Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie ~ Easily Vegan!

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I’m currently on day three of eating this Shepherd’s Pie for dinner and I’m nowhere near tired of it yet. This made enough to feed me for the entire week, and as it tastes absolutely delicious, I’m quite excited!

Year two of post-secondary started with the most stressful day of my school career, followed by a mountain of homework, projects and readings. The fact that I really enjoy what I’m doing though makes nothing seem like too much of a chore. (Except for my required accounting course…that definitely belongs in a more choreish realm).

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Now that I’m back in my school rhythm and it’s the first day of fall (woohoo!!), comforting, starchy foods are the only thing I want to eat. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love a good green salad. But after a long day of school where the walk home is rainy and cold, my stomach is hungry, my brain and eyes are sore and there is a mountain of homework waiting to be done that night, carbs on carbs on carbs is all I want. I know you guys feel the same.

This Shepherd’s Pie is perfect to make Sunday night in a big batch so you can come home to healthy, delicious leftovers every night. Unless of course you have a lovely family to feed it to, you should definitely share it and I’m sure they will love it! But I promise I won’t tell if you just happen to misplace the leftovers and then just happen find them when you’re alone for dinner the next night…

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The combination of the lentils, vegetables, thyme and rosemary give this pie a wonderful, deep earthy flavour, which is absolutely fantastic. This Shepherd’s Pie is the best kind of healthy, hearty, homemade comfort food you could ask for.

VEGETARIAN SHEPHERD’S PIE ~ serves 6

  • 3 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 TB butter ~vegan butter or coconut oil for vegan version
  • 2 TB milk ~almond milk for vegan version
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, finely sliced
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot and fill with cold water until potatoes are just covered, and add in a good pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash with a potato masher or a fork until smooth. Stir in butter, milk and a pinch of both salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In another large pot set over medium heat, add a tbsp of olive oil and the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add in mushrooms, thyme and rosemary and continue sauteing for 5 more minutes. Add in lentils and stock, bring to just a boil and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are softened. Stir in tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice and a good pinch of both salt and pepper. Let the mixture bubble away for 10 more minutes until thickened and everything is fully cooked.

Add mixture to a large oven proof baking dish and top with mashed potatoes, smoothing the top nicely. Place in the middle rack of your oven for 15 minutes to thoroughly heat everything through. To get a nice crispy top on your potatoes, turn your oven to broil and place your dish on the top rack. Cook for another 3 minutes, but watch carefully as it can turn from golden brown to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Let cool on-top of oven for 10 minutes before serving and devouring.

Enjoy!

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3 Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Lately, I have been really intrigued by the concept of minimalism. I’ve been reading blogs and watching videos by people who live the ultra minimalistic lifestyle (I mean the no-more than 1 plate in your cupboard kind of people) and find them fascinating. I don’t think I’ll ever be that minimalistic, but I think it’s important to have and use less for the sake of the planet and our own well-being. As we know, more stuff doesn’t equal more happiness, so downsizing the amount of ‘stuff’ you have doesn’t just de-clutter your house, but also de-clutters your mind.

Before coming back to school, I went through almost everything I owned and got rid of/donated as much as I could.

That being said, I do still own quite a lot of stuff (my Dad would say I still own far too much), but I’ve downsized by about half, so I think I’m on the right track! I still want to continue downsizing, so I’ve decided to take note of everything I constantly use and don’t use this year. Then at the end of the year I will donate all of the things that are rarely or (ever) touched.

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Using the minimalistic mindset, it lets you cut to the chase and realize what’s really important. For example, these cookies. Sure I could have added some carefully spilled oats, some freshly cut flowers and a tea-set in the background to complement the cookies, but the main purpose of these photos is to show you the cookies! So I tried my best to do just that.

In the spirit of simplicity, these cookies require only 3 ingredients to taste absolutely delicious. I don’t think it gets much better than that.


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3 INGREDIENT VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES ~ makes 10

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • a dash of both cinnamon + nutmeg if you desire

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a bowl, mash bananas until they become a pulp. Stir in quick oats, chocolate chips and spices (if using).

Shape into 10 balls and place on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Using a spatula, press down cookies ever so slightly to make a flat top for your cookie.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until tops are visibly crisp. They will look slightly underbaked when you take them out, but that is what we want! Remember, these aren’t your normal cookies. Let sit on cookie tray for 5 minutes to firm up.

Enjoy!

Chocolate + Lime Zucchini Sheet Cake

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My Mom and I baked together for the first time in a long time.

After hearing about a delicious cake during a phone call with my Aunt, my Mother asked for the recipe, bought the ingredients and planned to make it.

Yesterday morning (8 a.m to be precise) we beat, stirred and whisked the batter in harmony. We rose early as we were attempting to beat the heat and ensure the cake was the only thing cooking.

Our favourite time to enjoy dessert is in the afternoon with a cup of earl grey tea, so making it early in the day also meant we could eat it at our ideal time.

Did we plan our day around cake? Of course we did.

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Most of my family works in the tourist industry, so summer is always quite hectic around here. With each of us working longer hours than usual, combined with the overall busyness of our little tourist town and getting ready to head back to school, we cherish calm afternoons of relaxation. Yesterday, we enjoyed cake, tea, conversation and books before parting ways as I headed into work for the late shift.

