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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…

My Favourite Restaurant

Of all the things people ask me about moving home from “the big city,” two questions come up over and over:

1) Aren’t you going to get bored?
2) How will you eat??

The answers are actually quite simple.

First, a girl can make her own fun wherever she is. Trust me. It’s pretty darn simple to be in a big city with a million things to do and still feel bored and lonely. Sometimes you just have to be a little more creative in smaller towns ;)

Secondly, one word: Calactus.

Actually, one of my best friends told me that I won’t miss any of those Toronto restaurants because Moncton’s Calactus is all I really need.

Exaggerated, yes. But still not that far from the truth.

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I’ve been blogging about this place for years now. It’s my favourite restaurant. Ever. And all right here in my hometown.

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I first started going to Calactus over a decade ago when it was in a small old house on Mountain Road. It was around the time my family first started eating vegetarian, and this vegetarian/vegan restaurant helped introduce a whole new style of eating to me.

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Calactus is also home to the world’s best veggie burger. Seriously. This coming from a girl who spent eight years as a vegetarian and has choked down a lot of veggie burgers in her day…

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But the even better thing about this restaurant, is that they are more than just one standout dish. Everything is good. All house made, fresh, flavourful. The kind of meal that doesn’t weigh you down, but leaves you feeling healthily satisfied.

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Like with they’re Burrito Bandito.

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Or their extravaganza pizza with tomato sauce, veggie pepperoni, falafel, red onion, green pepper and cheese. Along with a beet and goat cheese salad.

I have yet to try their pakoras, but their munchables are amazing.

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The Thousand and One Nights with chapati bread, feta cheese and olives, falafels, hummus, tofu cream and veggie sticks.

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Their falafels are the bestest. Perfectly seasoned, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, without being greasy. Their tofu cream still alludes me. They put it on a lot of their dishes. Like a garlicky tofu hummus or tzatziki of sorts.

My latest visit to Calactus was on Saturday for lunch and my midday cravings wanted something rolled up in bread.

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I went with a “Flute” which is essentially a wrap. Falafel flavour, because as I said, their falafel is out of this world.

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With sprouts, lettuce, red onion, tomato, and a drizzle of that savoury tofu cream. My oh my it was good! Their house made chapati bread never ceases to amaze me. Always so soft and fluffy. A million times better than the usual flour tortilla.

The tabbouleh is something to write home about as well. Rather than being pre-mixed, it’s couscous with the dressed parsley and tomatoes dolloped on top. Tastes almost like a bruschetta on couscous.

Then of course there’s Christie and Tiffany.

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My Calactus lunch-mates on Saturday. We’ve lunched manymany times together over the ooohhh 20 years (?) we’ve known each other.

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They’re both living back at home now too. So the three of us live just down the street from each other like we did growing up!

Except you know, with a few extra stories to tell from along the way.

Told ya, a girl can find some good fun and good food just about anywhere ;)

Keeping Balanced: Homemade Veggie Pâté

I know my blog has been a little on the indulgent side lately. I’ve been frantically eating my way through Toronto before I leave in 10 days. My hometown is a lot of wonderful things, but rich in culinary diversity it is not.

Will all of this said, fret not, I have not totally gone off the deep end. I am “Balance Susan” after all. Not to mention, I’ve got a pretty effed up arm injury in need of nutrient rich foods to help it heal.

While not eating giant pancakes and shortbread cookies, there have been many, many fried egg sandwiches.

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I’m a strong believer in eating only what the body craves. Lately, when I think about food, one of the first things my mind goes to are toasted carbs with a fatty fried egg along with cheese or bacon. Rounded out with crunchy raw veggies for simple sugars and water.

When not off slurping up frozen yogurt or chowing down on thick BLTs, there’s been a lot of lean protein in the form of cottage cheese or tuna.

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Seen here is a meal of cottage cheese, tuna, chopped apple, raisins, a pinch of curry powder, and a dash of maple syrup. Did the body good.

Now mind you, I also crave a tray of freshly baked brownies every day. But I like to think I can distinguish between that craving, and the plain, simple food combinations that suddenly cause my mouth to water when I think about them.

When I saw this sunflower seed pâté sandwich at Bridgehead Cafe in Ottawa last week, I knew it was mine. With cashew butter, sprouts, carrots, all on a grainy bread, it sounded perfect for my hungered body.

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And I’ve been thinking about it ever since!

Veggie pâté is one of those things I lovelovelove but never make. My mom makes her own version and is my favourite kind ever. Her version contains a lot of ingredients and can be difficult to make. Being limited to one hand, I had to find a pâté that was easy to make.

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I ended up with this recipe because it contained few ingredients and lots of sunflower seeds like the Bridgehead sandwich I’ve been dreaming of. I used baby carrots so I wouldn’t have to chop a regular one with one hand. Along with one raw potato, half a large onion, one stalk celery, and two cloves garlic.

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I also liked this recipe because of the nutritional yeast! I knew it would give the pâté a cheesy flavour. I added half a cup of the stuff, with half cup whole wheat flour, and a full cup salted sunflower seeds.

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I strayed from the spices a bit and ended up adding what sounded good based on what I had on hand:

  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

All thrown in the food processor!

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Along with 1 1/2 cups water and 2 tbsp lemon juice. I omitted the half cup oil from the recipe, it didn’t seem necessary.

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Those who can’t chop, blend!!

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I processed until there were just a few chunks left. But I knew it was a little too watery for my tastes when I poured it into a greased loaf pan.

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Baked at 350F for 90 minutes. A half hour longer than instructed, but definitely needed! I let it cool in the pan and found the centre collapsed once I returned!!

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Even though this is one of the “fancier” recipes I’ve attempted since my accident, I still gobbled it up in the simplest way possible – on pita bread. It’s exactly how I was craving it.

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Despite my watery woes, it turned out very spreadable like a normal pâté. I will however note that I like my veggie pâté more loaf like. It’s how mom makes it!

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Taste wise, it totally hit the spot. I love the potatoes and savoury factor the seeds and nutritional yeast add. The addition of oil may have amped the taste up even more, but I’ll save the greasy food for my adventures around Toronto’s restaurants. I gotta balance it all out somehow ;)

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