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 🙂

 

Rice and Black Bean casserole

Here is my recipe for a recipe so delicious you will swear it is full of fat and very bad for you. In fact it’s got lots of protein and fiber, and is pretty healthy. Not only that, but it’s very cheap and super easy! Get out your slow cooker for this one.

Rice and Black Bean Casserole

1 1/2 cups of rice

1 can, or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans

1 cup salsa

1 cup sauteed mushrooms (optional)

3 cups broth or water

cheddar cheese, shredded

fresh cilantro

sour cream

Slow cooker directions: Combine rice, beans, salsa, mushrooms and broth in slow cooker and cook on high for about 3 hours, or until the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally so everything mixes together evenly. Remove crock pot insert from casing. Top the casserole with shredded cheese and place in oven under a hot broiler until cheese is bubbly.

Conventional directions: Cook rice in broth or water. Combine cooked rice, beans, salsa and mushrooms, and top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 or until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

This amount made two dinners for us (2 adults plus 1 preschooler), plus one lunch for my partner to take to work. It goes really nicely with avocado so I made a salad with that in it. You could probably eat it in a pita or a tortilla too. For a vegan option, omit the cheese and sour cream.

I’m planning on making more dinners with black beans since I bought a 3 kilo bag from Food Basics (about 17 cents per 100 grams). Any recommendations?

A pita-riffic dinner idea

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been buying cheap whole wheat pita bread from the Food Basics that my friend has taken me to a couple of times–$1.69 for 6 huge pitas. Turns out they’re a great replacement for tortillas. I think they’re tastier too, and more filling.

So tonight we had sort of a Tex-Mex burrito/fajita/wrap kind of dinner, which could have been very inexpensive if it hadn’t been for the red and yellow peppers that each cost $3.99 a pound. It was around five dollars for just two peppers! But if you can get your peppers cheap, this would be a very tasty, filling and inexpensive meal. I should also mention that this turned out to be another accidentally vegan meal!

One thing with using pitas rather than tortillas is that they do tend to get soggy faster. I suppose one could use a lettuce leaf to hold the fillings to protect the bread from the moisture, or possibly skip the salsa, or at least squeeze the juice out of it. I just went with it, and then gobbled my wrap quickly before it fell apart.

I’ve never had much luck eating tacos neatly either 🙂

Pita Fajitas

four large whole wheat pita breads, split into rounds

one onion, sliced lengthwise

two red, yellow, orange or green peppers, or a combination, sliced

chili powder

salt

refried beans

salsa

2 avocados, sliced lengthwise

other optional additions: sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, guacamole, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped green onions, etc.

Saute the onions in olive oil until dark brown in places. Remove from pan and set aside. Add peppers to the pan and season with chili pepper and salt. Saute the peppers until blackened in places.

Build your pita fajita with generous spoonfuls of refried beans, avocado slices, onions, peppers, salsa, and any optional condiments you choose. Wrap and enjoy.

Serves four.

~ / ~

One of my next projects will be to make my own refried beans. I’ve got the pinto beans–now I just need a good recipe. Any recommendations?

A Cheaper Way with Beans

Cans of beans were on for 99 cents for the last few weeks, and I stocked up on some of our favourites: black beans for soup, mixed beans for tabouli, kidney beans and white kidney beans for chili and other stuff, and our favourite: chick peas, for hummus, tabouli, and many other things. But darn, they take up a lot of room! And is 99 cents really a bargain?

Well, we ran out of chick peas, and I really want to make both hummus and tabouli this week, but the sale is over. So I finally pulled out the giant 2 kilo bag of dried chick peas from the back of the cupboard. I measured a cup of dried peas and almost 2 litres of water into a large bowl, and left them out to soak last night. This afternoon I’ll give them a good boil for about an hour, and I’ll be good to go with the equivalent of 2 cans of chick peas.

And is it cheaper? Well, if memory serves, my 2 kilo bag of chick peas cost about $3.99, or $2 per kilo. 1/2 cup dried peas (equivalent to one can) weighs about 110 grams–about 22 cents. Yes, it takes some energy to boil them afterwards, but it’s still about 1/4 the price.

The other benefit is how little space dried beans take up to store compared to cans. A great benefit in our teeny tiny kitchen.

Once I’m done this 2 kilo bag, I’ll head to the Sandy Hill People Food Co-op and pick up some organic beans for $3.85 per kilo–still around half the price of conventional canned! I’m all about bringing down the price of organics.

So, for beans, as with many other things, I can either spend money or time, and in the words of Erik Knutzen, “my time is cheap”! (And BPA free.)

