I have a confession to make… We ate steak on Saturday night. And you know what? I didn’t enjoy it at all. For one thing Jason overcooked it on the BBQ (sorry to call you out, J!). And it was just kind of… boring. Plus after being essentially meat-free for almost two weeks, both Jason and I found it didn’t really agree with our stomachs. Enough said, right? But since we had steaks in our freezer, it seemed like a waste not to eat them. The whole experience taught me that I don’t actually miss meat at all, so I guess it’s a win!
Feeling fully committed to a meatless lifestyle, I pulled together this kitchen sink minestrone soup last night and it turned about amazing. And the best part about a big batch of soup is that it’s always better on the second day, right?
Here’s the recipe, if you’re interested. Also, you don’t actually need these specific ingredients, use this as a guideline and just add whatever is in your fridge.
1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 3 stalks of celery, diced 1 small yellow onion, diced 2 medium sized carrots, thinly sliced 1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped 1/2 cup of frozen peas several mini potatoes, quartered 1 796 mL can of diced tomatoes (I used Kirkland Organic) 4 cups of vegetable stock 1 can 540 mL red kidney beans 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon of dried chili flakes salt and pepper to taste
In a dutch oven (or heavy bottom soup pot), add evoo over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, celery and carrots and sautée about three minutes until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper and potatoes, sautée five more minutes and add salt and pepper. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano and chili flakes, stir altogether and let simmer over medium for 15-20 minutes, stirring reguarly. Add kidney beans and frozen peas and reduce heat to medium/low until veggies are soft throughout. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast if you want to go fully plant-based.
Jason called me around noon yesterday and said (with a mouthful of food, I might add), “I’m eating a chicken wrap for lunch… I forgot!” What he forgot is that we aren’t supposed to be eating meat anymore! At least not for the most part.
And before you ask, or make the recommendation, yes we watched The Game Changers on Netflix and, yes, that documentary was a big motivator in trying to make the transition to a more plant-based diet. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I definitely recommend checking it out. The main focus of the doc is on the health benefits of a plant based diet but they also discuss the environmental and animal side of things as well.
It’s been about a week and a half with our new-found eating habits, and by no means have we made the full switch over to all plant based. Will we ever go all in? I don’t know. Maybe yes? This shift will take some time and a bit of getting used to but so far we’re into it.
Surprisingly, Jason has been the main driver of it all. I mean, let’s not get confused, I basically do all the household cooking (and it’s not like that’s changing anytime soon), but he’s just as eager as I am to make the change and actually he was the one who piped up first and said “we gotta do this.” Both of us really prioritize health and wellness, so this next step feels like a natural evolution.
We all know the benefits of plant based diets whether we choose it or not. Lower cholestoral. Less animal agriculture. Better environmental impacts. But here is what I’m actually discovering to be one of my favourite benefits. MORE DELICIOUS FOOD OPTIONS AND RECIPE IDEAS.
I’m happy to report that I have navigated out of a cooking rut that I’d been wallowing in for a loooooong time. And hallelujah! Last night I made a one pot curried vegetable dish and it was, in my and Jason’s humble opinions, delicious! I’ve also started incorporating miso and ramen noodles into my repertoire. More soups and stews! And this weekend I am testing out a meatless Shepherd’s Pie with green lentils from Fraiche Food, Full Hearts. I’ll let you know how that turns out!
I was so stuck in my meat-with-a-side-of-vegetable cycle and dinners were just becoming so boring. Which is sad because I love cooking and, I loveeating! So this shakeup in the kitchen has been welcome change. I encourage anyone who’s stuck in the same rut I was to consider going meatless a couple of days a week and force yourself out of your routine. You just may find yourself with way more culinary imagination and rewarded by delcious food! And with veganism and plant-based foods becoming so much more mainstream, it’s never hard to find inredients or inspiration.
Here is last night’s curried vegetable “recipe” in case you’re looking for some inspiration.
1 medium red or yellow onion 3 cloves of garlic 2 medium carrots Several mini potatoes (I don’t know how many I used! But just eyeball it. These will make up a bulk of your dish.) 1 red bell pepper handul of spinach 1/2 cup of cashews (optional) tablespoon-ish of curry powder (I actually didn’t measure so just use your own judgment) 1 can coconut milk 1 cup vegetable broth 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne s + p to taste
Start by sautéeing the onion and garlic over medium. Add sliced carrots. Sautée for about three minutes. Add potatoes. Sautée another four to five minutes and add chopped bell pepper. Sautée another couple of minutes. Add can of coconut milk, vegetable broth, curry powder and cayenne. Let simmer on medium for five to eight minute and then reduce meat to medium low. Let simmer another six to ten minutes until vegetables are soft but not to mushyy. Then add the spinach and mix until wilted. Top with raw cashews and serve with toasted naan bread. Enjoy!
