5 Ways to lighten the load without losing out

Hey Friends! After the last post, I had a few conversations with people who were trying to eat better, but struggling to move away from “comfort” foods- especially in the winter when the body craves warm, gooey, luscious things. I get it. In the winter all I want are biscuits, mac and cheese, naan, steamy jeera rice, and mashed potatoes. But I’m no longer 20, so if I ate like that everyday it would be pretty problematic (mainly because I refuse to buy a new wardrobe to accommodate the generous increase that would ensue). However, there are ways to lighten the load, without losing out on flavour & satisfaction.

Here are 5 easy and delicious ways:

  1. Portobello Pizzas: Swap out the heavy (but delicious) dough for some chewy mushrooms, top as you like and voila! An easy weeknight meal that has hundreds of options.
  2. Spaghetti squash with your favourite sauce: We like to top this with vegan “meatballs” or a simple lentil Bolognese.
  3. PB&J on an apple: Looking for a way to get some fruit into your daily mix? Swap out the bread for an apple and enjoy the [natural] sugar rush.
  4. Zucchini (Courgette) Lasagna noodles: So easy to build your own favorite lasagna, but without the guilt-inducing noodles. I usually slice my zucchini ¼ inch, salt them, and bake them in an oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, before proceeding with any standard recipe. (This helps to remove some of the moisture in the zucchini, otherwise you end up with a lasagna pool.) Once you’ve done this, just use the zucchini noodles as you would lasagna noodles, piling on your favourite toppings and baking until bubbly. cauliflower rice salad for breakfast food blog
  5. Cauliflower rice: A must for anyone trying to incorporate more veggies into their diet. We always have bags of this in the freezer, ready to accompany our curry.

Vegetables for weight loss

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Have you ever tried to lose weight? I mean really tried? I’m in my 30s and this is the first time in my life that I’m truly making a conscious and physical effort to shed some pounds- and it’s hard as heck! In my previous post I talked about slowing down and taking care of myself. A large part of ‘keeping it light’ in 2016 is taking care of the physical body: eating more vegetables, being more active and reinvigorating my yoga practice. Ultimately with the intention to physically ‘keep it light.’

Luckily, time is on my side. Often I speak to people who are trying to lose weight in order to fit into an outfit, go on vacation, or be ready for summer. All of those external time constraints might be a motivating factor for some people, but for me they’re a hindrance. I prefer to wholeheartedly incorporate some changes into my lifestyle, slowly adding ones that feel good and subtracting ones that don’t work.

vegetables saladforbreakfast mamaearthorganic
Some of the bounty from my weekly vegetable delivery.

One effective way to lighten the load is to incorporate more vegetables into the daily mix. Now some of you might be saying “Hey Shilpa, you have a blog called ‘Salad for Breakfast.’ Don’t you eat enough vegetables as it is?” To which I would say “My friend, you can never eat enough vegetables…” Okay scratch that. I would actually probably just say “No!”

So, more vegetables it is! In particular, for weight loss, I use the following as a rule of thumb when choosing vegetables for my plate: either leafys (not really a word so don’t google it), greens, or water-filled. Here are examples of some of these varieties:

  • Leafys (the bunches or layers of leafy-like vegetables): Spinach, Chard, Kale, Cabbage (green or red), beetroot greens, bok choy (or other Asian greens), lettuce
  • Greens (this one is self explanatory): Broccoli, edamame, avocado, peas (blah okay I don’t really ever choose peas), pea snaps (I like these)
  • Water-filled (these are the ones that will keep you hydrated and/or shed lots of water when cooked): Peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, garlic, onions, celery, tomatoes (are they a fruit? Are they a vegetable?)

So basically, the things that haven’t made it on the list are the vegetables that are high in starch and/or sugar (carrots, beets, potatoes, squashes etc.) That doesn’t mean that I don’t eat these vegetables- I sure do! I’m just more mindful of the portions, don’t eat them daily and try not to eat them all in one meal. Again, this is my own rule of thumb for weight loss. I’m not a nutritionist so this might all sound like mumbo jumbo to you! And that’s okay 🙂

This system is particularly hard to follow in the winter, when most of the seasonal produce in Toronto is made up of starches and root vegetables. So it’s been a fun learning process and I’ve had to figure out ways to balance my need for locally grown food, with my need for leafys, greens and water-filled vegetables.

What about you? What rules do you follow for weight loss? I’d love to hear what works for you. In the next post I’ll share some tips on how I’ve been using the vegetables.

Until then, keep it light!

 

Microphone check 1, 2…

-Ahem-

Is anyone out there? Do I still have the privilege of invading your inbox and head space? After years of dreaming about starting a blog, I finally did it- almost one year ago! The push came from a course I was doing, but along the way I realized how natural it felt to write again. And a blog about f-o-o-d?! Heck yeah! I was all in…

And then came the daunting task of creating, documenting, photographing (thanks Manu!), writing, editing, proof reading…eek! The reality of this blog began to settle in. And I just sort of shut down my laptop and never opened it up again. My husband has been bugging me for weeks months to get back to blogging; suggesting that my readers would think that eating salad for breakfast might have killed me (!)

