Avocado Toast with Nutritional Yeast

If you don’t have a stash of nutritional yeast in your pantry, run to your local health food store and stock up on these flakes of gold. Nutritional yeast is a vegan’s dream, but non-vegans should know about its all-around loveliness too. It’s packed with protein- and has an interesting, slightly nutty flavour that goes a long way. When I was little, we’d sprinkle a couple of tablespoons on popcorn for a healthy alternative to butter.

For a yummy snack that’s high in protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats (healthy girl’s secret recipe for satiation,) sprinkle a tablespoon of yeast on whole-grain toast and add slices of 1/3 of an avocado. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. You’ll be in heaven!

Mushroom Meatballs: The Eternal Project

Lord, y’all. I have been trying to make vegetarian “meatballs” outta mushrooms for quite some time, and dangit if those ’shrooms don’t want NOTHIN to do with no balls. My recent third and fourth attempts at mastering the concept yielded some interesting results-the third batch came out looking like sausage patties, while the final batch, the closest in shape to real meatballs as of yet, tasted too bready-nothing I’d bring to a social event, that’s for sure.

The base for these meatballs has remained the same: tons of baby bellas and a healthy dose of walnuts. There’s generally wheat germ involved to up the texture quotient, and sometimes a little egg and parmesan. A few other ingredients have made guest appearances-whole wheat flour, fresh herbs, some skim milk.

My goal has been to create a soy-free, veggie-based meatball-preferably a vegan one-that could stand front and center in an Italiany meal or class it up on an hors d’oeuvres platter (they’re pictured atop thinly-sliced steamed zucchini and squash, with a little tomato sauce and mozzarella.) My experiment will continue, gosh darnit, until I figure out the texture/flavour conundrum! Suggestions are welcome…

Scrambled Tofu with Portabellas

This recipe comes from my lovely mom, who conceived of and photographed the dish. When I decided to become a vegetarian at age 11, both my parents were very obliging, and the whole family started eating a lot more tofu and veggie-centered dishes. My ever-inventive mom came up with a million different ways to nourish me. Scrambled tofu was my Sunday brunch favourite, but it’s great for dinner too! I’m a big fan of portabellas, which are really the star of this dish. A little sesame tahini goes a long way in giving this scramble its unique flavour, though can make this dish sans tahini if you wish; it will still work.

Last summer, I decided to get to the bottom of the decade of mysterious stomach problems I’d been dealing with. Having known a few people with an intolerance to dairy and/or wheat, I was worried that I’d discover that the same problem was at the root of my troubles. After an extensive project that involved removing possible offenders from my diet and documenting the experiment in a food journal, I discovered that neither dairy nor wheat was giving me my stomach aches; it was tofu! I now manage to stay away from anything that includes soy protein, but I often crave my fave tofu dishes, so you’ll have to enjoy this one for me!

3 tsp olive oil, divided
½ c chopped onion (or more, to taste)
½ c chopped red & green bell pepper (or more, to taste)
1 clove garlic
½ lb sliced portabella mushrooms
1/3 c sesame tahini
2½ to 3 tsp low-sodium tamari to taste (sub soy sauce if you don’t have it)
1 lb light silken or firm tofu
Salt & fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat ½ tsp oil in non-stick frying pan. Add pepper & chopped onion and sauté, adding garlic after a few minutes, until the vegetables just begin to get tender. (Don’t overcook; they should still have a slight crunch.)Remove to bowl & set aside.

2. Heat 2 tsp oil in same pan without washing, add mushrooms. Sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Sautée until tender, drizzling with a small amount of oil if necessary to keep them moist. Remove from heat & add to cooked vegetables.

3. Drain tofu, place between several layers of paper towel, and press to remove extra water.

4. Pour tahini into same pan without washing, stir in tamari. Add tofu and over medium heat, mix into tahini & tamari, chopping tofu into small pieces without mashing.

