Mushroom and tempeh mince

When I first went vegan, I wanted to avoid using a lot of mock meats. This wasn’t necessarily out of health concerns (frankly, you’re a vegan whether or not you’re “healthy,” so put that to bed), but more because I really really like cooking on my own and developing my own recipes and alternatives. Particularly once I started Urban Garlic (yep, back in the low-light, 5 a.m. blurry breakfast snap days), I wanted to be a from-scratch vegan. I preferred my tacos to have things like black beans instead of “beef” crumbles, or to add mushrooms instead of vegan “bacon” to my breakfasts.

Unfortunately, for too long I missed out on how lovely and handy it was to have a handy mince substitute. Whether it was to throw in a chickpea omelette, toss on top of some pasta or just eat straight out of the jar (shut up…), I am now convinced that everyone needs a vegan mince in their life.

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Vegan meal plan for one week

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Jarrod and I have really committed to a more well thought-out meal plan, especially for breakfast and lunch. Before, breakfast would always consist of only me eating (and usually throwing a smoothie together last-minute) and Jarrod not eating anything at all, then running to Tim Horton’s for a breakfast sandwich on the way to work. So wasteful!

I wanted to share a sample of a meal plan that we follow most weeks (with some variance, of course, because variety is the spice of life).

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Maple whisky freezer fudge

Freezer fudge is the lazy girl’s perfect dessert. No, it’s not rich and dairy-decadent like traditional fudge (and there is more “traditional”-textured vegan fudge out there, for sure), but with a few simple ingredients you can create a dessert that is creamy, melt-in-your-mouthy, satisfying and adaptable to so many flavours!

I wanted to do something St. Patrick’s Day-themed, and originally planned on stout cupcakes, until I remembered that I’ve never been a cupcake girl. I don’t even own a small cupcake tin! My friend Alex can tell you about the time I brought cupcakes to his birthday (made from the Bunner’s cookbook) that I tried to make with cupcake papers but no cupcake tin. Well, they were chocolate, so they looked, well, you can imagine…

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The absolute best black bean burgers

If you can’t tell from my website — or more so, my Instagram — I went through a rather, shall we say, unfortunate phase recently. See, I got these colourful backdrops from DeSerres and thought I’d try photographing everything against super-bright, vibrant blues, greens and purples. In fact, it was when I posted the recipe for my almond-crusted tofu and my balsamic brussels and berries that I realized what a bad choice that was. Such delicious, vibrant food all washed out and drowned by an unflattering, glorified construction paper.

Anyway, I was still in that phase when I photographed this burger. Now, don’t let the yucky background fool you, this burger is the best recipe I’ve made in a long time. I actually had a few photos of it with a nicer setup, but the problem was I covered it in so many toppings! Sorry, I’m just always a sucker for the right amount of pickles and avocado.

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Zingy garlic and almond edamame

When I went to university, I’d use whatever money I could scrape together to go to our campus pub, Wilf’s, for the occasional treat. I wasn’t a vegan back then (and thank goodness, because if you check out Wilfs’ menu online, look at how little options there were, and how apparently they think chicken is vegetarian), but my favourite things at Wilf’s happened to be the only vegan things on the menu — edamame, and hummus and pita chips.

I’ve mentioned before that I came from a reallllly non-diverse town. Like, we didn’t even have grocery store sushi. I’d never even heard of hummus until I was 19 years old. Edamame? I actually thought it was pronounced “Eda-maim!” But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t try it. Wilf’s edamame was just steamed with salt (lots of it!) but it was so damn addictive.

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High-protein overnight n’oats (grain-free!)

Disclaimer: I am not grain-free (as a vegan zombie, I love graiiiiiins). But just as I don’t eat gluten-free, soy-free or (entirely) sugar-free, I like to provide as many alternates as possible for a diverse readership. I also just think it’s fun to eat differently sometimes!

I have always found overnight oats a little boring (just one big giant “meh” from me) but I do love how high in protein they are without a ton of effort. I told myself I’d never do an overnight oats recipe on Urban Garlic because it just seems way too basic, but I got the idea to come up with an alternative that’s 1) higher in protein and 2) grain-free for people who need the alternative.

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Salted caramel squash smoothie

Heyo friends! Jarrod and I sticking to a meal plan is going very well these days — Jarrod is eating breakfast more at home and giving less of his money to Tim Hortons and their  breakfast sandwiches. Woo hoo! We’re also both finding we’re keeping fuller throughout the day.

Even though we don’t often prep ahead for meals (except for lunches), just knowing what you’re going to eat makes a huge difference — stocked fridge, logical plan, clear head. What’s not to love?

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February faves

What an excellent month it has been — for me and for the blog! I’ve finally felt the right combination of inspired and organized to keep up with the blog and create content that I’m proud of. And, astoundingly, people are reading!

Thanks to everyone who has been so enthusiastic in the Urban Garlic “community” (ugh, I need to find a better way to describe “people who like my blog”).

Back when I first started this blog I had a sort of “Things I’m loving lately” feature, which I used to enjoy doing, but I think I got more out of it than anyone else. But ya know what? I’m bringing it back!

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Balsamic Brussels and berries

I never knew how amazing Brussels sprouts could be when I was younger because I only ever had them steamed. Can you believe I missed out on all the goodness of roasted Brussels sprouts?

I’ll confess that my favourite way to do Brussels sprouts is with some oil, salt and pepper, and a fresh squeeze of lemon juice — that’s it! No BS, just Brussels sprouts. Geddit? Ooh hoo hoo, I crack myself up.

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Almond-crusted tofu

What’s the one meal you always remember being a go-to, weeknight meal at your house?

For me, it was chicken with Shake ‘n’ Bake. Oh, and not just any Shake ‘n’ Bake, Zesty Italian Shake ‘n’ Bake. What can I say — we were cultured kids.

I never grew up actually knowing how to bread anything. Shake ‘n’ Bake was the closest I ever came. As a result, I really don’t like heavy batters very much.

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