the yeast mixture.
4. Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth.
5. Let the dough rise until double; this should take about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the room temperature. Make the dough into a ball, and roll out onto a well floured surface.
6. Alternatively, you can use a bread maker on a pizza dough setting. Just pour all the ingredients into the bread maker bowl, starting with the water, oil, sugar and salt, flour and then yeast and oregano at the top. When finished, proceed with rolling dough out onto a floured surface.
7. Spread your toppings starting with the pizza sauce, cheese and then vegetables and oregano on top.
8. Bake for about 15 min on the middle rack, or until the cheese and crust are golden brown.
9. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and sprinkle with truffle oil.

Smoky Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Hummus is a foodie’s best friend. It’s always there for you; as a sandwich spread, a dip, or something you spoon into your mouth like peanut butter. Not that I do that… all the time. This hummus is decadently creamy and the liquid smoke gives it an absolutely delightful smoky taste.

1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1 can organic chick peas, reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid (398 ml)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 drops liquid smoke (about 1/8 tsp)

1. Rinse the chickpeas, but reserve the liquid from the can.
2. Add all ingredients to high-speed blender or food processor. Add the chickpea liquid gradually to taste, as you may prefer a less creamy/salty hummus.
3. Serve with Raincoast Crisps or baby carrots.

– Silvia

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