And then you eat salads out of mason jars — an accidentally vegan lunch salad recipe

eat salads out of mason jarsOkay, so I’m about two years behind the whole salad in a jar craze. But actually, I was Way ahead of the trend because I’ve been eating–and drinking–out of Mason jars since before they somehow became cool. Just ask my co-workers circa 2000 (they thought I was crazy! Who’s crazy now?!).

Despite my jar-lovin’ ways, I was sceptical when I first heard about salad in a jar. My scepticism asked, how can you possibly get enough salad into a jar to constitute a meal? Really, this girl gets pretty hungy, and I’m sorry but a mere pint of romaine just isn’t going to fill my bellah.

However. That was before I discovered my current lunch salad.

It’s crunchy. It’s healthy. It’s filling. And it packs conveniently inside a Mason jar. Oh, and did I mention it is also super frugal?

My lunch salad starts with a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw, which goes for $1.39 at Food Basics. One bag of cole slaw mix will make 3-4 lunch salads, which truly fill my tummy for hours.

I add a simple, wholesome, vegan dressing, toss with some toasted sunflower seeds, and head to work with my frugal healthy filling lunch. In a Mason jar.

Frugal Urban Tummy-Filling Lunch Salad

1 pint pre-shredded cole slaw mix, raw

1.5 tbsp tahini

Enough Olive oil to make it runny, about a tbsp

3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Salt to taste

Sunflower seeds, roasted without salt

To take this to work, I usually pre-mix the salad the night before, following these exact instructions: First, place cole slaw mix in a bowl. In a small mason jar, mix together the tahini, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt, using an old bamboo chopstick. Pour dressing over the cole slaw and stir with the chopstick until everything is combined. Then use first the chopstick, and then your finger, to get every last bit of dressing out of the smaller jar and eat it right then & there because it is sooooo yummy.  Taste the salad and adjust for salt. Pack the salad in a pint-sized (500 ml) Mason jar, put the lid on, and store it in the fridge overnight. Pack the sunflower seeds separately, and when you are ready to eat, sprinkle them over the salad.

When you make it the night before, the salad shrink down as the cabbage gets soft and chewy. I like it this way, but if you prefer to follow the Pinterest-approved salad-in-a-jar method, you could choose to mix the dressing in the pint jar, then pour the undressed cole slaw mix in over top of it, keeping it upright overnight. In the morning at work, turn it upside down and the dressing will magically mix with the cabbage, theoretically leaving you with a perfect, fresh salad for your lunch. Still pack the seeds separately, or they will get soft and less fresh and crunchy.

While the second method gives you a fresher salad, I found the dressing didn’t mix completely well, as it is a fairly thick consistency, and I found eating it a bit awkward, with bits falling all over since they weren’t stuck together all nicely with the dressing. But maybe that’s just me. I am known to be a bit clumsy.

Enjoy my contribution to the world of “salads in jars”! With a full tummy 🙂


Real Food Standby #4: Stove-top Popcorn

You put the oil in the pot

And you let it get hot

You put the popcorn in

And you start to grin

Sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle

Sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle . . . . POP!!

That’s really all you need for a recipe! This snack can be salty or sweet, cheesy or plain, but it’s always easy and low-cost.

Popcorn has long been the go-to late-night snack for our family. For years my partner and I have been driving various neighbours crazy with the aroma filtering through to their apartments late in the evenings. Lately I”ve been throwing it in our snack bag. The kids see this as a real treat!

It’s very frugal–even if you factor in buying non-GMO organic popcorn and coconut oil–and just about as quick as microwave popcorn. But when you make it yourself, the ingredients are much healthier. We usually buy ours in the bulk aisle of the health food store, or occasionally through the ONFC food co-op. Either way, it’s a fraction of the price of any store-bought snack, and also much better for you.

Simple Stovetop Popcorn

coconut oil or palm oil

popping corn

Optional toppings: sea salt, melted butter, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast

Spoon a large gob of coconut oil into the bottom of a large cold lidded saucepan. Turn the heat to max. As soon as the oil has liquefied, add popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot. We don’t measure quantities, but rather aim for the oil to be level with the kernels, and the whole mass covering the bottom of the pot. Too little oil and you will end up with lots of unpopped kernels. Too much, and the popcorn will be soggy or oily. Feel this out and you will have a skill for life 🙂

Put the lid on the pot and listen for the popping to start. Have a large bowl or two ready to receive your popcorn.  If the popcorn starts to fill up the pot and lift the lid, dump some of it out into the bowl. In this way you can easily make large quantities even in a relatively small pot. Throw some salt on it immediately, as it sticks better when it’s hot. Return pot to heat and give it a good shake every few seconds so any kernels get shifted to the bottom of the pot for a chance to pop.

Once the popping almost stops, dump the whole into the bowl(s) and salt to taste. Add your optional toppings and enjoy!

How do you like your popcorn?