5. Add vegetables and mushrooms, turn gently with spatula until heated through. Serve at once with crusty whole grain bread and a favorite green vegetable.

Variations: try adding any lightly-cooked vegetables, chopped nuts or pine nuts- but portabellas are the key ingredient, adding a full, deep flavor that can’t be beat.

Breakfast for Superwoman

I’ve always been a big oatmeal person; I love how it “sticks to my ribs,” as my mother would say, keeping me satiated til lunch. Experimenting with toppings is fun, but lately I’ve found a combo that I love so much, I eat it every single morning. Redundant, perhaps, but hey. I’m a woman who knows what she likes. I wanted to share my current breakfast obsession with you because besides being delicious, it is a nutritionally perfect way to start the day. Packing tons of fiber, protein, and calcium, as well as a healthy dose of omega-3’s and two servings of fruit, this dolled-up oatmeal kicks ass and takes names. I rarely take the time to include nutrition facts in my recipe posts because computing them is time-consuming, but I’ve calculated them for this recipe (to the best of my knowledge) because I want you to see just how great this oatmeal is for your bod! The fat comes almost entirely from the walnuts, so don’t be put off-a reasonable dose of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fat like that in walnuts is great for your heart!

P.S. When it comes to choosing oatmeal, always buy a canister rather than individual packets. Steel-cut, plain oats and multigrain hot cereal are all great choices; just make sure that grains are the only ingredients. Flavoured oatmeals are the equivilant of a bowl of lucky charms or a cinnamon roll-the abundance of sugar and chemicals means that the bad outweighs the good. The sugar in this recipe, on the other hand, comes entirely from the fruit and yogurt (plain yogurt contains less sugar than flavoured, which can be outrageously sugary.)

Ingredients (one serving):
1/2 cup oats (dry)
1/2 cup fat-free yogurt, plain or greek
1 banana
1 small apple, chopped
2 TBSP walnut pieces
cinnamon to taste
optional: a drizzle of honey or agave if you have a sweet tooth

1. I like to cook a banana into my oatmeal to make it creamy and sweet. To do so, mix small pieces of banana with 1/2 cup oats and 1 cup of water. Heat in the microwave or over low heat on the stove until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.
2. Top oatmeal with 1/2 cup of yogurt, apple and walnut pieces. Dust with cinnamon, and add a drop of honey if you wish!

Nutrition facts
calories 485; fat 11g; cholesterol 5mg; potassium 270mg; carbs 88g (30%); fiber 12g (47%); sugars 35g; protein 16g; vitamin A 3%; vitamin C 28%; calcium 27%; iron 16%

Chili Chicken Salad

Scrounging for salad ingredients in my pantry and fridge (and sometimes freezer!) always makes for a fun experiment. This salad, with its avocado, roasted corn and spicy chicken, is Mexican-inspired. Take advantage of the warm weather and try grilling your chicken! Or, if you’re cooking it on the stove, steal my boyfriend’s trick of mixing a little olive oil with a plentiful dose of your favourite hot sauce (we like Trader Joe’s chili sauce-it’s smoky and tangy without being over-the-top hot) and cook the chicken in this delish mixture. This salad would be delicious with black beans for some extra protein or as a substitute for the chicken if you don’t eat meat. I added sunflower sprouts, which make a great addition to any salad-they’re crunchy and full of minerals like calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium.

Ingredients (makes 2 salads):
1 package salad greens
1 package sunflower sprouts
2/3 avocado, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 small or medium tomatoes
2/3 lb. chicken breast
hot sauce and dressing of your choice to taste (I like Annie’s Organic Cowgirl Ranch)

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Wash and dry veggies. Slice tomatoes and avocado.
2. Spread corn onto a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes. You can heat it in the microwave instead to save time, but roasting gives the corn a wonderful flavour.
3. Slice chicken into bite-size pieces and cook. Top greens with corn, chicken, tomato and avocado. Top with a little dressing and enjoy!