Do you have any great meatless dishes that you love? Share them with me! I’m always looking for new ideas.
Just writing out that title feels weird. Middle-aged? Me? At 40 years old, I think I can safely say I have arrived in the middle.
A couple of days ago, I was driving around running errands and listening to Q on CBC Radio. Tom Powers was interviewing Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, and they were chatting about that song Smooth that he did with Carlos Santana in the late 90s. Remember that one? If you don’t, you clearly lived under a rock because it was everywhere. Listening to it, I was immediately transported back to being 20 years old and dancing with my then boyfriend at bars and parties surrounded by friends and having loads of fun. (Back in those days, the partying still WAS fun until I took a real nose-dive later on and eventually got sober at 27.)
The song has really stuck with me over the last couple of days, mostly because it’s so damn catchy but also because it represents a moment in time that will never relive itself. I will never be in my twenties again. I mean, this isn’t news but it also kind of IS news…
It sort feels like we just go along in life and do our best, right? Choosing left or right turns, buying a home, making career changes, having babies (or not having babies), and all the rest of it. And then BOOM, you realize it’s been 20 years since you were 20! When it really only feels like it’s been about five.
Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to relive my twenties. They were hard and I struggled a lot. As mentioned, I wound up making transformative changes that would redirect my life and steer me in a better direction. But in the earlier part of that decade, before it got tough, there was such a sense of carefree living and fun to be had. Old enough to live on my own, travel and be adult-ish but young enough to also still be kind of a kid. This was especially true for me because I reeeally took my time before eventually deciding to grow up.
I actually met my husband at right around age 20. Obviously, I didn’t know that we would wind up together (we didn’t start dating until five or six years later) but sitting here today with the perspective of having lived through it, it’s so interesting to me that that 20-year old Alison had NO IDEA that she met her future husband on that night. Funny how life works. Twenty-year old me had no clue that 40-year old me would marry that guy and even have a couple of kids together.
My mom, who is in her 70s, tells me that her 40s is how she pictures herself in her mind’s eye. She tells me that this version of me is the one that will stick with me the longest. The honest-to-goodness, grown-up, 40-something me is who I will think of when I am older and close my eyes to sleep at night. The middle-aged me.
I’ve told the following story to so many friends on so many occasions, but I am going to tell it here, too. A few years ago, while on maternity leave with Miles, I was on my way to the hair salon and stopped in at Starbucks along the way. As I entered the coffee shop, I caught my reflection in the window and was taken slightly aback by what I saw. “There’s a woman firmly situated in her mid- to late-30s,” I thought to myself. At age 37, that was accurate, but I had never seen myself that way before. For so many years, I looked a bit younger than I actually was. I think I handily pull off 27 until I was at least about 34 (okay, maybe 32). Catching my reflection that day was the first time I realized that was no longer the case. I definitely did NOT look 27 anymore. And it felt…strange.
Today, the creases and wrinkles in my face continue to take me by surprise. It seems that at age 40, I’m really starting to look and sometimes feel older than I ever have before (which I am, duh). I notice, sometimes with a touch of resentment, that the deep laughlines around my mouth show my age long before I have a chance to utter it. I privately curse all my years of smoking and sun-bathing as though my twenty-year old skin would remain that way, unchanged, forever. Yes, the creases tell a story of a life well-lived but damnit, they sure do take some getting used to.
Here’s the upshot though, and it’s a good one. I also feel so much more in tune with myself than I ever have before. I really know who I am today and have confidence in my abilities. It’s a confidence that has taken decades to solidify. I’ve got the benefit of time on my side and a track record to look back on to see where my past experiences can help guide my future choices. My heart and my gut lead me today, and with the benefit of having history to look back on, I know that when I trust them they always steer me down the right path.
It’s true, my days of dancing in bars as a 20 year old are done. But isn’t that actually a huge relief? I’d way rather curl up in bed next to my husband at 9:30 pm with a cup of tea and a good book. I know that today because I know who I am, and I know that simple pleasures are what make me feel content. That 20 year old me? She was fun, but she really didn’t know herself very well at all. It makes me wonder what 80 year old me will look back on and think of 40 year old me. And just as I couldn’t have imagined being 40, today I can’t imagine being 80!
How do you feel about getting older? Does it sneak up on you, too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 🙂