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A Meatless Meal For Animal Lovers

I have always been an “animal person.” You know the type. The kind of person who grew up worshipping the family dog, who wanted to be a veterinarian as child, and who declared vegetarianism in some stance of teenage defiance.

Since becoming an “adult,” one of my top priorities has been to get a dog. The responsibility is something I never took lightly, so I continually put it off. I never had the money, the time, or the space. I wanted to move and travel too much. Even when I moved back home for good, I continued to put it off because I couldn’t find “the one.” The dog I wanted to spend the next 10+ years of my life with.

Well, we all know what happened. I got cancer and found myself with a lot of time to spend all by myself at home. Then one day I stumbled across the dog. During this dark time in my life, I suddenly have a bright light brought to me every day in the form of my new pet.

I love my little Buster Bartholomew to pieces. But a recent Globe and Mail article called “The problem with loving your dog too much” got me thinking.

I already frequently joke that I don’t want to be “one of those” dog owners. The type that posts pictures of their dog all the time (okay, I already do), the kind that talks about their quirks all the time (I do that too), or who constantly speaks to them in a high pitched voice (oh, dear…). Well, at least I didn’t dress Buster up for Halloween! Although, I secretly really wanted to put a King Charles crown on him.

The article got me thinking about how there are a lot of dog owners out there who don’t treat their dogs like… Dogs. It reminded me that not everyone is a head over heels dog person like I am, who will stop strangers on the street just to talk about the dog they’re walking.

But at the same time, it got me wondering, to what detriment is there to loving your dog too much?

Buster does more than just give me something other than myself to think about for once. He does more than keep me company all day, and keep me active by wagging his tail by the front door every afternoon. He doesn’t care that I’m sick. He isn’t nicer to me because of it, nor does he ask me how I’m feeling every hour.

So what if dogs are a children replacement? Because of chemotherapy there is a decent chance I will be infertile when all of this is over. Maybe loving and caring for a dog is the closest I’ll ever get to being a mom. Sounds a lot easier too.

The article, while a worthwhile read, unfortunately only skims the surface and doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. There’s a decent conversation that opens up on the comments over how “dog people” should socialize with their dog-weary counterparts. Because lets face it, dog people and non-dog people really do exist, and there really is a difference between the two.

I guess the take home point would be that it’s good to remember that dogs are not people, nor can our relationships with them replace the ones we should have with humans. But at the same time, I admit that I have no shame in loving my dog a little too much sometimes. So what if I love him like maybe I could love a child? Or jump over hoops to keep him happy? It’s all because he keeps me just as, if not more happy. To me, it’s all worth it.

In honour of our animal friends I’ve got an incredible meatless meal to share with you today!

Chickpea Pot Pie with a Whole Grain Crust

I used this recipe, making the following changes:

  • 5 cups broth instead of 6
  • 3 cans of chickpeas instead of 1
  • omitted noodles
  • omitted parmesan cheese
  • made my own crust!

While there is nothing wrong with a little puff pastry, I really wanted to get nutritional value out of all components of this dish. I opted for a whole grain crust from this recipe, choosing that particular one simply because I’d had success with it before (using canola oil).

I just made the dough and flattened it out to the dimensions of a 9×11 baking dish, then let it chill in the fridge until I was ready to place it over top. As for the filling, I noticed that there was too much of it to put into one pot, so I ended up layering the frozen peas and beans with the hot contents in the dish to avoid having to switch to a larger pot and it worked perfectly.

The results were fantastic! I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe. I didn’t miss the chicken at all and thought the flavour and texture of the chickpeas blended in really well. I was also quite pleased by how the whole grain crust held up. Not quite the light pastry you’re used to, but definitely helped this meatless dish keep my belly satisfied for the remainder of the evening.

Now if only I could convince my puppy that he isn’t a human and his dinner is the crunchy stuff on the floor…

Celebrations & Grilled Cheese

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

It’s been quite the week for holidays:
March 14: Pi Day (aka 3.14)
March15: Ides of March
March 17: St. Patty’s Day!

I hope you’ve been able to celebrate at least one of these. I did on Monday. It all started on a very spring-like day and a trip to Toronto’s Kensington Market.

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Going to Kensington is like being transported to another country. It’s a few square blocks in the centre of the city filled with bright colours, loud music, and open storefronts filled with cheap merchandise. It also reeks of patchouli, if you catch my drift.

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Our destination was a place I’ve been dying to go to ever since the first week I moved to Toronto.

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Yes, a place dedicated solely to the art of making grilled cheese sandwiches. Probably one of my favourite restaurant ideas ever.

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It’s this little spot with picnic tables inside and outside. Brilliant woodworking throughout and a wall of creepy pickled items.

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My partners in crime for the day included my sister Sara. Too cute that she’s sipping on a box of apple juice – it’s what our dad always packed in our lunches as kids!

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And of course my roommie Megan, who has courageously joined me in eating my way through my Toronto Bucket List.

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Now, I’ve always been a bit of a grilled cheese purist. Bread, butter, cheese. Anything else is just a regular grilled sandwich. Regardless, I was pretty pumped to see how creative they’d get with the menu. Let’s go in for a close up, shall we?

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They all came served with lightly seasoned salt & vinegar chips and a tasty dill pickle. Mind you, we had to wait a long time for the sandwiches to arrive. I had no idea a grilled cheese took so long to assemble?

