In between complaining about the cold and longing for summer salads, I sometimes remember that winter is one of the best times to get creative with your meals, and that ‘winter’ and ‘salads’ are not mutually exclusive. In fact, winter salads have become one of my recent go-to dishes. They take full advantage of unique seasonal produce and flavours, delivering a hearty meal that combines the health benefits of eating an abundance of fruits and veggies with the warmth we expect from winter cuisine.
Salads like this one display how healthy eating has to be neither difficult, nor boring and insubstantial even for an appetite as grand as my own (lol), provided you do your research and look beyond how salads are portrayed in popular culture. The key to making them filling usually involves adding a starchy base, such as potatoes in this recipe, and/or a protein. Tofu has to be one of my favourite protein sources for salads because not only can you cook it in such a wide variety of ways, but it also adds a chewier texture to accompany the overall ‘crunch’ of the dish. And if you aren’t a fan of tofu? No problem. Simply emit it or replace with a protein of your choice, such as black beans, lentils, tempeh… The possibilities are really quite endless.
The recipe whatismaria.com brings to you today (since when have I started talking in third person?!) is luxurious as both a main dish and a side. The subtly sweet, velvety flavour of the aubergines harmonises with the ‘crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside’ potatoes which in turn decorate your home in an aroma you will wish to retain for as long as possible (provided you don’t burn them, that is). Serve this straight away, or if meal prep is your cup of tea – store in the fridge for a quick, nourishing pacelunch.
Recently, a week or so of sub-zero temperatures and even a few snowflakes that melted before their collision with the ground gave way to milder temperatures, rendering anything that is not a steaming bowl of oatmeal or soup somewhat socially acceptable. Hence, I will be eating plenty of winter salads over the upcoming weeks. Let me know in the comments if you give this one a go, and whether you like to eat salads in winter too or prefer to keep them reserved for the summer!
Potato and Aubergine Winter Salad With Tofu
Luxurious and full of seasonal flavours, this salad is ideal as a comforting main course or a side. Serve straight away or keep refrigerated.
- 750g new potatoes, chopped into quarters
- 1 small aubergine, chopped into thin circles
- 1/2 block firm tofu (around 200g)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup purple cabbage, chopped
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 1/2 cucumber, chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- soy yoghurt, to serve
- Preheat an oven to 20 degrees C / 392 F. Boil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until soft.
- Meanwhile, chop the tofu into bite-sized pieces and toss together in a bowl with the ketchup, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1 tbsp soy sauce and the lemon juice. Leave to stand aside.
- Drain the potatoes and wash with cold water. Cover a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper, and lay out the potatoes, sprinkling with the turmeric, the dried rosemary, the remaining paprika and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, until crispy on the outside.
- Cover a separate baking tray with a sheet of baking paper, and lay out the aubergine slices. Drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp olive oil, the chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat some cooking spray in a non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the tofu and fry for around 10 minutes, stirring at frequent intervals, until firm and slightly crispy.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, the tofu, the cabbage, the spinach leaves, the cucumber, the cherry tomatoes and a pinch of sea salt if desired. Serve with the roasted aubergine slices and a few tablespoons of soy yoghurt.
Lots of love, Maria ♡
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Do you ever come across those ridiculously photogenic oatmeal bowls topped with exotic fruit sourced from the soils of Narnia on Instagram and sigh with jealousy? After all, given the popularity of oatmeal/porridge as a breakfast option, what percentage of the general population actually has the time to create a Louvre-worthy masterpiece before jumping into their daily routine?
Well, first of all, let us quickly address the question of Instagram vs. reality (something that will doubtlessly necessitate a blog post of its own in the future). For many people, myself included, food styling is a creative outlet, and those pretty bowls are tailored entirely towards their respective Instagram feed as opposed to being a realistic representation of what their creators eat 90% of the time. Sometimes, I will make a bowl of oatmeal whenever my schedule allows (mostly in the late afternoon), photograph it for Instagram and store it in the fridge to be eaten the next morning. In other words, if I have to make porridge right before my six a.m. shift, only a very large sum of money could induce me to post the un-photogenic but nonetheless delicious outcome on social media.