But I’m here ya’ll! Alive and well, and still cooking up a storm. And I do have some fabulous things to share with you… if you’re still there?!

The most scrumptious cauliflower
The most scrumptious cauliflower
malaysian vegetarian food
Heavenly vegetarian food on a recent trip to Malaysia.

The above photos are just a taste of what’s to come. Stay tuned for updates and more details. After all, October is the most wonderful and bountiful time of the year, so in the hallowed words of The Fugees, Ready or Not Here I come.

Veg Around Town: Toronto’s Porter House

My Habibi and I recently celebrated a fun milestone- we passed one year together as a married couple- or as he likes to joke “two becomes One.” In the days leading up to our first anniversary it was fun reminiscing about the festivities: the high levels of joy mixed in with frenzy, the mind-boggling number of details, the yummy food, and of course our friends & family near and far who dedicated their week(end) to helping & celebrating with us.

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Since we had two ceremonies over two days, we now get our pick of two “anniversaries.”

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We marked the occasion(s) in unassuming and largely unplanned ways. On the second day, we both came home from a long day of work and decided to finally make a trip down to Porter House– an all vegan pub that opened up in downtown Toronto a few months ago.

Back in January I blogged about an article in the Globe and Mail that deliberated on the growing veg-an/atarian food scene in Toronto and Vancouver. In it I pledged to write more about the wonderful food-centric places in my locale and on my jaunts and tag these posts as ‘Veg Around Town.’

Celebrating yummy cuisine wherever we find it!
Celebrating yummy cuisine wherever we find it!

The first in the series is about the fabulous Porter House. As someone who lived in England for nearly a decade, I do not need to be sold on “pub fare”, which is often indulgent, comforting and delicious. Porter House is just that- without animal products. Blasphemy, you say? I dare you to try one of their hefty mains and not leave satisfied.

We chose:

BBQ jackfruit porter house vegan pub toronto

the BBQ jackfruit sandwich

lentil and ale pie porter house vegan pub toronto

And the lentil & ale pie.

The jackfruit sandwich was so damn delicious- tangy, smoky and cooked just right. The lentil & ale pie had earthy flavours of parsnip, carrot, peas & lentils encrusted in gorgeously flaky puff pastry. We liked both, though the jackfruit sandwich was the clear winner. The pie did not disappoint, but I was hoping for a “saucier” filling.

We were so stuffed after dinner that we didn’t sample any of the dessert- but there’s always next time!

This cozy spot downtown fills up fast, and with choices like Ploughman’s Lunch and Yuba Sandwiches to onion bhajis and bread pudding, I’m hardly surprised. It’s guaranteed to satisfy a diverse range of palates so if you haven’t been and you live in the GTA, get a move on!

I am already counting down the days when I can visit again and already know what I’m going to get… Yuba sandwich for the win!

Cauliflower “Rice” is Nice

cauliflower rice salad for breakfast

…Yeah! I totally did!

cauliflower rice salad for breakfast

Behold! The curvaceous cruciferous we refer to as cauliflower. I’m hoping this gorgeous specimen will distract you from my mild digital absence.

I’ve missed you all! The past few months there have been some changes so I haven’t had a chance to blog as frequently. But as things begin to calm down, I’m aching to share some treats that I’ve been working on.

Cauliflower is all the rage at the moment, and rightly so. It’s deliciously versatile, be it mashed, grilled, baked, steak-ed out, or ‘riced’. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely eaten more than my fair share of comfort foods the past few months year. And my body is telling me that it’s time to come back into line.

Lucky for me the end of winter is also an encouraging time to break away from this trance and get into gear. As I fill my plate these days I’m looking for fun ways to increase my vegetable intake and decrease my reliance on carbs. So you can imagine the thrill I felt when I saw a picture of cauliflower “rice”. It’s easy and yummy.

cauliflower rice salad for breakfast food blog

You take a whole head of cauliflower, chop it into florets, and throw the florets into a food processor.

cauliflower rice salad for breakfast food blog

Pulse until they look like ‘rice’ and no large bits remain. If you’re ricing the whole cauliflower, you’ll need to do this in a few batches so the cauliflower has space to dance around and chop. From here you can either heat and eat (my preferred method of consumption), freeze, or serve it straight up. Enjoy!

cauliflower rice salad for breakfast

Some helpful notes:

  • With my large head of cauliflower, I got about 7 cups of rice.
  • When all the cauliflower was riced, I measured out 2 cups for dinner that night, and froze the rest (for future meals).
  • Though you could eat this rice raw, I prefer to cook it beforehand. I think this helps with digestion, and just tastes better. So I sautéed the cauliflower in a hot pan on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, and served it with some homemade seitan curry. 
  • This doesn’t taste like rice but it’s damn good.
  • It’s possible to grate the cauliflower if you don’t have a food processor. But you might just end up exhausted and hating vegetables by the end of it.

Oh My! Squash Brownies

vegan gluten free squash brownie salad for breakfast

Friends, for the very first time, I created my own brownie recipe from scratch. This was a real project for me. I spent a few days looking at various recipes for squash brownies, drooling over pictures. I then did some research on the ‘perfect brownie’, focusing on bloggers who wrote about the ideal ratio of wet to dry ingredients.

