Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Burrito Bowls: Two or Three Ways!

On my recent food  journey, I found one of the largest stumbling blocks to eating more plant based and less refined sugar has been my family's resistance to embrace this healthier lifestyle. It has been a tricky juggling act but I have found that my favourite techniques have been "hidden healthy", learning just how much I can hide without getting caught and working diligently to modify my traditional recipes to closely replicate the originals while improving on the nutritional value. Some days, I've even resorted to cooking 2 separate meals which is a total pain in the you know where! So, when I come across a meal that requires very little finagling to provide a meal that makes both me AND my family happy, I can truly do the Happy Dance.

While I was "away", my daughter introduced me to burrito bowls, which we could also call "deconstructed burritos" in the foodie world... ooooo how fancy! This is such a simple meal and easy to customize based on what you have on hand. You can make it completely plant based and without much effort, provide the meat eaters in your family with the meat they want. Yes, you can satisfy the vegans, vegetarians and the  omnivores without cooking 3 completely different meals! Wahoo! 

The hardest part about the Burrito Bowl is the prep work, and certainly if you have a knife, a box grater, a blender, a pot and 2 fry pans, you've got this covered.

Basic Burrito Bowl Components (some or all of the veggies ROCK)
  • Brown Rice
  • Refried beans
  • Kale, mixed greens, or romaine lettuce, sliced finely into ribbons
  • Carrot, grated
  • Zucchini, grated
  • Bell peppers, yellow, red or orange, OR a combination finely diced
  • Green onions, finely chopped
  • Tomatoes, finely diced/chopped
  • Seasoned ground meat - beef, chicken, or pork (pasture raised and organic if possible)
  • Sour cream or dairy free sour cream (scroll down the page to find the recipe) or organic plain yogurt.
  • Old cheddar cheese, grated
  • Fresh limes
Seasoned Ground Meat
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced)
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb ground beef, chicken or pork - pasture raised if possible

Mix all ingredients together.
Brown ground meat until well done.
Add 1/2 cup of water and seasonings and let simmer until liquid is absorbed.
Add additional salt if necessary. 

Refried Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp chilli powder
2 cups black turtle beans or one 19 oz can, drained and rinsed 
2/3 cup chicken or veggie broth, plus more if needed (veggie broth for vegan or vegetarian)
Salt and pepper 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender.
Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for a few minutes.
Stir in the beans and slowly add broth, cooking until the beans are warmed through, about 5-6 minutes.
Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon (I used a potato masher first), adding more broth to moisten, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 
Stir in the cilantro** at the very end.

**Note:  If you don't have any fresh cilantro and IF you happen to have some cilantro pest cubes in the freezer, you can toss 2-3 thawed cubes in to the mix instead.

In a large shallow bowl, I like to use a pasta bowl, put a scoop or two of  rice, meat (if using), refried beans, carrots, zucchini, greens, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Squeeze some fresh lime over the whole works; add a big dollop of sour cream, regular or non dairy and a sprinkle of cheese (if desired). 

There you have it... a meal for omnivores, vegans and vegetarians alike with not a lot of extra effort. For the vegans, HOLD all animal products. For the vegetarians, HOLD the meat, and for the omnivores, EVERYTHING into the bowl! This is the perfect meal to satisfy a variety of tastes - at the same time. I know I will need more of these kinds of meals to make meal preparation easier for me when I would prefer a plant based meal but my family would not. I will have to put my thinking cap on for that!

Sometimes I mix a spoonful of mayonnaise in with about a 1/2 cup of yogurt to round out the flavour. It is almost a dead ringer for sour cream. Since I always have plain yogurt and mayo on hand, this is a great option because I don't always use sour cream in large quantities so the rest of the container usually spoils before I do. No tossing money in the green bin for this girl!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Back After A Year Long Hiatus

Today is my first day back at blogging.  I haven't written for well over a year and it isn't because I don't enjoy doing it.  Sadly, life got busy, I took on a temporary job, I struggled with some difficulties and, in a nutshell, I just couldn't find the time. Today I have some time, or rather, I have decided take some to blog despite the fact that my house is upside down and there are a number of things I really should be doing. So, today I am sitting at my keyboard and making an attempt to write, proof, and post something worth sharing.  Wish me luck!