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Sara ordered the Dill-licious: dill havarti, basil pesto, sundried tomato, onion along with the addition of turkey.

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I tried a bite. Holy flavourful!

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Megan went for the Mushroom Madness: Cheddar, grilled portobello, cremini with the addition of tomato.

I had mushroom on the mind as well, going for the Grill Worx: Provolone, swiss, portobello, roasted red pepper, onion.

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On thick sliced white bread, buttered and crisped to perfection. A perfect bread-to-cheese ratio and all quality tasting cheese. My only complaint is that my toppings were piled high in the centre of the sandwich and not spread around evenly.

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My dad says buttering the outside of the sandwich instead of the griddle is the key to a good grilled cheese. They don’t quite live up to his grilled cheese, but I’d say definitely second best! Also worth the $6 price tag. With the chips and pickle, this meal made for a very satisfying lunch.

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But as I said, this outing occurred on Monday. And we all know what Monday was ;)

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Just up the street on Augusta Ave in Kensington is a place called Wanda’s Pie In The Sky. A bakery with a variety of offerings, but specializing in one of my favourite foods – pie!

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My sister and I ordered one slice to split and they gave us one giant slice split in two!!

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We opted for strawberry rhubarb flavour because I’d never had rhubarb before. I must admit, it wasn’t my favourite. A little too bitter and not enough crust.

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We continued on through Kensington, stopping to buy some ridiculous $5 sunglasses on display. A perfect way to celebrate Pi Day if you ask me :)

As for St. Patrick’s Day, I’m back on painkillers for the time being. I’m off to celebrate with friends, but there’s no green beer on tap for me. Regardless, I still showed my green…

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Thank you to Janetha for the awesome handmade “fashion sling”! I definitely perked my spirits this St. Patty’s Day :)

 

Question of the Day: Did you celebrate any of the holidays this week?

Chicken Not Pie

Happy Waffle Wednesday!! 

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Best breakfast of the week. Yup. Even better than all those fancy brunches. Well, minus french toasted pastries and giant pancakes. But you get my drift.

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A very simple recipe for one belgian waffle, or two rectangular ones:

  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp egg whites (or one whole egg)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup almond milk (or any kind of milk)

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Today’s topping consisted of 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp sugar-free syrup and cinnamon to taste. A cinch to whip up and completely delicious! Also, a nice break from the oatmeal and egg sandwiches I’ve been eating lately.

After yesterday’s indulgent pie recipe, I decided it was time to balance things out with a non-pie.

Chicken Not Pie

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Yes, that would chicken pot pie without the pastry. The filling is actually my favourite part (well, technically, the chicken is). So consider this your “healthier” version of a homestyle favourite :)

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If you don’t have any leftover poultry to use (my mom often makes this with turkey leftovers) start by boiling your chicken breasts until just cooked. I used two very big chicken breasts – around 12-14 oz all together.

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While that’s going on, chop up one leek. Around two cups worth. Cook it in a greased frying pan along with 1/4 cup onions, a clove of garlic and a quarter teaspoon of dried thyme.

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Potatoes! Two of ‘em. The key to any homestyle dish.

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Y’all know I’m a fan of the frozen veggies. I added a 500g bag of a carrot, corn, pea and green bean mix. But you can add any veggies you like. Mushrooms, parsnip or turnip would be great too. Around 2 cups worth.

IMG_5369I also have an abnormal fear of store-bought broths. I think it’s because at one point my doctor told me I could have an allergy to monosodium glutamate (MSG) and a lot of broths have it. Turns out I just have an intolerance to certain raw fruits and veggies – but the fear stuck!

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Phew. Safe :)

By now the chicken should be close to done, so just drain it and set aside to cool.

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Meanwhile, mix 2 cups of the chicken broth with 1 cup low-fat milk, 3 tbsp all-purpose flour and a squirt of dijon. Whisk baby whisk! It takes around 10 minutes to get thick.

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Once your hand is cramped from whisking, and your veggies are off the burner, shred the cooled chicken and combine everything into a large casserole dish.

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Cover with tinfoil and bake at 375 for around 45 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.

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Voila! Chicken Not Pie. Who needs pie crust or biscuits? More importantly, who has the patience to make pie crust or biscuits on a weeknight? Not this girl.

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Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 large chicken breasts (or 4 small ones, around 12-14 oz)
  • one chopped leek (around 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 potatoes, diced into small cubes (around 2 cups worth)
  • 500g bag of frozen veggies (or 2 cups veggies of choice, chopped small)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup low fat milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Boil chicken breasts in a large pot of water. Cook leeks, onions and garlic in a pan until soft. Add potatoes, spices and frozen vegetables. Once chicken is cooked, set aside to cool. Add broth, milk, mustard and flour to a small pot and whisk on medium-high heat until thickened. Around 10 minutes. Once chicken is cool enough to touch, shred it with your hands. Mix chicken with veggies and add to a large casserole dish and pour broth mixture over top. Cover with tinfoil and bake at 375F for around 45 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.

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Even better than the warm, comforting taste are the nutritionals! Each serving has 273 calories, 3g fat, 33g carbs, and 28g protein. I ate my bowl with a side of some carrot sticks and apple slices, because I eat everything with a side of carrot sticks and apple slices.

OR, if you’re really smart, you’ll follow up your Chicken Not Pie with a piece of Fluffernutter Pie.

You know, for balance ;)

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