Baking, after all, is a science my friends, and requires the true attention of a nerd scholar.

Well after some good reading, and a stubborn stance to only use ingredients I had in house, I decided to test out my recipe.

The results? Gooey, decadent, chocolaty brownies- sans gluten, dairy & eggs.

vegan gluten free squash brownie salad for breakfast

They tasted even better the next day, and my brownie loving husband declared these to be a winner. Yay! Gold Star stickers all around ya’ll!

Notes:

  • Brownies are especially good with dairy and eggs, and I can honestly say that it’s pretty tough to find/make a good vegan brownie. But these were just right.
  • My choice to use gluten free flour was purely based on the fact that I didn’t have any more whole wheat pastry flour (my go-to baking flour). If you go with pastry flour, you may not need the extra spoon of water.
  • As soon as these came out of the oven I dumped some vegan chocolate chips on top and covered with foil. After 5 minutes I uncovered and smoothed out the melted chocolate. Feel free to use any frosting of choice, or leave it out completely.
  • If using eggs, don’t use the flax seed mixture or extra water. (But I can’t guarantee results)
  • I had acorn squash already roasted and in the fridge, but any roasted squash will do.

vegan squash brownies salad for breakfast

Squash Brownies

What I’m Listening to

 

Ingredients

1/2 c roasted squash
1 t vanilla extract
3 T melted coconut oil
2 T flax meal mixed with 5 T water

3/4 c gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
1/2 c Dutch processed cocoa powder (not hot cocoa mixture!)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 c sugar

1 T water (only if the mixture is dry)

What I Do:

Preheat your oven to 350, and line a 9 inch baking pan with parchment.

Mix the flax seed meal and 5 T of water in a small bowl and set aside for 4-5 mins, until mixture thickens and resembles egg white. This will be your ‘egg’. Add this mixture to pureed squash, coconut oil, and vanilla.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Fold your dry ingredients into your squash mixture until combined. The batter should be thick, glossy and smooth. If it looks crumbly and sandy, add the extra Tablespoon of water.

Transfer brownie mixture into baking pan and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. To test whether it’s done, stick a toothpick or sharp knife into the center. When you pull it out, it should be clean and not have any batter stuck to it.

Once out of the oven let the brownies sit for 20 minutes or overnight before serving. These are meant to be gooey brownies- not underdone, but not cake-y!

vegan squash brownies salad for breakfast
“Cuz every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” Meghan Trainor

Edamame Hot and Sour Soup

edamame hot and sour soup vegan salad for breakfast

Dear Hot and Sour soup purists,

I know your wonderful recipes rarely include edamame, but before you turn your nose up at me, don’t knock it ‘til you try it. I swear you won’t be disappointed.

Love,
A hot ‘n sour soup convert

Winter is in full force in Toronto, and that means hats, gloves, scarves, boots, and the lesser welcome accessory: germs. Two colds in the span of a month for the Mr. means it’s time to give the body some love.  I made this soup for my habibi who has been sniffly and sneezy over the past week.

Hot and Sour soup is certainly one of those dishes that is healing & comforting. Each spoonful daringly enters your body, conversing with all the germs that have crowded around your throat, sinuses and chest. The spice, the acidity! There is something medicinal about this soup; it’s just what the doctor didn’t order but should have to put those bully-ish germs at bay.

Even if your body doesn’t feel sick but you just feel like having warming, delicious soup for dinner, this is definitely the way to go!

There are some unique ingredients in here that can easily be found in Asian grocery stores. The truly vital ingredients in this are the vinegar, white pepper, soy sauce/tamari. The rest is customizable to your own tastes.

Edamame Hot and Sour Soup salad for breakfast

What I’m listening to:

Anything of Amy Winehouse

Edamame Hot and Sour Soup Ingredients:

Heaped 1/8 c dried black fungus
1/2 cup dried sliced shiitake
2 c boiling water
4 cups veggie broth
1 t white pepper
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t chilli flakes
4 T Tamari or Soy Sauce
4 T rice vinegar
2 t chilli garlic paste
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup frozen edamame microwaved for 30 seconds in a tbs water
1/3 block tofu, cubed, frozen, thawed
3 T cornstarch mixed with 2 T mushroom soaking water

What I do:

Soak the fungus and shiitake in 2 cups boiled water for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, drain the soaking water into a separate bowl and set the fungus & shiitake to the side.

Heat vegetable broth and shiitake soaking water over medium heat. Add white pepper, black pepper and chili flakes and bring to boil. Add fungus, shiitake mushrooms, and edamame and simmer for 6 mins. Add Tamari, Vinegar and Tofu and turn the heat up to bring back to boil. When water boils add chilli paste, sesame oil and cornstarch mixture. Allow to thicken by counting to 30. Once it thickens (larger bubbles will begin to form & burst), shut off heat and serve.

edamame hot and sour soup salad for breakfast vegan

It’s best with an extra drizzle of sesame oil!