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Although we all live our own hectic lives, there is always time for cake.

CHOCOLATE + LIME ZUCCHINI SHEET CAKE ~a recipe from my Aunt

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp fresh lime zest
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 overflowing cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (we used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan.

In a stand mixer set with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and lime zest.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

With the stand mixer set on low speed, slowly add in flour mixture 1/2 a cup at a time until fully incorporated.

Add in milk and beat well.

Remove bowl from stand, and fold in zucchini and nuts.

Pour into pan and bake for 1 hour, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Ice with Limey Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below) and enjoy!

LIMEY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 1/4 cup softened (or spreadable) cream cheese
  • 2 TB softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • juice of 1/2 a lime

Beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in icing sugar 1/2 a cup at a time and beat until fully incorporated. Stir in vanilla and lime juice.

A Day at the Lake + Healthy Homemade Granola + Life Happenings

Warning: This post contains many many things.

I’m sure all of you have been experiencing the extra hot summer we are having this year. Oh man is it ever hot.

It has come to that time of year when us non-air-conditioned-folks shut the house up before the sun rises and open it up when the sun sets. Every possible moment, my sister and I (and any other family member that doesn’t happen to be working) spend hours swimming in one of the nearby lakes or rivers to escape the heat.

The following photos are from a day at the river:

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We have especially enjoyed hiking to a little secluded cove to swim, as there is usually nobody there, meaning we can be as obnoxious as we want. (Insert fist pump here)

This major heatwave results in baked goods being pretty much non-existent around the household. The one thing that we keep baking is granola, and if it isn’t out of the oven by 8:30 a.m, then no breakfast for you! (Unless you eat other things for breakfast besides granola, that is cool too.)

I decided the other day to make a video of me making said granola, so here it is if you are interested in watching/learning how to make my Mom’s delicious and healthy granola. Maybe I’ll make more videos in the future…who knows!

I recently got a new cell phone, which happens to have a pretty sweet camera, so I have been pretty active on instagram lately. If you are interested in a daily food/life diary of me, here’s a sample:

Exploring home. #beautifulbritishcolumbia #harrisonhotsprings #hiking #greatoutdoors

A post shared by Emma (@emmacschram) on

These days my life is filled with working at the cafe, spending time in nature, doing freelance graphic design, house hunting for school next year, finding creative ways to eat the abundance of fresh veggies packing both of my family’s fridges and painting my room.

Life is very busy, but life is also very good. I’m hoping it will cool down so I won’t constantly feel beads of sweat forming all over my body. Ah well though, I guess that is what summer is for.

See you (hopefully) soon.

Emu

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Exams are done and I am moved back home for the summer. Yippee! Before getting back to work, I’m taking a few days to organize my piles and piles of stuff brought back with me (ugh, not excited), laze around the house (very excited), and bake (very very excited).

So naturally, in comes this cake. A Double Chocolate Zucchini one at that. I have always loved zucchini in cakes, as they make a cake incredibly moist and practically melt in your mouth. Plus an extra serving of veggies (in dessert no less!) is always a bonus.

I remember the days where my Mother would make a chocolate zucchini cake for a birthday party and right before the guests would arrive, she would take me aside and say,

“Don’t tell anyone there is zucchini in this cake okay? It’s our little secret.” I would then reply,

“Okay, Mom! I promise I won’t tell.”

I never did tell anybody just for the record, I was way too chuffed that these kids were unknowingly stuffing their faces with vegetables. Muahahaha if they only knew.

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Don’t get me wrong though, this particular recipe isn’t exactly the ‘healthiest’ one out there…like at all, but let’s not dwell on the butter and sugar and heaps of chocolate, let’s dwell on the beautiful green zucchini instead! This cake is practically a vegetable! Wow I feel much better now, don’t you? Good good. Now top it off with whip cream because you can’t possible have a chocolate cake without whip cream now could you? Didn’t think so.

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Whenever I make a bundt cake I think of the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Ian’s mother gives a bundt cake to Toula’s mother.

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If you are interested, here is the particular clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPvO53JHnmY

I have always loved bundt cakes, because with practically zero effort, you have a beautiful looking cake ready for a partaaay! Now go, find a reason to celebrate and make this cake!

Have no regrets, because remember, it’s practically a vegetable.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE ~ serves 12

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (unbleached)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees C, and grease and flour a 10-cup (2.5 L) bundt pan.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. One at a time, beat in eggs until combined. Beat in milk and oil.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.

In a few additions, stir in flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined.

Stir in melted chocolate until fully incorporated, then stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.

Spoon into your prepared bundt pan, smoothing the top.

Back for about 75 minutes, until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While cake is cooling, prepare:

CHOCOLATE ICING

  • 100g good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp corn syrup

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stir together chocolate, whipping cream and corn syrup until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes.

Let cool until lukewarm and sauce runs slowly off the back of a spoon, about 10-15 minutes.

Spoon over top of the cake, letting it run down the sides.

Serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream if you so desire and enjoy!