A Weeknight Dinner Narrative

What’s a lady to do when she’s had a long day at work, went to the gym, husband’s working late and it’s 6:30 before she even starts thinking about dinner?

Before she even solidifies her game plan, she puts on a pot of whole wheat rotini.  She hasn’t had pasta in a while, and it’ll come together quickly.

She assesses that her pantry and refrigerator and the first things that pop out to her are: a bag of carrots, a bunch of kale that won’t be good much longer, an avocado, 1 orange pepper and 1/2 a yellow pepper, some broccoli sprouts, some garlic.

She grabs the biggest wok she can find, adds a glug of olive oil, puts it on medium heat, and sets out to chop the carrot, mince the garlic, tear the kale, dice the pepper and avocado.

She adds the carrot to the sizzling wok first, followed by garlic.  Then comes to the kale, left for a few minutes to wilt, then the peppers.  She leaves this to do its thing quickly while she drains the pasta.

Back to the wok.  Now everything is nice and bright, hot and crisp-tender, it gets doused in a squirt of lemon juice, a big pinch of dried basil, generous pinches of salt and black pepper, and LOTS of nutritional yeast.  Mmm, cheesy, cheesy nutritonal yeast.

The pasta gets added back in.  Everything gets tossed together.  Then plated.  Then topped with the sprouts and avocado.  And some hemp seeds for some protein.

And some hot sauce, of course.

– Crystal

Picadillo Mexicano + Taco Salad

And now for a couple from the it-doesn’t-photograph-in-an-appetizing-way-but-it’s-delicious-i-promise files.

The Picadillo Mexicano from Vegan Explosion is super duper easy and makes for a quicky, cheapy weeknight meal on nights where I’m at the gym until late and we don’t feel like doing anything big.

And a big ol’ taco salad!  This one is romaine, arugula, black beans, tomato, avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips, salsa and some sanctuary dressing from the Appetite for Reduction cookbook.

Ugly, delicious food.  Sometimes the best kind!

– Crystal

Gardein "Chicken" Ranch Salad

I’ve been terrible with updating the blog!  Life has been dishing out a lot of stress and I’ve been totally unmotivated to cook lots and to blog what I do cook.  I have been snapping some photos along the way, though.

We were at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair earlier in the month, and whenever we are in town, we stop by Panacea which is this wonderful all-vegan grocery store.  It’s really amazing.  When we were there we picked up some of these Gardein buffalo wings.  
Now, I’ve had people tell me they don’t understand why vegans eat mock meats and cheese.  Trevor and I don’t eat a lot of them, but on occasion they are a nice treat.  I’d like to explain why these products exist since there seems to be a lot of confusion for some people.  For many vegans, deciding to not eat meat and cheese is not because we hate the taste of those things.  It’s just that there are so many reasons to not eat them.  So many of us have fond memories that are tied to food – summer barbecues with hot dogs on the grill, holiday dinners with a bird on the table.  It’s a nice thing to be able to recreate those flavours in a way that is cruelty-free, ethical and environmentally sound.  It’s not to satiate some hidden desire to consume meat; if meat and cheese analogs didn’t exist, it’s not as if I’d turn back to eating animals.  But it’s a nice treat to be able to chuck a hot dog on the grill and still maintain your ethics.  
Anyway, this salad was absolutely delicious!  A mix of crisp greens and tender baby greens, chunks of cucumber, red pepper and carrot, slices of avocado, gardein buffalo wings, topped with Sanctuary Dressing from Appetite for Reduction.  That dressing is phenomenal and makes a really great veggie dip, too.  Yum!
– Crystal

Jackfruit Carnitas

Jackfruit carnitas is a dish that has a few different variations floating around.  We found some canned young jackfruit in brine in the asian market, and decided to give my friend Melisser Elliott’s version a go, which you can see in this video here.  Anyway, it’s supposed to mimic pulled pork and it really does!  I was almost thrown off at first at how meaty it looked.  Texture wise, it’s a bit softer than meat, but delicious.  Totally delicious.

Jackfruit is an interesting thing, I had never had it before, but apparently in its young form, it is used quite commonly in many south asian countries where people perhaps don’t eat meat for religious or economical reasons.

Beware of the heat from the salsa verde you use to make it though – Trevor picked some up from the latin market and – OUCH! – it was hot hot hot.  Next time, we’ll use a milder version, so the other flavours can shine through more.

We filled tacos with the carnitas, along with some fresh guacamole and lettuce to cool it down a bit. Some vegan sour cream would have been lovely on it – a nice homemade cashew-based one would do the trick.  We had that with some fried plantains, and tortilla chips with salsa. We also scored some frozen tropical fruit pulp at the latin market – guava, mango and lulo – so we decided to blend that up with some fresh pineapple and orange juice, and have some yummy, healthy smoothies with dinner, to help cool our scorching tongues.

There are two states in which plantains are consumed – when they are green (made into tostones) or very ripe, nearly black.  We mostly eat them in the latter stage.  Cooking plantains is very easy. Let them ripen until the skin is black and soft…they aren’t like bananas, which would be no good by that point; you want them to be nice and black or atleast speckled a lot.  Peel them by cutting off the ends and then slicing through the skin lengthwise. It should peel off very easily this way. I like to slice them in four pieces, but you can really slice them up however you like. Heat up a tablespoon of coconut oil (or your preferred oil) in a frying pan on medium. Put the plantains in when the oil is hot. Squish ’em a bit with the back of a spoon if you like. Sprinkle them with lime juice as they fry. Cook them until they are a little crispy and brown on the outside. Now sprinkle a dash of salt on them and they’re ready to eat.

This is NOT meat!  

– Crystal

Avocado Pie and Dinner Out

I love this recipe like woah.  I’ve made it a number of times – it’s creamy, rich and tangy – it leaves your tongue buzzing from the lovely lime flavour.

Since it’s our vacation week, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Veg Out, which is this great all-vegan restaurant where we live.  Their menu changes quite frequently which is nice, but they always have some great old standbys like vegan fish and chips (!) and tempeh hot wings.  We had the crispy cremini and shiitake mushrooms with a srirache aioli to start.  I decided to go for the chick-pea-nut burger, which was this massive peanutty-tasting thing topped with caramelized onions, sprouts, tomato, pickles, avocado, lettuce, and a sriracha-spiked mayo.  I had it with their daily soup, sweet potato lemongrass.  Trevor had the jerk tempeh with rice and beans and a side of sweet potato cornbread + a bottle of Grasshopper wheat beer!

– Crystal

Series: Cheap ‘n Easy Weeknight Dinner

When Trevor is working late or out somewhere, I often can’t be bothered to actually cook a full meal just for myself.  Things like tostadas are great for that!

Not pretty, but very satisfying.

A tortilla with a nice smear of refried beans, put in a hot oven until crispy.  Topped with daiya vegan cheese, cabbage coleslaw, avocado, smoky chipotle salsa and a few good dashes of hot sauce.  Now that’s good.

– Crystal

Trevor’s Note: So you’re thinking “well that just looks like a confusing pile of crap” but just remember that’s probably what the first guy who ever saw a pizza said. What an idiot! This is delicious.