Freshened up green smoothie

I know what you’re thinking: “Ugh, another vegan with a green smoothie!” I bet you’re picturing the classics: banana (nope!) spinach or kale (nnnnnope!), protein powder (nope), non dairy milk (nahhhh).

This green smoothie is for people who aren’t really interested in drinking their meals but want something nice and light as a snack or side. It combines the peppery taste of celery (calm down, it’s not a savoury smoothie) with lightly sweet pineapple and the light taste of green tea and mellow matcha.

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Lightened up gluten-free pancakes

I found myself in a dilemma recently: I had a lot of random gluten-free flours in my cupboards (I eat gluten, but I have a lot of GF flours to experiment for more inclusive recipes). I was trying to free up some much-needed kitchen real-estate, so I thought, “Today would be a perfect day for gluten-free pancakes.”

The thing with GF cooking that I find is that it doesn’t take much for dishes to feel very dense. The natural elasticity that gluten gives wheat flour is distinctly missing when it comes to things like oat flour and buchwheat flour, which is why the best GF chefs know to combine the perfect mix of gluten-free flours. Take, for example, Bunner’s in Toronto: one glance through their cookbook shows that creating the perfect cupcake usually relies on a delicate balance of flours ranging from garbanzo and fava flour to buckwheat flour. Complex — but yummy!

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Super veggie one-pot pasta

I’m not going to pretend that I’m the first person to come up with a one-pot pasta concept – or even that a one-pot pasta is a super innovative concept to begin with.

But a one-pot pasta does speak to everything that I always wanted Urban Garlic to be: a source for simple and uncomplicated meals that aren’t eaten faster than they’re cooked (for the most part). And this one-pot pasta is filled with so many delicious vegetables, it feels like I’m eating my (nonexistent) garden… with some carbs thrown in there.

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Savoury protein breakfast bites

Here’s a high concept: a breakfast that is both fussy-fancy and convenient.

The trick? Much like my blueberry muffins, make that beauty ahead and just pop one (or two!) out when you feel like it. These are great out of the fridge, warmed up, whatever — and with ketchup!

Oh, right, what are they? Well, if you, like me, have had a hard time giving up eggs in your vegan journey, this might be the dish for you. Just like the “cage-free” egg bites Starbucks has been pushing, these bad boys are savoury, protein-packed and convenient. But unlike those egg bites, these didn’t come at the suffering of chickens.

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Harissa BBQ sloppy Josephines

When I was a kid, I only went to traditional summer camp once. The summer camps available in my area weren’t amazing, and we didn’t learn new things or have cool activities like the ones in movies (did anyone else watch The Parent Trap and think camp was way cooler than it actually was?) so one summer was really all I needed.

(Of course, I did go to orchestra camp a couple times as a teen. Yup, take your best shot).

Anyway, one thing I remember about camp was that the food was different than I expected. I thought it would be hot dogs, crusty mac and cheese and, of course, sloppy Joes! That was what I was most looking forward to since I, an apparently sad and disadvantaged child had never had a sloppy Joe before.

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One-bowl blueberry spelt muffins

Muffins have never really been a stalwart breakfast in our home, so when I do make muffins, there’s something about them that makes me feel like I’m at a bed and breakfast.

That goes double if they’re one of my two favourite kinds of muffins: blueberry, or carrot.

The problem with muffins is that it’s hard to find commercial muffins that are a) vegan-friendly, b) not huge and c) not basically a cake. Now, I don’t believe everything you eat has to be healthy (far from it!) but I just don’t understand the point of taking something that would make a nice, filling breakfast addition/alternative (depending on how big your appetite is) and not fill it with a lot of good stuff!

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Cozy shepherd’s pie with port gravy

Being from a French-Canadian household, shepherd’s pie was pretty much a given at our place every few weeks, especially in winter weather. Of course, I was such a picky eater as a child that the whole concept freaked me out. Yep, even though I loved ground beef (once upon a time), mashed potatoes and corn, having them together? Well, it was a little too much for me.

As I grew older, of course, I outgrew that stage, thanks largely to the miracle of ketchup. By the time I was in university, shepherd’s pie was my favourite thing to get sent back to my dorm with. For me, it’s the ultimate in “makes me feel like I’m right at home with Mom and Dad!” food.

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March faves

Oh me, oh my! It’s been another great month on Urban Garlic. From finally getting my shit together with photos to producing a healthy mix of breakfasts, suppers and desserts, this month on Urban Garlic has been all about gaining confidence in my content. I’m writing the kind of content I would want to read myself — the kind of resources I wish I had when I first went vegan. When I write posts now, I smile instead of agonizing!

March was a relatively relaxed month for me, but April and May are about to get tough. There’ll be some pretty heavy lifting coming up at work. Now, I’ve never been afraid of a little challenge, but I’ll certainly be glad to have some great go-to vegan foods ready to cook when I get home every night.

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Blackened tempeh skewers with zesty green salsa

This is perhaps the most “on-the-fly” blog post I’ve written since I got my butt back in gear earlier this month on Urban Garlic. Oh, I have tons of other blog posts lined up — muffins, breakfast bites, shepherd’s pie — but for some reason I just had to do tempeh skewers on March 26.

Now, if you’re not a tempeh fan, or if you’re one of those people who has to have it prepared just so, fear not: I was once like you. In fact, I still am, very much, like you. While there’s not much in the world that makes me happier than a Bloomer’s tempeh reuben, and my favourite “just passing by the fridge” snack is my tempeh mushroom mince, I’d still much rather top a bowl or salad with some lightly fried or baked tofu rather than tempeh.

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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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