Nourishing November

It’s been an intense few weeks. I’ve been really too much obsessed with food, most specifically, with cutting food out of my diet. And since I’ve already cut out nearly all processed food–we hardly buy anything that comes in a box anymore–paring down on basics like wheat, dairy and even peanut butter was making it incredibly hard to find enough to eat around here! Even with my Real Food Standbys!

I started to ask myself, “Why are you obsessing over food? What is the real issue here?” And the answer came: It’s all about nourishment. What with homeschooling, food shopping and preparing, keeping the house under control, and being there for my partner as well, I don’t find a lot of time to nourish myself.

So I started focusing on food, and in the back of  my mind has been the thought that if I get my diet *perfect* I will feel complete, whole, rested, healthy, unstressed, kind all the time, on top of every aspect of my life! Without ever needing to stop and rest or take myself out for ice cream!

Obviously, I need some real nourishment.

So I’ve decided that November is going to be about nourishing myself (and my family too, since we generally eat the same stuff!). This month, instead of worrying about what I shouldn’t eat, I’m going to take a “crowding out” approach this month, filling us up with yummy, healthy, diverse, colourful, unprocessed, organic,  and–can I even hope for it??–frugal foods. These foods will crowd out the less healthy and nutrient dense options, at least some of the time.

Some of my “crowding out” techniques:

– get more good into our smoothies by adding some good supplements like Omega-3s and greens and whatever else I can come up with (bee pollen? mineral powder?)

– we’re soon getting a half a side of beef (yay!) from a local farmer. This will crowd out the occasional less-than-ideal meat purchase from the grocery store.

– focusing more on power-packed snacks. I just bought the eBook, “Healthy Snacks To Go” by Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship. I bought it with a handy coupon through the GNOWFGLINS webinar, “Frugal, Healthy Snacks”. If you act quickly you can probably ask for access to the re-play and get the coupon too! I’m in no way affiliated with either blog, and don’t make any money from your clicks, but I am impressed with the eBook, and am excited to make some power bars tomorrow!

– somehow eat more veggies, maybe by varying what I use in our daily lunch soups? (any suggestions welcome!)

– do more lacto-fermenting. I put up a delicious batch of kimchi-style sauerkraut last week, and made my first Beet Kvass. I’m inspired to do more!!

But besides all the food stuff, I’m going to work on nourishing myself in other ways as well this month. I need time outside the house, to be alone, away from the kids, to be with friends, to exercise and to buy a few needed items that will make me feel good (like new shoes and a pair of jeans!).  Because if I’m really going to go all the way with this homeschooling business, I’m going to need to care for myself too.

You need to put on your own oxygen mask first.

So, what about you? Are you going to have a Nourishing November too?

Found on this week’s Simple Lives Thursday, hosted by GNOWFGLINS.

Real Food Standby #3: Applesauce

While I’ve never been one to buy jars & jars of applesauce off the shelves, I’ve come to ADORE home made applesauce. There is something so delectable about the aroma of simmering apples, and the warm sauce freshly made just can’t be beat. I have no idea why, but it tastes so much sweeter than a raw apple, even though there’s no sweetener added. It’s fast, it’s easy, and if you preserve a bunch, it’s a great way to continue eating local apples all winter long.

Some of our favourite uses include:

– in oatmeal. Since going sugar free, this sweet sauce has been a major boon to us in the breakfast department.

– in yogurt. I’ve perfected the art of forming a cute pink applesauce heart in the middle of a tiny bowl of yogurt.

– just plain eating. Best while it’s still warm, but also a delicious snack when the kids are hungry NOW!

Next year I am definitely going apple picking with the kids, and will make jars and jars of applesauce to last us all year. For now, I’m getting them by the slightly bruised bagful from the Herb & Spice (I just discovered their cart of marked down produce–what deals!!).

Simple Applesauce

3 pounds organic apples

1 cup water

Core and roughly chop apples. Place in a saucepan with a cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Once cooked pass them through your food mill to squash out all the good stuff and leave the skins behind. If you don’t have a food mill you can always peel the apples beforehand, or leave the skins on and blend it all together for a more fibre-rich mixture. If you use very red apples, the sauce will be a lovely pink colour. Refrigerate and enjoy, or process in a water bath according to up-to-date canning instructions.

Real Food Standby #2: Smoothies

We’re officially on day 4 of our Real Food Revolution, and things are going so well. My kid has been able to stay in the “green zone” pretty much 100% of the time, not counting normal reactions to having shiny pieces of red ribbon snatched away by her little brother and that sort of thing.

To be honest, I feel a little guilty and silly for not trying this earlier. Imagine trying to learn and figure out the world, all the while battling these monster reactions to stuff your mom keeps giving you!!

I think the biggest change has been with our breakfast. We used to have oatmeal with honey and blueberries, or cream of wheat with brown sugar. No more! We’re still having oatmeal, but I’m using a few drops of Stevia instead of the honey. And we’re also starting the day with a smoothie, which gives them some fruit, some pro-biotics in the form of yogurt, and some omega-3s from flax oil.