Another Recipe: Granola

As you can imagine, I’ve been pretty busy lately. I hardly have time to check my email let alone post a blog entry. But this recipe has been screaming out for posting lately. Which is because I’ve been making it alot. Which is because we’ve been eating it alot. In fact, the only problem with this recipe is how quickly it gets eaten around here! I’ve actually been known to take spoonfuls out of my husband’s bowl because he has taken “too much”! He didn’t like that.

I love this granola: it’s easy, fairly low-cost, and absolutely delicious. It’s based on the recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant’s New Classics cookbook, but with a few modifications. Here you go:

Moosewood Granola

4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

1/2 cup each sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped walnut pieces, sesame seeds, wheat germ, large flake coconut (sweetened or unsweetened–it’s up to you) or combination of any of those

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup liquid sweetener (maple syrup, fake maple syrup, honey, corn syrup, golden syrup, etc.) with 1-2 tbsp molasses added to total 1/2 cup.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients including cinnamon and stir until everything is well distributed. Add oil first and then liquid sweetener, and stir until well combined.

Pour out onto a large rimmed cookie sheet and place in oven. Bake for a total of about 20 minutes, stirring several times during the cooking to prevent burning and promote even browning. I used to stir every 5 minutes but found I can bake it in 3 bursts of 7 minutes instead. Try it on the cautious side to see how your oven behaves. You don’t want to burn it!

Some notes: I never worry about the “ratio” of dry ingredients to oil and sweetener. No matter how much or little I add, it always turns out. Also, see how I’ve cleverly changed the recipe to use only one dry measuring cup. If you measure the oil first, and put the liquid sweetener into the same un-rinsed cup, it just slides right out! Oh, and my favourite version has been with the cheap fake 15% maple syrup pancake syrup! I’ve never done a cost analysis of this, but it seems to me that it is cheaper than the store-bought variety. In any case it is better and healthier, and pretty easy to whip up if you need a quick treat. I eat mine with raisins and milk, but dried cranberries are also delicious! Vegan if made with anything but honey.

Super Economical Black Bean Soup

I kinda regret making this today, with the humidity at 80%, but it is super cheap, super easy, and pretty delicious. And with its wholesome list of beans, tomatoes, corn, lime juice and cilantro, it fits the nutrition bill too! It can also be vegetarian or vegan depending on the broth and additives you choose.

This comes in under $3 for the pot, and will feed our family of three for at least 2 meals. Whoever said eating beans was cheap, was right on!

Black Bean Soup

1 onion, diced

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp chili powder

1 green pepper, diced

1 tbsp garlic, crushed (1 large or 2 medium cloves)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 cup fresh, frozen or canned corn niblets

2 cups chicken or veggie broth

juice of 1 lime

Toppings (optional, depending on what you have on hand)

chopped cilantro

sour cream

shredded cheddar cheese

crushed corn chips

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and chili powder and cook until onion is soft. Add green pepper and cook until onion is somewhat browned. Add minced garlic and stir until fragrant (30 seconds). Add tomatoes, beans, corn and broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes until tomatoes start to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Serve with toppings on the side so everyone can add what they want. This would be delightful with quesadillas or toast, depending on what kind of day you’re having.

My Favourite Summer Soup

It’s green–the colour–and also very eco-friendly if you choose local organic veggies. I made this soup on Sunday after finding zucchini, cilantro and garlic at my favourite stall at the farmer’s market, Waratah Downs. Not that I came up with the idea this Sunday–I’ve been making this fabulous soup for years–but it has never been so good as it was using fresh local veg.  We had it for dinner with some grilled cheese sandwiches, and I froze enough for another dinner some time in the fall.  (Have I mentioned I LOVE my new freezer??)

So here is the recipe:

Zucchini-Cilantro Soup

1 tsp veg oil

1 onion, diced

approximately 1 lb or more of zucchini, sliced

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (fresh if you can get it)

4 cups broth, or enough to cover the zucchini

large handful of cilantro, minced fine

Brown the onion in the vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add the zucchini and let it get nice and brown in spots. Add the minced garlic and stir so it gets fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth. Let the soup bubble gently until zucchini is soft, about 15 minutes. Mash with a potato masher and then add cilantro.

Blend in a blender or with a hand blender–in a regular blender the zucchini will become very fine and the soup will take on a beautiful bright green colour. With a hand blender, it won’t mix in quite so well, but the soup will be just as flavourful.

Stir in some plain yoghurt if you like. Also if you are a lover of tofu, you can blend in some silken tofu, though don’t add too much or the flavour will dominate.

Enjoy with some grilled cheese sandwiches for a light and easy weekday supper.