Moreover, spicing up your oatmeal does not have to require enormous amounts of effort and culinary/artistic talent. You can make it as pretty or as ugly as you like, and adjust it in accordance with your individual preferences (this may be something that oatmeal and bullet journals have in common?!). After receiving positive feedback on my step-by-step Buddha bowl guide, I decided to build a guide to oatmeal on the same principle for anyone who wants to go beyond microwave oats in terms of both taste and nutritional value. As always, feel free to skip any of the steps I outline below and/or add anything else – after all, it is your life, your oatmeal, and no one can tell you what to do!
1. Pick a milk Continue reading “How To Make a Perfect Oatmeal Bowl”
There is something special about bringing a meaningful dish, a product of hard work and the occasional shed tear, to the Christmas table and witnessing all the important people in your life fall in love with it. Especially when that reaction is genuine – I’ve had a few food failures in the past that I nonetheless decided to present for the consumption of others and I could almost see the tears glistening in everyone’s eyes in response to my wannabe gourmet creations.
I, however, like to believe that I’ve become a much better cook since those dark days and like to make celebratory meals of any kind a pleasant experience. While I am writing this, Christmas is a mere two days away and I am very excited to cook for the family. Christmas, of course, is much more than just food and presents, the former is still a universal language that brings everyone together and makes you appreciate having the ability to sit around a table with your loved ones, enjoy the deliciousness, appreciate the spirit in which the festive season is conducted. Actually making the food is very special to me – my mum and I have different schedules and rarely find time to spend together in the kitchen, and when Christmas day comes around it is always exciting to see what we can make when we combine our best efforts. Continue reading “Three Party Table Treat Ideas (Vegan)”
I don’t know about you, but there is something fascinating about what I eat in a day type content – I always enjoy these videos on YouTube, and blog posts detailing what a given person has consumed on a given day. Maybe I am just super nosy, but the enjoyment these bring me signalled that its time to make a little food diary of my own.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the abundance of people sharing what they eat on the Internet makes it very easy to compare what we eat to the diets of other people, and forget that every body is fundamentally different – we have different metabolisms, activity levels, genetics, just to name a few factors which determine what and how much we should eat. I am sharing this simply for informative purposes. People are often curious about what vegans eat on a typical day, and I aim to prove that it certainly isn’t ‘grass’/salad/rabbit food – as you will see later, my protein consumption is probably higher than your typical omnivore’s. Hence, you should take posts like these with a grain of salt. There is a big different between using them for inspiration, while eating in such a way that makes you feel great, and copying exactly what someone else is doing on social media as a means of achieving the same results.
I like to switch up my meals on a regular basis and unless I have cooked it in advance, will not have the same dish two days in a row. There are people who eat pretty much the same thing every day, and I am not one of them. Nonetheless, this day is pretty typical in terms of amount and the types of dishes I consume – abundant, high in protein and carbs, very colourful. Because life is too short not to eat all the carbs and colourful food (and it’s also too short for small portion sizes).
Breakfast: Acai Bowl with Peanut Butter, Medjool Dates and Raspberries.
Continue reading “What I Eat in a Day (Vegan and Healthy)”
I am not entirely sure whether calling these ‘brownies’ is appropriate due to the noticeable layer of pumpkin, but the name seemed more concise than ‘big dessert thing with a dark chocolate and a pumpkin layer’. Brownies is close enough.
Anyway, after a stressful week full of job interviews (because unfortunately, gap year travels cannot be funded from the magic money tree), finally finding myself a job and undergoing two days of intensive, last-minute training, I couldn’t think of a better way to unwind than with some baking. Every bureaucratic, grown-up responsibility has to be compensated with something that benefits the soul as well as the mind/my bank account. Moreover, our home severely lacks autumnal decorations, and I wanted to bring in a bit of seasonal spirit with the warming smell of pumpkin and cinnamon.
The result, for sure, was not disappointing. If you have a few cans of pumpkin laying around in your cupboards, there is no better way to use them up than through either brownies or baked oatmeal, and I decided to go for the former.
Continue reading “Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Brownies”
I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been an autumn/winter person. I am easily dismayed by the onset of darker evenings, constant rain and waking up to a room as cold as the arctic circle. While cosy evenings and scented candles help my seasonal blues to an extent, I feel much more at ease in the summer, when the days are long, the weather is decent even in England and I can go outside without having to brace myself. Many people find this surprising as I lived in Russia for the first nine years of my life (hello -40 degree weather) and while I’ve retained many ‘Russian’ characteristics, my ability to withstand the cold has faded alongside the stereotypical accent.