With organic blueberries and sustainable strawberries, this is certainly adding to our budget but hopefully next year I can stock up when they are in season. (I think I will need a bigger freezer!) The kids are loving their smoothies (as am I!), and I feel really good getting all that healthy stuff into them at the top of the day.

So here’s the recipe. You can adjust the quantities depending on your taste and budget. I just eyeball it, to be honest!

Breakfast Smoothie


frozen blueberries

frozen strawberries

1 ripe banana

4-5 drops of Stevia

3-4 tsp flax oil (it’s pretty flavourless so I’ve been increasing it day by day)

water to cover

Toss everything into the blender. Blend on highest speed until smooth. Enjoy with a side of soaked oatmeal.

Kombucha Hypothesis

I am very sorry to all the people I have promised to give a SCOBY to and then haven’t followed through. I have a confession: I’m scared to let strangers who find me over the internet, even kombucha-loving strangers, know where I live. And I have also been very crap about SCOBY delivery 😦  Sorry, strangers!

BUT! I have a Kombucha Hypothesis that may just negate the need for SCOBY delivery altogether!

I’m not sure if you remember, but I’ve written before about how crazy tough and virulent the kombucha mother is. Like a mother bear separated from her cub! She will take a beating and come back in full force!

So, I was thinking, all scientist-like, that store-bought ‘bucha is, or at least should be, a raw, unpasteurized food. Thus, it should have live yeast/bacteria in it. Thus, it should be able to produce a new baby, just like these babies I found in my Apple Cider Vinegar.

So I bought me some Kombucha (paid nearly 5 bucks for it!) and let it sit out for about a week with the cap off. And voilà: a tiny little newborn baby SCOBY floating in it!

Now, the second part of the hypothesis, and this is the really exciting bit, is that IF a bottle of ‘bucha can produce its own little SCOBY, it SHOULD be able to produce a BIG SCOBY in a new batch of tea & sugar. Right? I know this contravenes our new sugar-free diet, but come on, this is science!

I don’t have an answer for you yet; my experiment is brewing away, and I will fill you in as things progress. But if this works, it will mean (nearly) free Kombucha for ALL!!!!!

(I feel like a cartoon mad scientist right about now.)

Our Real Food Revolution

Yesterday at 9:37 am I instituted a Real Food Revolution. Not that we were eating much “fake” food, but I will explain that in a minute. The reason it happened at 9:37 am was that that was the time my daughter started screaming at the top of her lungs, throwing her toys around her room, and slamming her door over and over again . . . because I had not adequately tied the knitted ear-warmer around her waist in such a way as to hold the sheet around her small body.

I emailed my husband, “Did you give her sugar?” He had let me sleep in after yet another night of terrible sleep caused by our little guy nursing like a newborn (he’ll be 2 next week). “Yes,” he replied, “but only a little.” Only a little, and yet there it was, the connection I had seen and have been seeing for years, only for some reason this time it gelled in my brain: give her sugar, and she acts like a maniac.

Sure, there are times she has had a bit of something sweet and not freaked out, usually when we’re outdoors, maybe with friends or family, or after a good solid dinner. But we aren’t always in an outdoor, social, post-prandial state of being.

So I googled something along the lines of “Kids, food, behaviour” and started reading. So much of what they recommend avoiding reminded me of what I’ve read in Nourishing Traditions, so I’ve decided to change our eating.

This won’t be a dramatic departure for us, but one shift I’ve decided to make is in my concern over spending money on food. While eating in a more traditional way will certainly cost more money, I think it is worth it. Our children deserve to get the best we can give them, and even our adult bodies will thank us for things like cutting out sugar, reducing grains, and doing things to boost the nutrition of whatever we are eating.

We will try to do this as frugally as possible, which means cutting waste and spending right for the right things. So my current quest will be to find some frugal “real food” staples that I can attempt to have on hand so we won’t resort to less nutritious options.

Today’s staple is Hummus! I love my hummus recipe. It makes a nice big batch which lasts us several days of snacks and lunches. My challenge right now is to find something instead of pretzel sticks to dip in it!

Fantastic Hummus

1 cup dry chick peas, soaked overnight then cooked for 1 hour

1/4 cup cooking water from the chick peas

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp lemon juice

25 g olive oil

75 g tahini

Soak the chick peas overnight, drain and cover with fresh water. Cook for 1 hour. Place cooled cooked chick peas in food processor along with the garlic, salt and cumin. Process  until mushy. Scrape down the sides. Stir together the water and lemon juice and add to the food processor while it is running. Stop machine and scrape down, then process until quite smooth. Stir together the olive oil and tahini, and slowly drizzle in while the machine is running.

That’s it! Enjoy your creamy delicately flavoured hummus with a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or a few cooked chick peas scattered over the top.