Just to catch you up, I have been busy practicing my passions... cooking and eating.  I have been working on my "eat more plant based journey" and have dabbled in a variety of food choices including "raw", "dairy free", and gluten free".  I have embraced the green smoothie as an almost daily breakfast of champions; I have been buying fewer made for me products like salad dressings, granola, and jams, opting to make them in my own kitchen from scratch (or as close to scratch) as possible.  I have tried a variety of meatless dishes that have incorporated more lentils and beans and have been met with a less than thrilled family... <sigh> BUT on a happier note, I have managed to re-create much healthier versions of my "traditional" desserts using less conventional/traditional ingredients (shhhhhhhh) with great success and cutting down on our refined sugar intake!  I am still working on my ever present task of "hidden healthy" to help my family eat better, even if unknowing.  I am also lucky to have sourced out cleaner and more ethically raised chicken, turkey and pork.  Hopefully soon, I will be able to find some grass fed beef and then I can feel better about eating meat when that is on our family meal menus.

I have spent much time perusing other wonderful food blogs such as Oh She Glows, Joyous Health, Pure Ella, The First Mess, and My New Roots, just to name a few.  I have spent a great deal of time reading about these ladies and have been busily getting to know them through the stories, food and recipes they share; not to mention salivating over the gorgeous pictures they post. YUM-YUM-YUM!  Food blogs like these provide me with great inspiration and help me to learn about a whole new way of cooking and eating.

I still regularly visit the more traditional food web sites like Canadian Living and Chef Michael when I am looking for particular recipe. Sometimes I make the recipes as written, while other times, I tinker with them subbing out some ingredients for healthier options or because of dietary requirements... just to practice. As a side note, I do find it interesting that even the more traditional cooking sites like Canadian Living and Chef Michael are providing recipes using less typical ingredients and even providing wonderful food for those with specialized dietary requirements (gluten free, dairy free, vegan, etcetera). At the end of the day, I do find one common thread within the pages of all that I have been reading and that is to use REAL food, fewer or no "made for you" ingredients, and to enjoy whatever it is you create.  With that said, I would like to share a few of my successes in the year of my hiatus.

Vegetarian Pizza

My vegetarian pizza made with a homemade whole wheat crust, my marinara sauce lovingly topped with diced bell peppers (organic only please), sliced mushrooms and zucchini, kale, sliced tomatoes and a few handfuls of mozzarella cheese. This pizza is perfect for our Friday pizza and a movie family night!

Beet Borcht

My beet borcht by Canadian Living.  A hot and hearty soup for dinner.  Topped with a healthy dollop of organic yogurt for a vegetarian option OR how about some Vegan Sour Cream by Oh She Glows?  Who could not love this soup with it's gorgeous crimson colour and the sweet and tart flavours? 

Macaroni & Cheese

Who would have thought to add butternut squash mac 'n cheese? Canadian Living, that's who! I was inspired by their recipe and decided to give my Mom's classic recipe an update and apply some hidden healthy. I opted to play with my Mom's recipe because it used real cheddar cheese instead of a cheese product. You can blitz the sauce with your immersion or regular blender and you will end up with a gorgeous cheese sauce and not a single sign of a vegetable. Can you see any squash? My family couldn't either. this mac & cheese was cheesy, comforting and creamy... just like my mom's traditional recip! I am still tweaking this recipe and will share it once it is perfected! 

Going forward, I hope to continue with some regular blogging. I miss the creative outlet! So until I come back, please check out some of my favourite foodie sites. Do try some of their recipes, but most importantly, cook for you and your family. Eat REAL food, lovingly prepared by YOU and feel better!