However, the one thing I adore about autumn is the food. I’m talking everything pumpkin, cinnamon and roasted vegetables. You know that scene in Miranda when she lists all the things she loved about Christmas? Yep, that’s me when it comes to autumn. I had a lot of fun constructing these jars because their simplicity does not compromise that hint of seasonal flavour. As usual, the recipes are vegan friendly, healthy and packed with micronutrients. And of course, eating food from a jar does the trick of making your life that much more Pinterest-worthy. Well, in my case, I cannot make any other aspect of my life suitable for Pinterest except for food: I’ve been frantically reading style blogs to try and bring some coordination into my wardrobe, and the only plant I kept in my room withered away from neglect before I managed to miraculously revive it #almostRIP.
Anyway, while I created a ‘base’ for these jars (e.g. the curry and the tofu), feel free to switch up any of the vegetables and/or dressings, eating them either straight away or storing in the fridge overnight. Many of the ‘components’ can be cooked in bulk for meal-prepping purposes. I am a big fan of spices myself (and thoroughly believe Autumn is all about spices, whether that’s in candles or in edible things – unfortunately, those are mutually exclusive) but you can adjust the amounts in accordance with your own preferences. Before I can ramble on for 365 more words, let’s leap straight into the recipes:
Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Curry in a Jar
Hearty, warm and packed full of spices, this recipe just sings Autumn. Perfect for cold evenings and as a satisfying lunch. Served over a bed of rice and with leafy greens for an extra crunch.
- 1 cup (228g) butternut squash, chopped into small cubes
- 1 cup (228g) pumpkin of choice, chopped into small cubes
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 can (200ml) light coconut milk
- 1/2 can (227ml) canned tomatoes
- 1.5 cups (355ml) vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup (50g) green lentils
- 1 tsp mild curry powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- two large handfuls of kale
- 1/2 cup (85g) dry sushi rice, to serve
- Raw zuccini and spinach, to serve
- Heat either cooking spray or a dash of oil of your choice in a large pot. Add in the pepper, onion, butternut squash and pumpkin, stirring for 3-5 minutes on a medium heat.
- Add in the vegetable stock, coconut milk, canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, lentils, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, nutritional yeast and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, before lowering the heat and simmering for 30-35 minutes until the butternut squash and pumpkin are cooked through. Add more water/vegetable stock and salt to taste if necessary. Meanwhile, cook the sushi rice according to instructions in a separate pot.
- Add the kale into the curry and stir until wilted.
- Assemble the jars: distribute the rice evenly between the jars, before topping with the curry, the raw zuccini and the spinach.
Continue reading “3 Autumn-inspired Vegan Jar Recipes”
Ever wondered what a vegan keeps in her pantry? Well, look no further than this – just joking, I’m not going down the route of cheesy blog post opening lines.
Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten ingredients you’ll always find in my cupboard. I eat a vegan diet composed mostly of wholefoods, but this is suitable for anyone who wishes to expose themselves to the joys of eating more plants and having plenty of healthy ingredients within reach.
These items are affordable and many can be cooked in bulk for the week ahead as a means of saving time, money and energy. Moreover, they act as a basis for the majority of vegan recipes out there. When it comes to cooking, I like to plan ahead and will buy ‘fancier’ extras whenever they are required (i.e., those magical superfood powders sourced from the soils of Narnia – I admit I can never hold myself back from diving head first into food trends) but always ensure my kitchen is well stocked with the basics because no one likes getting to their chickpea curry night and discovering they have no chickpeas.
Before I give myself the opportunity to ramble on for three thousand words, here are my pantry staples:
You knew this one was coming. I am in love with my beans and pulses. These contain an abundance of micronutrients such as iron and potassium, and are often the main protein source in vegan diets. As someone who is trying to build muscle, the latter is enough to make me stock my cupboards with an excessive amount of black beans.
I keep both canned and dry in my kitchen. Canned is great for convenience, but I use dry whenever I have a bit of extra time, as they require soaking and cooking, and want a ‘fresher’ taste. My favourites include:
- Black beans – these are a great option for buying fresh and soaking overnight
- Chickpeas – roast them with some agave nectar and paprika and thank me later!
- Cannellini beans
- Red kidney beans
- Lentils: red, green and black
- Dried soya mince – an incredible meat free alternative for spaghetti bolognese!
- Giant lentils
Continue reading “My Top Ten Vegan Pantry Essentials”